2006 Notebook: Weak XXXV
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28 August 2006
No. 8,433 (cartoon)
What you did was wrong.

I did it for the right reasons.

29 August 2006
The Bacteria of Stupidity
There’s not much to be said about the middle east that hasn’t been said many times over. And even if there was, who’d listen? After decades and centuries—no, make that millennia—of brutal conflicts, I doubt there are many open minds in that scorched neighborhood.

And so it was that I was pleased to come across a piece by Ghazi Hamad, “We Have All Been Attacked By The Bacteria of Stupidity.” I thought the essay was all the more remarkable since Hamad is a spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority.

The bacteria of stupidity: why has no one commented on this obvious and universal phenomenon before?

30 August 2006
It’s All True
In the eighties, Hubert told me a story about a flight aboard a Boeing 737 in South Africa. Hubert was flying on a domestic flight on a clear day when he saw something amazing. One of the two pilots was talking to passengers when the other half of the two-person cockpit crew came out to ask a question, or perhaps to deliver a message.

It’s not important to understand why the entire flight crew was outside the cockpit. For the purpose of the story, the only important thing to know is that no one was in the cockpit when the door separating the pilots from their plane’s controls slammed shut.


Hubert, who knows a thing or seventeen about jets, watched in amazement as the hapless pilots tried to pick dozens of locks to reënter the cockpit.

They failed. And that’s when one of the pilots grabbed a microphone to address the passengers.

“Er, folks, every so often we need to conduct certain safety exercises,” one of the airline drones drawled, “so there’s no need to be alarmed at what you’re about to see.”

And with that, the pilot used a fire axe to smash through the cockpit door. And that was that.

Then, in 2001, a British story reported the tale was an urban myth. After brief, lackadaisical investigation, I concluded that Hubert’s anecdote was probably apocryphal.

As I’ve said before, everything I say is true: it either happened or it will. And thus I was not at all surprised to read today that the pilot of Jazz Airline’s flight from Ottawa to Winnipeg was accidentally locked out of the cockpit. After banging on the door for ten minutes, the crew pulled the door off its hinges in order to allow the captain to land the jet.

And that’s the reason I’m such a generally happy person: sooner or later all my dreams and apocryphal tales come true.

31 August 2006
Fine Dining and Drinking with Dr. Hayes
Dr. Hayes visited me at my studio tonight; he was pleasantly surprised at how good cheap wine can taste. From there, the conversation tuened to food.

My late father succinctly stated the Rinehart position on food in a critique on the meals he received during a hospital stay: “It tastes bad, and there’s not much of it.”

“I agree,” Dr. Hayes replied, “I don’t have to have good food to enjoy good food.”

Later in the evening, we expressed surprise that we’d both failed to appreciate how well grilled-cheese and wasabi sandwiches go with cheap, red wine.

1 September 2006
Toothless Tiger
I read that American toothpaste magnates are excited by the Chinese market after learning that some half a billion people there have never brushed their teeth. I don’t understand their excitement; it seems roughly the conceptual equivalent of saying that ninety-nine percent of male earthlings have never bought a tampon. Perhaps my ignorance explains why I have so little interest in business.

It turns out that Chinese dental hygiene—and lack of same—may be attributed to Chairman Mao, who sagely observed, “A tiger never brushes his teeth.” Instead, Mao employed the peasant custom of rinsing his teeth with green tea. By the time the Great Helmsman died in his early eighties, his few surviving teeth had turned seaweed green.

I’ve tried, but I just can’t seem to generate any interest in the Chinese dental landscape. Maybe my friends were right: I don’t have what it takes to be a toothpaste magnate.

2 September 2006
Ignorance Doesn’t Make You Free
I like to quote the clever remarks of others. Such epigrammatic observations are ideal for this age of short attention spans, and, in any case, I’m not brainy enough to come up with the lines myself.

But, as I’ve remarked before, it’s important to know who you’re quoting. If you don’t believe me, ask Tommaso Coletti, the president of Chieti province in Italy. Coletti contributed some copy for a brochure for local employment centers, and he certainly came up with a memorable quote.

Had I been given that assignment, I probably would have used Noel Coward’s line, “Work is more fun than fun.” Or maybe I would have come up with an alternative, since Coward’s sentiments don’t seem particularly Italian. Perhaps that’s why Coletti used a familiar maxim.

“I don’t remember where I read this phrase, but it was one of those quotes that have an instant impact on you because they tell an immense truth,” Coletti wrote.

Unfortunately, the words Coletti chose are most familiar in their original German. In fact, you can still see, “Arbeit macht Frei,” at Auschwitz. Even though the concept that “work makes you free” has some merit, it will be another millennium or two before that concept isn’t associated with Nazi death camps. If you don’t believe me, ask Tommaso Coletti, who’s issued three hundred and seventy-three public apologies at last report.

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©2006 David Glenn Rinehart