Saturday, December 29, 2012

Shagging the Schnauzer

Rick Santorum, the feckless Senator and erstwhile presidential hopeful from the Great Commonwealth of Pennsyltucky, drew considerable fire in the campaign past for likening homosexual congress to "man on dog." He had to "walk it back" a bit, as they say in the media, the walkback distance contingent on whether he happened to be talking to the liberally-biased mainstream media or an unbiased Christian talk radio station. But perhaps there was an odd prescience in the deliverance, a quality of the idiot savant in that unguarded and otherwise telling mot injuste.

"Sure I've got a bone."

You see, what we didn't know at the time was that Germany had not yet outlawed zoophilia, the practice of having sex with animals. Following the lead of Santorum's revelatory analogy, the German government plans to ban zoophilia, which has been legal for nearly 45 years, as part of an amendment to the country's animal protection laws. Predictably in a godless European nation, the state faces a backlash from a vocal zoophilic community estimated to number over 100,000.

It's not just dog lovers, either, if I can still use that phrase. There must also be those zoophiles who bang the bonobo, bugger the border collie, boff the bulldog, boink the bunny, bone the bronc, cowboy the Clydesdale, jump the Jersey, poke the Peke, hump the Hereford, mount the mule . . . you get the idea.

 Just saying . . . 

The government takes the perfectly understandable position that using animals "for personal sexual activities or making them available to third parties for sexual activities [pimping the poodle?] and thereby forcing them to behave in ways that are inappropriate to their species" ought to be illegal. Illegal in precise terms: €25,000, or $32,400, which makes for a pretty expensive date considering it doesn't even buy the champagne.

"I can be a real bitch if it turns out this is just Cold Duck."

The disloyal opposition is up in arms. "We see animals as partners and not as a means of gratification. We don't force them to do anything," fumed Michael Kiok, chairman of ZETA (Zoophile Engagement for Tolerance and Information). Kiok insists that sex with pets isn't demeaning to the animals, and forces us to the considerable intellectual allowance that it's somehow "consensual" - that the object of affection makes it evident if it's not interested.

"People have tried to create the false impression that we hurt animals," said Kiok, who lives with an Alsatian named Cessie. He said he's had "special feelings" for animals since he was four or five, the fascination acquiring erotic elements while in his teens. One can only surmise that here is another case of a young person raised on an over-rich diet of Disney animal cartoons.

It can be argued pretty persuasively, contra the fervent pet owner, that the notion of consensual inter-species sex cannot possibly apply to animals, Cessie's evident compliance notwithstanding. Let's say you've got a horse in the stall or a lamb in your hip waders, with nowhere to go - does that mean they allowed it, they didn't mind, or they like you better now? Probably none of the above. (There's a gruesome passage in Jerzy Kozinski's novel, The Painted Bird, in which the young protagonist is handed an axe by the farmer for whom he works, and commanded to kill the man's sexual favorite, a large rabbit who had just scratched him painfully whilst in delicto.)

Kiok, who comes off as something of an expert in the Der Spiegel article, points out that sexual "partners" are likely to be dogs because they are common pets now, whereas in days of the old peasant economy, it used to be cows, horses, sheeps, goats and pigs.

"Hmmmm . . . ."

He criticizes the planned legal amendment because the farming industry sexually abuses animals in various ways of which the polite reader, should he or she still be reading, might prefer to remain unapprised. But Kiok mentions approvingly that, Germany's new policy notwithstanding, the practice "is still legal in Denmark." Well, one man's Percheron is another man's poison.

Fruit Danish

We Are the Caterpillar

Scientists in the Netherlands have discovered a species of "hyperparasitic wasp," meaning a wasp that lays its eggs in parasitic wasps that lay eggs in caterpillars. These hyperparasites are sometimes parasitized by other hyperparasitic wasps, a potentially infinite regress of parasitism. “A common enemy of a hyperparasitoid therefore is another hyperparasitoid," notes the Dutch researcher. A caterpillar may play host to two, three, maybe even four tiers of parasites, a veritable daisy chain of staged mortality, one resource depleted by the next.

It's a perfect allegory of corporate capitalism. Here's how it works. Let's say that, a few years back, some poor sap succumbed to the blandishments of Citibank or Wells Fargo and unwisely took out a mortgage which was, in his private economy, highly leveraged - high risk, as the banks used to phrase it back in the day when banks were required to calculate risk. The holder of the mortgage then bundles it up with other high risk mortgages and sells the bundle on the market as a financial derivative. It is purchased by the high-return mutual fund in which the hapless and unsuspecting mortgagee owns shares. When the holdings of the mutual fund prove worthless, the cancer spreads back to the bank, which now holds toxic paper it cannot sell. The bank's assets are heavily devalued and the bank faces financial ruin.

To avert the cataclysm, the bank politely reminds the Treasury Department that its failure will mean economic disaster for the entire country - other markets which depend on the bank's solvency will collapse and ruin will spread across an innocent population in the shape of widespread home foreclosures. America will become a nation of citizens sleeping on sidewalks. The offending bank is concerned, however belatedly, about the plight of its fellow citizens (banks being people too, my friend).

Bankers Without TARP

So Presidents Bush and Obama, in succession, go before Congress to plead for public funds to keep the insolvency at bay and the banks afloat. The money is required, Congress is assured, to help countless unfortunates with their mortgages. Eventually, Congress commits something in the neighborhood of $3 trillion in assistance, part of which was earmarked for mortgage assistance. The money was quite naturally drawn from public funds contributed in part by mortgagees whose mortgages were submerged by the banks who received the money. 

The Treasury Department now holds a large sack of money, part of which is to be disbursed to the banks to help their mortgage holders, another part to buy up the toxic assets the banks had created in the first place. The banks, with the complicity of the Treasury Department, keep the money and use it to leverage further investments, which remain legal. Since the banks cannot qualify for bailout money unless they are solvent, they use one federal bailout program to make themselves solvent enough to qualify for other bailouts - in effect double dipping the bailout money. Between the Treasury Department and the banks, the foreclosure epidemic was allowed to proceed largely unchecked, making the banks more solvent than before the crisis they manufactured.

Who says we can't make anything in this country any more?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Xmas

Great Bores of the Modern Age: A 2012 Catalog

During the year now ending, the following people, parties and institutions (in no particular order of self-importance or malign influence, and in varying degrees from comical to murderous) have proven themselves to be utterly delusional, increasingly impotent and irrelevant, waging rear-guard battles against a functioning society and a peacable world. They are defending a moral and political order which will continue to erode, change, and finally shed them.

1. "Crazy Wayne" LaPierre
"If it's crazy to call for armed [police] officers in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy. I think the American people think it's crazy not to do it. It's the one thing that would keep people safe." Huffington Post, 12/23/2012

 2. Pope Benedict XVI, "Cavalleria Vaticana"
"The pope pressed his opposition to gay marriage Friday, denouncing what he described as people eschewing their God-given gender identities to suit their sexual choices – and destroying the very 'essence of the human creature' in the process." (Huffington Post, 12/21/2012)

(Update, January 1, 2013): HuffPost reports that in the Pope's New Year's Day speech, he "denounced the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated capitalism, various forms of terrorism and criminality." How can you fault someone entirely who recognizes the eqivalence between those three modes of human endeavor?)

3. Antonin Scalia, Time's Man of the Year, 1542
"The death penalty? Give me a break. It's easy. . . . Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For two hundred years, it was criminal in every state." When a 2003 Texas sodomy law was struck down Scalia nearly went postal, claiming that this would cause "a massive disruption of the social order," equivalent to legalizing bestiality and incest, disruption of the social order being by its very nature, in the jurist's view, illegal, or unconstitutional, or messy at the very least, like suffragism, or trade unionism, or atheism.

"It [the Constitution] isn't a living document. It's dead, dead, dead, dead."

"In the 1960s, Nino Scalia would’ve ended up teaching at Notre Dame law school (where he belonged) — a crackpot speaker on a marginal rubber-chicken circuit that mainstream America could have blissfully ignored, instead of sitting on the highest court in the land imposing his 16th-century will on the rest of us." (Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast)

4. Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu, the Lion of Zion
"Israel pushed ahead with aggressive new settlement building . . . , brushing aside a growing chorus of international opposition, including criticism by its Western allies, that the move threatened to destroy the peace process with the Palestinians.

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel seemed unbowed by the growing criticism. He told the ambassadors from several Asian nations on Wednesday that his government would continue to build across Jerusalem — as did its predecessors. 'Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years,' Mr. Netanyahu said, according to a statement released by his office." (New York Times, 12/19/2012)

5. Vladimir Putin, the Gazprom Queen
"Putin has repeatedly supported the sentence against Pussy Riot. Three of the band's members – Maria Alyokhina, Nadia Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich – were sentenced to two years in prison in August for singing an anti-Putin "punk prayer" inside a Moscow cathedral. Samutsevich was later given a suspended sentence and released."  (The Guardian, 11/16/2012)

". . . [I]nnovative cultures don’t do things like throw the punk band Pussy Riot into prison for two years for performing a “punk prayer” in a cathedral. That sends a bad signal to all freethinkers."  (Thomas Friedman, New York Times, 12/18/2012)

6. Bashar al-Assad, the Syrial Killer
"Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, has already shown he's not afraid to offer shelter to a controversial figure, by granting political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Correa this month said he would be willing to consider extending the same protection to Assad. 'Any person who requests asylum in Ecuador, we will consider as a human being whose basic rights we must respect.' Israel's Haaretz newspaper has reported that Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad has visited Ecuador, Venezuela, and Cuba in recent weeks, to discuss the possibility of granting refuge to Assad, his family, and his inner circle." (The Week, 12/17/2012)

7. Grover Norquist, the Bathtub Killer
"There was a time when almost every single elected Republican in Washington and even state capitals would sign Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, which binds elected officials to a promise not to raise taxes under any circumstance. As recently as last year’s negotiations over the debt ceiling, Norquist had fealty from a majority in the House of Representatives . . . . Those who violate his pledge could long expect to face attack ads aimed at unseating them, bankrolled by Norquist’s massive war chest. Americans for Tax Reform spent almost $16 million on independent expenditure ads in 2012. Crossing the group has always increased the likelihood of a primary challenge.

"But times are changing. . . . Norquist faces an unprecedented rear-guard attack as the congressional GOP fractures on the tax issue. Last year, there were 238 members of the House and 41 members of the Senate who had signed Norquist’s pledge. This year, there are just 217 in the House — one shy from the 218 needed for a majority — and 39 in the Senate, an all-time low. . . . [W]hile Norquist claims his army is 219 strong in the House, two of those members have since disavowed Norquist’s pledge." ("Is It Game Over For Norquist?"  Salon, 11/14/2012)

8. The Republican Party (BYOB)
"What force can change it—can stop Republicans from being ideological saboteurs and convert at least a workable minority of them into people interested in governing rather than sabotage? With the failed Plan B vote, we have reached the undeniable crisis point. Actually we’ve been at a crisis point for years, but this is really the all-upper-case Undeniable Crisis Point. They are a direct threat to the economy, which could slip back into recession next year if the government doesn’t, well, govern. They are an ongoing, at this point almost mundane, threat to democracy, subverting and preventing progress the American people clearly desire across a number of fronts. They have to be stopped, and the only people who can really stop them are corporate titans and Wall Streeters, who surely now are finally beginning to see that America’s problem is not Barack Obama and his alleged 'socialism,' but a political party that has become psychologically incapable of operating within the American political system." (Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, 12/23/2012)

Scared? We ain't scared. We're all white.

9. John "My Fellow Prisoners" McCain

by Donkey Hotey

10. Donald "The Donald" Trump

Mouth agape, "badger" hair style, bad nose job, cheesy tie - no caricature could match the original. Oh what the hell, let's give it a try . . .

Sunday, December 23, 2012

But What of Bishop Berkeley?

"It is indeed an opinion strangely prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in a word all sensible objects have an existence natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding. But . . . . what are the forementioned objects but the things we perceive by sense, and what do we perceive besides our own ideas or sensations; and is it not plainly repugnant that any one of these or any combination of them should exist unperceived?"
                                                           - George Berkeley, "Principles of Human Knowledge"

". . . [W]e stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. . . . Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it - 'I refute it thus.'   
                                                                                     - James Boswell, "Life of Johnson"

Dr. Samuel Jackson

Gadzooks! said I to myself as I awoke on the morning previous, I am spared. I am not destroyed, I am meant for something greater. The world is not extinguished, it continues, it thrums along as always, ticking like an eternal watch. Nothing has ended except my usual complacency. I mean henceforth to be a better man, to raise my sights and intend only goodness, benevolence, kindness towards others - to claim, in short, my higher calling.

I went outdoors and kicked a rock, if only to reassure myself with its impermeability, intransigence and sensible recalcitrance. It remained stolidly underfoot, unmoved, uncaring, unperceiving. It was real all right, and the world remained unscathed by the perfidy of the Mayan prophecies.

I very nearly imprecated a stoved toe, when of a sudden sprang a random thought rattling about the old sensorium: But what of Bishop Berkeley? 

What if my Johnsonian kick, my moment of naive perceptual realism, were but a phantasm and the world prove but a figment of my consciousness after all? Surely my foot bore sufficient testimony to the continuance of the world order, but now there was a small gnawing of doubt. What if the good bishop proved correct?

Bishop George "Told You So" Berkeley

If that were so then for all I knew the Mayans could have been on the money and the world had ended the previous evening with me none the wiser. None of us the wiser, for all of that. Dang and blast that Johnson. But no, I've never been persuaded by the good doctor, finding his refutation of Bishop Berkely fatheaded with that peculiarly Johnsonian fatheadedness.

So I've been laying low, biding my time until either I figure out a convincing refutation of my own for the good bishop, or the other shoe drops and my consciousness flies out the window for good. Whichever comes first. Frankly, I've stayed awake for about 48 hours now, just to keep my eye on things, make sure I'm really still here after all. What a disappointing turn of events, I thought, if I were to lose consciousness and go out of existence while asleep.

On the other hand, maybe it's all over and none of us the wiser. Or not. I can't tell. There's a bright side, however, if it's really over: I'll be spared all the effort of having to become a better person. My amoral status quo, at least, will go on uninterrupted.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Death Star Must Be Good for Something

Last year, in an interview with Time's Fareed Zakaria, the Princeton economist Paul Krugman remarked, “If we discovered that space aliens were planning to attack, and we needed a massive build-up to counter the space alien threat, and inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months.” Krugman was referring to an ancient episode of The Twilight Zone, in which an alien threat was rumored in order to establish world peace.

All things being equal, which they never are, rumors of Mars attacking Earth could set the entire global war machine into motion, at once creating jobs in every sector - from raw material extraction to arms manufacturing to diplomacy (remember the old days, when we used actual diplomats instead of drones?) to soldiering and everything in between - all without bloodshed, no "collateral damage." Our genocidal impulses would be directed towards other, non-carbon life forms, never mind that the enemy threat would be a fiction. Perhaps it's the 21st century version of Socrates's "noble lie," a huge falsehood abetting geopolitical harmony.

Things, as I said are never equal. We would simply turn our new cache of armaments on each other. But Krugman, being a perfectly rational sort, was making a point, if whimsically: a global threat would be just the sort of distraction that might allow the federal government to raise taxes in order to increase its already considerable war materiel, much like it did during World War II, when it raised tax rates astronomically. In effect, the war was a big stimulus package that ended the Great Depression by generating jobs, armaments and exports. 

Ever since, the economy has relied in large part on increased defense spending, to the point that cutting defense budgets could arguably stall growth. Like it or not, we can't back away from the Pentagon (or more precisely, its huge supply chain) without crashing the national economy. So in a way it's charming to learn that Star Wars fans have taken the Nobel economist at his word with their own version of his job-creation fantasy: build a Death Star for the Pentagon. Yep, the Death Star to Darth Vader was what a souped-up Jeep and a lead-footed GI chaffeur were to George Patton: death on wheels, so to speak.

Patton pending

A petition has surfaced on "We The People," the White House website that officially responds to petitions with at least 25,000 signatures. The Death Star petition encourages the government to "secure resources and funding and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016."

"By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star," the petitioners argue, "the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering [and] space exploration." The whole idea channels the Reagan era, circa 1984. And, as you might imagine, several of the signatories are "Vader, D."

His pen

Pointing out the other side of the budget quandary, The Telegraph (UK) reported that it would cost "13,000 times the world's gross domestic product (GDP), £541,261 trillion [or about $878,000 trillion], to supply the steel for such a structure while labour and other construction costs would send the price even higher." Which is, if you think about it, a stimulus package for the ages.

Personally, I can't wait for the Trekkies to weigh in. We could beam the entire contraption into outer space. Meet the little bastards halfway.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Skirmish in the War on Xmas

A man's home, intoned James Oglethorpe all those centuries ago, is his castle. My neighbor Zeno invokes this dusty old saw regularly to forestall any criticisms of his taste for installing bird baths that rival a Vatican baptismal font, a pillar-mounted British "post box" along the sidewalk, a gazebo modelled after the Baths of Hadrian, as well as the annual Yuletide illumination of his own castle. He has, I have noted elsewhere, a jackdaw's taste for lighting up his house each holiday like a Polish cathedral.

Chateau Zeno

What then of a man's vehicle - if his home is his castle, shouldn't his personal means of conveyance be considered a man's own M1 Abrams tank? In that same festive spirit, a resident of Wichita, Kansas applied 856 lights to the exterior of his pickup truck and reaped the whirlwind - a $300 traffic fine - for his Christmas bonhomie and good cheer. David Hill uses his light-bespangled truck to raise awareness for several charitable programs he's founded, including a free winter coat giveaway for indigent Wichitavians (Wichitonians?)

"When you take a vehicle and you cover it with that many lights, it's an issue of safety," a Wichita police officer explained to the local news outlet. "When somebody puts colored lights on their vehicle, they're saying everybody look at me, and when people are looking at that particular vehicle, they become a hazard." (It remains grammatically unclear whether the truck, its array of lights, the person who decorated it, or the people staring at it are hazards in the eyes of this officer of the public safety.) But the law mandates only red lights in rear, white in front, and Hill's truck plainly violates the law.

Hill reasonably points out that anyone who can't tell the ass-end of a pickup when they see it probably shouldn't be driving and should be the party receiving the citation (or words to that effect). But it does raise the question whether we have here a full-fledged war on Christmas, or just another skirmish in the battle? Are the Wichita police part of an atheistic agenda, deserving the unsparing scrutiny of the Fox journalists?

Zeno naturally thinks as much. For my part, I'm against this sort of supererogation in holiday decor - until, of course the police get involved. In which case, I'm on the side of Zeno and the angels.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Happy Holidays from the NRA

Invariably, before the dust settles once again on another mass shooting in the land of the free, spokespeople for the prevailing idiocies assure us that it's all happened because a) we have removed prayer from our schools and Jesus from our hearts, or b) not enough people have guns. The latest wisdom from the fringe is that teachers should start packing firepower in school buildings. In those corridors where a good ricochet could, like school prayer, put the fear of God in a youngster's heart.

Neither position would merit much attention if they did not enjoy a weird eternal recurrence, like brain cancer in lab rats. And either position would be cause for mirth were they not so pernicious and so inevitably trotted out in such grievous circumstances. (It's all here.)

Steve Dulan, a board member for the Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun Owners, which is supporting a state bill to allow concealed weapons in schools and other currently gun-free zones, assured HuffPost that having armed teachers inside Sandy Hook Elementary School would have, "if not prevented, then perhaps minimized," the tragedy. Gun-free zones, explains Dulan, are in effect "mass murder empowerment zones." Ditto, of course, for movie theaters, shopping malls, public schools, Sikh temples, churches, and university campuses. Right on cue, Texas's dimmest bulb, Louie Gohmert, mused in public that the principal should have "had an M-4 in her office."

The music teacher

By this logic, of course, six-dollar-an-hour retail clerks should be armed; professional sports referees, particularly ones working Kansas City games; anyone who goes to a movie or a play (no, playgoers are usually effete Democrats); anyone who patronizes a Chik-Fil-A, a bus stop, hack stand, massage emporium, pawn shop, army base, pool hall, faith healing temple, fairground, stock car race, go-kart track, rib shack, public access golf course, snake farm, bull semen parlor, doctor's office or discount liquor outlet.

The chatter gets even worse: in a disingenuous piece of tripe on the website WND ("Wing Nut Daily"), "former pastor" Drew Zahn goes further, arguing that laws are inconsequential because people break them. Zahn concludes that "Gun-control laws failed Connecticut children" since the shooter broke at least three of the state's gun laws and managed to shoot up the place anyway. "[W]hat gun-control measure could have prevented this crime?" he asks sanctimoniously.

But the former Reverend Zahn's argument proves too much - why bother with laws against theft, murder, and general mayhem, then, since the killer stole the guns and went on a killing frenzy in spite of those laws? Had he kidnapped the 20 children, or bombed their school, would we say that the laws proscribing those acts had "failed Connecticut children"? It's disingenuous because it's a patent and feeble attempt to rule gun laws off the table. To his credit at least he's only saying gun laws don't work, he's not saying that gun laws are unconstitutional, which is the stance of the NRA and its paid stable of legislative shills.

   Wayne LaPierre

There's an important divide between the NRA's membership and its leadership. This, from a recent Salon article, says pretty much everything about the minds of NRA executives like Wayne LaPierre: "Two months after the 2011 Tucson rampage, which left six dead and 14 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, LaPierre rejected an invitation from President Obama to discuss ways of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable.  LaPierre said there was no point talking to “people that [sic] have spent a lifetime trying to destroy the Second Amendment.”  Following the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, which left 13 dead, the NRA urged a similar boycott of a meeting called by President Clinton to discuss ways of addressing teen violence."

Nicely aligned with NRA's vision, the school board in the impoverished rural hamlet of Harrold, Texas has recently, with the support of  the superintendent and the approval of Guvunner Rick Perry, permitted teachers to carry concealed weapons. Which teachers are packing is not common knowledge, on the premise that an intruder won't know which one to shoot first - always an absolute stumper for any homicidal maniac. (“We made fun of [the teachers],” said one high school junior. “Everybody knows everybody here. We will find out.") Perry's effort to allow concealed weapons on Texas's university campuses has so far foundered, in part I presume because of photo ops like this . . .

The only way he could get a college degree

Last April, Manuael Dillow, 60, a welding teacher at a vocational school in Abingdon, Virginia, lined up his students near a garage door in the classroom, pulled a black gun out of his waistband and fired as many as ten blanks at the terrified teens. So arming teachers could present some difficulties of its own. Speaking for myself, there have been moments when I was glad I didn't have a gun in the near vicinity of teenagers. It just seems like it could be a pretty volatile mix of demography and technology.

Meanwhile, whoever dies for our continuing sins of omission, it won't be Jesus.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The World Will End in Fire (or Ice)

There are signs and portents that the End Times are upon us and the world may indeed be ending. The Mayans may not have been kidding. Not just the world as we know it - I mean the whole ball of wax. I'm not necessaily talking about all of this (though it remains a distinct possibility) . . .

. . . but I am, at the very least, talking about that known part of the Universe peopled by good Christian folk . . . 

I say this upon the gravest of considerations. In a Christian nation such as ours, the image of Jesus appears regularly in such serviceable and ordinary stuff as tortillas, bathroom mold, Chicken McNuggets, plates of free-form Jell-o, beefsteak, or grits. These manifestations are, in places like Texas or Kentucky at any rate, generally accorded the reverence and awful terror which, in a nation leavened by faith, should be their due. (I have mentioned all this before.)

The case is different in a godless Europe, where signs of the End Times are routinely ignored or scoffed at. I discovered, in my ceaseless reconnoitering of the latest sports news, that a spectator at the Players Darts Championship finals in Doncaster (UK), an innocent, a man of sorrows named Nathan Grindal, had to be extracted from an unruly crowd of 4,500 darts fans and escorted by security from the building because the crowd thought he bore a resemblance to the Lamb of God, Salvador Mundi, Christos Pancrator . . .

Nathan when not at "the darts"

. . . who may in the Last Days appear amongst us we know not in which manner - in this instance poor Nathan was attempting to travel incognito but was recognized anyway. "I didn't go to the darts dressed as Jesus, I went as me," he said later, although this would not explain the lapse in the general manners of the crowd, who disrupted the tournament and distracted the contestants by taking up a vigorous chant of "Jee-zus, Jee-zus." The crowd then serenaded his exit from the building under escort by a rousing rendition of the old Dissenting Chapel groaner, "Stand up, stand up for Jesus/ Ye soldiers of the cross/ Raise high his royal banner/ It shall not suffer loss, etc, etc."

Were the times not so clearly apocalyptic, this would merely be the sort of lapse in civility for which European or African sports fans are noted; the sort of spree which might, in a Spanish or Egyption football match, have turned murderous. But our English cousins, having recognized the Apparition, not in a tortilla but in a human countenance, found in it occasion for mirth. At least in this country we know how to treat a tortilla when we meet one.

Robert Frost, speculating on these Final Days, wrote, "Some say the world will end in fire,/ Some say in ice." For my part, I have seen the end of the world. It looks like a toilet seat on the Polish railway:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Meaning of

"Death doesn't erase the online footprints that people leave in life and Facebook won't either, though it will make some changes. The five-year-old social network will 'memorialize' profiles of the dead if their friends or family request it."
                                                            (from a discussion thread on

" 'Dead Profiles' Create Vast Virtual Cemetery"
                                                            (headline on Huffington Post's "Religion" page)

My (virtual) headstone?

George Carlin's Hippy Dippy Newscaster once reported the rise of a new religion which taught that upon death the soul resides in a parking garage in Buffalo, NY. As plausible a suggestion, I'd say, as the Pearly Gates, the Elysian Fields, the Garden of Allah (not the motel, the other place), Sheol, the Underworld, Hades, the Inferno, Paradiso, Nirvana, or absorption into the Universal Mind.

But the afterlife (or Afterlife, if you prefer) always presumed that the party of the first part was once an actual person who, by virtue of having paid Nature's debt, so to speak, now merited the benisons and usufructs of oblivion, or possibly choirs of angels singing hosannas, a gaggle of celestial virgins, or in whatever fashion one's particular faith suggested one's time might be better spent. The afterlife, if we had to choose one, would pretty much resemble the best parts of the life we had, only with better stuff. (For example, I'll only fish with a handbuilt #5 cane flyrod and a $900 Hardy reel.)

Now I discover that there is a universe of meta-souls with a kind of second-order immortality, an invisible empire of the dead shrieking across the vast reaches of cyberspace. It's enough to drive a person to Mormonism. And just as in the world there is generally a corpus delicti requiring Last Rites and some sort of final disposal, so in the realm of electrons there is a presence of some sort requiring the same attentions. In both instances, death presents opportunity for enterprise, a new wrinkle in what is termed the "bereavement industry," further scope for capitalist endeavor, a new calling, an added revenue stream.

"It's easy to track who joins a social network, but it's hard to keep up with who dies," the HuffPost article notes. "Some accounts exist in perpetuity. Others are shut down by friends and family . . . or by social media companies because of inactivity . . . . One unique site,, tracks social media profiles of the dead and maintains an extensive message board and Facebook page, where the morbidly curious can discuss the passings. The site, which has archives of 17,825 profiles of the dead, gets up to 11,000 views per day.

Old-style Facebook pages 

"By the end of this year, 3 million Facebook users' pages will have become memorial sites for their owners, according to calculations by Nate Lustig, the founder of Entrustet, an online company that helps people access and delete online accounts after someone dies."  Facebook, that most ecumenical and demotic of religious communities, and with all the discreet manners of an ordinary mortician, removes such page amenities as requests to friend the deceased, lists of suggested names the deceased friend might know, and doubtless the message function as well - for much the same reason as there are, say, no garages or telephones in cemeteries.

In 1919, lacking both Facebook and foresight, myopic before the advent of MySpace, A.E. Housman ("The Immortal Part") wondered, "When shall this slough of sense be cast/ This dust of thoughts be laid at last/ The man of flesh and soul be slain/ And the man of bone remain?" How could he have known that there'd more than old bones to tidy up after.

"It was on his Facebook page."

Should some 21st century Hamlet wonder whether it might not be nobler in the mind to take arms against a sea of trouble and by opposing end them, a "friend" would surely text him: not so fast bustr - 2FB or not 2FB?