The Long View 2006-02-08: Airships, Clowns, Cartoons, Water

By Pamela Coleman Smith - a 1909 card scanned by Holly Voley ( for the public domain, and retrieved from (see note on that page regarding source of images)., PD-US, https://en.wikiped…

By Pamela Coleman Smith - a 1909 card scanned by Holly Voley ( for the public domain, and retrieved from (see note on that page regarding source of images)., PD-US,

I never really understood why people could be afraid of clowns until I read Tim Powers' Last Call. I am not afraid of them now, but I am a bit cautious.

Airships, Clowns, Cartoons, Water

More on the thinly patrolled airship front: Correspondent HH informs me that Lockheed has won a $149.2M contract for a High Altitude Airship:

Dave Kier, Lockheed Martin's vice president and managing director for missile defense, told C4SI Journal that an operational version of the airship would have a volume of about 5.3 million cubic feet, about 25 times the volume of the Goodyear blimps. It would stay aloft at up to 70,000 feet in excess of three months at a time. Preliminary specifications call for the operational payload to consist of a forward/upward-looking radar for ballistic missile tracking and discrimination problem, plus a look-down radar for ocean/land surveillance capability.

We like to think of airships in order to give us hope for some end to the sardine-can era of passenger aviation, but in fact we are likely to see them first in connection with strategic defense. Note that they would also be the logical place to mount some defensive weapons systems, in addition to carrying the sensors for them.

* * *

Villainy on-stage invites overacting. Indeed, there is not much difference between a devil and a clown. Conversely, of course, clowns can be scary:

In October, a plan to erect dozens of clown statues in Sarasota, Fla., a fabled circus town, was almost scrapped after an outcry from coulrophobes and clown-haters.

Clowns always terrified me when I was a kid. The only clown I ever liked was Krusty on The Simpsons.

* * *

Those Damn Cartoons: It would be pretentious to point out that the Danish cartoons that are causing the current fuss are not as fine as Hogarth's or as pointed as Thomas Nast's. They were published for no other reason than to be "provocative," a term that had come to mean little more than "edgey." Well, we don't always get to choose our battles, so obviously the publication of these slight works must be defended. Newspapers of record that have declined to run them should be pressured to do so, though I acknowledge that there is a certain "made you look" element in all this.

Western art, starting in the late 19th century, increasingly defined itself as a project of shock and provocation. Not coincidentally, this happened during an era when such a project became costless. Real shock became almost impossible to generate. Art became slack, fatuous, and sordid; its lionized practitioners were, with sadly few exceptions, contemptible poseurs, maintained in their imposture by a crooked art industry.

Now it looks as if we have an entered an time when real provocation is possible. By all means, let the provocations continue, where they seem warranted. In the future, however, they cannot be as lazy and thoughtless, as bad as they were in the 20th century.

Who will make a film, or a documentary, that portrays the origins of Islam using the ordinary standards of scholarship and dramatic representation?

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Meanwhile, at Asia Times, we find that Spengler nods in his latest column, Why can't Muslims take a joke?:

More than any people on Earth, the Danes should know the terrible price of religious humor, for the first great Christian humorist arose from their dour midst as if by immaculate conception....

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception is that Mary, the mother of Jesus, never bore the taint of Original Sin. The dogma of the Virgin Birth, to which Spengler appears to allude, is another matter.

When Rome defiled their temple at Jerusalem in AD 66, the Jews rebelled. Rome crushed them, but they rose again in AD 132, fighting more Roman legions under Tiberius than had conquered Britain. After most Jews were dead or exiled, the remnant invented self-deprecating humor.

The rebellion in 120s and 130s under President bar Kochbar (he really did use a title that meant "president") was against the Emperor Hadrian, not Tiberius. Tiberius was an emperor of the first century who did not conquer Britain; the Emperor Claudius did.

As always, of course, Spengler's case-in-chief is worth reading:

That is why Muslims cannot respond to Western jibes at the person of their Prophet except as they did to the Jyllens-Posten cartoons. I do not sympathize with scoffers but, like [Pope ] Benedict [XVI], I see doubt as an adversary to be won over, rather than as an enemy to be extirpated. I would not have drawn nor published these cartoons, but when the lines are drawn, I stand with Western freedom against traditional authority. I write these lines over a Carlsberg and shall drink no other lager until the boycott of Danish product ends.

Carlsberg is good, but I still can't find Tuborg.

* * *

If we are to have serious art again, then we should have a serious president, too. Here is Senator McCain's website. Please, God, do not let us have to choose between Senator Frist and Hillary Clinton in 2008.

* * *

I feel vindicated by this headline: Bottled Water: Nectar of the Frauds?

To which the answer is: "Yes! Obviously!"

I've been saying this since the fraud started 25 years ago. The water comes out of a tap in Hoboken. It always did. If you must carry water around with you, fill a thermos from your kitchen sink.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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