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Lileks @ Lunch

James Lileks writes about everything - except sports and gardening

The 3,000 year old police force


An aide to state Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris and two others are accused of operating a rogue police force that claimed to exist for more than 3,000 years and have jurisdiction in 33 states and Mexico, authorities said Tuesday. Brandon Kiel, David Henry and Tonette Hayes were arrested last week on suspicion of impersonating a police officer through their roles in the Masonic Fraternal Police Department, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Well, that sounds on the up-and-up. Let’s go to the website for the organization, and see what they have to say.

The Masonic Fraternal Organization is the oldest and most respected organization in the “World.” Grand Masters around the various states are facing serious safety concerns for their Jurisdictions and their family members. The first Police Department was created by the "Knights Templar's" back in 1100 B.C.

Yes, the Knights Templar’s were invented 2000 years earlier than anyone thought. Most sources put the Order’s origins in the early 12th century AD, or CE, if you prefer. But that was just a cover story. They’d been around since the Greek Dark Ages. Let us return to their page:

When asked what is the difference between The Masonic Fraternal Police Department and other Police Departments the answer is simple for us. We were here first! We are born into this Organization our bloodlines go deeper then an application. This is more then a job it is an obligation.

So you’re born into it, and then an application. A two-step procedure, in other words. Well, you can hardly blame them for the shaky English; that’s probably translated from the original Mycenaean text, and Google Translate doesn’t do that language very well.

A scene from Templar's HQ:

TECH I really, really don’t want to do this. Daily Beast:

PayPal plans to put a teensy weensy little microchip into a pill; a pill you swallow every now and again; one where the microchip is sort of like an electronic key that you swipe. Rather than swiping here is what happens: Every time you are near a computer and get the itch to buy something, your pals at PayPal won’t ask you to remember your password. No more random combinations of dogs’ names or old girl friends’ names or mixes of the two. Instead of using your noodle, PayPal will get the signal from that cute little pill you swallowed and log you on with no muss or fuss.

The author of the piece is skeptical anyone will want it, or that it will work. Other than that, I’m sure it’s the future. Thanks, but  I'll take retinal scans or fingerprint identification. I'm old-fashioned that way.

BOO I’m not sure I blame the fellow for being “embarrassed.” Underwater skeletons are a startling thing.

A man snorkeling in the Colorado River near the Arizona and California border was terrified — and later embarrassed — when he came across two fake skeletons sitting in lawn chairs about 40 feet underwater. The man reported the skeletons to the La Paz County Sheriff's Office on Monday, launching a hunt for what authorities believed could be real bodies.

It turned out the skeletons were fake and had been strategically placed to appear as if they were sitting together, their lawn chairs bound to large rocks. A diver from the Buckskin Fire Department captured the scene on a video camera attached to his head. The sheriff's office called the scene a tea party.

The skeletons are wearing sunglasses, and one is holding a sign that includes the words "Bernie" and "dream in the river," although the entire sign is not legible.

They’re treating it as a prank or a joke instead of the David Lynch-like nightmare image it really is. Let’s hope they announce the creator of the tableau isn’t facing any charges, and should tell us what the story’s about.

SHUTTERED The one-hour photo store isn’t just doomed, it’s dead and buried. Bloomberg:

The number of newsstands dropped by nearly half over the past 15 years, and video-rental stores dwindled by 85 percent. But nothing can rival the 94 percent death rate for America's photo-processing shops, which are vanishing faster than all business categories tracked in the Census.  

The animated infographic is interesting; watch the stores disappear entirely from North Dakota. I remember when one-hour processing was a Miracle of Science; when I grew up you dropped off your Instamatic cartridge at the drug store and waited days to get back your shots. Your blurry, off-kilter, disappointing shots. A year of so ago someone came up with a One-Hour Photo app. Ninety-nine cents. You took a picture, and then waited an hour to see it.

Ninety-nine cents.

VotD Courtesy of OpenCulture, here’s some color film of Berlin after the defeat of the Germans. Note how the minute you leave the British section you’re staring at a big picture of Uncle Joe.

By all means, watch it on YouTube, and enjoy the comments, where the usual stupes argue about WW 2. Or don’t, and maintain what little faith in humanity you have.

The Deep Philosophical Meaning of the Wastebasket

A few weeks ago I cited a piece about the new genre of books that take one object and investigate its Meaning down to the subatomic level. Here’s an example. If you were unaware that the waste-paper basket presents an existential conundrum, you can claim ignorance no longer:

Legrand’s unnumbered book arrives as the zeitgeist, as Heidegger probably would have put it, is unusually preoccupied with garbage cans. In many municipalities across the United States, one must practically have a degree in waste management before tossing one’s refuse in the trash. There’s a blue can for recyclables, a green one for compostables, and if your garbage is truly garbage, it goes in the black can, depending, of course, on where you live.

The zeitgeist is not preoccupied with garbage cans. Some people are preoccupied with it, and have made their preoccupations mandatory. Even if you are intent on proper garbage sorting, chances are it is not a preoccupation, but an internalized routine.


Until I read Paradox, I had not considered the possibility that waste paper baskets could be imbued with paradox, but Legrand has convinced me. In a perfect world, he postulates, the office is a place where work is performed efficiently and at high speed. But the presence of a waste paper basket is proof of the opposite condition, since it’s designed to be filled with failures. Thus, as Legrand puts it, a waste bin is “a jelled temporality.”

At first I read “jellied temporality,” which sounds like some awful Dr. Who dessert. Same thing, really. Try this the next time someone asks if you want that wastebasket emptied. I don’t know. It’s under the desk and I can’t see it. I don’t know if it’s empty or full. It might contain Schrodinger’s cat. I prefer to keep it in a state of temporality, jelled, fixed in amber, caught in the transition between utility and abandonment.

GEEK You know there’s anticipation of ten tons of quality Star Wars when i09 readers feel confident debating the need for a Boba Fett movie.  

Why the unending fascination with the character - especially after his backstory was revealed? One comment notes that he was cool “by cultural consensus,” which is exactly right.

He back-talked Darth Vader. Han Solo immediately knew who he was and was a little freaked out by it. If the heroes and villians of the show pay him respect then we, as the audience, assume some credibility.

That all said, I don’t want to see an origin story. I want to see a movie that starts with him fighting his way out of the belly of the Sarlacc.

As with so much of Star Wars, it was the things fans invested in the movies that made them expand in the imagination. Fett’s a perfect example, even though at the time his bumbling topple into the Sarlaac maw was underwhelming. We all thought the Sarlaac was cool, though. Never occurred to us at the time that it was a ridiculous thing. A desert planet has a gargantuan immobile worm in the sand, waiting for prey to fall in? And then it would take 500 years to digest it? Something that big would not wait half a century. It would digest whatever it had like Orson Welles surviving on one Tic-Tac a day. While we’re on the subject of desert planets, with their shifting, unstable surfaces:

Yeah, that’s not going to tip over, ever.