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Sunday, October 20, 2002

Nine Days in a Black Hole

Nine days?? I've been away from my blog for nine days? Surely not. It's only been a couple-three days. Four at the outside. No. Nine, huh?

Well...I've, um, I've...I've been in a black hole, yeah, that's it. And when I came out I found that the Commonwealth had fallen and I put it back together again through sweat and blood and sheer force of personality. Yeah. And then I nobly refused to lead it, so I could go gadding out among the stars, which as we all know gets better ratings than policy wrangling, and is a lot more fun. And now every time I turn around the newly-restored fascist Commonwealth is sending out its jackbooted thugs to bring me in for murder, or its coddling war criminals. How did it get a bureaucracy so quick? And why doesn't it ever send me any reports or instructions? Did I fall in another black hole or something?

[Anyone for whom that doesn't make the slightest sense could go here, but it's probably better if you don't.]

In this post I mention the Black Hole of Calcutta in passing. Heather Mallick sort of seems to believe it was the British who perpetrated it, but it's hard to tell, because she mentions it in passing too.

A couple of years ago a colleague was writing a popular article about black holes, and he asked me to look it over (specifically because I don't know nuttin about no black holes). For some reason he decided to mention the Black Hole of Calcutta, and his little explanation also assumed that it had been the British who had forced Bengali prisoners into a small, airless room, where many of them died overnight---rather than the other way around. (Here is the Straight Dope on the subject.)

I was a bit indignant when informing my colleague of that. Turns out he'd checked into it after he'd given me the paper, and found out the truth. I said that it was an interesting example of bigotry---he naturally assumed that an instance of barbarism in India must have been perpetrated by the British. How different from the assumptions of previous eras!

He said it had sounded wrong to him, too, but a book on black holes he'd read for background had the BH of C story in it with the British as villains. He showed me the book. It was French. Now all becomes clear!