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Reality Is A Thug

Jury selection begins today in Houston for the trials of Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. Their lawyers argue that they won't be able to empanel a fair-minded jury in Houston on account of a lot of people there were screwed-over-for-life by Enron. In Iraq, things have not gone as well as predicted by the Bush Administration. New Orleans basks in the warm afterglow of a faith-based levee system.

My father died recently. Nobody ever told me there would come a point in my life when I didn't have a father, but reality is a thug and the thug doesn't much care what I wasn't told.

Reality gets things done, you know? Without reference to rules and regulations, or even the best laid plans of mice and men. And it ain't afraid of nuthin'.

The thing that scares me is that someday some outfit will come along and kick reality's ass. I rewatched the movie "Brazil" recently and found myself thinking that once we get to the point to where they can retool our minds the way they can in that movie, all will be lost. Certainly Karl Rove and Frank Luntz aspire to that degree of control, but I think the best they can really manage at this point is putting off for a time the inevitable consequences of mouthing off to the thug.

Certainly there is no justice in the universe, but there is reality; there is... the thug. Civilization survives in those dark corners where the thug only occasionally goes. We huddle in the dark, out of the way, pretending we are not afraid of the thug, even pretending he doesn't exist. But he does, of course, and occasionally he wanders by while making his rounds of the universe and at that point all our delusions, all of the lies we tell ourselves and others, take one in the kisser.

Which is a kind of justice, I guess. I mean, if you set aside all the individual lives destroyed by fiascoes like the collapse Enron, or incompetently waged wars like the one in Iraq, or colossal screw-ups like Katrina Does New Orleans, you do finally get to a kind of very rough balancing of the scales. Reality sweeps through and kicks the crap out of everything. It doesn't much care about the finer points of the sort of precision justice we all worry about. That sort of justice is our responsibility and pretty much doesn't happen unless we care enough to do something about it. Certainly, for the moment, reality isn't going to do anything more than punch minor thugs like Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling and Rove and Bush and Rumsfeld in the nose. If we want anything more out of those transactions, it's going to be up to us to do the necessaries.

Nevertheless, the big kahuna thug has already made sure that all those guys will at least go down in history as the minor thugs they are. In fact, they are already just smears on the windshield, even though the action of the wind gives the illusion their wings are still beating. Surely they have ruined many people's lives, and will ruin even more of them, but the big kahuna thug doesn't much care about individual lives. That's what gives us the feeling that there isn't any real justice in the universe. There is, though. Maybe we can't take much comfort in it. Maybe it doesn't satisfy us the way somebody clearly getting their just desserts always does. But there is some comfort in living in a universe where even the most notorious of the minor thugs the human race generates eventually get sick, rot from the inside, and then die.

Is it human justice? Of course not. Does it make up for all the harm they do to their victims? Not in our minds. But they do, eventually, get what's coming to them. They eventually get pounded by the thug, just like the rest of us.

Nobody ever really "gets away with it". That's the glory of our original sin, and I'm not referring to the Biblical definition of that notion. No, our original sin is that we are all, even the most notorious of our minor thugs, born into a bigger thug's universe and there isn't a damned thing we can do about it. The best we can manage is to keep reminding ourselves that "getting away with it" is a delusion. Murder and lies and political spin and corporate books riddled with dummy loss-swallowing corporations will out. Eventually. And the final fillip the thug gives you as he walks on past is that you will be remembered, for as long as you are remembered, primarily for your delusions. The final entry in the books for all these minor thugs will be: "He thought he could get away with it." The thug's laughter is dull and stupid and generally humorless, but it's laughter all the same.

Incident at Loch Ness

The bad news about "Incident at Loch Ness" (link warn: sound plays) is that it is something of an inside joke. The good news is that (a) it is only something of an inside joke, (b) achieving insider status in this instance is pretty easy and certainly rewarding in its own right, and (c) the film is pretty damned funny.

Yes, it's true I'm on something of a Werner Herzog kick. This is due in part to the fact that I'm actually on something of a DVD kick lately, induced by the recent addition of an HDTV to my Home, er, I mean, Small Apartment Theater System. In fact, I've descended into an orgy of video rentals. Herzog just happened to be standing nearby and so got dragged into the mess. Hmm… Not unlike what happens to him in this movie about Nessie, come to think of it.

But I have to take a moment and explain something here. See, the first joke in this movie was on me, but it requires a little bit of set-up for you to get why.

You may have noticed that I've started a "Film & DVD" category here at The Corpuscle. I am not an expert on the cinema. I'm not even a film student, though I did take a Film Studies elective in high school. And I wrote a screenplay once that made it to the quarterfinals in "The Nicholl Fellowship" competition, but that was a few years ago, and anyway, as we all know, writing a screenplay doesn't mean you know anything about film.

No, I'm just a guy who has an artsy video store near where he lives, and who loves interesting movies that try to do stuff he hasn't seen before. I love pretty pictures, interesting sounds, and characters that intrigue me and so I end up doing a lot of exploring of the shelves in my artsy video store. I neither know nor care much about The History of the Cinema, or The Art of the Cinema, or The Auteur Theory, or anything like that. I'm just a guy who likes to look at what's in front of him, respond to it more or less directly in terms of what it either is or seems to be doing. That's my starting and ending point, really. My theory of film is: "Well, I certainly haven't seen that done before. I like (and/or hate) it." If I write about a film, I mostly write about what it made me think or feel, or what it suggested to me about my own life, or the lives of people I know, or life in general. I am not a Perfessor of Moobies, so if you are going to become a regular visitor to my "Film & DVD" section, come here in search of stuff that might, in my opinion, be worth your time (assuming you haven't already seen it yourself, of course). That's all it's intended to be. It doesn't (I fervently hope) pretend to be anything else.

All of which brings me back to the notion of the first joke being on me. I suppose if I was up on all this film stuff, I would have known what I was getting when I rented this DVD. But the thing is, even if you go to the movie's website and watch the trailer you'll see that they actually go to some lengths to make you think it's what you are expecting it to be. It's all a lie, but I'm glad of it. The joke is worth it.

How to Become an Insider to the Movie's Joke.

The DVD of Herzog's "Grizzly Man" (link warn: sound plays) was released some weeks ago so I picked it up and found it well worth watching for a number of reasons. I may write about it at some point, but not now. Suffice it to say that if you rent the DVD, be sure to watch the documentary included on the DVD about the making of the soundtrack. I liked it even more than "Grizzly Man" itself.

So anyways... after "Grizzly Man" I picked up "The White Diamond" (previously refooed by me here). Two is a crowd and also, as far as I'm concerned, a bona fide kick so I soon returned to the artsy video store to look for another Herzog. "Loch Ness" was filed in the Herzog section (it being an artsy store, you generally find your vids filed by directors). It looked like just the ticket -- lots of spectacular Scottish scenery to show off my new HDTV, Herzog exploring belief in monsters. I was psyched.

So I get home, put the DVD in and this ... thing ... starts. It looks like a documentary on the making of a Herzog film called "Enigma at Loch Ness". I'm like, "Did I accidentally select the Added Features thing? What the hell is this?" I stopped the DVD, poked around the disc menu a bit and finally determined that, sure enough, this thing was the main feature. So... back to the "Play" button...

The thing starts off convincingly enough. We meet Herzog coming out the front door of what appears to be his home, a bungalow-slash-small-house apparently located on a street in Los Angeles called "Wonderland". He's hosting a dinner party that evening for the production crew of the film on Nessie he's about to start shooting. Screenwriter Zak Penn ("Last Action Hero", "Inspector Gadget", "X2") shows up with wife and child in tow. We learn he is a tremendous admirer of Herzog and has somehow convinced the World Famous Director of Art Films to let someone else (namely, Penn), for the first time ever, produce one of his films. But Penn is a little disconcerted by the presence of the film crew filming the documentary about the filming of the Nessie film.

As well he should be.

Others of the crew show up, including world-famous feature film cinematographer Gabriel Beristain and Academy Award winning sound engineer Russell Williams. I'd say "both playing themselves" only… well, it's unclear whether I actually should say that. But anyway. Oh, and Jeff Goldblum shows up too. For the eats and the conversation, I guess.

Okay, so anyways... slowly but surely you begin to feel that there's something rotten going on here. Beristain pulls Herzog aside to discuss the concerns he has with the proposed "lighting package". Herzog is confused -- he shoots all his film using natural light. There's no need for a "lighting package". Beristain says he needs the package for the planned "re-creations". Penn tries to pull them back into the dinner party and away from what appears to be a very dangerous confusion.

Yeah, dangerous confusion. That's a good way to put it, if I do say so. And you know what? That's about all I'm going to tell you about this thing on account of you need to see it yourself. But before you do... if you haven't seen them already you need to rent and watch "Grizzly Man" (and the accompanying soundtrack documentary) and "The White Diamond".

Why? Because the joke of "Incident at Loch Ness" works best if you have a sense of what Herzog is like when he is working on one of his documentaries. He appears in all of the aforementioned, doing his Herzog-thing, and he appears in "Loch Ness", doing his Herzog-thing as well, and in the latter, he is very, very funny. Assuming you know what I mean by "doing his Herzog-thing", of course. Which is why you need to watch the other movies first if you haven't already seen them.

This guy is a riot. If his sense of humor was any drier, you'd have to put it on a map and call it Death Valley. Really, I never would have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. My favorite moment: Herzog on the bow of the boat intently scanning the waves for a sign of Nessie, oblivious to all else.

The DVD has a commentary track that, more or less, strives to preserve the joke's fiction. The first 15 minutes of it features Penn and Herzog, um, reviewing their experiences working on the film. Once you've seen the movie itself, you can imagine the comic possibilities of this set-up so you'll probably want to give the commentary track a try. The commentary shtick stays pretty funny for a while, certainly while Herzog is there, but I have to admit I gave up on it after a while. The joke gets thinner and thinner, but maybe it has a Big Finish or something. I'll leave it to you adventurers out there to discover that for yourselves.

The joke of the movie does have a few flaws in it, maybe even a hole big enough to drive a plesiosaur through, but it's worth it to let all that go. Sometimes it pays to let yourself not be smarter than the movie.

And finally, again, welcome to my new "Film & DVD" section. I call these entries "refoos" because they aren't really reviews, as you can probably tell by now. They're more like... well, I made the word up out of "foobar", if that helps you any.

[Netflix, B & N, ]

The White Diamond

Once there was a man who dreamed of flying, but not just any old flying. He dreamed of floating over a jungle canopy and exploring there what some experts say is an extraordinary biodiversity.

So the man built an airship and took it to the jungles of Sumatra. Another man attached a camera to the airship, climbed in and the airship was released into the sky. He floated above a river, following it into a deep forest.

But the airship was not precisely maneuverable and after a while the cameraman and the ship drifted into the upper branches of a very tall tree. The other members of the expedition raced to help him. Meanwhile, the leading edge of a storm crept into the river valley and began to beat at the branches where the airship was stuck.

The cameraman struggled to free the ship, but eventually the frame he was riding in broke and he nearly fell. The rest of his party arrived at the base of the tree. One of them scaled the tree next to the one that had trapped the ship, over 100 feet up, and tried to reach across the space between the two trees to help the man free himself. The movement caused the frame of the airship to shift. The cameraman lost his grip, fell, and landed at the feet of the man who had dreamed of flying.

The human body when it falls from above a certain height transubstantiates as it falls into a 200 pound water balloon. When it hits the ground it generally hangs together better than your standard dime-store water balloon, but there are weak points, chinks in the fleshy armor, so to speak. Take the eyes, for example, which can act as release valves for the fluid pressures generated inside the body at impact. Sometimes the eyes will pop out of their sockets. Occasionally, nails will shoot off the tips of the fingers.

But assuming your dream of floating above the jungle canopy eventually comes true in the guise of a redesigned airship, maybe you can get away with not thinking about any of that for a while. Or, maybe you think about those things everyday, sometimes even twice a day, for the 11 long years it's been since the cameraman fell to his death at your feet.

A rastaman, lounging on a clear plastic inflatable armchair at the edge of a jungle clearing in Guyana and smoking a little something the exact nature of which we cannot precisely determine, gazes up at a sideways-teardrop-shaped airship and pronounces it beautiful. He works at a mining operation nearby and he observes that the airship reminds him of a giant white diamond, floating there in the sky. He dreams of riding the airship to Spain where his mother and 8 siblings moved twenty some years ago. He misses them terribly.

Maybe the trip across the ocean would take a whole year. No matter. The rastaman grins when he imagines himself landing the airship on the roof of his mother's house in Spain, knocking on her door, and then introducing himself as her lonely, long-lost son. A slightly scaled-back version of the dream is that his mother and lost siblings will see this movie he's in and will be inspired to come to Guyana to find him.

Nobody does dreamers, warts and all, better than Werner Herzog -- probably because he is a dreamer himself, one whose dreams are preserved as films, the (more or less) aforementioned documentary "The White Diamond" being one of them.

Try to watch it on a high-definition TV, and make a stab at a surround-sound system too. I am not a rich man, but I have slowly and surely and without spending too much money put together a system worthy of movies like this one. If I can do it, you can do too.

A endless current of swifts, aeronauts in the local lingo, streaming behind a waterfall and disappearing into a mysterious cavern. The shot goes on for what must be nearly a minute -- a decade in film terms -- and the more you look at it, the more you know you want to go on looking at it.

A long shot of the river bending away from you, disappearing into the jungle -- slowly the pure white Gilliamesque airship emerges from around the bend, floating just a few feet above the water. Wait, is it floating on air or on the water? I'm certain I had a dream with that image in it once, even if I know I really didn't.

A beautiful young rastaman moonwalks backward on a rock hanging over the abyss. Mist from the nearby waterfall darkens and wets the rock -- beauty and danger in one.

Some documentaries shot in exotic locations persuade us we've actually been there, even as we sit there in our living rooms on our fat and tremulous asses. Other documentaries remind us that we don't live on just one planet -- we live in many worlds and it's good to be reminded of that because it's so easy to forget. One sort of documentary broadens the mind and widens the soul; the other sort just, you know, widens your ass.

So I'm not kidding. Some movies do fine on a regular TV. Some movies are dreams, though, or have elements in them worthy of being remembered as dreams, and "The White Diamond" is one of those. You wouldn't want your dreams to have scan lines and clumpy pixels and cheesy sound coming from tinny speakers, would you?

But maybe you don't need movies like this one to remember you live in many worlds. Me, I get stuck on this planet sometimes and I forget. I need these Herzogian dream expeditions. Properly gearing up is a necessity.

[Netflix, B & N, ]

Quest for Morals

Carol -
I am so sorry for this. I feel I just can't go on. I have always tried to do the right thing but where there was once great pride now it's gone. I love you and the children so much. I just can't be any good to you or myself. The pain is overwhelming. Please try to forgive me.
- Cliff.

Four years ago today, on the night of January 25, 2002, Clifford Baxter (former corporate vice chairman of Enron) pulled his shiny new Mercedes Benz into a space between two road medians in Sugar Land, Texas. He sat there in the dark for a few minutes, then touched a .38 caliber revolver to his head, then pulled the trigger.

Hmm. Lemme see. I'm sure I have a sufficiently satisfying moral for that story around here somewhere. What about this?

"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

But really, that's so Old Economy. It's a brave new world we live in. What about something from the outfit that practically invented the New Economy?

"Ask why."

The problem with that one, of course -- flashy and new and sales-friendly though it may be -- is that "Ask why" was the corporate motto of Enron, the place where just about everybody who should have been asking why for years spent their tenure there doing just about everything humanly possible to not ask themselves, or anyone else for that matter, why.

Hmm. I suppose we could opt for another King James classic:

"For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

Or, that same one using the International New Economy translation:

"The stinking son-of-a-bitch had it coming."

The difficulty with that version, of course, is that a Clint Eastwood character once famously said: "We all got it coming, kid."

(Brief pause.)

Yikes. Downer.

Okay, never mind. Have a nice day.

Put Your Brain Where Your Head Is.



"Wanna' bet?"

Sometimes as kids we actually did bet money, or something else of value, but most of the time we considered the invitation to "put some money on it" just a figure of speech. Apparently for some people it's more than that.

Lately in another forum a guy has been testing the sincerity of people's beliefs by suggesting that if they really believed what they said they believed, they would bet money on it. "Put your money where your mouth is." I guess the idea of this shtick is that if you rilly, rilly, rilly believed what you say you believe, you would stake some actual cash money on it. Which is to say, you apparently have no discernible integrity unless others can first discern your hard-earned scratch.

I don't get it. Why would people feel the need to put up money to get some clown to think highly of their sincerity? If I wanted to pay money to have a stranger tell me, "I believe you", I'd consult the lavishly illustrated ads in the back pages of the Village Voice. At least then there would be the additional promise of orgasm.

Me, I kind of make my assessments of other people's integrity based on knowing them for a while, either online or off, and money doesn't much enter into it.

I don't give a crap if you believe I believe what I say I believe. What in god's name makes you think I would? And what makes you think I would find it necessary to pay you to believe me?

See, I've had the experience of being at one point poor and at another point rich, so you can take my word for it... money beyond what you need to live on doesn't mean squat except insofar as it affects the quality of the toys you can buy. I like toys. I'm not a toy-prude. But your ability to buy quality toys doesn't have anything to do with how I assess your personal integrity.

If you have all the money in the world, I guess establishing your integrity is just a matter of dipping into petty cash. Money isn't just speech as the Supreme Court says; money is sincere speech.

Jesus. What a cheesy culture of human degradation I live in.

Two Masterful Seductions, Separated At Birth

"The Bush administration is launching an aggressive effort to convince Americans that a National Security Agency program of domestic eavesdropping is legal and justified." --Chicago Tribune, January 22, 2006.

"Gradually the requests became bolder, the cash offers larger: More than $100 for Justin to pose in his underwear. Even more if the boxers came down. The latest request was always just slightly beyond the last, so that each new step never struck him as considerably different." --New York Times, December 19, 2005.

America... honey... for God's sake, turn off the camera and pull up your pants.

Globalization, Human Labor, and the Tele-Importation of Commercial Goods and Services

"Institute for Fairness and Balance in the Global Workplace, Position Paper #23"

IFBGWP Position

Economic growth, quality control, widening employment opportunities and increasing consumer choice all depend on open markets worldwide and the free flow of both labor and capital across all borders. Local service sector jobs are, by their nature, immune to globalization and are therefore anticompetitive in the modern economic environment.


In recent years, we have witnessed growing interest in something called "a living wage".

"Workers in some of Baltimore's homeless shelters and soup kitchens had noticed something new and troubling about many of the visitors coming in for meals and shelter: they happened to have full-time jobs. In response, local religious leaders successfully persuaded the City Council to raise the base pay for city contract workers to $6.10 an hour from $4.25, the federal minimum at the time. The Baltimore campaign was ostensibly about money. But to those who thought about it more deeply, it was about the force of particular moral propositions: first, that work should be rewarded, and second, that no one who works full time should have to live in poverty."

Waiting tables, plumbing pipes, driving delivery trucks, preparing fast food and other service sector employment opportunities suffer from excessive locality. Jobs that can't flow to ancillary labor markets encourage trade unionism, minimum wage laws, and other artificial barriers to investment and entrepreneurial innovation. The appearance of a "living wage movement" is merely the next logical step in this drift away from the economic promise of globalization.

Call To Legislative Action

Excessive locality is the problem and "The Freedom to Work From Anywhere Act of 2006" is the answer. The Act increases government funding for research into the tele-importation of commercial products and services heretofore limited to local physical realities. The goal of the Act is to offer workers everywhere the freedom to work without reference to restrictive and anticompetitive local labor markets. The IFBGWP envisions a day when you will be able to sit in a restaurant in New York City, place your order with a waiter physically located in Sierra Leone, have it prepared by a worker in Ulan Bator, and then have your meal tele-imported piping hot to your table.

We pledge to partner with the government to encourage development of exciting new technologies that will bring us closer to the day when true labor globalization will give workers everywhere the opportunity to participate in the global service sector economy.

The IFBGWP encourages all members to contact their Senators and Congresspersons to demand passage of H.R. 5639 and S.2315.

Welcome to the Club of the Living

Dear New Member:

Welcome to the Club of the Living! Our records indicate you have recently joined at the Premium ("Human Being") Level.

Ernest Hemingway (post-membership status) wrote, "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."

We here at the Club like to think of ourselves as a variety of "living in Paris as a young man", and by virtue of being born you have taken a place at the table of our moveable feast. As such, you are invited to travel with your fellow (currently) living beings, be they worms or wombats or Wiccans, in the Dining Car, moving through a limited amount of time and space. Enjoy the meal, mind your manners, but remember too that nobody's going to really care if you sit there with your elbows on the table. (Do chew your food with your mouth closed, though. Jesus God, we can't stand that smacking noise...)

When asked for the salt and pepper, pass it in a sprightly and agreeable manner. Make conversation. Make friends. Make love, but do not hog the gravy. You are entitled to behave like a pig, of course, but never forget that doing so will cause you to be remembered as a pig long after you have left the table.

[IMPORTANT: Your membership in the Club is limited. We have a great many beings to eventually seat at the table and, unfortunately, we cannot seat them all at once. Please try to exhibit some grace when your meal service has concluded, though your fellow members will certainly understand this is a request more likely to be honored in the breach than in the observance.]

Be of good cheer and fellowship. "Eat! Eat! We'll only have to throw it out!" Tipping is not a city in China. Not responsible for lost articles, and finally...

All you need is love. And a little bouquet garni.

The Corpuscle
(current member)

The Key That Winds The Spring

It's heartening to be reminded of the grotesquerie of human nature. Poor Old Tom has announced he won't be running for the Republican leadership position in the House. Abramoff has agreed to spill his guts. Many a Republican is threatened.

This sort of thing is what comes of one-party rule, of course. And this is what we can depend upon, and this is why I am so comforted.

I worry sometimes that one day someone will rise to power who is not subject to hubris. Someone who will go far, but never quite too far. It could happen. In some sense it has happened with the Bush Administration, but only because the American public has decided not to pay too much attention yet. If it doesn't happen before History gets its mitts on Bush, it will certainly happen soon enough: Bush will be seen as the most damaging President this country has ever endured.

But when the Democrats get control of all three branches of government again, which they will someday, we will likely see this sad tale repeated. I say that as a loyal and registered Democrat. I say that as someone who believes that if Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed or any of the rest of them came back, they would register as Democrats.

What we can rely on is the element of human nature which persuades us that we are, each of us, somehow better than the rules everybody else has to follow. It's really that that guarantees us two-party rule in this country. And it's two-party rule that guarantees the Constitution will somehow survive.

I know it is fashionable not to believe that once Abramoff-and-Delay-like behavior gets too egregious on one side of the aisle, power will flip to the other side. I know there are all sorts of predictions to be made about the End of America At The Hands of Republicans. It's true they have done some real damage to our country, but we have sustained worse in our history. The time of the Democrats will come again and when it does I'd like to see them govern with wisdom and humility. I dearly hope they will comport themselves with grace and aplomb.

But they won't. And the pendulum will swing on.

Which is by no means an excuse for not ripping the Republicans a new one right now. On the contrary, repeatedly ripping offenders new ones is the key that winds the spring of America's clockwork.

So rip away, America. It is your patriotic duty.

New Rules

Okay, first it was my old pal of 18 years, The Pudster:

"The Pudster"

And then it was my good friend Shannon.

And then my dad suddenly and unexpectedly died.

And now my beloved Young Jeff has been getting more and more brokener almost everyday. The vet took some blood today so she could test for... well, some really bad stuff... you know, the kind of stuff that could spell Curtains.

"Young Jeff"

So, the short version is... I've had it.

From now on, unless you are immortal and also have world-class luck (as in, you have never had an accident in your life -- not even slightly stubbing your toe), you may no longer enter my affections.

Don't worry. All of you about whom I already care (even slightly), you'll be grandfathered in. I could hardly solve The Problem by suddenly treating you like you had died or something.

But the rest of you shmucks, don't even think of trying to get me to care about you. Unless you are, you know, like I said, invulnerable to harm and decay.

I'm over it. Get me?

Predictions For 2006

Late in the year, an election will be held somewhere in western Nebraska and the winner will be a write-in candidate no one has every heard of, much less voted for. The Air Force will cordon off the area.

On Arbor Day, people will notice their refrigerator magnets drifting to the West. Small dogs will stare ceaselessly at the backs of phone books.

On Christmas Day, people will exchange pleasantries instead of gifts. A new feeling of public-spiritedness will sweep the land. People will forget how to download to their I-Pods. The average height of American males will go up to something over six and a half feet.

Americans will understand the Alternative Minimum Tax. The Death Tax will be renamed the Estate Tax. A strange mossy growth will spread throughout the Mojave.

In July, ten to twelve major American cities will be rendered uninhabitable by terrorist attack. The American people will demand the Constitution be suspended and that democratic government be replaced by a Republican military dictatorship. Soon a small internet radio station will spring up. Liberty will become the new black. George W. Bush will be spirited out of the country on a military transport, retiring to Uzbekistan. The Second American Republic will rise from the ashes.

Fox News will become a small, 5,000 watt station outside Ottumwa, Iowa, specializing in religious broadcasts by a mysterious Swami who hails from Sao Paolo, Brazil. By November, the regular hosts will be speaking in incomprehensible tongues. Their cinder block building out there to State Route 17 will burn to the ground. Arson by the radio personalities themselves will be suspected. The Smithsonian will be renamed a name nobody can pronounce. Most folks will take to calling it Natalie May.

The Moon will lose patience with us and go off seeking greener pastures. An obscure Republican think-tank will blame it on the recently discovered Gay Gene, but most Americans will sleep better at night, no longer fretting over the comings and goings of the tides.

New Orleans will cease appearing on maps of the United States.

People will remember there used to be a city called New Orleans. Its putative existence will become legend, a modern-day El Dorado. Parties of explorers will set out, but none will ever return.

People, inexplicably, will stop drinking Merlot.

Cats will take to walking backwards and bumping into things with their butts.

All in all, an eventful year, I should think. Try to have a good one.

In Memory

May 2006

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