Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Nixon Rock

I’ve been waiting for an excuse to drag out this Presidential pareidolia: the Nixon rock. What’s my excuse? All of the publishing hoopla surrounding Rick Perlstein’s new book Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. You can read an excerpt from the book here. I haven’t read the book, and it’s a pretty safe bet that I won’t read it, especially since the topic strikes me as one that has already been put through its paces. I don’t understand what makes for a best-selling book (it is certainly about much more than the actual writing), the same as I don’t understand what causes certain people to see iconic forms and figures in unexpected places. Both phenomena seem to rely on a convergence of circumstances that is not always logical or traceable, but herein lie the mysteries of life.

Located on the southern tip of Taiwan near the town of O Luanpi, it has long been thought that this rock resembles a sail. Many people also think it resembles Richard Nixon, in profile. Of course, Nixon’s mug is one of history’s most maligned – its craggy definition found in the nose and chin. Local lore claims that after Nixon made his 1972 trip to China his head was cut off and put in this spot, destined to stare at China forever.

Madonna of the Toast includes an examination of the President Kennedy rock in Hawaii. I have been searching, in vain I fear, for the Calvin Coolidge cashew, from which protrudes a node that is the spitting image of Coolidge’s nose, one of the largest to ever reside in the White House.

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