Monday, February 24, 2020

an enviable lifestyle

There is this critter, a salamander, that lives in cold water in deep caves in the Dinaric alps. It’s called the olm, which is fun to say, and it lives its whole life underwater in the dark. It eats sparingly, sometimes going for a decade between meals, and it spends a lot of its time just relaxing. It’s very good at swimming but that’s not what it mostly does. It mostly rests, as I said. I like to think it has a rich inner life, that sober contemplation on being a blind pale aquatic amphibian is all the olm needs.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Sound and fury.

The author and critic Damon Knight generally gets credit for introducing the term “idiot plot” to describe a story that can only be sustained because the protagonists are idiots. If they weren’t, the story would be over. Like Superman, where, if you think about it, the moment Clark took off his glasses to clean them the whole secret identity thing would collapse although I myself wear glasses and so far when I remove them nobody has ever said, “Who are you and where did Dave go?” So here’s the challenge: Try to construct a non-idiot plot explanation for human history.

Monday, February 10, 2020

spores are yellow-brown and distinctly warted.

Commonly known as the tapioca slime mold, the species Brefeldia maxima is a nonparasitic Amoebozoan that looks, as you may have intuited from its name, like a slimy layer of white goo. It goes through a lot of interesting life phases, as do we all, but I want to highlight what they call the plasmodial phase, during which the whole damn thing is a single cell which can be like a yard across and weigh up to 40 pounds – a pale, brainless, soggy mass. They are most commonly found in forests after a rain, and in the United States Senate.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Bloody Kansas

Should I be upset that more people take off the day after Super Bowl than do Martin Luther King Jr. Day? Should I bother mentioning that by simply moving a space we can have a Sunday devoted to the Superb Owl? Or that adding a space can turn a well-known chicken franchise into Pope Yes? But that’s not what I want to discuss. I want to point out that although there’s a lot of loose talk about how terrible it is to be led by a stupid person there is little historical evidence indicating that smart people do any better.