DAILY BRIEFING
Prerecorded

Feb. 2 - It's Sunday evening as I write this, and I intend to post it before I step out the door. I'm doing a pre-emptive blog because I probably won't be home from the Super Bowl party until four o'clock Monday morning—at the earliest. The last thing I want to be worried about tomorrow is updating my goddam website.

(Prediction: Pats over Cats, 27-17. Super Bowl MVP: Ty Law.)

I wish I could be more indifferent to America. A couple of weeks ago I hit an especially rough stretch: the NFL conference championships on Sunday night, the Iowa caucus Monday night, and the State of the Union address on Tuesday night. All three events went well into the wee hours. I was practically living on Eastern Time.

After tonight's Super Bowl and Tuesday's primaries, though, I'm going to get myself thoroughly entrenched in Central European Time until August. Yes. And I'm going to rededicate myself to learning Danish. And I'll learn the metric system. And lose ten pounds. And quit smoking. And judge not lest I be judged. And all that crap.

Really.

* * *

My sister has been offering some inspirational guidance as I struggle to come to terms with my imminent fatherhood.

At an ultrasound during her first pregnancy, she tells me, she and the technician both noticed the baby moving its arm. In her words: "The technician said 'Look, she's waving at Mom!' I literally turned my head to look for our mom. I didn't understand the implication. The technician smiled when she saw my confused expression and said, 'She's waving at you!'"

"I don't think you are a bad dad for getting bored of the ultrasound picture," she concludes. "I think you are stuck in dad purgatory. You are not a non-dad anymore but you're also not a honey-can-you-buy-diapers-on-your-way-home dad yet, either."

That was cheering. A subsequent note wasn't quite as helpful. When I wrote that I thought I might be able to look forward to a good night's sleep in about three years or so, she wrote back, "Ha! You think you'll get a good night's sleep in 2007? I haven't had a good night sleep since at least August 1996! You have no idea...."

Yeah, but she's a mom. I'm not gonna be a mom. I'm gonna be a dad. Surely that's different.

(Hear that? It's the sound of the reality train roaring around the bend while my optimism plays on the tracks....)

* * *

I'm trying to imagine watching the Super Bowl with some of my American friends.

"This game is rather bland," says one.

"Yes," agrees another, "but the spiciness of the stew has really introduced some zip into the evening."

"Oh, decidedly."

Not gonna happen—but maybe that's just because I don't write for the New York Times Magazine.

* * *

I was at a birthday party Saturday night where the conversation somehow came to the subject of currency. I thought it was relevant that "two bits" equals a quarter, and I said as much. The guests were not familiar with the notion of "two bits." I drummed the familiar melody on the table top and spoke the words along with it:

"Shave and a haircut—two bits."

They were astonished and bewildered. What had gotten into me? What was I saying? I explained that those were the words to that musical phrase.

This prompted hysterical laughter. The notion of words to accompany that little measure has apparently not penetrated Danish culture. This is surprising to me in that the Danes, as I've often remarked before, will break into song at the slightest provocation. No, wait, that's a cliche: they'll break into song without any provocation whatever. And yet for all its familiarity, they've never seen fit to add words to Bum didda bum dum... Bum bum!

Once the laughter had subsided and they had wiped the tears from their eyes, however, they assaulted me with inquiries. If two-bits was a quarter, wasn't that awfully cheap for a shave and a haircut? What came first, the melody or the words? And so on. I didn't know. I ached for Google, and fired it up the moment we got home.

Here's what I found.

* * *

Want a really good reason to oppose a mission to Mars? How's this: you'll go to Hell.

Yes, there's actually a group called "Christians Against Extra-Earth Residence" (CAEER). You'd think with a title like that they were already there.

Don Claymont, secretary of petitions (!) for the organization, worries that God may not even notice you if you happen to be living outside the earth's atmosphere.

Now, if I were a devout Christian and didn't think God would have the wherewithal to find me unless I were inside the earth's atmosphere, you can bet your golden calf I'd be shopping around for a bigger, better god.

UPDATE. Since the DMG is trying to nap and I'm consuming mass quantities of caffeine in preparation for the consumption of mass quantities of football, whiskey, and buffalo wings... and since I'm curious by nature... and since I'm not an actual Christian... well, I thought I'd pull out a copy of the Bible to see what I could see.

Here's the first line: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Now I ask you, is it likely God would create an entire universe but only keep track of the people he'd created on one planet so long as they remained on that planet?

By way of analogy, imagine you'd built a really big university way out in the middle of nowhere. In the middle of this campus you built a big lab for animal testing. In the middle of this lab you build a room for the study of cockroaches. In the middle of that room you then built a big cockroach colony that you subsequently populated. Now, I ask: wouldn't you be inclined to pay more rather than less attention to the critters that made it out of the colony? Speaking for myself, I wouldn't even give the buggers a second thought unless they started showing up outside their proscribed environment. And if they got near the faculty housing, forget it. (Unless I lived off-campus, in which case the analogy is useless because an off-campus God isn't likely to give a damn whether the cockroaches stay put or take over the women's dorms.)

In John 8:21-23, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees in the temple:

"I go away, and you will seek me and die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come." Then said the Jews, "Will he kill himself, since he says, 'Where I am going, you cannot come'?" He said to them, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world."

If you're going to take the Bible literally, what further proof do you need that Jesus is an extraterrestrial? Maybe the good folks at CAEER are already hip to this. Maybe they're afraid that if we go blasting off and settling the cosmos, sooner or later we're going to bump into a stretch of otherworldly real estate that's already spoken for. That's one zoning law we probably don't want to violate.

But if they really believe that, is it even fair to call them Christians?

Okay, that reminds me of an old joke...

Many, many years from now, Brett Favre dies. He is of course whisked straight to heaven. He is rushed through the queue at the Pearly Gates, and St. Peter (after getting Favre's autograph) swiftly escorts him to a fantastic estate that looks just like a certain Louisiana plantation that Favre had always admired in his youth.

Favre notes with approval that the address on the gate to the plantation is #4; that the manse itself is painted green and gold; that the property includes an exact replica of Lambeau field (protected in its own weather bubble to preserve the frozen tundra feel of northern Wisconsin); and a thousand other details that simply boggle his mind.

All he can do is stammer a grateful, "Wow!"

St. Peter smiles and leads him on a tour of the palatial home. In the attic, they step out onto a little widow's walk that affords a magnificent view for miles and miles in every direction. The first thing to catch Favre's eye, however, is the home of what appears to be his next door neighbor. The house is easily twice the size of his own, but it's decorated in red, white, and blue, and there are "Go Pats!" signs all over the place.

Favre snarls. "They have to put me right next to Brady?" he asks.

"Oh," St. Peter says, "that's not where Tom Brady lives. That's God's house."

End of update.

Ditty Lit

James Joyce was born on February 2, 1882. Mr. Joyce was one of many drunken Irish geniuses who got the hell out of Ireland as soon as he could afford a passport. Mr. Joyce wrote Ulysses, a famous book perhaps most notable for the fact that no one's ever actually read it. (Readers may familiarize themselves with it by means of a condensed version available here.)

Gertrude Stein was born on the same day, eight years earlier. She wrote books that were much easier to read than Mr. Joyce's yet made even less sense.

Congestion Advisory

In 1626, Dutchman Peter Minuit bought the island of Manhattan for $24. People often joke about that, but twenty-four bucks wasn't such an unreasonable price. It was a lot of money back then, and it's not like Mr. Minuit just turned around and built Times Square. Manhattan was a big rock in the middle of cold rushing waters and the weather was awful, even for a Dutchman. It wasn't even a city until February 2, 1653, when it became New Amsterdam. It had a population of 800 at the time. Eventually it was renamed New York, which, according to the 2000 census, has a population of more than 8 million. This represents an increase of one million percent. At this rate, by the year 2319 New York will have a population of over 80 billion.

Anticipate more traffic.

* * *

It's Groundhog's Day in the United States. Here we stand on the brink of our next greap leap into the cosmos, having already visited the moon and harvested the power of the atom, and still we rely upon the meteorological acumen of rodents to forecast seasonal conditions.

Birthdays, Holidays

February 2 is the birthday of Christie Brinkley (1954), Farrah Fawcett (1947), Graham Nash (1942), Tom Smothers (1937), Les Dawson (1934), James Dickey (1923), Ayn Rand (1905), and, as previously mentioned, James Joyce and Gertrude Stein.

Besides being National Rodent Appreciation Day in the United States, February 2 is also the Pagan holiday of Imbolc or Brigid.

2004, The Moron's Almanac™

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