2002 Notebook: Weak XXXIV
gratuitous image
20 August 2002
No. 4,354 (cartoon)
I never thought it would end.

I never thought it would end like this.

I did.

21 August 2002
I recently read that a British television bureaucrat damned his island’s television programs as, “dull, mechanical, and samey.”

Criticizing television seems as pointless as attacking litterture. I’m thinking of Kurt Vonnegut’s remark, “Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.”

Despite the futility of the television apparatchik’s vitriol, I did appreciate the administrator’s contribution to the English language. After a quick Internet check, the only English language reference I found for “samey” was “Samey Pol Pot,” which translates to “The Pol Pot Era.”

“Samey” is a wonderful addition to the critics’ limited vocabulary. I wonder, how much samey work have I done?

“Too much” is the only possible answer.


22 August 2002
The Main Street Model
I asked Marilyn how she could be so confrontational with the opposition; she said it was in her job description.

“I dislike confrontations,” I said.

“I figure it’s better to get shot dead at noon on main street than to get mugged in a dark alley,” Marilyn replied.

I kept quiet as I planned my next move.

gratuitous image
23 August 2002
My Most Recent Murder
I killed my first salmon today. One minute the twenty-kilogram fish was swimming in the Pacific Ocean near San Francisco; a few minutes later it was flopping on the deck of my boat. It stopped moving once I bashed its head in with a truncheon.

Fish flesh decomposes quickly, so I cleaned it. I slid a razor-sharp knife into the dead fish’s anus, then smoothly slid the steel blade up the length of the creature’s body. I pulled out the salmon’s guts, then used a spoon to scrape the fish’s burgundy kidneys from its spine. What a spectacular vision!

I was amazed at the sight of the fish’s lungs, roe, stomach (complete with an undigested anchovy), lungs, and so on. What a magnificent sculpture! I appreciated the aesthetic qualities of the salmon’s entrails; the seabirds enjoyed them on a practical, biological level.

Tomorrow I shall dispose of the body. After the corpse is hidden in a dozen stomachs, I will have committed the perfect crime.

24 August 2002
Every Review
I like Randall Jarrell’s brilliant generic critique of a novel: “A prose work of some length that has something wrong with it.”

I thought about what Jarrell said, and realized it sounded like each of the dozen or so reviews I’ve written. I only review work I like, but feel obligated to point out some perceived flaw, omission, or weakness.

I’m not sure I’ll ever write another review again now that Jarrell’s exposed the formula: “I liked it except for a little thing or two here and there.”

gratuitous image
25 August 2002
Wise in the Ways of Japanese Toothpicks
I told Dr. Lauer that toothpicks are elegant because the tool’s entire operating manual is contained in the device’s name. Dr. Lauer proved that I was wrong by demonstrating how a Japanese toothpick works.

Japanese toothpicks are pointed at one end and blunt at the other. At this point, I wish I would have taken the woodworking course instead of the explosives course, that way I’d be able to describe the two parallel grooves at the blunt edge of the toothpick. Were they made by a router? A lathe? Incisors?


Anyway, Dr. Lauer explained that the indentations are not merely decorative; they provide a function essential to the tool’s vitality. In lay terms, that means that the notches provide the weakest portion of the shaft, allowing the user to easily break the blunt end off the toothpick.

And now, we come to the climax of the Japanese toothpick saga: the blunt, broken-off end of the toothpick becomes a stand, a rest, for the business end of the toothpick.

Dr. Lauer is wise in the ways of Japanese toothpicks.


26 August 2002
The Age of Maturity?!
He’s at it again! Saparmurat Niyazov, the inscrutable president of Turkmenistan dba Turkmen, has made a daring conceptual leap beyond naming the days of the week and the months of the year. Now the old stinker’s renaming the various stages of human life.

Here’s what the cantankerous old curmudgeon came up with, if press reports are a reliable source of information.

“Our ancestors had a clearer and more reasoned division of the ages of man ... childhood lasted to 13, adolescence to 25, youth to 37, maturity to 49. Later there followed: the age of the prophet, from 49 to 62; the age of inspiration, from 62 to 73; the age of the white-bearded elder, from 73 to 85; old age, from 85 to 97; and the age of Oguz Khan, from 97 to 109.”

Sounds like a lot of nonsense to me, although I must admit I like living in the age of maturity. (If only I could say that with a straight face.)

gratuitous image
27 August 2002
An Indefatigable Passion for Experimentation
I love my laboratory colleagues’ indefatigable passion for experimentation. I’m reminded of their resourcefulness every time I go into the galley and see a sink full of filthy dishes.

Do dirty dishes wash themselves?

Who can answer that question with any certainty?

My lab buddies believe that, given the right circumstances, dirty dishes can in fact wash themselves. They’ve been repeating the same experiment for years, with no success.

Do they give up in the face of almost certain failure? They do not.

These are my people: ignorant and unbowed.

last weak  |  index  |  next weak

©2002 David Glenn Rinehart