2006 Notebook: Weak XLVIII
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26 November 2006
No. 1,862 (cartoon)
First you made me swallow my pride.

Now I’m swallowing my pain.

Bon appétit!

27 November 2006
Just Ask Any Microwaved Baby
I recently read two headlines about childrearing gone horribly wrong, “Canadian Man On Trial For Putting Baby In Freezer,” and, “Police Say Mother Microwaved Her Baby.”

The former baby suffered freezer burns, but survived. The microwaved baby wasn’t as fortunate; it died over a year ago. Ohio authorities didn’t get around to pressing charges until now, though, because it took a while to conclude that the one-month old baby had in fact been microwaved to death.

“There is not a lot of scientific research and data on the effect of microwaves on human beings,” explained Ken Betz, the director of the Montgomery County coroner’s office.

I bet lots of military types are all too familiar with the effects of microwaving humans; I wonder if Betz talked with those nasty torturers at the CIA or NSA? But that’s besides the point. For millennia, humans have raised their offspring without using electronic appliances, and I suspect such cooling and cooking devices will never prove to be valuable childrearing aids.

Just ask any microwaved baby.

28 November 2006
At the Library
I’m not shy about demonstrating my ignorance, and so I will. Again.

After a friend canceled a rendezvous, I decided to spend a few hours at the main branch of the San Francisco public library. I hadn’t been in the library in almost a decade. It’s not a coincidence that was the time that the Internet pretty much obviated my need to go there.

I used to feel at home in libraries, but today the aisles of books seemed distant, even as I was walking through them. I suppose I’ve been spoiled by a decade of accessing millions of volumes over the Internet. And so, I sat on a comfortable couch in the middle of hundreds of thousands of books, and took advantage of the library’s wireless Internet access to read stories on my personal computer.

Regardless of the myriad ways of accessing words and ideas, the San Francisco library still offers one of the finest public toilets in the city; the Internet will never replace that convenience.

29 November 2006
Kimchi Handicap
I don’t pay much attention to sporting events, but I was nevertheless dismayed to read about a raid on Korean athletes. Qatari authorities raided the Koreans’ living quarters at the Asian Games and confiscated their kimchi, along with chilies and chili paste!

Why the Asian Games are being held in Doha, this I do not know. I also don’t know whether the looting represented the Arabs’ cultural insensitivity or simply a heavy-handed way to handicap the Koreans. What I do know is that I wouldn’t bet serious money on the Koreans this week.

30 November 2006
Government Art
I just learned something about Jackson Pollock, who’s been dead for over fifty years: the artist was funded by the Central Intelligence Agency!


It’s unclear whether the CIA sponsored Pollock to promote the capitalistic virtues of free thought, or whether merchandising abstract expressionism meant that artists would be dissuaded from producing bothersome political art.

My unfortunate experiences with the perfidious thieves at the Arts Council of England long ago convinced me that government funding for the arts is a Very Bad Thing. On the other hand, I think it’s fine for politicians to promote artists by denouncing them. I regret that the racist pigdog Jesse Helms never maligned me the way he attacked Robert Mapplethorpe. Even an artist with very modest abilities such as Karen Finley can parlay condemnations by politicians into a profitable career.

I wonder if the CIA is still funding artists? Judging by the mediocre apolitical art that’s currently fashionable, I wouldn’t be surprised.

1 December 2006
Lard Art
After visiting artists’ open studios in Sausedalito tonight, I can report that there are a lot of tedious painters across the Golden Gate. I can’t imagine why so many of them chose to make variation of the same landscape. After all, I think one painting of rolling California hills at sunset is enough, but it’s apparent that my opinion isn’t shared by a large number of insipid artists.

And so it was that I enjoyed meeting Amy Pollman, a self-described “suburban renegade.” Pollman makes small, whimsical sculptures of roly-poly people. I didn’t enjoy the retinal qualities of her work, but I quite liked the conceptual aspects. Specifically, I appreciated her choice of medium; she used Hostess Twinkies.

When I asked Pollman whether she was concerned with the archival properties of her work, she looked at me as if I’d just asked a stupid question. In fact, I realized I had asked a stupid question as soon as the words were out of my mouth.

I recalled a story I’d heard about a science teacher who put a Hostess Twinkie on a shelf in his classroom. Over twenty years later, the alleged pastry filled with sugar, lard, and some very efficacious preservatives looked exactly the same as when it left the Hostess Factory decades ago.

As Dan White would have told you had he not rightly killed himself, you can’t go wrong with Hostess Twinkies!

2 December 2006
Crazy Chess News
Dang; all sorts of crazy stuff is happening in the normally staid and sedate world of chess.

First, the cover story of The International Chess Inquisitor posed the serious question, “A Potty Break Too Far?” The article examined the bathroom habits of the Russian player Vladimir Kramnik, who was taking over fifty bathroom breaks a game.

Veselin Topalov, his Bulgarian opponent at the World Chess Championships in the Russian republic of Kalmykia, accused the Moscovite of cheating. As a result, World Chess Federation locked Kramnik’s private bathroom.

“My dignity does not allow me to stand this situation,” the petulant Russian announced, then sat in front of his inaccessible toilet in protest. He refused to play, and forfeited the game.

As for what happened next, I have no idea. I stopped paying attention to the juvenile antics of a spoiled idiot savant in favor of a more interesting chess story.

The World Chess Federation announced it would be testing players to ensure they weren’t using performance enhancing drugs. I perked up when I heard that news; I imagine anything that could improve my pathetic chess game would have myriad other benefits. Sadly, it appears there are no such drugs, either illicit or legal.

“I would not know which drug could possibly help a chess player to improve his game,” acknowledged Yousuf Ahmad Ali, a World Chess Federation official.

Dang; I guess alcohol shall continue to be my drug of choice, even though it contributes to my piss-poor chess performance.

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©2006 David Glenn Rinehart