The Poetry Corner

Grand Moff Texan is rising to new poetic heights in response to the current pony-fest. With a bit of formatting for clarification:
This is what's left of the right. [Already a good line!]
They're willing to sneak around and slit throats in the night,
but they don't have the guts for a straight up fight.

Can they draw a goose, too?

Again, bottleofblog sends me to an important story, this on the chilling letter from the Number 2 man in Al Qaeda.

Bottle, after guaranteeing that the reader of the letter will remain so unchilled as practically to be sweaty, comments on the remarkable number of number-2 men Al Qaeda has.

I'm mainly reminded of Robert Benchley.

This letter is so chilling, says the story, because of how "calm, clear, and well argued" it is. Isn't it remarkable? A senior leader at Al Qaeda can write a letter clearly! And "Isn't It Remarkable?" was the title of the essay Benchley wrote when he encountered a picture captioned "Remarkably Accurate and Artistic Painting of a Goose from Pharoah Akhenaten's Palace, Drawn 3300 Years Ago." Benchley asked why it was remarkable: "Why should we be surprised that the people who built the Pyramids could also draw a goose so that it looked like a goose?"

Benchley's sobering essay (or chilling?) should be read, for balance, along with his "Lucky World!" which begins, "When you come to think of it, the wonder is not that there are so many jammed automobile fenders, bad motion pictures, sore throats, divorces and wars, but that there aren't more of them." Both are in My Ten Years in a Quandary, Harper & Bros, 1936 (lots of reprints, cheap at abebooks.

Another hero gone

Vivian Jones; R. I. P. Thanks to bottleofblog. Apologies for pointing people to so much bad language lately; but bottle's caption to her picture should be in textbooks to illustrate the distinction between indecorous and disrespectful.

Paradise Lost, the Movie

No, really.
Or should that be John Milton's Paradise Lost as with Frankenstein?
But what you must not miss is the comments. Unless (spoiler) you just don't care about David Mamet.

Hoping Tom Lehrer saw the item

Great news. There is now a proper explanation for short gamma-ray bursts. In case you missed out, these are short bursts of high-energy radiation from somewhere in the sky, which satellite devices started picking up several years ago; the atmosphere blocks the gamma radiation from getting down here. While it's flashing ("short" means less than two seconds), a burst is as bright as 100 quadrillion Suns.

BTW, this is the second time in a couple of days that I've seen a number like "100,000 trillion". What gives? Thousand million and million million have passed pretty well out of the language, especially since England decided to join Germany and the USA in defining billion and trillion, eliminating a possible ambiguity. Can it be that the reader isn't expected to know what a quadrillion is? Answer, I suppose: Until recently, trillions were something a person just hadn't heard of, except perhaps in the number of miles in a light-year; the latter was usually called six million million miles when I first heard the number, fifty-some years ago (finding the locution annoying even then). What with GDPs and national debts and national budgets, not to mention big amounts of money denominated in Yen, trillions are now considered familiar enough to use, but it will be a few years before even the US war budget hits a quadrillion Yen.

Oh, right, you want to know what does cause these things. Colliding neutron stars, according to the paper coming out today in Nature. (Subscription required, of course.) There's a mind-blowing thought. Also, a good name for a rock group.

It has been known for some time that these big explosions were a long way off. Good thing. If one happened in our galaxy, and the beam of gamma radiation happened to point our way, it could knock out the ozone layer completely, causing us all to be fried with short-wave unltraviolet from our friendly neighborhood Sun. Unlikely, however, so "don't buy gamma ray burst insurance," says Edward "Rocky" Kolb of Fermilab.

No one will have the endurance
To collect on his insurance,
Lloyd's of London will be loaded when they go.

Not Fine, thank you

Magnificent is better than Important. We no longer do Fine.
--Overheard at Christies: the official hermeneutics of the titles given to auctions.