Another dim windy wet day. May is a lost cause, I’m afraid.

Prager played this speech today, and read the translation. But you really have to hear it to get the full impact, the full effect of raging Jew hatred. Standing in the kitchen, listening to this poison, hearing Gnat sing as she played a Flash game on the Disney site, I got that sick chill you feel the second day of a bad flu. I can only imagine how I’d feel if the fellow making the speech lived on the other side of town.

Now: compare with this, which Sullivan Wednesday remarked was an example of Christianism – a term I’d never heard. Sullivan said this fellow exemplifies an attitude that’s “Just like Communism. And Islamism.”

Hmm. On one hand, a fellow ranting on Palestinian state TV about the sins of the Jews, and the need to kill ‘em all; on the other, a guy who thinks Christianity will continue to gain in popularity in the third world. Compare and contrast. One guy wants to kill, and the other wants us to buy his book about a God that brings people gasping back to life in this world. Well, I’d like to see the medical reports. But still: somehow the former worries me more than the latter.

The weather puts me in a trough. But sitting here in the cafeteria at the Strib, the last movement of Russell Holsapple’s 1st Symphony came up on the iPod. He’s the kid whose work was premiered a few years ago at a Minnesota Youth Symphony concert. Wow. Pared everything away. Makes me rethink what I was going to write about - the PepsiCo President's speech, currently rolling around the internet. The one in which she compares the United States to a big middle finger flipping off the rest of the world – or so early reports had it. Powerline linked to the speech itself, which is notable for a few things, not least of which its insipidity.

As I grew up and started to study geography, I remember being told that the five fingers can be thought of as the five major continents: Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South America . . . First, let’s consider our little finger. Think of this finger as Africa. Africa is the little finger not because of Africa’s size, but because of its place on the world’s stage. From an economic standpoint, Africa has yet to catch up with her sister continents. And yet, when our little finger hurts, it affects the whole hand.

Of course, if it really hurts, you can amputate your little finger without significant loss of manual dexterity, so we could assume from her lesson that we could ignore Africa altogether, and the hand would get along quite nicely.

Our index, or pointer finger, is Europe. Europe is the cradle of democracy and pointed the way for
western civilization and the laws we use in conducting global business.

Europe may indeed be the cradle of democracy, but it does make one wonder why they get credit for that and suffer no bad PR for their habit of throttling the infant while it’s still in its newborn jimmies. But the choice of the index finger is apt, since that's what people usually use to stab you in the sternum as they tell you off.

Our thumb is Asia: strong, powerful, and ready to assert herself as a major player on the world’s economic stage.

I cannot tell you the number of times I find my thumb dialing the phone and renting factory space and cargo ships. And I cannot tell you how many times in the last 20 years I thought Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and India were already major players on the world stage. But I was wrong, I guess. Draw back the curtain! The thumb is about to take the stage!

The ring finger is South America, including Latin America. Is this appropriate, or what? The ring finger symbolizes love and commitment to another person. Both Latin and South America are hot, passionate, and filled with the sensuous beats of the mambo, samba, and tango: three dances that – if done right – can almost guarantee you and your partner will be buying furniture together.

Those hot, passionate Latins! Don’t expect much from them; they’re too busy dancing one of three dances, trying to get them right so they can buy end tables.

My point: before she got to America, she had already beaten a first-grade lesson into a thin sheet of rhetorical tin. The example of America’s extended middle-digit consists of some businessmen getting hammered in a Chinese bar and complaining about the bathrooms. Whatever. It’s not worth getting upset about. I save that for important things, like ranting imams and the lack of sun.

On the other hand, if Europeans cannot come up with ice-on-demand in nearly every restaurant, they deserve a hooting from the drunks at the bar. Two thousand years of kings and back-and-forth war we can excuse; bygones being bygones, etc. But there’s no excuse for not figuring out ubiquitous ice.

Later. It’s the evening. Kitchen table. Quiet house.

RAIN. It’s raining. I feel like I’ve been wearing wet underwear for three weeks.

I should be working on the book, but I’m not. I’m working, if you call it that, on the next version of the website, which is the top-to-bottom redesign I thought I did last time. My attempt to stamp a consistent identity on all the sprawling parts, and resize the images for Today’s Larger Monitors. (Much of this site was written in the days when screens were small and modems squeaked out one atom of information per second.) Every night I design the interface for a
different subsite. It’s very calming. I take some time off, read a book. These things seem new and rare, frankly. Tonight Gnat had a class, and since my wife couldn’t pick her up I stuck around and leaned up against a wall and read the Times Square book. The author has a particular knack for characterization, and I suspect it’s because he’s writing about people who’ve been the subject of many biographies already. Hence he can distill the details down, and let them speak for themselves. But he has an exquisite sense of timing. His passage on Diamond Jim Brady, for example. Everyone loves when Diamond Jim waddles into the story, because we know we’re about to hear tales of trenchermanliness non pareil. Here’s Bianco’s version. Again: this is all timing and pacing.

“Rector’s employed four bartenders, one of whom did little more than squeeze oranges to supply the three or four gallons of juice that Diamond Jim consumed at the start of every pretheater diner. Next, he would eat two or three dozen Lynnhavens, the largest of oysters, and a dozen hard-shell crabs, claws and all. A half dozen lobsters followed. Brady was a seafood specialist but did not mind chasing the lobster with a steak or two. Then came dessert.”

Mmm, that’s good squishy. But he continues:

“’When he pointed at a platter of French pastry he didn’t mean any special piece of pastry,’ Rector recalled. ‘He meant the platter.’ Next he ordered a two-pound box of candy from the restaurant’s ‘candy girl’ and passed it around the table. If any of his guests took a piece, Diamond Jim ordered another box for himself. En route to the theaters nearby, Brady often stopped off to buy another two-pound box of candy, which he usually finished before the curtain went up. ‘It was nothing unusual for him to buy another box between acts,’ Rector added. ‘After the show he would return to Rector’s for a midnight snack.’”

I’m learning more and more, and often learn something about this site. True. George Rector, the lobster restauranteur, for example. I found his picture in an old magazine, renamed him Lukat Z. Subteczct, and put him in the Institute. A few pages after Diamond Jim had his wafer-thin dessert and left the book to find a bucket, the story tosses up Ziegfield and his mistress, Anna Held. She was a famous singer in Times Square at the turn of the century. You want your nationwide mass culture? Right here, friend. This is like finding Jessica Simpson Cigarettes in Bangalore. Which, for all I know, they probably have.

Oh: here’s the end of the symphony. Remember: a kid in his 20s, a high-school orchestra. But don’t you remember when you felt like this, without regret or apology? Russell’s out in CA now, studying composing. Expect his name in the movie credits some day, if there’s justice in the world.

And there is. Here and there. It can only rain for so long.

Perm link: here.

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