Sunday night. Just turned on the TV, and as the box sprang to life I thought: Iranian earthquake or Jacko interview?

Mixed blessing – there’s an interview with an actress, but the crawl says that FEMA teams are heading to Iran to help. Good.

I wonder if this disaster might be the Iranian Chernobyl. (Or the 21st century equivalent of the Lisbon earthquake, if you remember your Voltaire.) Just as that catastrophe laid bare the lies and the failures of the Soviet system, so might a horrible earthquake call into question the Mullahs’ claim to rule at the behest of the Almighty. It’s hard to insist that Allah wants Israel destroyed but never gets around to leveling Tel Aviv with natural disasters.

Do I think that all Iranians believes the Mullah’s claims? No. Neither do I think that the contributions of America will change public attitudes - because I don’t think they’ll come as a surprise to most, and certainly not to the classes who can change the nature of the government. But the adminstration's aid effort is a surprise to certain domestic elements. I heard a network news feed on the radio say that the US was sending aid despite having branded Iran as a member of the Axis of Evil. Oy. Did the author of that dispatch believe that the administration regarded the Iranian people as a seething mass indistinguishable from the calculated madness of the ruling clerics?

If US aid to Iran comes as a surprise to anyone, then they don’t understand the US.

Earthquakes are tough on the devout, whatever they believe. The earth shrugs; 30 thousand die. It’s bad enough that this might be evidence of malevolence. What’s worse is the fear that it’s evidence of indifference. There is a God, but He’s busy. Otherwise engaged. Leave a message at the sound of the tone. No religion has arisen to embrace the idea of a disinterested God, and you can understand why. There are the Deists, but that’s a position paper, not a creed.

It’s tough news for the environmentalists, too. A hard reminder: Nature is not our friend. Nature doesn’t care. Put a museum filled with priceless artifacts on a fault line, and Nature would leave it alone for a million years – then swallow it whole without a thought.

I was trying to figure out a way to grasp the enormity of the earthquake when I remembered: Fargo had about 50,000 people when I was growing up. I imagined every house north of Main Avenue flattened, and everyone in every house dead.

Or at least I tried to. I can’t. I can see it, but that’s different. I can’t imagine the smell, for example. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to survive such a thing, and stand outside your house knowing your family was beneath the rubble. Or was this your house? All the piles looked alike. You’d want to start digging through the ruins just to make sure you had the right grave.

Weekend: went to CompUSA. They’d hooked up an Apple Cinema Display to a Wintel box. NOOOOOO! The wallpaper was hosed – the picture was repeated over and over again. The desktop had a shortcut for something called “Nero.” We clicked on it. Up came a slick little window with Aquafied touches. No idea what it was supposed to do. After examination it seemed to control DVD and CD burning, as well do system diagnostics. Ugly, confusing, and useless. I could hear the monitor whisper: kill me now. Please kill me. It was like seeing a colonist caught in an alien gestation cocoon.

The Cinema display in the Apple section of the store was playing a lovely screensaver I’d never seen before. Stylized snowflakes falling on a blue background. (It’s here, if you’re Of The Body.) And while I’m at it: have you Panther users ever tried pressing shift-F9? Hmm? When you press F9 in the new BETTER THAN ANYTHING ELSE OS – (cough; sorry) – When you press F9 in Panther all your open windows shrink, and you see everything you’re currently working on. Very handy for Photoshop work, for example. Well. Someone thought that having the windows quickly shrink and arrange themselves on the screen was too obvious, too inelegant. Press shift F9, and the windows slowly shrink, accelerating as they get closer to their target size. Absolutely useless, but aesthetically rewarding. Which is the point. The entire OS is designed around the idea of a crisp white cotton shirt and jeans fresh out of the drier that feel as comfy and loose as they were before you washed them.

I’ve more to add, but the Parable of the Holidazzle Parade will have to wait. It’s late, and I have been typing all night. Holiday deadlines again – filed two pieces on Sunday, which makes this the third thing I wrote today. Hence its flaming sucktitude. I really want to sit on the sofa by the fire and watch something stupid. More drivel tomorrow!


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