2002 Notebook: Weak VII
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12 February 2002
The Majesty of The Past Meets the Technology of Today
I don’t know how I developed my particular tastes, but I enjoy pompous and pretentious hucksters, appallingly bad taste, arrogance, and breathtaking stupidity. And so it was that I was delighted to receive junk mail from “Master’s Art, World’s Most Renown [sic] Artist.” After reading the spiel, I had to refer to my IQ notes to see whether the “Art” dealers were “morons,” “imbeciles,” or “idiots.”

    Are you a collector with very special tastes? Then you must experience The Replica Crown Jewels of Great Britain and the seven foot tall statues of Buckingham Palace Guards. All completely accurate in weight, size and detail. They simply must be seen to be appreciated. Imagine your home graced with Jewels of Kings. Master’s Art—Have several in your home and you will be the envy of your friends.

At least they were smart enough to identify every good consumer’s dream, “be the envy of your friends.” I can just see it now: I invite some friends back to the lab after a night on the town, and the first thing they see is a stuffed British guard standing beside the UK crown jewels.

“Wow!” They would exclaim, “how did you happen to acquire the queen’s crown jewels?!”

“Actually, they’re sophisticated reproductions,” I’d explain. I’d then cite Master’s Art promotional material. “These are the World’s Greatest Works By the Greatest Masters Replicated by the world’s finest re-creators: ArtaGraph.”

Later, as we sipped Rainier Ale in a setting of wealth and prestige, I’d point to the oil paintings on the wall, and casually mention that these, too, are Master’s Art products. And, if my friends were worthy of such knowledge, I’d explain the secret I learned from Master’s Art propaganda.

    First, we’d like to explain what our paintings are, more importantly, what are [sic] paintings are not. They are NOT prints, textured prints, or lithographs. These are NOT canvas oil replicas copied from photographs with brushstrokes thrown in at random. They are NOT some unknown artist rendition of a masters’ work on canvas or paper.

    These are, in fact, oils on canvas done by machine. Yes, by machine. Only a machine would replicate the original artists’ work with total accuracy. Machines, unlike artists, have no ego to feed.

My friends would be in awe of my collection. And, more to the point, they’d be envious.

I love Master’s Art, where “The majesty of the past meets the technology of today.”

It’s all true!

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13 February 2002
A New Typographical Convention
I began reading a new book today, and discovered the first new typographical convention I’ve seen in over three and a half years. In the lower right-hand corner of every odd page, the designer repeated the first word from the following page.

It took me a while to figure out why the orphaned word was there, but once I understood its role in providing consistency and redundancy, I liked the practice.

I wonder why everyone doesn’t design their books that way?

14 February 2002
Hong-Kee Noodle House
I see lots of things from the train that I might not otherwise see. Today, for example, I saw the Hong-Kee Noodle House in Redwood City, California. My piss-poor dictionary defines honky—a word that sounds exactly like Hong-Kee—as “Offensive Slang. Used as a disparaging term for a white person.”

I wonder if that’s what the proprietors of the Hong-Kee Noodle House in Redwood City had in mind? I’m sure there’s a more charitable explanation of the name, but I’d like to think that the owners are successfully insulting the whiteys who eat there.

Some day I may eat at the Hong-Kee Noodle House in Redwood City, California. Or, I may not.

15 February 2002
Laser Printers and Copy Machines
Laser printers never break, never ever. Copy machines, however, rarely work for very long before it’s time to call a technician to make repairs. I’ve never understood why two similar types of machines could perform so differently.

Until tonight.

I met a woman at a party who repairs copy machines. She told me that “it’s a well-known fact within the industry” that some two-thirds of copy machine failures are attributed to people trying to make two-dimensional copies of their genitalia. I then asked her why laser printers are so reliable.

“I guess it’s because no one sits on them,” she replied.

16 February 2002
Patrick’s Other Life
I was surprised to see Patrick acting a bit depressed, since Patrick is usually one of the most sanguine and satisfied people I know.

“Why so glum, chum?” I asked. “Is everything all right?”

“I don’t know,” Patrick said blankly, “I really just don’t know.”

“May I ask what’s the matter?” I inquired. “You would appear to be doing quite well.”

“Well, I suppose I would appear to be doing well,” Patrick replied softly. “It’s just that I seem to have achieved someone else’s dream, and that I seem to be living someone else’s wonderful life.”

I didn’t know what to say.

17 February 2002
Suit and Tie Burrito
I saw a neatly groomed man wearing a clean, cheap suit and a tie in a local taqueria. I thought the man looked like he was from Malaysia, although I have no proof of that. (In fact, I have no idea what Malaysians are supposed to look like, let alone how they actually appear.)

The man sat upright in his chair; he exhibited annoyingly perfect posture. He was, of course, eating a burrito. Each time he pulled off a bit more aluminum foil to expose more of his lunch, he neatly stacked the wrappings on the corner of his plate. The man ate alone at a table for two. He spent most of his meal meditating on a solitary, black bean on the other side of the table. I doubt the bean escaped from his burrito; I suspect a previous diner left it there.

I was struck by the man’s shiny, dress shoes. I spend most of my time in taquerias staring at the floor, and I rarely see a clean pair of shoes. For some reason, the man’s suit pants didn’t appear to be finished. The bottom of each pant leg seemed to be a cuff under construction.

I’d never seen a man in a suit and tie eat a burrito; I may never see such a sight again. I finished my burrito and left.

18 February 2002
As Good As It Gets?
Steve Jones of University College London recently posited an interesting proposition: human evolution is over. Or, as Jones put it, “Things have simply stopped getting better, or worse, for our species.”

Jones suggests that our comfortable way of life is insulating us from evolutionary forces. Modern medicine, ample food, and good hygiene mean that just about everyone lives long enough to reproduce, regardless of the relative superiority of their genes.

Some scientists agree with Jones, other scientists pooh-pooh his theory. That’s science!

I don’t care, since I’m not going to produce any offspring, more highly evolved or not. I must admit, however, that unless I’m looking at cute art chicks, it’s rather depressing to think that the people around me represent the pinnacle of human evolution.

19 February 2002
Catsup or Ketchup or Catchup?
I was belatedly proofreading my last batch of notebook entries when I wondered whether I’d spelled the word “catsup” correctly. Catsup or ketchup or catchup?

I did a rudimentary amount of semantic research, then asked the Internet for a rough word count. The result:

    Catsup: ~46,200
    Ketchup: ~272,000
    Catchup: ~130,000

I reached the obvious conclusion: who cares?

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©2002 David Glenn Rinehart