Wednesday, May 2


• The past week of my life has been consumed by bricks. Used bricks. Finding, loading, transporting, unloading, laying out, taking down, cleaning, laying back out. Still to come: laying more out, cutting, and then, finally, setting in two inches of sand two borders, one path, all of which should have been done about seven years ago. I learned three things. One, the dearth of businesses willing to deal in used brick has a lot to do with the use of stronger mortars over the past forty years. Two, I should have bought a mason's hammer fifteen years ago. Three, if someone tells you that phosphoric acid is a much safer alternative to muriatic acid, what they are leaving out is this: with muriatic acid there's a minute possibility you will die a horrible death involving all the flesh melting off your bones; whereas with phosphoric acid you will simply die of old age waiting for the stuff to do anything.

* As a result I've been about a week behind the news. Randall Tobias, tied up and spanked in the DC Madam scandal, is a Hoosier, a former Eli Lily poobah. When his picture hit the Star's front page Wednesday, my Poor Wife said, "Hey, that guy caught in the DC Madam scandal was president of Lily." "What DC madam scandal?" I asked.

• I got so far behind watching Daily Show tapes I ran into this Wolcott piece on McCain before I saw him tell Jon he'd left a souvenir IED under the seat, yuk, yuk, yuk. There's a bonus takedown of "lighten up," a phrase which, in my experience, is inevitably employed by someone whose lack of a sense of humor includes a lack of any sense of what humor is. McCain's candidacy is now so horrific that not only has it clearly delineated that he's unfit for office, his choice to continue it is now of itself grounds to disqualify him.

Is the Army Headed for Collapse? Major Gen (ret.) Robert H. Scales, Washington Times, March 30. Yes, the Times. which probably explains why I didn't see it until after he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week. Conclusion:
Another strange consequence is that the current political catfight over withdrawal dates is made moot by the above facts. We're running out of soldiers faster than we're running out of warfighting missions. The troops will be coming home soon. There simply are too few to sustain the surge for very much longer.

Bear in mind that these shortages were made explicit to the Congress in November of 2002. America has been suffering from Battered Spouse Syndrome with regard to the military since the aftermath of Vietnam. Don't say "defeat" (smack). We weren't defeated (smack). And if we were it's the fault of the troops (smack). And if it's the fault of the troops it's because you ruined their morale with your defeatist talk. (wallop). None of which is true, all of which has been internalized to such an extent that even a population which clearly sees what a strategic fuckup the Bush/Cheney administration has wrought flinches at the word. It's the only real explanation for why the White House isn't surrounded by people holding torches and pitchforks. And where, exactly, are the Democrats with this information? Are they afraid such information compromises national security? The Iraq clusterfuck has compromised it more than words can ever say.

• Since I tossed aside the faith I was raised in--roughly the same time I got out of kneepants--I've read a lot more religious material than anti-religious. Augustine, Meister Eckhart, Martin Buber, Reinhold Neibuhr, Thomas Merton, the Upanishads, Confucius, Mo tzu, the Taoists, various histories of Islam, Alan Watts, Paul Tillich and the I Ching sit on a bookshelf eight feet south of me with only Bertrand Russell and a reference book of Biblical absurdities to wrestle with, aside from each other.* I suppose if someone was to send me a review copy of one of the recent spate of anti-God books I'd be happy to read it, but otherwise it interests me about as much as a UFO debunking or a catalogue of Barbie™'s sins. I'm glad they're out there--someone needs to counterweigh that 20% of The History Channel's programming devoted to reviving claims of the Shroud of Turin's authenticity and revealing startling new discoveries about the placesettings at the Last Supper. Otherwise, they're not for me.

So last night--which is to say I managed to watch Monday's show last night--when Christopher Hitchens staggered onto the Daily Show set to hawk his new entry in the burgeoning field I was doubly disinterested, a snap judgment last week's Slate excerpts, found later, did nothing to overturn. At one point Hitchens plopped the supposed virgin birth of the Buddha onto Jon's desk, but Buddha isn't a God, nor does Buddhism posit one--though it's apparently flexible enough to accept people who do--and the story seems to trace to 4th Century Christian sources. Even in hard-pressed America, as in hard-pressed Afghanistan, we ought to apply the tar with the proper-sized brush. Not all Christians are glossolalic snake-handlers. God knows (sorry) we'd be better off if the ones who didn't scream the loudest got the teevee airtime. But I happen to know people, including family members, from a wide variety of faiths, and while I'm frankly a bit wary of all of them I cannot be convinced that every last one has some deep-seated aversion to the birth canal.

* Which is not meant to suggest that the Easterners and their admirers among them are theistic.


Anonymous said...

Eli Lilly, not Lily.

(signed) Your copy-editin' fan,


Anonymous said...

An exception to your "lighten up" rule: when Warren Oates, as Sgt. Hulka, told Francis, a/k/a Psycho, to lighten up.