Front page

Are you afraid of the dark?

(Click to invert colors, weenie.) (Requires JavaScript.)

All email will be assumed to be for publication unless otherwise requested.

What's in the banner?

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

When Blogs Collide

On Monday Lileks's Bleat carried a picture of a man buying a newspaper on a city street. You can see the headline of the paper, but Lileks has altered it to say something like "Bleat Rambles on About the Something Something!" I got that much through various sharpening routines, but I couldn't make out the last two words. They look like Football Defeat or possibly Actual Debate, but that doesn't sound right, and nothing in that Bleat (where he rambles on---beautifully, of course---about lots of stuff) leapt out as a clue.

It was obviously a scene from a movie, but I didn't recognize it. Lileks said it would be revealed in time.

Well, today the Bleat banner---this probably won't survive the transfer to permanent link---is the scene of a small crowd in a warehouse, with a large sign reading "Waste anything except TIME. Time is our shortest material." This, of course, is a scene from the movie When Worlds Collide, a great science fiction movie. (I never read the book, but the sequel to the book was swell, though unfilmed, alas.)

I love the beautiful photography, and the little glimpses of the '50s it shows. I'm still not sure where he's going with it.

Today Lileks says something I've been wondering about. He notes he's spent most of his life living in the shadow of the Bomb, so what's a little smallpox? Has everyone forgotten already? Does no one remember what it was like not knowing what those crazy Russians might do at any time?

Jimmy Carter has been (probably rightly) castigated for his flaccid response to the taking of American hostages in Tehran. But you have to remember what sort of constraints he was under at the time. Outright invasion to rescue the hostages might've led to a nuclear war. Might have. I realize that seems silly now, and perhaps to the informed it seemed silly then, but we unwashed masses were afraid that the slightest jar would give the warmongering Soviets an excuse to launch. Whether this was actually the origin of Carter's timidity, I don't know. Surely the White House had better information. It should be noted when assessing his performance, though. (Of course, he doesn't have that excuse now.)

I can't figure out how those of us who worried we'd be blasted into oblivion (make that hoped we'd be blasted, as it was better than the alternative) can panic at a little bit of anthrax or smallpox. Maybe no one but me took all that bomb stuff seriously (for a while there it was illegal to write a science fiction story without setting it in a post-nuclear nightmare world).

In his Tuesday Bleat (to continue our Lileks Round-Up), Lileks examines the stereotype of the Absent-Minded Scientist, "the clueless Cuthbert Calculus who cannot remember where he put his keys but can always find Orion in the night sky." Tsk. Orion's easy.

Man, I wish I could get away with that. Sadly, most of the people I know these days are scientists, and among scientists you cannot try the "I'm just an absent-minded scientist" wheeze. And since I live with a scientist, I cannot play it on my spousal-equivalent either. If we were all absent-minded and clueless, who would teach classes or meet our many deadlines? Most of the scientists I know are disgustingly multi-talented, and play in klezmer bands or win running trophies or fencing championships. (When I was an undergraduate I took fencing lessons from one of the postdocs in our department, who was twice Austrian national champion---hmmm, but I found a page which suggests he may have just come in third twice.) Those people spoil the whole gig for us lazy asses who'd rather be thought of as absent-minded and helpless (so as to induce other people to do the shopping and deal with travel agents).