Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How To Keep It Up Forever


Kansas is thinking about outlawing sustainability, so that solves that. It's a great example of outside-the-box thinking, and the Reality Box has really been cramping our style. Kansas means business. It is duct-taping a legislative brick to Thelma and Louise's accelerator pedal. Look out world! This is the kind of creative thinking you can get when you quit teaching evolution.

I've been thinking of this law as the Lemming Liberty Act, but it occurred to me, as it often does, that I might be selling lemmings short, so I did a little research. There are a lot of myths about lemmings.  We're familiar with the mass suicide idea, but lemmings have inspired other ideas over the years. The Inuit people are said to have believed that lemmings were spontaneously generated during stormy weather and fell out of the sky, and a geographer named Ziegler put his official (white man) stamp on that notion in 1530. I am assuming that lemmings popped out during storms and no one could think of any way they could have gotten there but to have dropped from the sky, sort of like how it rains earthworms on the city sidewalks during a sharp downpour.

Well, this is just the sort of thing people like to come up with. There's nothing so old-fashioned about it. Even now, billions of people note how splendidly we are endowed with the right temperatures and the right food and the availability of liquid water and other things we really need, and they conclude that all of this stuff was put here just for us, because we're just that special. It doesn't tend to occur to them that we evolved and thrived in response to what was here, and if something different was here, we wouldn't be here at all, but maybe something else would be. Maybe some methane-huffing critter without quite so much of a sense of self-importance. And it doesn't occur to them that if we somehow jigger the works, we can create the conditions in which we will not thrive at all. Here we are: we must have dropped out of the benevolent sky.

The spontaneous-generation idea was soundly refuted by the noble natural historian Ole Worm, who demonstrated that the lemmings were perfectly respectable members of the rodent family, and were probably created by slightly older lemmings in the usual way, and not spontaneously generated during storms at all, although he did agree that they blew in on the winds. Sometimes science advances in increments.

The mass suicide notion is also faulty. Lemmings do not, in fact, decide to get in line and charge off a cliff to certain death. That isn't their plan at all. And yet they do suffer massive die-offs periodically, when their own overpopulation and thin resources encourage them into a mass migration for better conditions. They can swim, but if in the course of a migration they start swimming in a body of water that is a little too large, they might get too far away from shore and drown, and their little bodies will end up stranded in the reeds like meatballs in a stoat restaurant, a vision that might have given rise to the spontaneous-generation idea to begin with. Although why a storm should whip up dead rodents and drop them on the ground is still a mystery. Anyway, it is incorrect to conclude that the lemmings are trying to kill themselves.  They're not. They end up just as dead, but they don't mean to. They're like us that way.

So I'm sticking with the Lemming Liberty Act. If Kansas wants to make sure anyone who wants to pop down to the Gulf and swim to Belize is free to do so, I'm willing to go along with it. Or I would be, if all us lemmings weren't roped together.

Pogo Fans: Can you help? A reader wants to find the original source of a quote I attributed to Albert The Alligator. It was "funny how a handsome man look good in any old thing he throw on." If any of you have old Pogo books with this particular strip, let me know.

82 comments:

  1. Your Reality Box is a very scary concept. Some of us would rather poke our eyes out than study the Reality Box (and this refusal may well mean that we will put outselves outside of any box permanently). Others wince and cringe at the show on the Reality Box and would really, really like to change channels, but have had the remote taken away from us.
    Aaaargh.

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    1. Ooooo maybe there will be a comet we can hitch a ride on!

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  2. Sometimes stupidity can be absolutely stunning...

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    1. I should just quit reading the paper. Because if I just pay attention to the good citizens of Portland, I have a feeling this is a pretty okay world.

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  3. I wouldn't worry too much about it Murr. Kansas is in tornado alley and the way things are going there soon won't be anything left to sustain anyway.

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    1. Man, they are in for it, for sure. Horrible. Although if the rest of us would quit supporting gay marriage, I think all those little disastery things would stop.

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  4. As always. Murr, you have inspired food for thought!

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  5. Ahhhhh reminds me of the story when Bill Nye, the science guy was boo'ed off the stage in Waco, TX. For stating the moon reflected light from the sun...... Several God fearing people stormed out. And they vote! I'm going with ferrets......

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  6. Outlawing sustainability seems like the height of stupidity to me.
    Remind me never to move to Kansas. I don't think I'd like all those tornadoes anyway.

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    1. I am drawn to these natural disasters, but only if I can watch them safely. I guess that's what TV is for.

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  7. In one of our frequent flooding events in this area, the lake covered the picnic areas of our State Park. People were fishing practically from the highway. When we arrived to watch I thought it was raining worms. With the lake levels rising the earth worms were heading for dry ground and the earth appeared to be moving it was so thick with the squiggly little things Children were scooping them up and selling them to fishermen as bait. Just fyi in case there is any wonder where the raining worms stories come from.

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    1. I remember many a morning I could barely walk to school because I wouldn't step on all the earthworms on the sidewalk.

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    2. Murr...with that remembrance, you "reminded" me of having that exact same memory of too-many-earthworms-on-the-sidewalk (almost - because I never walked to school). Thanks! I think...

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    3. That's really the only good thing about cars. You're too far away to see the worms you're squishing.

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  8. You mean it doesn't rain earthworms? I was sure I saw 'em coming down in the rainstorm. Lemmings get a bad rap just because... :-)

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  9. What's the matter with Kansas? Somebody ought to write a book! Oh, wait, somebody already did. And I am a Certified Pogo Fan, having several books writ by Mr. Walt Kelly hisself ... Outrageously Pogo, Instant Pogo, The Jack Acid Society Black Book, The Pogo Poop Book and We Have Met The Enemy and He is Us. I think they are too modern as I have not found the Albert quote in them. I highly recommend the last book, as it has the wonderful drawings of J. Edgar Hoover as a dog and Spiro Agnew as a horse.

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    1. Oh I remember the Hoover and Agnew pictures! I have complete confidence that the quote was real and Daddy attributed it to Albert every time, and he, unlike me, had a steel trap mind. But we'd have to wade through 27 years of strips to find it, and apparently there is no Pogo presence on the web. Other than frequent references to the "we have met the enemy and he is us" quote, which people get wrong half the time.

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    2. I do not have a steel trap mind, but I have been annoying people with that line, verbatim, for decades. I will search my tiny library of Pogo collections, just in case.

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    3. Thank you! I'm doing the same. So far no luck, but it's not like it's a hardship.

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  10. This is the kind of creative thinking you can get when you quit teaching evolution.

    I'm not sure "thinking" is the right word for that, but I'm not sure there is a right word for that.

    The problem is, of course, that lemming-humans like those of Kansas are fouling the reality box we all live in. If some lemmings figured out the problem with wide bodies of water and declined to jump in, their dumber brethren would leave them be; but the suicidal humans threaten to take all of us down with them.

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    1. Ergo, my last line.

      Sure it's thinking. As in "I think I'll have another beer" thinking.

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    2. "'I think I'll have another beer.' thinking" will one day solve our greatest problems. That or we just won't give a damn. :)

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    3. I will admit, it solves a lot of mine.

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  11. I'm wondering about secret and subversive sustainability in Kansas. "Solar panels? No, those are just roof ornaments. Martha Stewarrt says they're a good thing." "I drive a Prius to show that I'm rich enough to buy one, not because they use less gas."

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    1. Get on it, Roxie. You have the makings of a good campaign there.

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  12. Depressing. Just plain depressing.
    And so many willfully ignorant people in power. Doesn't give us hope, does it?

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    1. Some of thems is ignorant and some of thems is just evil.

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  13. I've sometimes wondered if this latest batch of global warming might lead to a sudden cool-down as the Greenland Ice Sheet slips lemming-like into the ocean and cuts off the Gulf Stream. After a few years of the Arctic Ocean being cut off from its warming pump, the freezing starts again in vengeance, with Northern Europe, the Tar Sands of Canada, and yes, even Kansas, invaded by ice. Always interesting to watch humanity respond ... "I don't believe in Global Warming" is a popular meme.

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    1. And it doesn't care if we believe in it.

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  14. It confounds me how people can be so blind. People - people in power and people who put them there - believe their own opinions rather than facts. And when the facts become undeniable, they will say that it's God's will and there is a better world waiting ... how can you change thinking like that?

    On a side note, I just couldn't resist Googling "Ole Worm" because it didn't seem possible that it was a real name ... once again truth is stranger than fiction :)

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    1. You didn't trust me? You thought I made ole Ole up? I have to admit that Dick Trickle (RIP) sounds like someone I made up.

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  15. I've linked you to my blog. I loved every minute of this.

    Also tied to the group,

    Pearl

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    1. Oh Pearl, it makes me feel all funny in the tummy to be linked to your blog. Will you stand in line with me on the way to the cliff?

      Pearl, y'all. There's nobody like her.

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  16. Pearl and Murr: Quite the pair to draw to.

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  17. I remember that Pogo strip! Albert's pulling on a catcher's mitt at the time. I don't have the books anymore, but my brother might. Off to email him now...

    P.S. My all-time favourite Pogo quote: "Don't take life so seriously, son; it ain't nowhow permanent."

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    1. Oh goody. I always think I can take Dad's word to the bank, but it's nice to have corroboration.

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    2. My hubbie thinks the porcupine said it, but we don't have the right book either.... they need to hurry u the publishing schedule for us impatient types.

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    3. I think the porcupine said the "Don't take life so seriously" line, but not the other one.

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    4. Yes, that was Porky Pine's line and my favorite one, too!

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    5. Clarification: I mean the line about taking life seriously was Porky Pine's line.

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  18. It's been a bad week here, so I can't attempt an intelligent comment. (stop thinking to yourself, "Has she EVER attempted an intelligent comment?")

    So I will fawn and profess love. That is what I can do for you today. You rule.

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    1. If I ruled, things would be A LOT DIFFERENT around here. Thanks.

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  19. Dear Murr,

    On behalf of all sane, rational people everywhere (yes, I'm a ringer) may I just say - "Eh?". It made no sense until I read this (click):

    The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Dennis Hedke (R) is also the chair of the House Energy and Environment Committee. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that he is a “contract geophysicist whose client list includes 30 regional oil and gas companies.” The article quotes Hedke as saying that he introduced the bill at the request of some of his constituents. “I felt like it was a responsible thing to go ahead and let that debate perhaps come out,” Hedke said.

    Okay, I now understand how this happened.

    Roth

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    1. Yeah, I could've 'splained it better, but it's all too depressing, and it comes down to the same conclusions. "Let the debate come out." A battle of wits with unarmed men.

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    2. Hah! I meant their decision made no sense, not your explanation. And yes, very worrying. Michael Moore's STUPID WHITE MEN is right again. Indigo

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  20. where am i? I clicked a Pearl link and found myself here. I've never thought of lemmings as an example of science disbelievers. Nice post.

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    1. Pearl found a wormhole.

      Not an Ole Worm.

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  21. Pearl sent me. I am an old woman in this modern scenario. All I can do is scrub my stoop and sweep my sidewalk every morning. Perhaps some idiots will notice and decide to scrub their stoop, too. Thanks for the Pogo memories. Made me remember my brother and his Pogo addiction.

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    1. You do have a very clean stoop, and we all appreciate it. "That Joanne," we all say, "nice stoop on that one." Thank you for popping in.

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  22. Kansas isn't in Kansas any more.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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  23. It makes me feel all squishy inside to see two of my favorite blogs linked! Yay! Pearl/Murr.
    I have a relatively new friend of the **ahem** "There may be global warming, but there's no proof it comes from us" persuasion. It is hard to see this otherwise intelligent man make such statements very earnestly. So, lemmings? Yes, there are a few..... and not all in Kansas, unfortunately.

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    1. Gaaah! Can't we at least unhook them from the rest of us? (I have some friends like that too. I don't know WHAT to do with them.)

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  24. "Albert Alligator: exuberant, dimwitted, irascible and egotistical, Albert is often the comic foil for Pogo, the rival of Beauregard and Barnstable, or the fall guy for Howland and Churchy. The cigar-chomping Albert is as extroverted and garrulous as Pogo is modest and unassuming, and their many sequences together tend to underscore their balanced, contrasting chemistry—like a seasoned comedy team. Albert's creation actually preceded Pogo's, and his brash, bombastic personality sometimes seems in danger of taking over the strip, as he once dominated the comic books. Having an alligator's voracious appetite, Albert often eats things indiscriminately, and is accused on more than one occasion of having eaten another character. Albert is the troop leader of Camp Siberia, the local den of the "Cheerful Charlies" (Kelly's version of the Boy Scouts), whose motto is "Cheerful to the Death!" Even though Albert has been known to take advantage of Pogo's generosity, he is ferociously loyal to Pogo and will, in quieter moments, be found scrubbing him in the tub or cutting his hair. Like all Kelly's characters, Albert looks great in costume. This sometimes leads to a classic Albert line (while admiring himself in a mirror): "Funny how a good-lookin' fella look handsome in anything he throw on!"

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    1. I'm feeling more vindicated by the second. That's a Wikipedia entry, right? And I see several more people have tried to quote Albert when I Google half the line in quotes. I don't know if Daddy got it exactly right but I'd bet the ranch it isn't "funny how a good-lookin' fellow looks good in anything he puts on," as one person remembered it. Still no actual comic panel...

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    2. I keep coming back here to see if anyone has found the actual strip (or strips...I suspect the line may have appeared in some form more than once). I have multiple Pogo volumes, including the first two of the anticipated 12 COMPLETE Pogo that are being published at the rate of one a year. I am sorely tempted to spend the next three days doing nothing but reading them.

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    3. I got an email from new reader (and smart blogger) Vanilla who provided a panel of Albert in a Santa Claus suit saying "suit's a little snug but a good lookin' man make a good appearance in anything he throw on." Which leads me to believe that Albert made similar statements every now and then, so yes, you are to put that stack of Pogos on your toilet tank (next to Trousering Your Weasel) and keep going through them.

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  25. Texas there first, as usual, with a foundational initiative to outlaw the teaching of critical thinking in schools. After that, everything is gravy.

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    1. Yay Texas! You know, if you can't say anything that's not critical, you shouldn't say anything at all. I guess.

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    2. Yep.... We moved- heaven forbid there should be any critical thinkers in the electorate!

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    3. Did you move to BC? (Canada, or back in time?)

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  26. I have a stupid nephew who believes global warming is something the government made up. Like I said,...stupid!

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    1. Yeah, amazing how many people believe that. Believe the government wants people to pay more for gas, so it's cooked up the whole thing. Very bizarre thinking.

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  27. I blame Disney for corrupting my mind into thinking that lemmings routinely hurled themselves off of cliffs simply because they were there. Perhaps I should re-evaluate some of my other misconceptions that I've been told are true.

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    1. I blame Disney for that whole princess thing. And the idea that if you had enough brooms, they would clean the place themselves.

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  28. Strewth! We have our flat earth thinkers among our members of parliament here but no one quite as openly silly as Rep. Dennis Hedke. It's not enough that the population of Kansas has to put up with all the tornadoes that keep causing so much havoc, but that they also have to deal with such dimwit (or out-and-out corrupt) pollies is just too much.

    On the other hand, it does give the rest of the world something to chuckle at and (mistakenly) feel superior about. Oh, what a tangled web we weave!

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    1. There's a whole knot of them. Texas has some doozies. I'm living in a city that JUST voted themselves three separate tax increases, for parks, children, and schools, and in a state with two stellar senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. It's easy for me to think we're on the right track, but then I have to go and read the papers.

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    2. Have just discovered our Council is using a process to 'Revision Fremantle for the year 2029' because it was so successful in Portland. Yea, your city is becoming famous! Lots of good things coming from Portland, including Murr Brewster. Will now Google Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley but I bet they are not as entertaining as you.

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    3. I think they're on the wrong track already if they're using "revision" as a verb of some kind, but I can be cranky that way.

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  29. "It doesn't tend to occur to them that we evolved and thrived in response to what was here, and if something different was here, we wouldn't be here at all, but maybe something else would be. Maybe some methane-huffing critter without quite so much of a sense of self-importance. And it doesn't occur to them that if we somehow jigger the works, we can create the conditions in which we will not thrive at all."

    Took the words right outa my mouth, Murr!!!

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  30. grrrr IT swallowed my comment and didn't spit it back up. Still burping IT.
    XO
    WWW

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    1. I just read that a tiger had to have surgery for a ten pound hairball. Maybe it's something like that.

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  31. No smart comments from me. The other day I wanted to read about ice cream, and today, I wanted to read about how to keep it up forever. I was all set to call my husband to the computer in the hopes he could learn something.

    And now this.

    Very disappointing.

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    1. You know, I don't know for certain, but I think if your husband could learn how to keep it up forever, you'd both be disappointed.

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  32. Outlawing public funds for sustainability? Hopefully that won't pass, but it's baffling that it's even legitimately considered, isn't it?

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  33. Couldn't find the strip, just several references on line (not just Wiki) to the quote in the form ""Funny how a good-lookin' fella look handsome in anything he throw on!" But no combo brought up the image of the actual panel. I remember reading those as a kid - and also visiting the Okefenokee a few times.

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