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The Nabi Papers

Introducing Isador Nabi*

First consider the last lines of Jonathan Swift’s “Ballad in a Bad Temper”:

Like a boatman on the Thames
I row by and call them names.
Like the ever-laughing sage
In a jest I spend my rage.
But it must be understood,
I would hang them if I could.

The “them” in question in Swift’s time was the English monarchy, but each of you can provide your own them. The verse serves as well as anything as an introduction to the works of Isador Nabi.

Isador Nabi is widely believed to have emerged from the swamps of southern Vermont some time in the 1970s. The first written record of him was a short-lived biography in American Men of Science. Then he seems to have dissolved. But it is said that he is a sort of academic Golem and that whenever greed, obscurantism, careerism, reductionism, and opportunism afflict science, that is, most of the time, he condenses again out of hypothetico-deductive dust in some obscure vault in that library where they bury unread dissertations, and he lurks in and around academia spending his rage in jest. An unsuccessful obituary appeared in Nature in 1981. Since then he has been nominated (by himself) eleven times for the Grammy and his works have been retranslated into English from 116 foreign languages that didn’t want them.

Frequent speculation in People Magazine has attempted to link his name with professors at a major northeastern university, but with Clintonesque candor both Richard Levins and Richard C. Lewontin have separately denied being identical to Isador Nabi.

We do not sympathize with the American obsession with celebrity and will not contribute to further speculation since, after all, by his works ye shall know him.

I. Nabi

Isador Nabi Associates, Headhunters, S.A.**

Isador Nabi Associates is the leading senior-level employment service in the Cosmos.

Among our previous successes:

  • we placed a teenaged mother from Nazareth in the leading female role in a prominent faith-based drama;
  • we found a prestigious career for the ne’er-do-well son of a Texas oilman.

And now we have the most challenging mission in our company’s history:

A major Universe™ is seeking a new Intelligent Re-designer.

When the current incumbent’s contract expires on January 1, 3006, we have it on the Highest Authority that it will not be renewed because of numerous design deficiencies. These include but are not limited to:

  • cutting of corners by multi-tasking of molecules in the name of cost-effectiveness, as in the unfortunate use of testosterone in both reproductive maturation and aggression, and the dual use of estrogens for fertility and bone density;
  • making alcohol more toxic to the conquered than to their conquerors;
  • forgetting to include a birth canal in nematodes so that the young have to eat their way out of their mothers in order to leave home;
  • the irrationality of the square root of 2;
  • an excess of beetles.

The present Intelligent Designer will be reassigned to a circuit court of appeals judgeship or a visiting professorship at a major northeastern university.

The new staff designer will be expected to rectify past errors retroactively and to satisfy the following among other design criteria:

  • qualify the Ten Commandments to include the appropriate exceptions when national security is involved and to create a more business-friendly moral environment;
  • raise the freezing point of water so that the glaciers will unmelt;
  • make chocolate chip cookies cholesterol- and sugar free;
  • cancel the death of Jimmy Hendrix;
  • part the waters of the Caribbean Sea to swallow up hurricanes.

Applicants must be at least seven years old, have successfully completed pre-school in the top 90 percent of their class, and demonstrate a proven record of fund raising.

The contract will run for 10,000 years, renewable. There is no fixed salary, but neither is there periodic auditing. Unfortunately we cannot provide health care. What do you expect, miracles?

The Plastic Solution: The Carbon Sink of the Future

An Objective and Confidential Science bulletin from E2, Economy and Ecology, a consortium of major construction, plastic, and retail corporations

NabTec, the research wing of Nabi Enterprises has come up with the solution to global climate change that makes emissions control unnecessary and reconciles ecology with the economy.

It is widely known that the world’s forests are being depleted. And as they burn they dump their carbon into the atmosphere and oceans and provoking climate change. Yet reforestation is not the answer. It would harm the economy, infringe on property rights, and might even lead to a plague of ivory-billed woodpeckers. We at NabTec, and especially its research director, Isador Nabi, believe that the solution is right before your eyes in the dumpsters, landfills, and supermarkets of this greatest of all nations: plastics.

Plastics are, after all, polymers of carbon with some other things tagged on. They are durable, malleable, and colorfast. Whereas a good rainforest may store up to 100 tons of carbon per hectare, there is no limit to the capacity of plastic forests. They can be taller than redwoods, more branched than elms, shaped to reflect the original vegetation of a region, and colored to serve the mood needs of the population. The famous Black Forest can be replaced by the Pink and Teel Forest to lift the spirits of the German people, while somber grays can be used to modulate Latin exuberance. The tundras can become groves of mega-lichens of polyester over Styrofoam snow fields and even the most arid regions can be lush, colorful forests suitable for the tourism, eco-tourism, and polymero-tourism that poor countries especially need. Plastibergs can restore the polar seas to their pristine beauty and the best artists of the world can compete in the design of new coral reefs.

The energy for the production of the plastics can come from fossil fuels and charcoal, a byproduct of forest clearing, thus replenishing the atmosphere with the carbon dioxide needed for plastics production, closing a clean production cycle, and providing both jobs and CEO bonuses. Any surplus carbon will be diverted to the carbonated beverage industry. The plastic leaves will also offer low-cost storage for spent radioactive fuels.

Write to your broker today and get in on the start of the Eco-polymer Revolution.


** This is a new genre. The opposite of the infomercial that disguises a commercial as a news or independent opinion piece, this is an editorial disguised as a commercial.

* Isador Nabi is a product of the imaginations of Richard C. Lewontin and Richard Levins, most recently the authors of Biology Under the Influence: Dialectical Essays on Ecology, Agriculture, and Health (Monthly Review Press, 2007). Lewontin is reaearch professor in biology at Harvard. Levins is the head of the human ecology program at the Harvard School of Public Health.

2007, Volume 59, Issue 07 (December)
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