One of Our Islands is Missing

Going, going....  How is it we let one of our islands get away from us without learning anything? (Photo by Highcamera Aerial Photography Service)

Cedar Island, Virginia, going, going…. How is it we let one of our islands get away from us without learning anything? (Photo by Highcamera Aerial Photography Service)

The story of Cedar Island, Virginia, is a quintessentially American story, of a man who had a dream, who wrested from an empty landscape a vision of congestion, postage-stamp-sized, $100,000 lots — lots of lots — along with seaside highways, entertainments and villas. He called his vision “Ocean City, Virginia,” and it endured for half a century. But now Cedar Island’s 2,000 acres, dozens of seaside homes, and dreams of wretched excess have been wiped from the face of the earth by an implacably rising sea. Is this a great country, or what? Continue reading

How About Them Redskins? No offense.

redskins helmet

A gladiator of the Washington DC cult whose name may not be spoken. We’re here to help. (Photo by Kieth Allison/Flickr)

[WARNING: The following essay contains irony. If you are allergic or immune to irony, do not read it. Your head could explode.]

The population of the civilized world, by which of course I mean most of the original 48 states (I won’t say which are not included, you know who I mean) is divided into 32 cults, each organized around a team of gladiators who compete regularly in giant arenas. The  gladiators’ ferocious combats are attended by tens of thousands of acolytes (they call themselves “fans”) and are watched on television by hundreds of thousands more. They involve the maneuvering of a small oval ball on a field, and frequently feature combatants being carried off with broken bones and scrambled brains.  The sect members wear the colors and symbols of their team, venerate its mascot, organize their lives around its combats, bet heavily on the outcomes, and devote their lives to adulation. The high priests of this culture become enormously rich.

But all is not well in this paradise. Continue reading

The Enhanced Interrogation of The Daily Impact

Surly (right), RE (center), and Monsta (in turban) discuss the philosophy of TEOTWAKI with editor Tom Lewis of the Daily Impact (aloft).

Surly (right), RE (center), and Monsta (in turban) of The Doomstead Diner discuss the philosophy of TEOTWAWKI with editor Tom Lewis of the Daily Impact (aloft). Fortunately it was audio only.

The wait staff at the Doomstead Diner (Surly, RE and Monsta) spent nearly two hours (!) the other day interrogating Tom Lewis, the chief typist here at The Daily Impact, to learn the secret of his stunning lack of success. The first half of the interview, covering Lewis’s role in setting the Cuyahoga River on fire and ghostwriting Silent Spring, can be heard here. Even more to come. [Spoiler alert: in the end, he confesses to knowing how to save the world, but claims he forgot.]

 

Holiday Repost: Farewell to 2014

For what we are about to lose, Dear Lord, we thank You. (Photo by Terren in Virginia/Flickr)

For what we are about to lose, Dear Lord, we thank You. (Photo by Terren in Virginia/Flickr)

 

[The Daily Impact is on hiatus for the holiday season. For your consideration, I leave you with a repost of a meditation on “The Last Good Year,” and a reminder that in 2015 it would be well to Brace for Impact.]

Thanksgiving is coming, and Christmas and Kwanzaa and Hanukkah and New Year’s, and we should make the best of them. These are the good old days, and we should celebrate them well, because we are probably not going to see their like again. Gas is cheaper than it was, and we should go to see the relatives this year, because next year will be different. Food is a little more expensive than it was, yet we should eat hearty nevertheless, because next year will be different. Continue reading

Peak Bullets: the Weirdest Shortage of them All

(Photo by Mojave Desert/Flickr)

Once, this is what you bought for a buck to deal with rats. Now it’s a priceless commodity? (Photo by Mojave Desert/Flickr)

During the past six years or so, I have had occasion from time to time to go into a WalMart, or a Gander Mountain store, or  some other sporting goods establishment, wherein I have asked the question: “Do you have any .22 caliber ammunition?” On every occasion, the answer has been “No.” Each time I asked, “When are you going to get some in?” and was told, “Don’t know.” If I went even further and asked, “When was the last time you had some in stock?’ the answer was along the lines of, “Three months ago, on a Monday morning, for about 15 minutes.” I thought it was odd, the first few times it happened. Then I found out the same thing was happening all across the country. And was going on for year after year, and that weirded me out. Continue reading

2014: The Last Good Year

For what we are about to lose, Dear Lord, we thank You. (Photo by Terren in Virginia/Flickr)

For what we are about to lose, Dear Lord, we thank You. (Photo by Terren in Virginia/Flickr)

Thanksgiving is coming, and Christmas and Kwanzaa and Hanukkah and New Year’s, and we should make the best of them. These are the good old days, and we should celebrate them well, because we are probably not going to see their like again. Gas is cheaper than it was, and we should go to see the relatives this year, because next year will be different. Food is a little more expensive than it was, yet we should eat hearty nevertheless, because next year will be different. We still have plenty of water (if we don’t live in California, or Brazil, or North Africa, or any of a multitude of other places being seared by implacable drought) but, because of changing climate and advancing pollution, next year could be different. The lights are still on, but the aging grid is creaking and groaning with the effort of meeting our burgeoning demand, and next year could well be different. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we diet. Continue reading

A United State of Incompetence

Ebola outbreak? White House intruder? Climate change? Don't worry, we're on it.

Ebola outbreak? White House intruder? Climate change? Don’t worry, we’re on it.

A wise man once told me (no, wait, it was me, talking to myself) that when something bad happens, like a plane crashes, or Congress passes a law, it is usually for one of two reasons: a dark conspiracy by evil people, or rank incompetence. “If there is any doubt about the cause,” he, or I, said, “always assume incompetence. You will almost never be wrong.” The case is being illustrated these days with dismaying frequency.

Ebola in America. Get off a plane from Liberia, go to a hospital in Texas and tell them you’ve just come from West Africa and are desperately ill, they give you an aspirin, send you home and tell you to hug and kiss all your friends and family, it will make you feel much better. (Only that little tiny last part is made up. The rest of it, I wouldn’t dare.) Continue reading

Fareed at Last: The Middle East Explained. Totally.

Fareed Zakaria holds forth on CNN. He’s one of the better pundits, but as with them all, the reasoning tends to be more circular and the fables more disconnected from reality. (Wikipedia Photo)

Fareed Zakaria holds forth on CNN. He’s one of the better pundits, but as with them all, the reasoning tends to be circular and the fables disconnected from reality. (Wikipedia Photo)

Another Sunday, another tsunami of TV tirades from the elders of our tribe, as we gather around the firelike tube and absorb their wisdom. (Will someone please explain to me why William Kristol is there, week after week? How is it that a man who has been so wrong so often gets invited back to the inner circle, and how is it he is still smirking?) Hundreds of pundit-hours, in a single morning, yesterday most of it devoted to explaining to us the Middle East.

Among these explainers, perhaps the least doctrinaire and most intelligent is Fareed Zakaria, who with Time Magazine and CNN has created an admirable Pundit Empire. Continue reading

We’re All Being Victimized

At last the camera has found you. You’ve been waiting your whole life and now, because of something that happened to someone else, they want to know what you think. Our best advice: don’t do it. (Photo by Dave Radcliff/Flickr)

At last the camera has found you. You’ve been waiting your whole life and now, because of something that happened to someone else, they want to know what you think. Our best advice: don’t do it. (Photo by Dave Radcliff/Flickr)

At the risk of — no, acknowledging the certainty of — sounding callous, and offending many, may I just say that I am tired of hearing from victims’ families? There is no shortage of life coaches, psychologists and members of other dubious professions to urge us all not to be a victim; why is no one pointing out that being related to someone who becomes famous as a victim is to be avoided at all costs, denied if at all possible, and — all else failing — endured in dignified silence. Being a victim-in-law does not confer special knowledge, rights, or merit. The fact that your uncle was killed by a meteorite does not make you an expert in meteorology (wait, does that track?) nor should it give you standing to sue the Hubble Telescope for failing to warn him in time. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Stories

Dropped your sandwich? As long as you pick it up in five seconds, go ahead and eat it. That’s what science says. (Photo by pixabay.com/p-298762)

Dropped your sandwich? As long as you pick it up in five seconds, go ahead and eat it. That’s what science says. (Photo by pixabay.com/p-298762)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of information, it was the age of ignorance. The emergence last week of two news stories, and the story of how they did or did not flourish, casts harsh light on the state of journalism and our democratic republic. One story was funded by NASA, conducted with rigorous standards of research, reviewed by peer scientists and published in a legitimate scientific journal. Its subject was the end of the world as we know it. The other was tossed off by a handful of students in a science class, observed few scientific standards, was reviewed by no one and published nowhere in the academic press. It was about dropping food on the floor. So you guess: Which one went viral around the world, generated tons of newsprint and oceans of comment in every medium of communication; and which one was virtually ignored except when it was attacked as misleading? Continue reading