In Murmansk, part of the Northern Fleet headquarters for the Russian navy lost phone service for a week; at Polyarnye Zori, a nuclear power station had to be shut down; in Prokopyevsk, a "bright explosion" left 12-year-old Maksim Naumenko horribly injured. Three episodes, one cause—name it.
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Monday's Question (No. 417)—"Rushdie's Rush":
"[It] rushes in on you from every direction; I'm suffering from a kind of overload," said Salman Rushdie as he did something for the first time in over a dozen years. What?
"Oh, please. The rest of us have to pay taxes every year."—Peter Lerangis (M.G. Lord had a similar answer.)
"Smothered his head in the welcoming bosom of Gertrude Himmelfarb."—Noah Meyerson
"Lost money in tech stocks."—Joel Grus
"Air hockey."—Angus MacDonald (similarly, but Asteroids Deluxe Jon Drumwright)
"He accepted far too many Upper West Side Seder invitations."—Michele Siegel
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Salman Rushdie would naturally be susceptible to overload following his years of involuntary isolation; the human mind is ill equipped to endure such sensory deprivation. Convicts in solitary confinement sometimes hallucinate. Long stretches of silent meditation in bare cells bring monks the sort of visions non-believers can achieve only with expensive pills or a mishap with a bad clam. Similar, often terrifying, dislocation has been reported by those obliged to spend a featureless evening listening to G.W. Bush talk about his "ideas." Perhaps this is why so many violent madmen have nurtured their resentments, not in teeming and sociable cities, but on the bleak plains of the Midwest. Didn't O.E. Rölvaag write about this sort of thing in Giants in the Earth? His uncanny knack for describing a vast and harrowing loneliness sprang from the years he lived on the treeless expanses of South Dakota, or perhaps it's just what happens when you live in America but write in Norwegian; it cuts a guy off. Critics agree—or should—that even if there'd been fashion models in turn-of-the-century Dakota, Rölvaag would have dated a lot fewer than has Salman Rushdie. This can be seen in the struggles of Per Hansa, Giants in the Earth's protagonist. He thought the land was talking to him, he got a couple of frostbitten toes (a fashion-model turnoff), and his wife, Beret, went mad and was named after a hat. Clearly, even if the grasshoppers hadn't eaten up the wheat or his neighbor Hans Olsa hadn't frozen his legs, Per Hansa should have gotten out more. As should O.E. Rölvaag, and Salman Rushdie, and me. Keep us in mind for your next dinner party.
Back in Circulation Answer
Salman Rushdie visited India, his first trip back since it banned The Satanic Verses.
Accompanied by his son, Zafar, Rushdie traveled the country with little notice from the press until the two made a big entrance at the Commonwealth Writers Prize ceremony. Rushdie lost, his The Ground Beneath Her Feet beaten out by J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace.
Even after news of his presence circulated, there were only a few small protests against him.
Rushdie noted the changes in his native land since his last visit, including the fall of the Congress Party, the rise of celebrity journalism, and "a lot more money sloshing around." He was pleased by the new dominance of Coca-Cola over Thumbs Up, a local cola he despises.
Jay Leno's Jokebook Extra
The following phrases from Monday's 7-2 Supreme Court decision in the luggage squeezing case are now available for the host's patented double-entendre (what non-professionals call "single-entendre") comedy.
Chief Justice Rehnquist, For the Majority:
"probing tactile examination"
"feel the bag in an exploratory manner"
Justice Breyer, Dissenting:
"ubiquity of non-governmental pushes, prods, and squeezes"
Don't Believe Everything You Read in the Papers Extra
"Mark Aitelli, a sales associate at the store, said, 'Men come in here and say, "I want to look like Regis." ' "—New York Times, April 18, 2000
Which Section of the Paper Was That Extra?
"They vomited and they had erections. 'That was not fun,' he said."—New York Times, April 18, 2000
Not related to previous story.
Sex, sex, sex. And several mentions of Cat Stevens. And the usual xenophobia. But mostly sex. And would you want it any other way?