Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Good Night, Sleep Tight...

...and don’t let the bed-bugs bite. In the last century, as it advanced, people on either side of the Atlantic came to think that modern ways had really managed to rid humanity of certain evils, once and for all. Semmelweis had taught doctors to wash their hands and banished puerperal fever. Koch discovered the cause of tuberculosis in 1882, a graduate student, Albert Schatz, isolated streptomycin in 1943, and it was shown to cure TB by 1947. DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) had been synthesized in 1847; its insecticidal properties were discovered in 1939 when I was three; we were virtually covered with the white powder during World War II to rid us of head-lice, if present; and it did for bed-bugs too. When we arrived in the United States in 1951, infantile paralysis, polio, was still a curse, and we frequently saw those it had afflicted. A year later Salk developed a vaccine, and mass immunizations were underway by 1955. No. It wasn’t difficult to believe in progress in the twentieth century. Signs of it manifested everywhere.

A few years ago, working on a multi-volume essay series at ECDI, we became aware of some strange developments. Among these were isolated outbreaks of TB again, and even documented but fortunately tiny outbreaks of the bubonic plague in Peru in 1994. (Checking on this fact today, I discovered that another outbreak had been noted this year.) We learned that the pharmaceutical industry was not investing much, if anything, into the continued control of diseases that have been “dealt with” once and for all—but variants of the causing bacteria have evolved. DDT was banned in agricultural use; it produces cancer. And the bedbug is back. What goes around...comes back? Curves that rise...also go down? I wonder. Are doctors still washing their hands?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Seasonal Contrast

Spring and late summer. The girl decked out, the matron. Going on walks with a little camera and a good memory...

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Another power failure quite early in the morning—I’ve mentioned a series of these that took place three weeks ago with literal fireworks—caused one of our neighbors to mutter: “Just like the third world.” To which I responded saying, “Welcome to Iraq, Betty.” But the sun was out, the sky was a deep blue, a cool, a lovely Indian summer day, which prompted me to pen, literally, a blog for LaMarotte out back. Done with it I read it to Brigitte saying: “No power, no Internet, no blogs. But posts can still be written.” And she: “Yes, but how are we going to post it?” This led to some bemused speculation.

We still have a typewriter, but it’s electric—and the F key doesn’t work (which might please linguistic puritans). The answer therefore was to use the daylight while it lasted to make neatly legible hand-written copies. Brigitte could make two, I could make three. The telephone still worked, thus while lunching on home-harvested tomatoes (we wouldn't dare open refrigerator doors) we might attempt to locate the physical mailing address of the two of five blog readers whose whereabouts we only vaguely know. The Post Office near us might still have power—although the stop lights on Mac had gone blind—and while I was out I might still find a functioning restaurant where thermos bottles might be filled with real hot coffee.

If you’ve wondered why some of my posts are so doomy, it’s because, from time to time, we’re getting intimations of cultural mortality.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Peacable Nature

Back in the early 1980s we still lived in Minneapolis, and we frequently visited St. Paul where daughter Monique had a rather unique apartment—the bottom floor of a sprawling old mansion, in what had once been one of the most fashionable neighborhoods, almost walking distance from the Capitol. Near there, about two blocks away, was a splendidly large and eccentric bookshop where, on many an afternoon, I’d wander to find strange and wonderful books. Quite a few from my collection come from there. I chanced across one of these in an almost hidden half-aisle at the back. It was titled Peaceable Nature, by Stephan Lackner; it came out in 1984. The title alone brought instant affirmation. The theme of the book had many times come into my own thoughts as I’d avidly studied biology down to its very foundations and discovered there something quite other than “Nature, red in tooth and claw” as per Lord Tennyson. Lackner’s observation, in a phrase, was that nature is cooperative and symbiotic, by and large; it’s peaceable and, furthermore, all of one piece—and so is, hold on now, humanity.

I’d also had had that same thought often when looking at the world as a whole rather than through the distorting lens of the Media, the first time many years before, in Washington, DC. I was working late downtown, alone in an empty office suite. It was after dark already—it was Spring—when I descended into the grubby underground to drive our little blue VW up and out in a spiraling course and then, down 18th Street, then headed west to cross into Arlington by the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge, aiming further for the suburbs. I discovered the next morning that at that very time, about two blocks from the office that I had occupied, the largest protest march in all of U.S. history up to that time had taken place. The cause was the Vietnam War; the year was 1970. I’d seen nothing, nothing whatsoever, to signal that something really big was going down. The big picture was quiet.

To this picture I must link what Brigitte and I call “the virtues of modernity,” namely that so many, many things—indeed most things—work so wonderfully well and last so long. We never fail to note this when we’re on a trip and hurtling through some urban area on a well-made freeway at seventy miles an hour in dense traffic, with huge truck roaring as we pass them and other vans and cars pass us, even at that speed. “The noble ball-bearing,” I always think—thousands and thousands and thousands of them—and never a one failing. And that’s just the transport system. But this general virtue—which depends on discipline, care, consistency—and each system, social and physical, properly interlocking—touches virtually every aspect of modern life. To be sure, a cynical take might be that what we call virtue isn’t. It’s simply adaptive behavior; those who violate it will feel the lash of sanctions. All right, all right. That’s true enough. But here, this morning, I take the wider view. I look down upon all this from a great height. I think of the workmen who poured the concrete of what is now our new neighbors’ drive; I watched them working, carefully, thoughtfully, returning several times to one spot that wouldn’t behave. And what I saw was care, commitment, virtue. And these were ordinary people, a real random sample of American humanity. I prefer to think of it was virtue. It’s there, and overwhelmingly present.

It’s good to remind ourselves, occasionally, of this, the bigger picture, in nature and in man—because by our very biological design we’re much more inclined to see those things that fail, that threaten, than the overwhelming mass of things that function with exceeding excellence.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I have a pet theory that in Western culture everything starts with the French. They invent it, think it first—but they don’t get the credit. Commercial exploitation of the thing is by the Americans. And the Japanese finally figure out how to make it properly. In this context, the other day—and the impetus for this was a post by Montag here—it tickled me no end that that, to me, most favorite architectural feature, the gargoyle, comes from the French word gargouille, which means spout or, more specifically, water-spout. That word, in turn, comes from the Latin gurgulio, gullet, throat, or windpipe. It’s an onomatopoetic word because swallowing has a kind of sound, most pronounced in gargling.

Gargoyles and I go a long way back. I spent much of my vacation time in the U.S. Army, in Europe, visiting gothic cathedrals, and there a bond never to be broken was established—but so heedless is true love, I never really bothered to research the subject. The genuine gargoyle, you see, is not merely a decoration. No. It has functional purpose. Function always comes first where money is involved. To make the most of something necessarily there—now that’s a sign of high civilization. And so the middle ages turned the necessary water spout into an object of art.

Now it turns out that a true gargoyle must spout water, led to it by hidden guttering, whereas, strictly speaking, a purely decorative gargoyle is known as a grotesque. And I learned this because Montag’s post, on the broader subject of “Grotesque” caused me to look deeper into the subject—and there it was, again, my old friend, the gargoyle.

Now that word, grotesque, turns out to have come from the Latin grotto, meaning cave or hollow. Here too the derivation of the concept is convoluted. After the fall of the Roman Empire, its old buried buildings were rediscovered and dug out, hollowed out. Inside these “grottos” people found ancient decadent arts that looked very strange to them. They named them for the type of places in which they had been found. But by one of those wondrous linguistic transformations, what the finders thought about these works of art, namely that they struck them as excessive, extravagant, and weird, came to be attached to name of the location. Grotto-esque, in other words.

A gargoyle that don’t spout water is a kind of decadent gargoyle, folks, and hence belongs with that weird art of the past, the grotesque. Enough said. Let’s look at pictures.

Herewith a genuine gargoyle. It resides on the Mausoleum for Queen Louise-Marie, Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk, in Ostend, Belgium. The source is here.

And here is what I take to be a decorative gargoyle, thus a grotesque, from the roof of Notre Dame de Paris. The source is here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Missed by Euphemism

The human mind endlessly fascinates. Our ability to ignore that which we do not choose to see is an instance of a power. But mostly we don’t notice that we have it. Three weeks ago or thereabouts, the electric power lines in our neighborhood suddenly began to stage quite fantastic fireworks. By nights we saw the strangest of sharp, multi-colored lights, whole showers of sparks, and we heard huge booming and/or crackling sounds. Anxious crowds collected to watch this magic display on side-walks and in yards, hands touching faces: would those garages go up in flame? When the problem recurred by day, we saw white flashes and black clouds of smoke rise high into the air. These displays rapidly led to power failures that lasted many hours. My point in all this? The point is that, until this happened, we did not really see those power lines. But for some days after these events, we saw the amazing complexity of wire mazes above us, paralleling our streets, transecting our trees behind our houses—in our neighborhood and others. We had become aware of a kind of utilitarian ugliness that, until then, had been entirely filtered out.

Now the other day, as I was walking, a DEAD END sign came into view. Behind it lay a rather charming little street with well-kept, lovely homes. But now, sensitized by power-outage, it occurred to me that the people who lived there surely did not see that sign any more. In this day and age, to live in a street boldly labeled a “dead end” would surely have, long since, resulted in an explosion of that most modern of emotions, Outrage. How can they do that? How can they label us that way. We’re not dead-enders—no we’re not. We can change that—yes we can. The mind’s power to ignore occurred to me as an explanation why thus far Euphemism hadn’t tamed this yellow diamond. I wandered on, thinking about that sign.

The French call it the bottom of the sack—and living there does little more for property values than “dead end.” In Hungarian these are “sack streets,” in German “sack alleys”; both Spanish and Italian suggest that totally cheerless play by Sartre, No Exit.

I walked for an hour or so, and by the time I glimpsed a new sign on another street, the subject had been replaced by others. But there, right there before me, was a hint that Euphemism may have been stirred up after all. This sign, still yellow, was small, oblong, and affixed demurely just underneath the street's name. It said NO OUTLET. Well, well, well, I thought. And then I thought again. To live in a “no outlet” street might not exactly cheer the overly sensitive. Those words also provide at the least the germ of victimhood. Suppose your marriage is a little rocky. No outlet. Suppose your emotions are bottled up. Dear City Administration! I suggest you go back to the drawing board. What about something hip? DRIVE THROUGH. NOT. Wouldn’t that be better? Any suggestions?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

If I had to Pick One

If I had to pick one picture out of the many score taken on our brief vacation trip up north, this would be the one. Two of our three daughters, Michelle and Monique, morning, Traverse City, Michigan.

That Voice in the Wilderness

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isaiah 40:3.
The phrase occurred to me because I noted the death of Matthew R. Simmons this morning on LaMarotte. Simmons was one of the prominent figures promoting awareness of an issue that has been, curiously, tokenized as Peak Oil. The phrase refers to peak oil production in any country, inevitably followed by decline and, ultimately, the stop of the last pump. Thus “peak” really refers to oil running out. Now unless our geologists are entirely mistaken and the core of the planet turns out to be oil rather than molten iron, oil will certainly run out. Peak Oil marks the beginning of the end. The world peak may be happening right now. The last prominent report, as I note here on LaMarotte, puts the peak into the 2011-2013 time frame. Given that oil consumption has reached an all-time high and is still growing, descent from peak to virtually nothing will take place much more rapidly than it took to reach the peak. Therefore it looks like the Age of Oil may well end in this century yet.

This is a recurring subject I touch upon because, over many, many years of studying technology, I’m perhaps excessively aware of the role petroleum plays in everything we do. Therefore the wind-down promises an exceedingly dangerous period in human history. And, as I’ve also noted more than once on LaMarotte (see for instance, “Fusion Footnote” here) the alternatives available to humanity do not promise a smooth transition first to so-called renewable energy and then, perhaps to fusion. No. It’s not in the cards—and least so if the transition to the post-oil future is disordered. For all of these reasons, prominent expert voices like Simmons’ are valuable in warning the public that such matters as conservation are not “symbolic” or “do-gooder” gestures but genuine actions for the common good. The longer we can delay global meltdown, the slower the process of transition, the more likelihood of saving actual lives, indeed millions of lives. I find it very difficult to imagine humanity able to support nearly 6.9 billion people without oil.

Now of course, if we look around, we discover that Simmons’ was a voice crying in the wilderness. Far too few are listening. What I hear instead, going on my walks, is the roar of leaf-blowers and mowers wasting gas—and that’s the least of the waste prominently on view. Alas, oil is cheaper than human labor.

Now in looking up the verse in Isaiah, I noted that it is also quoted in each of the gospels of the New Testament. And my mind calculated how long ago those words were first written and then approvingly repeated. Which suggests to me that deafness to the cries of prophets, religious or secular, is the rule and not the exception. After all, two thousand plus years later, the same phrase spontaneously springs to my mind too. But some do hear. And those who do actually do make a difference. It’s a small consolation.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pumpkin's Progress

In this post I am keeping up with our 2010 pumpkin, the one growing out of our compost heap. This is the third appearance of this plant on Ghulf Genes, each picture one month apart. Here you see the plant’s development as recorded on June, July, and August 10th.

The plant began to flower in August, but the photograph does not show the yellow blooms.

Our very casual and eccentric “nature’s perserve,” in part hugging a narrow piece of ground against a fence, in part occupying strange towers built of bricks harvested years ago from a modernized driveway, provide us with continuous enjoyment, and the pumpkin is now a recurring phenomenon.

Now that the summer’s highlight—the visit of members of our French family to the New World—is over, we may yet proceed to do the long-postponed uproar—the replacement of our backyard apron and garage. If that process does not cause the ultimate disruption, namely the dislocation of our compost heap, we may yet be able to show you additional changes in this pumpkin’s progress, not least the fruit it will eventually bear. If the worst happens, perhaps we shall continue this story next year ...

Pumpkin, pumpkin, growing green,
In the compost’s subterrain,
If the builders break your frame,
That would be a crying shame.

Maybe we can find a place
In some shaded safer space
Where we can save your roundish fruits
From jack-the-hammer-wielding brutes.

Another Piece Breaks Loose

My subject is a powerful, persistent tendency in American culture, but the occasion is a particular event announced today, the “privatization” of Nightly Business Review by its owner, the public TV station in Miami, WPBT-TV. Another particle of a public something has broken off in a relentless process of erosion. The Public Broadcasting Service is the successor of National Educational Television; NET came into being in 1954, thus three years after my family’s arrival in the United States from Europe. It’s not really surprising that people with our background would have found in NET and in PBS later a welcome sign of something that we understood and valued. We found—and let me restrict that “we” to my mother, father, and their children—the relentless commercialism of America something rather alien by contrast. We came from a world where transportation, not least the railroads, communications—including telephone, postal services, radio, and television—were publicly operated and, further, a realm where the public sector dominated, with the widest possible public approval, virtually all aspects of social life. Let me put it like this to you: the notion that “starting your own business” could possibly be a desirable goal in life would never have occurred to anybody in our extended family—but I hasten to add that we are, really, but a random sample of the European population.

This is an example at the micro, the personal level of a genuine culture clash. You never actually loose this sort of feeling once you have grown up with it and experienced its operations in real life. You cannot simply choose another cultural form as you can opt for another brand of something. Life in a commercial culture, with its idealization of the half-truth of individualism, its instinctive revulsion from the “public” retains an irritating quality for someone who has internalized another system of values.

To be sure, the European cultural feeling—and its associated value system—is a minority phenomenon in the United States as well. If it were not, PBS would never have been founded. We ourselves—and in this “we” I now include my wife and children too—have found this system of values nobly represented in many public institutions, not least free education up to and including the university level, in the GI-bill and, generally, in the U.S. military culture, in the intentions behind the establishment of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), in the FDA, in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, in the U.S. Coast Guard, in the U.S. Postal Service, in Unemployment Insurance, in Social Security, and in much else.

Some of these institutions predate the Great Depression, others were greatly influenced by it. The constituency behind these programs and initiatives is substantial and, by its existence, works as a brake on the dominant tendency of this culture, which is to fly apart into a thousand pieces. What are these pieces? I think of them as quasi-communities, narrow, self-centered, blinkered interests. They are so blind and stupid that they are able to relate to one another only by means of a market and the brutal and repeating battles of so-called democratic politics. They share no value except greed for money and for power.

In my time I’ve seen the gradual weakening, the piece-by-piece erosion, of virtually every institution that we value. PBS has become the Begging Channel with still limited but more and more explicit advertising. Free university education went the way of the Dodo long ago. The GI-bill has lost its outlines. The U.S. Postal Service was partially privatized and now trembles on the brink of the real thing if we will let it happen. We’ve deregulated the airlines and, but for the saving collapse of Enron, might have completely ruined public utilities too. Freddie has taken to drink, Fannie to prostitution, and the Good Lord save the FDIC. The Good Lord save the Interstate Highway System, too, and all those other things that still make life civilized around here. Oh. There is the National Park System, another endangered species. It does not surprise me, therefore, that we have contrarians among us who secretly pray that things will get worse—so that at least some of the good will remain.

It is curious how in some cultures what seems to me a destructive tendency always seems to have the edge (and, yes, it has some benefits as well) whereas in others (e.g. in Russia) the tendency is always in the other direction (and, yes, that way lie some real evils too). I’m sorry to see NBR go private. It has served us for thirty-one year, but now—you may be sure of it—it will undergo deformations caused by the change. Why did it go private? For lack of sufficient corporate sponsorship. Corporate? Of course. The kind that PBS was founded on was public. But public, in this culture, is a nasty word. It’s something mysterious, I think; it’s something in the air.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lake Michigan

Our annual visit to northern Michigan again brought to mind that we live adjoining the largest fresh water sea on the planet. The photo shows Lake Michigan viewed from the state’s west coast some miles below a point known as the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Looking at this scene reminded Brigitte of the Baltic, where she spent her summers as a child. You stand at such lookouts without saying much between occasional remarks of wonder. It seemed to us that a sea is a sea, whether salty or sweet, and from a coastline, looking outward, no land in sight anywhere beyond the water, a sea might as well be an ocean.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Metrics Won't Save Us

The other day I listened, if only briefly, to a C-SPAN broadcast of a conference. Participants were all in some way linked to an analytical element of the State Department focused on Afghanistan and much concerned with metrics, thus the measurement of how we are achieving desirable goals there, among which participants listed market systems and electoral politics. The discourse was extraordinarily sophisticated, the participants glitteringly bright, young, and strikingly articulate: insiders addressing their own kind, entirely relaxed. Both the staring herd of cattle, the great unwashed, and the howling packs of punditry—were on the screen’s other side.

The intensity of the presentation, the brittleness of abstract concepts applied here to a tribal region where paved roads are rare and animals still serve as transport simply startled me and, breaking away to seek the shade outdoors, I allowed the dark prophetic waves of reaction to wash over me as I watched the bees, deeply rooted nature all about me. The bright disquisition still running faintly on the kitchen’s TV set represented the opposite, an unanchored floating in air on clouds of spent petroleum. It was the balsamic distillate of the same mode of thought that, in coarser form, directs not only the mechanical forces on the ground in Afghanistan but, indeed, our entire civilization. And the thought in my mind was simple: secular societies do not survive a conflict with the organic after a certain stage is reached—however primitive the latter, however rich the former. That stage, I think, is here now. A time of shatter, of disassociation, is clearly upon us now and manifesting everywhere. Nor is it, I would propose, a temporary phenomenon to be set right at the next election. How did Yeats put it? Didn’t he say that the metrics do not hold?

My own metrics would begin with the application of the command, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I’d put myself in the Afghans’ place to start my measurement, and here’s what I would discover. If I were an Afghan—and never mind the category—I would view the invading forces, no matter what kind, American, NATO, wouldn’t matter—as aggressors, and never mind how hard my fate might be or how much I might oppose domestic enemies. Out, out, damned invaders. That’d be my stance. I wouldn’t want their market system, their electoral politics, their ways of doing this, their ways of doing that. I would have no respect whatever for those who, for personal gain, cooperated. I’d bide my time until the foreigners relaxed their hold. And then I’d try to set things right.

This reminds me of something my brother-in-law once said, a saying famous in our family. Rex is a genuine Ozarks farmer, hunter, and fisherman who knows things about woods, rivers, lakes, and land the rest of us can’t even dream of. He once said, “I wouldn’t like bridge—even if I knew how to play it.”

Monday, August 9, 2010


A Black Swallowtail Caterpillar discovered on one of our dill plants. This variety of butterfly likes carrot-type plants, thus including dill and parsely. For those seeking hard knowledge, this creature's Latin name is Papilio polyxenes.

Brigitte named him Aristo, based entirely on his heraldic appearance, transferred him to a pot, placed him under glass, and anticipated a genuine biological experience watching a real metamorphosis unfold. Aristo ate like champion; Brigitte fed him parsely and dill. He preferred dill but consumed the parsely too. 

After about a week of feeding, the huge catepillar then transformed himself overnight into this much smaller chrysalis. The structure hangs from the stem arched above it by the tiniest (and here invisible) pairs of white tendrils.

Another week passed. Suddenly, sometime between noon and three-thirty in the afternoon, unobserved by human eyes, Aristo escaped from its small green hull and unfolded its glorious plumage as shown here. Note the two eyes, Here's Looking at You, that no doubt make birds hesitate before disturbing this magnificence. The photograph is through the plastic container that then still held Aristo.

Here is another view. In this one the top portion of his hull is visible at the top.

We transported Aristo fifty miles to the Magee Domain on the Shores of Lake Wolverine. Here is Aristo less than a minute after his release into the wilds resting on a Black Eyed Susan.

By the way, we called him "he" without good rhyme or reason. It might have been a Lady. Aristo became a caterpillar in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. As a chrysalis he travelled to Stratford, Ontario. We dared not leave him alone. Back home again, he turned butterfly—but then travelled another goodly distance before at last he was, as we say around here, "born free."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The View from There

The alarm spread thro’ the Country, so that before daybreak the people in general were in Arms & on their March to Concord. About Daybreak a number of the People appeared before the Troops near Lexington. They were called to, to disperse, when they fired on the Troops & ran off, Upon which the Light Infantry pursued them & brought down about fifteen of them. The Troops went on to Concord & executed the business they were sent on [the destruction of a warehouse], & on their return found two or three of their people Lying in the Agonies of Death, scalp’d & their Noses & ears cut off & Eyes bored out—Which exasperated the Soldiers exceedingly—a prodigious number of the People now occupying the Hills, woods, & Stone Walls along the road. The Light Troops drove some parties from the hills, but all the road being inclosed with Stone Walls Served as a cover to the Rebels, from whence they fired on the Troops still running off whenever they had fired, but still supplied by fresh Numbers who came from many parts of the Country. In this manner were the Troops harassed in thier return for Seven or eight Miles, they were almost exhausted & had expended near the whole of their Ammunition when to their great joy they were relieved by a Brigade of Troops under the command of Lord Percy with two pieces of Artillery…. Several officers are wounded & about 100 Soldiers. The killed amount to near 50, as to the Enemy we can have no exact acct but it is said there was about ten times the Number of them engaged, & that near 1000 of ’em have fallen.
     [Letter from Anne Hulton to Elizabeth Lightbody, April 22, 1775]
The People, Rebels, and Enemy are, of course, the future citizens of the United States of America. The writer, the Troops, the Light Infantry were part of the British Loyalist elements of an American population that had become polarized. Loyalists were between 15 and 35 percent of the white colonial population. Interesting and instructive, isn’t it? The barbarity is always on the other side. Not stated but implied is that the People were cowardly in daring to hide behind walls and running away. And, of course, their casualties are always higher.

This from a wondrous book titled Women’s Letters, America from the Revolutionary War to the Present, edited by Lisa Grunwald and Stephen J. Adler. Dial Press, 2005.


…or reactions to events and news reports about them.
  • A NYT story today reports that hard-line Islamic groups are helping flood victims in Pakistan, distributing food and aid where the government fails. They have acted, says the article, “much as the Islamists did during the earthquake in Kashmir in 2005, which helped them lure new recruits to banned militant groups through the charity wings that front them.” Two reactions. One is that the same ambiguous charges are occasionally leveled in the West against Hezbollah and Hamas. Anything these groups might do for their constituencies—emergency assistance, education, welfare—is labeled as “front” activity for terrorism. The Taliban are whipped with the same lash. Presumably they stopped the opium trade in Afghanistan briefly, while they had power, as a “front” gesture. They are the only power that ever did that. My other reaction: The war on terror really is a religious conflict, Islam clashing with Western secularism and vice versa.
  • I note with pleased bemusement that this same paper, for the second month in a row now, shows the same chart, with its story about the employment situation, that I’ve been posting on LaMarotte ever since December of 2009. This month the Times’ graphics designer has also highlighted, for the first time, the last data point in the series, as I’ve been doing since January. My chart appeared yesterday. Yeah. It’s a nice way of showing the reality of the situation…
  • Regarding events, I note here that yesterday’s temperature was finally tolerable after a month or more of horrid heat—and humidity was down to 41 percent, believe it or not. The temperature dropped to 59 degrees F during the night.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Song to Gaia

How fitting it is that an era that dawned
Deep down in dark, deadly, and dangerous mines,
That flourished on crude oil and gold we called black,
That ruined our waters with poisonous brines,
Eroded our soils and darkened our skies,
Should now in these Silicon Times be holding
Festivals aimed to recall, by magical cries,
Ages Gaia would not remember beholding.

O yes, Oyez! Give us propellers that churn
Up the wind, panels that suck up the sun.
May our great footprint of carbon diminish
To the light blurr of a child’s eager passage.
May we piously sort vast mountains of waste
By plastic and steel and by tin and by glass
Avidly sweating in ritual haste
’Til Gaia appears and the end comes to pass.