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Showing posts from September, 2007

Man's Fate

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We celebrate fifty years of space exploration next month, the anniversary of the first manmade object to break free of the confines of the gravity and atmosphere of our home planet to reach outer space—or, at least, orbit above our planet. I say manmade, but I think it may be the first of any Earth object to find itself in outer space, unless there can be a case made for volcanic debris.

Sputnik, the first and still the most beautiful space vehicle, was launched by the Russians on October 4th, 1957. Having little other purpose than to orbit very quickly around the planet and beep for ham radio operators all over the world, the tiny satellite was symbolic of the superiority of the Soviet space program. Now, seen from the end of fifty years, it stands as the beginning steps of one of humanity’s greatest, most romantic endeavors. Someday, when our parents are long gone, and only we who are ignorant of the Cold War are left to teach, all that will be important will be that man first left h…

Delinquency, Consequence

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The Salted Orchard Part VIII
(Read Part VII here.)

Some weeks passed. Anwell Cusack sat up in bed, the heavy blankets wrapped tightly around his neck and shoulders but coming short down at his knees. He wrapped these in sheets to his feet. He coughed deep and hollow and wet, as though the air had to explode out of his lungs to pass through the film of thick mucus that blocked up his throat and windpipe and saturated the alveoli. There was no more pain in the coughs, and after each there was some satisfaction that he had moved the fluid, but then he breathed fast and deep and still felt the muck that would not dislodge but would have to be thinned with mullein tea and broth.

“You take this, Mr. Cusack,” said Fiona Hammond as she walked into the room and set down a small wooden tray. “It’s bitter and you’ll want to spit it up.”
She looked at him. The broad span of his forehead was pallid and flourished with swirls of hair stuck to it with damp. “I think you’re coming through at last. How do…

The Passenger #5

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Music


The Decemberists have had to work very hard to make me a fan. I found them first a few years ago with their second full-length album, Her Majesty The Decemberists. It registered a few spins, but the combination of Colin Meloy’s gratingly high and nasal voice and the relative austerity of the band kept it from becoming part of my collection.

Their next album, Picaresque, fared somewhat better with me. The sound got bigger and the songs seemed more confident. Meloy still had a voice that was by no means mellifluous, but he sang anyway. As with Bob Dylan and John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats, whose voices have always been the largest obstacles to their more popular success, the focus moves to the lyrics and the story being told.

The Decemberists are a concept band, the concept being that they are and create music for history nerds. Their songs are marked by both their subjects—long-forgotten historical events and eras—and their terminology—archaic words and expressions. I can’t ima…

Coming Home

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Now I am happy returned to my home, fleeting as it is, let the faithful be rewarded. Here is an update. (And let us rid ourselves of Dick Cheney, at least in this space.)

My budget flight with Air India gave me some pleasant surprises. It was the largest airplane I had ever been on, a 747 with an upper deck, accessed by a staircase we passed on the way in. At long last, a flight with first class, which I had begun to suspect only existed in the movies.


After some research into first class, because I couldn’t believe that executive class was the best thing there is, I discovered why people dedicate their lives to making money. It’s a different world up there, where people sleep comfortably and drink and eat gourmet meals and probably don’t even feel turbulence. That reminds me of a line from 100 Bullets, in which a bartender asks a slumming pub-crawler how it feels to move through life without any friction.

I, of course, will be relegated to coach for a long time yet, but since I have see…

I wish they'd listened to Dick Cheney