2008 Notebook: Weak XIII
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26 March 2008
No. 1,384 (cartoon)
I fear that you’ll leave me.

I left you long ago.

27 March 2008
How to Smoke a Pipe
I recently perused Franz Zeier’s how-to volume, Books, Boxes and Portfolios. I was intrigued by the craft involved, even though making things out of paper—as opposed to pixels—isn’t of much interest these days. In addition, I was intimidated by the degree of expertise needed to make portfolio boxes, bind books, et cetera.

Zeier acknowledged the technical challenges involved in such work. “Obviously one cannot master a craft in a ten-hour course. Even learning how to ski or to smoke a pipe requires more time than that.”

It takes more than ten hours to learn how to smoke a pipe?! I mastered the pipe in under a minute when I was a teenager. If you’re new to that experience, here’s a brief tutorial.

1. Put smokable substance in one end of pipe.

2. Alight smokable substance.

3a. Inhale from other end of pipe.

3b. Don’t cough.

3c. Exhale.

4. Repeat as desired.

I wish bookbinding was so simple.

28 March 2008
British Hierarchy on the Streets of San Francisco
After spending a month taking care of Catherine’s cats, last night was my last chance to get rid of all the detritus I’d accumulated before she returned. In San Francisco, that means separating recyclable trash from trashy trash. In addition, it’s just good manners to isolate the recyclable items that can be easily redeemed for cash, such as Rainier Ale cans, which are worth ten cents each.

When I went outside, I saw an apparently homeless man rummaging through the neighbor’s recycling container. He was understandably a bit grimy and disheveled; it’s difficult to keep clean and heveled if you’re living on the streets.

“I have a lot of cans for you over here,” I told him.

“Fanks, mate,” he replied and walked over with his large, plastic bag full of cans and bottles.

“Are you from England?” I asked.

I was almost certain of the answer, although I’ve been confused by Australians, South Africans, and New Zealanders before. He confirmed that he was, and mentioned the name of some small town in Buckinghamshire.

“I lived in Newcastle for a while,” I said.

“That’s way up north, innit?” he replied disparagingly.

That’s when it all came back to me: the great English divide between north and south. The southerners regard the northerners as the coarse, drunken working class, and the northerners view the southerners contemptuously as the soft, doughy politicians and financiers who take advantage of them. Both stereotypes are not without some merit; such caricatures are a foundation of the British class system.

I wished the homeless man good luck as he put the Rainier Ale cans into his bag.

“Fanks, mate,” he replied in the condescending voice southern Brits reserve for their northern neighbors.

I enjoyed my good deed. Not only did I give several dollars worth of aluminum to someone who clearly needed it, I also elevated him one rung up his social ladder, if only for a moment.

29 March 2008
Death with a Smile
It’s entirely likely that Blanca and Carol Lopez died smiling. The teenagers perished in a nasty car crash; investigators found a half tank of laughing gas in the front of the car. Pathologists also found nitrous oxide in Blanca’s blood; she was driving. Since laughing gas passes through the body so quickly, pathologists believe she must have inhaled quite a bit of the nitrous oxide immediately before the fatal accident.

I hope I die with a smile on my face, a smile generated by something much more interesting than laughing gas.

30 March 2008
Licentious Wombats?!
On 11 February, Arthur Cradock called police to report that he was being sexually assaulted by a wombat. I just learned about the incident; even in this day and age news travels slowly from New Zealand’s South Island. Apparently the attack wasn’t too horrific; the forty-eight-year old farm worker soon made a second call to inform the authorities that has was fine, except for a curious side effect.

“Apart from speaking Australian now, I’m pretty all right you know,” he reported.

Cradock didn’t want to press charges against the wombat, but Motueka authorities did want to charge him with with the crime, “using a phone for a fictitious purpose.” To no one’s surprise, prosecutors said, “alcohol played a large part in Cradock’s life.”

The court sentenced the Australian-speaking alleged victim to seventy-five hours of community volunteer work. Ideally, he’ll spend the time cleaning out wombat cages at the zoo until he starts talking New Zealandish again.

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31 March 2008
Mount Rainier Ale (sketch)
One of the joys of drinking Rainier Ale is meditating on the illustration of Mount Rainier that’s printed on every container. That’s why I always drink from the can, and never from a glass.

Predictably, I often think about Mt. Rainier when drinking the eponymous beverage. A very long time ago I came up with the idea of making a model of Mt. Rainier using Rainier Ale cans. Having considered the idea for some time, I decided to do something about it. I bought thirty-six cans of the sophisticated adult beverage, and arranged them in the shape of Mt. Rainier.

Sort of.

As I soon discovered, it’s difficult to make even a crude, two-dimensional representation of a mountain; I felt like I was working with tall, cylindrical pixels. I can’t call my modest stack of cans a model of Mt. Rainier, but I can call it a sketch for the finished piece.

I doubt there ever will be a finished piece. My volume of my piece was only a sixth of a cubic meter; I fear I don’t have the resources to make even a hundred-thousand to one model. I’m not sure, though, since no one seems to know the volume of Mt. Rainier.

On a technical note, the astute observer will note that I only used thirty-five cans in my piece. That’s because I drank the thirty-sixth can while I made the documentary photograph.

1 April 2008
The First April Fools Day
Very few people know the true story of the first April Fools Day. That’s because few people share my rigorous discipline when it comes to exhaustive research.

It all started in the tiny duchy of Ingannare in 1169. The rulers, Olaf Lispor and Flora Polis, were brought together in a marriage of political expediency. The couple shared little love, but enjoyed macabre practical jokes. For example, they staged a public execution of a peasant caught eating a “left-handed apple.” The sovereigns laughed outrageously as soon as the headsman’s ax passed through the unfortunate victim’s neck. Later, they explained to their terrified subjects that there was no such thing as a left-handed apple.

The demented despots celebrated the first April Fools Day festivities eight hundred and thirty-nine years ago today. They proclaimed the day “April Fools” because it was an anagram of both “Olaf Lispor” and “Flora Polis.”


2 April 2008
Giving Oddness a Bad Name
The Bookseller, a trade magazine, recently asked its readers to vote for the winner of The Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. The publishers provided six candidates:

1. Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues

2. Cheese Problems Solved

3. How to Write a How to Write Book

4. I Was Tortured By the Pygmy Love Queen

5. If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs

6. People who Mattered in Southend and Beyond: From King Canute to Dr Feelgood

If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs won the contest, but only because there wasn’t a seventh option: none of the above.

The ignoramuses at The Bookseller overlooked much more interesting titles, such as Unzipping the Arctic Aardvark, Bleach Martini Bulimics, Sex After Death for Beginners, et cetera. It’s people like the editors at The Bookseller give oddness a bad name.

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©2008 David Glenn Rinehart