May 15, 2004

When Good Writers Go to Seed

ALAS, THE ONCE WONDERFUL WRITER KURT VONNEGUT has forgotten to get off the stage after the lights dim. His incoherent rant Cold Turkey -- In These Times is rife with gems such as:

"And do you know why I think he is so pissed off at Arabs? They invented algebra. Arabs also invented the numbers we use, including a symbol for nothing, which nobody else had ever had before. You think Arabs are dumb? Try doing long division with Roman numerals."
We will forget for the moment that the Roman numerals joke isn't even close to original. You'd think that loving and caring editors would have stopped their author from making a fool of himself, but perhaps they were lunching at the time and could not be bothered to look up from the expense account trough.

Vonnegut's "He" is, of course, the President. I wonder if there is an editor anywhere within telephone range of Kurt that could call him up and inform him that it is highly unlikely the President is upset over algebra. The hole at the tip of Manhattan should clear that up. Somebody should drive Kurt downtown and let him have a look around.
UPDATE: As mentioned in the comments, the joke is not only old and unoriginal, the facts are wrong:" Zero -- Its existence in the West is probably due to the Arabs, who, having obtained it from the Hindus, passed it on to European mathematicians in the latter part of the Middle Ages. The Maya of Central America and probably the Babylonians also invented zero." zero. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001

Posted by Vanderleun at May 15, 2004 4:11 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Hindus invented zero; Arabs just adopted the technology, including 1-9.

Posted by: anonymous coward at May 15, 2004 7:55 PM

One wonders if Kurt could make an instrument landing of a supersonic jet under bad weather conditions? Ancestry and prestige are no substitute for skill and smarts when a 1 degree course deviation or a 100 foot altitude error will smear you across the landscape.

Posted by: Walter E. Wallis at May 16, 2004 8:33 AM

One wonders if any of you idiots could write bestselling books like Kurt. Or anything other than mindless drivel.

Posted by: Bush is done at May 16, 2004 11:40 AM

We aren't talking about his bestselling books of 20 years ago, but his current article which, by any definition, mindless drivel.

Posted by: vanderleun at May 16, 2004 12:31 PM