2006 Notebook: Weak XXII
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28 May 2006
No. 2,055 (cartoon)
You took advantage of my trust.

I took advantage of your stupidity.

29 May 2006
Don’t Worry About the War
This is Memorial Day, the holiday when Americans pause to remember dead soldiers and sailors. That’s the official story. In practice, Americans take advantage of a three-day weekend to continue to eat and drink too much.

Actually, this is a great time to remember dead fighters, since the American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has generated thousands of new dead Americans to remember. (And hundreds of thousands of Afghani and Iraqi dead as well, but foreigners don’t get much attention on this holiday, or any other time, for that matter.)

Despite the staggering number of deaths, very few people seem concerned about the carnage. I suspect most people share Samuel Goldwyn’s take on the crisis.

“Don’t worry about the war,” Goldwyn advised. “It’s all over but the shooting.”

30 May 2006
Where Is Thy Sting?
Antoinette told me that she liked my story about Sweet Annie Divine’s death by drowning (in alcohol), and that it reminded her of a W.C. Fields anecdote.

According to Antoinette, a woman admonished the inebriated comedian at a party with what proved to be an accurate prediction, “Mr. Fields, you’re going to drink yourself to death.”

“Ah death,” Fields reportedly replied, “where is thy sting?”

31 May 2006
Damn Bad Advice
Here’s a little story I’ve never told anyone.

A damn long time ago, I was playing my horn damn loudly under a soffit in Verona. No one paid any attention, until it was time to drain my horn. Seconds after opening my spit valve, a damn disgruntled woodworker ran out of his shop and threatened me with a damn long drawshave.

I gave a damn obsequious apology, and left.

There’s a reason I’ve never told anyone that tale: it’s not a damn good one. I suppose that’s what I get for taking other writers’ advice.

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
—Mark Twain

[Alas, I have no editor.]

Name names. Make your writing physical. Use lots of exact nouns. “Food” is an idea; “black-bean soup” is a thing. Naming not only makes the writing more visceral, it makes the reader trust you. And use your own expertise, whatever “insider information” you have. Use words like soffit, drawshave, spit valve.
—David Long

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1 June 2006
Clowns and Circus Technology
If I know my history—which I don’t—the human cannon was invented by some Italians during the first world war. The device, designed to safely launch soldiers behind enemy lines like so many ballistic salamis, was never adopted for military use. Instead, the contraption was embraced by circus clowns.

And now, the clowns at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, have patented a convoluted contrivance that can launch a cop or a soldier onto the top of a five-story building in less than two seconds. Or, at least that’s the theory.

Everyone who’s familiar with Wile E. Coyote’s ignominious career knows that such complex contraptions never work in practice. In the unlikely event that anyone is foolhardy enough to actually test the device, history tells us that some of the first volunteers will be blown up on the launch pad, smash against the side of the building, or be impaled when they land on a flagpole.

I suspect the whole shenanigan is based on someone at DARPA getting fat kickbacks from the Acme Corporation; that’s the way the military-industrial concept often works. If the bored would-be warriors at DARPA were serious about introducing a formidable new force against evildoers, I recommend they go back to the circus and figure out how to train a battalion of bears on bicycles.

And if anyone at DARPA is reading this (which they probably are as part of the program to spy on everyone everywhere all the time): don’t forget to slip me a juicy consultant’s fee!

2 June 2006
Paris Barbecue
It’s summer, and that means people are grilling pieces of dead animals over open charcoal or propane fires. (As a pedantic aside, it should be noted that grilling is an entirely different endeavor than barbecuing.) And when I smell burning fat, I think of Paris.

Some years ago, I smelled a barbecue while walking through Cimetière du Père Lachaise. I was surprised, because I didn’t think the French did that sort of thing. I soon solved the smelly mystery when I spotted a plume of smoke drifting from the smokestack of the cemetery’s crematorium.

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3 June 2006
Oh dear; it seems like I’m again in trouble before I even did anything. That happens all the time for reasons that continue to elude me. Let me explain ...

“Mongoloid” is the name of the musical quintet I saw tonight at Ace Auto Junkyard, and has nothing to do with someone with Down Syndrome or anyone from Asia in general or Mongolia in particular. In this case, “Mongoloid” is a convoluted reference the ensemble “Devo,” which is a contraction of “deëvolution.”


The eighty-one word introduction was just a contrived setup to mention that Mongoloid vocalist Loid Mongoloid’s simple outfit—an orange biohazard bag and a white cardboard box over his head (with two round holes for the eyes and a third aperture for the microphone)—was, for me, the highlight of the group’s performance.

(If there was a highlight, then if follows that there must have been a lowlight as well. If that is in fact the case, I suppose the lowlight was when sloppy planning resulted in the singer being lowered onto the stage by an ancient, diesel-spewing army crane with his derrière toward the audience. Oops!)

Mongoloid was pretty good, but Cookie Mongoloid was much better. And that’s another story for another day.

4 June 2006
A(nother) Pretentious Waste of Time
When I was proofing yesterday’s notebook entry, I noticed that I’d correctly included a grave accent above the second “e” derrière. That led me to ask my computer if I’d used the correct spelling my previous 3,806 entries. My writing machine informed me that I’d only done so in one of twelve occurrences.

And so, I spent almost an hour on this lovely Sunday afternoon converting “derriere” to “derrière” on my local hard drive as well as on my Internet server.

I wish I didn’t know why I did this, but I do: I enjoy the sick pleasure of being pretentious. I know I should reëxamine that behavior, but I also know that I never will.

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©2006 David Glenn Rinehart