18 December 2016

That's All, Folks

 
W
hile I don’t expect the Electoral College to be anything but the rubber-stamp it’s always been—one of the lamest dodges the framers came up with in their desperate attempt to reach some compromise between democracy and autocracy—this would be a good year for it to actually do the goddamn job it was supposed to do and deliberate on just who would be the most competent captain of our Ship of State. The United States is now at the point of crossing the Rubicon, of reaching its rendezvous with destiny, of leaving the Republic behind and charting its course to Empire. The Groper is no Julius Caesar, but then, that isn’t a requirement. He doesn’t have a pretty face or a pompadour either, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to be the next teen idol.
The guy that the Electoral College is about to put in charge of the most powerful military force on earth is Osama Bin Laden’s wet-dream. Ever wonder why the jihadists of the so-called Islamic State are cheering? They’ve been fighting a losing battle against a fragile coalition that is destroying them—and now the linchpin of that coalition is about to field a clown against them, a naïve bumbler whose blithering bombast directed against all Muslims will bring in hordes of recruits to their idiotic cause. Saved by the bell indeed.
Who owns this blowhard? Where does his money come from? We don’t know. Is it the Russians? They certainly worked overtime to get this empty-headed buffoon into a position of power. Whose interests is this bozo going to be working on? There’s no way to tell, though his appointments of ignorant incompetents to key positions suggests it won’t be on behalf of the American people. Seriously, his picks are minnows being set loose in a sea of sharks. It may of course be good for the world to have an America on the ropes, but there’s no way it can be good for America.
Bluntly his cabinet (and other) picks show that Donald J. Trump is either a blithering incompetent who should be removed from office before somebody gets hurt, or a damned traitor who should face whatever penalty that brings in these benighted times. (I favor trial by a jury of sane people followed by a prompt execution by firing squad, but that’s so nineteenth century.) In either case the simplest thing by far would be to keep him out of the office he is so obviously unqualified for before he can screw us all over and take the country down the drain to oblivion.
But, as I said, I am quite confident that the Electoral College will do as its predecessors did and rubber-stamp the election. It is a sad ending to a once-glorious nation, and even sadder if he manages to take the rest of humanity along for the ride. Will we go quickly, via nuclear holocaust? Or slowly roast to death as the temperatures rise? But with barbarians running things, people like Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Rodrigo Duterte, even pipsqueaks such as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Bashar Hafez al-Assad, what better fate should we expect? It’s over, folks. Humankind had its shot and we blew it. The looters, torturers, and rapists are in charge, and not just in backwaters like Syria and Michigan. There is no future, so we all might as well go down in a blaze of inglorious debauchery. I won’t be with you—but I’ve always been out of step with the times.

13 December 2016

God, It's a Barren Featureless Wasteland


He had bought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.

“What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?” 
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
“They are merely conventional signs!

“Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank: 
(So the crew would protest) “that he’s bought us the best—
A perfect and absolute blank!”
The Groper's Plan for America

09 November 2016

Quotation of the Day


E
vidently, if “futurology” had existed in Imperial Rome, where, as we are told, people were already erecting six-story buildings and children’s merry-go-rounds were driven by steam, the fifth-century “futurologists” would have predicted for the following century the construction of twenty-story buildings and the industrial utilization of steam power.
As we now know, however, in the sixth century goats were grazing in the Forum just as they are doing now, beneath my window in this village.—Andrei Amalrik
[from Will the Soviet Union Survive to 1984?]

The Love Songs of J. Donald Trump


D
umpy, overweight, orange-skinned, he burst on the music scene with a verve unequalled since the debut of the Velvet Underground. Three parts attitude and one part sheer gall, singing the blues as only a spoiled rich kid could, Trump soon made a name for himself in a world in which talent is distinctly subordinate to style. A punk sensibility clothed in a lounge lizard’s scales, hit after hit rolled from the caverns of his gold-plated mind. Nothing like it had been seen before—or since.
Where song-crafters like Paul Simon and Gary Osborne wrote of the importance of breaking down barriers in relationships, Trump boldly advocated them. In “We’re Gonna Build a Wall” he celebrated the virtue of separation, of building obstacles to communication and understanding, and making the other party pay. In “You Can Do Anything” he celebrated the endless possibilities that life offers the wealthy, the approach being to “grab ’em by the pussy” (a deliberate evocation of the famous line from The Plumbers, “get ’em by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow”). He boldly explored the mysteries of forbidden love in ballads like “Can You Believe It” and “If She Wasn’t My Daughter.” And of course there was his much-covered theme song, “You’re Fired.” Probably no one has ever so hauntingly evoked the myriad dazzling facets and features of the life of the ultra-rich.
The recent accolade granted this crazy-haired troubadour should not blind us to his multifaceted genius. Something more than a mere prize-winning laureate, The Donald is also something less than the classic composers of days gone by. Their day is passed, but his—dare we say it?—is only beginning.

30 October 2016

Matters of Religion and Conscience (guest post by John Fell)


T
here are but two ways by which we know the authority of any thing to be divine; the one is by the common light of nature, the other, by a supernatural and express revelation from Heaven. All first principles and self-evident truths are considered as divine, because inseparable, as far as we know, from the nature and existence of God. They are the basis and rule of all just reasoning; they are the origin and standard of all just laws; The holy scriptures are an express revelation of the mercy and will of God from heaven, and are in all things consistent with the former; and at the same time they discover blessings of the most exalted kind, which never could have been known by the common light of nature. The scriptures therefore reveal the only foundation of our hope towards God; the only solid ground of expectation as to a future life; and they are the only authentic rule of our faith and practice in all things which relate to divine worship.
Now whatever is of divine authority, must for that very reason, be above all human power, and superior to the authority of every creature; and therefore incapable of being inforced by human laws. Not ten thousand acts of parliament can either enable or oblige any man to believe, even that truth and falshood are different things; that contradictions can never be the same and alike; or that no part can be equal to its whole; for if he see not these things independent of all human laws, not all the divines or legislators on earth, can make him understand; nor have they any right to ordain punishments for his folly; because his incapacity and error in this respect, are not a subject of human judicature.
Not all the laws that have been framed in Europe since the days of Constantine, could ever produce one additional evidence for the truth of holy writ; or make one Christian; or beget true faith in any one infidel; or kindle in the breast of any one individual a genuine love to the peculiar precepts of Christ. Neither is it possible in the nature of things, because these events depend on circumstances not in the power of any civil government to controul. Nay, the utmost that human laws can effect even in those instances which properly come under the cognizance of men, is only to refrain by the fear of punishment, from the commission of such actions as are injurious to the state, and inconsistent with the rights of society: but they can never change the heart, nor can any thing in human nature be more foreign from the real principles of morality, or of true religion, than compulsive measures.
It is not my intention to represent those as innocent who deny the truth of the Gospel; by no means. Unbelief, in opposition to the clearest and strongest evidences from heaven that the nature of man is capable of receiving; must beyond all doubt, be a very great sin: while at the same time, it clearly proves the influence and power of vice over the human heart, according to that declaration of Christ himself, “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men have loved darkness rather than light, for their deeds were evil.” But neither is this sin ever left to the cognizance and decision of human laws, nor this condemnation any where committed to the prudence and management, to the suspension or execution of men. Nor indeed is it possible, for in that case criminals would become judges, and very often too over those who are less guilty; men who never thoroughly knew themselves, would determine what degrees of light and conviction were in the minds of others; how far an inclination to vice, overbalanced the dictates of conscience, and outweighed the force of evidences acknowledged in the heart, how far in every case, truth was resisted from vicious principles only, and not from ignorance; and how far that ignorance itself, is excusable or punishable: that is, sinful men would usurp the prerogatives of God alone, over those not more defective than themselves, which would be absolutely one of the greatest crimes that can be committed. And such will be the unavoidable consequences that must always follow from every attempt to inforce, by human laws, what is of divine authority. How can we then allow the magistrate a right to demand, in any case, under penalties, our belief in the Holy Scripture, whose authority is divine, and to determine what degrees of faith are requisite for every preacher of the gospel?
The examination, the sentence, and punishment of all unbelievers, and of those who disobey the scripture, Christ hath reserved to himself; and these are the unalienable rights of him alone, who searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins of men. No state therefore can have any just and lawful authority to impose this, or that, system of religion upon their subjects; because no religion ought to bind the conscience unless divine, and if divine, for that very reason, it must be superior to all human laws, and incapable of receiving any additional sanction from men: every attempt therefore of this kind, must be an invasion upon the natural rights of conscience, an attack upon the principles of divine truth, injurious to every system of religion, which is thus imposed; and a crime against that authority which is equally binding on all, and before which is no respect of persons. We cannot therefore declare, under any penalties, our belief of what is divine, at the command of a civil magistrate, and be innocent; because so far we should encourage what is derogatory from the honour of God, and destructive of our common and divine rights in matters of religion and conscience.
Besides, there can be no greater folly in the world, than for men to enact laws and statutes pronouncing those things to be either true, or false, which can have no dependence on any creature. All obligations to be of this or of that religion, and to provide for our future and eternal happiness, under the sanction of penal laws, are just as absurd, as an act of parliament would be, which should doom every man to death, who did not live as long as he could. To force every preacher of the gospel to subscribe on oath to the truth of the gospel; to oblige every teacher of arithmetic to swear that there are such things as addition and subtraction; and to compel every professor of mathematics, to declare in the most solemn manner, under severe penalties, that he believes a right line to be some thing different from a curve, are absurdities equally great, for which no terms can be found sufficiently expressive and strong; because the things sworn to, can receive no possible sanction from human nature; they must remain everlasting truths, independent of all human judgment, or the will of man; neither can their validity derive any strength from the oaths and subscription of the whole world.
Thus, Sir, the scriptures, because of divine authority, can never receive any additional evidence or support from human laws. Their contents relate to God, and to every man’s own conscience; no one therefore can have any right to inforce their authority, more than another. They relate to things equally important to all, and wherein no man can have any pre-eminence over others; concerning which no body of men can have any right to determine for the rest; and with respect to which, every individual must answer for himself before that righteous judge, in whose presence all distinctions will be laid aside, except those of truth and error, of holiness and vice. If we submit therefore, to the resolutions and decisions of a civil magistrate, concerning this divine and interesting subject, we act an unfaithful part, both with respect to God, and to the sufficiency of his word; and set our seal to that usurpation which is in the highest degree criminal, injurious and profane.
—John Fell, Genuine Protestantism, 1773

30 September 2016

Survival (Had Robert Sheckley, rather than Tom Godwin, written “The Cold Equations”)


M
elvin Blaire paused in the act of placing a red queen on a black king. Angry buzzers were sounding throughout his small spacecraft, and half a dozen lights on his control panel were blinking alarmingly. He fumbled for the Emergency Spacecraft Instructions disk, knocking the cards onto the floor, found it, and dropped it into a slot in his Information Decoder.
This was the first emergency he had ever faced in his eight years on the necessary but undemanding job as pilot of an emergency spacecraft for Interspace Transport. He had had the usual run of accidents, of course—planetary collisions, novas, spacewarp entanglements—but real emergencies had hitherto passed him by.
Actually, Melvin thought, survival had become largely a pushbutton affair in the twenty-second century. In case of trouble all he had to do was to follow the instructions on the disk and it would be taken care of automatically by a host of busy, efficient mechanisms. The old days, when survival depended on individual initiative and luck, were gone. Now survival depended only on luck.
“What do you want?” demanded the decoder.
“I have an emergency,” Melvin explained diffidently.
“So you have,” agreed the decoder. “Your ship’s weight does not match the specifications, there is insufficient fuel to land, an unauthorized person is aboard—”
“Unauthorized person?” exclaimed Melvin. “Who? Where?” He wondered briefly if the decoder had blown a fuse. It was an Acme, and guaranteed for the lifetime of the user, plus or minus seven years, but still—
“You have a stowaway,” elucidated the decoder. “Human or humanoid, blond, blue-eyed, female, standing about two yards behind you—”
Melvin spun around. The decoder was right. He had a stowaway, a remarkably pretty light-haired girl. “What are you doing here?” he said weakly. “This is an emergency vessel, not a passenger liner. I’m carrying vitally needed serum to some god-forsaken outpost—”
“Omega 6,” the girl said. “That’s why I came aboard. My brother’s stationed there.”
“But it’s against the rules,” protested Melvin.
“Rules,” she shrugged, “What are rules anyway, but man’s futile attempt to impose order on the indeterminate universe?”
Melvin recognized this as a creedal statement from this year’s best-selling cult, the Heisenbergian Rites, but he was not to be put off. “Interspace won’t see it that way,” he said.
“So okay,” she said, “I broke a rule. So what?”
“Procedure for dealing with unauthorized lifeform or lifeforms in flight,” spoke the decoder, “first, ascertain that there is in fact an unauthorized lifeform or lifeforms aboard.”
“Check,” said Melvin instantly.
“Determine the lifeform’s identity or identities.”
“Check,” said Melvin. He turned to the girl. “Who are you?”
“Janet Morgan,” she said. “I’m an industrial saboteur on Mebla 3.” She offered Melvin her identity tape.
Melvin ran the tape through the data accumulator. “What next?” he asked.
“Within a period of fifteen minutes following the discovery,” said the decoder, “eject the unauthorized lifeform from the craft.”
“Eject!” exclaimed Janet. “Why?”
“To conserve fuel,” replied the decoder, “The presence of sufficient fuel is necessary to land successfully and to maintain the morale of the crew at the optimum level required by law.”
“You mean they give spacecraft controllers the right to kill people?” she said incredulously. “That doesn’t make sense.”
Melvin smiled apologetically.
“It may not make sense,” said the decoder, “but it’s efficient, which is more important.”
“But this is an ES Class IV,” she said. “It could hold more fuel. Why don’t they put enough in?”
“This way,” intoned the machine, “we sharpen the pilot’s reflexes, discourage ineptitude, and promote the virtues of conservation and thrift. Allowing the pilot to remove unauthorized lifeforms himself gives him confidence and an opportunity to discharge his aggressions.”
“I have no choice,” said Melvin. “You see how it is.”
“I see how it is,” said Janet. “Look, why don’t you forget your peculiar friends at Interspace? We have enough fuel to reach Epsilon 4. We could go there, sell the ship, and have a good time? Why not?”
Melvin stared at her, wondering how such a pretty girl could propose so antisocial an act. Disconcertingly he became aware of the scent of her perfume. He shook his head to clear it. “I couldn’t rob my employers,” he said.
“But you could push me out the airlock,” said Janet.
“That’s different,” he said. He was finding it difficult to think. Something about her presence was disturbing him, clouding his mind and numbing his senses. “It’s not against the rules,” he mumbled.
Why couldn’t he think? There was something in the atmosphere—the perfume. Perfume? Perfume hell—it was Lethalex-27, one of the many products designed for saboteurs and spies, guaranteed to knock out any humanoid within twenty feet of the user. The room spun as he slipped to the floor.
“Is that a standard airlock?” he heard her ask the decoder. Why hadn’t he seen it? Survival is a full-time occupation, not something to be delegated to machines. One moment of inattention, one mistake, and out the airlock you go, into the vast reaches of space.
At least, he thought, they could have let him finish his game.

28 August 2016

They Are Coming to Take Me Away


T
hings are not going well here, and whatever I try to write about ends up as a desperate plea for money. Hope springs eternal and all that, but I can’t seem to get out of cliché country, no matter how much rope I give myself. The light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be some kind of flickering june bug spelling out arcane messages, and all my yesterdays are benighted fools. Life’s but a walking candle, as one of my nieces once observed, and the grave is but the goal.
I can see the long-gone goblins looming ahead—the ones that will get you if you don’t watch out, as little orphant Allie used to threaten the Riley kids, till they sent her to live somewhere else. What I wouldn’t give for a magic ring like the one Princess Irene got from her great-grandmother! Maybe home isn’t at the end of the thread, but it’s got to be somewhere. I can’t find my way, damn it. The words come, but they don’t mean a goddamn thing.

24 July 2016

Lights Out


W
ell, my connection has snapped; my laptop is out except for emergencies, and I’m writing this on a strange word processor on a borrowed machine, with no telling whether or if the thing will work or go up the chimney like sparklers on Halloween. Or whatever I actually meant to say.
I’m hoping that this makes sense, and that I can still contact the outside world. I am not happy with the situation, but it should be temporary, Allah willing.
We’ll see what happens, I guess, using dummy text for a dummy entry. If all works out, then it’s hip hip hooray for Mowgli and the Seven Dwarfs and all God’s chillen that live in a shoe. Otherwise, well, selah.

21 July 2016

Absurdist Political Theatre


S
capegoat Ted Cruz played his appointed role on the political stage by heaping the sins of the Republican party on his own head and ritually expelling himself into the desert. It was a remarkable performance, and the party appears all the stronger for it. Mind you, it has something of the “Songe d’Automne” or “Nearer, My God, to Thee” quality to it, given that the iceberg has been struck, the crew has abandoned the ship, and the oblivious captain is passing out toy boats and candy lifesavers on the sharply-tilted deck.
Somebody isn’t thinking straight here, and I’m pretty sure it’s not me.
Inviting the Corruptor himself to take the wheel seems like an odd way to protest corruption in government, but I suppose the body politic, like the hidden hand, knows what it’s doing. Who knows more about sin than El Diablo, after all? It’s like fighting fire with fire. There are those that think one of the other elemental forces might be more effective—earth, say, or water, maybe—but what worth are such notions when the will of the people has expressed itself?
So was Ted Cruz’s self-immolation entirely in vain? Or will he, like the phœnix, rise from the ashes of his humiliation? Will Trump soar like an eagle tonight? Or will he sputter like the Thunderbolt Grease-Slapper before conversion? These questions, and many others, will be answered in the next episodes of As the World Burns.

17 July 2016

Breitbarting the News, Conservative Treehouse Style


W
ell, I finally took a look at that idiotic Conservative tree house site that Snopes mentioned as the source of that inept hatchet-job on Philando Castile I commented on the other day. It was about as inane as I figured it would be. I mean, it’s always a good idea to take a look at things for yourself if possible, and every once in awhile it pays off, but this wasn’t one of those times.
No, the article there is every bit as idiotic as advertised. The site turns out to be devoted to breitbarting the news, meaning that anything there would have to be checked against authentic sources before being considered, and a lot of disinformation is being passed on. For example it is stated as a fact (now disproved by the family’s release of the document) that Castile had no permit for his gun, and that it is a fact (now disproved by the officer’s own lawyer’s statement) that the car was not stopped for a broken taillight. I didn't bother with going any further; when a source gets things this elementary wrong it’s not worth my time and attention. Or yours either, I imagine.

14 July 2016

Half-Jelled Goods


M
y ability to communicate with the world at large seems to be getting thinner as my laptop flickers fitfully in the darkness. How long before the strained connection snaps is anybody’s guess. But, in the meantime, rather than go down without a fight, I’ll put up some half-jelled goods in the store window, in the hopes of getting back to them later on.
And speaking of half-jelled goods, it’s been quite interesting to watch the evolution (shall we say) of certain recent stories in the new from half-baked rumor to three-quarters baked narrative. We’ve seen a story about snipers coordinated in the fashion of certain terrorist groups morph into another lone-shooter item, for example. And that shooter’s death change from self-inflicted gunshot to the far less plausible-sounding blown up by a robot.
History starts off moist and fluid, and only gradually hardens to a definite form. Eventually that definitive form may be hacked at, refashioned, chipped and broken—and then, still later, mangled and lost in the remorseless stream of time—but in the early stages it is still plastic and formless, ready to assume any shape that the artist desires.
Once it has assumed a form—or often several forms, depending on the teller—it resists change. Not decisively, necessarily—the return of the Shah to Iran by popular acclamation held the stage for a decade or so, before being replaced by a narrative of his being forced on an unwilling people by a CIA plot, now apparently considered to be a solid Truth, unchangeable and unchallengeable. That the ancient Greeks were incapable of higher flights of mechanical fancy is challenged by the finding of a single device in a long-forgotten shipwreck, and history gets reshaped. Discoveries, revelations—and the changing requirements of political and social movements—cause the historical plates to shift, the chronological stars to realign, however you want to look at it.
Did the underlying stuff of history, the actual sequence of events change? Presumably not, though I’m not a philosopher and I don’t pretend to play one on the internet. What changes are the uses to which we put the past, its coherence and relevance to the present moment. The way we perceive its actors and participants. Accounts of the wars of extermination against the native American peoples changed in the mid-twentieth century at least in part because contemporary movements for social justice forced a reexamination of policies of the past and the histories that implicitly supported them. Historians now deliberately sought out previously-overlooked evidence of the motives and tactics of the target population, and the narrative changed in consequence.
Were the old accounts of the pioneer historians false, then, and the newer accounts true? Not necessarily. I mean, yes, there are things that made it into the history books that never happened, sure—but most of the time it’s more a matter of what got emphasized and what didn’t, what got included and what got left out. Whose accounts were considered reliable and whose were looked at with suspicion.
As a classic instance let me cite the question of whether pioneer Indian-fighter Ben Wright attempted to poison a Modoc peace delegation in 1852. The rumor surfaced in print some twenty years later—but all historians rejected it without even considering it, noting it only as an example of the sorts of defamatory statements made in the heat of a controversy. But as such things go it’s actually fairly well documented. We have the statement of one of Ben Wright’s men that he bought strychnine for that purpose. We have the statement of the druggist that he had sold strychnine to Ben Wright’s representative for use in poisoning the Modoc delegation. We have the admission of another of Ben Wright’s men that a member of their expedition warned the Modoc delegation not to eat the meat Wright sent them for a feast. Not surprisingly some more recent books have switched sides and now report the attempted poisoning as a fact. What changed? It wasn’t the available information; it was the willingness of the historian to consider the possibility that a pioneer hero might have acted in a frankly despicable fashion.
So, anyway, for the moment it seems that we have to accept that a lone gunman, babbling threats like a cartoon villain, killed and wounded a dozen officers before being taken out by a robot bearing a bomb. There’s nothing plausible about that scenario at any point—but that’s history for you. And plausibility be damned.

09 July 2016

A New Low in Victim Vilification


V
arious idiots writing about the police shooting of Philando Castile have made mistakes rising to the Peter Hasson level, though lapses of logic rather than misunderstandings of English. It’s all about wishful thinking—obviously if a police officer killed somebody, he must have had it coming. Troglodyte logic. So, it’s claimed, Philando Castile must have been up to no good. His gun, they say, was illegal. Where do they get this notion—I mean, besides pulling it out of thin air in a really unconvincing conjuring trick? Well, a local county sheriff noted that Castile had not applied to his office for a concealed carry permit—therefore, according to troglodyte logic Castile didn’t have one. Never mind that there are eighty-seven counties in Minnesota, and therefore eighty-six other counties that could have issued it. So far such evidence as we have is that he had such a permit; according to the Star Tribune “a source confirmed Castile was issued the permit when he lived in Robbinsdale” and as of this moment at least no official source has claimed otherwise. Time and new evidence (of course) could change this, but there is no reason to suppose that these idiots have anything of the sort.
These same idiots are claiming that Philando Castile was a suspect who was wanted for armed robbery—this on no basis whatsoever except pure speculation, as far as I can tell. It is possible—based on a recording of unknown origin that may document the rationale of the officer that pulled Castile over for a broken taillight—that Castile was targeted because an officer thought his nose resembled that of a man wanted for armed robbery—but even if we consider the information as valid, that’s a far cry from the claim that Castile was wanted for armed robbery. Apparently—and I haven’t seen this for myself in the wild so to speak—people are claiming that Castile’s girlfriend smoked Newport cigarettes—the very brand that was stolen during the armed robbery—and that this somehow constitutes evidence of malfeasance or whatever. This doesn’t even rise to the level of troglodyte logic. By that line of argument anybody who has a twenty-dollar-bill in his possession could be considered as a suspect for any bank or convenience-store robbery in which twenty-dollar-bills were among the loot.
According to Snopes this dumbassary goes back to an article in Conservative Treehouse, whatever that may be. It figures, I suppose. There are a lot of people out there with no brains and too much time on their hands. I’m not in the least surprised that people are trying to vilify the victim of a police shooting—that’s just par for the course these days. I am surprised, however, by the poor quality of this hatchet-job.

20 June 2016

Clueless Clown Blames Others for his own Ignorance of English


S
ome clown writing for something called the Daily Caller (shouldn’t that be the Daily Howler?) is so ignorant of the English language that he thought the common expression for good meant for the better rather than forever. I know English is hard, but I’d have a lot more respect for the guy if he simply admitted that he’d screwed up, rather than attack the people who pointed out his idiotic mistake.
Let me just say this to this Peter Hasson guy—look, I don’t know how long you’ve been in this country, or where you’re getting your English-as-a-second-language instruction from, but you need to work harder at it, especially if you intend to continue writing in our language. Don’t blow your top when you make a dumbass mistake, but rather make an effort to learn from others who actually know how the language is spoken. And don’t attack people who point out your stupidity—it just makes you look like even more of an idiot that you did already.
Oh, yeah—you owe the person you attacked based on your own fucking error a heartfelt and abject apology. That’s just for your credibility, by the bye. Always assuming you give a shit how you look, of course.

15 June 2016

A Look Ahead to 1973


[The following piece appeared in the San Francisco Post on 8 April 1873. This is the only installment to appear in the extant issues.]
“C
an you come and dine with me?”
“Impossible, I assure you. I have an engagement in Fifth avenue at 5 o’clock, sharp, and it is now close on 3 by the electric clock of the floating tabernacle.”
The above conversation took place at the World Exchange, California street, in the month of May, in the year 1973. The youth who required his friend’s presence at the dinner table was one of those gay sons of fortune, who owned half a dozen balloons of various patterns, steam and air, and who one day speculating in the mining stocks of the newly discovered mines of Japan, and the next buying easily into aerial navigation shares in New York, and the double speed howitzer Postal Transfer Stock, the central depot of which was located in the Floating Sea Bathing and Resuscitation Resort, just half way between London and New York, and situated in a sequestered quarter of the Atlantic ocean, found himself in a few months a millionaire.
Augustus Henry Cacklton, however, consented to neglect his engagement at the house of a wealthy Knickerbocker to enjoy a quiet dinner, five thousand feet above the land level, with his friend Charles Spoonwell.
The fathers of both young men had speculated in the Flash Package Express Company’s shares, which sent ore, baggage and other light articles to European ports by submarine Atlantic stations.
Young Cacklton, when quite a boy, and just having graduated from the General information and foreign Historical Acquisition College, entered into the business of his parent with enthusiasm, and soon became an expert in submarine surveys. His chum Spoonwell was often invited to join in the favorite pastime of the period, namely, discharging iron bolts at the bellies of the leviathans that frequently came so near to the submarine stations as to endanger the safety of the freight that was passing and repassing on the rolling tracks of the company.
It was a gala day in San Francisco. For many hundred yards above the city, floated balloons of various colors and patterns, and the air was dense with the forms of flying traders, who, laden with burdens of wine and sweetmeats, proffered their dainties at every poised dining palace. Occasionally an Asiatic or European mass of holiday seekers floated by, many miles above the ordinary level, and sometimes the occupants of those gorgeous resorts recognizing an acquaintance, dropped down parachutically to exchange a few words of greeting with their California friends. Sometimes, one of the many beautiful island kingdoms of the period, changing its resting place from tropical seas to a more temporate clime, glided by in the soft evening air, supported by thousands of willing winged subjects, and followed by the careless idlers from all quarters of the globe, who had dined, or who were endeavoring by this exercise to acquire a good appetite for the principal meal of the day.
As Cacklton and his friend sat together, enjoying a course of tonno, which had come a few moments before from the Adriatic, the latter seemed to be under the influence of a profound melancholy.
“What is the matter?” asked Harry, carelessly shaking the ashes of a cigarette into St. George’s Channel; for the young men, having been caught in a strong current of air, had imperceptibly floated some five miles above those waters.
“I could hardly explain it to you, my dear fellow,” rejoined the other; “but I assure you, it is nothing serious—merely one of those unaccountable affections of the heart which proceed from unknown sources. Well, to be candid, a few months ago I became enamored of—now I know you will smile—of a mermaid waiting girl in an eating saloon on the submarine route, just fifteen hundred miles from New York. Of course, my dear boy, I was careful not to make any demonstrative display of my affection; but then, you know how a fellow will trip sometimes. I brought with me to the station a fancy submarine Patent Floater and Water Foamer, and as society was very flat down there, why we often had a quiet ride together.”
“So, so,” laughed the auditor of this romance. “I can imagine the rest. She accompanied you on the shark hunts, of course, and together you looked for pearls in oysters.”
“Well, something of that sort,” acknowledged Spoonwell; “but the climax of the affair came to pass when one day, while I was spearing sword fish, my air pipe, which you know was always connected with the main reservoir, broke; and, I assure you, my friend, I would have been inevitably smothered but for the presence of mind of my companion. She connected the broken portions at once, and carried me on her tail fin, half fainting, to the depot.”
“Quite a romance, indeed,” laughed the other; “but, hallo! who have we here?”
At that moment an elegantly constructed air chariot drew up by the veranda of the dining saloon, where the two young men were seated. Both vehicles were at this time immediately over the Sea of Galilee, and the white walls of Jerusalem gleamed in the distance. A lady in the prime of life, and with a parachute attached to her ankles, in case of accident, stood up on a beautifully embroidered cushion and said, in a clear and liquid voice:
“Your pardon, gentlemen, but having several hours ago departed from a broken arch of London bridge, from which I was engaged in sketching the ruins of St. Paul’s, and having in the meantime been overcome by sleep, I am completely bewildered as to my whereabouts. May I inquire if that sheet of water some miles below us is the lower lake of Killarney, as I am inclined to believe, or the Mediterranean, as some of my attendants would persuade me?”
The young men, bowing gracefully, informed her that it was the Sea of Galilee, and the gorgeous balloon pursued its way.
“Suppose,” said Cacklton, after a long pause, “we change our course, and run into yonder cloud. My supply of electricity is running rather short, and I want to get this tube charged in case we should run across an eagle.”
“As you like,” responded his friend, and in a moment they were in the center of a dark nebulous mass, from which the active attendants of the youths, rapidly extracted a large supply of sheet lightning for the popular sport of eagle shooting, a common amusement of the young bloods of the day.
 As they passed from the gloom, the sun was just setting over the imposing minarets of Constantinople.
 “In an hour,” remarked Spoonwell, “we shall be in San Francisco. But, hallo?” he added, as a newsboy, with the clipper constructed wings of the period, flew by, flinging dexterously into their car, as he passed them, the last edition of the evening paper.
 “I am anxious to see that sparring match between the wives of two of our excellent townsmen. They tell me Mrs. Judkin has been a long time in training.”
 “Dear me, and what an excellent muscle she has. Her husband is one of the best milliners in town, too.”
 As the gorgeous dining car hovered over San Francisco, Cacklton settled the bill, and the young men, arranging their parachutes, dropped swiftly down through the several thousand feet of space between them and the earth. Already the citizens of that gay town were preparing to enjoy the delicious moonlight. Some on gayly colored wings with silken lanterns pendant on each side, poised themselves on the housetops, or found amusement in making descents through skylights into the dwellings of their familiar friends. Others, in hired air cars or fancy balloons of their own, awaited impatiently the coming forth of the damsel whose presence was to make the ride so agreeable. And then as the evening wore on and the air cars shot upward, the sky seemed traversed by innumerable comets, and the whole scene was one of wonderful splendor and vivacity.
 As Cacklton and his friend picked their way through the ropes that held the swelling balloon to earth, a city messenger flew up and descended by the side of the former gentleman.
 “Mr. Spoonwell?” he inquired, with a respectful shake of his rear steering tail.
 “The same; what is it?”
 “Just by the shores of Goat Island Cemetery, where all the great monopolists of antiquity lie buried, a lady who just arrived from the Gulf of Tartary, awaits your presence.”
 “A sea lady, I understand you to say?”
 “Yes sir; but,” added the messenger, knowingly, “with the most beautiful eyes and scales I ever beheld.”
 Spoonwell scowled at this impertinence, and stopped to take leave of his friend.
 “Can you believe,” he said, on parting, “that our ancestors were so lamentably ignorant, as to consider the glimmering of truth then beginning to dawn on them as the grossest superstition, and to regard the idea of submarine beings with almost similar forms and similar tastes to ours, as the wildest of myths? But, farewell. If my suspicions are correct about this rendezvous, I shall have to travel all night in order to breakfast on the banks of the Amour river. Adieu!”
 What befel him shall be made the subject of the next chapter.
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