Friday, September 02, 2005

Three Wishes 

I wish I were diligent enough to post links to all the various European media that have outraged me today, and to transcribe the most appalling of the comments I heard on television.

I wish I were patient enough to take the time necessary to address, one at a time, the absurdity and hypocrisy of each disgusting generalization being made about America at a time when all it needs is some help and goodwill.

I wish had the recklessness to publicly say what I'm privately muttering.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Royal Referendum 

I should have mentioned the other day that it looks as though there will be a referendum on changing the Danish laws of succession such that the eldest child will inherit the throne regardless of gender. That is, if Mary gives birth to a girl this fall then the girl will be crown princess regardless of any subsequent brothers.

"I'm very pleased that there's broad support in parliament for the proposal to alter the laws of succession," says siger Anders Fogh Rasmussen to Ritzau [news service].

If the alteration passes, it means that Crown Princess Mary's first-born will end up as monarch—regardless of whether it's a boy or a girl.

It's a very egalitarian approach. There will be no sexism in the monarchy!

It's good to see the characteristic Danish flair for egalitarianism applied to the laws of royal succession, but it's damned curious to see this obsession over equality being applied to an institution—monarchy—that hasn't historically had much to do with such niceties.

"Some pigs are more equal than others," the new law would say, "but those piglets born to the 'more equal' pigs will be equal to one another in terms of their superiority to the less equal pigs, regardless of gender."

Hooray for equality!

The law will have to pass parliament and then be supported by 40% of eligible Danish voters in a public referendum to take effect.

Welcome to Fall 

Watching "Good Morning, Denmark" this morning, the weather woman said something along the lines of "Well, the calendar may say that now it's September, and fall, but it feels like summer out there!"

My own calendars, wherever they are, say it's summer for almost another three weeks.

I mentioned it before: I just don't understand this Danish habit of declaring seasons by month.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Who Lost New Orleans? 

Since I can't post Almanacs for the time being (see previous post), here's the half-assed Almanac I began this morning.

As the sad and terrible fate of New Orleans—to say nothing of the stricken communities around it—continues to unfold before the world by means of continuous televised coverage, it's only natural that inquisitive souls should begin demanding an answer to the obvious question: why?

In 1998 the answer would have been obvious: El Nino!

In 2005 the reflexive answer is different, but no less obvious: Global Warming!

* * *

My freshman year at Carnegie-Mellon University's drama conservatory, the program mounted an ambitious program called "The Greeks." As best I can remember, it was a cycle of at least 6 classics from ancient Greek theatre framed around the Trojan War. From Iphigenia at Aulis to The Trojan Women, it was an epic stage orgy, played out over several long nights, of violence, sacrifice, lust, affliction, misery, vengeance, wrath—all that stuff from the good old days when theatre was about more than the witty and vaguely enigmatic conversation of clever, bloodless wags.

The theme of this production's chorus—the main motif of the whole cycle—was, as I remember, a plaintive choral cry of "Who's to blame?"

(I'm going to stop saying "as I remember" and ask you to mentally append that delimiter to anything I say henceforward that refers to any period of time prior to July.)

Who's to blame?

Isn't that the oldest question in human history? Hasn't human history mostly consisted of our often violently conflicting efforts to answer it? Isn't this the foundational question behind our religions, our artistic impulses, our talk shows, our philosophies?

Whom should we blame? Not just for Hurricane Katrina, but for the whole damned miserable affair? For the starving babies and lost loves and wasted lives and countless horrors of the world? For famine and war and disease? The gods? One god? Fate? Karma? Physics? Biology? Shit luck?

When we encounter staggering horrors like last winter's tsunami, beside which Katrina seems a mere blip, the question becomes hysterical: who's to blame? Our 24-hour news cycle abhors a vacuum, so the self-appointed specialists step up to point their bony fingers and shriek their accusations.

Global Warming!

It's a nice answer. It's short, easy to pronounce, and sounds scientific enough to appeal to agnostic secularists like myself.

It's also the height of arrogance. It depends on the assumption that our environment is within our control—an assumption with very little empirical support.

With magnificent toil we've managed to protect ourselves from our environment with increasing effectiveness. Just imagine Katrina's impact if we hadn't had the technology to forecast her arrival, for example. Imagine the increased devastation in southeast Asia if our "globalized" world hadn't been able to rush in with food, water, and medical supplies. Hell, imagine the average Chicago or Minneapolis winter without heating or indoor plumbing.

Our problem isn't that successive generations of human industry have created a worse environment. (Which isn't to deny that we haven't polluted our home along the way—but would you rather live in a world without modern medicine or a world with less landfills? They are in fact inextricably linked, and it's only the west's advanced industrial development that grants us the new luxury of assigning costly and sophisticated resources to cleaning up our various messes.)

Our problem is that the hard work of our predecessors has made us lazy, inattentive, and ambivalent. We feel entitled to life without natural disasters—or at least life without significant consequences from natural disasters.

Natural disasters.

We still call them that, but do we really believe it? Do any of us really believe that an earthquake, meteor, volcano, or hurricane could devastate our lives tomorrow—could lay waste our homes, kill our loved ones, shatter our every last hope—for no reason at all? Is it not more comforting to identify a malevolent force that can be blamed, hated, and fought, than to merely accept such tragedy as "natural?"

Better it should be the wrath of God! The cruel hand of Fate! Global Warming!

Call it want you want, this agency of evil. It's whatever we want it to be. It's just our anger and outrage and despair coalesced into dark malignance. Sure, blame God. Blame Fate. Blame global warming, the U.N., the Trilateral Commission, Michael Moore, George Bush.

Hell, blame me.

* * *

I do have one question, though. I'd call it a thought experiment, because I've always liked the way that sounds, but I haven't actually put that much thought into this one. Here it is.

What if I invented something that could dissolve developing hurricanes? A special powder, say, that you'd spray from planes into the eye of a building storm, that would break it up and prevent its further development.

Would not the same outraged environmentalists shouting "Global Warming!" today do everything in their power to suppress my invention on the basis of its being "unnatural?"

Say my invention was put to use over these protests anyway. Wouldn't every tropical phenomena from that point forward be blamed on my invention? Would there not be talking heads all over television explaining that the erosion of Caribbean coral reefs (or whatever) was due to the lack of hurricanes? Would the blogosphere not be atwitter over my invention's responsibility for virtually every meteorological phenomenon in and around the Gulf of Mexico? Too hot? It's Nagan's patented Hurricanceler. Too cold? It's Nagan's patented Hurricanceler. Too much rain? Too little? I think we all know who's responsible.

So let's say my invention is eventually outlawed. And the next season five-hundred people are killed in the worst hurricane ever to have hit Miami.

Now who's to blame? Still me? The moonbats that shut me down? Global warming? Or what?


It's got to be someone, doesn't it?

After all, things can't just happen. The hand of man is in everything! From the Big Bang to the formation of our solar system to the extinction of the dinosaurs to the establishment of the laws of physics, we have built this universe by the sweat of our collective brow, and we can't let ourselves off the hook for our mistakes.

So when it comes to Katrina, by all means blame the noun of your choice. Hell, blame an adverb.

Me, I'm gonna blame Microsoft. They might not have caused the hurricane, but they sure as hell didn't do anything to stop it.

So I say, Stop the Hurricanes—boycott Microsoft!

Tech Problems 

I did write an Almanac today, but something's wrong with the JustMorons site... I'm not sure why, but I can't access the site's control panel or send or receive mail through its server. Maybe they're just doing maintenance, maybe it's something else. I have no idea. But it's a problem and I don't have time to deal with it right now. Sorry.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Katrina & The Waves, Live from New Orleans 

If you want to watch Katrina (and the Waves?) in New Orleans, the Mardi Gras "Bead Cam" is still providing live video of... well, lots and lots of rain, at the moment.

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