Tuesday, June 27, 2006

After the Rain, A Snow Job

The operations of Nature may be mysterious to many of us, even "cruel and indifferent" (Bush's excuse for Katrina). That may be merely a part of our human lot here on Earth (or it could be a function of our choice to fund space exploration by a factor of 2 to 1 over the scientific study of our own planet). But sometimes Nature hits such a perfect note that you have to wonder whether there is a more familiar kind of reason in Her than we might suspect.

Perhaps you remember this map of Florida from a few years back (click it for a larger view): the black lines traveling through the red counties show the paths of various hurricanes through various voting districts of the Sunshine State. And today, Nature paid a more intimate visit to the thrones of power in Washington. The flooding from the torrential rains of the past few days there snarled traffic, closed government buildings, and blew an old elm tree onto Dubya's front lawn.

In fact, our old buddy Lao Tzu might have something to say about that. Mr. Tzu, how are you?

When we are born,
We are soft and tender.
After we die,
We become rigid and brittle.

A living tree can sway,
A living blade of grass can bend,
For suppleness is the strength of life.
Only in death is flexibility stilled.

Tough and taut is the body of death;
Gentle movement is the way of life.

Powerful forces crush themselves
Because they cannot move or yield.
A stiff and heavy tree will soon be broken
By wind or by axe.

Thus does rigid power always crumble,
While the supple and the humble
Gently endure.

Many thanks, as always, Old Philosopher. Incidentally, if you liked the verse, it's from my translation, and frankly it hasn't exactly been leaping off the shelves lately...

Media Watch: The irrepressible Helen Thomas has once again spoken for the rest of us. Recently, she took on Tony "The Teacher" (any Da Vinci Code fans reading this?) Snow, thus:

Q Do you not understand the difference between private companies and governments, sir?

MR. SNOW: I understand. I do understand. But what I'm saying here is, what the public -- I'll tell you what, you ask the American public, do you want -- do you think you have a right to know the specific means and methods by which --

Q That's not --

MR. SNOW: Helen, will you stop heckling and let me conduct a press conference.

Q -- argument.

MR. SNOW: Well, no, I'm making an argument, and you're pestering the teacher.

The conversation, by the way, was about the publication of yet another Bush administration spy program—this one involving the investigation of banking records. While Bush and his buddies shook their fingers and wagged their tongues at the New York Times for publicizing this program (Rep. King of NY called for a criminal indictment of the Times' publishers), Helen Thomas calmly asked a question:

Q Let me ask a follow up. Are you saying that the financial experts in the terrorist ranks would not know about an organization that works for 7,800 different financial institutions in 200 countries?

MR. SNOW: I'm saying, yes. I think that a lot of people didn't know about the existence of Swift.

The message to the press remains clear: journalists, if you dare do your jobs the way the Constitution of the United States of America asked you to do them, you will be punished, browbeaten, threatened, and incriminated. And, it goes without saying, lied to. God bless America.


Fun Links: Hagrid and Snape??? Hermione and McGonnagall??? Harry and Voldemort in a fight to the finish??? Well, if our part-time correspondent Guptilla the Hun is correct, we'll all know on 7/7/07 when Book 7 appears. J.K. Rowling announced it yesterday: 2 characters will die in the final tome of the Harry Potter series.

I have read and loved these stories for around five years now, and have written a fair bit about them myself. I hope my agent's paying attention to this new stirring in the cauldron...

And if you're a fan of the Astronomy Picture of the Day, as I am, you may especially enjoy Monday's pic—an art lover's high-res gift, fit for a background image.

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