Friday, 20 October 2006

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Theoryfires Threaten Giant Sequoias, Comity The five theoryfires that broke out this week serve as a blunt reminder that cooler heads and recent comity have not eliminated the theory hazard from the forest. Authorities are reluctant to speculate, but most believe the recent spate theoryfires were deliberately lit. 2005 had been the worst year on record for theoryfires, but this week’s blazes have experts fearing that 2006 may be even worse. The problem is especially severe in locations ravaged by drought. “The problem is we have extremely dry fuels,” said Capt. Dennis Whaling, head of the local Theoryfire Prevention Service (TPS). “Some wind and a few sparks and these tumbleweeds become bouncing molotov cocktails. We sent a TPS Report to everyone in Aletheia county urging people to dispose of stray tumbleweed properly, but it looks like no one got the memo.” Whaling and his staff scoff at the notions that 2005 theoryfires unconcealed enough brush to prevent another series of costly conflagrations. “All light, no heat,” Whaling said. Despite the lack of heat, the 2005 theoryfires unconcealed nearly 165,293 acres. Drought conditions in the months since have created a heavy fuel load. “You know have fast dead grass grows when it doesn’t rain,” said U.S. Philosophy Service spokeswoman Lisa Comerford. “But so long as there are no gusty windbags, our crews can build lines to prevent the theoryfires from jumping and causing too much damage,” she added. Shortly after midnight, Whaling’s team received a frantic call from Heath Campiglio, an amateur thinker who lives in a small community outside of Zzyzx, CA. “I was Being-in-the-Woods, minding my own business, when I saw something across Interstate 15,” Campiglio said. Aletheia County Theoryfirefighters responded immediately, but by the time they reached Zzyzx, the theoryfire had tripled in size. Around 7 a.m., Whaling redirected personnel to the theoryfire’s western boundary. Crews marched up a hillside and hiked a few miles inward, where they would use ready-to-hand tools to cut theoryfire lines. “We set up an antithesis here to keep this thing from spreading,” said Chandler Huxman, a volunteer theoryjumper from Bunkie, Louisiana. “If the theoryfire on the other side of the line crests this hill, it’s liable to synthesize the whole [expletive] county.” Local theoryfire experts like Martin Tillich believe that if Huxman and his theoryjumpers are unable to contain the Zzyzx blaze, it may consume the county’s only tourist attraction. “I don’t think the economy can handle the loss of our historic softwood forests,” said Tillich. “These Giant Sequoias were here before Plato, before Socrates. It would be a tragedy to lose them.” Tuesday’s gusty windbags have put them directly in harm’s way, Whaling said. By next Tuesday, a somber Tillich replied, “all that’s left of these sublime giants could be a burnt-out clearing.”
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A Symbolic Pile-Up A summary of the third installment of Some Unspeakably Wretched American Novel (1900): A woman with a beautiful face but a slightly deformed body asks a sculptor to "realize" the urn from Keats' poem so that she might put it in the "wild garden" she's devising. "I thought if could see the vase I should understand how Keats felt when he wrote," she says. "But now I feel that it must not stand in the garden. It must be alone somewhere in the wood." Three friends of the pair then walk up, examine the vase and profess confusion: "'Ode to a Grecian Urn,' that was?" asks the scholar. "The Keats poem?" inquires the doctor. "The 'Bold Lover'—is that Lincoln?" bids his wife. It is. His beloved, the "happy melodist," the "mysterious priest" and those who accompany him to the sacrifice—they're all Lincoln. One stands on a rock, bearing the President's "strong, homely, humorous face, a look of loneliness in the eyes." Another has his "hands clasped, palms down, thinking of his life, of his boyhood, of the past." Below the rock stands a "long, ungainly figure of Lincoln, the boy, in a hunting-shirt, his hand resting on an ax-handle, one foot on a log, a serious figure, in the brief pause from labor, considering with quiet, lineless face the future, as above him the complete [men] regarded an heroic past." After assaying the sculptor's "realization" of Keats' poem, the scholar—who, at the moment, ismaking love to the sculptor's beautiful but lame patron—insults the "broken-backed chair" with "one cracked leg strengthened with twine and a splint of wood" performing the duty of a pedestal: "Why did you put it on that hideous stool? It is very beautiful, but the chair spoils it. It is like putting a beautiful head on a distorted body." His beloved's beautiful head swivels on its distorted body and everyone—Lincolns included—hyperventilates in horror. What happened here? So glad you asked: You see, the sculptor swerved to avoid a strangely familiar disabled lady toddling across the interstate, slammed Ekphrasis-first into a parked Keats, looked behind him, gasped at the fleet of Lincolns bearing down on him and jumped from his ride just as the Great Emancipators began pounding it one model year after another after another after another. His friends—who were following him but had been stranded by a red light the sculptor roared through—pull up, scream in disbelief, then follow a trail of blood across some well-manicured wilderness. They quickly find the sculptor and his shaken patron deep in conversation about this transitory life—which they compare, unfavorably, to aesthetic immortality of the type enshrined in poesy. Keats, Lincoln and how to keep Nature looking its most natural occupy the company until the scholar, crushing hard on his beloved, interrupts the gay proceedings with a thoughtless remark about the "lame" turn the conversation has taken, and everyone—dead Lincolns too—hyperventilates in horror. What? You have a better explanation?

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