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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Murdering Bush Babies

Part of the science world is all agah over the recent discovery that just possibly chimpanzees in Senegal have been sighted using spears for hunting.

They have not yet advanced to attaching flaked-off flints to the ends of poles, but they do sharpen the ends of sticks with their teeth and then use these to impale and then extract bush babies, another primate, hiding in hollow tree trunks.

If true it means that the chimps are on their way!

It may even be a sign that they are positioning themselves to supplant the present dominant species in millennia to come, if not sooner, because this is how our own civilization, replete with such glories as nuclear waste, torture prisons, and swat teams, got started -- using sharpened sticks to impale and kill chimps, and also many other species, including our own kind, hiding in cracks and crevices.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Spinning the UK Dropout

The decision by the British Prime Minister to pull some of his troops out of Iraq must have come as a stunning blow to Bush & Bunch, at a moment when the Republicans are fighting hard to justify their decision to send in more troops.

But after less than a moment's thought, they just pulled their rickety war wagons tighter together in their usual slapdash fashion, and they came out with some of their typical black-is-white and up-is-down flipdoodle. With the straightest possible faces that such crooked visages are capable of achieving, they are saying that Blair's move is actually a sign that things are going well, and that to be able to do that, Blair is really confirming the wisdom of Bush's desire to send in thousands more American troops imminently.

Since they obviously feel no need to use the slightest degree of common sense and to speak logically, the Repubs must feel that they are capable of equally fending off the embarrassing questions that their clumsy spin over Blair's move ought to arouse.

The American reinforcements probably haven't gotten to Iraq yet. This means that on or about the same time they arrive, the British troops will be shipping out. How logical is that, if at the same time extra troops are so badly needed to keep the occupation going?

Secondly, what's to keep things at their presently relatively cool level in the southern areas as the British decrease their presence? A hip-hip-hooray and English good will? The British may shake their feet free of the Iraqi bog yet again, as, being slow learners, they already have done a time or two in the past, but the Iraqi points of contention will remain, as they seem fated to do for a long period to come, with and without armed foreign "guests."

The impression exists that British-patrolled Basra and the other southern areas were always less volatile than the northern areas where the Bush forces are active. That's why the British were assigned that region in the first place. You have to keep your junior partners happy, especially in a coaliton that those partners later started abandoning left and right. So how does it follow that the relative quietude in the more or less naturally less explosive South indicates any sort of likelihood of the same being possible in the just as naturally and much more inflamed areas to the north, especially in and around Burning Baghdad?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Medical Destruction

There is a neighboring family up the road that my wife and I have been exceptionally close to for nearly 20 years. The apparent head of it used to be the father, but five years ago he suffered a fatal tree-trimming accident. Actually, though, the real head of that family, which also included two boys and two girls, was always the mother, and in fact the female half of that group was by far more dynamic than the male side.

The wife was always so vital and up front and in your face with everything -- though not much in mine -- that when mentioning this woman to friends online, I always referred to her as the "Wild Woman," but suddenly that has changed drastically, and the fault seems to be entirely that of medical science.

About a year ago the various stresses and strains of her life led to a heart attack, and not long after she returned from the hospital, it was obvious that though she was recovering to reasonably good health, she was a drastically changed woman.

Gone was all the piss and vinegar and fire and quaintness of her former self. She is as mentally capable as ever but she seems not to care much about anything anymore. No more long conversations with anybody, not even her closest relatives. She says only what is strictly necessary and no more. She responds to everything one says or asks, but without emotion of any kind, and she will hardly ever bring up anything of her own.

Her facial expression has changed, too. Now she goes around all the time looking only one way, a mixture of wonder tinged with slight surprise, much as she might have looked when she was about three months old.

The movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," in which patients were given lobotomies, ought to have prepared me for this, and I had heard of the properties of various personality-dampening drugs, but this is the first time I've seen something like this up close and personal, and I had thought that it would be impossible for a medication of any kind to have such a definite effect on her.

It must be all to the good. We don't hear complaints from the people who live with her, and I suppose it means that things in that house go much more peacefully now, and meanwhile she is subjected to none of the stresses of earlier times. But I see her only about once a month, and, with the memory of how she used to be still fresh in my mind, the effect is always startling.

This situation makes me think that such medications draw life and death much closer together, without, however, letting them actually converge. And it also shows how personality is yet another of many all-important things that nevertheless we take for granted until they leave, apparently for good. It almost doesn't matter what kind of personality a person has, and so what if such people get on your nerves once in a while. Personality is one of the things that keeps us from being merely inert collections of molecules.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

An Auspicious Date

Yesterday was Valentine's Day, one of the two days -- the other is Christmas -- when Americans make a special point of professing to devote themselves to Love, even though that's a practice that, like so many other worthwhile concepts, they at most other times honor only in the breach. The astonishing financial wealth of the right wing haters as compared to those elsewhere on the political spectrum is evidence enough of that. But for me the next day after those 24 hours of hearts, kisses, and supposedly 24 hours of uninterrupted love-making, is a much more auspicious date. In fact today's date, February 15 is so important that it has even managed to make me once again put something in this often interrupted weblog.

On this same date in 1952, exactly 55 years ago, world and national events colluded in such a way as to fling me out of the warm familiarity of life with my mother, my sister, and my friends and neighbors, out into the larger world that I knew about but had seldom had any occasion to enter, and definitely not for anywhere near as long or as intense a period as the one that now began, and my life would never again be the same.

I was inducted into the U.S. Air Force.

Actually I use February 15 as a benchmark for a lot of things. Right now I'm mainly using it for the weather.

I did my basic training at Sampson AFB, a former naval base that was located on Lake Geneva in the Finger Lakes district of western New York state. Unlike my native D.C., Sampson was cold and windy and snowswept, and things stayed that way through most of the six or eight weeks or however long I was there.

Today I'm hoping that, no matter what the groundhog says (and I don't know what it said), the same won't be true now. Instead, after a warm December, January was hellishly cold, and, in spite of what I had hoped, February so far is following suit, and the firewood that I spent so much time and effort cutting and carting a few weeks ago is going fast.

Mainly, however, I'm tired of being cold most of the time.

I guess the trouble is that by now my blood has thinned a lot, but thankfully -- very thankfully -- unlike so many people, so far I haven't been sick this winter.

I couldn't even say the same for Sampson, when I was much younger and presumably stronger and less susceptible. A lot of the guys there caught bronchitis and other things, but for a long time, in spite of being a Southern boy and out of my geography and all that, I stayed all right, until one night, while I was on guard duty in the ice and cold, I stepped into a hole, and immediately afterward I fell ill with something or other in my chest and had to go on sick call.

Ever afterward I've wondered what that was all about, when it was my feet or legs that should've been injured, but that is still on my long and steadily lengthening list of unyielding mysteries.