A term I first encountered while reading a writer named R.J. Eskow, who weighs in periodically on various political blogs. I think the terms refers to the state of ecstasy some writers appear to achieve while composing jeremiads to the imminent downfall of Western Civilization. Eskow cites as a prime example James Howard Kunstler, whose "Clusterf**k Nation" is linked right here on this page. Admittedly, there is something orgiastic about Mr. Kunstler's weekly downers, in which he excoriates the United States for being fat, tattooed and stupid, calling America a "clown nation" that cannot do anything right. He is also absolute in his conviction that we're incapable of any sort of technological fix for the problem; to make certain there's no hope, he relies upon his deus ex machina, Peak Oil. So even though electric cars are actually right around the corner, and entire countries like Israel are figuring out how to run a national fleet of electric cars on an electrical grid powered by wind and solar, he'll have none of it. It cannot work, he says, with religious conviction. It's so obvious that he doesn't even bother to explain why it cannot work.
January 31, 2009
January 29, 2009
In a great scene from "Das Boot," the German movie about the horrors of submarining in World War II that was perhaps the most effective anti-war movie ever made, the captain and crew are trapped on the bottom of the Mediterranean near the Straits of Gibraltar. The submarine has been damaged by Allied fire, and the only chance for survival rests on the ability of the strange, selpulchral, hollow-eyed chief engineer who is attempting to jerry-rig enough battery power to blow the ballast tanks so Das Boot will rise. The crew sits quietly waiting while he works; the ship is running low on oxygen, the tension is overpowering, and they all know they have one chance. If the power surge fails, they're doomed to suffocate on the bottom of the sea (the fate, in fact, of most German submariners during the war).
January 28, 2009
Admittedly, a little grandiose. I wasn't invited and there's no auditing allowed. Security in Davos (pronounced Dah-VOHS, if you care to get it right) is tighter than a drum. That's because a lot of troublemakers think the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) is just an excuse for a lot of celebrities to convene and be rich together. To network with other greedheads so they can all get richer. Personally, I would like to see the WEF merge with the WWF so Vlad Putin and George Soros could meet in a fight-to-the-death cage match.
January 26, 2009
I'm sure you share my fascination with the encroachment of scientific terminology on everyday conversation. It's especially prevalent among liberal arts majors, because nothing adds to the gravitas of otherwise completely unprovable assertions like the generous sprinkling of terms like "critical mass, " "quantum leap," "power curve," and "nanosecond" in otherwise banal discussions. If you add action buzzwords like "get it right" to what you're saying, almost all other content becomes superfluous. For example, if a Congressman thunders that the stimulus plan must have sufficient critical mass to jump start the economy to get us ahead of the power curve and that we don't have a nanosecond to lose if we're going to get it right, then you know you're listening to a guy who's learned to take himself very seriously, even while having no idea what he's talking about.
To its great credit, the national media did not focus on the somewhat comical aspects of two elderly Senators collapsing during the Inaugural Luncheon at the Capitol. To my everlasting shame, I couldn't help but think of all the Mel Brooks and Woody Allen movies I have seen where such a tableau would have fit right into the story line. I have great respect for Senator Ted Kennedy, I know he has fought tirelessly on education and health care issues, but it's not altogether surprising that a man who will be 77 next month might have some health issues of his own. As for Robert Byrd, who is now 91, I guess West Virginia may seek at some point a Constitutional Amendment allowing posthumous reelection.
January 25, 2009
The Chenobyl nuclear reactor explosion on April 26, 1986, was in fact more catastrophic than is commonly believed. The total radioactive contamination released, a full array of fissile products, was 400 times the total output of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. A permanent evacuation of 336,000 people from around the area of Pirpyat in the Ukraine was necessary. The red cloud in the accompanying photograph demonstrates the worldwide distribution of radioactivity as it appeared the day after the steam explosion at Reactor 4 at Chirnobyl destroyed the containment building, exposing the reactor core to oxygen and igniting the graphite moderator. The resulting fire from hell propelled radioactivity 20,000 feet into the air, where it drifted as far as the Pacific Coast of North America.