Friday, January 26, 2007

BLATHER 25.I.2007

A Diary by John McCaughey

Blather [magazine] is here. As we advance to make our bow, you will look in vain for signs of servility or for any evidence of a slavish desire to please. We are an arrogant and depraved body of men. Blather doesn't care. A sardonic laugh escapes us as we bow, cruel and cynical hounds that we are. It is a terrible laugh, the laugh of lost men. Do you get the smell of porter?

---Flann O'Brien, Dublin, 1934
None of us can really be sure that we exist. My whole life, as this Diary shows, is a lie. All the characters in it are invented, none bears any resemblance to anyone living or dead. People who claim to find themselves here must know that the only real existence we can any of us claim is in the imagination of God.

---Auberon Waugh, Diaries 1972-1985

More to Her than Waggling her Bottom?

Madonna (a popular singer) came in for a good deal of derision in Britain recently for remarking that she has been involved with "a group of scientists finding a way to neutralize radiation." She was told to go to the back of the science class and to stick to her microphone and to waggling her bottom at the chaps. Radioactivity, she was told, cannot be neutralized. It decays at its own rate.

Then (unexpectedly) along comes Professor Claus Rolfs of Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany---by all accounts a respectable academic. He points to work being done along these lines:

"German physicists have come up with a way of speeding up the decay of nuclear waste," he says. "The technique involves embedding the waste in metal and cooling it to ultra-low temperatures.

"We are currently investigating radium-226, a hazardous component of spent nuclear fuel with a half-life of 1,600 years. I calculate that using this technique could reduce the half-life to 100 years."

Clearly, we must put Madonna in charge of Yucca Mountain and urge her to waggle her bottom at the good professor.

Can't Pick Up Your Marbles

Between Vladimir Putin in Russia (that pasty-faced old KGB mass-murderer) and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela (also known as Fidelito), not to mention various mad mullahs in the Middle East, what is called "resource nationalism" is booming. Of course, greedy, short-sighted governments have been nationalising foreign-owned and financed assets for many decades. The owners are powerless because you can't pick up your marbles and run. But if this present outbreak continues, soon no major oil company will be able to do international business.

Blather's old pal Bob Hirsch (he of oil production peaking theory fame) says gloomily that it will all end in tears. To try to cheer him up, we buy him another glass of champagne at brunch in the Irish pub on Sunday morning. But he is inconsolable. So we put a bit more money in the pot and send him off for a short holiday to the Turks and Caicos Islands, where there are no oil resources to nationalise.

Fatal Fillings

Somewhere we read the other day the theory that mercury vapor from dental fillings poisons the body. This rang a bell because several years ago we had seen a story that the late Ken Lay of Enron fame--actuated by this very scare--had had all his fillings removed and replaced with gold, which must have been an expensive, tiresome and even painful business.

Waste of time, as well. "Amalgam is safe, "says expert J. Rodway Mackert Jr. of the Medical College of Georgia's School of Dentistry.

What little mercury vapor escapes from dental fillings with chewing or tooth brushing is too tiny to pose a hazard. From a normal diet (including fish), we get five or six micrograms of mercury every day. A person with seven silver amalgam fillings (assuming that he brushes diligently) gets about one microgram a day from the fillings.

Perhaps Ken Lay should have spent a bit less time at the dentist and a bit more time checking the books at Enron.

Carbon Footprints Balls

Leaving a computer on all night uses as much energy as it takes to print 800 sheets of paper---or so claims (with no adduced evidence) a new book by travel photographer (whatever that may be) Philippe Bourseiller called "365 Ways to Save the Earth."

Probably he made it all up, as is the all-too-common practice of these Frenchmen.

Bourseiller's book is coffee-table size, printed on glossy paper and weighs about two kilograms. Nowhere does it record that the paper is recycled or demonstrate the book's own negative carbon footprint.


"Gossip is creative. All art is based on gossip---that is to say, on observing and telling...Gossip is the art form of the man and woman in the street, and the proper subject for gossip, as for all art, is the behaviour of mankind."

W.H. Auden

In other words, gossips are the only artists left in our desolate civilization.

"Vobis plurimas gratias ago...."

(Thank you very much)

---from Blather's "Bluffer's Guide to Latin"

"Mr. Buchwald became the subject of headlines himself in 1957. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was in Paris attending a meeting of NATO when Mr. Buchwald, weary of the soft questions lobbed at Mr. Eisenhower by the press, wrote a column about a fictitious news conference in which reporters demanded to know, among other things, when the president started eating his morning grapefruit. The column incensed Eisenhower's press secretary, James C. Hagerty.

"Unadulterated rot," he called it.

Mr. Buchwald countered that he had "been known to write adulterated rot" but never "unadulterated rot."

---International Herald Tribune obituary of Art Buchwald 18.I.2007

"Pseudomania": an insane tendency to make false statements; hence 'pseudomaniac', a person affected with pseudomania"

---Sir James Murray's 'New English Dictionary, 1909

In contemporary English (as spoken in England) the abbreviated term "a pseud" is taken to mean any half-witted, pretentious, self-serving academic, literary or artistic prat. It is high time that this usage was incorporated into American English in rather the same way that "wanker" is beginning to show up. Years ago, Blather asked an English friend what "wanking" and "wanker" meant. "Pointless masturbation," he replied crisply. Intellectually and politically, there's a lot of it around.

"Cellulosic ethanol is one of the Holy Grails of energy.... But we never found the Holy Grail."

---John Felmy, chief economist, American Petroleum Institute


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