Monday, August 29, 2016
There is this thing called “circuit bending,” where you take some sound-producing electronic object and interfere with its guts to make it produce noises its designers never imagined. When the bender is expert or lucky, really amazing results are to be had. More often, though, instead of getting a modified Speak & Spell to spout fluent Klingon, you get unpleasant skronks and squeaks, sadly similar to every other device you’ve putzed with. It’s not so much bent as broken. Sort of like mind-altering drugs; straight out of the box is as good as the thing is ever going to work.
Monday, August 22, 2016
I don’t want to be accused of sowing the seeds of panic in a time of global anxiety, but I feel the need to point out that we are facing a pretty severe hovercraft gap. The Russians, the Ukrainians, the Chinese and the Greeks have these enormous Zubr-class landing craft, which are, I swear, the coolest-looking boats you have ever seen. Imagine a 200 foot long inflatable raft with a chubby battleship on top and three hella big round fans on the back. There is no better way to take up to 500 fanatically loyal shock troops to the beach.
Monday, August 15, 2016
The World's Largest Wind Chime is in Casey, Illinois. I saw that on a sign, but did not stop. It's going to be dangly metal pipes, right? This is not an interesting world’s largest thing, even though I admit to an interest in world’s largest things. Here are other not particularly interesting world’s largest things: World’s Largest Soda Straw (plastic sewer pipe), World’s Largest Condom (weather balloon), World’s Largest Pocket Hankie (bedsheet) and World’s Largest Bedsheet (tarpaulin). Also, here’s a tip for travelers. Don’t waste your money to see the World’s Largest Grain of Sand. It’s just a big rock.
Monday, August 1, 2016
I have a problem with a couple things people say. The first is when they say “I need closure.” Because you don’t get closure. Everything that happens stays in your head and you’re never going to close it out permanently. I can still make myself squirm by thinking about some terrible thing I said to somebody a half century ago. The best you can do is create workarounds, is all. Then people will say, “I’m a survivor,” which would be okay if they added “so far.” Because your survival is purely temporary. Sooner or later, you’ll be getting that closure.
Monday, July 25, 2016
Oh for Pete’s sake. “Gluten free vodka.” Listen. Gluten is a bunch of proteins that occur naturally in grains like wheat, rye, barley and oats. They are not particularly volatile, so if you cook up a mash of cereal grain, ferment it so that the tiny funguses called yeast poop out a bunch of ethanol, then heat up the resulting glop so that the alcohol flashes off to be condensed into an intoxicating beverage, the distillate will be gluten-free. It’s like saying sugar is fat-free. It’s true, but it’s dumb. Or, more correctly, it’s counting on you to be dumb.
Monday, July 18, 2016
Right now, I got nothing. The creator of Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne, once wrote: “A quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business." This is some valuable advice from a fellow writer. Of course, Rollo May said, "If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself." But then, as Dorothy L. Sayers said: “A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought,” and that is exactly what I’m looking for this morning.
Monday, July 11, 2016
Southern Illinois is corn and soybeans. Miles and miles of them. And it occurs to me that they’re holding up the entire global economy. Not all by themselves, but having factory farms churning out acres of commodities is what frees up all the time people spend sitting in cubicles or flying to meetings or walking to class. Commodities by definition are generic, like money. They’re not good or bad; they’re units of exchange. So whatever you choose to eat, at the end of the food chain you’re being nourished by bushels of GMO corn, washed down with barrels of petroleum.