Winter Solstice

Batting Back Blogger’s Block with Current Events

It’s been real hard coming up with decent, original material lately.

None of my current ideas lives up to the usual high standard of trivial blather that the readers of this blog have grown to expect, and which they so richly deserve.

I thought of writing about oil exploration in New Zealand, in light of the Gulf of Mexico being turned into a gigantic pot of toxic gumbo. (I can almost smell the fried sea turtles from here. Yum.)

Not to miss out on the Peak Oil beach party, New Zealand recently granted Petrobras a five-year permit to search for petroleum deposits in the Raukumara Basin off the East Coast of the North Island.

New Zealand has barrels of pristine beaches, like this one at Port Waikato.

What excited me most about this announcement was the solid assurance of Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee that nothing like the Gulf of Mexico disaster could happen here.

“I’m of the strong view,” Brownlee said, “that any of the oil companies who might be interested in pursuing their options will themselves, for the matter of their own liability, want to make sure that they are as safe as they possibly can be.”

I’m sure Brownlee is right. Look at British Petroleum, after all. Left to its own devices by a neutered regulatory agency, BP exposed the entire Gulf region of the States to untold risk rather than invest up to $7 million in preventative measures.

The company lost half its stock valuation as a result of following industry best-practices. But that seems irrelevant compared to the cost of destroyed industries, decimated ecosystems, and lost life.

Perhaps Brownlee’s assurance refers to the invisible hand of the free market and its ability to plug-up any hole with just its pinky finger. He’s right. The invisible hand of the free market is always ready to give us the finger.

BP being as safe as it possibly can be in Tairua.

But enough with stupid cheap-shots and preachy hyperbole. I’ll admit that being a long-time consumer of fossil fuels hampers my credibility as a critic.

But how did this disaster come to be known as a spill?

I doubt people that call it a “spill” have ever spilled anything in their lives.

It’s not like if you were sipping a Martini in a crowded bar and your arm got jostled and vodka and olives continued to flow for three straight months so that drink experts would be called in to suck up the mess and Congressional committees would have to cross examine bartenders and everybody who lived near the crowded bar would be drunk all the time from the vodka fumes. I mean, if that were the case, I’d seriously have to consider moving next to a bar.

I thought of writing all that, but then I thought, “What a bunch of crap. Maybe I should write about the weather instead.”

It’s now officially winter, which means it’s finally colder outdoors than it is inside my apartment. But only a little.

The cold, hard light of the Winter Solstice, June 21. The sun rose at 7:48 a.m. and set at 4:58 p.m.

See, as many of you have probably guessed by my demeanor, hygiene and grammar, I live in a cave.

We all do down here. That’s because most residences in New Zealand do not have central heating.

We get by. We put on our indoor fleeces (as opposed to our fancy, outdoor, doing-the-town fleeces) and we crank up our electric heaters to 3 and we burn architectural elements in our fireplaces.

So the temperature, I can deal with. In the cold and damp, however, there thrives a mold, the national flower of New Zealand, that aggravates my asthma.

This, unfortunately, is also a bunch of crap.

Maybe this week, I just don’t have it in me to write original material. Maybe it’s better for everyone if I just re-print material from someplace else.

Like this partial transcript of a White House Press Briefing about President Barack Obama’s reaction to Gen. Stanley McChrystal disparaging the Administration in a Rolling Stone article:

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, 6/22/2010

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:52 P.M. EDT

Q    Were you with the President when he reacted in any way to this story?  And if so, how would you describe it?  Was he surprised?  Was he angry?

MR. GIBBS:  I was — I gave him the article last night.  And he was angry.

Q    How so?

MR. GIBBS:  Angry.  You would know it if you saw it.  (Laughter.)

Q    What did he do?

MR. GIBBS:  I’d rather not talk about it.

Q    Come on. Don’t tease.

MR. GIBBS: Well, I went in to show him the article. He said, “I thought I told you never  to interrupt me when Cougar Town is on.” I told him it was important. “Wait for the commercial,” he said. It was the longest five minutes of my life.

Q    Why?

MR. GIBBS: Because he was wearing his eye patch and he had a snooty looking persian cat on his lap, which he caressed menacingly. When the commercial came on, I showed him the article.

Q    And?

MR. GIBBS:  First he bit my ankle. Then he smashed me over the head with a portrait of one of the presidents. (Laughter.)

Q    Which president?

MR. GIBBS:  I don’t know. It was wrapped around my head and facing the other way. The President laughed at me. He kept saying, “Now you know how I feel when someone interrupts me watching television.” And then he said, “Oh, don’t start crying now. I’ll give you something to cry about.”

Q    How deep was the bite?

MR. GIBBS:  I needed six stitches. They gave me a tetanus shot and they injected me in the abdomen with a Rabies vaccine, just in case. (Laughter.) It was very painful.

Q    But what did the president say about the article? What were his first words?

MR. GIBBS:  The last thing I heard before I passed out was something along the lines of, “I’m going to fix myself a sandwich. You want anything?”