I went with “a box of burned Barbie Hair,” because it had both the incinerated-follicle aroma and an odd note of plastic. What seemed odd was the source of the fire: wood. When you hear that it’s going to get smoky because of a forest fire far away, you expect you’ll get that Campfire Smell that fills your sweater after a trip up north. But yesterday smelled like a giant cat blew up in an oil refinery.
WEB Verge is turning off comments to let things chill out for a while. That’s the word they use: chill. As they’re turning off the sun, exterminating all life, then turning it on again so the process of evolution can give rise to more sensible organisms with shorter fuses. No. Things will flare up again the moment they turn comments on, because there are people who live to be miserable, sneering jerks on the internet. Even requiring real logons - say, your Facebook profile - doesn’t assure sensible, measured responses. It just means people will call up your page and think “hmm, that nasty person teaches at a community college in Albany. How about that.”
There are two solutions: pay to post, as with sites like Tablet. They actually have a one-day rate that lets you comment for a small fee. Keeps out the riff-raff. Or have two different threads: The Decent and the Vile. Moderators would make sure the tone is consistent, and move people from the first to the second if need be. (Not too many people will need repositioning from the Vile thread. Say, we see you’re responding point-by-point with evidence that supports your thesis and directly addresses the critiques of others, and refrains from ad hominem. You must have got lost. Come this way. This goes for Twitter, too, but it would be harder to enforce. Sometimes it’s best to let people parade their mulishness, especially if they’ve perfected that smug, facile, broad assertion that just serves to inform their ideological foes that they don’t really get the arguments of the other side at all.
PS: After reading the Verge article, I actually scrolled down to see if there were any comments.
HISTORY Pompeii is in trouble. It’s falling apart, thanks to lousy management and crime. Ah, Italy. Smithsonian:
Irlando’s investigation led to government charges of “abuse of office” against Marcello Fiori, a special commissioner given carte-blanche power by Berlusconi to administer the funds. Fiori is accused of having misspent €8 million ($9 million) on the amphitheater project. In March, Italian authorities seized nearly €6 million ($7 million) in assets from Fiori. He has denied the accusations. Caccavo, the Salerno-based construction firm that obtained the emergency-fund contracts, allegedly overcharged the state on everything from gasoline to fire-prevention materials. Its director was placed under house arrest. Pompeii’s director of restoration, Luigi D’Amora, was arrested. Eight individuals are facing prosecution for charges including misallocation of public funding in connection with the scandal.
But there’s hope:
a private-public partnership, the Herculaneum Conservation Project, established by the American philanthropist David W. Packard, has taken charge of the ancient Roman resort town by the Bay of Naples and restored a semblance of its former grandeur. In 2012, Unesco’s director general praised Herculaneum as a model “whose best practices surely can be replicated in other similar vast archaeological areas across the world” (not to mention down the road at Pompeii).
Packard is the son of the fellow who was the H in H-P, Hewlett-Packard. All that computer money from long ago, rebuilding an ancient city. Nifty.
I was in Pompeii a few years ago, and it’s a strange, haunted place. You walk into a fast-food joint on a corner, see where the pots and benches went, and you’re back a couple thousand years. The recent movie about the city’s fate ruined any chances of an adaptation of Robert Harris’ excellent novel, but we can hope. I suppose it was mad to expect an intelligent retelling of the tale that didn’t involve a glowering gladiator, and Hollywood execs probably rolled their eyes upon hearing that Harris’ hero was a hydraulic engineer. But it’s a terrific book, and will delight anyone who loves stories of ancient Rome.
Anyway. When I was there, smoke drifted from Vesuvius. It’s odd to see the old mountain venting, but it does that all the time. Still. Some day it’s going to go off again, and on that day there will be tourists in Pompeii, thinking “I can’t really be surprised, but man, what are the odds.” Go while you can.