Friday links! Slow train to Washington edition

Old smokey

Get along, old smokey.

Combat! blog continues its mad peregrinations today with a quick trip to Washington DC, where I will visit my brother and see my friend Curt in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. I assume he plays the beautiful Carole King, and if I see anyone else in that role, I intend to boo loudly. For now, though, I ride the train. I’m like a hobo of old, eating canned beans (kale chips) and sleeping under the stars (roof of train.) Today is Friday, and the modern world is safer and more comfortable than the old one. Won’t you learn to play the harmonica (iPod) with me?

First, the good news: In the most recent Reuters poll, Donald Trump is no longer leading the Republican field in Iowa. The bad news is he has been supplanted by Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who for some reason isn’t beginning every policy proposal with “it’s not brain surgery.” Carson wins points with voters for being a Washington outsider, but he loses points for being demonstrably insane. Over at the Washington Post, Max Ehrenfreund points out that the combination of Carson’s plan for a flat tax of 10% across all income levels and his plan for a balanced-budget amendment would necessitate “eliminating Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and the entire military.”

It was a nice government while it lasted. Fortunately, we won’t need a military when we all have 3D-printed rail guns. My Quake strategy became a workable lifestyle this week, when an Imgur user named NSA_Listbot used a 3D printer to make a handheld, electromagnetic projectile weapon capable of firing an aluminum rod at 560 miles per hour. It can also shoot plasma, which is alarming. I look forward to open-carry activists walking around with rail guns in McDonald’s. No camping, though—that’s not sporting.

3D printing technology might have made some portions of science fiction into reality, but most of our imaginative lives remain firmly in the realm of fantasy. Or, in the case of Jeb Bush, gray and nonexistent. When some desperate cubby asked him to name his favorite superhero, Bush considered a moment and then responded:

“I like watching the movies. I wish I owned Marvel, as someone that believes in capitalism.”

I can just picture a young Jeb growing up in Texas, closing his Batman comic book to lie back and dream about what it would be like if he owned Wayne Manor. Also, you don’t have to be ideologically committed to capitalism to want to own stuff. That’s just regular avarice.

My personal favorite superhero is The Great Flydini:

Maybe the best thing about this performance is Steve Martin’s solemn facial expressions. He presents this very silly act with high seriousness, and I think that contrast might be the essence of his sensibility. Also the phone gag is perfect: surprising but inevitable, as the screenwriters say.

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