Sunday, January 26, 2014

On the End of Your Fork

Never mind how I came to be babysitting a terribly neurotic fellow guest at a friend's house;  let's just call her Annie and say that she valued her own precious emotions over reality.  Anyway, after an hour of listening to her bewail the Horrors of Existence -- while she polished off a hearty dinner, changed into a prettier suit of clothes and surfed the 100+ channels on TV -- I was getting a wee bit tired of being polite.

And then she got to the subject of: "Oh, it's terrible enough that we have to die.  It's unbearably horrible that we have to rot, too!"

For that, I had a comeback.  Smiling gently, I retorted: "That's because meat -- live flesh -- is the most valuable food in the world, and everything wants to eat it.  All living things are food for other living things, anyway.  For example, when the wolf kills the deer -- actually, when a pack of wolves pulls down a deer and kills it -- the wolves eat everything they can: the muscles, the heart, the liver, the kidneys, and they'll even crack open the smaller bones to eat the marrow.  But they can't eat everything."

At this point Annie stood up and started to wander away.  I got up and followed after her, still giving my explanation.

"When the wolves give up and go away, then the birds come: the buzzards, the crows, the jays -- all the meat-eating birds in the neighborhood.  They grab bits of hair and skin to line their nests, and they take any blood or soft tissue they can get: the guts, the glands, the gums and tongue and so on.  But they can't get everything either, so when they're done the insects come: the sexton-beetles, the maggot-flies, even certain breeds of ants.  They strip off the tendons, the ligaments, the mesenteries, the cartilage -- they take everything but the bones and teeth.  And when they're gone, the microbes take over: the soil bacteria and the molds.  They take more time, but given long enough they can break down even the teeth and bones.  What we call 'rot' is nothing but microbes eating.  The reason human bodies rot is because nothing else eats us first."

By now Annie was practically scampering all over the house, trying to outrun my words.  I faithfully trotted after her, still talking.

"If you don't want our body to rot, the easiest way to go is arrange to be cremated.  Any good crematorium can burn a dead body, even the teeth and bones, down to ashes.  Then you can bury the ashes, in a handsome urn, or you can scatter them over the sea, or over some significant place on the earth.  Or you can be generous, and donate your body to science.  That's what I'm going to do: donate my organs for transplants, to save other people's lives.  I've heard that they can even use bones for transplants these days, and of course they can use the corneas of the eyes to give other people sight.  Anything that can't be used to help other people, they'll burn to ashes and put in an urn.  I'll just have to decide who to leave the urn to..."

At that point Annie snapped out: "I'm going to become a vegetarian!"

I could see the connection of ideas;  eating meat would remind her of the fact that someday she too would die and be eaten by something -- unless she made preparations otherwise, which would entail thinking about the nasty fact that, yes, someday she would die. 

Well, having no sympathy for people who try to avoid reality, I followed with: "Well, if you're choosing that to be merciful, then you have a problem.  Plants too are living things, and there's growing evidence that they have awareness.  They protect their young, battle with other species, and communicate with each other -- by chemicals spread through the ground from their roots, or by gasses spread on the air.  Flowers have scent not just to attract bees but to pass signal to each other.  It's beginning to look as if plants have some sort of awareness, which means that they can feel it when they're cut, or uprooted.  And the problem is that plants have no central vital organs, except possibly the corolla -- the section where the stalk joins the roots -- so, unless you can cut them quickly through the corolla, there's no way to kill them quickly and painlessly.  They can feel themselves dying, and being cut up, and tossed into boiling water--"

But Annie burst into tears, ran upstairs to her guest bedroom and slammed the door.

I did not chortle, but only shrugged -- and strolled off to the kitchen, looking for something to eat.    


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Jersey Follies

A couple things about me: first, I was born and raised in New Jersey and know a thing or two about its politics, and second, I've worked in grass-roots politics enough to have developed a healthy practical paranoia.  Those give me an interesting perspective on the current flap about Governor Christie.

For one thing, Joisey politics have always been crooked -- not on a par with NYC's old Tammany Hall, and certainly not a patch on Daley Machine Chicago, but crooked enough.  The epicenter of that corruption, though, was never the state-house so much as it's chief industrial city, Newark.  Note that the media, which have been pro-Democrat since the 1970s, cheered lustily when the Newark elected a Black (see how liberal we are!) Democrat (of course) mayor, but did their best to look the other way when he turned out to be as crooked as a sidewinder, a druggie, and was finally ousted.  None of this made national headlines. 

Now Christie, in fact, has led a more honest government than most -- but the national media are jumping all over his supposed involvement in, if you please, closing two lanes of traffic into a minor city whose mayor (being a Democrat) refused to support Christie's run for re-election.  This rather suggests that the media are every bit as crooked as Joisey politics ever were.

Christie himself reminds me of a president of the garbagemen's union: not too concerned with legalities or political niceties, but devoted to the well-being of His People.  He was quite willing to shake Obama's hand and take federal help in rebuilding the Jersey shoreline after the hurricane, regardless of what GOP ideologues wanted.  His total practicality is, in fact, what endeared him to voters both inside and outside New Jersey.  He was, as TIME magazine noted, the leading contender for Republican candidate in the next presidential election.  With Rand Paul -- possibly the last Libertarian left in the Republican party -- as VP candidate, Christie could readily have won against the obvious Democrat candidate, Hillary Clinton.  The Democrats had to do something to deflect his rising star, which explains the media's furious hyping of the lane-closing story.

Now think: even if Christie knew about the plot by his staff, or even if he ordered it, is causing a traffic jam in a minor city (how many of you out there had ever even heard the name of Fort Lee before this?) a sin the equal of, say, selling military rifles to rebels in Iran (Reagan), burglarizing a hotel to spy on another political party's strategies (Nixon), lying to Congress (Clinton), or not providing protection to an embassy (Obama) so that staff members were killed?  This is an obviously politically-motivated hype.

And it's quite possible that Christie is innocent of knowing what his underlings were up to.  He's a knowledgeable enough politician that the Fort Lee mayor's refusal of help wouldn't have bothered him.  He would have passed that off as a minor annoyance, to be punished by no more than withholding political plums from the mayor or his Democrat cronies.  The one city in New Jersey -- Newark -- whose support really counted, Christie already had (not to mention others from Bayonne to Paterson).  He wouldn't have bothered to risk such an easily-exposed dirty trick on Fort Lee.  No, it would take a smaller mind to pull such a petty vengeance on such a petty target.

In fact, I wonder about Christie's staffers who actually did pull off the dirty trick.  After years of working beside Christie, they should have known better too.  So why did they do it?

Here's where my political paranoia cuts in.  What if they were secretly suborned into it by the Democratic National Committee?  Heaven knows, the DNC has enough money to bribe a mere state official or two -- and it certainly has motive to torpedo Christie.  The bribe would have to be big enough to cushion the staffers' fall after Christie found out about the dirty trick and fired them, so I think we can learn the truth by following those disgraced staffers and seeing what jobs they get as soon as they're out of the limelight.

Goddess knows, we've seen such political scams pulled before!

--Leslie <;)))><   )O(  


Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Bad Winter Revisited

For the past week the northeast and midwest have been smothered in snowstorms and clamped in sub-freezing temperatures, and of course the Global Warming crowd have been crowing that this is the result of Global Warming -- er, or rather, Climate Change.  Uhuh.  The idea that excess CO2 in the atmosphere could trap heat and raise temperatures had at least one scientific leg to stand on, but the idea that Global Warming causes Global Cooling is just too bizarre. 

Besides, this nasty winter is not "unprecedented";  it's been exactly 35 years -- almost to the day -- since the last Bad Winter, in the same area.

The snow started falling in Chicago on New Year's Day -- and didn't stop until April Fool's Day.  A total of 15 feet of snow fell on the city, and it didn't melt off completely until May Day.  Most airflights were diverted or cancelled because the airports could keep only a few runways clear.  The city had snowplows and salt aplenty, but was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of snow.  Plows cleared the main streets, only to have more feet of snow descend the next night.  The plows pushed snow up onto the curbs and fairways, until it formed mounds up to ten feet high -- and often buried parked cars.  Anyone who could get his/her car out of parking shoveled out their parking-spaces and marked them as private property -- and more than one killing happened over stolen parking-spaces.  The buses eventually gave up and stopped running.  The El trains managed to run, and every train was packed solid with sturdy Chicagoans getting to their jobs.  For local shopping, citizens broke out their skis and skied through the streets.  Supply trucks had trouble getting to the grocery stores, and often the waiting shoppers would line up to buy staples straight out of the trucks;  these lines were patient and orderly, but heaven help anybody who tried to jump the line.

With the police as snowbound as everyone else, people fell back on their own resources and their own justice.  Besides fierce and quick punishments for stealing parking spaces or jumping the food-buying lines, the local folk meted out similar justice to muggers; mobbed them and stuffed them into snowbanks.  With most people huddled together at home, or with neighbors to save heat, burglars were quickly caught and tossed out of windows into the snow.  One pervert who attacked a little boy was stabbed to death with a 3-foot-long icicle.  Neighbors checked on neighbors to make sure nobody was starving or freezing.  Often one neighbor was picked as designated driver to make a run to the nearest drugstore to pick up everybody's prescriptions, and everyone else in the building helped dig out the designated car.  In one case, 9 neighbors physically lifted a Honda out of a snowbank and push-started it on its way to the store.  The whole city became in illustration of the practical decency of the average citizen.

Well, eventually the snow melted away and life went back to normal, and in time people forgot -- unless reminded.  Apparently the Global Warming/Climate Change crowd have short memories themselves, or think that everyone else does.

--Leslie <;)))><   )O(