Sunday, January 09, 2005


The New Yorker—you remember them, the New York piblication with an actual reporter, Seymour Hersh—has a review of Jared Diamond's newest and most excellent book Collapse. Here the reviewer describes how the Norwegian colonists of Greenland starved to death, though surrounded by oceans teeming with fish:

There are no fish bones in Norse archeological remains, Diamond concludes, for the simple reason that the Norse didn’t eat fish. For one reason or another, they had a cultural taboo against it. ... When archeologists looked through the ruins of the Western Settlement, they found plenty of the big wooden objects that were so valuable in Greenland—crucifixes, bowls, furniture, doors, roof timbers—which meant that the end came too quickly for anyone to do any scavenging. And, when the archeologists looked at the animal bones left in the debris, they found the bones of newborn calves, meaning that the Norse, in that final winter, had given up on the future. They found toe bones from cows, equal to the number of cow spaces in the barn, meaning that the Norse ate their cattle down to the hoofs, and they found the bones of dogs covered with knife marks, meaning that, in the end, they had to eat their pets. But not fish bones, of course. Right up until they starved to death, the Norse never lost sight of what they stood for.
(via New Yorker)

"They never lost sight of what they stood for." Ponder that.

When I read this passage, I was irresistibly reminded of the latest grand projet of the Republican governor of Texas, Richard "Good Hair" Perry:

[Texas] has embarked on an audacious project to build superhighways so big and so complex that they will make ordinary interstates look like cow paths.

The Trans-Texas Corridor project, as first envisioned by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2002, would be a 4,000-mile transportation network costing $175 billion over 50 years, financed mostly if not entirely with private money. The builders then would charge motorists tolls.

But these would not be mere highways. Proving anew that everything's big in Texas, they would be megahighways — corridors up to a quarter-mile across, consisting of as many as six lanes for cars and four for trucks, plus railroad tracks, oil and gas pipelines, water and other utility lines, and broadband transmission cables.
Moonie Times

Yes, "They never lost sight of what they stood for." Thank God oil is going to be cheap for the forseeable future! Oh, wait...

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