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Ah, memories.

[ 16 ] May 31, 2014 |

I started blogging on a lark back in March 2005, mostly out of an interest in doing some non-professional (or unprofessional, if you prefer) writing; within a few weeks, more people—and by that I mean “a few dozen”—had read my blog than had, or ever would, likely read all of my academic publications combined. Everything was horrible and stupid in the spring of 2005. The war in Iraq was a gruesome stew of death and fuckery, Pope John Paul II was weeks away from realizing that God does not in fact exist, and wingnuts aplenty were camped behind the Kum & Go, huffing sacks of glue over Terri Schiavo’s dissolving brain. At some point that month, James Wolcott offered some approving words for a blog called “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” and—lacking all three—I decided to drop by and see what the big deal was.

Within a few weeks, this blog was probably at the top of my daily reading list; the authors and readers were meditating on important questions, including “who is America’s Worst Blogger?” and when would the Mariners call up Felix Hernandez? (Note: Rob was off by three weeks, but accurately predicted four wins. Though I have no data to back this up, I’m reasonably sure that no one at LGM has ever since predicted anything quite so accurately.) Over the next year, I commented regularly and unctuously linked to LGM at my own blog, doing so at a pace that ought to have raised stalker warnings. Charitably, Rob, Scott and DJW would from time to time link to something I’d written; most touchingly, Rob linked to a series of rather gloomy “This Day in History” posts I wrote in anticipation of my first child. In part because of those posts (and some later, related writing I did at my own place), the OG asked me to join this blog later that summer. I was beyond honored. I have always admired the quality of the writing here by everyone who’s ever participated, and though I don’t quite know what the straight line is that connects me to the vastly superior brains who keep this operation afloat, I don’t exaggerate when I sad that the existence of this blog has been an important part of my intellectual life for the past decade.

Since 9 October 2006, I’ve made some rather eccentric contributions to LGM. I provided us with arguably our most important feline mascot; I wrote a shitload of happy birthday posts to horrible people (especially this monster); there was the Althouse tiny prick fiasco; and of course the internet traditions, about all of which you are doubtlessly aware. Over the years, my writing here has conspicuously tailed off. The challenges of parenthood, combined with a series of unforced personal and professional errors, combined with the fact that I am an agonizingly slow writer prone to fits of undermedicated and over-whiskeyed self-loathing, have from time to time conspired to fuck my life up flatter than hammered shit. I remain grateful, however, to everyone here—co-bloggers and especially commenters with long memories—for indulging my long absences and to return from time to time like a plague of locusts to pester and annoy.

At some point, I will (I hope) return to a more regular schedule of contributions. One idea I’m toying with is a series called “The 25 Percent True Erotic History of the American Presidency,” which would detail the assorted preferences and perversions of the nation’s chief executives. If you’re curious about the famous necrophiliac Millard Fillmore, who hauled his dead wife around in a wheelbarrow for six months after pneumonia took her life in 1853, this series will not disappoint.

Also: There were many reasons George Washington hated wearing dentures. What you learn will shock you!

Also: Though Woodrow Wilson tried to remain neutral on the issue of war in Europe, he was never in doubt about butt plugs.

But, like, don’t hold your breath or anything.

The gluten-free diet has shat its pants

[ 97 ] May 16, 2014 |

The latest and among the more annoying nutritionist fads–the gluten-free diet–is taking a bit of a hit this week, as folks are beginning to look at a study published last August in Gastroenterology demonstrating that eliminating gluten produced no demonstrable effects in a test subjects who rotated between several highly-structured diets over the course of 7-8 weeks.

37 subjects took part, all with self-reported gluten sensitivity who were confirmed to not have celiac’s disease. They were first fed a diet low in FODMAPs for two weeks, then were given one of three diets for a week with either 16 grams per day of added gluten (high-gluten), 2 grams of gluten and 14 grams of whey protein isolate (low-gluten), or 16 grams of whey protein isolate (placebo). Each subject shuffled through every single diet so that they could serve as their own controls, and none ever knew what specific diet he or she was eating. After the main experiment, a second was conducted to ensure that the whey protein placebo was suitable. In this one, 22 of the original subjects shuffled through three different diets — 16 grams of added gluten, 16 grams of added whey protein isolate, or the baseline diet — for three days each.

The authors found that everyone reported improved gastrointestinal symptoms during the two-week low-gluten diet–a baseline diet they seem to have been aware of (at least as I read the abstract)–but then experienced worsening symptoms to identical degrees when they switched to the three rotating diets, one of which was the same as the baseline.

This study–a follow-up to a 2011 paper by the same authors that suggested that “gluten sensitivity” might possibly be a thing–provides the best available evidence that in all likelihood, absent a diagnosis of CD, your gluten-eschewing friends and family may be exhibiting nothing more than nocebo effects, voluntarily eating shitty food in the name of warding off the flatulence, lethargy, and ennui that are, alas, merely the individualized symptoms of a civilization teetering on the brink of an unfathomably nightmarish death.

Obviously, there is a small portion of the population–about one percent–for whom gluten consumption is indeed dangerous. Celiac disease is horrific but symptomatically protean, so it can be easily confused with other medical problems; though it’s relatively easy to diagnose with a blood test, biopsy, and change in diet, individuals with CD endure an average of 11 years between initial symptoms and diagnosis. Those folks should stay the fuck away from gluten, and people exhibiting symptoms of CD ought to see a fucking doctor before adopting trendy and possibly unnecessary dietary restrictions. Everyone else should just shut up and eat your fucking pasta already, or there will be no goddamn dessert for you.

What’s funny about all this, I suppose, is that the gluten-free craze–while luring millions of suckers into a diet of crumbly food–has in the very least made food options more tolerable for the one percent of folks who actually need to avoid gluten. So there’s that, at least.

Christ, I hate Blackboard

[ 244 ] January 24, 2014 |

Hundreds of years from now, after disease and fire and famine have thinned the human herd to a shrunken patchwork of sagging, skeletal bands of jagged, half-mad wraiths — when the parched soil chokes forth desiccated roots and the air is a toxic brume slumping down on the arched, knotted backs of the still-barely-living — a remote spur of humanity will somehow recover the capacity to speak, an ability long since abandoned by their ancestors, who were mute-struck with the unfathomable despair of those cursed to watch everything they love die. After generations of dry-throated croaking and lung-starched wheezing, their tongues swollen with thirst and punctured with abscesses that never heal, these distant people will bring forth a new language to survey the boundaries of their pain.

At first, their speech will flow together in single, blasphemous strands of adjectival protest; they will speak without subjects, no proper names or pronouns to jolt them into the kind of self-recognition that could only serve as a spur to mass, urgent suicide. In time, their words will be hacked into tinier fragments of salivated fury, as their lips and tongues and few-remaining-teeth jostle ruthlessly to disgorge themselves into the foul space that separates one antagonist from another. With arm-sized splinters of trees that were fortunate enough to perish centuries before, they will jab massive holes into their upper palates to accommodate the new sounds needed to register their misfortune and threaten each other with gross physical harm. Inbred mutants with hideous nasocranial deformities will gain selective advantage in the linguistic struggle for existence. They will use this new language to enslave one another, to plot out gristly sprees that might be called murder if there were anything near to law restraining them, like a weak sphincter, from unleashing their worst. There will be decades of forced labor, violent spasms of resistance and recrimination carried out with grossly disproportionate injury to bystanders who are, alas, never as innocent as they seem.

On the outskirts of this new language, lurking on its crimsoned frontier, will lie words that will themselves have been cast into exile – foul offgassings within a lexicon that itself stands as a towering monument to the boundlessly obscene, words that will curve backward and devour themselves, each one an afflicted universe in the process of total collapse, words that exist for microseconds before streaking, unremembered and unmourned, into the void.

These are the words, if I could shit them into being, that I would use to catalogue the depth of my loathing for Blackboard. When I die, I want my whiskey-pickled body larded into a cryonic chamber, then buried deep in the earth. A thousand years from now, I want these loping, crookspined human gargoyles to dig me up and reanimate me. I will learn their language; I will amble to the profane horizon of their blood-gorged vernacular; I will force them at spear-point to build me a time machine; then I will murder them all with my bare hands. I will return to all of you then to bear witness, in a rapturous tornado of filth, to my contempt for that unholy system of course mismanagement software.

“There will be a lot of rats”

[ 142 ] January 23, 2014 |

This story is fantastic in every possible way:

A ghost ship carrying nothing but disease-ridden rats could be about to make land on Britain’s shore, experts have warned. 

The Lyubov Orlova cruise liner has been drifting across the north Atlantic for the better part of a year, and salvage hunters say there is a strong chance it is heading this way….

Experts say the ship, which is likely to still contain hundreds of rats that have been eating each other to survive, must still be out there somewhere because not all of its lifeboat emergency beacons have been set off.

Two signals were picked up on the 12 and 23 March last year, presumably from lifeboats which fell away and hit the water, showing the vessel had made it two-thirds of the way across the Atlantic and was heading east.

A week later, an unidentified object of about the right size was spotted on radar just off the coast of Scotland – but search planes never verified the find.

Pim de Rhoodes, a Belgian salvage hunter who is among a number looking for the Lyubov Orlova off the UK coastline, told The Sun: “She is floating around out there somewhere.”

If this doesn’t end in some sort of horrific tornado of cannibalistic zombie-rats overwhelming Great Britain–erm, sorry, Brockington–would someone please develop a film in which it does?

DB: According to the local paper down here, if I play my cards right I could land a walk on part in the film. I’ll keep you posted. Could be the best thing to happen to this town since the blitz.

And by the way, for all you kids watching at home, ancient sea creatures just were white.

[ 52 ] January 9, 2014 |

The menace of political correctness continues in the Age of Obama. Apparently, Microraptor and and Archaeopteryx were also black, or partly black.

This is some bullshit. Fucking Microraptor didn’t even exist when I was a kid. Liberal paleontologists are just making stuff up now. Time to burn some of my kids’ books.

January 1: Ecce Foreskin

[ 85 ] January 1, 2014 |

According to Christian tradition, January 1 marks the eighth day of Jesus’ life. Among other things, it is the day on which — following Jewish custom — the Son of Man would have been circumcised. And while the rest of his body would presumably have ascended to heaven on the third day after his gruesome execution, early followers believed it quite possible that he had neglected to retrieve his long-excised foreskin before taking a seat at his father’s right hand.

For medieval and early modern Christians, Jesus’ foreskin remained an object of peculiar veneration, with as many as eighteen different reliquary nubs of flesh competing for attention and honor. Charlemagne allegedly offered one to Pope Leo III as a gesture of gratitude for being crowned emperor in 800. Another, purchased from a vendor in Jerusalem at the end of the 11th century, was brought back to Antwerp as a souvenir from the first Crusade.

Nearly 300 years later, St. Catherine of Siena purported to wear the foreskin as a ring, while the 13th century Austrian mystic Agnes Blannbekin had an even more unusual relationship with the sacred relic. By Agnes’ own account, she tasted the carne vera sancta — the “true and holy meat” — numerous times during communion. As she revealed to an anonymous Franciscan scribe, she had long pondered the whereabouts of Christ’s foreskin until she experienced a revelation one year on the Feast of the Circumcision.

And behold, soon she felt with the greatest sweetness on her tongue a little piece of skin alike the skin in an egg, which she swallowed. After she had swallowed it, she again felt the little skin on her tongue with sweetness as before, and again she swallowed it. And this happened to her about a hundred times . . . . And so great was the sweetness of tasting that little skin that she felt in all limbs and parts of the limbs a sweet transformation. 

Similarly graphic, often erotic accounts helped assure that Agnes’ Life and Revelations would remain unpublished until the 20th century.

Like most Catholic relics, the Holy Prepuce was believed to possess extraordinary powers, including (not surprisingly) the enhancement of fertility and sexuality. And so in 1421, the English King Henry V retrieved one of the rumored foreskins from the French village of Coulombs to aid his wife, Catherine of Valois, in the delivery of their first son. Alas, while the relic may have helped bring the future King Henry VI into the world, it did his father little enduring good. The king died less than a year later, felled by dysentery.

The Reformation helped to undermine Catholic traditions of all kinds, including its centuries of speculation on the provenance and status of Christ’s foreskin. In 1900, the Church issued an edict than any discussion of the Holy Prepuce would result in excommunication and shunning; since the Vatican II reforms of the 1960s, Roman Catholics have not officially recognized the Feast of the Circumcision, though it continues to be observed in some Anglican and most Lutheran churches. The last public appearance of one of Jesus’ alleged foreskins took place in the Italian village of Calcata, which had hosted the tip of the Redeemer’s penis since 1557. Residents of Calcata and Catholic pilgrims continued to celebrate the Feast of the Circumcision until 1983, when thieves absconded with the foreskin and the jewel-encrusted box that contained it. Neither it nor any other alleged foreskins have ever turned up.

“Nostalgia admits no other remedy than a return to the homeland”

[ 169 ] December 6, 2013 |

The ignorant hayseeds at White American History Month — currently working their way through a bout of masturbatory frenzy over Nelson Mandela’s death — spent some time yesterday celebrating the work of the noted non-white supremacist Norman Rockwell. Since I have a tangential family connection to Rockwell, and since nostalgia is a suitable affliction for racists, I decided to have a bit of a piss at their expense.

I’m wondering which other artists’ fabricated versions of the national past have been systematically wrecked by Democrats and the progressive left. Which America do you want back?

When “the other perspective” is crowded with morons, there’s no reason to offer them a platform

[ 115 ] December 6, 2013 |

Wonderful.

“The HPV vaccine is considered a life-saving cancer preventer, but is it a potentially deadly dose for girls?” This was the promo for Wednesday’s episode of Katie, Katie Couric’s daytime talk show on ABC. Couric, whose husband passed away from colon cancer, is known for being a relatively responsible journalist when it comes to health care issues, so despite this needlessly alarmist advertising, I held out hope that her show would demonstrate that no matter how adamant a very small group of people are that their health problems are caused by the HPV vaccine, there is no evidence that the HPV vaccine is dangerous. Sadly, my hopes were dashed as Couric spent a half-hour of her show drumming up fears that the vaccine will make you very ill or even kill you.

For at least the ten thousandth time, it’s worth pointing out that “debating” the science on vaccine safety and efficacy is about as fruitful or necessary as debating the veracity of the moon landing. Perhaps next week, Couric will host a thoughtful discussion on children’s dental care. Yes, she encouraged her own children to brush their teeth several times a day, but some people have concerns that deserve a balanced hearing. Most young people who die unexpectedly, for example, have brushed their teeth with fluoride toothpaste [insert "precious bodily fluids" joke here] sometime in the previous 24 hours. That ominous correlation deserves a closer look. Indeed, perhaps other correlations will emerge when we do. There’s no way to know for sure. We’re simply asking questions.

See also Phil Plait and Seth Mnookin, who was evidently considered as a guest on the show before the producers realized they weren’t very good at their jobs.

“…the Chief Magistrate of a great and confiding people was suddenly struck down…”

[ 124 ] November 22, 2013 |

While everyone is busy commemorating the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination at the hands of Lee Harvey Oswald, you morons the Mob, the CIA, Castro, the Freemasons, the Rothschilds, Marilyn Manson, and the Reverse Vampires, let’s pause briefly to remember William Henry Harrison, our first presidential stiff, felled by an alliance of germy-handed office-seekers, pre-scientific medicine, and being old as fuck. Harrison’s death was an odd national affair altogether. Though certainly known well enough to Whig voters and electors around the nation (especially for his over-hyped 1811 victory over Tecumseh and the Shawnee) he was primarily a creature of the emerging Midwest—a believer in internal improvements, a stable banking system, a solid protective tariff, and Indian removal executed with slightly more tasteful methods than the party of Jacksonian Democracy. Harrison enjoyed his new job only long enough to deliver a gaseous, 8000-word inaugural address, meet with hordes of groveling patrons looking for federal employment, and summon Congress into early session to deal with “sundry important and weighty matters.” (The national economy had shat its knickers four years earlier, and Harrison was among those who believed a restoration of the National Bank would help relieve the ongoing depression.) After contracting some sort of pneumonia-inducing virus or bacterial infection in late March 1841, Harrison submitted himself to the good work of his doctors, who—between sessions of jabbing him with a lancet—barraged him with leeches, snakeweed, castor oil and opium.

When “Granny” Harrison at last went toes-up on April 4, the nation had to figure out how to properly mourn a president who had died in office and who’d achieved literally nothing other than verifying (with his election) the emergence of a competitive two-party system and demonstrating (with his inauguration) the successful transfer of power to a new administration—the latter, having taken place seven times already, being something of an underwhelming accomplishment by this point. Nevertheless, Harrison’s death was by most accounts a shock to the country (here’s a description of his funeral), and it provoked an outpouring of non-specific grief. Eulogies focused on the inopportune passing of a good man from a good family with a long record of public service and a dying wish—left to the living to fulfill—that government remain useful and effective. This one happens to be my favorite, with its odd “one dies, get another” message:

The operation of our system never seemed happier than at this very moment. In the season of a wide exultation, the Chief Magistrate of a great and confiding people was suddenly struck down. What then? No confusion follows—no trepidation—no revolutionary outcry—no rush to arms. The government moves right onward. Not a wheel stops. Not a jar is felt. One name indeed is blotted out—to thousands, a dear and honored name. Another is written in its place, and all is quiet as before. Meantime, the nation puts on her weeds awhile and silently deplores her loss. Again, she puts them off, and goes joyously forth like a strong man armed or a giant panting for the race.

Harrison’s poor wife, Anna—who had been ill herself prior to the inauguration and never left Indiana Ohio (thus making her the only First Lady never to set foot in the White House)—was eased in her grief by a $20,000 pension and Congressional franking privileges, which she enjoyed for the rest of her life.

Meantime, the nation did sally forth “like a strong man armed.” Harrison’s Vice President, John Tyler, was among other things not much of a Whig. A slaveholder, erstwhile Democrat and future Confederate, Tyler was affiliated with the Whigs only because he loathed Andrew Jackson, not because he shared a political vision that aligned well with party leaders like Henry Clay or Daniel Webster. As a Whig apostate, he was much less concerned about the perils of national expansion than his predecessor, and he looked to the annexation of Texas—the dickthrob du jour of the Slave Power—to enlarge the national domain and secure for himself a political future. His fellow Whigs had stricken him from their ranks, and Tyler—now cast adrift in a highly partisan political culture—imagined that perhaps his old party might reward him with the Democratic presidential nomination in 1844 if he were able to deliver on the Texas question. Long story short, the Democrats joined the Whigs in thwarting Tyler’s ambition, but Tyler nevertheless secured the passage of an annexation resolution during the final, lame-duck weeks of his accidental presidency. And with the ruthlessly expansionist Democrats restored to power with the election of “Young Hickory” Polk, war with Mexico was all but assured a year before it actually began in the Spring of 1846. The Whigs would have one last go at the presidency—botching that effort as well, electing the soon-to-be-dead Zachary Taylor in 1848—before slavery and nativism ripped the party to shreds.

We are fond of asking “what if” questions about presidents who croak in office. What kind of reconstruction policy might Lincoln have pursued? Would FDR have used atomic weapons over Japan? Would JFK have deepened our involvement in Vietnam? Would Nixon have been evicted from office if the famously carnivorous White House raccoons hadn’t gotten to him first? And so on. But it’s perhaps also worth asking how a non-dead William Henry Harrison reshapes American history. If Harrison doesn’t succumb to pneumonia, it’s entirely possible that the Whigs keep their shit together long enough to elect Henry Clay in 1844; certainly, the Democrats would have ridden the Texas issue with whip and spur, and maybe the Liberty Party still siphons away enough Clay voters in the North to keep him out of the White House. But if the Whigs had spent four years actually governing as a coherent party and not struggling against the fake Whig Tyler, their chances of winning in 1844 would have been vastly improved. If Clay—or another Whig—had won that year, there would likely have been no Texas annexation (at least not then, and possibly not ever); with a Whig in office, there would also certainly have been no war of conquest with Mexico. And with no war against Mexico, there would have been no room to renew the debate over slavery’s expansion, no precedent of “popular sovereignty” in New Mexico to guide Stephen Douglas toward the Kansas-Nebraska Act, no party disintegration in the 1850s, and quite probably no civil war two decades after Harrison’s inauguration.

Or maybe everything goes to hell anyway. Americans were some ghastly violent motherfuckers in the 19th century, and it’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t have found some way to devour one another eventually. But at least William Henry Harrison didn’t have to live to see it.

Besides, everyone knows Lincoln was a fascist anyway…

[ 99 ] November 13, 2013 |

Oh, for fuck’s sake:

Abraham Lincoln, a Democrat?

So says a plaque at a public university in Lincoln’s home state of Illinois, where, since 1905, students at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago have seen the nation’s 16th president — and quite possibly its most influential — honored as a democrat.

“This building is dedicated to public service honoring the memory of Abraham Lincoln,” the inscription reads. “Democrat.”

The explanation for this inscription is simultaneously banal and rather more complicated than it would seem. As the university pointed out (for what seems not to have been the first time), the plaque used the word “democrat” because indeed “Lincoln was an advocate for democracy — the political or social equality of all people. The word was not chosen to reflect a political affiliation.” The latest organization to obsess over the plaque is something called Turning Point USA, which appears to be a project founded by middle-aged dudes hoping to inspire college students and other younger folk to work themselves into a grand mal over the size of the national debt. Charlie Kirk, the group’s founder, is determined to learn the truth about Obama’s birth certificate the inscription’s provenance. “Before we go hard at it,” he explains, “we want to know if this is the original plaque, or was it replaced, because it might have eroded due to corrosion.”

The university’s explanation makes a good deal of sense, but as it happens, Democrats in 1905—especially (but not exclusively) Northern ones—were often quite content to appropriate Lincoln as one of their own. Republicans of course laid first claim to the man, but by the 1890s progressive Democrats like William Jennings Bryan were loudly quoting Lincoln’s various pronouncements on the rights of labor among other subjects; anti-imperialists were harvesting from Lincoln’s Mexican War speeches to condemn McKinley’s war in the Philippines; the national party hosted dinners and other gatherings under the auspices of the so-called Jefferson-Jackson-Lincoln League; and Democrats like Ohio’s John Lentz were arguing that the Republican Party had essentially squandered their rights to Lincoln’s legacy. Agrarian and urban radicals were even credulously circulating an apocryphal bit of text they called “The Lincoln Prophecy,” in which Lincoln had supposedly warned that corporations would soon be “enthroned” and the “money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign” by suffocating the people and aggregating wealth in the hands of a tiny few. (Lincoln’s “prophecy” was an obvious forgery, but it continues to play people for suckers to this day.) Most horrifically, even Democratic Lost-Causers like Thomas Dixon, D.W. Griffith, and Woodrow Wilson adopted Lincoln as a segregationist avant la lettre—a man who, had he lived, would have treated the South gently and accepted its reassertion of mastery over emancipated slaves. Most Southern Democrats would continue to loathe or ignore Lincoln’s memory for years to come, but there were not a few who discovered something they might admire about him.

So while this week’s minor rumble over the Lincoln plaque at NEIU has nothing to do with anyone actually caring about history, there’s nevertheless some interesting historical questions that could be—but won’t, sadly—make their way into the conversation.

It’s not the context…

[ 192 ] November 7, 2013 |

American Orientalism is alive in Southern California, where Coachella Valley High School has really outdone itself:

The current mascot is based on an “angry Arab” design unveiled in the 1950s. The scowling face was meant to be a fearsome front for the football team, said Art Montoya, 74, one of the directors of the alumni association

But that was decades ago. The context of the design has faded, and it is easy to see why this unflattering “cartoon” character could be seen as offensive today, he said.

The Arab mascot is a mainstay at football games, joined by belly dancers during halftime shows. Murals on the high school buildings show an Arabian couple riding a book as if it were a magic carpet and a school logo flowing out of a genie’s lamp.

As with the Redskins nickname, there’s no “context” in which imagery like this could ever have made sense as anything other than a gesture of grotesque racism. The “context” that bred this particular iteration of the mascot was a decade in which white Americans were reading transparently racist novels like Leon Uris’ Exodus, which portrayed Arabs as foul-smelling, joyless miscreants — the “dregs of humanity” — who happened to be perched on culturally and economically valuable real estate. It’s depthlessly absurd to pretend that imagery like this evolved from any sense of “admiration” of or historical connection to Arab people, as the school’s principal contends, and it’s silly to pretend that replacing this odious caricature ought to be preceded by some kind of reasonable, measured community dialogue in which two equally-weighted perspectives are offered the chance to make their case. Longevity is a poor alibi for racist dipshittery.

“Pieces of meat passed high overhead…”

[ 37 ] November 2, 2013 |

Farewell to George Thomas Thornton, an American visionary who understood that few dreams are worth pursuing that don’t involve dynamite and the rotting carcasses of charismatic megafauna.

While Thornton’s decision to obliterate a sperm whale in November 1970 would, decades later, bring him lasting internet fame, he was also very much a product of his own, dreamier historical moment. Operation Plowshare was in mid-swing, as the George Thorntons staffing the Atomic Energy Commission imagined using nuclear blasts to excavate harbors, widen canals, stimulate natural gas flows, and rupture oil shale deposits. Nuclear blasts, so far as I’m aware, were never seriously considered as instruments for carcass removal or as a means of dispersing carrion for seagulls and crabs, but Americans are well known for their failures of imagination. George Thornton offered us a brief glimpse into a better world; we are diminished for having chosen not to follow him.

RIP.

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