I forget which science fiction writer talked about time travel stories as an expression of that regretful wish of a child who’s done something wrong: “Make it didn’t happen!” Maybe Larry Niven, maybe Frederick Pohl, I read a lot of SF and can’t keep it straight any more. Anyway, I’m currently reading The Demon Under the Microscope and over and over I’m wishing for a time machine. Sometimes we fantasize about going back in time to get rich from some insider knowledge of the future (as, for example, in Replay) but this time I want to go back in time and tell the chemists at Massengill, “Holy cow, don’t use antifreeze in medicine that’s to be taken internally! You’ll kill people!”
Oh yeah, and I just finished reading The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon, and the Scientific Discovery That Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler, a book whose subtitle reads like an SRL performance (e.g. “A Calculated Forecast of Ultimate Doom: Sickening Episodes of Widespread Devastation Accompanied by Sensations of Pleasurable Excitement”). That book, while also fascinating, has reset my context for the Nazis. I was thinking about that this morning when I read this story about the pope, comparing his resignation to Nixon’s. I mean, are these people serious? Nixon broke the law and tried to subvert the political process and then tried to cover it all up. The pope, as CEO of the Catholic Church, has certainly tried to keep the lid on scandals, but did he direct all the pedophile priests to go forth and molest? His Holiness doesn’t have a G. Gordon Liddy to do time for him. Will young Catholics be urging him to resume his role in fifteen years, wearing T-shirts emblazoned, “Benedict for Pope: He’s tan, rested, and ready!” I doubt it. He’s not like Nixon. And: the idiot you’re arguing with on the Internet? He’s not like Hitler, either.