Load the flying bats

by John Holbo on August 29, 2004


After Flatworld, the sight of Oklahoma senator James Inhofe buckling on a virtual reality helmet at ICT headquarters seems positively old school. A technician shouts “Load the flying bats!” and the senator is transported to a damp tunnel near a farmhouse that may be an enemy hideout. Insects whir and water trickles in surround sound while digitized bats swoop and dive overhead. Inhofe is impressed. “It’s the closest thing to reality that I’ve ever experienced,” he says. “My feet felt wet.”

The senator is the institute’s most powerful advocate in Congress; he cosponsored the clause in the 2003 Defense Appropriations Act that gave ICT $7 million to build the Fort Sill installation. Last spring, the institute locked down another five-year contract with the Army.

A Republican who ran on a platform of “God, guns, and gays,” Inhofe revels in making statements that don’t play well in the liberal precincts of Blogistan. “I look wistfully back to the days of the Cold War,” he says, resting his cowboy boots on a chair after doffing his VR helmet. “Now someone very small can pose a greater threat than the Soviet Union.”

Some questions:

1) If the closest thing to reality Inhofe has ever experienced are simulated bats, what’s the thing farthest away from reality that he’s experienced? (And does this seem like a winning slogan? ‘Bush/Cheney ’04: Load the Flying Bats!’ It trips off the tongue better than ‘jumping the shark through the looking-glass’.)

2) Why do Republicans love gays so much? (I’ve heard all the arguments: if gays are outlawed, only outlaws will have gays. Fair enough. But still. Should everyone have the right to carry a concealed gay? Isn’t that taking ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ a bridge too far?)

3) When did the liberal precincts of Blogistan become the paradigm liberal precincts?

4) Wouldn’t it make an better story if somehow Inhofe found himself trapped in the damp tunnel near the farmhouse. FOREVER.

5) Wouldn’t it be weird if it turned out Inhofe was, after all, a complex simulation run by flying bats?

6) If X is a thing that makes your feet feel wet, how much more likely is X to be real than Y, if Y is a thing that doesn’t make your feet feel wet?

7) Cool! Where can I get one?

8) I wonder what Timothy Burke thinks of all this cool game stuff?



Jack Monarch 08.29.04 at 2:57 pm

This is a new low for Crooked Timber posts.


bob mcmanus 08.29.04 at 3:38 pm

This is the best ever Crooked Timber post.


phil 08.29.04 at 3:50 pm

This Crooked Timber post is just right. Now who’s been eating my porridge?


jholbo 08.29.04 at 3:59 pm

I think we can all agree that, best or worst, the post could certainly be improved. But how?


nutthuis 08.29.04 at 4:17 pm

It could have been edited by flying bats, real or otherwise.

It was however the closest thing to humor I have ever experienced.


Timothy Burke 08.29.04 at 4:35 pm

Cry havoc, and unleash the flying bats!

I think James Inhofe would make a splendid mid-game boss in Doom 3.


bob mcmanus 08.29.04 at 4:51 pm

Would 4) be improved by a reference to a “bunch of twisty passages…”, or am I showing my age?

I regretted the lack of reference to the use of “doffing”.
And “someone very small a greater threat…” should inspire pop cultural analysis. “Shrinking Man” or what came to my mind were the little critters oozing from Samantha Egger’s side in the Cronenburg movie. “But that’s….that’s unnatural!”, said Senator Imhofe as he was crushed under the mass of child-like creatures in hooded red capes.


KCinDC 08.29.04 at 4:52 pm

I’m outraged by Jack Monarch’s outrage over this post.


KCinDC 08.29.04 at 5:20 pm

Bob: Don’t you mean “a maze of twisty little passages, all alike”?


Dave 08.29.04 at 5:23 pm

Would 4) be improved by a reference to a “bunch of twisty passages…”, or am I showing my age?

Aaah, but are they all different, or all the same?


Ophelia Benson 08.29.04 at 5:56 pm

And besides, what is it like to be a flying bat?


Timothy Burke 08.29.04 at 6:00 pm

Presumably different than to be a non-flying bat.

Just as long as they don’t unleash the grues.


Kieran Healy 08.29.04 at 6:01 pm

And besides, what is it like to be a flying bat?

It’s the closest thing to reality you’ve ever experienced.


W. Kiernan 08.29.04 at 6:38 pm

What’s it like not to be a flying bat?
Even in our dreams it seems
We’re always flying bats.


Nabakov 08.29.04 at 6:45 pm

Well that post made my feet wet.


Carlos 08.29.04 at 6:56 pm

“Now someone very small can pose a greater threat than the Soviet Union.”

Coming soon: The Axis of Weevil, starring Gary Coleman, Weng Weng, Verne Troyer, and the late Herve Villechaize as Le Singe Tirophage.


dmm 08.29.04 at 7:22 pm

You forgot to mention that bats are a bug scourge from the skies.


Matt McIrvin 08.29.04 at 10:40 pm

This post is the closest thing to what it is like to be a flying bat that I have ever experienced.


Bill Tozier 08.29.04 at 10:42 pm

Now stay with me here for a minute.

See, I used to play arcade games that involved VR helmets. That short-lived mech-warrior one, if you must know. Anyway, the things weigh a ton. And they’re strapped on your head, see.

One of the keys to playing a VR game well is to stay near the edges, because if there’s one thing that will allow your opponents to sneak up and kill you daid, it is the fact that you have a gigantic heavy piece of metal and plastic strapped to your head. So you learn. You get in a corner, and you watch one direction and you end up winning without neck pain.

Right, so here we take an Important US Senator, and we strap a big ol’ thing on his head, and what do we do? Do we put him in a corner of the world where he can rest his poor neck muscles?

No, we make rapidly-flying things swarm confusingly all around him.

You know what I think? I think it was a subtle assassination plot.

By… well, you know. Them.

Well, OK. Us.


dc 08.30.04 at 12:24 am

The closest thing to reality that I’ve ever experienced is reality.


KCinDC 08.30.04 at 12:57 am

I don’t know. There seem to be some serious bugs in the version of reality that’s running now.


bigfoot 08.30.04 at 2:40 am

Inhofe is a Virtual Troglodyte. A virtual moron.


JP 08.30.04 at 2:49 am

Well, this is certainly the best blog comment thread ever. Oh, man…


dsquared 08.30.04 at 3:55 am

The closest thing to reality that I’ve ever experienced is reality.

I tried that once[1] and it sucked.

[1] during the terrible period in 1996 when the mushroom harvest failed.


Steve 08.30.04 at 6:14 am

James Inhofe, The Tinklers’ Crash album, and a Super 8 need to team up and make the worst music video in the history of the species.


Scott Martens 08.30.04 at 1:25 pm

We’ve got a reference to Nagel, now all we need is a Batman joke and a gratuitous use of the word “batshit”.


rea 08.30.04 at 2:17 pm

“he cosponsored the clause in the 2003 Defense Appropriations Act that gave ICT $7 million to build the Fort Sill installation”

Hard to imagine the senator not supporting a program that involved building a major installation at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma . . .


Matt Weiner 08.30.04 at 4:30 pm

I’d simulate a bat flying at Inhofe’s head myself–but are the flying bats wood or aluminum?


ben wolfson 08.30.04 at 5:04 pm

The worst music video has already been made, it’s Townsend (a boy band) covering Pour Some Sugar On Me.


HP 08.30.04 at 6:42 pm

if gays are outlawed, only outlaws will have gays

Appropriately enough, I was just reading an article about Elisha Cook’s role in The Maltese Falcon and the derivation of the word gunsel. Long story short: John Holbo’s observation is historically accurate. I can’t remember where I read this exactly, but it was online, if that helps narrow it down.


epist 08.30.04 at 7:41 pm

“If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns”

I sometimes use this NRA slogan as an example of a tautology when teaching baby logic (you know, just to get their feet wet). Of course, there is some ambiguity in the word ‘outlaw’, but still, it gets the point across.

Now the version that substitutes homosexual sex for guns (and doesn’t that sound like a Carlin riff?) is a little more bracing. . .

If you outlaw homosexual sex, only outlaws will have homosexual sex

I dunno how that would go over (snigger) with the class.

As for Inhofe’s comments viz his prior proximity to reality, well, to quote Python: “I laughed until I stopped.”


novalis 08.31.04 at 12:04 am

Commentary on this from IRC:
[DragonM] I swear politicians these days can’t come up with a coherent sentence on their own anymore.
[SherwoodSpirit] I think the sentence was perfectly coherent. I’m not sure about the senator tho. ;)


P.T.M. Dragon 08.31.04 at 10:38 am

You people really have to much time at your hands, haven’t you?

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