Monday, July 27, 2009




No one can prove that Galileo said this after his forced recantation, but everyone knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that he was damned well thinking it.

Essay finished July 27th, 2009


In this article the Egregious Dave Rockwell makes so bold as to cast himself as an intellectual Serpent in the Garden of Dogma and, from that dubious platform, make grievous fun of various persons and institutions considered sacred by millions. Luckily for him they will certainly ignore his inconsequential pinpricks, knowing that no amount of intellectual brilliance and wit can make a hippopotamus climb out of his mudhole if he doesn't want to.

Pope Recommunicates Darwin, Galileo

Somehow I missed this hilarious and irreverent article in the Post of Feb. 28th, 2009. But how was I to know that something so wacky would show up in the stodgy, antiquated On Faith section, which I barely knew existed at all? After all, the ancient superstitions and and the plight of those still trapped inside them, like ants stuck in dried pine sap, is not a very interesting topic any more, though it can be quite funny, if one is flint-hearted about it, to read of their consternation when the modern world once again confounds their quaint illusions without freeing them from the sap. But this caught my eye as I was about to cast it into the stove to light the fire:

RECONCILING SCIENCE, RELIGION: Vatican Sponsoring Conferences on Works of Darwin, Galileo

(by Francis X. Rocca – Religious News Service) [with commentary by me, the Serpent]

Over the next several months the Vatican will sponsor academic conferences dedicated to the work of biologist Charles Darwin and astronomer Galileo Galilei, two thinkers whose ideas have posed revolutionary challenges to religious belief.

Featuring distinguished international panels of scientists and theologians [gee- do you think they'll invite Richard Dawkins?] these events are the latest efforts by the Catholic Church under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI to affirm that Christian faith and modern science are not at odds, but entirely compatible. [The Serpent asks: why? Why try to reconcile these unrelated mental phenomena? Perhaps to preempt criticism, and lure unsuspecting youth, not yet of the age of reason nor conversant with the scientific method, into the churches?]

Yet some critics inside and outside the Church insist that such gestures do not satisfy the Vatican's duty to admit its historical role as an obstacle to scientific progress. [The Serpent wishes to point out the amazing unconsciously disingenuous quality of this ridiculous sentence. First and foremost, the Vatican is not a person and has no duties; its only purpose is, like any other meme, to perpetuate itself by whatever means possible; it cannot partake of human qualities such as duty and morality. Hence if burning witches and coercing scientists helps it to survive, it will do that, and if hosting dog-and-pony shows pretending to admit that reason is a valid human possession helps it to survive, it will do that. But I think the writer honestly sees the sentence as entirely reasonable.]

Unlike some conservative Protestant churches, which have rejected Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection as contradicting the biblical account of Creation, the Catholic Church has a record of guarded tolerance of Darwin's ideas. [Great! Let's go to the videotape!]

Pope Pius XII permitted “research and discussions... with regard to the doctrine of evolution” in 1950, nearly a century after Darwin's theory was published; and John Paul II recognized evolution as “more than a hypothesis” nearly a half-century later. [Sound a little slow, kind of foot-dragging? Well, these big ships can't turn on a dime, you know. Q: Does research and discussion that can only proceed after getting permission from the Pope have any possible validity to begin with? What if the research reveals something that gives the Pope indigestion? Also telling is the reference to evolution as a doctrine, which of course it is not. Scientific theory is by definition not doctrine, except to the mind that grasps at it for security, without critical thought, in the same way that others grasp at the supernatural for comfort. I also have a vision of John Paul II saying in wonder to his bishops, “Gee, fellas, it's more than a hypothesis, it's like, you know, an... idea.”.]

The church has won praise from scientists and religious believers in various traditions. [Really? For real? Okay, let's hear some!]

“The ongoing and vigorous engagement of the Catholic Church with evolutionary theory reflects, in my opinion, a fluid and dynamic pathway that combines a profound sense of continuity with its historical past and a living and open, experiential response to... the discoveries of science,” said Robert J. Russell, founder of the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences in Berkeley, Calif. [Wowee! Fluid! Dynamic! Profound! Experiential! Blather Supreme! Where did they dig this guy up?]

Russell, a physicist and minister in the United Church of Christ, will be one of the speakers next month at a Vatican-sponsored conference marking the 150th anniversary of Darwin's book, “The Origin of Species.” [A brief perusal of his CTNS website was like a glimpse into some deep level of the Inferno, where a million academics chained to a million granite desks all strain agonizingly at gnats for all eternity, their mental processes trapped in a terrible locked ring of corrupted logic. I had to quickly look away, lest the evil swamp my tiny intellect! Then I had some hot chocolate.]

In recent years, however, with the growing prominence of “creationism” and “intelligent design” as alternative explanations for the existence of humanity and the universe, Catholics have increasingly voiced doubts about Darwin's acceptability. [“Acceptability”, not “validity” you will notice. We shall reserve the right to call unacceptable any science we disagree with, and thus avoid having to argue its validity with a world full of scientists who do nothing else all day. And these Catholics that “voice doubts”? How many are left after the defections over organized pedophilia, the slavery and domination of women, the repressive sexuality, the guilt-and-martyrdom control psychology, and the inflexible rigidity of Vatican doctrine? The meme loses a little ground every day in a world of open access to information.]

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, a friend and former student of Pope Benedict's, provoked controversy with a 2005 article arguing that “neo-Darwinian dogma” is not “compatible with Christian faith” and insisting that the “human intellect can readily discern purpose and design in the natural world.” [One man's dogma is another man's faith; both of them are cut off from discovery of the truth by their inadequate understanding of reason itself. Human intellect can readily discern all kinds of things, many of them flat-out wrong, unless the discernment rigorously follows the scientific method, which demands intellectual courage, honesty and great tenacity, not to mention the humility to abandon a logically flawed line of reasoning. Such qualities are deliberately amputated by orthodoxy.]

That the cardinal published his article with the encouragement and assistance of proponents of intelligent design gave the impression that a high church official was endorsing ideas that most scholars reject as unscientific. [“Gave the impression”?! What the hell do you mean, “gave the impression”?]

Schoenborn has since attempted to clarify his position, insisting that he rejects not the theory of evolution, but arguments that use Darwin's ideas to disprove the existence of a creator-God. [More ridiculous bullshit. Rational people never try to disprove the existence of a creator-God; the onus is not on them, but on the proponents of such a god, or indeed of anything supernatural, to prove its existence. We resent not these superstitions themselves, but the use of them to try to control and dominate otherwise rational minds. The primacy of the individual is explicitly denied by the hypothesis of a creator-God.]

The Rev. Marc Leclerc made the same distinction recently in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's newspaper. “Evolution and creation do not present the least opposition between them,” he wrote, “on the contrary, they reveal themselves as entirely complementary.”

Leclerc, lead organizer of the upcoming Darwin conference, said last year that no proponents of creationism or intelligent design had been invited to the event.

Yet the Vatican's embrace of Darwin remains a qualified one. The conference is “not, even minimally, a 'celebration' in honor of the English scientist,” Leclerc said. “It is simply a matter of taking stock of the event that has forever marked the history of science and has influenced how we understand our own humanity.”

By contrast, an official Vatican statement recently declared that the “Church desires to honor the figure of Galileo, innovator of genius and son of the church.”

Those words introduced a series of Vatican-sponsored or -supported events to take place this year, which the United Nations has designated as the International Year of Astronomy, marking the 400th anniversary of the first use of an astronomical telescope by Galileo.

One of the most prominent of these events will be a May conference in Florence, Italy, devoted to the astronomer's conflicts with the Vatican, which silenced and imprisoned him for teaching that the Earth revolves around the sun.

The Church has been trying for centuries to put this embarrassing episode behind it. In 1981, John Paul II established a commission to reevaluate the case, and in 1992 he concluded that Galileo had fallen victim to a “tragic mutual incomprehension.” That misunderstanding, the pope said, had given rise to a “myth” that the Church opposed free scientific inquiry.

John Paul's statement failed to satisfy prominent critics, including the Rev. George V. Coyne, former head of the Vatican Observatory, who has called for a fuller recognition that church authorities unfairly prevented Galileo from pursuing his research.

In January 2008, Pope Benedict canceled an appearance at a Rome university after faculty members and students protested his presence as an offense to the “secularity of science and of culture,” citing words from a 1990 lecture in which he seemed to justify Galileo's condemnation. [These remarks are so interesting in their construction that I am going to analyze them below, after I have finished kicking this pigskin around the field some more.]

Vatican officials are clearly hoping that this year's observances will clarify once and for all that the church now regards Galileo as not only a great scientist but an exemplary Catholic. Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, has even spoken in terms that evoke sainthood, suggesting that Galileo “could become for some the ideal patron for a dialogue between science and faith.” [This “exemplary Catholic” dared to question the church's interpretation of planetary astronomy through the Bible, saying that in fact physical truth was otherwise and that this truth was compatible with the vague and poetic biblical verses on the subject. For this explicit heresy he was placed on house arrest for the remainder of his life, and all his books were proscribed, including any he might write after the trial. In the end, of course, the Church could not make this stick, and I think it has stuck in their craw ever since.]

Yet there is at least one honor for which Galileo will have to wait a little longer. Plans to put up a statue of the astronomer in the Vatican gardens this year have been “suspended,” Ravasi said, voicing hopes that the money would be spent instead for educational projects on the “relationship between science and religion.”

Ratzinger's 1990 remarks on Galileo

Jan. 14, 2008

By John L Allen Jr Daily

Note: Recently a group of professors and students from Rome's La Sapienza University, including the entire physics faculty, wrote a letter protesting Pope Benedict XVI's scheduled Jan. 17 lecture to open the academic year. They cited comments from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1990 on the Galileo case. Those comments are presented here.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
“The Crisis of Faith in Science”
March 15, 1990, Parma
Extracts taken from A Turning Point for Europe? The Church and Modernity in the Europe of Upheavals, Paoline Editions, 1992, pp. 76-79. English translation by NCR.

* * *
In the last decade, creation’s resistance to allowing itself to be manipulated by humanity has emerged as a new element in the overall cultural situation. The question of the limits of science, and the criteria which it must observe, has become unavoidable.

Particularly emblematic of this change of intellectual climate, it seems to me, is the different way in which the Galileo case is seen.

This episode, which was little considered in the 18th century, was elevated to a myth of the Enlightenment in the century that followed. Galileo appeared as a victim of that medieval obscurantism that endures in the Church. Good and evil were sharply distinguished. On the one hand, we find the Inquisition: a power that incarnates superstition, the adversary of freedom and conscience. On the other, there’s natural science represented by Galileo: the force of progress and liberation of humanity from the chains of ignorance that kept it impotent in the face of nature. The star of modernity shines in the dark night of medieval obscurity.

Today, things have changed.

According to [Ernst] Bloch, the heliocentric system – just like the geocentric – is based upon presuppositions that can’t be empirically demonstrated. Among these, an important role is played by the affirmation of the existence of an absolute space; that’s an opinion that, in any event, has been cancelled by the Theory of Relativity. Bloch writes, in his own words: ‘From the moment that, with the abolition of the presupposition of an empty and immobile space, movement is no longer produced towards something, but there’s only a relative movement of bodies among themselves, and therefore the measurement of that [movement] depends to a great extent on the choice of a body to serve as a point of reference, in this case is it not merely the complexity of calculations that renders the [geocentric] hypothesis impractical? Then as now, one can suppose the earth to be fixed and the sun as mobile.”

Curiously, it was precisely Bloch, with his Romantic Marxism, who was among the first to openly oppose the [Galileo] myth, offering a new interpretation of what happened: The advantage of the heliocentric system over the geocentric, he suggested, does not consist in a greater correspondence to objective truth, but solely in the fact that it offers us greater ease of calculation. To this point, Bloch follows solely a modern conception of natural science. What is surprising, however, is the conclusion he draws: “Once the relativity of movement is taken for granted, an ancient human and Christian system of reference has no right to interference in astronomic calculations and their heliocentric simplification; however, it has the right to remain faithful to its method of preserving the earth in relation to human dignity, and to order the world with regard to what will happen and what has happened in the world.”

If both the spheres of conscience are once again clearly distinguished among themselves under their respective methodological profiles, recognizing both their limits and their respective rights, then the synthetic judgment of the agnostic-skeptic philosopher P. Feyerabend appears much more drastic. He writes: “The church at the time of Galileo was much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself, and also took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo’s doctrine. Its verdict against Galileo was rational and just, and revisionism can be legitimized solely for motives of political opportunism.”

From the point of view of the concrete consequences of the turning point Galileo represents, however, C.F. Von Weizsacker takes another step forward, when he identifies a “very direct path” that leads from Galileo to the atomic bomb.

To my great surprise, in a recent interview on the Galileo case, I was not asked a question like, ‘Why did the Church try to get in the way of the development of modern science?’, but rather exactly the opposite, that is: ‘Why didn’t the church take a more clear position against the disasters that would inevitably follow, once Galileo had opened Pandora’s box?’

It would be absurd, on the basis of these affirmations, to construct a hurried apologetics. The faith does not grow from resentment and the rejection of rationality, but from its fundamental affirmation and from being inscribed in a still greater form of reason …

Here, I wished to recall a symptomatic case that illustrates the extent to which modernity’s doubts about itself have grown today in science and technology.

Here end the Cardinal's comments... let us all now heave a deep and doleful sigh.

How shall we approach and comment on this phosphorescent, steaming pile of brilliance? It is not easy, let us admit at the outset. Those who take in his comments as something formed of reason, something to be considered and debated, are already beyond help. The context they have access to, in order to evaluate these 'ideas', is already fatally constricted. But I cannot restrain myself from simply laying out a set of questions that, if only I were the Grand Inquisitor, I would put to the Cardinal very sharply – not with any sort of coercion, but simply to hear the beauty of his tortuous logic further elaborated.

Cardinal! I have questions!

You have invoked the Theory of Relativity to justify making morally equivalent, or indeed, to make possible the moral ascendancy, of one mathematical description of the motion of the solar system over another. Are you not the least bit worried that the concept of relativity might be used against the natural absolutism required at the heart of faith? Cannot I, or any other ignorant, hairy layman, attack and undermine the very foundation of the Holy Church, using this tool on a hundred different fronts, if you yourself use it? Or are you simply grasping at the name of Einstein to lend a specious and feckless sheen of modernity to your essay, like a college sophomore pasting in a few more tired clichés?

You have asserted, though in soft and subtle tones, that the so-called Enlightenment, beginning with the end of geocentrism, has led to the atomic bomb, and by implication, the imminent fall of civilization due to man's rejection of the Holy Church. If only the Inquisition could have somehow convinced Galileo to recant sincerely, and to convince all scholars worldwide to stop thinking in ways not approved by the Church, then the peaceful hegemony prevailing in medieval times would still hold sway now, and all would be well. Honestly, now – Cardinal – do you really think that the Church could have closed up the “Pandora's Box” of reason no matter what it did? Endless murder, a continent buried under meticulously cultivated guilt and martyrdom and superstition, chronic war, vicious political intrigue: all of it failed in the end to prevent light from dawning. But you still hope, sitting in the intellectual ruins, to bring back the comforting darkness of “a still greater form of reason”.

Do you, Cardinal, really believe that it was important which mathematical system was used to describe the same phenomenon, or, is the real problem in fact that people might be willing to accept a hypothesis that contradicted a tenet of faith, simply on the basis that a man, not God, had shown it to be objectively true, just as once long ago the pagan, Pythagoras, had shown certain things to be true, apparently without the least assistance from “a still greater form of reason”? In short, that the struggle was for political power, nothing more, waged on a far more primitive level than modern politics – the level of the subconscious, of primal fear and greed and hatred inoculated into children as early as possible in their lives.

Somebody stop me! I grow bored with punching this tar baby – I must end it lest I fall into an endless pit of recursive bullshit. Is it really important that the 'spiritual leader' of a major chunk of the world's population has no intellectual substance? Clearly not: the Catholic meme itself draws no strength from intellectual honesty, in fact, the reverse is true. I might put forth a pious hope that the meme of scientific method will be stronger in the long run that the meme of faith, because science is flexible, protean, creative, and responsive to change, whereas faith is rigid, repressive, addictive, and dogmatically stupid. Unfortunately, science is often corrupted and weakened by the mental vices of faith, and faith is strengthened by dishonestly appropriating the methods and tools of science. In the near term, outside circumstances will probably destroy the playing field and render the contest moot. We love to carry on this battle – it is a natural part of our imperfect consciousness, after all – but the human race as an entity cannot be said to have the ability to learn.

“The players tried to take the field,

The marching band refused to yield -

Do you recall, what was the field,

The day the music died?...


And the three men I admire most,

The Father, Son and Holy Ghost,

They took the last train for the Coast,

The day the music died.”

- Don McLean

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Time to Accelerate

Time to Accelerate

Live Reports From the Midlife Adventure

Washington Post Health Section, Tuesday, August 22, 2006; Page HE02

Heat and haze, the bike path nearly deserted, and I'm cranking west. I'm 53; both I and my ancient Benotto road bike are somewhat rusty and crusty but in good mechanical condition.

Why do I do this? Year after year, recording the miles, repairing the flats, pampering the old knees, sweating or freezing as the season dictates, out on the W&OD trail. I could be on a couch watching the random flow of Americana on the tube, savoring a good beer and eating whatever comes to hand. I'm reasonably happy, solvent and of contemplative temperament -- so why do I continue to ride? Is it just a bad habit?

As I muse thusly, a sleek and powerful young man passes me; his bike is shiny and high-tech, and his legs are shaved. I note that he is not traveling at warp 10, so I bring my own speed up and draft on him for a mile or so, without breathing down his neck. At a long straightaway, I fire the reserve dilithium crystals and pass him crisply, and I keep cranking until I'm out of sight.

Boomer motto: Too young to die, but not too old to rock and roll.

Who's Afraid of the Great Satan?


Notes - Brainstorming session - AQ4735290011.aqx.whatever. May 8, 2010

Red Herring Project Development Group

A: Gentlemen, we've made no appreciable headway in the pinhead-bomb plan. In spite of an impressive collection of speculative technical and chemical theory and a nicely done video of an apparent explosion seeming to proceed from a pinhead placed on a clean table, test subjects of an appropriate educational level reject the concept for the fantasy that it is.

B: Group leader A: is it still really necessary to be convincing to college graduates in technical and scientific fields? The Great Satan's leadership has increasingly rejected scientific consensus in several important areas for political reasons. In addition, that leadership is perfectly willing to pander to various Luddite factions and to use fear as a major tool of manipulation, exactly as we do. A stupid and fearful American public benefits both their leaders and us, their enemies. All we have to do is harness and channel the fear more skillfully than they.

A: Interesting. So you believe that even hoax threats which are scientifically ridiculous could be effective in sanding the gears of the American machine at this stage?

B: I'm confident we're not that far away.

A: Excellent. Introduce two or three plots of this nature to be uncovered by the CIA; make sure our pawns are too stupid to know the difference, but not so stupid as to be utter and obvious dunces. Then track the distance the credulity travels up the food chain. If it shows up anywhere near the Oval Office I'll throw a pizza party, with root beer and belly dancers.

C: The group leader is understandably still steamed about that Shoe Bomber debacle. Well, chief, D and I have worked up a dandy proposal for you.

A: Okay, kids, let's hear it.

C: Suppository bombs of plastique, with a no-metal ignition system - maybe you just get up to go to the bathroom and pretend to trip, fall hard on the floor, and static from the rug sets it off.

A: Hmm, yes, I see. Ridiculous, but still - can we actually get martyrs to volunteer for that? It's kind of nasty, even for us.

D: Oh yeah, are you kidding? I've got some zombies that would fight for the honor. But you see what that would force the Feds to do - it would be cavity searches for all passengers!

A: Brilliant! Assemble a team of idiots, er, martyrs! Up the Arse of the Great Satan!

All: Up the Arse of the Great Satan! [conferees clink coffee cups]

[we take you now to a typical airport security-check line, March 2020, C.E.]

Passenger A: I hate air travel these days. I'm nostalgic for the good old days, when all you had to do was disrobe and bend over, and a few other procedural exams. Sure, it took three hours, but at least you could look out the windows during the flight.

Passenger B: You've got to admit that the new system is more convenient, though, and probably safer. Once you're thrust into the carbonite freezing chamber, instantaneously cooled to ten degrees below absolute zero, and zipped into that big ziplock bag with the two-color security zipper, you've got nothing to worry about, and you wake up at your destination, apparently only a moment later, not even rested.

Passenger C: I wonder whether you young people even know that in the actual good old days, airlines served free hot meals, drinks and snacks. The food was a standing joke, but it really wasn't that bad. Also, you could joke with the stewardess, and even visit the cockpit, long ago. I still have a Pan Am winged lapel-pin given to me by a pilot when I was seven.

Passenger A: I've heard a weird rumor about the hypercooling thing. I heard that when you're on the slab for the flight, your brain resembles a flash chip, and can be both read and written to. Naturally this would make total hash out of what's left of our civil rights, so it's probably all hogwash. But I'm no scientist, so, who knows? Maybe they can change your political affiliation from Islamican to Plutocratic with a few mouse clicks as you fly.

Passenger C: I think that we really do have to fear fear itself. Our fear is now a mechanically institutionalized cancer in American society; the government responds without a trace of reflection to any idiotic rumor that -

[Announcement comes over airport public address system]

Attention all passengers! All flights have been canceled indefinitely due to potential security threats. Please dress and gather your belongings for airport exit security checks. Please have all six of your identity cards ready for examination. Please be compliant when asked to provide a DNA sample...

Passenger B: Oh, for the love of -

... Passengers A, B and C will report to the security office immediately for routine questioning. Have a good day, and happy flying!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hemingway and the American Backhoe

8/2/2006 A Man's a Man for A' That

There are those - mostly fossilized literati of a certain bent - who consider Ernest Hemingway the nonpareil man's man, and his pleasures the most classic of the male psyche. After all, John Wayne was just an actor in the moving pictures, don't you know. Hemingway enjoyed such things as bullfighting (both for the artistry and for the matador's embrace of risk), dropping a charging rhino with a lethal phallic symbol at ten paces, and drinking superb quadruple-malt whiskey until he couldn't distinguish it from gorilla urine. But as far as is known, he never had the good fortune to participate in modern man's finest manly pleasure. Quite possibly his ignorance of this pleasure led to his fatal despair, etc. Not to be coy, I refer to the operation of an excavator arm, commonly referred to as a backhoe.

Already I hear disdainful snorts from aforementioned literati, and of course outraged rhinoid grunting from all right-thinking Hemingway scholars. (Note to H. scholars: does it ever bother you that your chosen idol considered you to be beneath his notice?) How, you may well ask, can I back up this idiotic and even uninteresting claim?

First I will qualify my assertion; it does not necessarily apply to professional backhoe operators, as their long familiarity with the machine and their complete mastery of its operation may have dulled the pleasure they once had, just as an adult rarely recalls the pleasure he once took in driving a car as a teenager. By the way, these men are princes - they can dig a well, brush a mosquito off your shoulder without you noticing, or reduce your house to rubble in the few minutes it takes to seduce their wives - so do not, ever, impugn their manhood or cast aspersions on their chosen machine. Their dexterity is dazzling only to others - if mentioned, they wave it off casually, as if one had praised their skill with a knife and fork.

What is a backhoe? You sir, you call yourself a man? Oh - you're a Hemingway scholar - say no more. A backhoe, sir, is a hydraulically powered metal arm with an elbow and a hinged, toothed, curved metal bucket at the end; it is commonly attached to a tractor of some sort, and is equipped with hydraulic struts on either side to provide stability, but it may also be on various
types of motorized platforms, and comes in many sizes. The operator sits on the shoulder, as it were, and extends, raises, lowers, retracts and swivels the arm using well-designed levers that eventually become integrated into one's subconscious just as do a steering wheel and gas pedal. There is something vaguely saurian about the arm - the mighty Tyrannosaur had no such arms, but if his chosen prey had been some sort of giant, succulent sandworm burrowing through the Cretaceous dunes, he would no doubt have evolved them with gusto.

Originally this arm was designed for general digging, and it instantly rendered the shovel obsolete. (Unfortunately the ironclad union contract that requires all government road projects to employ a dozen men holding shovels runs through the year 2525 - if Man is still alive.) But it probably took the first real operator about five minutes on a construction site to discover that the backhoe is immensely useful - it pushes, it pulls, it lifts, it dumps, and best of all, it destroys. To take on the role of Shiva the Destroyer is a heady feeling for any man.

The impetus for this rhapsody was provided by my recent employment for a couple of days in the dismemberment of a small section of a crumbling but not yet defunct factory which had partially collapsed in the heavy downpours typical of these apocalyptic times. Once upon a time young writers would fight each other for jobs of this nature, so as to get some grit in their craws and in their typewriters. Now, of course, virtual grit is so much grittier than real grit. But I defy anyone to experience online the intensity of grit that I and my two shovelmen generated. I would wield the mighty arm, tearing at several layers of old roofing, the oldest of WWII vintage, which slid down to the cement floor and flopped or shattered or skittered, and then in my relatively clumsy manner tore and twisted at the solid inch-and-a-quarter tongue-and-groove planking nailed over wooden beams, six by twelve, twenty feet long and attached to still larger beams at their ends with large metal flanges. When I had brought down enough debris, crashing through tangled webs of pipes and wires, I had to get off the machine and help my shovelmen hump the trash out into the hot sun in wheelbarrows and in our arms. The arm is a small one, with a reach of only about fourteen feet, but it is sturdy and uncomplaining; when I made one of my frequent wrong moves, it would just whine a little and keep trying; when I forgot to lower the small front blade for stability it would jump around excitedly as I flailed at a recalcitrant plank, and so I would lower the blade and shatter the plank like a twig. Men with any testosterone at all running through their enervated veins are starting to feel the lure of the backhoe now, I should think. Women - maybe not. So what if I ran a big metal arm and smashed a roof; it carries no mythic or emotional hook for the average female. However, should a typical red-blooded American female have happened by, she would have inevitably fixated on my forearms as they palpated the smooth black levers of power: she would have seen the muscles ripple subtly under the vermilion sunburn and six kinds of dirt layered in sweat and tar, and she would have been momentarily blinded to the many minor deficiencies that render me invisible to her in more conventional contexts. I have become Tarzan and Paul Bunyan, the Man with the Arm, killing Numa, the lion (in case you forgot), with his long knife, or turning virgin forests full of tedious and dangerous animals into lovely malls and suburbs with one swing of his immense axe. When I got home I took a long shower, and then just went on and took another, but the sense of deep immersion in grit, in life's real texture, lingered in my mind.

Here, then, is the typical daily program you, the pallid and sexless male academic drone, will encounter if you pony up the big bucks for Dave's Manly Reëducation and Testosterone Infusion Camp for English professors, Hemingway and Faulkner scholars, and all virtual male wannabes:

Crack of Dawn: leap into a Jacuzzi filled with cracked ice and bourbon. Roar loudly.
Breakfast: rhino steaks dripping blood, special prize for biting the bullet.
Morning work: operating a backhoe; we will demolish a neighborhood
originally built by Jimmy Carter.
Lunch: whatever we can shoot. More loud roaring.
Afternoon: bourbon and branch, sex (bring a woman if you lack confidence in the animal magnetism of your filthy arms), more bourbon, sleep. Skeet shooting for the wakeful.
Dinner: alligator heart, scotch, neat. Uproarious stories about the time Hemingway told Faulkner straight out to be a man and stop farting around with those interminable sentences full of crap, and Faulkner, well soused, threw his drink in his own face.
Evening: Sex. Seminars on cigars, bullfighting, etc. Discuss fine points of backhoe operation and notable feats of destruction accomplished during the day. Nightcap, your choice of local white lightning or a hair of the dog. Clean rifles. Bury the dead. Plan tomorrow's campaign.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Godlike Snafu Potential!


No species on earth can rival or even touch the ability of humans to mess things up. It makes no difference how perfect our situation may be, or how easy it is to maintain in perfection; when you turn around we've transmuted it into a vast mound of garbage, effortlessly. This is the origin of the Eden myth: that guilty feeling that, because things get worse every year, there must have been a time when we had it made in the shade, man - no death, plenty of food, no competition for a mate, and all we had to do to keep the ball rolling was lie back on the immortal greensward and enjoy it - and we
still messed it up. However, it seems clear that from the very moment that poison apple of knowledge hit our brain, we were no longer content to be indolent with the rest of the animals; knowing that in fact life is short and hard, we began working like demons to make it longer and more fun. These goals forced us down the path of endlessly increasing complexity, and quite soon we found out all about deleterious side effects and unintended consequences. It seems now that our technical abilities have so far outstripped our management abilities, our ability to see the whole elephant at once, that we really don't deserve to survive. One wonders how we got into this mess in the first place; I suppose it is just innate to us. The moment an object we build, whether huge or small, is more complex than the management ability of the builders, things begin to go wrong in that good old SNAFU way... [We take you now to the Serengeti Plains, c. 500,000 B.C. Note painted lions and kudu in the near distance.]

Og: [manager of tools development team] What this?
Shtug: [brilliant young researcher] New kind hammer. Not hold rock in hand. Shape right, tie to strong stick. Hits much harder.
Og: Hmm. Promising. How tie on? Bark? Vines?
Shtug: Hyena sinew. Test bench results show most strength.
Og: Ready for operational test? [raises stone hammer high]
Shtug: No! Topology committee not finished with knot experiments! [as Og brandishes the hammer, the rock flies off and lands on his foot. Enraged, he beats Shtug about the head and shoulders with the handle, and the hammer project is set back 5000 years]

And so it goes. But now, with technical advancements being made at bewildering speed every day, whether anyone wants them or not, the potential for rapid and hilarious mistakes is vastly magnified. Who would have predicted that management teams in California would have been unable to predict the intersections of projection plots involving population, land use, energy demand and generating capacity, nor understand the costs, in money and otherwise, of such intersections? One might think that, given the incredible advances in computers, mathematics and information management, the planning for something so critical and basic as electricity supply would not be a difficult task; but again, one would be all wrong! Granted, they did not suspect that a gang of crack-smoking simians was holed up in a tall building in Houston, pressing buttons on their keyboards at random, trying to think up the largest number in existence to put on the stupid Californians' electricity bill, and laughing until they spilled their martinis. But even I, a mere civilian, would make strenuous inquiries if I received an electric bill in May for ten million dollars, when my bill in April was $139.72. Is it possible that one ordinary individual is smarter overall than a huge organization crammed with every kind of specialist? It is not only possible, it is inevitable, according to Rockwell's Postulate #39, which states that the collective intelligence of a group varies with the negative root n = number of individuals. So a committee of two is only ¼ as smart as each individual alone, and a committee of four is only 1/16th as smart. Collective intelligence approaches zero very quickly. Ah, well, se la vie, eh, Bucky? (Note to math hobbyists: don't bother checking mine, as this is a highly refined type of math known as
rhetorical math.)

With the ongoing welding of the entire planetary civilization into one Gargantuan mechanical organism, our mind boggles (about all it can do anymore) at the
godlike snafu potential that we, a humble hairy biped species, have created. This boggling phenomenon is the basis for the enduring popularity of the Armageddon -of-the-week series of disaster films. We dearly love to watch the whole intricate house of cards come tumbling down when those deadly trumpets blow; we just don't want to be trapped under the debris, waiting helplessly for Bruce Willis or Kevin Costner to blow up the runaway B2 bomber moments before it crashes into the massive nuclear weapons stockpile and sets off a really long and lucrative worldwide ski season. Oh, the suffering, the horror! Why didn't we appreciate global warming when we had it? True statistic: our society spends as much on knee surgery necessitated by skiing as on the skiing itself.

Scene from last week's Bird Flu Wipes Out Humanity, on the Armageddon movie channel:

[Two young soldiers in full camo, flak jackets, M-16s, crouching in dense forest. Grizzled sergeant crawls up on elbows with binocs. Scans dense brush two feet away.]

Maggot 1: Sarge, I'm scared. I ain't gonna make it, Sarge.
Sarge: Shut up, maggot 1. We're all scared. The enemy is invisible, he's all around us. So just keep your gun oiled and your keister in gear.
Maggot 1: Thanks, Sarge, I...
Maggot 2:
What was that? [a slight rustling in the bushes]
All three: AAAH! A ROBIN!!
Maggot 1: Sarge! I'm hit! I've got a slight fever and a strange rash!
Sarge: MEDIC! MEDIC! Don't worry Maggot 1. We never leave a man behind. [Dons biohazard suit] And you know, that robin is roasting in hell right now. So your sacrifice will not have been in vain. I'm putting you down for the Purple Biohazard Cluster.

You can fill in the rest.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Schwartzeneggerian Schweinerei???

Sic Semper Tyrannis, or My Kingdom for a Corvette 9/15/04

You may have read recently that a certain Major League Football Coach, well known as a martinet, has fined some of his players for arriving late to required meetings although they were in fact early. They were just not early enough. Just how early would be early enough to avoid incurring the coach's wrath? No one can be sure. This zone of uncertainty has been brilliantly created by the coach in order to reconfigure the mental space of his players; it reduces their strength as independent agents, and keeps them anxiously focused on trying to read the coach's mind. The Uncertainty Mind-ray has been used to good effect for thousands of years by parents, and by your higher grade of dictator; a virtuoso on this instrument can ensure a solid reign of terror for three or four decades, whereas if the instrument is used weakly or clumsily, the unfortunate player will be quickly replaced by another more ruthless or deft. Immediately after killing your predecessor and assuming the purple, you will of course distribute huge largesse, cancel all the oppressive edicts in effect and try to create the impression of the start of a new Golden Age of tolerance and freedom. Then when the huge bills for all this come due, you tighten the screws by killing a few friends, relatives, possible rivals, and a number of completely random victims just to ensure that no one thinks they might be immune to your capricious wrath. Finally when everyone is good and scared and pretty much all pulling your way, you give them a fake democracy to play with, and lots of public works and minor wars to keep the people distracted and the economy humming. Be sure to quietly skim off virtually all the cream for yourself - not because you are insanely greedy, but because if others have access to the cream they will certainly use it to undermine you. This is how an empire is run; easier said than done, I admit.

The trouble with all this is that people always break out and make a mess somehow. They aren't scared by the coach and his fines; they know that their work has an irreducible value, and that living in fear is not worth the price. So whenever Americans even suspect that someone is trying to mess with their democracy (and they are really paranoid about this) there is a nasty brou-ha-ha, and the opposition does its best to tar the administration with aspirations to tyranny.

Nowadays the huge scale and immense complexity of our civilization make it quite difficult if not impossible to check the truth of any political assertion, and therefore the Zone of Uncertainty expands over the whole country. The President claims that making large 'permanent' tax cuts in the higher brackets, and spending plenty of money on security, the military and whatever makes people vote for him, will not in fact bankrupt our children; his opponents claim the opposite. I might consult the OMB, the CBO, the IRS and a hundred other agencies and think tanks around town, (hoping, but not knowing, that they are free of ideological taint) but will I really get a useful answer? Do any of them really know, any more than the weatherman knows what the weather will be the Saturday after next? When the weatherman tells me it will be a good deal colder in winter than in summer, or that it will rain tomorrow, I believe him, but anything in between those two that I generally ignore. So if I try to decide whether the President and his team are in fact sincerely trying to run the country on democratic principles, according to our ancient virtues and values, or, on the other hand, are systematically subverting all of it for the benefit of the ruling class, I have to rely on nothing more than intuition. I watch the President's face for clues; but this is useless if in fact he is merely the figurehead for a cabal headed by Karl Rove. I consider many reports of autocratic misdeeds in various governmental activities; but this may just be the natural outgrowth of the kudzu of bureaucracy, whose tendrils always reach out for more control, not more democracy, and therefore these unfortunate incidents, or if you prefer, Hitlerian schweinerei, don't qualify as a deliberate attempt at tyranny.

Before this year's Republican convention was over I heard one semi-famous partisan express the wish that the Constitution be amended to make Arnold Schwartzenegger eligible to be President. No, not the Newt - more minor than that - no, not Pat Buchanan, who has broken with the Republican mainstream over what looks very much like his personal intellectual integrity, in that he's honestly come to the conclusion that the administration is going the wrong way down a one-way war. This would position him in the long term as the Conservative Savior if the cycle of historical context swings that far around in his lifetime; and who are we to say that it will not, in these exciting days when every morning brings another full dumpster of recent cultural artifacts to be tossed on the ash heap of history? However, the man of the moment is Arnold the Great, a man of such Herculean thews, of such Aristotelian intellect, and of such Daedalean cleverness (not to mention Caesarian charisma) that the magnificent new adjective Schwartzeneggerian must now be minted in a handsome brushed pewter and added to the lexicon. But I don't care how supermaniacal the guy is, I don't want him grinning his Hollywood grin down at me from the White House. I admit that he represents the archetypal American: the immigrant of superior ability who works harder than anyone else, with an appetite and an ego to match, but he's got to be stopped! Who shall stand up to Arnold the Great and oppose his march to tyranny? Will it be Harrison Ford? Will it be Tim Robbins? (just a joke!) No! I choose as my champion... Kevin Costner!
Taking as our template for heroism the overlooked, much-scorned masterpiece, Waterworld, we see a very quiet and self-effacing Aquadude, a regular Gary Cooper with gills, opposing the last True American and Mad King, Dennis Hopper, as he drives the Last Gas-guzzler here and there on his rustbucket oil tanker and swears insanely that the buffalo will come back, and so forth. Unfortunately the removal of this retro tyrant is accomplished in the usual way, by blowing him up, rather than by a reasoned exchange of views leading to a peaceful resolution and a long-term stable management plan for the soggy planet. And if Arnold the Great is impervious to reasoned argument, he's also proven many times over that he can handle anyone who tries to blow him up. So I guess we're all doomed! Again!!

Copyright 2006 David Warren Rockwell

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Cut to Commercial!

And Now Sit Still, Damn You, for the Following Deconstructed Commercial Messages:

Do you have problems in your life? Do you suffer from symptoms? [woman sitting at kitchen table, staring sadly at a plastic fork] There is an exciting new product that can and will help you. What is the name of this product? [cut to gleeful skysurfer] We call it CransacTM. CransacTM! What a product it is! Already your problems are retreating to a hidden thicket deep in your medulla. [woman romping through fields of poppies] They will not reëmerge unless CransacTM for some reason goes away. [quick cut to woman staring in agony at plastic fork clenched in her fist] Your symptoms are a thing of the past, provided you use CransacTM according to instructions. Side effects of CransacTM are mild and bearable, including, but not limited to, ennui, loss of intellectual sparkle, an itching sensation you cannot locate, projectile bleeding from the ears, the urge to swing a cat, and in rare cases, [cut to shot of woman's black pointed shoes shriveling up under a house] fatal Wicked-Witch-of-the-West syndrome, in which a house might fall on you occasionally. So ask your doctor about CransacTM. [cut to old Dr. Trustworthy romping through a field of poppies like some kind of maniac] Ask him anything. Just don't ask him, or us for that matter, "What in hell are you selling, Jack?" *

I keep seeing these commercials for gold, mined in America and used in many fine industrial applications. I have not been able to figure out who these commercials are aimed at, or exactly what they might be selling. Could it be that our culture is evolving beyond commercialism into an unknown realm wherein the aesthetic value is paramount? Where a work of art may inhabit and dominate any form or medium, unmarred by any of the inherent prosaic qualities of that medium? After all, it is no longer necessary for the two "choices" offered in any commodity to compete for buyers; the soft-drink industry cares not at all as to what proportion of its products is labeled 'pepsi' or 'coke'; they have the luxury of making images unfettered with any sales pitch, crude or subtle. Because their spiritual purpose is thus purified (they exist solely to serve Beauty) and is so much higher than the purpose of the 'content' of television shows, which exist only as a vehicle, a bottle for the soft-drink, they are gradually supplanting the 'content', which withers and decays every week into a more frantic and insane mask failing to conceal an ever more torpid and cretinous figgy-pudding. Or so goes the conventional wisdom. But there is absolutely nothing to prevent us from considering the shows to be the final victory of the Absurdist movement pioneered by Eugene Ionesco and Harpo Marx, and the commercials a desperate reaction, a failing attempt to shore up the crumbling walls of the Fortress of Meaning. We can think of it in any terms we prefer; we still buy the product and stare ox-eyed at the drivel. That's What Makes America Great!

Before I start foaming at the fingernails, I'd better buckle down and start concentrating on... what was it? The twelve reasons my wife will divorce me if my offerings on the altar of Christmas are inadequate. I need some new and creative gift ideas. The Salad ShooterTM isn't going to get it. Perhaps I should order (from

The Oddjob Hat. This magnificent piece of movie memorabilia is crafted from solid pig-iron in the shape of a bowler hat, with a razor-sharp brim suitable for lopping off unwanted heads at fifty yards. Specify head size. Black only. $10,000. Free shipping!

The Gates Zapper
TM. If Bill Gates tries to enter your property for any reason, the Gates ZapperTM automatically blasts him with 10,000 volts of harmful electricity. Perfectly safe for all other persons named Bill or Gates, as it is keyed to his Nerd DNA. $5,000,000.

The Philosophical Explanatator
TM. Responds brilliantly to any and all questions about the nature of Being, the meaning of Meaning, and the definition of the word 'is'. Warning: can be addictive and destructive to your zeitgeist, causing weltschmerz and/or mal-de-mer. Useful for indefinitely preoccupying homicidal spaceship computers, George Will or Robert Byrd. $495.

From, for the terminally tasteful: The Pluperfect Pullover. This completely nondescript garment exudes the ever-so-faint odor of simplicity. It is pocketless, with no distinguishing characteristics whatsoever, except its obviously high-class, totally pukka attitude. Wear it to your book club - they'll forget Jane Austen and focus on you. Available colors: earthworm, sludge, mold and slag. $299.

From The Silence Bomb
TM. Unlike conventional noise suppressers, which merely cancel sound by inverted feedback, the Silence BombTM kills noise pollution at the source. When your neighbor Rodrigo cruises by in his rotting '77 Dodge Dart, with the bass from his speakers causing birds to drop from the sky stone dead, this device homes in on the source and from a roof-mounted dish-antenna emits a focused pulse of EMF radiation that fries every circuit in his car to a nice crispy brown. The only sound then will be your diabolical chuckling as he leaps from his flaming vehicle. Requires 1000-amp feed - check local codes. Will not cause cancer if used as directed. D.O.D. permit included. $24,999.99.

From the gadget to end all gadgets! The Gadget Shooter
TM. Eliminates unsightly gadget buildup. Can't resist buying all that smart crap? Wife holding out until bedroom is accessible? Set up the Gadget ShooterTM in the back yard, enclose excess gadgets in the handy iron shell casings provided, and place on the accelerator platform. Stand back as the electromagnetic rail-gun boosts the items high into the stratosphere, landing up to 10 miles away, where it's someone else's problem! Great fun for the kids! Who says the trillions spent on 'Star Wars' antiballistic missile research was a waste! Only $15,999.99. Extra shell casings, $50 ea.; kiddie/pet parachutes $100, reusable. Shipping weight appx. 10,000 lbs. For MIRV and GPS targeting capabilities add $5000. Drop a Salad ShooterTM through your uncle Mortie's kitchen window! Tracking radar not included. Happy Holidays to All!

The effect of decades of repetition and hyper-realism in television commercials has now made it possible for me to drop Virtual Acid whenever I wish: I skydive into a psychedelic, indolent fantasy world called the Eternal Automobile. In a beautiful sunlit land I am riding in slow motion in the passenger seat of a convertible that changes color to match every tropical bird we pass; my chauffeur is a woman reminiscent of Anne-Margret, though thinner and a bit less wholesome, and her lips are entirely enigmatic. She speaks, but only bird song emerges as the orange clouds, like Tang-flavored cotton-candy, stream by far too quickly. Behind us the cactuses shrink into tiny emerald dots, and far ahead of us glows the Sierra Madre and a mysterious treasure that the car will drive us to, as we drink our drugged champagne. The woman makes a fluid gesture with her wrist, and the moonlight glances off her tiny silver wristwatch. This perfect moment is sufficient unto itself, and I have no urge whatsoever to actually possess such a car, or know its price or the tedious, grating details of the APR financing and cash back deals. The commercial has sabotaged our entire consumer culture by giving me the dream for free.

This essay has been brought to you by BLASTO!!TM, the new instant laxative, for people who just can't wait, and gentle be damned! Seat yourself like Mad King Lear on your throne, grasp the towel-rack in a death-grip, pop a BLASTO!!TM and hang on. Our Motto: "Why waste time?" Available at lower-quality drugstores across the nation.

Psycho-literary-sociological analysis of the foregoing 'joke' paragraph will reveal to the keen observer a veritable smorgasbord of rich subtextual Americana: the scatological junior-high sensibility, the pervasive underlying mercantile miasma, and of course the vast, protean influence of MAD Magazine. But somewhere in the bottom of the keen observer's mind lurks the nagging question: did perhaps the apocryphal makers of "BLASTO!!TM" pay me big bucks to plug their product under the guise of my penetrating scholarship? Is nothing sacred in the Arcadian Groves of Academe any more, man?!

The question pretty much answers itself.

* Disclaimer: We have no actual knowledge of any product or trademark called CransacTM, and have no interest in either promoting or harming sales of CransacTM, so if you own shares in the gigantic, evil CransacCorp, please, don't call, write or sue - just bug off!

Copyright 2006 David Warren Rockwell

Monday, March 27, 2006

Cocksure Palindrome Fabrication, Sincere Oxymoron!

Do you ever get the feeling, recently, that every day is April Fool's Day in America? They've all got to be putting us on. The Jacksons, the Presidential Candidates, the owners of major league baseball teams, the network-assembly-line-manufactured pseudo-micro-celebrities, Donald Trump's hair - they're all sitting around some immense polished mahogany table in a glass room on top of Manhattan, saying to each other, what crazy prank can we think up, just to see what they'll swallow. So far, like the world's fattest carp, we've swallowed every ridiculous put-on they've thrown us. "President George W. Bush" - aw, come on, now!

Luckily we've got the Internet to foster intelligent discourse, and escape from the official pabulum that Corporate America is trying to cram down our throats. Every day I get thoughtful e-mails from real people, concerned citizens who are thinking about the future of our society. For example, Mr. Osvaldo Sears writes, "Heron lear prompt minaret conferrable, ballast formidable cocoa-puffs." - a provocative yet thoughtful challenge to the tort system. Hear, hear, Mr. Sears! I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your cauliflower intricate solipsistic feline oxymoron pole-sitter. Miss Olga Knox has this to say: "Riga flounder aberdeen immoral cocksure, loathe flight." - which is only common sense; but really, is sense so very common? I say, let us endeavor earnestly to palindrome fabrication newt coffee-mate boll. And I was struck by the peculiar cogency of Mr. Thing (that is the nom-de-plume he prefers, apparently) who writes: "Vi+a*graa cheep! Gareentood{}& Ph.D. degree $12.95 No Pencils No Books No Teachers Dirty Looks No Brain Hurting No More!" By God (or nondenominational Entity of your choice) someone should stand up and challenge the educational establishment of this country for its monumental failure, and Mr. Thing is willing to do so! I salute you, sir - but, if I may, a word of caution to check your exuberance: though you may paper your walls with magnificent Ivy League diplomas, be careful with that Mexican Viagra. For what boots it that a man has massive worldly acclaim and goods, yet cannot perform the offices of a man due to his Thing rotting off? I think Jesus would have said that if he were alive today. And I'm sure he would add, in the modern idiom, camphor elephantine pig-headed bizzarro oopsy-daisy, or words to that effect. Jesus was a pretty cool guy, you know. Too bad about that ultra-violence, as revealed to us by the visions of Mel Gobson. I mean, Gibson. Come on, Dave, now you're stooping to ridicule a man's name! Hey - that was just a typo. Maybe this entire essay is a typo - I'll never tell. And my staff of monkey typists are sworn to secrecy. Incidentally, they told me that these strings of apparent nonsense in the subject line of e-mails are simply attempts to defeat anti-spam filters, but what do they know? I prefer to believe that the Hive Brain is trying to communicate with me in a marvelous new subconscious code. Let us hope it is a Benign Brain, and not an Evil Mass of Slimy Tentacles. (No, not like Dick Cheney, wise guy.)

Recently in real-world news: NEW YORK (AP) -- An openly gay teenager received a $30,000 settlement from the city over her suspension for wearing a "Barbie is a Lesbian" T-shirt to school, her attorney announced Thursday.

Pitch for a big-budget movie: BarbieTM the Movie, shot entirely in cheesy stop-motion animation using real barbies (different outfit every scene). Story line: who really cares - Barbie marries Ken, gradually goes feminist, backdrop of sixties, seventies, etc., gets divorced, turns lesbo, starts killing johns to keep her lover, goes to prison, freed after political outcry - "Don't hate me because of my ideal figure and killer accessories." - runs for President, is assassinated by cabal headed by Ken. Tragic yet stupid. Perfect vehicle for fart jokes, etc. Voice and 'tude for Barbie played at first by Britney Spears, then switching to Courtney Love; Ken first played by Sen. John Edwards, then by Sean Penn.

You know I'm not kidding here; that's the sad part. Movies are now germinated from degenerate DNA fragments of long-dead American culture, no matter how trivial and lame; the one and only criterion is name recognition, which makes for a nauseatingly thin broth.

Copyright 2006 David Warren Rockwell

Domine, domine, domine - you're all Moonies now!


I wish I had a plugged nickel for every time one of my victims - er, I mean, readers - came up to me, all flummoxed and dumbfounded by something I've written and asked me, "Dave, where do you get all them crazy idears??!!" (I hear genuine plugged nickels are getting four figures on Ebay.) The answer is obvious: weird, beautiful stuff pops up like radioactive fungus in the newspaper almost every day. This morning, we hit the jackpot: on the front page of the Post, (though inexplicably below the fold) a blockbuster burst upon the world, disguised under the bland headline, "The Rev. Moon Honored at Hill Reception", with a nice little color photo of Rev. Moon wearing a vaguely papal smock, an impressively spiky crown (though far inferior in heft and presence to the Papal mitre) and a self-satisfied smirk, just such as you or I would certainly wear if we were giving a speech in which we confidently asserted that "Emperors, kings and presidents... have declared to all Heaven and earth that Reverend Dave "Nature Boy" Rockwell is none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent and definitely not an immense bloated parasite." (Emphasis and slight enhancement added. Still less than 5% insect parts in our high-standard journalism.)

Well, skewering a windbag like Moon is like shooting fish in a barrel, or more accurately, like strafing a mutant, glowing, lemon-lime-Koolaid-colored alien garden slug five miles long from your Flying Tiger, with your twin 50-caliber wing-mounted machine guns blazing: you can fill him chock-full of lead, but he just keeps on ingesting villages, factories, whole cities, radioactive waste dumps, etc., oblivious to your pathetic pinpricks. Maybe we should just let him keep on slimin'. More interesting is the occasion itself: apparently a generic honor-the-constituents- and-fat-cats affair, a tedious but essential part of modern stop'n'shop democracy. The president himself has to put in his time handing out the Presidential Medal of Freedom to such luminaries as the Pope, Hulk Hogan, Robert Downey Jr. and Britney Spearmint, when he'd clearly rather be golfing, and our congresspersons must in the course of their duties award many lesser honors to whomever asks. After all we are all citizens of the human community, and every blessed one of us, except of course terrorists, should qualify for some kind of medal. (Athough I'm quite sure Osama Bin Laden gives out copious medals, plaques and certificates whenever his henchpersons murder anyone.) My wife gave me one last week for changing the oil in the car. I must admit, though, that she did not place the medal on a pillow and carry it to me wearing white gloves and a little Frederick's of Hollywood number, as Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) did for Moon's gilded crown. Don't believe me? Well, the Post didn't have the guts to run that photo. Rep. Davis actually did wear white gloves and did present the crown, but we do not know who took the honor of placing the crown on the smirking monarch's pate. Rumors abound: Hillary Clinton? Rush Limbaugh? GWB himself? Say it ain't so, Joe! One thing is certain, though: the Rev. Moon, Skull and Bones, the Panchen Lama, the Rosicrucians, Captain Nemo, my high-school chess club, the adepts of the Kabbalah - yes! including and especially Madonna! - are all mixed up somehow in one vast, dramatic, paranoia-satisfying conspiracy that will explain every last thing you don't like about this world. But here's the punch line: our solemn Solons claimed that they were duped. They freely admit that they were nothing but pawns in Moon's scheme for world domination! They're perhaps the only totally clueless ones in this sorry mess. And that's why we love them, and return them to office year after year.

Addendum: Today is July Fools Day, and sure enough another item pops up in the metro section, which takes us from the sublimely ridiculous (Rev. Moon) to the just plain idiotic. It seems that a certain Michael Lenz had stabbed fellow prison inmate Brent Parker back in 2000, not once, not twice, but 68 times, which naturally led to Mr. Parker's demise. For some typically dense legal folderol his execution was halted, blah blah blah - and here is the final sentence of the brief article: "Lenz, who had been serving a seven-year sentence for a string of burglaries in Prince William County, had argued that he was the high priest of a Nordic cult and that Parker was trying to intimidate him out of the cult." 'Argued'!? This was an 'argument' for his exculpation? Or perhaps he felt that as High Priest and Whitest of the White of the Nordlandia Alabasteroids he had every justification for ritually ventilating a detractor? And did the judge sit in court with a serious mien and carefully mull over this 'argument'? Many other questions boil forth from our flabbergasted minds, but let us draw a merciful curtain over this unsavory mess with the lilting lyrics of W.S. Gilbert:

"My object all sublime,
I shall achieve in time -
To let the punishment fit the crime -
the punishment fit the crime;
And make each prisoner pent
Unwillingly represent
A source of innocent merriment!
Of innocent merriment."

Copyright 2004 David Warren Rockwell

The Left Field League Holds a Reasoned Debate


Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Tom Brokaw. Welcome to this B-level Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate, for candidates generally considered, shall we say, less likely to win the nomination. I'm not saying they are unfit - that they are kooks, cranks, idiots or nutty as so many fruitcakes. I'm simply saying that in this man's America, anyone has the potential to become President, and they should have a forum to explain why they are running, and what makes them fit for the highest office in the land. Let's now hear each of our Left Field candidates, so to speak, give a brief statement of their ambition. First, former heavyweight champion Michael "Iron Mike" Tyson. Mr. Tyson?

Thank you, Tom. I'm know I'm not as ruggedly handsome as Joe Lieberman, and I'm not as sharp as Al Sharpton, and I'm not as charismatic as John Kerry, but, gosh darn it, I'm good enough, and smart enough, and people like me! Or I kick their ass.

Thank you, Mike - and may I speak for all of us when I say - please don't hit me. Now let's hear from Former First Lady, the honorable senator from New York, Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton?

Are you offering the ring to me, Frodo? Dost thou do so of thy own free will? Give it to me - hand it over. Don't worry. I shall use it wisely and humanely, and I shall be queen of all Middle, Lower and Upper-Middle Earth. All shall look upon my incredible, eye-popping beauty and DESPAAAAAAIR!! So cough it up. Hey! Come back here! Gimme that ring!

Thank you, Mrs. Clinton. By the way, candidates, you'll find assorted sedatives next to your water-glasses; please use them liberally as needed. And now, renowned television personality and physical culture exponent Anna Nicole Smith. Ms. Smith?

Ooh - I feel so... so big today. What does a President do, anyway? I could do that - whatever it is... There's nothing I wouldn't do to make a friend, or get a vote. Do you really want some dried up hag, or me, ever so lush and ready? Maybe I'll just loll back here and take a nice little catnap. Tom, you look so cute in your blazer. Have you been working out?

Thank you, Anna. Please, candidates, do not use the sedatives for recreation at this time. And now, the Tim Russert Bobble-head Doll. Tim?

Hey, Tom! Tombo! Yeah, you, ya slick weenie Brokaw! I got yer breaking news right here! News flash: my eyebrows possess hypnotic-ray powers! Saddam beware! Stand back! Tom, ya squirrelly tool! Jumping Jack Flack! Fire them ack-ack guns! News flash: I'm smarter than any President except Zachary Taylor! Hey, Tommy! Ya pumped-up wanker!

Thanks, Tim, you're trenchant as always. Maybe a bit too goddamned trenchant. Next in line we have, in response to the plaintive cries of millions of little people, one of them - a little person - a token nobody. Mr. Rockwell, I invite you to speak your piece and then sink back into your well-deserved obscurity.

Hey, thanks for nothing, Brokaw. Listen - America is declining, like the Roman Empire. It can be seen everywhere - for example, plain strawberry Pop-Tarts are being discontinued, all we have left are the decadent Frosted Brown Sugar ones! We must reverse this decline! I call for radical reforms that will strengthen the moral fiber of our youth, and reduce their tendency to rove in gangs! I call for-

Thank you, Mr. Rockwell. That's enough out of you.
Wait! I must speak -
Drag him out. And while you're at it, kick his ass a couple of times. (Applause.) And now, our final panelist, the renowned basketball coach Bobby Knight. Mr. Knight, if your rage is under control at the moment -

What the hell do you mean, you worthless little puke, asking me if I've got my rage under control? Of course I've got it under control, moron! Anger is a coaching tool, nothing more, you pencil-necked geek! I could snap your pencil-neck as easily as I now fling this metal chair through the control-room glass! Et voilá! You press are scumbags, all a ya. When I'm President - whack! No more press. Heads will fall into baskets, the tumbrels will roll. America wins big!!

(At this point a general donnybrook breaks out. Clinton clocks Tyson on the jaw with her purse, and he falls to earth like a harvested redwood; Smith stuffs the babbling Russert doll down her décolletage, where one could faintly hear the muffled curses continuing, if one were so bold as to get that close to the enraged, though still torpid Television Personality; Knight tosses heavy teak furniture in all directions like a gorilla on PCP. Brokaw cannily dons a helmet and ducks behind the podium, where he speaks urgently into his now-dead microphone:)

This is Tom Brokaw reporting from the political front. If anyone from security can hear me, get me out of here! And taking a wider perspective, is this what political discourse has come to in the post-9/11 America of 2003? Have we sunk so low? Apparently we have. What am I, a prize-winning journalist and commentator, doing moderating this grotesquerie? Why, if all of these idiots combined their best qualities in one person, the resulting monster would lose a debate with my left testicle - the dumber one. Yeah - I should be President! Me - Tom Brokaw - signing off. And may God have mercy on our souls.

Copyright 2003 David Warren Rockwell

Further Denials of Impropriety from Prince Charles


"Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied." - Otto von Bismarck

Recent scurrilous allegations (not actually made public) impugning my morality as a man and a member of the Royal Family, have attempted to tarnish the luster of royalty that has gleamed for many centuries from these British Isles. I have denied these theoretical allegations, and my word is my bond, as befits a prince of the blood. But implied by the very existence, however nebulous, of these disgusting slanders is the idea that the Royal Family is decadent - a clan of parasitic layabouts that serves no useful purpose in a modern democracy, except as a straw man to be exposed to the contempt and contumely of populist politicians, as they attempt to manipulate the mass of the proletariat to their own ends. In order to foil the nefarious anti-Royal plotting of these low-class rotters, I now wish to issue a more extensive and specific denial of various allegations that may or may not surface in the future. I hope the faceless cowards involved will appreciate my forbearance of the more drastic measures that my noble forebears surely would have employed to quash their impudence, such as the rack, the thumbscrew, and the headsman.

First, last month, on a certain occasion when the Prime Minister was droning on interminably about tariffs and labor policy, I did not fall asleep. I was merely resting my eyes, which you must admit can easily become fatigued when staring at his pasty face for any length of time.

Second, aside from the occasional trip to the zoological gardens, I have never seen, let alone touched, any member of the order Rodentia, including voles, gerbils and capybara. Furthermore, my ownership of sheep and goats is purely in connection with my image as the leading member of the landed gentry - nothing more than that.

Third, as regards anatomical dimensions, capabilities and peculiarities, I wish to categorically state that although I am not a candidate for exhibition in a circus nor for casting in motion pictures of questionable taste, I am nevertheless fully capable and well above average in this regard - or at least, should the concept of 'average' seem too imprecise, I am definitely far from microscopic. Britons need not have the slightest doubt regarding the virility of the Man Who Would Have Been King Had Not His Mother Lived Far Too Long.

Fourth, to lay to rest some minor rumors, I do not chew gum, and if I did I would not stick it under a church pew or a desk, and especially would not stick it to my forehead and claim it was a wart or growth of some kind. I do not have a collection of salacious carvings filched from the back rooms of the British museum. I have never had sexual relations with Posh Spice, Madonna, Elton John, or the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Finally, I wish it to be known that I have never once used a golf club for any other purpose than to whack a ball down the links, and certainly never to lift the ordure of a mastiff and surreptitiously smear it on the Queen's gown. If I hear of this filth being bruited about, I swear I shall leap from my carriage and personally throttle the rotten bastard responsible, as God is my witness. Rule Britannia!


Copyright 2003 David Warren Rockwell

Become a Demigod in a few Short Weeks!

An Email from Africa, land of Infinite Opportunity!

sender: Lackawanna J. Opulence
subject: David, We will Pay Yu to Enlarger Your Penis!!!

David, we are your best fiend. Here in Nigeria is a land of plenty but with much turmoil. Our brilliant native scientists all have penises much larger than in America and they much want to help American small-penised men so that in America also women can be hapy.

David, we have the weird and strange native juice that makes the penis grow long and thicke. Never again will your large, firm-breasted girls laugh and titter at your tininess; instead they will fall stunned to their knees. Other males will slink away abashed when you demonstrate at parties the bowline knot and the double half-hitch. How can you obtain this juice, do yu ask? Could yu send a million dollars in a suitcase and get a small jar?

No, David, Send No Money! We will pay yuo instead! We need test subjects for our brilliant experiments! We will pay you ninety thousand dollars to test the Penis Inflationary Tincture combined with the Super-Strength Viagra, the Mysterious Jungle Vitamin Pack, and the Genetically Enhanced Human Growth Hormone. Stictly for scientific test purposes we have rounded up 500 beautiful young virgin Nigerian girls from remote unspoiled valleys and placed them in a sealed compound full of every fine food and drink. If yuo qualify for this program yu will very soom be parachuting naked into this compound as the girls first run out to meet you, then flee in terror when they see your immense and rigidly rod-like penis leadung the way to Mother Earth. But soon they will return and swarm eagerly one after the next to try to be the one to tire the tireless obelisk. No sooner will one be blasted into womanhood by the mighty exudation of your glowing king's sceptre than the next will engulf you in her wiles. And unlike normal penises, large or small, the Nigerian Super Penis gets longer, thicker and more rigid the more one uses it, and expels more forceful ejaculations. In theory, interstellar travel could eventually be powered by this jet-propulsion activity. Man will go to the stars, and you will be a part of it! Our brilliant native scientists also believe that this amazing combination of science and ancient African magic will promote longevity, to the point of near-immortality! Thousands of years of near-constant orgasmic ecstasy will be yours!

David, by now you are asking, How can I qualify for this program? What can I, one ordinary, rich, gullible American do for the advancement of Science and the Human Race? Here indeed is how you qualify: you must pay for your own travel, and the only airline serving our remote jungle laboratory is Nigerian Penis Air, which, due to internal turmoil in our troubled land, must regrettably charge a bit more than an average American ariline would. And we require a fully deductible charitable contribution to help the brilliant scientists defray the huge research costs, not to mention ordinary expenses such as breath mints and toilet paper, items as valuable as diamonds here. (Although, truthfully, diamonds are found lying about the roads here - we use them as paperweights.)

So, David, simple send us your cashier's check for $25,000.00 US cash dollars and all too soon you will be the World's Most Virile and Immoortal Godlike Man, and you'll ride in a golden chariot behind a large caisson pulled by a twenty-virgin team, which cradles your MIGHTY ATOMICAL PENIS!!!!!

Sincerely yrs
Lackawanna Jukebox Opulence (my full legal name)

P.S. - This email is not spam. Remember, we are your best Fiend, David, our pal.

Copyright 2006 David Warren Rockwell