January 15, 2007

one of the new words in the OED this year is “wick-v3.” wick means, “intr. Of a liquid: to migrate by capillary action, esp. through an absorbent textile” and is frequently used with the preposition up. i like this entry because without it i never would have known that there were two other wick-v’s in the english language.

wick-v2 is a curling term, meaning ” ‘to drive a stone dexterously through an opening between two guards’ (Jam.)” there’s also a parallel intransitive verb, inwick. both of these curling terms are well attested in the quotations and quite old.

wick-v1, the oldest of the bunch, is now, alas, obsolete. as an intransitive verb, wick means, “to take up one’s abode.” there’s also a transitive form, meaning, “to pitch a tent.” wick was a remnant of old english that has been lost to time. the word is related to the the noun wick-n2 which means an abode, amongst other things. OED claims that wick-n2 is now either obsolete or local. i assume local means dialect, but the lovely editors don’t actually tell us where they still use this enchanting word. does local mean oxford town? one can only hope that the oxford lexicographers are busying away in their wicks preparing a new edition of their lovely list of words.

part of my reason for supporting maverick presidential candidate Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks is his unrivaled wealth. unlike his opponents, mr. warbucks can afford to stay above the fray, and keep special interests out of the white house. for this reason, i would also whole-heartedly support michael bloomberg, warren buffet, j.k. rowling, prince philip, lex luthor, and exxonmobil for president. while mr. warbucks is indeed quite wealthy, forbes magazine has decided to take him down a notch and rank him as the second wealthiest fictional character.

number one: santa claus.

forbes credits santa claus with infinite wealth, and daddy warbucks with a paltry 27.2 billion dollars. leaving aside the accuracy of forbes’ accounting models for a minute, there are serious problems with including santa claus in the discussion in the first place.

1) santa claus is a myth and not a fictional character. unlike gozer, an ancient sumerian deity, people in this world believe in santa claus. everyone knows daddy warbucks is fictional. santa claus? not so much. though this is the result of the character’s folkloric origins, it nonetheless problematizes his current status.

2) santa presides over a non-modern economy. santa’s north pole is a utopia. they have no trade relations with the rest of the world, and, as far as we know, no currency. while forbes cites rumors of santa underpaying his elfs, it is more likely that they are completely uncompensated for their work. though the paucity of extant literature makes certainty impossible, recent studies have determined that the north pole is either a feudal system, based around fealty to the claus, or a non-market based system along the lines of the early soviet union.  with no true market to determine accurate pricing and costs, the north pole would prove remarkably inelastic and perpetually on the verge of collapse.

3) Global Warming. forbes, a bastion of conservative thought, has failed to account for the likely toll global warming has had on santa. surely the shrinking of the arctic ice-cap has caused dramatic changes in santa’s business practices and his daily life. at the very least, the north pole’s industrial capacity has shrunk considerably. long-term prospects are bleak.

meanwhile, daddy warbucks defense interests are booming as a result of our ongoing conflicts in iraq and afghanistan.

i trust the editors of forbes to correct their egregious mistake. until then, i say good day to you.

streetcar mania

January 15, 2007

well, it had to happen. streetcar mania has once again swept the nation. it’s even attracting attention from USA Today, somebody’s paper of record. we’ve even blogged about it here at the salad. and here is a much better picture of the little rock streetcar:


this picture is actually pretty cool. the engineers modified an existing bridge to fit in the streetcar. it’s also seen climbing a very steep gradient, which streetcar detractors say is implausible. full report here. the extension to the clinton library is about to open, which should continue to spur interest in the streetcar, which is apparently becoming iconic; Southern Living is about to run a feature on it.

some of you might be wondering why streetcars disappeared from american roads in the first place. was it suburbanization? decreased cost of automobiles and fuels? local government inefficiencies? land-use planning? no, it was a conspiracy. none other than General Motors conspired to destroy American streetcars. there are a lot of materials available online about the conspiracy, but to emphasize just how nefarious GM is, I’ve decided to link to an article on their connections with the Nazis (never fear, it mentions the streetcars). the GM conspiracy is the basis for the evil scheme in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” which, like all great film noir, is about the decay of the american urban core, often told through the vantage point of infrastructure (especially see “Chinatown”).

the real question, though is should we support streetcar development? in the opinion of this author, yes. electrification of our national infrastructure is crucial in our battle against carbon. more importantly, the streetcar could be very effective as a supplement to a larger u-bahn/s-bahn system.

consider the case of Hyde Park in chicago. then current plan is to build the olympic stadium in nearby washington park because of its proximity to public transport. but is it really that close?


While the CTA green line is right next to Washington Park, the Red Line is at least a half a mile away (more like .75)–a distance no one is going to walk in that neighborhood. likewise, no one is going to walk the mile+ from the METRA stations (which would hopefully be CTA Gray line stations at that point) in hyde park to Washington park. the park is close, but not close enough. connecting this transportation infrastructure through a streetcar would make a lot of sense. the city should even consider a full light rail line extending all the way to midway airport.

in other words, streetcars are good for filling gaps. americans will gladly ride a train to and fro, but not a bus. GM’s scheme personified.

When presidents appear in fiction, they too often are either a) a villain b) completely worthless and need to be rescued from a kidnapping c) there only to hand out medals. As a profession, fictional president has few success stories. There are a few, however, who stand out from the crowd. Here now, in a YS exclusive, I will present the definitive list of best fictional presidents and decide upon a single greatest chief executive.

As with any ranking, we must first establish the criteria. We will judge the candidates based on a variety of factors, but mostly in terms of their achievements in office. Personal characteristics are important, but tangible displays of leadership and benefit to the nation are paramount. A president could be the biggest SOB and still do right by the country. Political success is also important. Were they popular? Within the context of the fictional world, how is their legacy viewed? Verisimilitude is also important. How plausible is it that such a person could become president or that their outlined policies would be effective? In other words, no Mike Brady (sorry, Gary Cole). Lastly, we need to consider the quality of the fiction. We don’t want to hold bad movies against great presidents too much (if we did, this would be a pretty short exercise), but there needs to be some sort of justice exacted for particularly offensive films.

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