2003 Notebook: Weak XV
gratuitous image
9 April 2003
No. 9,126 (cartoon)
Is it all over?

It never really began.

10 April 2003
Dada Will Survive
André Breton died almost forty years ago, but his memory lives on in the form of stink bombs and forged euro notes with the legend, “Your money stinks of the corpse of the poet that you never dared to become.” Demonstrators at the Hotel Drouot, a Parisian auction center, have been throwing around the trivial bombs and fake currency to protest the sale of the contents of Breton’s 42 rue Fontaine apartment.

Breton’s daughter, Aube Elléoüet-Breton, arranged the sale when no French institution would pay thirty million euros or so to preserve the Breton’s apartment and its contents. That’s fine with me; I think the vitality and essence of Breton’s ideas and aesthetics will be better kept alive as old memories and contemporary concepts, not as dusty museum exhibits.

I suspect Breton wouldn’t be very concerned that his de facto shrine is being sold piecemeal. After all, he cautioned, “Dada will survive only by ceasing to exist.”

11 April 2003
Aping Apes
I was saddened—but not surprised—to read that biologists expect that in a couple of decades they’ll find few, if any, nonhuman primates surviving in the what remains of the African wilderness. In addition to continued habitat loss and hunters, the apes are threatened by the Ebola virus. (I haven’t checked on this, but I believe Ebola is the nasty disease that turns internal organs into a bubbling, putrefied liquid. Or something very much like that.)

There’s not much I can to do protect Africa’s remaining gorillas, but I’m not entirely helpless. That’s why I’ve decided to act more apelike. I’m grunting more than usual, dragging my knuckles when I walk, and, on rare occasions, beating my chest. (I never used to do that before.)

These are grim times for gorillas, and for the people who ape them.

12 April 2003
The Space Man
Stephen showed me his copy of Jules Verne’s The Space Man. I couldn’t read the novel; Stephen kept it locked inside a climate-controlled glass case.

“I read a lot of science fiction when I was a teenager,” I said, “but I don’t remember that title.”

“It’s one of Verne’s first works, and it’s extremely rare,” Stephen replied with the self-satisfied smirk of a successful collector. “It was printed in 1856 by a publisher in Blainville-Crevon who went bankrupt after a fire destroyed the business. You’re looking at one of the six surviving copies.”

“Wow,” I responded, trying to sound duly impressed. “What’s the plot?”

“Some mad-scientist type figures he can travel in space if he can remain in one place while the planets continue to speed through the universe,” Stephen explained. “Unfortunately, the guy miscalculates, and he starts his machine when the earth’s in the wrong position. Instead of being whisked through space in his oak, brass, and glass cabin, he gets drilled into the center of the globe, and dies a quick—albeit painful—death.”

I nodded appreciatively.

“But here’s the best part,” Stephen continued. “The scientist’s name is Arne Saknussem!”

“Arne Saknussem?” I asked.

“The Journey the the Center of the Earth guy. Look it up,” Stephen insisted.

I promised I would, but I didn’t.

13 April 2003
Below Everest
After Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary became the first people to reach the Everest, the latter proclaimed, “We knocked the bastard off.” I used to regard mountains like that. When I was much, much younger, I thought I’d probably climb Mount Everest; I knew I’d scale Mount Rainier.

I changed my mind. I have nothing to prove to myself or anyone else. It’s enough to simply be on a mountain; there’s not much gained by “conquering” the peak. That’s something I picked up from Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, one of the few books I plan on rereading some day.

I’ve heard that almost anyone can make it to the peak of Everest now, as long as they have enough money to pay guides to more or less walk them to the top. As Hillary, now eighty-three, observed, “It’s all bullshit on Everest these days.”

As for Mount Rainier, who knows? I’m in good enough shape to hike to the summit. On the other hand, I believe the trek involves getting started at three in the morning, and I can’t imagine anything worth getting out of a warm sleeping bag at that hour.

14 April 2003
Mainly in the Pyrenees
It’s time for the San Francisco do-gooder awards ceremony. This year’s event promises more hectares of free food and an ocean or two of decent wine, gratis; that’s why I’m here.

This year, I was pleasantly surprised that I actually enjoyed one of the acceptance speeches. Thanks to Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, I now know that the rain in Spain falls mainly in the Pyrenees.

Pedro Arrojo-Agudo is a smart hombre, and Rex Harrison is Satan incarnate.

15 April 2003
The Illusion of Productivity
I’m flying to Europe for no discernible reason, but I don’t care. If I’m traveling at a thousand kilometers an hour, I must be making some sort of progress.

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©2003 David Glenn Rinehart