Tuesday, November 29, 2005

On "Dead Sparrow Overshadows Domino World"

On "Dead Sparrow Overshadows Domino World"

I did not know that there was a "Domino World."

I have heard of a "Raider Nation," I was aware that there were groups of people dedicated to coin collecting, bird watching, surviving cancer and drunk drivers, sexual bondage (dedicated to, not surviving, I think), but I did not know of a "domino world."

I know where Holland is, I know that it's people are called Dutch, I don't know why the people of Holland are called Dutch though, I know of their windmills and wooden shoes, I know Amsterdam is their capital, that it has a famous red light district and a museum dedicated to Van Gogh. But I did not know that Holland was the, or a, center of this domino world.

I don't know why Holland would be a center of a domino world, if it is a national pastime, or if there's some hermeneutic wood thing between the shoes and the domino.

I had never considered the Dutch to be obsessive or prone to overreaction. My image of them had been as a placid, content, moderate people. I had no referent for a Dutch psyche that would attempt to break the world record for domino falling, or for it being televised, or for it being taken so seriously that a wayward bird would be extinguished for interfering, or for the shooter to receive death threats, for the creation of an impromptu web site on the incident, for 5,000 Dutch to sign a condolence card for the bird, for the head of a Dutch bird group to appeal to the people of Holland for calm.

I did not know.

The bird was the common sparrow, officially on some endangered list in Holland, but one whose even current diminished numbers were still 1,000,000 mating COUPLES.

I don't know what the Dutch reaction to the killing of a domino-interfering Bald Eagle or Ivory-billed Woodpecker would have been.

I don't know why this story appeared on ESPN.com.

There are so many aspects to this: the true nature of the inscrutable Dutch; the limits of one person's, or one people's, ability truly to understand another; the limits of knowledge generally; trans-species empathy; the allure of falling dominos; air-pistol control; what passes for culture; what passes for entertainment; the qualifications of the person who edits ESPN.com.; the concept of responsible journalism; the impact of televised violence.

I do not know.

-Benjamin Harris

Saturday, November 19, 2005

"Dead Sparrow Overshadows Domino World"

"Dead Sparrow Oveshadows Domino World"

Linguists like Noam Chomsky have given examples of meaningless sentences that can be constructed by using the rules of the language.

The dead sparrow sentence above is not one of these however.

It was the title of an article on ESPN.com a couple of days ago.

Clicking on the article I learned that some Dutch TV station had been trying to break its own record for falling dominos when the doomed sparrow accidentally knocked one over causing 23,000 others to fall before the China Syndrome was stopped.

A security guard then shot the bird dead with an air pistol and the TV station went on to break the record with over 4,000,000 dominos falling.

The assasination of the bird had been witnessed by a crowd however and they were distraught by the incident, hence the "overshadowing."

A web site was instantly created and over 5,000 people signed a petition in memory of the bird.

The marksman received death threats.

The head of a Dutch bird group called for channeling the passion into constructive efforts to save birds and urged calm in the nation.

-Benjamin Harris