• In the mid to late 80s I had a friend, now deceased, who was some sort of engineer (he had long since retired; if I ever knew what sort I don't know now, but it wasn't "railroad") who had, as a young man, worked on the Fermi chain reaction project at the University of Chicago.
It being the 80s, a frequent topic of our conversations was the (literally) dissolving Marble Hill Nuclear Plant which I, as a young man, had worked to stop. Shortly before we met the project had been halted; throughout our acquaintance it hung in the artificially-created limbo all such expensive mistakes--the Edsel, the Palace of the Soviets, the Bush administration--inhabit at first, while the people responsible search for some respectable cover. The fact angered him, and he blamed trendy and unlettered Fear of Nuclear Power.
(Let's note, here, that while pure opposition to nuclear power was part of the general opposition to the plan in the 70s, it was supported by concerns over the environmental impact, by the utility's inflated public pronouncements of the need, and by a serious, and obvious, tap-dance around the cost that rivaled most of Bill Westmoreland's assurances about how that Vietnam thing was working out. In the end it was cost-overruns (from, roughly, $1 billion to $7) and the discovery of substandard concrete work (!), not witless tree-hugging, which halted the thing.)
You'd'a thought the concrete business would have given him pause; else you'd'a thought my habit of asking every time he brought it up whether all the nuclear waste from the reactor could be stored under a desk (it's another Reagan howler, for you kids out there) might've eventually caused him to give up, but it remained, for him, what the Kennedy assassination or the Designated Hitter is for a different species of aficionado.
I grew a little tired of being accused of nuclear Henny Pennyism even after I explained howevermanytimes that I agreed that nuclear power was safe, and that the problem was, rather, how exponentially unsafe it became, relative to almost all other human endeavors, if there was an accident. He'd reply in roentgens, with a side order of The Lousy Commies Cut Corners, Which We Would Never Ever Do. (By the way, science illiterate that I am, I've always enjoyed the "You get more radiation at the dentist's" rejoinder, as though proper dental care obligated you to be dosed at unspecified intervals with the same or lower levels at the whim of anyone with a billion dollars of someone else's money in his pocket.) And one day I suggested a compromise: build all the nuclear reactors you want, but everyone involved in the project has to live within a half-mile radius of the place. And can't run in the case of a leak.
This ain't one of those cabbie stories, with an O. Henry ending. The argument didn't faze him. But it's still mine. And I wish he were still around to explain what's really going on in Japan.
What: 15,473rd unsolicited mailing to me since I turned 45, none of which I've answered
Contents: six page come-on plus not one but two plastic pre-membership cards, pre-embossed with my name
Legend on envelope: "Please Recycle"
• I had a long discussion with Brendan over the weekend (which is to say that he wrote me a couple lines and I sent back a novel) about David Weigel, erstwhile linker to this decrepit piece of blogostate, in which he argued, with a perceptiveness and an economy I can only gawk at, that Weigel resembled the late Dean Broder, in that he was "forever excusing the whack-job stuff that comes from Republicans and forever deploring 'the left' for everything" while maintaining an air of Let's Split the Difference and Do It My (Centrist) Way. (Which, I believe he'll agree, does raise the question of how Weigel got to Slate so late.) That was in reply to my own contention that he, and others, occupy the George Eff Will Media Sinecure, after the insertion of Ronald Reagan's debate coach into This Week to balance the liberal triumvirate of David Brinkley, Sam Donaldson, and Mrs. Steve Roberts. Nothing comparable has ever happened with the Left, through the Reagan, two Bush, and two centrist Democrat administrations, unless you count Alan Colmes. In thirty years now we periodically get "balancing" "conservatives" thrust up the national anus (David Brooks, Tucker Carlson, Bens Stein and Domenech), with no further justification, as though Sam Donaldson was so fucking liberal that he still reverberates, like the Big Bang. And I think the latest generation is rewarded just for making the same motions. I mean, Weigel was born in 1981. I'd like to know when he's even seen a Leftist, outside of one of our more progressive Social Studies textbooks; I'd like to know when he thinks one has ever made, or influenced, a piece of legislation enacted since he started tying his own shoe. I don't have any difficulty with the things Weigel writes. I have a difficulty with the concept of David Weigel, with his, and Mitch Daniels', apparent insistence that one can remain a Republican after experiencing the Reagan and/or Bush II years, and maintain that the rabid elements of the party are just there to make noise and vote. Either we're mired in all that crazy shit, or we ain't.
• Look, I'm tempted to reply to this groundswell of Book support with "Three words: America's Most Wanted". Instead, okay, so I'm a bit intrigued. There's this:
1) I am the most indolent and ill-tempered of men. Those are my good points.
2) As I've said before, I am an Inuit carver without the talent. Most mornings I stare at a blank TextEdit page, then chip away everything that doesn't resemble one of the voices in my head. Then I break camp and forget it.
3) Similarly, I started blogging as a lark. Now it's mostly an excuse not to masturbate so much.
4) Kordo, you, and/or a million internet monkeys can comb the nits from this site and whack me over the head with the jar you put 'em in. I promise to notice. Seriously. Just don't go overboard, and remembering who you're doing it for, do so only to avoid doing something you should be doing and don't wanna.
5) I do read comments. Really. I'm just frequently a couple days late. It's all the carving.