Saturday, November 26, 2005

Of Mice and Kidney Stones

Well, I thought that a long weekend would be the perfect respite for the writing of an essay. Alas, Santa's evil brother, Nackles, decided to deliver me an early present in the form of a kidney stone which means that my weekend is consisting of interludes of pain interspersed with interludes of Percocet-induced sleep.

At least I was able to enjoy a good Thanksgiving dinner before it struck.

I do want to clarify that I have no immediate plans to finish up part two of the Intelligent Design essay. Frankly, I've lost my train of thought on it and would rather not deliver a substandard conclusion simply for the sake of concluding it.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Unstructured Fun

stopsignhellobadgeFirst an announcement: instead of doing regular Tuesday Fun articles, I've decided to do them on a less structured scheduled; hence, "Tuesday Fun" is now "Unstructured Fun".

For this first entry, Lore Sjöberg, formerly of Brunching Shuttlecocks, has put together a fun little web toy called Untitled States. Basically it's a set of pictures that you can self-caption.

It's a simple toy but, in my opinion, surprisingly fun to play around with. It also provides you with HTML so that you can add the resulting images to a web page or post them to a forum.

Have fun.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Life Before Death

Saadian Tombs

There are
Those zombies among us
Who purport to believe
In life before death.

I will not argue with them.

Suffice it to say
That we are certain
That it is the dead who walk,
That it is the dead who talk,

And that no one knows a thing
About what came before.

Photo courtesy of Anthéaïs

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Fire Dancer

I sketch my future
From strewn embers

As I gather myself to myself
My vision blazes through
Imponderable eventualities

I see myself casting brightness
From a self-fueled pyre

I burn myself, again,
Consumed by hope.

Photo courtesy of Meganpru

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Eschatologist

It's Monday. At precisely 7:16 in the morning, Eastern Daylight Time, the world ends. It does that a lot on Mondays.

It's a standard Christian apocalypse which means a long morning for me. It used to be that these things would just be a couple of days of plague, famine, et al, followed by a nice, neat Heavenly ascension and Judgment — hallelujah! Ever since the fundies polluted the zeitgeist, they've invariably included a tedious thousand-year reign of the Antichrist in which every last little tidbit of biblical hallucigenia gets played out in endless, banal variety.

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's a drawn out eschatology. That's why I love the techno-nerds. When they end the world it's usually something like some rogue grey goo that escapes from a secret lab — there's always a secret lab — that eats the world in three days, or some super-virus that makes everyone puke their innards up in a week, or an accidental black hole that devours the planet before lunch.

At 10:28 its zombies. Fucking horror freaks.

At 1:10, 1:31 and 1:56 we get Hindu, Islamic and, so help me, Mayan endings. This is why I drink.

I get a nice break before there's a nuclear holocaust at sundown. I haven't seen one of those since 1998. I actually like the nuke scenarios, at least when they don't have any damned mutant cannibal hoards. Nuclear wars are all pretty fireworks followed by a pleasant nuclear winter as mankind's dominion over the world comes to an end. They're also easy to clean up

Elder Gods at eight, war against the machines at nine, everything's a dream and the Dreamer is now waking up at ten and, finally, aliens destroy the planet at a quarter to midnight.

I was twelve years old when I got my gnosis. It was May of 1958. Most of the apocalypses back then were of the nuclear variety but this time it was giant bugs. Of course I didn't know anything about the ways that the world ends, back then. I was twelve and, as far as I was concerned, everything was ending for the first time ever.

The bugs in question were locusts. It was a standard horror movie. They came out of the Alamogordo but, in no time flat, they were everywhere.

I was a smart kid, a nearly perfect stereotype of a 50's science geek. I even, swear to The Great Unknown, had a junior chemistry set, a backyard telescope and, yes, a slide rule and a pocket protector. I knew that the bugs just didn't make any sense. Giant bugs violate the laws of physics and biology. They should have collapsed under their own weight, exoskeletons cracking from the strain. They shouldn't have been able to breath. The sure as hell shouldn't have been able to fly.

I remember being trapped in school, looking out at the street where the locust were ripping open cars and tearing apart pedestrians, and it just didn't make any sense, so I stopped believing in it. That's when things got weird.

You ever have a dream and you wake up just enough to know that it's not making sense but not enough to realize that you're actually dreaming? It was like that. Time suddenly got jumpy as my mind tried to force what was happening into some kind of semi-sensible template. The bugs flickered and were replaced by insectile robots. Then they flickered back. Everything jerked and then I realized that the bugs were really aliens. Hugh saucers floated in the afternoon sky. Then the disks crashed to the ground and the bugs went back to being bugs. The world lurched and, instead of bugs, they were Commie tanks cleverly disguised as bugs. Then they went back to being bugs again.

I don't know how long this went on. Time didn't make sense. All I knew is that there was no well in hell that overgrown locusts were destroying the world and that I was not going to let that be the case. Eventually a hand clasped my shoulder and some guy I didn't know said, "Kid, what the hell do you think you're doing?"

I turned around. He was a tall, muscular guy with a weirdly feminine look, especially around his eyes.

I remember stammering that none of this made any sense. He smiled and told me that I had to relax and let it play itself out. He told me that I couldn't force it. I had no idea what "it" was supposed to be. He touched my forehead and everything went hazy.

Tuesday is a trifecta of ecological, economic and epistemological collapses, which is not a bad day as these things go.

I woke up in my own bed. I got up and ran to the living room in a panic. I remember my mom being very cross with me. She told me to march back into my bedroom and put some clothes on because, "We're not animals!"

I knew better than to ask about rampaging radioactive monstrosities. Clearly it had, after all, been a dream even though it seemed far too vivid to be one. It was Saturday (so what the hell happened to Friday?) and I desperately needed to clear out my head, so I told my folks that I was going to the park.

When I got there, I found myself lost in thought. I think that I'd finally managed to convince myself that I'd imagined everything when, off in the distance, an air raid siren went off.

"Don't panic."

There he was, again: the same big frame, the same feminine eyes. I don't mind telling you that he really creeped me out.

"Who are you," I demanded. "What's going on?"

He said that, from the sounds of it, we were about to experience a nuclear war. I could feel my legs going rubbery. Giant bugs, no way, but a nuclear war was something that I could, in fact, believe in. I wondered how soon it would be before the soviet bombers dropped their awful cargo on us.

"My name is Elaios," he told me, "I'm the archon of the North American continent. You can call me El."

I had no idea what he was talking about. All I knew was that I was about to die. It must have shown on my face.

"Look, kid, this isn't any more — or less — real that what happened yesterday. The world's about to end, but that's nothing to worry about. It does it all the time."

Wednesday is sci-fi day: comets, gamma ray bursts, a planet busting anti-matter explosion (from a secret lab), and the Borg.

The world has been coming to an end since the beginning. I'm told that, in the first fractions of a femtosecond after its creation, the universe collapsed back on itself, or expanded out into a thin haze of nothingness, more times that can be counted. Even when the expansion was just right there were other things that went wrong. Sometimes there was too much gravity and everything collapsed into black holes. Other times the strong force was a bit too weak and we ended up with a universe that only had hydrogen. Lots of things could, and did, go wrong. Apparently it took a fair amount of tuning just to get something stable enough to allow for the existence of people.

Once we were on the scene, things really got out of hand.

The world doesn't end on Thursday. The world never ends on Thursday. Don't ask me why. I'm just glad that I get a regular day off.

An A-bomb went off less than half a block away. I was instantly flashed into atoms as was "call me El". It's a painless way to die, which is another reason why I like nuclear wars.

I suppose that I should have been more surprised to still have any sense of awareness, but I assumed that I was a ghost and that I'd be going up to Heaven soon. I was, however, surprised at how solid I felt and at how solid Elaios looked. He knelt down to my eye level and asked me, "Do you wonder why the world doesn't ever seem to completely fall apart?"

The highlight of Friday was a rampaging queer hoard running around buggering, burning and applying forced makeovers to unwilling straight guys. When you've seen as many rampaging hoards as I have you appreciate the fine details that illuminate the specific angsts that generate them.

Awareness changes reality. I suppose that there's some deep quantum explanation to account for this but it's been decades since I lost my simple faith in the explanatory power of science. All I know is that it's so.

The very first intelligence was the Demiurge. He's El's boss, which makes him my boss's boss. In the beginning, he touched the spark that ignited the universe and has been spending the rest of Time doing his best to make sure that that precious, divine flickering, which is our Cosmos, doesn't fade. Or so El says. Some folks who've heard about him think that he's a godly semi-abortion who created this universe to trap us in a world of lies and illusions. Whatever.

The important thing is that we're all bending reality to our expectations. If you want to put some kind of postmodernist or New Age spin on that, be my guest. What matters is that, most of the time, our competing desires to remake the universe into our own images cancels out. The Demiurge is the tie-breaker. It prefers a universe of orderly physical laws, which is what we mostly get. Frankly, that works for me, too.

The problem is that reality just isn't very stable. People are pessimistic. They look out at the universe and some deep part of them thinks that it's all just a little good to be true. That doubt translates into eschatology. Sometimes — often — the balance tips and the world goes spiraling down into one of a million different oblivions.

Saturday starts with run away global warming and ends with an endless ice age. The irony fails to amuse me.

"You ever hear the story of the virtuous men?"

I shook my head.

"It's a story that you find in a lot of mythologies. Supposedly there are a handful of virtuous men — sometimes seven, sometimes nine, or some other mystically significant number — whose virtue prevents the world from ending."

Off in the distance I could see blasted buildings. Every so often there'd be a flash on the horizon that I assumed was another bomb going off. I toyed with a chunk of fused glass that I had pulled from the ground.

"I suppose that you're going to tell me that you're one of those guys, right?"

He smiled. "No. I'm not particularly virtuous and the world keeps ending whether I like it or not. I'm just one of the guys who gets to put it back together after it falls apart."

It's Sunday. Aside from a lone AI gaining godlike intelligence and turning the whole solar system into computronium, it's been a quiet morning.

I'm having coffee with El. I've been the sub-archon in charge of the Eastern Seaboard for almost five decades now.

"What's the point, El?"

I'm tired. I'm tired of living through catastrophe after catastrophe. I'm tired of getting murdered. I'm tired of being blown to smithereens. I'm tired of being butchered, raped, dismembered and eaten. I'm tired of being sucked into black holes and tired of living through every inane nihilistic fantasy that the Collective Unconscious spews out.

I'm tired of fixing everyone else's mess.

He absently taps his mug with his spoon a few times. It's just one a dozen annoying habits that he has.

"What I can I tell you, kid? I've been doing this since King Tut was in diapers and I've thought about calling it quits thousands of times. I never do, though."

He shrugs. "I know it sounds corny, but I believe in the world. I believe in humanity."

I tell him that I can't do it anymore, that I just want to end it all, even if that means ending myself. I tell him that I've got a gun at home with a bullet in the chamber. I tell him that I just wanted to say goodbye and that he's going to need to find someone else to manage this little corner of our fragile world. I've got my own eschatology to take care of.

He tells me that I just need a vacation. He leans over and takes my gnosis. I had no idea that he could do that.

It's Monday, again. I've got the hangover from Hell. I clutch my head, trying not to puke. I can tell it's going to be one of those days.

At least it's not the end of the world.

Friday, November 04, 2005

State of the Blog Update

As promised, I will be starting up the blog soon. I'm giving some thought to how I want to do so. I'm still a bit worried about just how much time I'm going to have to dedicate to it and whether or not I should, in fact, make it just a bit more unstructured. I think that I will go back to doing regular poetry postings every Thursday. I'm not entirely sure if I want to keep Tuesday Fun as a regular feature or just go to posting fun stuff as it comes on an irregular basis. The Sunday posts are the most up in the air. I like writing essays but I don't want to reach the point of writing an essay for the sake or writing one. I'm also thinking that I'd like to do more reviews and stories (in fact, this Sunday I will have a fresh story up).

In the meanwhile, he's a pic of the costume I wore this Halloween. Please note that the tonsure (i.e., "monk's cut") is not a wig.

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