The details of this top-secret Soviet system were first revealed in 1993 by Bruce G. Blair, a former American ICBM launch control officer, now one of the country’s foremost experts on Russian arms. Fearing that a sneak attack by American submarine-launched missiles might take Moscow out in 13 minutes, the Soviet leadership had authorized the construction of an automated communication network, reinforced to withstand a nuclear strike. At its heart was a computer system similar to the one in Dr. Strangelove. Its code name was Perimetr. It went fully operational in January 1985. It is still in place.
[ ... ]
You just shoot the other guy and “rig up a thing where you tie a string to one end of a spoon,” he told me, “and tie the other end to the guy’s key. Then you can sit in your chair and twist your key with one hand while you yank on the spoon with the other hand to twist the other key over.”
This is why we have governments.
Apparently, [Charles V] simply loved noise. He dined in the blare of military bands. Once, when Catherine, his consort, had secretly built a country home for him fifteen miles from St. Petersburg, she arranged that when she raised her glass to toast the master of the new house, at the exact second the glass touched his lips, eleven cannons hidden in the garden would suddenly boom out just beyond the french windows. She knew he would like that. (pg 29)
The Ruggieris have been in France for centuries. Originally from Bologna, the family settled itself in Monteux. The patriarch of the family, Claude-Fortune Ruggieri, was an early experimenter with rockets. In Paris he staged a number of displays in which mice and rats were sent aloft by rockets and came down under little parachute canopies. [ ... ] Ruggieri even had plans to send up a small boy attached to a rocket cluster; he too was to be equipped with a parachute, Ruggieri was careful to point out to the authorities, but the French police intervened and this particular experiment was never carried out. (pg 34)
According to Vasari’s biography of Leonardo da Vinci, the artist created a great lion which was designed to walk a few steps, roar, and then out of its chest a display of flowers and birds would burst – all of this done largely with the use of various types of fireworks. (pg 48)
[ ... ] I have always thought that would be a wonderful position to retire to -- thinking up names for Oriental fireworks shells. You’d become a specialist and travel around to different fireworks factories in China; at night you’d sit in a bamboo chair in the middle of a field with a notebook on your knee and they’d send up these great chrysanthemums for you to name. You’d say, “I’m not inspired. Send up another one just like the last.” So they’d do that, and after some pondering you’d write down “The Great Frog Leaps Off the Lily Pad and Frightens Ten Silver Minnows” or “The Blue Ox Comes Down the Turnpike.” (pg 49)
Well, I was thinking especially of Hollywood directors, who have on occasion used fireworks to illustrate the consummation of a love affair. Do you remember Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief, their union symbolized by a great crash of fireworks outside their balcony overlooking the harbor of Monte Carlo? The only thing wrong with that scenario, it has always seemed to me, is that any normal couple would be out on the balcony enjoying the fireworks, and not inside tumbling around on a bed. (pg 50)
The complex is typical of the fireworks compounds I have seen. It consists of twenty-five separate workshops. For safety’s sake the workshops stand apart from each other by thirty yards or so, each brightly painted in white with red trimming. At the side of every entrance is a copper plate set in the outside wall which everyone who enters the building must touch in order to ground themselves and thus eliminate the chance that a spark might jump from one’s person to the worktables. The procedure becomes an ingrained habit. In winter, of course, the danger of static electricity increases sharply. Apparently, women tend to carry more electricity than men. They are never allowed to brush or comb their hair on the job. The rules at the Grucci compound are that no one can ever wear silk underwear. (pg 60)
An extraordinary incident took place on the occasion of [the fireworks display celebrating the self-coronation of Napoleon (1804)]. The show ended with the ascent of a vast hydrogen balloon. Unmanned (un ballon perdu), it was built by Jacques Garnerin and carried a huge golden crown hung with three thousand colored lights. A freak storm carried the balloon all the way to Rome by the morning of the second day, where it finally came to earth, the crown breaking up against the ruins of Nero’s tomb – of all places – and what was left tumbled into Lake Bracciano. The newly-crowned Emperor, a very suspicious man, and short-tempered as well, became extremely upset by the incident – to the point of firing the balloon maker, Jacques Garnerin, and thereafter forbidding all mention of this odd occurrence. (pg 81)
I did quite a lot of research to see if any mortar (much less the firework it was about to fire) could equal ours. I even checked out a large mortar I had read about as a child in Philip Gosse’s History of Piracy. Large enough in the mouth to contain a man, it indeed had one in there; the illustration in the book showed a man stuffed in up to his shoulders. He was (as one read with eyes popping) the French consul in Algiers who in the Pirate Wars of 1830 was captured by the pirates and, in an act of horrid derision, fired at the French fleet. For years the mortar graced the walls of Algiers (it is now in the Musée de la Marine in Paris) and in honor of the man who was fired out of it was named as only the French would have the flare to do: La Consuliére. (pg 84)
Neither of the Grucci brothers thought much of having chemists around a fireworks compound. “They’re more hazardous to work with than someone who doesn’t know anything,” Jimmy once told me. “They’re always fooling around with their little bottles, trying a little of this, a little of that, usually trying for a better color or a faster burning effect, and suddenly they haven’t got any hands.” (pg 104)
[ ... ] The first firecrackers (p’ao chu) did not have black powder in them. They were simply joints of bamboo thrown on a fire. The noise of the their exploding is graphically described by Marco Polo, who reports that if the young green canes are put on a campfire “they burn with such a dreadful noise that it can be heard for ten miles at night, and anyone who was not used to it could easily go into a swoon and easily die. Hence the ears are stopped with cotton wool and the clothes drawn over the head, and horses are fettered on all four feet and their feet padded and the ears and eyes covered, for it is the most terrible thing in the world to hear for the first time.” (pg 164)
Perhaps the most infamous mishap was during a fireworks celebration of Queen Victoria’s Silver Jubilee. A huge portrait (it was 200 feet long and 180 feet high) of the Queen and the Royal Family had a small but devastating technical problem: the right eye of the Queen began to blink uncontrollably, as if she were winking at the enormous throng. (pg 176)
In Philadelphia’s baseball park, with a huge crowd on hand in anticipation of Pete Rose’s surpassing Stan Musial’s total of 3,630 lifetime hits, the Phillies’ executive vice president, Bill Giles, who was to give the signal for a considerable fireworks celebration when it happened, shouted “No! No! No!” as a roar went up in the first inning when Rose’s ground ball was boggled by the Cardinal shortstop. The fireworks people out beyond the ballpark’s walls heard the roar and thought Giles had said “Go! Go! Go!” They sent up the display – without doubt, the largest response ever produced by a shortstop’s miscue. (pg 177)
In 1886 a man named Wilson P. Foss, the manager at the Plattsburgh, New York, plant of the Clinton Dynamite Company was standing twelve feet from nine hundred pounds of nitro-glycerin sitting in a wash tank when it exploded, set off by an accidental gush of live steam from a faucet. The building in which Foss was standing completely disappeared, leaving behind a crater thirty feet deep. Mr. Foss himself ended up around the bend of the Saranac River on the ice. When the plant employees hurried to the site of the detonation they assumed they were not likely to find more of Mr. Foss than perhaps a bit of shoelace. To their astonishment Foss appeared, striding around the river bend. All of his clothes below the waistline had disappeared. He had approximately two hundred spruce splinters in him. According to witnesses his first remark was, “What’s the matter?” (pg 193)
One of the particular lethal firecrackers of the time was a foot-and-a-half-long cardboard casing filled with saltpeter, carbon, and sulfur that went off with a blast that shivered the leaves on trees for an acre around. Because of such devices, nearly as many people died celebrating independence – around four thousand over the years -- as actually died fighting in the War of Independence itself. The glorious Fourth became known as the “Bloody Fourth” and, because of the large number of severe infections from burns, the “Carnival of Lockjaw.” (pg 194)
Every firework shot up along the length of the Rhine is purportedly German-made. The reason for this is that Herr Moog, the official pyrotechnician to the Nazi regime, once ordered a whole shipment of shells from Japan which were supposed to contain swastika flags suspended from parachutes. Instead, with Adolf Hitler on hand at some vast ceremonial occasion, the shells popping open high above the stadium displayed hundreds of Japanese Rising Suns. Hitler was apparently furious as the parachutes drifted down. Ever since, so it is said, no fireworks have been imported into Germany. (pg 228)
I have listed twelve of the largest major fireworks companies below – whose offices would most likely give out the locations of the next scheduled show worth traveling to watch. If this does not work – as mentioned, fireworks people sometimes tend to be cagey about their schedules – you can always call me. I am in the Manhattan telephone directory. I would always direct someone to a good fireworks show. It would make me feel as if I had accomplished a good deed for the day. (pg 264)
I woke up fully dressed but with all my clothes on inside out, no shoes, socks that had no feet in them (+ very sore and cut feet) and a garbage bag that contained 800 cigarettes, 10 copies of the local Sunday paper and 2 large pizzas. I checked my wallet, found that I had about $65 more than I started out with. Where I woke up was the strange part though, on a jetty in a little fishing village, 260 km from home.
Sleeping Husband: I’m going for a 70s wee.
Awake Me: What’s a 70s wee?
Him: A wee with flares on.
Mid game, one of the sleepers suddenly sits bolt upright and screams, at the top of his lungs, “POUND OF APPLES. POUND OF APPLES. WALKING DOWN THE STREET WITH HER KNICKERS ‘ROUND HER ANKLES.” There was silence, as we all stared at him. Then; “Fucking hell,” said he, as he lay down and slept again.
2007sep09. Oh, I’m just going to keep quoting this sleepwalking thing ...
One time my mate stayed over and I scared him shitless. I have a habit of talking in my sleep which teamed together with a fear of the Krankees made for one very strange dream.
I dreamt that I was being attacked by the Krankees and started screaming like crazy in my sleep. However, by screaming so loudly, I’d kind of woken myself up but I was strangely unable to stop dreaming.
The part of me that was half awake found it hilarious I was dreaming about the krankees and was pissing myself laughing but the part of me that was still asleep was still screaming at the top of my lungs. Hence a very scared mate who said I was just manically laughing one second then screaming the next, over and over again.
One morning I also woke up to a very grumpy boyfriend who asked me very nicely ‘did you sleep ok?’ in which I was very hesitant to reply ’yes ... what did I do this time?’. It turned out I’d started screaming in my sleep then punched him several times right in the face. Probably from dreaming about the Krankees again.
What’s with bandaids, are they back in style?
Here’s the thing. You don’t get the metal box any more, you don’t get the red string anymore. That’s where it was at, but they blew it. The box, the string. Gone. So now you go to the drug store, and you sit looking at fifty kascrillion options for bandages – sport bandages, office bandages, bandages for pets, extreme bandages, bandages for the recently deceased, scented bandages including grape which never smells like grape because what does grape smell like, Chillow™-branded bandages, clear bandages, new classic regular flavor bandages, dyspeptic bandages, mouth bandages for the B&D curious, transparent mystery glo-in-the-dark bandages, feral bandages, Shinto splints, bandages with caviar creme centers, bandages featuring tiny representations of inane plotless cartoon characters du jour, bandages 2.0 (these have rounded corners and simultaneously no one gives a shit), variety-pak® bandages that have one type of bandage you have no idea how to use so it’s always the last one you use like putting a tiny round bandage on a sucking chest wound, dazzle camouflage bandages from the 1940s, 3-D bandages – and none of them are right for your current wound and they all cost so much money. I am recommending – as a doctor – a potent salve of Miracle Whip® mayonnaise immediately followed by a slice of high-quality bologna. The bonus thing here is that if your wound is actually caused by a botfly, the botfly will wriggle out of your flesh, hungry for delicious bologna, as we all are. The hot new style is actually casts that you can hide foodstuffs in. So you’re talking to a friend about your skiing accident and suddenly you’re chomping down on a mouth-watering sammich. Your friend has no idea where that sammich came from. What a corker.
2007sep17. Greenspan! Out of control. Both from Reuters to-day.
Also from Reuters:
Greenspan: Everyone who reads this is invited to my bitchin’ beach house for a killa B-B-mother-scratchin’-Q!!!!111!1
Greenspan: Who are all you people? Get off my property before I call the police!
I knew that fucking BBQ thing was too good to be true.
2007sep19. Someone has sent me pudding, many boxes, including vintage pudding and Jell-O® Brand Americana® Tapioca pudding. I’m not sure what happens with those little tapioca balls when you get boxed pudding. Are the little balls dehydrated? Little balls ... [thought trails off] ... anyway, thanks for that, certainly. My new giveaway is called “Send Me Chocolate.”
Send Me Chocolate
Box 2 0 7 0
Berkeley CA 94702
The winner of this promotion will have sent me chocolate.
2007sep19. Trashing Teens: article condemning the continually increasing infantilization of teenagers. Followed by timeline, including this bit: “Proposals for longer school days, longer school year, and addition of grades 13 and 14 to school curriculum under discussion” ... the poison isn’t working, here, have more poison.
Are you planning on off-shoring some of your cardhouse labor?
You joke, but you don’t even know. Since I’m on a slow-boat program-wise, I looked into outsourcing programming via one of those cheap foreign programming sites. Apparently you get what you pay for from them, so it’s not happening. What is happening is that there is gel in my hair, which happens once every 80 years or so when I attend an “80s” party. Do you remember the 80s? Now I really do. I guess I didn’t drink enough.
2007sep30. THE CHILDREN MUST LEARNS