Theoretical Credibility

May 22 - Today is not Flag Day in Australia.

I finally got a good's night sleep—proving that vodka can if fact solve some problems—so today's briefing may actually be lucid. I apologize for the inconvenience.

I mentioned yesterday that I was going to begin responding to reader mail here in the daily briefings rather than out on the Questions or Letters pages. This is partly a short-term solution to deal with a lot of backlogged mail and partly a long-term solution to address my not always having something to write about. So today's briefing begins with some mail.

A writer from Leicester, England, asks "Who is Clint Eastwood's dad?" This question comes up all the time, apparently the result of a rumor that Stan Laurel was Dirty Harry's dad. I've already dealt with the question—twice—on the Questions page, and the reader from Leicester is referred back to it, but the fact that the question is asked so often suggests that people want Stan Laurel to have been Clint Eastwood's father.

On the basis of Sound Democratic Principles, then, I recommend that we let it be so. Let every stupid and inconsequential rumor be a guiding light on our benighted travels. Let the old lady nuke her prize poodle; let the Traveller stand doomed atop the World Trade Center; and when you play it backward, let A Day in the Life be a choral recitation of The Joy of Cooking. One thing's as good as another, isn't it? Why shouldn't everything be what we want it to be?

Moving along, I noticed about half a dozen questions that I'm not going to answer. If I was truly ambitious I'd start a new web page listing the questions I won't answer, but then people would start asking why I wouldn't answer certain questions. You can see where that would lead.

Here are some of the questions, all of them from users of AOL: Why does night fall and day break? How come we don't see dead birds all over the place? Why do stores that are open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year have locks on their doors? Why do drive-thru ATMs have braille buttons?

They're not moronic questions; they're canned goods.

A more interesting question comes from a reader at wmconnect.com, who wants to know, "How much does a phlebotomist make an hour? or in a year?"

The question is an obvious follow-up to a previous phlebotomy question raised on the Question page. I don't answer follow-up questions, especially about phlebotomy. It's a point of pride with me.

Someone at ev1.net wants to know, "If a person was once a cretin, would that make them an ex-cretin? And how can one tell, clinically, if one is, in fact, a cretin?" The first question sounds like canned goods, so I'll skip it. The second question interests me on a metaphysical level.

"How can one clinically determine," the writer seems to be asking, "if one is in fact a cretin?" (My emphasis.) The phrasing suggests that there are clinical methods of determining if one is a cretin in something other than fact, which is what I find so intriguing.

It's my understanding that clinical determinations, by their very nature, restrain themselves to the facts. I wouldn't be a very good clinician, for example, if I diagnosed you with "theoretical Influenza," or if I set your broken tibia in a "philosophical cast." Nor would you be a very good patient if you complained of "abstract discharge," or "hypothetical bleeding."

The world is real and abstraction is pointless, which brings me back to my original point, contradicts it, and gives me the exit line I've been waiting for.

* * *

Richard Wagner was born on this day in 1813. One of the most controversial personalities of the nineteenth century, Wagner wrote some of its most controversial music. Hitler is said for most of his life to have kept only three books on his nightstand: Wagner's autobiography, Machiavelli's The Prince, and The Best of Juggs. (How Hitler ended up with Wagner's nightstand is a question best left alone.)

Wagner considered it his life's mission to create a new and purely German music, in German, about Germany, for Germans, and is therefore best known for having scored the helicopter scene in Apocalypse Now.

On May 22, 1939, Hitler and Benito Mussolini signed their "Pact of Steel," committing their countries to a military alliance. The pact held. (Their "Pact of Aluminum" had failed miserably, and their "Pact of Semi-Adhesive Paste" is still the butt of diplomats' jokes.)

Naomi Campbell turns 33 today. She shares her birthday with Richard Benjamin (1938), Laurence Olivier (1907), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859), and the aforementioned Wagner (1813).

Today is Republic Day in Sri Lanka and the Day of National Unity in Yemen, but it's still not Flag Day in Australia.

Happy Thursday.

2002, The Moron's Almanac™

[close window]
[Daily Briefing Archive]