Thursday, June 26, 2008

Out With the Crowd

A government as large as ours does reports on itself from time to time, sometimes revealing things that would surprise you. I was listening to a few details of such a report on the radio the other day. The story of what became of the Justice Department, the government arm we once thought of as representing all of us in court, was pretty sad. The chief blunder here (and we must speculate that it WAS a blunder and not a plot) was in turning over personnel matters to political employees. Need I add that we are talking about the Bush administration here?
In less time it took to snap your fingers, the Department went from a rolling juggernaut of
intellectual power and legal expertise to one which grants favors for the silliest reasons and bars the door to qualified applicants for reasons that seem far removed from simply desiring the best and brightest . Among the causes for receiving the "black spot" barring employment was - belonging to an organization opposing domestic violence. Go figure.

A wedding had almost the entire family gathered last week in a place I don't pretend to know - the megalopolis of Southern California. My own role in the preparations was almost nonexistent, but some work naturally had to be done, and though it was hot, the details came together nicely as the two young people (as we old folks like to call them) got just the start they had planned. They'll be living over a thousand miles from where the wedding took place, but that's another story.
One of the daughters in law thought it would be nice to take a side trip to Sea World in San Diego, and a dozen of us did. Think of what you would pay for a minor league baseball ticket and multiply it by ten. That was the cost of getting in, but that didn't stop us. It was, I won't say hot, but warm over the course of nine hours there. Didn't matter. The kids, all under five, were stressed a little and needed to be greased over and over with industrial sun block. Done.
I had fun, and not all of it involved the ocean flora and fauna. I like watching the people. All the world's ethnicities were represented, some in larger numbers, some smaller. Standing in line was minimal since the park features few rides, but a number of short length "shows". I tried to think how the crowd would have been different say, ten years ago, and thought of a few ways. In 1998, there was none of that ultra-thin mesh fabric designed to keep one from sweating. There were fewer cell phones ten years ago, and surely there were fewer tattoos, particularly on women.
The shows themselves? Well, it wasn't so much the things the animal attractions did, but that they did anything at all that impressed me. How many places in the world can you see performing dolphins, seals, walruses and, most of all, killer whales? These last were in the range of four to six tons of marine mammal, capable, we were told, of eating 250 lb. of fish each day and fifty lb. in one bite! Lots of feeding during the show kept the orcas' minds off the edible limbs of their trainers and on the business of - show business!
I had to wonder as the show concluded after a half hour or so of leaping, splashing, posing and diving - Who first had the idea of training these huge flesh recycling animals, and how did they start? "You know, I think we can get these lovely creatures (You say they're called 'killer whales'?) to do tricks, and thousands of people will come to see them every day. You there! Little guy who doesn't speak English. Get in the tank and see if you can get this fish to jump through a flaming hoop. A bonus? Oh, let's talk about that later. Could someone please bring us a flaming hoop?"


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