Monday, August 2, 2021

Notes from under the underground

I hear there’s a new band that plays a nano-genre so narrow that their only single has no flip side and is so obscure you literally can’t find it anywhere. There is not one single human hip enough to be their fan. Anybody who tells you they are is lying. They don’t even have a name, and the members know neither one other nor that they are in the group. For all they know, their tour is coming to your town soon. For all you know, you’ll be attending. This is absolutely brilliant marketing; it’s all about creating a buzz.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Possibly on Planet X

Here’s a real good way to come up with a bad idea. First, decide what you want to be true. Then look for evidence that supports your belief. If nothing shows up, invent an invisible undetectable undisprovable factor that makes you right. This is nothing new; it’s how religion and politics work now and have always worked. But science is supposed to be different. Are there any cosmologists reading this? Because I think I know where all the dark matter might be. I think you should look again real hard wherever it is you keep the phlogiston and the aether.

Monday, July 19, 2021

but not kayaks

There are some things everybody, or pretty much everybody, agrees are cool. A ’65 Mustang or Thelonious Monk, for instance. Then there are things some people think are cool but others disagree, sometimes strongly, like Billy Joel or chukka boots. There are things like toaster ovens, little cigars with the white plastic mouth thingy, water skiing, Louis L’Amour books, that even the people who enjoy them have to admit are not actually cool. Then there are things so wildly uncool that they sort of lap themselves and achieve backdoor hipness. I’m thinking specifically of shoe trees, coleslaw, and pontoon boats.

Monday, July 12, 2021

"Untitled" is a title, right?

Imagine waking up and knowing exactly what you needed to achieve that day. I don’t mean like “I need to clean up this desk.” I mean your limbic system screaming like a bunny in a vise, insisting that you do what it wants or it will drive you into a babbling state of drooling lunacy. Opioids will do that for you. I’m not trying to encourage drug addiction. I’m not suggesting it’s a good thing. I’m just pointing out that, like war, it has the capacity to give life meaning and purpose. In that sense, it really does solve everything.

Monday, July 5, 2021

The Frontiers of Research

Fernando Colchero of the University of Southern Denmark (Havarti grits, y’all!) and Susan Alberts of Duke University in North Carolina are the leads on a new study that compares death statistics from around the world. What they found is that as life expectancy in a population increases, so does lifespan equality. So basically, when you improve nutrition, sanitation, and healthcare, more people get to live to the maximum possible age, which remains the invariant. I’m in favor of science. I want these nice folks to get tenure. But who didn’t know we were all going to get old and die?

Monday, June 28, 2021

And cobalt is goblin metal

For no good reason, I was reading about different kinds of metal, and I came up with this: Since bronze is copper and tin while brass is copper and zinc, a useful mnemonic to keep in your head is that each of these alloys gets exactly one Z. I’m so pleased with myself. I think this belongs right up there with Roy G. Biv or my very excellent mother just served us nachos. And what do you know; it happened again. See, I keep meaning to procrastinate but something interesting always diverts my attention and I end up being productive.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Double Dutch

Theo van Doesburg was a Dutch artist who, while not as famous today as his friend and fellow Dutch artist Piet Mondrian, also made paintings that featured strong black horizontal and vertical lines defining rectangles of primary pigment. They agreed that this was the best way to make art. Then Doesburg suggested that diagonal lines might be cool too, and Mondrian said nope just horizontal and vertical, and they stopped talking to each other for five years. Which might seem silly at first but the more I think about it the more I wish I cared about anything that much.