Sunday, January 20, 2013

'Try This'

“Try this,” [Rush] Limbaugh said. “If a lot of African-Americans back in the ’60s had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, you think they would have needed Selma? I don’t know. I’m just asking. If [Georgia Democrat] John Lewis - who says he was beat upside the head - if John Lewis had had a gun, would he have been beat upside the head on the bridge?” 
                                                             - Rush on his radio talk show, Friday, 1.18.2013

Well, OK. Rush is giving us a thought experiment, clearly ignorant of the fact that any act of thinking would by its very nature be, among his audience, experimental. It doesn't take any experimental thinking to know what Rush would have been saying if, in fact, African-Americans back in the ’60s had actually used guns, even for self-defense.

In fact, Rush is correct in remembering that gunplay in the civil rights era was largely the province of white folk. And if all the black people had actually unlimbered all the "Saturday night specials" they were supposedly so ready to use on one another, civil rights would just be another distant dream, something we'd like to try someday were it not that those black folk had proven so trigger happy back then. But in fact, Selma looked like this on the day to which Rush refers:

(Not the 'Crimson Tide's' backfield)

If John Lewis had used a gun that day, he would never have been "beat upside the head" - he'd be dead. Nevertheless, in the experimental spirit which Rush has invoked, try this:
  • If a lot of Abyssinians back in the ’30s had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, you think they would have needed to worry about Mussolini's air force? I don’t know. I’m just asking. 

  • If a lot of Ghandi's Indian followers back in the ’20s had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, you think they would have needed to worry about the British army? I don’t know. I’m just asking. 

  • If a lot of Gauls and Visigoths and Huns back in A.D. 250 had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, you think they would have needed to worry about the Roman Army?

  • If a lot of Afghani warlords back in 2003 had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, you think they would have needed to worry about the U.S. Army?

"Holy shit, where'd they get that?"

  • If a lot of Pakistani tribal villagers back in 2010 had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, you think they would have needed to worry about the U.S. Air Force?

"OK, I think we've got the equation tighter."

There's a peculiar illogic to all of this that allows us to go pretty much anywhere we want. But who'd really want to end up there?

Eat This Diner

 "Eat it before it eats you."

Every time a sucker is born, which according to verifiable medical opinion and Pew Foundation polling results is about one a minute, another restaurant bites the dust. It's enough to make one believe in intelligent design - the one being made expressly for the other, after all. And vice versa.

Embedded in the anthropoid psyche is some primal flaw, some weird evolutionary anomaly, which is the nearly universal conviction among members of the species that he or she can profitably and happily operate a restaurant. This conviction is nearly always attended by its corollary, that while I (meaning anyone who's thinking this) might be able to run a thriving eatery, anyone else (meaning you) would probably be out of business in a month. Clearly there's something to this lemming-like urge - the combination of warm, savory food and congenial atmosphere strikes some deep chord in every large primate.

And anywhere you look, there's a restaurant for sale, a forlorn hulk sitting like a specter of financial ruin on any street corner, often with the previous menu spangled across the seedy exterior. And no matter how unprepossessing a bit of real estate it may seem, never mind that it's the flagship of a capsized empire, there's invariably some poor sap who heeds the siren call and thinks, "Hey, why not broasted chicken? Sure, I could make a go of this place - a lick of paint, maybe a few new windows and Bob's your uncle!"

And we'll all be rich, you'll see. Never mind that broasted chicken or "Peking-style" duck or catfish fritters or hog jowls and grits didn't make the place go the last time. This time will be different because . . . because there's this restaurant sitting here and I a) can fry an egg as well as the next guy, b) will only use real butter c) am sick of my job, d) ain't got a job, e) am just about to not have a job, f) need something for my freeloading nephew/uncle/sister-in-law to do, or an infinite number of specious reasons why I should alter my existence after some manner in all probability disastrous.

The "Miss Flo," Florence, MA

I'm reminded of this particular human foible because there is, in the rural cowtown of 350,000 souls where I happen to reside, a miniscule diner which has been the bane and peril of several lives in the past two decades. It has had countless reincarnations as various hash houses and most recently as a soul food diner - all this rich history of foundered souls despite its being so small that plates of eggs and potatoes had to be carried out the kitchen door and around through the front door to serve waiting customers; and in the apparent indifference, among its various sequential owners, that about fifteen years ago police were called to the back door to haul off the murdered corpse of the unfortunate who owned it at the time.

Anyway, in case you happen to be reading this, it's for sale. Just thought I'd mention it as, you know, an opportunity.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ollie and Lena's Big Vacation

"Perhaps they were just sick and tired of living at the ends of the earth and having almost nothing but seals to eat."  
- Niels Lynnerup, anthropologist and forensic scientist, University of Copenhagen (explaining why the Vikings left Greenland)

"Get me outa here!"

Speaking for myself, I'd say that about sums it up. Oh - perhaps I should introduce myself - Ollie Olafsson, about the last person in this godforsaken place. The wife has been bugging me to move someplace warm, so next week we're catching the last boat out of here for Iceland. We visited Iceland a few years ago and thought it was really nice. You know how it is when you're on vacation - seems like the livin' is easy and you could just stay forever, so we decided to chuck up everything and follow the sunshine, if you see what I mean. Fact is, most of the old neighborhood is looking pretty rough, what with the stone walls gone all crazy and the roofs fallen in.

I never could figure why anyone came here in the first place. Start a rock farm but not much else. I guess it was a bit balmier a few centuries back when they sold building plots here and everyone was dying to get out of Norway, start a little organic vineyard and artisanal cheese operation. Still, how they could ever sell this place as "Greenland" beats all. The gumption these salesman have is something, I tell you. Nothing "green" about this dump, unless you count the moss on the rocks.

They shoulda spotted something was wrong when the only people they ever run into hereabouts was these Inuits, who'd just stand around in little knots, staring like eedjits before they'd bugger off again in their walrus-hide boats. Oddest bunch of people, I tell you. Annoying is the word. Keep the damn whale-and-walrus market and welcome to it, was my take on the matter of Inuits.

Well, and I mean it was one damn thing after another - first it started to get colder, not all at once but over a few decades the mean temperature dropped like a stone. "Mean temperature" is about right, about as mean as it gets. So all the cows died and everyone went to sheep and goat herding. But hell, I'm not a shepherd, never was cut out for that business. I'm a cow man, always was. Daddy always said, if you can't make cheese out of it, it ain't worth putting in a skin bucket. And then damned if all the sheep and goats didn't up and die. Okay by me, says I to the wife.

Which left seals. Seals every darned place you looked. Couldn't hardly walk about the place without stepping on a seal. And you can't herd the consarned things, most contrary animal I ever saw outside of a goat maybe. Try to move them along, they'll all lie down and bask or whatever the hell they call it that seals do. Or wake 'em up, they'll all head straight for the water and bask in it. No managing the damned things. Sure, they're all organic and free-range and what have you, but that comes at a price if you get my drift.

Best way to manage a seal, far as I can tell, is kill it. Then eat it. Which gets old real quick. There's nothing like a steady diet of seal to make a feller smell funny overnight. Keeps the wife in the next room, which a feller don't want all the time, if you see what I mean.

 But once we started dealing in seals, no one ever stopped on the beach any longer - never saw another boat come by, trading dried up, you couldn't get nothing - axe, adze or augur - for love nor money. Worst of it is, we ain't even played in a Super Bowl since 1976. Never mind won a Super Bowl.