IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS

Since we stay at one of its service apartments, we are allowed to use the facilities at Singapore’s Shangri-La.

And as soon as you step into its lobby there’s no mistaking the time of the year you’re in. As you head towards the gymnasium amidst the Christmastide and its inimitable carols, you almost forget there’s a pandemic about because of the normalcy of the scene: families taking photographs under the towering, bauble-bedecked tree stretching up to the roof.

There’s a smell of chocolate in the air and it’s strongest near the escalator that takes you down to the gym. The reason isn’t immediately obvious and then you get it: the tableaux of three dazzlingly white polar bears playing with presents amidst the snow and ice next to the escalator is fashioned entirely out of chocolate.

Only when you’re on the escalator do you realise why the scene isn’t completely normal: everyone’s wearing a mask.

We decided not to go back for Christmas this year after cases in Malaysia began spiking four months ago. It prompted Singapore to tighten its rules. Previously, when we went back, we only needed to quarantine for a week at our apartment when we returned. Now we had to do it for two weeks at some government facility and, being foreigners, we had to pay for the privilege.

In any case, with Malaysia under movement control and our daughter in Amsterdam it wasn’t hard decision to make.

If you had to be somewhere else during the Yuletide season, Singapore’s the place to be with some additional advantages. Like many Malaysians, both Rebecca and I have family here and my niece, for example, has kindly invited us over to her place on the 23rd.

The other is that the island republic can seriously put on a show when it comes to Christmas. Only 20% of the country is Christian but the statistic belies the spectacle the nation puts on.

Carols were already being played on radio stations by November, while glittering, trees in tinsel and twine began sprouting in shops all over the place by early December.

It’s clearly a transactional Christmas in these parts and they make no bones about it. Even before Deepavali rolled around this year, the Christmas lights began blazing along Orchard Road on November 13.

We were out for dinner two nights ago and the lights along the 2.2- kilometre road were something else. Spectacular is one word that comes to mind. Over the top are three words more.

And then there’s the Botanical Gardens where a loop-around is about 4 miles. That was too long so we just cut through diagonally. Volunteers have done a fantastic job trimming every other tree along its length in Christmas splendor. You can imagine how the gardens might look like at twilight. It gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling.

Rebecca’s baked her pineapple tarts and thrown in some panettone for good measure. So, we’re all set.

We’ve invited four friends – all Malaysians as well – for dinner on Christmas Eve which is just nice as our dining table only seats 6.

Merry Christmas everyone!

A CHRYSANTHEMUM BY ANY OTHER WORD WOULD BE EASIER TO SPELL

When the ever-rumpled Boris Johnson confidently announced last year that Britain would exit the European Union by the end of 2020 with a trade deal in hand and that anything else would be a “misstep of statecraft,” few people reckoned the statement would come back to bite him in the nether regions.
As things stand, Britain is on the verge of a no-deal Brexit which makes the Prime Ministerial statement a political faux pas of sorts


“Mon Dieu,” cried the French alertly. They knew their creations as well as anyone else and immediately grasped the implications of the Johnsonian misstep. Faux pas – meaning an embarrassing mistake – had been borrowed from the French. And if the Brits wanted to leave the EU, they would have to leave off their borrowed possessions as well.


It was going to be a long, cold winter. The British felt it acutely because they knew the enormous difference between the right word and the almost-right word. It was like saying “I apologise” instead of “I’m sorry” at a funeral.


The French were unrepentant as they noted that “ballet” was also from the French. It kept the English on their toes because the French knew how to put two and two together.


President Macron also insisted that “baguette” be removed from the English language. The President was insistent because the French felt a special affinity for its famous bread.


Even the Brits knew that the humble baguette was invented by one Jacques Baguette. Sitting gloomily in his kitchen one wintry afternoon in the 16th Century, the near-destitute chef was pondering the future when his eye idly fell on some water, salt, flour and yeast in that order.


A more superstitious man might have shuddered and thrown some of the salt over his left shoulder, just in case. A more practical man would have mixed the water into a stiff cognac to ward off the winter chills.
But JB was made of sterner stuff and, in a magnificent moment that screamed Eureka, he mixed the flour, water and yeast together and, with just the right pinch of salt, he created the dish that would always bear his name and forever sustain French armies marching towards surrender.


Even Marie Antoinette lost her head over a careless reference to the great inventor. When told that the French people were starving and needed food, the haughty queen replied: “Let them eat baguette.”
The President couldn’t resist rubbing it in to the English. “You will notice,” cried Macron triumphantly. “That she did not say ‘let them eat chips.”


Richard Branson was aghast that “entrepreneur” was also from the French, while musicians groaned to find out that “genre” had also been ruled out.


On the other hand, the British thought that the French could keep some of their words, thank you. Take the pretentious “avant-garde” for instance. The late, great John Lennon put it best. “Avant-garde?” he asked ironically. “Doesn’t that mean bullshit in French?”


The English thought that the French could also keep hors d’oeuvres, those bits of food served at fancy parties. Most folk could neither pronounce nor spell the word.


It wasn’t the sort of English word like “horticulture” which was a good, stout Anglo-Saxon word right up there with “major” or “Anglican.” And, unlike hors d’oeuvres, it was easy to make a sentence with horticulture.
As an example, let me famously quote Dorothy Parker: “You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.”

HE SHOULD QUIT WHILE HE’S BEHIND

When he was a child, he once read that almost 50 percent of people allow their pets to sleep with them for greater closeness. So he thought he would try it and his favourite goldfish died. It was then that his parents first had an inkling that he might not amount to much.

Apparently that insecurity never got to the child. And the certitude stayed with him even after he became President. And to his mind, that certitude was never going to be confused with being right, modest or remotely truthful.

“Sometimes you have to toot your own horn because no one else is going to do it” might well describe the guiding spirit of the Trump presidency.

He was a “very stable genius” who regularly ranked his performance “A+” and often compared himself to Abraham Lincoln in his treatment of African-Americans.

He has even managed to exaggerate hyperbole if that’s possible. “We have triumphed over evil like nobody else” or “Nobody’s read more books than me” and the notion that “I’ve got more words than anyone else.”

Who talks like that?

Donald Trump will probably go down in history as one of the weirdest leaders to have ever held elected office. We have had unelected weirdos – Kim Jong Un, for instance – and “elected” ones like Vladimir Putin. To illustrate the latter case, take this conversation between VP and his top election official just before the last Russian election was called.

Official: We have good news and bad news
VP: What’s the good news?
Official: You won.
VP: What can be bad about that?
Official: You didn’t get any votes.

Mr Trump has fired more administration officials in his tenure, had more nasty books written about him, told more lies, insulted more people and nations, and made more gaffes, blunders and missteps than any other leader in living memory. And yet he remains hugely popular having garnered 74 million votes in the November election, more than any other candidate of the 21st Century.

All except Joe Biden, that is.

And that’s the rub, and what Mr Trump is raging about now. Indeed, he has been going nuts for three weeks now.

Mr Biden’s election margin over Donald Trump widened to more than seven million votes Thursday, even as Trump and his adamant supporters persisted in claims of widespread fraud.

One month after the Nov 3 election, new local tallies from New York drove victor Biden’s total to 81.3 million votes, compared to Trump’s 74.2 million, with a total 158.4 million votes counted so far, according to data compiled by the Cook Political Report.

It looks like Mr Biden has won it hands-down: he has 306 electoral votes – more than the 270 required – amid an almost 5% victory margin.

But hell hath no fury than an egocentric scorned. And if Mr Trump really harbours any intention of a 2024 run, he should think twice about speaking when he’s angry because it could be the best speech he’d ever regret.

THERE’S NO ACCOUNTING FOR TASTE

It was these things that kept him awake at night. It was the unspeakable thought that he’d never have any real money to talk about until, just when they were digging his grave, they’d strike oil.

The answer seemed simple enough: crime. It would pay because he took his cue from the very top in the land. After all, the poor and ignorant would always lie and steal so long as the rich and educated showed them how.

In that sense, you might describe our former premier, Fearless Leader, as a trail blazer. His former less-than-trusty sidekick, the flabby Felonious certainly thought so. Indeed, it was indelibly associated with his work ethic: rise early, work hard and become close to the Prime Minister.

But back to our story. In his unflagging quest for fortune, our hero joined a secret society. Along the way, he also signed up with the civil service in the shape of the Immigration Department.

How on earth he slipped through the cracks is anyone’s guess. But, hey, it happens to the best of us.

The trick to criminality, as Felonious himself might concede, is this: it’s always better to be rich than stupid.

In short, one had to keep as low a profile as was humanly possible. “That’s easy for you to say,” grumbled Fearless who was getting heartily sick and tired of gratuitous advice from Felonious, all of which was dumpily dispensed from his safe house in Macao.

But, alas, our hero would rather be rich and stupid. As a junior immigration official earning between RM1,500 and, at his peak, RM5,000, said rocket scientist thought nothing of splurging out on a Rolls-Royce.

What do you think his bewildered neighbours thought?

In fact, he might be considered as stupid as Rush Limbaugh, a right-wing US radio talk-show host who once famously defended development thus: “There are more acres of forest land in the United States today than when Columbus discovered the continent in 1492.”

But our hero was less interested in history than he was in cars. When anti-corruption officials raided his residence on suspicion of human trafficking, they found a garage worthy of a Lewis Hamilton: a Rolls-Royce Phantom, a Ford Mustang, a Range Rover and an Audi.

Felonious whistled admiringly but more over our hero’s taste and less at his track-covering ability. Even so, it was taking conspicuous consumption to a whole new level, and Felonious approved –strictly on a point of principle.

Last Friday, it was reported that the MACC had detained 50 individuals, including 28 Immigration personnel, 17 foreign worker agents and five civilians, for being involved in the fraudulent use of immigration stamps to enter and exit the country,

The sheer number of immigration officials involved has dented the department’s reputation. It consoled itself with the thought that outside of the corruption, the department was still one of the cleanest agencies in government.

Felonious wasn’t at all worried about his reputation. Time would inevitably soften judgments and impair memory. It was not for nothing that the writer Balzac had once penned the notion that “behind every great fortune lies a crime.”

A FOOL’S GUIDE TO MONEY OR ECONOMICS 101.

We seem to produce an over achiever’s share of rocket scientists in Malaysia. Worse, a great many of them get elected.

Consider this suggestion by a deputy minister to a local radio station recently. In an interview with BFM 89.9, Deputy Youth and Sports Minister, Wan Ahmad Fayshal, suggested that the central bank should just print money and spread that among the poor as a means to alleviate poverty.

This might sound like common sense but it literally means too much common cents; what Yogi Berra meant all those years ago when he said “a nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”

Typically, when countries print money, the first to rise are prices which almost immediately negates its objective in the first place. It’s like those “banana notes” of the Japanese Occupation, when no one had enough money because everybody had too much of it.

It was like the recent situation in Venezuela, where people with too much money in their pockets remained broke. And that’s a cruel irony because Venezuela still possesses huge oil reserves. With good governance, however, it’s also its future salvation.

Even so, modern monetary theory argues that we could conceivably print money….up to a point. Malaysia can, and, for a long time has, issued debt paper to investors who reckon that the country – with its future growth prospects and its resources – is a safe bet. Once taken up, that translates to a surge in local ringgit as the central bank converts the proceeds into money supply. It has nothing to do with distribution to the poor, but everything to do with financing future economic growth.

That’s also the rub. The debt has to be seen to be put to good use. The minute the trust vanishes – for whatever reason including bad governance – all bets are off and investors will flee. We’ll be on the road to Zimbabwe.

In the latter’s case, mistrust led to the currency’s blowout and subsequent hyperinflation.

The only country that can do it, seemingly indefinitely, is the US and the reasons are rooted in history.

World War I brought an end to the economic supremacy of the UK and Europe. Countries had to abandon the gold standard and anchor the value of their currencies to the U.S. dollar, which became the world’s reserve currency, the only one backed by gold.

Richard Nixon’s 1971 decision to abandon gold altogether ensured the supremacy of the U.S. dollar. Tricky Dick might not have realised it at the time, but future Presidents have a lot to thank him for.

As the world’s reserve currency, most international trade and almost all transactions that take place internationally (not just the ones involving the U.S.) use the U.S. dollar. This means that importers, exporters, banks that are servicing them, central banks all around the world and many other market participants need to hold the U.S. dollar or liquid dollar-denominated assets. Like anyone else, they like to keep their wealth safe, and so they buy from the U.S. Treasury.

This is why there is unlimited demand for U.S. debt. The Fed can print ad infinitum. The lucky sods!

It’s already happening. As a result of the coronavirus crash, the U.S. dollar has spiked, and U.S. Treasury yields have fallen because investors keep buying treasury securities on trust.

Right now, it’s the closest thing to safety, the proverbial Fort Knox. Well, so far anyway….

Malaysia isn’t even close. So all talk of “printing” money should cease and desist forthwith.

So should all election jokes. Too many of them get elected.

WE’LL DRINK A CUP OF KINDNESS YET.

I have just found out that today – Friday, November 13, 2020 – is World Kindness Day

It’s a reminder that pro-social behaviour – altruism, benevolence and compassion – does wonders for humanity. I mean, between Mother Teresa and Adolf H, for instance, there’s no comparison.

Unfortunately, most of humanity falls in between the cracks in a sort of “betwixt and between” limbo. We can’t claim sainthood, but neither are we mass murderers.

We could all be a lot better. And healthier, apparently: benevolence reduces stress as it makes us feel better about ourselves.

Certainly, our Members of Parliament can behave a lot better and less disgracefully.

Why on earth do we need a person convicted of corruption and abuse of power as the head of the Backbenchers Club? In other countries, Najib Razak would be in jail now: in Japan, for example, bail isn’t a right by any means.

Here, he’s not only walking about, he’s campaigning and generally promoting the three causes closest to his heart – I, me, mine!

And Parliament thinks it’s an example to other Malaysians?

This government seems to think that informed decision making comes from a long tradition of guessing, and then blaming others for inadequate results. In this tradition, it’s not whether you win or lose, but who gets the blame.

Witness the mystifying spectacle of Sarawak MP Tiong King Sing – who rarely comes to Parliament in the first place – loudly blaming Dr Noor Hisham, the Director General of Health, for the country’s sudden spike in Covid-19 cases.

To compound matters, Mr Tiong does not check his facts claiming, falsely as it turned out, that the good doctor had not visited Sabah, the epicenter of the spike.

Worse still, no government MP, least of all the health minister, came out in defence of Dr Noor. It was the opposition that came to his defence, ironically. Second to hypocrisy, humbug seems to be the biggest industry of our age.

It certainly seems so in the US.

Donald Trump knew that anyone who believed that the truth would set him free had never been in a traffic accident. He found it hard to believe any man was telling the truth because he knew he would lie if he was in his place.

Mr Trump lost to Joe Biden by 4 million votes, yet still claimed to win. On Thursday, election officials said there was absolutely “no evidence” that there had been any fraud as claimed by the President. Ironically, they added that the 2020 election had actually been the “most secure” in US history.

Well, you know what they say: If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts. That’s what Mr Trump’s trying to do. But it looks like the writing’s on the wall. Because reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, does not go away.

Deep down, one suspects he always knew he was going to lose because he kept flagging the point that there would be fraud if he lost. The inference was that he could never lose.

Here’s a newsflash. You lost. Deal with it.

The 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer had an interesting theory about the truth. “Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognised: in the first, it is ridiculed; in the second, it is opposed; in the third, it is regarded as self-evident.

Give it time. Even the Donald night embrace World Kindness Day.

KNEADING THE DOUGH FOR FUN AND PROFIT.

I can tell you it’s a nasty thing to have.

I only found out more than 15 years ago when my wife and I visited Kerala in India. The food there is pretty good and we especially loved the various breads the state had to offer. Unfortunately, I was violently assailed by hives and it ruined my holiday.  

When I got back to Kuala Lumpur, I went to see a skin specialist and he suggested I test for allergies.

He proceeded to take a blood sample and told me to come back in a week. I did only to be told that I was allergic to shellfish, wheat and peanuts.

Astounded wasn’t quite the word to describe my state of mind.    “But I never had these problems before,” I said feebly.

“It happens,” said the unmoved medic. “It’s called aging.” I was then in my early fifties.

It wasn’t really hard to accept in the end because where allergies are concerned, you get better but you never get well. I’d never cared for shellfish anyway – I’ve never had an oyster in my life – and, frankly, I didn’t give a fig for the nuts.

But bread?

It was really quite simple, almost alimentary, my dear Watson. To avoid the hives, I simply had to eschew gluten. Whole legions of food became instantly forbidden before my despairing gastro-intestinal tract.  Croissants, cake, Southern-style fried chicken, burgers, even the humble hot dog – they were all verboten on pain of an itch that refuses to go away. It makes an immune system turn against itself.

You learn to adapt, of course. There are a surprising number of gluten-free foods that can be obtained in Kuala Lumpur – even more so than in Singapore. But gluten-free pasta is, well, gluten free and not quite what Marco Polo envisioned on his trip back from China.  

Then came the pandemic and what Singapore called a “circuit breaker.”

It lasted for three months and my wife had to work from the house.

When Rebecca has time on her hands, she generally finds things to do. And she likes to experiment.

She decided to make sourdough bread.

It’s pretty expensive here too with a loaf going for about S$9 (RM27) per pop. You might even say it was mildly uppercrust.

After some consultation with Youtube – which, let me tell you, is seriously the answer to life’s culinary problems – she was off and baking.

The best thing about sourdough bread is that it does not affect gluten-intolerant people. It is essentially made from the fermentation of dough by yeast and bacilli cells that naturally occur in the air. That means it’s also good for you in the sense of having a probiotic effect on your gut.

It also tastes great. Now I know what they mean when they say, after sourdough you never want to go back to white bread again. And a crisply done beef patty on melting cheese between two slices of freshly toasted and buttered sourdough bread with some lettuce and bacon bits is enough to send McDonald’s screaming into the night.

Because that’s a real burger right there.

Try making some. All you need is air, water and flour. Rebecca has even experimented with olive oil but that’s another story.

TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OUT OF NONSENSE

God is silent; if only man would shut up – Woody Allen

Jho Low would have appreciated the irony. Here was Dr Mahathir Mohamad, putting his foot into it as is his wont and there was Najib Razak, his nemesis, actually attempting to “rescue” him. 

Even so, the convicted former premier got in a gleeful jab of his own. “In the meantime, someone should take away all his (Dr Mahathir’s) social media accounts before he does any more damage.” 

Maybe someone should.   

What else would you make of a tweet like this? “Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.”

Does this sound like the ramblings  of a former Prime Minister of Malaysia or something else? Twitter was so disturbed it deleted Dr M’s post for “glorifying violence,”  immediately ranking the old man right up there with losers, fools and Donald Trump. 

Some terrible things had happened in France. Any sensible person would just decry the violence and the rhetoric, offer tea and sympathy, instead of leaping in with gratuitously offensive comments. We have enough problems of our own to worry about before  weighing in on the pain of others. 

Exhibiting the delicacy of an enraged bull in a China shop and offending millions of people should always be weighed against the virtues of tact. Sometimes there is an art to saying nothing when there is nothing to say. 

You would think that a former leader of more than 22 years, and 94 at that, would know better. I believe it’s called Diplomacy 101.

But Dr M has never really grasped a simple notion: if people really wanted your unsolicited advice, they’d ask for it. He still hasn’t got it. Even as premier, he believed that everyone had a right to an opinion – his. 

Maybe we should look on the bright side because it could be a lot worse: he might still be premier. 

But it was worse in the United States where Trump was still the President and he relished every moment of it because, as Art Buchwald might have said, 40 per cent of Americans worshipped the quicksand he walked on. 

President Trump felt good about himself and his chances next week as he had CoVid not only beaten, but on the run. “We’ve turned the corner on the virus,” he crowed to his supporters, many of whom had never led facts get in the way of their reality. “We’ve beaten the sucker!” 

Mr Trump believed that the US had turned the corner better than any other country on earth and it proved that he was the greatest leader since Mussolini, to whom he bore more than an unnerving  resemblance.

“You won’t find another leader who’s turned the corner more than me,” boasted the President who also knew that he was the most widely read person since Gutenberg invented the printing press. 

That was why he knew he would win. One, he had God on his side – he had that on good authority – and two, Biden’s arguments were  absurdity itself. It had to be because they directly contradicted his beliefs which his supporters knew were fact.    

We live and learn. Or as the President would have it…

…we live.

FINALLY, IT’S PROVEN THAT GOLDMAN SUCKS

The felonious fatty, known as Jho Low, had mixed feelings about the whole thing. Quite a “yes and no” type situation. 

On the one hand, he was saddened that Goldman Sachs, a former friend and more-than-willing ally, had been rewarded with a public flogging and fines of over US$5 billion for its role in the 1MDB debacle. 

On the other hand, he felt positively elated and brimming over with what the French term la joie de vivre. “It could have been much, much worse,” he confided to his father in between sips of a delightfully ice-cold 1977 Chardonnay. “It might have been us.” 

His pater, the dashingly-moustached Hairy Low felt a certain disquiet at his son’s use of the pronoun (“us”) but still awarded himself full marks on his prescient foresight of sending his son to study at the prestigious Wharton School in the University of Pennsylvania all those years ago.  

The products of that school were the sort of people most people would want, nay, need to know, reflected the urbane co-conspirator, with a dashing twirl of his moustache.  

But only two were really famous. 

One was the current President of the United States and the other was a very rich and a very sought after Felonious, his beloved son and the ample apple of his aged eyes. 

There was no doubt that Felonious was much sought after but it certainly wasn’t as an after dinner speaker. His erstwhile boss, mentor and help-mate, Fearless Leader, wanted to blame him while Malaysia’s top cop, Abdul Hamid Bador, wanted to jail him.

The US wanted to question him, Singapore wanted to flog him and the banks in Switzerland only wanted to learn at his feet. 

Meanwhile, Bernie Madoff wanted his autograph – he wanted to be just like him when he grew up – while it wasn’t clear what exactly Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman, at the material time when Felonious was Tripping his Blight Fantastic, wanted with the cherubic charlatan. 

But it looked as if there was murder in his eyes. 

Goldman was pilloried after the 2008 Global  Financial Crisis as an archetypal symbol of Wall Street greed: it misleadingly hawked highly dubious mortgage-backed securities as gilt-edged bonds and tried to sell out before the bottom fell out of the market, which added momentum to the downward spiral. 

It paid fines but no one was charged. With Fearless running defence, Felonious might have singlehandedly changed all that. 

Goldman’s costs from the scandal hurtled beyond US$5 billion on Thursday, while a subsidiary pleaded guilty to a US criminal charge for the first time in the firm’s history. 

The parent company entered a deal to spare itself a conviction that could cripple business, by promising to behave.

And both CEO David Solomon and predecessor Lloyd Blankfein got a rare rebuke: they have to give up pay, attaching personal accountability to two of the industry’s most visible leaders for a scandal spanning the globe.

The accords lift a legal cloud that formed during Blankfein’s tenure and remained through the handoff to Solomon two years ago. 

It could account for the look in Blankfein’s eyes: he had always maintained he’d never even met the fat fraud. 

Get over it, advised the ever-philosophical Felonious. He was eager to get on with a new scheme.

But for some strange reason the Chinese banks seemed reluctant to give him credit for his ideas. 

A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is so widely accepted that today’s Darwin Awards honour those who have improved humankind’s gene pool by leaving it. These are the blokes who think the Gaza Strip is the adhesive side of a band aid. 

OK, let’s be blunt: these guys perished in ways that forced a reasonable man to conclude that they were several popadoms short of a curry.  

2019 saw an over-achiever’s share of US awardees. Do you, dear reader, still need proof that the Trump Effect is contagious? Consider the overall winner, a Maine man who exemplified the maxim: “he who digs a pit for his brother will himself fall into it.”

To make his home theft-proof, the rocket scientist remembered the Old Loose-Tooth Trick, to wit: “When someone slams that door, this line will tighten, and that tooth will shoot out of your mouth like a bullet!”

Thus, said RS duly rigged his front door with a line to a handgun designed to fire when the door opened, presumably to slay rapacious robber. These traps, however, are only successful if the idiot-savant remembers them in the first place.

Alas, he didn’t and the rest, as they say, is herstory: his wife inherited the property.

Two morals can be gleaned from our next story also set in these United States. One, there is only one Eval Knievel. And, two, there can be one stupid person but for sheer, bona fide idiocy, there isn’t anything like teamwork.

The Black Bayou Bridge in Louisiana was closed to traffic to allow a boat underneath to pass through in the wee hours of the morning of May 26.  But two Texas men sitting in a Chevy Cruise thought they might do a Blues Brothers and “shoot the gap.”

But they forgot that the Blues Brothers were on a “Mission from God” in a Hollywood movie and they weren’t. The driver reversed a fair bit and then accelerated for all his worth only to find out that while evolution was a theory, gravity was a law and so they plunged over the bridge, into the waves and into immortality as Double Darwin winners.

The US is a sizable chunk of country and there are enough wealthy people who qualify as pilots and purchase planes because flying home is easier than driving. We, and the air-traffic controllers in question, assume that said pilots are sharper than your average bowling ball.

Patrick, 52, was up to the task of hopping his new plane home. Licensed to fly commercial aircraft, Patrick had 10,000 hours of flight time and an instructor certificate. But during the first two take-off climbs, aviation fuel – basically, kerosene – had entered the cockpit and sloshed around his feet.

At this point, any sane pilot would have fled screaming into the night.

Not the intrepid Pat. At his third stop in Missoula, he called a mechanic familiar with his plane and casually mentioned that he’d had the plane checked out and it was fine. The mechanic reacted sensibly enough. “Are you crazy?” he screamed and immediately recommended grounding the plane until the issue was resolved.

But Pilot Patrick was made of sterner, if less intelligent, stuff and overruled the mechanic, saying he would fly the plane but, as a concession, would do so with its electrical systems offline. This is referred to as flying ‘in the dark’ with no instruments. It’s especially baffling because the aircraft was newly purchased, and its trustworthiness had yet to be established.

It is at this point when Catholic priests generally administer the last rites and make the sign of the Cross.

Plucky Patrick subsequently took off from Missoula International Airport only to crash in a flaming fireball. The crash report stated: “The pilot was [likely] distracted by fuel entering the cockpit and failed to maintain adequate airspeed as he returned to the airport to rectify the problem resulting in an aerodynamic stall.”

Here Lies Pilot Pat

Of sense he made a hash

Didn’t see where it was at

And flew into a crash.