2009 Notebook: Weak III
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15 January 2009
No. 618 (cartoon)
What do you look for in a friend?

Compliance and gullibility.

16 January 2009
Sea Kittens?!
I like fish; I can spend ages transfixed watching my finny friends zipping around their hundred-liter aquarium. I also like fish with chips, fish with soy sauce and wasabi, fish sandwiches, all sorts of fish.

Other folks, though, believe fish should never come in contact with a broiler, soy sauce, that sort of thing. Some of these people are employed by the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals; they’ve decided to defend fish from omnivores like me. I’d ask why they’re doing this since fish aren’t animals per se, but that would be opening a can of worms, invertebrates that may or may not be animals.

According to one of the organization’s founders, she and her colleagues decided to provide better public relations “for fish, giving them a ‘rebrand’ consisting of a new name, ‘sea kittens,’ and a more positive image.”

This bizarre campaign sounds like something hallucinated by the People for the Excessive Taking of Amphetamine. I can’t imagine the acute delirium I’d need to think of my aquarium fishes as sea kittens. I wonder if Persons for the Extremely Tedious Analogies have some sort of elixir to address my imagination deficiency; I’d like to see a sea kitten.

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17 January 2009
Idle Barbershop Speculation
I was walking down an Oakland street when I spotted a curious sign in a barbershop window.

    Customers waiting before the barbershop opens, must make their presence known to each other, before entering the shop.

I wonder what purpose the sign serves? Create a convivial atmosphere among the clientele? Avoid knife fights between customers about who’s first in line?

I could have walked into the barbershop and inquired, but that would have prevented me from engaging in this pointless, idle speculation. Also, that would mean I could no longer say that I haven’t been in a barbershop since I was a teenager. Actually, I never say that I haven’t had my hair cut professionally in decades; my undomesticated mane speaks for itself.

18 January 2009
Posthumous Pollution
Humans pollute; that’s obvious. What’s not so apparent is that, because of our increasing numbers, we are now able to pollute posthumously. The Environment Agency in England has recommended inspecting for cremation ashes, that’s how bad the problem has become on that grim island.

Recently, workers at the Jane Austen House Museum found lots of powdery remains in patches and piles around the late author’s house and garden. (But was that pollution or literary criticism?) More and more human ashes are being found everywhere from sports stadia to the tops of the tallest hills, where phosphate from cremated bones is wreaking havoc with plant life. (The Brits refer to these hilltops as “mountain summits,” but everyone knows there are no real mountains in Britain.)

I find this news curiously reassuring. Even as a crispy corpse, I’ll still have one last opportunity to ruffle some feathers, figuratively if not literally.

19 January 2009
Poe at Two Hundred
Today is Edgar Allan Poe’s two-hundredth birthday. I thought of him after an unsatisfactory nap this afternoon. I evidently slept for some time, but I dreamt that I was unable to fall asleep. And thus, my siesta failed to provide the desired distance from consciousness.

Poe wrote cheered me up when I read, “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” Maybe I actually had a great nap; perhaps my dissatisfaction was only an afternoon nightmare.

There’s a lot to like about Poe, who said most of those “who hold high places in our poetical literature are absolute nincompoops.” And how can anyone dislike someone who shudders at Henry “Daffodil Boy” Longfellow’s pablum?

Poe still has a lot for which to answer. After he and his wife pawned almost all of their possessions, he lived on bread, molasses, depression, and alcoholism. He penned some of his best stories while watching his wife die, leading lesser writers to conclude that misery, poverty, and alcohol lead to great work, when in fact they only lead to desolation, indigence, and alcoholism.

Whatever. Happy birthday, Ed!

20 January 2009
Predictable Presidential Poetry
President Obama elected to have a poet at his inauguration today. That’s another rookie mistake by the new leader who previously chose to bring a dog into the white house without even interviewing a single cat.

As poets go, he could have done worse than Elizabeth Alexander. She’s the writer who noted that poetry, “is not all love, love, love and I’m sorry the dog died.” I bet she appreciates Carolyn Kizer’s astute observation, “Poets are interested mostly in death and commas.”

Oh well, now there’s a new president and the same lame poetry. That’s a disappointment, but not a surprising one from the man who promised to bring change. Had he followed through, he would have had a jester instead of a poet. The United States is cheek by jowl with great comedians, but there aren’t many good poets outside of Cameroon or Moldavia.

21 January 2009
Musings on Elephant Dung
The Wildlife Conservation Society announced that its researchers have concluded that some six hundred elephants live in Malaysia’s Taman Negara National Park. The investigators reached their conclusions by counting piles of elephant dung.

I’ve been on jungle reconnaissance forays with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Thailand; I respect the people with whom I’ve worked. Having said that, I have to add that I think their use of elephant shit to count elephants is, well, elephant shit.

Ask any knowledgeable wildlife expert, and s/he’ll tell you that the only way to accurately count elephants is to count the total number of trunks and legs, then divide by five. Any other population estimates are just piles of elephant dung.

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©2009 David Glenn Rinehart