2007 Notebook: Weak XXIII
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5 June 2007
No. 5,591 (cartoon)
Things are looking up.

Because you’re on your knees?

6 June 2007
Artists’ Suicides as a Public Good
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: dying is almost always a good career move for an artist. And now, I can cite a scientific study that supports my position. I am indebted to three professors—Samuel Cameron, Bijou Yang, and David Lester—for their publication, Artists’ Suicides as a Public Good.

“The perspective on suicide from the discipline of economics,” the authors report, “has to lead us to the position that suicide may be a good thing.”

Take Kurt Cobain for example. Never mind that many of the people who had the misfortune of working with him found him arrogant and unpleasant; Artists’ Suicides as a Public Good examines the financial benefits of his suicide. His shot in the head was a shot in the arm for his widow’s musical career, and the resulting publicity has benefitted sales of Cobain’s recordings. The professors also note that Cobain, like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison, died when he was twenty-seven.

“The potential of his future artistic productivity may be much less than was generated by his suicide,” the professors wrote. “Indeed, it is possible that future mediocre works might have blighted a legacy, leading to negative reappraisals and lower sales of his peak-period work.”

What a great bit of research! Too bad Paul McCartney couldn’t have read Artists’ Suicides as a Public Good in 1969; he might be regarded as a great musician today instead of as a pathetic parody of himself.

7 June 2007
Huge, Huge!
In recent months, I’ve written about inventions that have deeply impressed me, such as instant ramen, the beer-tossing refrigerator, and caffeinated soap. Even these innovations, as brilliant and clever as they clearly are, pale in comparison to my latest discovery.

In fact, I consider this innovation to be the third most important advance in human history after the wheel (a Leica wouldn’t be a Leica with a square shutter-speed dial) and the binary numeral system that keeps my computer barely functional. The creation is one humans have desired for millennia: powdered alcohol.

Dutch students have created the holy grail of libations, and given their product a most unfortunate name, Booz2Go. And they’re targeting children with the concoction, since legal prohibitions against selling alcohol to minors apparently don’t apply to the recently-invented powdered variety.

I’m not put off by the students’ ignorance of their innovation’s potential. After all, the telephone was originally envisioned as a way to listen to concerts remotely.

Powdered alcohol is huge, huge! Now that scientific progress has removed the last barrier to space travel, can the colonization of the moon and Mars be far behind?

8 June 2007
Dick Became Richard
I worked with Dick Dillman decades ago; he and I conducted Greenpeace’s first long-distance computer-to-computer communication in the early eighties. Neither of us preserved the transcript; here’s all I remember.


Dick: YES

The technology—three-hundred baud modems—wasn’t good for much more than that, so we called it a night.

I was reminded of that auspicious experiment tonight when I showed up at a party celebrating Dick’s thirty years of work with my least favorite environmental organization (except for all the rest).

When I arrived a Peg’s flat, I was surprised to learn that Dick Dillman was no more. Fortunately, his departure didn’t involve leaving this mortal coil. Instead, my learned friend decided to abandon the use of his nickname, Dick, for his formal name, Richard.

I was tempted to make a snide remark or two, but quickly thought the better of it. After all, Richard—not to be confused with Dick—has known me long enough to remember when some people addressed me as Dave.

9 June 2007
Are Chickens Inherently Unfunny?
Carolyn told me her favorite chicken joke, the one that answers the question, “Why did the pervert cross the road?” Everyone knows the answer, so there’s no point repeating it.

I was struck by the fact that I couldn’t think of any chicken jokes, not one. That’s atypical; usually I can always come up some stupid joke given a particular subject.

I don’t like to bifurcate, but I’ll make an exception here. Remembering jokes really does seem to be one of those binary propositions: some people can, some people can’t.

Beryl is an exception when it comes to jokes; she knows exactly three of them. Not one, not four, not five, not two; Beryl knows precisely three jokes.

1. What’s brown and sticky?

2. What’s orange and sounds like a parrot?

3. How many men does it take to tile a bathroom?

Beryl’s jokes are old, but not popular. And so, I shall provide the answers.

1. A stick.

2. A carrot.

3. One, if you slice him thinly enough.

10 June 2007
Old Enough to Know Better
Today, like most other days, I did something really stupid. Imelda noticed, and selflessly took time to chastise me.

“Really, David,” she tut-tutted, “you’re old enough to know better.”

“Yes,” I admitted as I surveyed the damage, “but I’m still too young to care.”

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©2007 David Glenn Rinehart