2005 Notebook: Weak XIX
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7 May 2005
No. 2,643 (cartoon)
I’m nothing without you.

You flatter yourself.

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8 May 2005
Time Traveler Convention
Yesterday geeks, nerds, and assorted boffins at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology presented the first Time Traveler Convention. Through some clever planning, it was also the last. After all, if people can travel through time, one such gathering is sufficient.

A large number of people from the past and present showed up, so in one sense everyone traveled in time to get there. On the other hand, apparently no one from the future joined in, although the organizers optimistically speculated, “many time travelers could have attended incognito to avoid endless questions about the future.”

The good news is that there’s still time to attend! If anyone reading this can travel back in time (if there is a forward and back, that is), here’s the address in decimal degrees: 42.360007, -071.087870.

9 May 2005
Taco Helper
“These tacos taste terrible,” whispered Jamie when she tried the wretched food at the new taqueria down the street.

“I told you it was unwise to eat at a Mexican restaurant with bottles of ketchup on the table,” I agreed.

“This crap is inedible,” Jamie concluded as she pushed the plate away.

“Don’t be too hasty,” I said, “let’s try a little of this.”

And that’s when I pulled out a can of pepper spray, a gift from one of the cops I met after my bike was stolen. He suggested that should I ever again run into someone attempting to steal by bicycle, a steady stream of pepper spray directed into the perp’s face might get the miscreant to reconsider the theft.

It turns out that pepper spray works well on flaccid tacos, too!

10 May 2005
Od Mistake
There’s nothing funny about tragedy; that’s why it’s called tragedy, no? A recent Thailand debacle, though, does provide some dark humor.

It seems that Od, a dwarf, was bouncing up and down on a trampoline during a circus performance. Od made a mistake, though, and bounced off the side of the trampoline. That, in itself, is a miscalculation fraught with tragic potential, and that’s before we meet the second player in our tragedy.

Od had the spectacularly bad fortune to fly into the gaping mouth of Hilda the Hippopotamus at the very moment she was having a large, hippo yawn. Hilda’s reflexes instinctively took over, and she swallowed Od in one gulp.

The spectacular event delighted the thousand people watching, until they realized they’d witnessed a once in a lifetime accident ... or at least once in Od’s lifetime.

11 May 2005
Putting the Cult Back in Culture
I’m listening to Music To Start a Cult To, a new collection of songs from the ensemble Gram Rabbit. I like what I hear; it’s about time more artists started putting the cult back into culture.

12 May 2005
Chronological Investment Strategies
Sheila called just before midnight to kvetch about how busy she was.

“I’ve been here since before dawn,” she complained, “and I doubt I’ll be out before two.”

“Sorry to hear that.” I yawned. “After I finish this last can of Rainier Ale I’m going to go to sleep.”

“At the moment, I almost envy you,” Sheila said, “but one day this will all be worth it.”

“I suppose honest toil is sometimes rewarded in the long run,” I replied skeptically, “but sloth never fails to bring immediate gratification.”

Sheila sniffed dismissively; I went to sleep.

13 May 2005
Time Bombs
Planners for the 1938 World’s Fair proposed entombing a “time bomb,” an encased collection of contemporary items to remain sealed until 6938. Cooler marketing heads prevailed, and they changed the name to “time capsule.” That’s one of many lovely tales William Jarvis, the author of Time Capsules: A Cultural History, told in a great talk tonight.

Jarvis made the intriguing suggestion that—after reviewing the empirical evidence—one of the main effects of time capsules was, “to engender forgetfulness.” He pointed out that most of them are forgotten immediately, especially after the signs identifying them are stolen.

He added that most time capsules never have a good curator, and that accidental time capsules such as the ruins of Pompeii are much more interesting. (Few people would have consciously decided to save the wonderful graffito, “All the sleepyheads are voting for Petronius.”) As for the the normal versions, Jarvis concluded, “We’ve never learned anything from opening a time capsule.”

After hearing all the evidence, the last question from the audience was, “Would you recommend that people stop making time capsules?”

“It would be like recommending that people stop playing golf,” Jarvis thoughtfully concluded.

14 May 2005
Taxing Art Debates
I’m generally against any government involvement in the arts unless it’s intended to stop government involvement in the arts. For example, take a Norwegian court’s ruling that striptease dancing is a valid art medium.

I think the the judges are fools for declaring striptease—or any other performance medium—to be art. (For an opposing perspective, a stripper at the Dream Go Go Bar in Trondheim reports, “Ninety percent of the guests here tell me that what I’m doing is art.”) The judges would have been equally ill-advised to rule that stripping isn’t art, and that’s my point: bureaucratic interventions in art matters are silly.

It turns out that this art debate, like so many other art debates, was about money, not art. As a result of the judicial ruling, patrons of strippers will no longer have to pay a twenty-five percent value added tax. Tax avoidance, that’s definitely art!

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©2005 David Glenn Rinehart