Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Nothing Says I Love You Like, Well ... Nothing

Paul Dirac, one of the 20th Century's science superheros - proved the existence of the quantum field, antimatter and those spooks of the cosmos, better known as virtual particles, among other things - was by all accounts a very weird bloke. For one thing, he rarely, if ever, spoke. In the Dirac biography, The Strangest Man, a 'friend' recounts a 'conversation' he had with the physicist in a London restaurant over lunch. He, the friend, was jabbering on about the politics of the day, art, women, current trends in science, the London theater scene, the rising prices of haberdashery, etc. After an hour or so, Dirac looked up from his soup and replied, "Hmm." Thirty minutes later, having finished his lunch, Dirac stood up, perhaps contemplated saying goodby, decided against it and walked out of the restaurant.

Niels Bohr, another of the quantum mechanical masterminds, once said, "This Dirac seems to know a lot of physics, but he never says anything."

Sounds sort of ideal.  A friend who never speaks. Could be some kind of a genius for all we know. Given the benefit of the doubt, and all, because, let's be honest, isn't it when people start talking that the disappointment tends to kick in?

Hey, you want a friend who don't talk? Go get a dog.
I already got a dog.
So get another.

I knew a guy who only dated mutes. Claimed it enabled him to better control the conversation. Then one day his girlfriend said  "            ."    He took it hard, hid her notepad when she wasn't looking, considered reading a book on Existentialism.

On the other hand, Hank, the paradigmatic, alter ego, homeless guy, a deranged genius of the first magnitude, has a different slant on the issue; he being of the opinion that to stop talking is nothing less than a surrender to the harsh and, not to put too fine a point on it, irreversible contingencies of non-existence. 
"We all ooze nothingness," Hank says. "Close your eyes and the world disappears. Embrace the vacuum, moron. As scary as the nothing is, it's all we've got to ride home on."

I love it when Hank almost makes sense.

Then there's Hank's take on the ultimate cosmic mystery:

"Something, maybe the void, maybe a truly whacked-out God, burped, or hiccuped, or possibly farted,  and the Universe popped up, out of nothing, the ultimate free lunch, but not for long, see, cause for every particle there was its exact opposite, an anti-particle. The two cancel each other out. Pop, pop. Universe, no Universe. It's happening every single second. You say hello, I say goodby. But not this time, this time there's a discrepancy, a so-called quantum fluctuation. For every one-hundred-trillion or so particle-anti-particle pairs, there's one extra particle, a loner, riddled with uncertainty, like some homeless guy staring down the barrel of infinity. The entire universe and everything currently in it is based precisely on such a mind-altering misunderstanding. You, for example, are nothing more than the byproduct of an infinitesimal quantum discrepancy. So go meditate on that, wise-ass."

Sounds crazy enough to almost be true. Too bad I stopped listening after 'Something.'
"Say again, Hank."
"Fuck you! You are NOTHING!
"I love you, too. You may be a crud-covered foul-smelling doppelganger, but you're my crud-covered foul-smelling doppelganger."
"Tell me something I don't know."
I quote Max Planck.  "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die."
"Blah, blah, blah," Hank wheezes. "I'm a lot more dead than not and I still ain't buying into your eerie evil rap."

I decide to pepper his severely depleted brain cells with a little Bukowski:
" We're all going to die, all of us, what a circus. That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing."

"Much better," Hank says, drifting off into a quasi-psychotic muttering session. "Pluck a flower, move a distant star."
"Wait a minute, didn't Dirac say that?"
"Hey, you just spent the better part of an excruciating day trying to convince us that Dirac never spoke."
"Okay, then he wrote it."
"So write this," Hank says, somehow finding the strength to raise his middle finger and jab it in my direction.
"They denied Jesus, too," I tell him.
"Yeah, well, you ain't him."


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Crazy Talking Hominids

News as Noise:
  (part one)

Some guy walks up to the house of Harry Holcomb (sic), Colorado's Director of Prisons, rings the doorbell, and when Harry answers the door the guy shoots him in the head.
Cops have no leads, although CNN reports Breaking News in the case:
"Police are now seeking a speed walker, who may have been a witness to the crime."

Okay, first of all, what's a speed walker? And when did it become an agreed upon designation for, presumably, a human? Does it perhaps reflect some sort of neurological condition, compelling a person to walk much faster than, say, a normal person?  How fast, exactly, are we talking about? What is the upper velocity range of an air-breathing, bi-pedal humanoid walker, assuming no external power source?  Would such a person passing by your house be little more than a blur of speedy light fragments?

And even if a speed walker was passing the Holcomb house at the time of the crime, what are the chances that he or she had the time to see anything?
"Did you get a good look at the suspect?"
"A very good look. He, or possibly she, appeared to be a fuzzy blob, possibly with horns, rapidly vibrating in a bluish-grey fog."
"Good enough."

Later in the same Breaking News segment, a CNN reporter is questioning police chief Wayland Scruggs (sic) on the investigation:

"I know you said you have no suspects, chief, but do you think it's possible that the assailant may have had some issue with Mr. Holcomb?"
Uh, as opposed to what? Homicidal fury over the absence of an issue?
"Pray to God, woman, that this vicious killer had an issue. The alternative is the R word, as in Random, as in nut job with easy access to firearms shooting the first guy dumb enough to answer his front door. That's the kind of felony headache we do not need!"

I, myself, haven't answered the door in approximately 10 years; not so much out of concern with being killed, randomly or otherwise; more with being driven into a state of apoplexy by some bland-faced, smiling moron jabbering away in a mostly incomprehensible language about something so inane that I would rather be shot than forced to have a conversation about.

From a highly confidential source in San Francisco.  (thanks, Amber)
Two cops overheard at a downtown Starbucks:

cop 1:  "You want green tea? Not coffee?"
cop 2:  "Coffee makes me trigger happy. You know that."

Talk about the eroding confidence in law enforcement. One can almost hear the CNN Breaking News:
Cop in California guns down group of Chinese tourists crossing against the light. Claims Starbucks made him do it. A possible speed walking witness asserts that the crosswalk itself was alive with swirling heat demons, and the traffic light had just gone supernova when the shooting occurred.

"Those blurry, levitating stick figures speeding through the intersection on the legs of a million glowing centipedes never had a chance."
"Good enough."


Friday, March 15, 2013

Is the Postmodernist Lifestyle Really for Everyone?

It, in the sheer, elegant vagueness of the other, mutely resonant, a thing, by meaning nothing,  a deceptively smooth emptiness, suggesting furthermore the improbability of itself. 

If the above sentence makes any sense at all to you, read on.
The church of latter day post-structural chaos is currently recruiting, and could be just what the doctor ordered.
Assuming, of course, a doctor can be found with the requisite darkly ironic, self-referential bedside manner.
Patient: "Not feeling so good, Doc; shooting pains up both arms, difficulty breathing, fuzzy short-term memory."
Doctor: "I, on the other hand, feel fine, but then why wouldn't I, what with the access I have to a wide variety of powerful narcotics. Not that I'm so stoned at this moment as to be unable to treat you, although, frankly, I am having some trouble coming to terms with your actual existence."
Patient: "It's my existence, in particular, that concerns me. It's as if I can sense myself, you know, fading out."
Doctor: "Most likely an impending stroke. Crazy, huh? I, myself, have the cardiovascular system of an 18-year-old bodybuilder. I'm so healthy, in fact, it's sickening."
Patient: So, Doc, am I ... dying?"
Doctor: "The question strikes me as somewhat impertinent, but then what do I know? I lose patients at about the same rate I misplace my car keys. Oops! There goes another one. Which reminds me of a joke. Want to hear it?"
Patient: "Not really."
Doctor: "Two guys in a bar commiserating over the recent demise of their friend. First guy sucks on his beer and says, 'I'll tell you what I think. That wife of his drove him to his grave.'  Second guy sucks beer, nods and says, 'Yeah, but in the final analysis, at least he was spared the ignominy of having to walk.'"

At this point a second, competing text fragment is randomly inserted into the narrative: 
 Sorry to say, Mr. Lee, but short of a total body organ transplant, your days are numbered.
How many days, exactly, would you say?
Did I say days? Sorry, I meant day.
So what, I have hours to live?
If you're willing to entertain an extremely optimistic mindset.
Sort of depressing.
Perhaps you'd care to speak to one of our in house therapists.
Only if it's someone you hate and wouldn't mind finding murdered in his or her office.
A member of the clergy?
Dead even before he gets his Bible open.
In that case, drugs?
I'm listening.
"By no means easy, but once I was weaned off the concept of objectivity, I was able to wallow in total subjective bliss, without having to feel guilty about it all the time. "
 “God is out of the picture, my friend. The relevance of metaphysics has shriveled like an old man's scrotum. What other choice do we have but to embrace the carnival sideshow of the postmodern?”
"A writer is writing a story about a writer trying to write a story about a writer who can't write."
"Talking about absolute truth is like saying you're dating the perfect woman. For a time you can trick yourself into believing it, but sooner or later the lie is revealed."
"Facts are a lot like ghosts that only show up on certain holidays and never bring a gift."

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