I know she’s a nut, but I love Camille Paglia. I rarely agree with her, but I love her just the same. I know two entries in the same week in my ongoing series of “I read Salon.com so you don’t have to” is a bit much, but I recommend you go over there and check out her essay on Madonna.
Though she doesn’t address it directly, she goes a long way to explaining what the fuck is wrong with “Hung Up,” a song whose popularity can only lead one to shake her head and marvel at the wonders of Payola. There is just no reason that song is popular except that her record company is paying for it to be popular.
Frankly, Madonna hasn’t had a good song since “Ray of Light,” and even that song suffers unless it’s a sunny day and you have the car.
But I love how Paglia writes because she knows how to instill all her subjects with real weight. And I love her because I suspect she’s our own true heir to Nietzsche. One cannot read either of them without marveling at their fierce madness and their love of tendencies most of us work to suppress.
Her role model is Keith Richards. I guess I’m too young to understand what kind of role model Richards might be, though I appreciate his willingness to forgo purses or pockets and instead tying things in his hair. But I think she loves his voracious appetite. I can respect that.
Anyway, reading her writing on something as inconsequential as Madonna’s latest album has me wishing once again I knew how to talk about what I saw on TV the other day.
The guys from Mythbusters were shooting at ballistics gel submerged in a swimming pool. I wasn’t really paying any attention. I just had it on for background noise while I was afghaning.
The first gun they shot was some old Civil War era thingy and, though it failed to hit the gel at various distances, they were picking up whole bullets (shells, whatever) off the bottom of the pool.
But then they started shooting “hypersonic” guns. I don’t know what these are, but they’re big and scary looking. They even had one that could pierce bulletproof glass.
And you know what happened?
Every time the bullets hit the water, they shattered. I guess shattered*, since they were pulling shards of metal off the bottom of the pool.
As they explained it, it’s because the bullets are moving so fast and the water slows them down so quickly that the bullet basically tears itself apart as it decelerates into the water.
Seeing this made me really happy, and deeply delighted with physics.
And this is what I didn’t quite know how to talk about. But when they slowed the footage down and showed the bullet going from one whole fast piece of metal to tiny pieces gently falling over the top of the ballistics gel and the bottom of the pool, it almost felt like art, like some meditation on the ways in which our most sophisticated machines fail in the face of nature. Or on how sometimes speed and power isn’t everything. It was surprising. It made me consider both the gun and water in new ways.
But what’s cool about it is that such failure is not unpredictable. I was surprised to see it, but what physicist would have been?
Which made me a little jealous of physicists.
In general, I don’t like science because there’s too much math, but I make an exception for Physics**, which is really the artsiest of sciences, a field that requires a comfort with the as-of-yet unexplainable, and a field that requires a deep abiding love of metaphor. How can a girl not love a field that says “It’s like this. Say that the tiniest things in the universe were little strings of energy…”? Anyone who loves good storytellers has to love physicists****.
Anyway, water. It’s pretty amazing. And, apparently, hiding just a couple of feet under the surface will protect you from snipers.
*Ha, I lack the vocabulary to even talk about this. But tough shit for you, you’re already this far.
**And the math that goes into Excel spreadsheets. Is there anything more satisfying than finally getting one of those fuckers to work?***
***Could I be any more prone to hyperbole? I doubt it.
****But love them from afar, lest they try to bore you to death with all their talk of fermions and intrinsic angular momentum and the Wigner-d’Espag… whoo, put myself to sleep even trying to warn you about it.