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 How to Choose and Enjoy Wine in Forty-Nine Pleasures

P E R I O D  IX  1 9 9 8

1 September 1998
How to Choose and Enjoy Wine in Forty-Nine Pleasures
I found Jancis Robinson's How to Choose and Enjoy Wine on a friend's bookshelf. What a ridiculous book! I can't imagine why she needed one hundred and twenty-five pages to address the subject when my new piece of a similar name thoroughly covered the subject in just forty-nine pages: "Buy cheap palatable wine then drink lots of it." My How to Choose and Enjoy Wine in Forty-Nine Pleasures is available in the PDF format.

2 September 1998
The giant squid has the largest eyes in the world. I don't think anyone has ever seen a living giant squid. There are all sort of convoluted technical reasons, mostly having to do with the fact that the big critters live deep in the briny deep. That's the scientists' explanation of why they've never seen a live one, but I bet it's because the giant squids use the largest eyes in the world to see the researchers coming.

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3 September 1998
You Can't Grow Beer
Inner city gardeners are an amazing bunch; they'll try to grow anything anywhere. I once saw a tomato in a museum that was grown in a toxic waste dump next to a chemical refinery; I've never seen a tomato like it.

Today I discovered a beer garden in the industrial part of town. It turns out the gardeners weren't successful at growing beer, but it didn't matter. The whole endeavor was a scam run by unscrupulous merchants to get lucrative government agricultural subsidies.

4 September 1998
So Much for Stewardesses
"Stewardesses" is the longest word that is typed with only the left hand. Or, rather it used to be. I don't think there's such a word as "stewardesses" any more; it's been replaced by "flight attendants." And anyway, "stewardesses" isn't the longest word that is typed with only the left hand. That's because since I can't type, I use two fingers--my left index finger and my right middle finger--to peck out every word. And for that matter, I can even type "megagametophytic" using only my left hand, albeit slowly.

So much for stewardesses.

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5 September 1998
No Servants, Please
I like to stay with friends when I travel; I've never met a couch I couldn't sleep with. (I suppose that should have been "upon which I couldn't sleep," but I'm feeling particularly ungrammatical this morning.)

I hate to stay in hotels, although sometimes there aren't any practical alternatives. There are a number of economic and social reasons for my aversion to hotels, but the main reason I dislike hotels is that I hate the idea of having servants.

My parents taught me to take care of myself and to clean up the messes I left in my wake. That seemed like sensible advice at the time and it still does. And thus I dislike the premise that booking a hotel room involves employing some poor woman (and it usually is a poor woman) to clean up after me by replacing sheets that aren't dirty, towels that have only been used once, et cetera. I generally make a point of asking for my room not to cleaned; although that may be a bad idea. If the poor cleaning woman is being paid by the room, my well-intentioned move may result in reducing her wages to even less than the eighty-six cents an hour she normally receives.

6 September 1998
The Complexities of Explosives
There's a lot I don't know about explosives. For example, peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite. I've never had a peanut butter sandwich explode; that only adds to the mystery.

It's a common problem.

In 1995, police in Halifax, Massachusetts charged Robert Brinson with assembling a fertilizer bomb to blow up his former girlfriend and her family. Police said one bomb was found in the woman's bathroom and another in a doghouse outside, both consisting of turpentine and nails in cans with a battery and timer. However, police said the bombs were not explosive: Brinson had mistakenly used potting soil instead of fertilizer.

I suppose the complexities of explosives are a good thing.

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7 September 1998
Pereant Qui Ante Nos Nostra Dixerunt!
Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt! (Or, as translated by Dr. Barton, "A pox on those who have declared our bright ideas before us.")

That was the first thing that came to mind when I saw the work of Podunk; the artists' shipping container environments were more or less what I've had in mind for years. I've seen other examples of the same idea, but none were implemented as well as the Podunk artists' work.

Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt!

8 September 1998
Gravitational Distractions
I recently watched a television documentary on gravity, which, as it turned out, also happened to be about anti-gravity. If I understood things correctly, there's one sort of gravity that drops apples into cider vats, but there's another flavor that pushes galaxies apart. In five billion years (more or less), our sun will fade out and the other stars will have drifted so far away there'll be far fewer stars visible in the sky, even in Manitoba.

I'm glad I learned something from the show, because I watched it for all the wrong reasons. The program's description said "experiments involving copulating mice in space currently present scientists with some of their most taxing questions." I didn't see any risqué footage of amorous orbiting mice; it seems that the rodents can't figure out how to couple without the benefit of gravity.

9 September 1998
Lassie's Pal
This is ridiculous. After a brief dissertation and a followup, it turns out there's one more thing to be said about genital wigs.

And so I'll say it:

Lassie was played by a male dog named Pal, who wore a wig to cover his, er, reproductive bits.

That's the last thing I will ever write about genital wigs. Ever. So there.

10 September 1998
Dr. Wahlberg's Tap Trap
I recently received this scientific inquiry from Dr. Wahlberg: "Do variations in atmospheric pressure affect the height of the head in a pint? If so, after how many pints would you even consider such a proposition?"

I went to the only four-story pub I could find, bought many many pints, walked up and down the stairs, but then failed to note whatever it was I discovered.

I fear Dr. Wahlberg has laid a clever and potentially lethal intellectual trap. Seventeen pints is frequently cited as the LD50 level, but seventeen pints may not be enough to form a significant statistical base.

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11 September 1998
The Sharp Digital Age
I recently saw an advertisement that encouraged me to "picture how exciting life is in the Sharp digital age." In case I couldn't picture such a thing, the advertising agency filled in the visual blanks for me. A cute young woman wearing a very short skirt has dropped her jaw in awe at what she's just discovered in my apartment. (Well, it could be my apartment if I had a square jaw and bought the right Sharp products, which is of course the point of the ad.)

Is she amazed at the science-fiction projection on the wall or the gargantuan phallic speaker that's almost as tall as she is? I can only speculate; I will never know how exciting life is in the Sharp digital age.

12 September 1998
I didn't do this. The original was destroyed; this is a forgery.

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13 September 1998
Things Cut In Half
When I was a teenager I was impressed by Edward Weston's photographs of Things Cut In Half. He did them so well that, except for a momentary weakness with an appealing pineapple, I've never plagiarized the idea.

Today I discovered a building that was cut in half; I found it much more visually satisfying than a cabbage.

14 September 1998
Going On and On About Art
I never really realized how much people write about art until I came across ARTbibliographies: Volume 29, Number 1. It's full of little, one-paragraph summaries of articles from a six-month period, and, at nearly eight hundred pages, it's thicker than many phone books!

At first I liked the idea of getting the gist of an article without having to trudge through the whole thing. But then I discovered that the summaries were as dreadful at the articles themselves. In a way, I suppose that's a compliment to the reviewers, since they did such a good job of condensing without any loss to the original content.

Take, for example, the summary of Shaheen Merali's "Under different skies," a piece from Third Text. "The author suggests that the site of a converted slaughterhouse [for an exhibit] conveyed a sense of the vulnerability the artistic community feels in the face of cuts in funding ..."

Poor pitiful artists!

Jerry Cullums' article in Art Papers showed more promise; at least it had an amusing title: "On cultural ownership and the migration of symbols: an essay containing only one quotation from Homi Bhabha." It turned out to be one of those impenetrable treatises with phrases like "explores the notions of syncretism and hybridity ..."

"Syncretism and hybridity," indeed!

A.D. Coleman, one of those rare people who can write well about art, and not writing some dreadful, little summary, had an interesting explanation for such (un)aesthetic verbosity: "How my colleagues have managed to go on and on about the stuff can only be explained by the demonstrable fact that many of my colleagues love to go on and on."

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15 September 1998
Look! Listen! VIBRATE! SMILE!
Cheryl and I were walking down the street when we saw a sign inviting us to a basement room: "Look! Listen! VIBRATE! SMILE!" Cheryl thought it was an advertisement for a music store; I thought it was promoting some sort of sex aids shop.

We were both wrong.

It turned out that "Look! Listen! VIBRATE! SMILE!" was promoting some sort of new age travel agency that urged its customers to appreciate the visual and aural differences between traveling by plane, train, bus and ship.

16 September 1998
Stichting Chateau Dipsomania
Richard just bought two cases of Chateau Dipsomania on sale, so we decided to celebrate his acquisition by drinking more than a little of it with tonight's dinner. And after doing that, we had some more.

It was yummy!

We decided to find out more about Chateau Dipsomania, but couldn't. It wasn't because we were perhaps a bit tipsy; Chateau Dipsomania wasn't listed in any of Richard's many wine guides. We then turned to the Internet, and found some interesting and alarming news. Dipsomania is defined as "an insatiable, often periodic craving for alcoholic beverages." And Stichting Chateau Dipsomania is a Rotterdam-based industrial wine wholesaler.

Bottoms up!

17 September 1998
Happy Birthday, Art!
Despite all of my technical aides I can never seem to remember anyone's birthday. I once considered adding a birthday field in my database for birthdays, but decided against it. I figured I'd remember all the important ones like my mother's, then realized I'd missed hers by over a week.

And now, years later, I realized I've missed Maia's birthday. And as if that wasn't bad enough, I just learned that, as of today, Art is 1,000,025.75 years old. I know this because I just read that Robert Filliou declared art to be a million years old on 17 January 1963. It's a shame I never heard about it at the time; I enjoyed birthdays much more when I was seven.

Happy birthday Art, Happy birthday Maia!

18 September 1998
MacPherson's Dimpled Legend
Everybody knows a regulation golf ball has 336 dimples, but few people know why. It's all because of Calum MacPherson, an early golfing fanatic.

Initially golf balls had 365 dimples, one for each day of the year. Gentlemen golfers would keep a special calendar ball, and mark a dimple for each golf game. Marking the last dimple on new year's eve was considered to be the culmination of a perfect year. (My research materials don't indicate how leap years were handled.) Frank Macnamara, a stern and dour Presbyterian minister, introduced a ball with 312 dimples based on the principle that no one should play golf on Sunday. Macnamara's design was rejected as sacrilegious by most golfers.

Calum MacPherson introduced the 336-dimple ball on the premise that "a gentleman should enjoy four weeks on holiday to retain his vitality and vigour." Golfers didn't buy the argument since most of them played golf on vacation, but they did buy the balls. With a 336-dimple ball, even a relatively unambitious golfer could have a "perfect" year.

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19 September 1998
In England, the Commission for Racial Equality just spent $400,000 on the most racist advertising campaign I've ever seen. The campaign features billboards for fictitious products, like Rape Alarm. That ad shows a white woman nervously eyeing a black man on a bus with the caption "Because it's a jungle out there." An ad for athletic shoes depicts a monkey leaping for a branch juxtaposed against a photograph of a black basketball player in a similar pose reaching for a basketball hoop. And so on.

I've seen stupidity and incompetence before, but this hateful campaign demonstrates staggering incompetence and monumental stupidity on a scale that even I thought was improbable.

Chris Myant, a commission spokesman, said "It's a campaign designed to provoke discussions." I wonder if the Commission for Racial Equality's next "discussion-provoking" campaign will show a Chinese chef chopping up live puppies or a Nazi flag flying over Auschwitz?

This is the first time I've disagreed with Jean Cocteau's observation, "Stupidity is always amazing, no matter how used to it you become." This advertising is extraordinarily stupid, and quite depressing. The Commission for Racial Equality seems to be the English version of the Ku Klux Klan.

20 September 1998
Cranial Rings
Everyone has a favorite pathologist; Franz is mine.

Franz took me out to dinner at an expensive restaurant; he said he could afford it since he'd just received a huge fee for serving as an expert witness in a court case. Franz said he had to give evidence that the deceased lied about his age, and that he did so conclusively.

I asked him how he proved his point. (Everyone likes to talk about their work.)

"By counting the rings, of course."

"What rings?"

"The cranial rings."

"What cranial rings?"

"Well, they're not really cranial rings as such," he explained; "they're the rings on the cranial bones. You put on a new layer of bone in your head every year; that's why old people have such thick heads."

I waited for the punch line to Franz's joke but there wasn't one. He turned away to order another bottle of champagne. When he returned to the conversation, he asked me what I'd forged recently.

Everyone likes to talk about their work, so I told him. He interrupted my narrative to tell me I'd given him an idea that would pay for two more dinners.

I forgot to ask him more about the cranial rings. I think he was joking, but his argument did make a certain amount of sense. Perhaps that's just because I seem to be getting an increasingly thick head.

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21 September 1998
Sealed With a Screwcap
I bought a couple bottles of Rosso Di Puglia for the usual reason: it was the cheapest wine in the store. It was only when I went to open it that I discovered its real value. It had been, as it said on the label, "sealed with a screwcap to maintain freshness and quality."

The bottles of Rosso Di Puglia were the catalyst for a lovely evening; I shall avoid inferior corked bottles of wine for the immediate future.

22 September 1998
And the Beat Doesn't Go On
I just heard that Florence Griffith Joyner died yesterday. I don't know much about sports, but even I knew who she was: the runner with the preposterously long fingernails. Even though I never cared for long fingernails, I respected her decision to prioritize aesthetics over athletics. Although a swimmer might have used such long nails as flippers to gain a competitive advantage; the additional air turbulence had to be detrimental for a runner. But she kept them anyway.

A lot of the pundits were surprised that she died from a heart seizure before her fortieth birthday; I wasn't. Years ago I read an interview with an old man who attributed his longevity to his lack of exercise. He theorized that the heart was only good for a finite number of beats, so why spend more than necessary?

I've been rather miserly with my heartbeats even when climbing mountains; I hope I still have a lot of heartbeats in reserve. I suppose it doesn't really matter: when they run out it shouldn't be a problem for more than a few minutes.

23 September 1998
Sooner or Later True
I received a query from a confused man who asked whether or not these notebook entries are true. I was tempted to quote Avidas Dollars née Salvador Dali: "Whatever happens, my audience mustn't know whether I'm spoofing or being serious; and likewise I mustn't know either."

But I didn't cite the late painter for reasons best expressed by Jeremy Hardy: "It is always perilous to use quotations, because few people are consistently wise, and a person's other sayings can be quoted back at us to our embarrassment. It is quite possible for a man to say something like: 'The beauty and grace of humanity shall never be crushed by the oppressor's boot,' and later spoil it by saying, 'All women are slags.' "

Here's what I did say. Everything in these notebooks is true; if something I've described hasn't happened it will.

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©1998 David Glenn Rinehart