Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Obelisk of Washington and the Reflecting Pool of Death.

During the past summer, I had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C.

I have always seen pretty pictures of this nation's great capital. Films like The American President [1995] further reinforced images of grandeur about Washington in my head.

So I've always wanted to see the George Washington Memorial, which always reminded me of the Obelisk of Light (the best defensive weapon in the Command & Conquer Brotherhood of NOD arsenal). I also semi-seriously think its phallic symbolism, paired with the fact that the George Washington Memorial is the world's tallest true obelisk, explains a lot about the stereotypical US attitude vis-à-vis the world.

I've also always wanted to check out the reflecting pool - because I've always wondered whether one can really run across the pool like Forrest and Jenny did at that anti-war rally.

So I arrived at the National Mall... and here are my observations...

Why are there no paved paths around the reflecting pool? How expensive could it possibly be for the federal government to allocate some money for the National Park Service to pour some concrete?

Is there some symbolism about threading one's own path? An attempt at fiscal responsibility by the federal government? What is going on?

Moving On!

The Obelisk of Washington is really quite tall. I really think the Department of Defense should consider retrofitting the tip of the obelisk with a megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL). We can mount the majority of the components below ground, and focus/direct the beam through optical fiber and aim with with high quality lenses.

I've even created a rendition of how such a system could protect the National Mall! (Note: The Arab-descent victim was purely coincidental - he happened to be in the picture).

The Department of Defense would be able to use it against soft surface and airborne threats, scare foreign visitors with wanton and capricious demonstrations of American technological power, and maybe also use it against birds that poop or die in the reflecting pool.

I don't hate all birds. I just think birds should have a little more respect and decency for this great country's political heritage. After all, the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, which sits in the Constitutional Gardens, was intended to honor Lincoln and the Washington Memorial. Don't these birds know they are trampling and defecating on the spirit of this country's great Constitution? Why are they pooping on Lincoln's reflection? Or the phallus of Washington?

I thought it was my civic duty (as a non-citizen) to bear witness and document this avian travesty and disrespect.

Look at this mess. Feathers and poop protein were foaming at the surface of the water, and the reflecting pool smelled of death (even worse than when I did taxidermy because at least formalin covered up the smell). It was just not right.

To the right is another picture of the dirty pool next to the National World War II Memorial.

If the reflecting pool was this bad when Forrest and Jenny wandered in... Jenny must have been high as a kite (Forrest gets a pass because he had just returned from Vietnam so the dirty water probably didn't bother him too much).

Unless it was the deseigners' intention for the Lincoln Memorial & National World War II Memorial to smell like death and bird poo, I would say the reflecting pool somewhat detracts from the atmosphere of the place.

Is there no way to keep the pool clean?

Maybe pay a few custodians to skim the top with a net? Install some water pumps and sand filters?

<law student hat>
In most jurisdictions, under the tort doctrine of attractive nuisance, fountain/pool owner and operators have a duty to either properly enclose their fountains or ensure the water is clean.

Children are not assumed to understand the dangers of dirty water from the reflecting pool. Because the pool is not enclosed and children may stumble in, play in the water, get the water on their hands, introduce the contaminated water to their mouths, and get sick - the owners/operators of the pool may be subject to civil liability.

Uncle Sam has sovereign immunity, and has only narrowly waived sovereign immunity under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and the Tucker Act. For my non-legal readers, sovereign immunity basically means the "king can do no wrong," and represents a bar for courts to have jurisdiction in the case.

Luckily, negligence (with the exception of product liability & strict liability claims) is generally allowed to proceed under the FTCA.

So watch out National Park Service - clean up the reflecting pool or prepared to be served.

In the mean time, I am looking for a professional plaintiff who have minor children (preferably more than a dozen) that is comfortable with letting them play in bird poop and foamy water.
</law student hat>

Oh btw - Happy April Fools' Day!


Anonymous said...

perhaps the unpaved paths are there to absorb the bloody detritus created by the obelisk.

Anonymous said...

I have also heard comments about the need to pave paths next to the reflecting pools, the dirt paths that are there now were created by visitors. The paths that were part of the original design are about 20 feet further away from the pool and are shaded by trees. I agree at this point the paths should be paved, but would hate to see the new paths littered with bird feces.
I was at the reflecting pool yesterday and there was an inordinate amount of bird excrement and I heard many a touron comment on it. It is disgusting and as a DC resident I am ashamed. I would think that at least the poop could be cleaned up off the granite sides daily. The Mall, and the monuments are majestic and it is an embarrassment for the experience to be ruined by this nuisance.