Last week's eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, the Icelandic volcano whose ash has darkened the skies over Europe, was no laughing matter. The eruption rocked the global economy, forced us to confront our dependence on airplanes, and served as an unpleasant reminder that we're likely to see more extreme weather events in the future. But some peculiar strains of commentary have emerged, and we're here to document them.
- Man Is Either Stronger Than Nature or at Its Mercy The Wall Street Journal offers a puzzling staff editorial that seems to argue two contradictory points at once: 1) "In the contest of Man versus Eyjafjallajokull, our money is not on the volcano"; and 2) "mother nature can neither be appeased nor truly conquered." Either way, the volcano definitely proves that trying to address "the notional threat of global warming" is a fool's errand: "Nature can never be brought fully under control, and it is the essence of hubris to believe that it can."
- Vancouver Is a Really Nice City! The Guardian's Adam LeBor takes a swipe at English coverage of the first delayed travelers to return to Heathrow: they're being "hailed... as some kind of conquering heroes, returning home after the kind of physical and mental ordeal usually confined to ancient mythology." But those travelers had spent their layover in Vancouver, a city "repeatedly ranked one of the top five most liveable and civilised places to live in the world ... Let's not pretend that five days in a modern Canadian hotel with, presumably, the airline picking up the bill, is some kind of traumatic ordeal."
- 'Let's Wait for the Dust to Settle' At National Review, Michael Rubin offers up a collection of Eyjafjallajökull-related one-liners, many of which gently jab at Iceland's recent economic woes. Our favorite? "Iceland goes bankrupt, then it manages to set itself on fire. This has insurance scam written all over it."
- 'Please Refer to Our Style Guide' The Awl's Choire Sicha has some fun with both Eyjafjallajökull's twisty spelling and the tenor of The New York Times' coverage: "EVEN THOUGH other volcanoes besides Iceland's Asdlfjasdfasdf; aren't blowing up, it doesn't mean they couldn't, report scientists, newspapers hungry for filler." The one-sentence post is tagged "Science," "Sigh," "Volcanoes," and "Whatever."
- Plane X Flies Into Cloud Y The ash cloud lends itself to striking visual metaphors, something cartoonists Michael Ramirez and Steve Benson have both noticed. For Ramirez, the plume stands for "European Socialism," while Benson sees an analogue for bilious Tea Party rhetoric. If there are other examples we've missed, feel free to note them in the comments.
- One Does Not Simply Walk Into Reykjavik The blogger and Buzzfeed user Mathieu S. devised a meme that's now pinging around the Web: Given a collection of photos of awesome, smoky devastation, can you tell which depict Iceland and which show Mordor from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings series? If you're not a devotee of the films, some of the answers may surprise you.