Archive for September, 2011

She Don’t Lie

Ye gods. Just look at what they’ve discovered now.

Science Men out of Harvard University have determined that gazing upon the face of an attractive woman “triggers the same reward centres in a man’s brain” as are set off by snorting cocaine.

Researchers at Harvard University found that when men were shown images of gorgeous female faces, their brain image scans showed that the ‘reward’ circuitry was activated—the same reaction the brain has when it’s faced with the narcotic drug.

The images that the male brain found most exciting were faces with a prominent, curved forehead and nose located lower down the face. They also liked round cheeks and a small chin.


A beautiful woman’s face is like chocolate, cash or cocaine to a young man’s brain[.]

The brain-imaging study reveals that young men looking at a lovely young woman can set off the “reward center.”

When shown pictures of various faces, only the females deemed beautiful triggered activity in brain regions previously associated with food, drugs, and money.

Even when those males looked at attractive men’s faces, the response was clearly different. The women triggered the “reward” factor, and the desire for more of that “view.”

Everybody Knows They Are Nowhere

First I read of the people. Disappeared from cruise ships. Some 165 of them, over the past 16 years. For some of the disappeared people, there are theories. For most, though: none at all.

Then I read of the pigs. Disappearing from farms all over the US midwest. Hundreds and hundreds of them. For some of these vanished pigs, there are theories. But, really: folks don’t actually Know.

Some people would say there is no connection. Between people vanishing far out at sea. And pigs peeled out of their pens.

Some people would be wrong.

For there is indeed a connection. There always is. As there are no coincidences. One but must needs discern the Pattern.

This I have done. And thus I know the answer. I know who is disappearing the people. And the pigs.



Erasmas Dedicates The Work

I hope therefore you will not only readily accept of this rude essay as a token from your friend, but take it under your more immediate protection, as being dedicated to you, and by that title adopted for yours, rather than to be fathered as my own. And it is a chance if there be wanting some quarrelsome persons that will show their teeth, and pretend these fooleries are either too buffoon-like, or too satirical, and so will exclaim against me as if I were vamping up some old farce, or acted anew the Lucian again with a peevish snarling at all things. But those who are offended at the lightness and pedantry of this subject, I would have them consider that I do not set myself for the first example of this kind, but that the same has been oft done by many considerable authors. For thus several ages since, Homer wrote of no more weighty a subject than of a war between frogs and mice, Virgil of a gnat and pudding-cake, and Ovid of a nut. Synesius pleaded in behalf of baldness; and Lucian defended a sipping fly. Seneca drollingly related the deifying of Claudius; Plutarch the dialogue betwixt Gryllus and Ulysses; Lucian and Apuleius the story of an ass; and somebody else records the last will of a hog, of which St. Hierom makes mention.

—Erasmas, In Praise Of Folly

The Lions Sleep Tonight

The planet continues to produce non-ordinary personages.

We regard here Al-Sayed al-Essawy, a 24-year-old Egyptian man who claims title to “strongest man in the world.”

In June of this year, this man resolved to engage in a “steel-cage fight” with a lion.

After twenty minutes, there in the cage with the lion, al-Essawy declared “victory.” During the “combat,” the lion did not attempt to attack the strongman; no one was harmed.

Below, find some of al-Essawy’s wisdom, uttered pre-fight.

The lion, naturally, does not speak.

God made me, and he made the lion, and he put us both on the same planet, which means the lion is fair game. Ethically, there should be no problem.

I have a whole series of shows planned in my head. I will pull an airplane with my teeth, and I will pull an airplane with my hair. I will also be run over by an airplane.

In between each of these acts, there will be lion battles.

I’ve taught children how to chew glass and pull cars with their teeth. I can raise a generation of supersoldiers. I’ve jumped from ten-story buildings and I’ve hanged myself many times.

I think it’s time we start celebrating genuine talent.

Chips Ahoy

I am sensing a pattern here.

First, the guy who invented Pringles received special dispensation to be buried in a Pringles can.

No, I don’t make this shit up.

The man who designed the Pringles can has been buried in a can of Pringles as per his request.

Fredric J. Baur, who was originally from Cincinnati, was recently cremated and had his ashes buried in a Pringles can.

Mr. Baur made the special request because he was so proud of his design of the world famous Pringles container, a son, Lawrence Baur, of Michigan, said Monday.

Baur retired in the early 1980’s though his invention lives on, here and in the beyond.

Now the guy who invented Doritos is going to have the stuff scattered over his grave.

Famous snack creator of the Doritos corn chip Arch West has passed away at the age of 97 of natural causes. [T]he family has a rather unusual final request as they lay their loved one to rest. West’s family will bury dozens of Doritos along side of Arch West’s ashes at his funeral.

Saying their final goodbye to Arch, surviving family and friends stated that they plan to scatter his world-famous Doritos inside the open grave before placing West’s Urn containing his ashes inside the grave site and burying him.
This has got to stop. Now. What if this spreads to Science Men? And Edward Teller—if he ever does die—requests that his invention, the hydrogen bomb, be detonated upon his grave?

Fear Of A Fat Planet

Friday I clicked on The Eggman (know thy foe) and there beheld a photograph of Chris Christie, reproduced below. And the sight of this man, it unaccountably filled me with Fear.

I say “unaccountably,” because heretofore I had serenely cleaved to the wisdom of this piece, presenting the prognostications of this never-wrong wizard: that is, come 2012, no matter how battered and bruised, Destry would ride, if wearily, into a second term. None among the cretins and the clowns in that toxic, smoke-belching Christine of a car of the Republican Party, would manage to run him down.

But suddenly, looking there at Christie, I was beset with a terrible vision.

What if the American people decided to go wide?

Now, it is true that this—picking the portly—is something they have not done since Grover Cleveland, which was well over 100 years ago. And that in an age when not all that many voters knew what the presidential candidates looked like. In the many years since, hoisting into the Oval Office someone packing serious excess poundage has been something that was Just Not Done. It has been a political given, for more than a century, that an overweight man seeking the highest office in the land stood no more chance than, say, an atheist. Or, uh, a black man.

Ah, yes. That last. It, well, changed everything. Did it not?

As a wise sage recently observed: “There’s a family of Negroes living in the White House. That’s the sum-total of what’s going on.”

Yep. And that simple fact—black folk in the White House—has driven half the nation stone-mad. These people knew they weren’t going to like it from the get-go—only 43% of white people casting ballots in 2008 voted for the black family to move into the White House. But even they had no idea how badly they were not going to like it. Once it became Reality. Now they know. It’s an outrage. Not to be borne. And they want it Stopped. By any means necessary.

So, in my vision, gazing at that photo of Chris Christie, the picture goes sepia. A planter’s hat appears upon his head. His clothing reverts to that of a Southern plantation owner, circa 1850. He is transformed into one of those coarse, corpulent, antebellum plutocrats, living fat off the bondage of black folk. Because that’s what he looks like. Even in modern clothes.

And I see him, thus, as he really is, on the debate stage, next to Obama. Who, back there in 1850, looks like the underfed runt out of one of Christie’s slave families. The biracial Obama maybe sired by Christie himself. Christie’s wife suffering from a “nervous disorder,” his excuse for sneaking off nights to the slave quarters. Because that sort of thing’s okay. Like with Strom Thurmond. So long as you don’t talk about it. And I see that, through the eyes of the knock-kneed white-bread nation, “[t]here’s a family of Negroes living in the White House.” And I see the determination of the people that a fat Southern planter is just the man to send them Negroes back to from where they came. To make the White House white again. Amen.

The horror. The horror.


Science Men “Buggered”

Some neutrinos have gone totally wild, and are out there running around faster than the speed of light, causing at least one Science Man to moan that these Speed Racers are so violating so many Science Laws it means he and his fellow Science Men are pretty much “buggered.”

Now, it is Well Known that many things—including socks—travel faster than the speed of light. It’s just that heretofore Science Men hadn’t created Machines capable of Measuring this.

But that’s all over now. Because in recent years Science Men have begun building some gigantic subterranean racetracks, where they can race stuff around at extremely high speeds and then crash it all together, to See What Happens. Some of what could happen is an Oops of such magnitude that it will swallow all of space, but never mind that now. Because neutrinos probably won’t do that, as they’re just not that interested. They’re hardly even “there”; Science Men used to have to go deep down into mines to look at them. Barely matter, neutrinos are flowing through our bodies all the time; sometimes, when zooming through a brain, they inadvertently trip a synapse, and cause a person to start doing things For No Known Reason. This is why I plan soon to introduce into criminal law the concept of “the neutrino defense.”

Anyway. Science Men don’t need to descend into mine shafts anymore to look at neutrinos. Now they can watch them on their underground racetracks. And, in a project deliciously monikered OPERA—Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus—Science Men who sent neutrinos on a 453-mile journey discovered that some 15,000 of the wee beasties arrived at destination’s end sixty-billionths of a second earlier than they were Supposed to. The neutrinos didn’t care that they weren’t Allowed to travel faster than the speed of light; they did it anyway.

They were in a hurry.


Are You Ready For The Country

Once upon a time, in Olden Days, back when there was rain, I was splashing one early dark eve through the streets, when this extreme mush-bomb of a song suddenly exploded out of the car radio.

Damn, I thought. This brings new meaning to the phrase “over-the-top.”

Young woman, can’t really sing, but her heart all in it. Full-confessional. So Bummed, at what she’d Done, that, to try to make up for it, to the Boy she Done Wrong, she’s invited into the song, like, 19 different orchestras. All instructed to please play simultaneously. Apparently behind the touchingly naive thought that with Quantity, one may erase Badness.

Silly child.

Now, I was without doubt born with a predilection for extreme mush-bombs of songs that explode out of car radios. In fact, after many years of observation and reflection, I am now convinced that this predilection is genetic. Which makes it, more or less, a disability. Something I should actually be receiving money for. From the government. As permanently crippling.

So: no making fun.

So: splashing back home, I looked up this incredible exploding mush-bomb of a song, on the tubes.

And discovered it was classified “country.”

“No way,” as Pike says definitively in The Wild Bunch. “No way at all.”



After New Year’s, Aunt Jenny had to go to the dentist, and asked me to go with her. She left me in the waiting room, and gave me a copy of the National Geographic to look at . . . There were others waiting, two men and a plump middle-aged lady, all bundled up. I looked at the magazine cover—I could read most of the words—shiny, glazed, yellow and white. The black letters said: February 1918. A feeling of absolute and utter desolation came over me. I felt . . . myself. In a few days it would be my seventh birthday. I felt I, I, I, and looked at the three strangers in panic. I was one of them too, inside my scabby body and wheezing lungs . . . “You are you,” something said. “How strange you are, inside looking out . . . you are you and you are going to be you forever.” It was like coasting downhill, this thought, only much worse, and it quickly smashed into a tree. Why was I a human being?

—Elizabeth Bishop, “The Country Mouse”

Further Adventures In The Annals Of Rudeness

The young’un cat is no longer bound by any standards of human decency.

Since my last public complaints about his misbehaviors, we have moved far beyond mere attacks on the food supplies of the sea serpent, and the flooding of my library.

Now he is using my body as a trampoline.

We are locked in a battle royale about when he gets to go outside. He thinks that 5 a.m. is a fine time. But he is Wrong. For there are, at that hour, potentially, bears and mountain lions still out there. In my Rules, he doesn’t get to emerge into the world until it is light. When such night creatures have faded back into their own good holes. His young life has been one of bliss: he just doesn’t understand that there may be Dangers. He knows only that he needs to get out there to start herding the turkeys, excavating the ivyfrolicking with squirrels.

In the summer, when light came not long after 5 a.m., there wasn’t much of a problem. He’d come and prod me with a paw, while making a sound like he had been starved for three weeks. I would mumble that he just had to wait a few minutes. Impatient, he would periodically prod some more, send up more wails, like something out of a Sally Struthers “Feed The Children” TV commercial. Until, seeing light poking into the world, I’d stumble to the door and let him out.

But now light is not coming soon after 5:00 a.m. It is waiting hours after. And the young’un cat is no longer content to poke me with a paw, coupled with the Sally Struthers wail. Now, when the prod and the Sally don’t achieve the desired effect, he bounds onto my body, landing like an anvil with fur. As I struggle to regain breath, he leaps onto the floor. He waits until I have just fallen asleep again, then begins racing back and forth across my pummeled form, ululating in Sally-speak. This goes on continuously. Until the world lets there be light.

I don’t know what’s going to happen come December, when light does not arrive until 9:00 a.m. Which means I will have to endure four hours of this outrage. I am fearful I will end confined in a jail, morgue, or asylum.

Generally, cats eventually mature, get over such exuberant excitement with the world. I’m not sure that is going to happen with this fellow. I think he may be an eternal teenager.

Help. Me.

Tidying Up

“The unified theory still eludes me.”

“That’s only because it isn’t there.”

Einstein sighed. “You are a quantum mechanic, of course?”

“So were you. And I’m also a relativist. So much so I can’t apply a single law of creation to all phenomenas. I also don’t want to. But you do.”

“That’s science.”

“That’s religion, sir.”

The old man shut his eyes. Then: “We cannot see what we are not given the means to see. In the end . . . ” He opened his eyes and stared intently at T. “We are stuck with that simple, rather dull Englishman and his theory of natural selection.”

T. had already come to the same conclusion. “Darwin. Yes, sir. To survive we must know more about where we are or if, indeed, there is anywhere for us to be located in and able to describe.”

The old man smiled. “Perhaps your—precocity is the next step toward our finding out. I seem to have completed my work, much against my will, if I may say so.”

T. nodded. “I know what you mean, sir, but something’s going wrong with me, too. Before the shift in time, things were so clear to me that all I had to do was press a button in my head and the equations came. Now my head’s a bit cloudy. Too much testosterone? I think I’m turning into everybody else. I’m a breeder who can’t think anymore.”

Einstein laughed. “That’s the price we pay for being human. Once there is Eros, there is Thanatos.”

On his own, T. had worked out the Greek for the human condition: once love—sex—began, death set up shop. “I know,” he said. “Better to be an amoeba and immortal. Just dividing from time to time.”

“Ah, but does that eternal amoeba see the beauty of an equation or even play Mozart badly? I started to fade at twenty-six and you’re doing it—let’s hope you’re not—at sixteen. Natural selection is speeding up, at our expense. Well, I have a second career. Soon the Jews will have their own country, Israel, and the Zionists have asked me to be the president. I told them that although I’ve always been a Zionist, I am far too stupid about politics to be a president.”

“If there is anything I’ve come to know, sir, being around here, it’s presidents. You couldn’t be any dumber than this lot.”

“You console me!” Then Einstein frowned. “Now, mischievous boy, let’s see what we can do to tidy up what you’ve done to space-time.”

—Gore Vidal, The Smithsonian Institution

Nothing Is Everything

Quantum physics has revealed a stunning truth about “nothing”: even the emptiest vacuum is filled with elementary particles, continually created and destroyed. Particles appear and disappear, flying apart and coming together, in an intricate quantum dance. This far-reaching consequence of quantum mechanics has withstood the most rigorous experimental scrutiny. In fact, these continual fluctuations are at the heart of our quantum understanding of nature.

The vacuum has too much energy. A naive theoretical estimate gives an amount about 10120 times too large to fit cosmological observations. The only known way to reduce the energy is to cancel contributions of different particle species against each other, possibly with a new symmetry called supersymmetry. With supersymmetry the result is 1060 times better—a huge improvement, but not enough. Even with supersymmetry, what accounts for the other 60 orders of magnitude is still a mystery.

The next accelerators are opening a window on the pivotal role of symmetry in fundamental physics. Such discoveries are key to understanding what tames the quantum vacuum, a topic that is fundamental to any real understanding of the mysterious dark energy that determines the destiny of our cosmos.

David Gerdes


in a Roman
wilderness of pain

—Jim Morrison

This is a story about a guy I know who will be warehoused in the state prison until he is dead.

I know more about what landed him there than anyone else does, because I am the only person who ever bothered to try to find out.

Too late, though.

He’s gone.

On October 1, 1993, 12-year-old Polly Klaas was kidnapped from out of her Petaluma, California bedroom, while her mother puttered about, unawares, elsewhere in the house.

A common, a terrifying, American parental nightmare.

Accompanied by the retroactive remembrance that:

Polly had a lifelong fear of the dark. She could not get to sleep unless there was a little light on. She was scared of a mysterious bogeyman and of the possibility of being kidnapped. It was something she had discussed often with her parents. Marc Klaas would recall with bitter irony how he had assured his daughter “that everything would be all right, I would always be there to protect her.”

Klaas was kidnapped, then raped, then murdered, by Richard Allen Davis. The rape and the murder unknown, to all but those two, for months. For Klaas’ body was not found, and Davis not apprehended, until long after Klaas’ kidnapping had gone viral, via the white-girl-in-distress template ascendant uber alles in American media culture.

When the “truth” did out as to Richard Allen Davis—that he was a career criminal who had earlier been incarcerated for a kaleidoscope of offenses, including kidnapping and sexual assault—the people of the state of California commenced the St. Vitus Dance.

They determined that such a person should never again be allowed to return to the streets to prey on people like Polly Klaas. They went to the state initiative process, originally fashioned to break the strangehold on the state of monied interests. But in recent years most often used to express the worst vigilante instincts of the populace. Eternally recurring the truth of Robert Stone’s words: “American populism, notorious as a pious front for venal corruption, the curse of this nation, and now, empowered by American wealth and resources, a worldwide plague.”

Californians wept and rended their garments, en masse, as they raced to the polls, to make sure that the killer of Polly Klaas would never again leave the big house, but in a box.

Except that this is not what they voted for. They voted instead for a measure wherein life-in-prison qualifying strikes could be both “violent”—i.e., you hurt another human being—or “serious,” the latter those crimes that Somebody had Decided had the mere potential for violence.

Like, say, residential burglary. The thinking being: but what if the homeowner comes home, during the burglary? The burglar might harm them. Whereas, in truth, in the vast majority of cases, at the first glimmer of an additional human presence, the burglar runs off like Richard Pryor with his body on fire.

Further, the three-strikes law provided that once a miscreant had accumulated two strikes, the three-strikes qualifying offense, the one that could send him or her to the state prison for life, could be any felony. As in, petty theft with a prior. As in, shoplifting a piece of pizza. And indeed, there are today people doing life in the state prison, for just such an offense. Under the law intended to send people like Richard Allen Davis to prison for life. But that instead, most often, locks away for life, wharf rats.


It’s Alive

Setting aside for a moment the ethics of shoplifting—for that one may consult Les Miserables—there is also the question of what is reasonable, or even sane.

And so we consider the case of Nathan Hardy of D’lberville, Mississippi, who recently felt moved to remove from a Winn Dixie two bags of jumbo shrimp, a pork loin, and two live lobsters.

When pursued by store employees, Hardy sought to deter them by heaving the pork loin their way. Meanwhile, the lobsters continued squirming about ’round his own loins.

“In all my years in law enforcement, I’ve seen people shoplift steaks and all kinds of items, but never live lobster,” [Biloxi Police] Chief [Wayne] Payne told the Sun Herald. “It’s a good thing the rubber bands didn’t break.”

The theory and practice of shoplifting involves going about what one is about in a way that does not attract attention. Generally, things moving around in one’s pants attracts attention. There may be on this planet cultures in which frenzied roiling and flailing inside one’s pants is considered beneath the notice of others, but the culture of Mississippi circa 2011 is not one of them.

Running from people, with lobsters in your pants, is not exactly easy, either. Not that I would know. From experience.

Found ‘Em

There are many mysterious irritants in life. Three that come immediately to mind: (1) Why does the dryer eat socks?; (2) Why, if one resolves on Wednesday to grill on Saturday, does Saturday check in at 175 degrees?; and (3) Where the sam hill are the car keys?

I believe that this last irritant may now be obviated. You see, the boy pictured there to the right, four-year-old David Petrovic of Serbia, apparently moves along a worldtrack in which metal unaccountably bolts out from wherever it as, as he passes, and adheres itself to his body.

So. What needs to be done is for Science Men to produce many, many clones of this boy. These will then be made available to those with a penchant for misplacing their car keys. A key-less sufferer can then move a cloned Petrovic through the premises, until the misplaced car keys shoot out from wherever they’re hiding, to cling to the child’s chest.

As long as we’re cloning people, the socks-in-the-dryer problem can be solved by first breeding and then cloning extremely small humans who can survive—maybe even thrive—in the environment of a clothes dryer. Then, whenever one does a load of wash, one of these wee dryer-humans can be placed inside the machine, to tumble around in there and keep on eye on the socks, so none of them go off to wherever they go, when they’re in there.

The grill irritant may be avoided by purchasing one of these geegaws, powerful lasers that, when aimed at the sky, cause the heavens to open up, and produce rain. The night before one wishes to grill, one can simply turn one of these babies on, thereby soaking the schnitt out of the surrounding area; shortly before grilling, the rainmaker can be de-activated. I figure the frustrated toaster up there in the sky won’t be able to break through with full broil until after the grilling has been completed.

Okay. Any other problems plaguing anybody?


“Well,” said Gryphus, coming down from the last visit; “I think we shall soon get rid of our scholar.”

Rosa was startled.

“Nonsense,” said Jacob, “what do you mean?”

“He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t eat, he doesn’t leave his bed. He will get out of it, like Mynheer Grotius, in a chest; only the chest will be a coffin.”

Rosa grew as pale as death.

“Ah!” she said to herself, “he is uneasy about his tulip.”

—Alexandre Dumas, The Black Tulip

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September 2011