Okay, it’s that time again. That’s right: It’s the time when I provide an outlet for the various disorders of my readership which include cacoëthes corrigendi, cacoëthes carpendi, and cacoëthes scribendi, carpe cervezum (look ’em up yourself, I don’t get paid enough to translate Greek and Latin (though on Saturday nights I do get paid to dance that way, but that’s my business).
Don’t bother with the dictionaries. It’s corrections and clarifications Friday (though it’s been a month since the last one). This is a very long column so use human bites (huge kudos if anybody knows what that refers to). The RulesFirst, a procedural note; Do you people know what a barium enema is? Well, since this is a family website, I’ll just assume you guys know what an enema is (think: what’s the one thing that could get Al Gore to relax). But the barium is a radioactive element that turns up on X-Ray machines, or CAT-scans — whatever. You see, the barium serves as a dye marker for what’s going right or wrong in your body, telling the doctor what to look for and so on. Without the barium, all you’re left with is, well, a pain in the ass.
That is exactly the situation you people put me in when you don’t label your corrections “Corrections.” I search for that simple word when writing these columns, and when it’s not there it’s like, well, the above procedure. Over a month I get perhaps ten thousand emails. Admittedly, about 9,000 of them are invitations to porn sites and annoying press releases from the Steve Forbes campaign. Nevertheless, that still leaves me a lot of substantive criticism to poke around blindly for later on (unfortunate word-choice considering the above analogy). Subject headers like “It’s Dr. Zaius, not Dr. Zeus, you fool” do not contain the keywords I search for. So please, spare me the anguish. Label your screeds, is that so much to ask?
For My Own SafetyOkay. Let’s move on. On Wednesday of this week, I wrote something flatly wrong: “The Chinese Politburo is the last place outside American Universities, certain corners of the White House, and my girlfriend’s mind where anyone honestly believes they can plan a society by force.” I had meant to turn this into a joke and somehow never got around to it. Ms. Gavora does not believe in planning society by force, she does not believe in “planning” society at all. When it comes to her attitude, could you please simply substitute “my life” for the word society. It will make more sense that way. Jonah’s Hat TrickNext comes my trifecta. Last week I criticized: service on Northwest airlines; the new OSHA directive on home workers; and Al Gore’s bizarre, pro-gay, litmus test for members of the Joint Chiefs. Within a day or so of each column Northwest won a victory against the flight-attendants union; Alexis Herman withdrew the policy; and Al Gore back-pedaled like a bear on a unicycle who, um, needed to back-pedal (help me out here; what would make a bear back-pedal?).
In terms of corrections, only one person took any offense to my ridiculing of “waitresses in the sky” (though about twenty of you pointed out this is a song by the Replacements). Her objection was that her daughter works very hard and she doesn’t deserve such treatment. We can all sympathize with a mother’s love and I’m sure her daughter is the good apple in the barrel.
As for OSHA, many people said that was the best Goldberg File to date. I am a terrible judge of such things but thanks. More interestingly, many correspondents believe that this OSHA issue will be back. Indeed, it’s hard not to feel that the administration got off easy on this whole fiasco. After all, for two years the Assistant Secretary of Labor worked on this ruling. Several people below him worked on it every day. They woke up, showered, kissed the significant other goodbye, drove to work, and contemplated with pen and paper in hand how the federal government should regulate peoples’ homes.
Two years! Bureaucrats had meetings; they debated whether or not the federal government had the right to redesign your bathroom, to tell you to throw away this or that heirloom. And this regulation — had it been implemented — would have been several orders of magnitude more intrusive than anything the allegedly bedroom-invading Religious Right wants to do.
What better evidence of the statist mindset of the Democratic Party? The Founding Fathers included the Third Amendment to the Constitution because they thought having soldiers eat your leftovers and sleep on your couch (without compensation) was the height of tyranny. But having some pasty civil servant with a clipboard telling you to up-end your entire home (without compensation), well, that’s progress. I think the readers are right. Any administration that could see no fault with this until normal people screamed “Are you kidding!?” will try it again, though under a different name and with a different rationale. Indeed, it is of a piece with attempts to make violent crime a public-health issue or gays in the military about self-esteem — if you redefine the issue, it becomes easier to justify the abrogation of citizens’ rights.
This brings us to the gays. (If this were Jeopardy! You would now say, “What is the next bus to San Francisco? Alex.”) A few of my hell-bent-for-abuse liberal readers liked to argue that since I’ve never served in the military, I therefore don’t know what I’m talking about. Of course, this logic would discount two-thirds of the national press corps. Indeed, it would disqualify President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen, and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger — since, as John McCain likes to point out, none of them have spent a day in uniform either. While I think it would be nice if somebody in the National Security management team had actually been in uniform, I don’t think the imperative is the same for me. (Yes, yes, I know Al Gore performed heroic duty in uniform while being protected by his fellow soldiers as he ran his one-man bong-water manufacturing plant).
Carthaginians Need Not Apply My column last month on anti-Semitism has been like the Clinton Presidency — a constant source of new material. It must be on some bulletin board somewhere because the mouth-breathers keep writing me. But so do some very bright people. One fellow, told me that “Phoenician” and “Carthaginian” are synonymous terms, ethnically and as a nationality (much like “French” and “die Hilfe.”) I listed them separately. While I don’t know if this is right, I am sure someone will confirm or dispute this.
Pop Culture Potpourri Some minor points to get out of the way: Please stop telling me that “inflammable” and “flammable” mean the same thing. I know that; I asked the question rhetorically. When I quoted William Henry’s take on the history of women in literature, a surprising number of you pointed out that Mary Shelley legitimately deserves a place in the canon along with all the hombres. I agree. I was just quoting Henry. But since you guys brought it up, I should point out that she got most of her themes from the Golem myths of central and eastern Europe. Yes, I was wrong not to give more credit to the GOP Congress for the success of the 1990s economy.
Then there was this paragraph in the Jan. 2 G-File:
I will let the cats fight it out with the dogs; the Crips with the Bloods; the Right with the Left; the NCC-1701-A’s with NCC-1701-Ds; Twilight Zoners with the Outer Limiters; Maggies with Unibrows; Straussians with the Popperians; the French-haters and the ignorant; Ugly Georgers with the Robyn Byrders; Chained Heaters with Caged Heaters; the Hobbits and the Orks; the cosmic-ray superheroes and the gamma-ray superheroes; and of course, the iggy-the-bongos with the iggy-the-piggy-wiggies. Then, when I return to find the Statue of Liberty poking out of Jones Beach, I will be prepared to start society all over again — I will not let Dr. Zeus make a monkey out of me.
The references in this paragraph are as follows:
Cats with Dogs — Stripes, Saturday morning cartoons.
Crips with bloods — my high school
NCC-1701-A’s with NCC-1701-D’s (see below)
Twilight Zoners with Outer Limiters — don’t adjust the horizontal
Maggies with Unibrows — From The Simpsons. The baby with the one eyebrow is Maggie’s sworn enemy.
Straussians Versus Popperians — I’d explain this, but if you don’t already understand the esoteric knowledge involved, you’re not supposed to. And if I tell you, they’ll stop inviting me to the meetings.
Ugly Georgers Vs. Robyn Byrders — Two decadent late-night public access cable TV shows from my youth. Exhibits 17c and 91b of our Slouching toward Gomorrah.
Chained Heaters Vs. Caged Heaters — two of the best franchises in the women’s prison movie genre.
Hobbits Vs Orks — think Buddy Hackett Vs James Carville
Cosmic Ray Vs. Gammas — Fantastic Four’s origin and Hulk/Sasquatch/Samson’s origins.
Iggy the Bongo…. — Silly song from my Summer camp
Statue of Liberty — end of Planet of the Apes
“Make a monkey out of me…” — The Simpsons; song from the Troy McClure Planet of the Apes musical.
And yes, I did spell Zaius wrong. But, I’m compelled to point out that many of the Apes had Roman-sounding names and his name was probably based on Zeus.
On the issue of the NCC-1701-A thing. I will simply reprint the following reader e-mail without comment.
“I hate to join the (apparently) lengthy list of nattering nabobs who nitpick every trifling discrepancy in your columns, but it did occur to me in reading your Jan. 3 column that an accurate reference to the truly foundational debate between original series Trekkers and Next-Gens would be “NCC-1701′s” versus the “NCC-1701-D’s”; not, as I recall your column stating …. “NCC-1701-A’s” — which is the Enterprise that appeared at the end of Star Trek IV (and, tragically, therefore had to endure ST’s V & VI) to replace the ship blown up in ST III.
Picky, but important — given the axiomatic assumption that one has no life.”
The Canadian Threat In my Y2K column on all of the dumb millennial lists, several people thought it was a bit much for me to state that the United States of America is the greatest human accomplishment of the millennium. These people are of course, wrong. But they were right when they pointed out that Albert Einstein did his best work in 1905, while I seemed to suggest otherwise. I did know better, and my point remains valid that were it not for the United States, Einstein would have ended up either dead or a slave to the Soviets or the Nazis.
Not surprisingly, most of the objectors on this point were Canadians. And, I should say they made their points well and were extremely polite about it — then again, what choice did they have as we indulge their Northern existence so long as they don’t annoy us too much. Just kidding.
But that does bring us to another mistake on my part. Actually, this one was partly my webmaster’s (who has been wildly sick with the flu — the real kind, not the “gosh, where did all these empty tubes of airplane glue come from?” kind). In the column about gays in the military, I had suggested, cryptically, that the Canadians were a profound threat to national security. Yet, for some reason, the link to http://www.standonguard.com/ was never included in the final copy. So, people thought I was hiding the Canadian threat from the readers.
Which brings us to something else which I think even many close NRO readers have been missing. Often, the “Cool Site” — found on the homepage, on the bottom left hand side — will be related to the topic or some joke in the G-File. For example, on the day I wrote about my flight from Hell on Northwest airlines, the Cool Site of the day was a clearinghouse of Northwest’s crimes against humanity. Today, you might find a good foreign language translator.
Moving On Up Which reminds me — we’re just thinking out loud now right? — I think there’s room for NRO to keep up the fight for restoring civilization to the Heavens. I’d like to start running a feature that somehow catalogs and rates the evils of air travel. I haven’t quite figured out how yet so I welcome your suggestions.
Which brings me to NR Online generally. If you have more suggestions about what we should do with the site, I’m all ears, or all eyes, actually, as I don’t want any of you people calling my house.
Finally, I know I promised a “Magazine Arguments” article on Jonathan Rauch’s latest piece in Reason. But those cyber-savvy libertoids haven’t posted it yet. When they do, I’ll post my responses.
In the meantime, rest your lips; this was a long read.