Sunday, August 06, 2006

My letter gets printed - & other stuff

Well, here we are, at long last, at bitterly, extravagantly long last, back with another exhibit of In the Penny Press!

I'd thought originally to make it the Biggest In the Penny Press EVAH, but then I considered the evils of ice-cream headaches and marriage vows and other forms of gluttonous over-indulgence, and I decided to re-start things more modestly. I won't try to cover ALL the periodicals I read during my enforced period of radio silence - Instead, I'll just concentrate on this week's gleanings and hope that this gets us back in the swing of things.

So let's start with the latest issue of Men's Journal, shall we? It had a number of interesting things in it, most especially a letter written by ME! Yes, they swallowed their medicine and printed my scolding about their 'greatest adventure writers' all being male, and I think better of them for it. This is the third letter of mine they've printed, although so far my Holy Grail eludes me ... if they print one of your questions (for their 'ask the experts' section), you get a year's subscription free. I've sent them many questions over the years, but they've never printed any of them ... probably because it just doesn't strike them as believable that somebody as sexy as I am doesn't already know all the answers. It's a burden.

But the issue also included some interesting things that WEREN'T written by me, foremost a delightful article by Tim Zimmerman on diving with Humboldt shrimp off the coast of Mexico (the article's title, 'It's Hard Out Here for a Shrimp' left me smiling). Humboldt shrimp grow to six feet and are unrepentantly vicious, tearing into each other and anything else that even remotely looks like food. At one point Zimmerman quotes a marine biologist (NOT George Costanza) who says Humboldt's might be as smart as dogs, their brain-body ratio is so large.
As I've said before, I'm the first person to acknowledge that this isn't exactly setting your intelligence-bar very high (Lucy has been particularly stupid all day today, in a stunning variety of ways), but it reminded me of long, wonderful days spent in Valparaiso with my friend Marta (she's not actually from Chile, hailing instead - in a roundabout way - from northern France)(not that this has any bearing on our story). Marta is also a manimal, the queen of cephalopods of all kinds (she calls them her 'jelly-bellies' ... she's a little weird, and you should see her face when she talks about the big ones, the four or five species of squid or octopus that grow big and develope sentience - the smile she smiles then is one of the prettiest I've ever seen (analogous, I imagine, to my own face when I talk about beagles, except that I'm leper-colony ugly and Marta is quite beautiful).
She maintains - and who am I to disagree? - that her bigger 'jelly-bellies' (most certainly including the Humboldt, several of which I met while swimming with her in beautiful Chilean waters) (naturally, she herself wasn't at all afraid ... Humboldts exist there by the thousands and could tear apart a sperm whale if they acted in concert, which of course they would if she asked it; myself, I was privately grateful that my friend Te' was also along during those swims, since he's the king of sharks ... which TEEM off the coast of western South America and might get frisky around a waterlogged dog-king out of his element) are considerably SMARTER than dogs - or than almost anything else on the planet, according to her. The problem, she's always maintained, is that their intelligence is so ALIEN - a fact that can be corroborated by every scientist who's ever worked with them in captivity. Octopus in labs routinely circumvent the most elaborately-designed locking mechanisms (Marta, of course, hates the fact that there ARE any cephalopods in labs ... although, curiously, she says THEY don't mind, says they're fairly laid-back about things like that).

The 'ask the experts' section I mentioned had some interesting bits too. One reader asks what animal kills the most humans every year, and the usual stats are run through: snakes way in the lead with around 125,000 deaths (yours truly not among them, and not from want of trying! Luckily, all us super-friends are immune to cyto-toxins), crocodiles 1000, tigers 700 (the article doesn't mention it, but 700 is also around the right number for deaths in Africa by LIONS, huge numbers of whom have learned to prey on displaced, refugee human populations), sharks, alligators, and bears in the low double-digits. The answer goes out of its way to mention an unexpected cause of about 11 deaths per year: the moose. Unexpected, that is, by everybody but ME, since my infamous moose-story revolves around an animal who would gladly have stomped me - and, more to the point, my maddening brood of beagles - into putty, if he'd been able to catch us.

A reader also asks about 'muscle-memory,' and I was surprised to read the answer basically poo-poo the whole idea that it even exists ... I can attest beyond a shadow of a doubt that it DOES, that some physical skills, when repeated often enough, get hard-wired in somehow and neither dim nor slow forever afterwards. I don't know a single person who HASN'T experienced something like that, right down to the old saw about riding a bike, so the magazine's answer is a bit puzzling.

The only other item of interest in the issue was a little bittersweet: in an article in which some testosterone-drunk boob KAYAKS around Venice, the Dorsoduro district is referred to as 'hip' ... which made me smile because that's where I lived during my time in Venice, and it certainly wasn't 'hip' then ... the world gets smaller and smaller, in every meaning of the word.

And the last item on our list for this evening comes from the latest Rolling Stone, a long, detailed, seemingly irrefutable piece by Robert Kennedy Jr. explaining all the hundreds and hundreds of 'irregularities' in the 2004 election results - essentially making the case that it was out-and-out stolen. The piece makes for thrilling, outraging reading, and it left me with two main reactions: first, in a make-believe America in which there's still an independent judiciary and the concept of justice, what would HAPPEN, if somehow election-fraud could be categorically proven? Could people be charged? Could Bush's presidency be, I don't know, revoked? Retroactively invalidated?

My second reaction was a slight tremor of dread, since I can just guess the response this piece will generate, and some of it will no doubt be dirty pool. Robert Kennedy Jr's father was JFK's campaign manager during the 1960 election, after all - an election that Kennedy won by 118,550 votes - in other words, HALF the number of alleged falsifications in 2004. At the time, Republicans (foremost among them the loser, Richard Nixon) were screaming that old Joe Kennedy and his machine had stolen the election for JFK, and although nothing was ever proven, I'm sure there'll be letter-writers who'll bring it up to mock Bobby's son for throwing stones at presidents who live in glass houses.

No comments: