2008 Notebook: Weak XLVIII
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27 November 2008
No. 9,666 (cartoon)
Do you have a death wish?

No, but I don’t have a life wish either.

28 November 2008
Turkey or Chop Suey?
I told my eighty-seven year old uncle that I spent yesterday’s thanksgiving holiday with Japanese friends.

“What’d they serve, turkey or chop suey?” he asked.

I have no idea whether he was joking or if he was serious. I shall continue to strive for such rewarding ambiguity.

29 November 2008
The Futility of Checkers
I rarely even scan the obituaries; I’m not that old. Yet.

Yet for some reason, I stumbled across the headline, “Richard L. Fortman, a Champion at Checkers, Dies at 93.”

The publication’s editors thought his passing merited a two-sentence eulogy.

Richard L. Fortman, an internationally known authority on checkers, the sport of men and kings, died on Nov. 8 in Springfield, Ill. He was 93 and a lifelong resident of Springfield.

The brief piece didn’t mention the cause of death, but I knew what it was: a broken heart. No other explanation is possible, and I know why.

Last year, scientists devised a program that allowed a computer to never lose a game of checkers. The best an opponent could hope for was a tie, thus putting checkers in the same category of games as tic-tac-toe.

Fortman had to have known about that, and it’s easy to imagine his reaction. Here’s a person who spent all of his life studying the nuances of checkers and improving his game, only to learn that checkers—unlike chess—is a math problem that can be solved.

If I discovered in my nineties that art, music, and writing were futile and worthless, I think I’d lose my will to live as well. Fortunately, I learned that my creative pursuits were a waste of time when I was a teenager, so I suffer from no delusions of adequacy.

30 November 2008
Michael Jackson Unmapped
Where does creativity come from and where does it go? That’s the question Sheikh Abdulla bin Hamad al-Khalifa may have been asking himself not too long ago. Just as every problem looks like a nail when the only available tool is a hammer, the son of the king of Bahrain thought money might solve his predicament.

The thirty-three year old sheikh’s problem was Michael Jackson. Bin Hamad al-Khalifa gave Jackson millions of dollars in advances toward creating a new album, a musical, and an explicit autobiography. This proved to be an unwise investment, since the former musician’s creative pursuits have recently limited to plastic surgery disasters, freakishly outlandish behavior, and, of course, dubious interactions with children.

Enter Tony Buzan.

The sheikh paid the “mind-mapping and motivational guru” some $350,000 to cure Jackson’s acedia. Empirical evidence, as well as a lawsuit, suggests that Buzan was unable to motivate Jackson, and that the singer’s mind remains unmapped, terra incognito.

Too bad for the pathetic Jackson; I’m sure he could have learned a thing or two from Buzan. Anyone clever enough to get a third of a million dollars from an opulent potentate is clearly one very creative hombre!

1 December 2008
Clock Killed
When you play solo, a lot of it’s just killing time, killing the clock.

Dave McKenna said that; the pianist died last month. McKenna killed the clock until the clock killed him; that’s what I call a cautionary tale!

2 December 2008
No Hadean Photographs
The sun is fifty percent brighter now than it was four billion years ago, give or take. I suppose that’s why it took so long for someone to invent photography; it’s much easier in bright light. That’s too bad; I’d like to see some photographs from the Hadean Eon, even if they were underexposed.

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©2008 David Glenn Rinehart