Monday, January 07, 2008

Nuggets: let's be great in 2008!

  • Power out here. A tow-truck driver in Canada once told me of how he lived "off the grid" for a year, starting on the highly symbolic 20th of April. (4.20!) He kept his beer cold by snaking an extension cord into his neighbor's electrical socket, and similarly powered his computer and desklamp. "It's actually really easy to go without hydro [in English: electricity]; I don't know why more people don't do it."
  • Dead branches on the tree of possibilities: Paleo-Future.
  • Lacking power (GIANT STORM! DID YOU HEAR?), and needing to finish an epidemiology paper by tonight, I have spent the past few days in Bay Area cafes with my laptop. Hmm. There do seem to be a number of people on their laptops who are "young, male, decently attractive and successful in a way that doesn't seem correlated to any kind of virtue" on their laptops. Notice the careful phrasing that stakes out a neutral position on the question of my membership in the group; I report, you decide. There are secret signs. There is a highly structured social order, saturated with ritual, that has almost surely been described on This American Life. Most surprisingly: cafes here give out free beef jerky to anyone toting a laptop.
  • I've overheard un-gilded gems like, "Oh, he's your typical Sufi mystic..." [knowing chuckles].
  • And a Lycra-clad man attempting to start a conversation with some Germans, using a tone more appropriate for 2-year-old retarded children: "I work with your leaders. The leaders of your country. They do not think about the future. They are very slow in adopting the e-lec-tric caaaarrrr." Here he turns an imaginary steering wheel, thereby creating a word-picture. One German says, "We are not fresh off the boat. We have lived here for 40 years." They subsequently ignore him.
  • Also: "I want Obama, like, so bad." Memo to Barack: the voters of the SF Bay Area are spreading their electoral legs for you.
  • Gawker has linked to Corn Chips & Pie. I now face a challenge previously confronted by countless bloggers before me: getting one's girlfriend to give a shit.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


The fact that it is now raining in the San Francisco Bay Area has resulted in a lamentable suppression of tiger attack news. For those of you unlucky enough to be elsewhere-- and thus starving for information-- I can report that each day here has brought a new banner headline, a new stunning revelation, a new angle to this horrorshow horror show. The world will long remember the date of December 25th, or "12/25," as some have now dubbed it. It was Day One of the tiger uprising, ushering in a spirit of justifiable fear and dread. Silent Night, Deadly Night, indeed.

In the experimental spirit of such 20th century writers as Stein, Joyce, Barth, and Larry King, I shall now run down a list of tiger-related "items." I hope these trifles amuse you and help to shepherd you into personal growth in 2008.

  • At least two news organizations on the East Coast have run stories with the title "Tiger Attack-- Could It Happen Here?" (1) (2)
  • The San Francisco Chronicle ran a story titled "Talking to Children About the Tiger Attack." Indeed, what do we tell our children? We must teach them to face hard truths. We must teach them that everything-- even things we think are cute, harmless, and friendly-- literally everything can tear you to shreds and devour you. Parents, please put photos of angry tigers mauling deer above your babies' cribs. Fear is a useful emotion; eternal vigilance is the only solution.
  • You may not be aware that there have been reports suggesting that the kids who were attacked had been "taunting" the tiger, making roaring noises & such. Because of this, I have repeatedly heard people saying things like, "Well, I have no sympathy. What did they expect?" MM has noted that, despite the intrinsic hilarity and meaninglessness of the suffering of strangers, it does seem as if death-by-mauling may be excessive punishment for taunting. Normally it's 15 yards, tops.
  • In any case, what did they expect? We can never know the answer. Nonetheless, I posit that they expected the tiger to remain in its enclosure, and not to leap out and maul them. This is a naively common expectation in zoos.
  • Why, you may ask, has the tiger attack so gripped our imaginations? I suggest that one explanation may be that we have a deep, primal need to shit ourselves for no good reason.
  • Bruce Chatwin once suggested that our fear of the dark, and our fear of the other, derives from our evolutionary struggle against predatory big cats (back when natural selection liked to do weird shit with our psyches, apparently). I dunno. I recently found out that the elder Mr. Chatwin used to dress up in a tiger costume and scare the crap out of 5-year-old Bruce, if that helps solve the puzzle at all.