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Blue Star


By Scott Sullivan


Ultimate Tool

We discussed heights and depths last week. The good and bad news: there are no limits. Mt. Everest is only Earth’s highest physical point. Planes flew earthlings over it long before Edmund Hillary and guide Tenzing Norgay topped it.

When Victor Viscovo’s submarine hit the Mariana Trench floor six weeks ago, he was at the bottom of the deepest sea as we know it. “How low can you go?” Chubby Checker asked. With a boring device, sto;; further.

We wrote about Ultima Thule five months ago after the spacecraft Discovery started sending back pictures from it. The peanut-shaped object a billion miles past Pluto is the most-remote one man has explored, if you call a fly-by exploring, yet.

Its two lobes — the larger Ultima and smaller Thule —were formed separately out of accumulated dust and gas, then fused. Unlike Harry and Sally, they met gently — no “I’ll have what she’s having” deli scene like in the movie. Had they collided at normal speed, both would have been destroyed.

More data comes in from Discovery daily. Now we think we know:

  • U.T. has been essentially undisturbed, in a deep freeze no warmer than -350° F, for more than 4 billion years. Like my relationships with women.
  • During its 293-year orbit, some parts of Ultima Thule do not face the sun for decades. Others are never out of it, like George Hamilton.

U.T. was named for the farthermost region charted by ancient Greek and Roman mapmakers. So it is “ultimate” only on that provisionary basis.

“Ultimate,” “special” and “unique” are what I call junk words — stripped of their meanings thanks to overuse by hypesters. What event isn’t special? How can a handmade art piece not be unique?

Swimmer Michael Phelps was able to win 16 Olympic gold medals but can’t be a “Special” Olympian because he is not like anyone who’s disabled.

I have a friend who blew tons of money striving to set a Guinness World Record for running marathons on all seven continents in the shortest time span. It was as much a logistical stunt as athletic feat. Think of time off work, scheduling and taking long flights, muscle pain, Antarctica …

On his third try he succeeded, then saw someone else top his mark soon after. Records, like hearts, are made to be broken. Still, it makes for fun stories to share while quaffing a stout ore two.

There’s no end of dubious feats to contrive if that’s what you’re into. Paul Hunn holds the record for the loudest burp recorded. You have to document things such as this for Guiness. Puckel claims the mark for highest jump by a guinea pig. Michel Lotito took two years to eat an entire Cessna.

Why ask why? I too want to make my mark in a special, unique way before I dies. But can anything be ultimate?

Literal tools are useful to fix and make things. Human tools so dumb they don’t know other people use them by making them think they’re the real leaders. If you want to use people like this too it’s like theater: the more made-up it is, the more sincere you can play it.

It’s a conceit to think I’m the Ultimate Tool, Thule, Fool or whatever. If I’ve not been eclipsed already, I’ll be tomorrow.

I decided to thaw my wife by discussing my newfound humility. “Next time I go to the deepest sea,” I told her, “to show my love for you (not to mention my ego), I’ll bring a boring device.”

“You are a boring device.”

“Not a tool that’s tedious. One that digs.”

“You’re in deep already.”

“For you,” I proclaimed, “I would eat a Cessna.

“So much for iron-poor blood.”

I surmised what we had here was a failure to communicate. “I’d climb the highest mountain,” I lied … sorry, tried one last time, “for you.

“Crews just removed four corpses from Mt. Everest. I say go for it,”

Life makes sense if you don’t think about it. All this energy, what to do with it? The only thing I can’t exercise is restraint.