I am currently reading a book about the voyages of Captain Cook, the working-class British sailor who climbed all the way up the ranks to captain and then went and looked closely at places no white man had gone before.
For more than 10 years, until his luck (and brains) ran out on a Hawaiian beach, Cook lived a life of adventure.
He also kept a journal in which he unwittingly delineated all the differences between the officer class, many of whom were alcoholics by our standards, and the sailor class, almost all of whom were alcoholics by Cook's lights.
Without openly addressing the matter, Cook, himself ascended from the toiling segment of society, seemed to feel the officers and the "men" were of two very different orders.
Intellect and the ability to read played a big part in Cook's scenario, and I couldn't help but apply his standards when I saw, on AOL, a news blurb asking "readers" to vote on which "hero" they preferred, the new Superman or Johnny Depp's fey pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow.
Where would the American film industry be without the non-thinking classes, whose lives are so intellectually void that these are the artistic matters weighing heavily enough on their little minds that, like Bush versus Gore, they feel compelled to put down their Doritos and press a button or two?
Both of these films, however entertaining, are rehashes of popular culture that haven't been pertinent or interesting in years.
I just keep seeing a modern-day visitation of Cook's vessel the Endeavour, rocking peacefully in Elliott Bay while drunken sailors cheer for the latest adventures of the fourth or fifth actor to play Superman as they are projected on dirty sheets strung over the yardarm.
It was always thus, I guess, but in a country where one in three folks is obese and yet still reacts to driving past a Mickey D's like a sea gull spotting a bread bag full of crumbs, a country in which, according to a recent study, drivers on their cellphones while in motion kill more people than drunken drivers, a country where the rich get as rich as desert potentates while the poor, the lame, the mad and the halt pile up even on the condo-gilded streets of Fat Greg's transformed Seattle (ride some late-night Metro buses before you object to this), old Captain Cook's societal division by classes looks sadly prescient.
There are a lot of folks - clutching their Super-Sized sandwiches and waving their little flags while waiting for Hollywood publicity departments to tell them who their newest heroes are - who belong below decks where they can't cause any more trouble.
I guess the good news is that the thousands of cretins who voted for either Captain Jack or the latest in a wave of fresh-faced Clark Kents are getting a little good practice for 2008 so they can press Jeb's button.
SPEAKING OF THE BUSH FAMILY, how about the tragic death of Georgie W.'s good friend Kenny Boy (as the president called him)?
Ken Lay, the corporate pirate who raped Enron and its employees and stockholders, died the other day, before he was sent to prison for his crimes.
He died in a Colo-rado ski town, in one of the many properties he owned, as is the custom of our ruling classes, who build second, third and fourth homes with the pension funds they've crippled or even dismantled.
Lay, who was the number-one contributor to one of Georgie W.'s earlier political campaigns, a man who was defended by our illustrious president right up until his (Lay's) trial became impossible to avoid, evidently buckled under the pres-sures of reality, which finally reared its ugly head and showed the real pirate - much tougher than Captain Jack - that what goes around sometimes really does come around.
Lay gave up the ghost, and now commentators are saying there is a reduced chance most of the people he robbed will be reimbursed. Evidently, the money cannot be taken back from his heirs.
Is there a better advertisement for raising, not abolishing, the estate tax?
These people rob from you while above ground, and their heirs, pleading ignorance to Daddy's life's work of stealing from the poor to make himself rich, keep the money.
My ex-wife and my kids, due to close contact over the years, know me better than anyone else. The good, the bad and the ugly.
I do not believe that the Lay family is completely ignorant of Daddy's life or deserving of other people's money. Daddy's ill-gotten gains should be driven to a decaying, raped American city - Newark, say - and tossed to the multi-tudes from the back of a truck.
JULY 6 WAS THE 60TH BIRTHDAY OF PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, the man who is living proof that age and wisdom may not always be coupled.
My birthday is Feb. 5, shared by William Burroughs, one of the great-est American writers of the 20th century by my Aquarian lights. Also, incidentally by Hank Aaron, who hit 755 homers without the aid of polls or steroids.
The president also shares his birthday with Sylvester Stallone, another American "hero."
Stallone, who did not serve in Vietnam, played Rambo the gun-crazed vet, but the pocket-sized Sly is even better-known for his portrayal of the broken-down Philly fighter, Rocky Balboa.
Earnie Shavers, a heavyweight boxer who engaged in real combat with Mohammed Ali and Larry Holmes, was brought in to help Rocky get ready for filing his fake fights.
Asked by a naïve reporter if Stallone was in fact a tough guy, Shavers, a gentle giant outside the ring, an Ohioan more comfortable with children than other adults, tried not to answer the question.
Pushed, Ernie said he never went all out with "Mr. Stallone," because "he didn't want to hurt him."
I think it is fitting that a hack writer like me shares his birthday with a great writer, and even more appropriate that a hack president (worst in my lifetime) like Georgie W. shares his birthday with a fighter who couldn't fight.
FINALLY, FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE NOT BASKETBALL FANS, Chris Wilcox is a player the Sonics brought in for 29 games last year. They weren't very good, but they did improve when Wilcox came aboard for less than one whole season.
Now Wilcox wants to be released if the Sonics don't offer him a "fair" contract.
The local team, which wants you to pay for their new digs, is rumored to be willing to pay Wilcox as much as $42 million for a multiyear deal.
That much money for a kid who has had one-half of one good season.
Offered by Lay-like Pirates who want you and me, making our pennies, to build them a new palace for spoiled brats like Wilcox to play in, so that the richer versions of Cook's crew can go watch, and then, while yakking on their cell-phones, drive over us inside crosswalks on their way back to the Eastside.
Anyone over the age of 12 who thinks KeyArena needs to be refurbished by us, the citizenry, instead of by the billionaires who own this traveling circus of spoiled little giants is off their rocker.
I'm so serious I'd vote that way in a computer news poll.