Email Bag

Two nice observations this week in my inbox.

First, alert Lab reader Tobias noted that my discussion of blanks in firing squads was incorrect in one critical detail. In his words:

In a discussion in the New York Times (many years ago), a letter-writer explained that firing a blank FEELS different from firing a real bullet, so in a firing squad, each person knows whether they fired a real bullet. The function of the blanks is to allow each participant to claim that they fired a blank and did not kill anyone.

This twist, of course, makes the metaphor even better, for values of "better" meaning of "darker and more twisted." It takes the comparison from one that suggests a general lack of knowledge and turns it into one that suggests the concealment of ugly, murderous secrets.

Following up on a much older Lab post, Ric wrote in to add a few good ideas to my Muppet casting suggestions for Lord of the Rings.

His suggestion that Oscar the Grouch would make a good Saruman is right on the money. They're both cranky and contemptuous towards others, they both have a thing for loud metallic clanging noises, and they both make real trash heaps out of their homes. Slimey the Worm as Grima Wormtongue is also a stroke of genius.

Thanks, Tobias and Ric!