Monday, January 28, 2008

On Beardless Ron Paul

Today Ron Paul came to the State House. I didn't know anything about Ron Paul other than that he's a Republican that doesn't really act like one, and he wants to abolish the IRS. And I think I found a flyer of his in a public restroom the other week that ominously spoke of the imminent fusion of Mexico, the US, and Canada, and declared that we must stand against such horrendous horrors!

I took a stroll downstairs on the pretext of acquiring some peanut M&Ms and got a look at the odd Libertarian/Republican/Politically Confused man, and got an eyeful of his adoring crowd. I have to admit, it was funny seeing a bunch of "hippies" and "granola people" raising the roof for a registered Republican, even if he is certifiably insane (er, eccentric).

After doing a bit more research (a tiny bit), I'm now a little afraid of Ron Paul. He seems to be advocating a political viewpoint that, while not necessarily anarchist in presentation, would probably lead to governmental changes that would result in anarchy. He favors the abolition of income tax, the dismantling of most Federal agencies, breaking with NATO and the UN, and increased rights for gun owners. So, in my grossly politically ignorant reduction: get rid of the government, blow off the rest of the world, and give people more guns. Sweet! Throw in some global warming, and Waterworld starts to look eerily prescient.

And, despite his extreme advocation of individual rights, he's staunchly pro-life (which is an interesting paradox: is he supporting the individual rights of the embryo or oppressing the individual rights of the mother?). He's also largely against any regulation of the internet, which leads to another contradiction. The internet is arguably one of the largest factors in the "globalization" of the planet, something that is directly at odds with Paul's "seal off the borders and locks us all in" super-US-sovereignty stance.

He also touches women in their no-no spots (which may or may not have to do with his being a gynecologist, but seriously...he's probably a creep).

On another presidential note: We have not had a president with facial hair for 95 years (and it was a stupid mustache). 95! That's just pathetic and dangerous. To just what extent can a wimpy, baby-faced man take charge of this nation? What level of respect and formidableness does a smooth-cheeked man command? What sort of bald, juvenile cajones are being harbored in that beardless candidate's slacks?

Just ask somebody: who was the greatest president? I bet you'll find the answer for the majority of your subjects to be damned handsomely-bearded.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

On Naughty Satellites

Today it was announced that a large U.S. spy satellite has lost power and will be plummeting to the Earth in a matter of weeks. The satellite may or may not contain hazardous material (read: it does). No one is quite sure where it will land. The whole situation is "top secret," and we are assured that "appropriate government agencies are monitoring the situation."

But what is an appropriate agency in this situation? The one that originally launched the satellite? What (or who) exactly was this spy satellite spying on? How hazardous can the hazardous materials in a satellite be, and why are we zipping them around the planet if they're harmful enough to warrant mention? The whole situation is being reported as quickly mentioned, "just so you know" news, when the reality is, this satellite could kill people. Maybe lots of people.

How much responsibility is the US willing to pony up for carnage caused by a satellite no one was supposed to know existed? Does a non-existent satellite make a sound when it crashes into suburbia? Can we as citizens be expected to respect the "top secret business" front that's currently being displayed if it turns out the satellite does cause damage? If this situation blooms into a tragedy, are we to settle with never knowing why this satellite was placed in orbit to eventually plummet to the earth one day? This could become an ethical nightmare: this country faces having to take responsibility for damage caused by a potentially naughty satellite, and possibly having to take responsibility for the reasons that naughty satellite was doing something it shouldn't have been, and the information it gleaned. What's being passed off as not-such-a-big-deal has the potential to take another large chunk out of our already-low global approval rating.

As always, time will tell, and in the mean time, we thrive on such drama. So long as it doesn't come crashing through our roofs, that is.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

On Life After People

Yesterday, I offered brief commentary on a show a co-worker was speaking about over lunch. Luckily, I had the opportunity to watch the encore presentation of that show last night. It's called Life After People, and aired on the History Channel. The two hour special details how, if all humans were to suddenly disappear, natural flora and fauna would adapt and repopulate and how human constructions would degrade and disappear. The show begins with the immediate effects of a human extinction, moving into the future in increments of approximately 25 years before ultimately winding up 10,000 years past the date of the last human beings.

Having seen the show, I don't retract my initial reaction, which is that it is a decidedly narcissistic undertaking. Narcissism doesn't overtly dominate the special, but it permeates the ideas it is founded upon and, at times, its presentation. This is doubtlessly unintentional, as this implicit, mostly unconscious human-centrism is unfortunately the foundation for a lot of our species’ thinking.

I'll preface this discussion with a disclaimer and an extended quote from hyperbolist extraordinaire Friedrich Nietzsche. Disclaimer first: I am in no way a bleeding-heart, human-hating hippie that wishes for the basis of this show to become a reality for the sake of the rest of nature, and I am in no way writing this with the intention of proving the show is not entertaining or worth watching. This is simply an exploration of a line of thought that was instigated by the show. I rather enjoyed watching it, and my writings here are merely the consideration of new, related avenues of thought. And now Nietzsche:

In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the haughtiest and most mendacious minute of "world history"--yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die.

This largely sums up the idea of the show. The premise is founded upon morbid curiosity. What would the world be like if we all disappeared? The question seems innocuous enough at first glance, but it is based upon the relatively egotistical (although true) claim that we dominate the earth to a large enough extent that our activities and accomplishments are actually planet-defining. It is nearly impossible to separate the "Earth" from the "Earth as affected by human activity." At its most basic, the show acts to remind us of how much power we wield over our home by illustrating how long and arduous a planetary recovery would be in our absence.

Though it could be easily argued that the overall message of the show would be impossible without its central device, it is still pretty drastic to be willing to entertain the eradication of oneself as the ultimate means of reaffirming how real and influential one is. While there is some discussion of the repopulation of plants and animals, the show mostly deals with how human structures will degrade without people around to maintain them. The mechanics of these sorts of breakdowns are certainly interesting, but the extent to which the show focuses on them makes it fairly inane. If no one is around, who the hell cares how long it will take for your house to fall down? Presumably, of all of the things in the Earth's natural environment that would drastically change in our absence, the longevity of our now-worthless buildings seems like the least interesting or essential to the history (and future) of the planet.

The emphasis on human architecture is the result of a somewhat pathetic undertone in the show, which is actually articulated at one point: "Can there be any hope that a permanent mark of our civilization will remain?" The agenda is thus revealed: the show isn't so much a celebration of the incredible natural phenomena and mechanics that contribute to the staying power of the Earth's ecosystem; it's a worried, desperate attempt at a gauge of our legacy.

The show somewhat redeems itself by being careful not lean too far towards either "purely hypothetical" or "inevitable," thereby avoiding a needless, haughty tone that makes the assumption that "no humans" is a largely unthinkable venture, but also avoiding falling into cliché doomsday trappings. But at its core, the show is based heavily on the all-to-human presupposition that human greatness matters to anything other than humans (read: it doesn’t). Now, I realize this isn’t necessarily the strongest argument as far as discrediting the show (if I were actively trying to discredit it), because the same underlying belief is present in many, many things humans undertake. In this way, the show can be used as an illustrative example of how this misconception is manifested in ways we don’t always consider at first glance. Nietzsche sums it up nicely:

One might invent such a fable [the one quoted above] and still not have illustrated sufficiently how wretched, how shadowy and flighty, how aimless and arbitrary, the human intellect appears in nature. There have been eternities when it did not exist; and when it is done for again, nothing will have happened. For this intellect has no further mission that would lead beyond human life. It is human, rather, and only its owner and producer give it such importance, as if the world pivoted around it.

The last sentence serves well to call out Life After People: the embedded notion that the world “revolves around” human activity is what allows looking at a hypothetical world without us to seem so novel and entertaining. A world without people seems alien and depressing, because people view themselves as the one thing that is central to the planet. This is why the producers of the show couldn’t even part with humanity when the whole premise was the absence of it: the show remained focused on how long our achievements would remain standing, rather than on how the planet would flourish despite them. Even many of the discussions of animal adaptation and repopulation are colored through humanity’s remaining influence, focusing on how these creatures might utilize the buildings and creations we left behind. The show is really rather paradoxical: even when we no longer exist, we can’t help but think of how awesome we were when we did. And for that reason, were an alien to land somewhere on the planet, tune in to cable television, and watch Life After People, it would probably find its subtle self-importance laughable and maybe even a little sad.

The show concludes with the narrator stating: "There was life before people. There will be life after people," as if such a statement was somehow profound, or at the very least, not painfully obvious. It serves as a fitting end cap for the mentality the show represents. Sure, people are great.

But only to people.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

On Buying More Time

Hopefully tomorrow will be updated with the extended discussion of Life After People, which currently exists in draft form. Here, to act as a placeholder, a stupid exchange from my day:

Today, after Clyde, age 80, passed out paychecks:

Ron: Clyde, did you pay yourself?
Clyde: Yes. I peed myself, too.
Ron: Well, I guess that's not too surprising considering your age.
Clyde: Eh, depends.

Pun most likely intended.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

On Global Narcissism

Tonight I'm tired. Tonight, I'd like to just record a thought that I had been considering today, and maybe tomorrow I can return to the topic and explore it with a little more depth.

At work this morning, one of my co-workers was talking about a show she was watching last night, which showed what the Earth would be like if humans disappeared. Apparently it showed the immediate result of mass human extinction, moving further and further into the future and showing the changes as the world existed longer and longer without human influence.

I got thinking about what the appeal of this sort of exercise is to us. Imagining our nonexistence is fairly nihilistic, but it becomes profoundly narcissistic when we do it simply to see just how drastically things would be changed, thereby affirming our immense and overarching global influence. It takes a lot of gall to be willing to entertain your complete eradication merely as a means remind yourself of how much raw power you possess. I'll return to these points tomorrow.

Side-note: On the blog homepage, the title of the blog is cut down such that a new word is coined: Inconsequentia. One could say that each entry in the blog is a piece of inconsequentia. Or is the state of being inconsequential simply a quale of each entry, instead of its defining point? Maybe we're just dealing with inconsequalia, worthless properties that can't constitute the whole of an entry, being merely one of its comprised parts. Maybe these entries have some intrinsic worth despite their inconsequalia.

Maybe I really need sleep.

Monday, January 21, 2008

On Vehicular Mourning

I got a new car today. The plow truck driver's insurance company deemed my Civic a total loss, and then paid me almost twice what it was worth for it. We thought long and hard about the situation, but could see no sinister intentions in the insurance company's actions. I won't pretend to understand their logic, but it works for me now. I'm sure they just intend to fix the Civic and auction it off as a salvaged vehicle, but at least the now-worthless vehicle is off of my hands.

I drove home this afternoon in a 2003 Mazda Protege5. I spent most of the day really excited about this development, and I'm not going to lie, it's a badass car. It's much better than my Civic, and currently has 130,000 less miles than my Honda did. It's nice to be in an updated vehicle.

But I couldn't help but notice my excitement had given away to a low-key sort of sorrow this evening. I'll miss my Civic. I'd been through a lot over the course of the five years I owned that car, and it was well lived-in. This is not to say that I physically lived in my vehicle, but that it was gently worn in a way unique to myself. I put a lot of money into the car, some quite recently, but I don't feel ripped off. I don't feel angry that I spent $600 on new axles not three months ago, and now that money is gone because I don't even have the car to show for it, let alone the axles. Instead, I feel bad that I had to give up on the Civic. I feel bad that I got it nice new axles and couldn't stick around to make use of them together. Maybe I'm making my car seem to much like a living being, but I can't deny that it treated me well. I can now understand why my mother was so angry years ago when someone hit and totaled her Suzuki Vitara. All she could say to justify her rage was "I loved that car." My Civic will be missed, and I hope it will forgive me for essentially selling it down the river.

I think it will. I'd like to think it was getting tired and old, satisfied with the roads it had romanced and the people it taxied.

Now is a new chapter, the Protege chapter, and I can only hope it will be as storied and lengthy as that of the Civic.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

On Three or Four Stupid Things

Since starting this blog, I've yet to come across any real trouble posting on a daily basis. While there are parts of every day where I worry whether I'll be able to come up with anything for my evening writing session, I inadvertently end up thinking about all kinds of stupid things.

Here are three stupid things I thought about today:

1) The commercial for that's been airing on basic cable channels.
Every so often when watching television, there's a commercial for that has a bunch of random people stating the various injuries and ailments that they've looked up on the website. At one point near the end of the commercial, a teenage boy rapidly lists off a bunch of medical issues (mostly related to his feet, if I remember correctly) and then exclaims "I visited WebMD so much I got carpal tunnel syndrome!" I was struck by the image of some frantic hypochondriac endlessly attempting to validate their anxiety, literally logging on to WebMD with such frequency that they inadvertently cause a serious real health problem (carpal tunnel is good, but what about irreversible eye damage or a broken coccyx from sitting too far on the edge of their seat and causing the whole thing to topple). I went to the website this afternoon and typed "hypochondriac" into the search box, but only one article was returned on the subject. I was hoping for a page that lists the symptoms of hypochondria, so that hypochondriacs could nervously review them and then be thrown into an all-new state of panic when they realized they suffered from yet another malady! In any case, I'm not sure about a medical website whose proponents gleefully exclaim that using the site brought them medical harm. "Carpal tunnel syndrome" is a lot to type in the search box when your wrist feels like it's chewing itself off of your arm.

2) The breath of football players.
Tonight's NFC Championship game between the Giants and the Packers found the players duking it out in subzero temperatures. When the cameras zoomed in on the line of scrimmage, the empty air between the two teams was riddled with fierce blasts of hot football breath, making the players appear even more primal and animalized than they usually do. It was like watching musk oxen prepare to butt heads or angry bulls readying themselves to gore the crap out of a moronic matador. Or maybe it was more akin to each football player's head being a piping-hot piston, churning rapidly within the team engine, revving up for some demolition derby carnage. Or maybe I'm just mildly retarded.

3) The teen pregnancy paradox.
I was talking to my dad over lunch today about the bad decisions some people have made in their lives. One of the worst decisions a person can make is to get pregnant (or do the baby-making act in such an unprotected manner so as to make pregnancy possible) as a teenager (this even goes for some in their early 20s). When you have children too young, you become locked inside a quality-of-life-ruining paradox. Because you now have a dependent human being to care for, it is important that you secure a decent job and a respectable place to live so as to give the child the sort of resources and environment they need in order to thrive. However, the very fact that the child is so utterly dependent actually prevents the mother from acquiring the ideal life-position to adequately address that dependency. The act of caring for the kid makes acquiring the resources to care for the kid extremely difficult. When you're young, this utterly screws up your life, because you never really get a chance to start out, and by the time your kids are old enough to look out for themselves, the better part of your life as passed you by, and your kids are probably all frigged up anyway. Sadly, this vicious cycle often extends beyond a single individual's lifetime and into multiple generations, endlessly propagating until someone gets lucky or everyone gets dead.

Ok, I lied. There's one more stupid thing I thought about, and it also has to do with WebMD. I came across a list of the "12 Most Embarrassing Body Problems." They were:

1. Foot odor
2. Bad breath
3. Excessive sweating
4. Bikini-line razor burn
5. Spider veins
6. Bumps on the butt/backs of the arms
7. Toenail fungus
8. Dingy teeth
9. Stretch marks
10. Excessive facial hair on women
11. Having a shiny face (???)
12. Hand warts

These just don't seem like they should qualify as the most embarrassing body problems one could potentially experience. Here are 12 things off the top of my head that I'd argue are even more embarrassing:

1. Loud, random, uncontrollable flatulence
2. The above flatulence, coupled with the fact that you shit yourself every time it happens.
3. Genital warts that are visibly outlined against your clothing.
4. Possessing an eyeball that actually behaves like those googly-eyes you use in art projects.
5. Getting a violently bloody nose every time you sneeze.
6. Severe chapped lips in which the skin sloughs off in one giant piece that resembles those wax lips candies.
7. Excessive sweating that stains your clothing green and/or a burnt orange hue.
8. Acne that extends down the insides of your forearms.
9. Rough, dry skin on your elbows that makes other people bleed if they accidentally brush up against it.
10. Premature ejaculation incited by the mere chaffing of your pants.
11. Severe balding that exposes the bone.
12. Having a penis and/or vagina where one's nose should be.

Whoop! There it is!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

On the Rapture of Morons

Today I was stopped behind a vehicle at a red-light. Plastered on the back of this vehicle was a sticker that said: “Warning! In case of rapture, vehicle will be unmanned,” as though slapping the slogan on the back of your Ford Explorer is all that’s required to secure a blissful, heavenly eternity.

Now suppose this person were smugly driving along one day, returning from a fruitful visit to a Christian bookstore or something, when suddenly people all around begin to vanish. As the mailman bends down to unlock the front of a big blue mailbox, he amazingly disappears, the ring of keys clattering on the empty sidewalk. A clumsy housepainter slips and falls from his ladder, but before he hits the ground he’s vanished into thin air. All around the driver, people are being liberated from their corporeal existence, leaving empty cars to roll lazily to a stop against buildings and one another, leaving screen doors banging open and closed on porches and dishwater spilling onto floors as the water taps keep running.

Within one second, the bustling downtown becomes vacant but for a few lost souls, who appear to have been thrown to the ground at the height of the rapture. But the driver is still sitting in their car, bumper sticker firmly attached. What would they do? Would they even remember they had stuck such an inane thing to the back of their car? Would they become embarrassed, jumping out and distancing themselves from the vehicle, hoping no one saw them? Would they try to rationalize away the disappearance of most of the town, frantically fabricating alternate theories, already deep in the throes of denial? Anyone who took the rapture and the word of God seriously enough to knowingly lower the value of their vehicle in His service certainly wouldn’t be excluded when the time finally came for the great ascent, right? Surely there’s a scientific explanation for what just happened.

Now suppose the driver had been stopped in a line of traffic at a red light. As they look around, trying to gain some perspective on the immense event that just took place, their eyes settle on a little Jesus-fish stuck to the back of the car in front of them. Only this Jesus-fish doesn’t say “Jesus,” it says “Darwin.”

The car is empty, its left turn signal still rhythmically flashing.

Can the Christian brain even parse this sensory information? What sort of unnamable emotions would begin welling up in the driver? How could someone bear such a jarring, painful shift in what they believed about the meaning of their very existence? What feeling of doom could ever surmount that which is present in our tragic driver?

This, this is why putting a bumper sticker on your car is a terrible, terrible idea.

On My Birth and Other Mostly Unrelated Happenstances

Yesterday was my birthday, and also my excuse for not writing. Because Blogger will not let me alter reality by changing the dates of my posts, we’re all going to have to put our imagination caps on and get those brains fired up. For the purposes of this exercise, today is yesterday (and tomorrow: today!) Got it?

Now you, like me, probably view January 18th as an important day because it was the day I made parole and was released from my amniotic prison 23 years ago. However, don’t be blinded by the immensity of this event; throughout the course of history, lots of interesting things took place on the 18th day of the year. Here, I will expound upon a few of those, peppering them with wry commentary that ideally will make me seem witty and sexually desirable.

1778: James Cook is the first European to arrive on the Hawaiian Islands, which he dubs the “Sandwich Islands.” I’m not terribly impressed or interested with this fact, but would you believe that it was the first event in the history of January 18ths that does not induce yawning? This does remind me that I want to revisit The Colony, that book about the horrendously inhumane leper colonies that used to exist on Hawaii. Also: Colony contains the word “Colon,” which often contains sandwiches, but not islands.

1788: The first fleet of ships carrying British criminal prisoners arrives in Botany Bay, Australia. Something about the idea of an entire continent being slowly populated by fornicating criminals is just hilarious.

1884: Dr. William Price attempts to cremate the body of his infant son, setting a legal precedent for cremation in the UK. This dude attempted to publicly burn his deceased son, but was thwarted when another dude ran up and grabbed the baby out of the fire. The kid’s name was Jesus Christ Price. This naturally led to some confusion, as the heroic man shouted “Jesus Christ, Price!” as he shoved the doctor out of the way and plucked the dead infant from the flames, to which Dr. Price replied, “Yeah, that’s him.”

1912: British explorer Robert Falcon Scott arrives at the South Pole only to find that the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had preceded him by just over a month. Pwnd.

1944: The Metropolitan Opera House in New York City hosts a jazz concert for the first time. The performers were Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Artie Shaw, Roy Eldridge and Jack Teagarden. Sixty-four years later, white Americans still don’t get it and black jazz musicians have become white Europeans. 99.7% of children who pick up the trumpet will extend their musicianship no further than “Eye of the Tiger,” and the other 0.3% are absorbed into Anthony Braxton’s graduate ensembles, which ironically alienate traditional jazz-bos, who can usually be seen exiting the performance hall in between movements.

1967: Albert DeSalvo, the "Boston Strangler," is convicted of numerous crimes and is sentenced to life in prison. Notable name, but not a particularly noteworthy serial killer. I’m still waiting for that favorite thriller movie plotline to take place in the real world: the serial killer that kills serial killers. Granted, the logistics of this are so implausible as to be nearly able to physically damage the brain if one thinks about them for too long, but still. That serial killer would be the ultimate serial killer of all history. The only way it could be topped was if a serial killer arose that only killed serial killer-killing serial killers. This could continue ad infinitum ad absurdum, until the only way to become newsworthy once more would be to become a serial killer that doesn’t kill anyone at all. Now there’s a movie.

1969: United Airlines Flight 266 crashes into Santa Monica Bay, killing all 32 passengers and six crew members.
1977: Australia’s worst rail disaster occurs in Sydney, killing 83.
1986: An Aerovias aircraft crashes into San Benito Peten jungle in Guatemala, killing all 110 passengers.

Satan clears out some room population-wise to accommodate my arrival. Later, I’d totally snub that asshole when he claimed I owe him my soul because of this “favor” he did for me.

1998: Lewinsky scandal: Matt Drudge breaks the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair story on his website The Drudge Report. Matt Drudge has the most utterly appropriate surname of all time. I think all the talk of cigars and stained dresses around the time of this scandal resulted in the constellation of some sharp, focused imagery regarding things that were previously hazy and ill-understood by my 13 year old brain. Actually, that’s debatable. It’s a toss-up between that and grabbing my first boobies. I still like Bill, though.

Quick Facts:

  • Jim O’Rouke is the only person I find notable that shares a birthday with me, and Rudyard Kipling the only interesting person that passed on this day.

  • If the Japanese Emperor Daigo were still alive and was down for partying with me, he’d be celebrating his 1123th birthday, making him slightly over one millennium older than me. Though I’m not a drinker, I might friggin’ drink to that.

  • My birthday is Winnie the Pooh day, to which I say: Poo. Heh.

Stay tuned for next year’s installment, which will feature absolutely no updates and will likely retain any typographical errors made in this year’s entry. Thanks for playing along. Today can be today again, and tomorrow’ll be something new.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

On Blue, Fierce Grimalkin

Grimalkin is an interesting word I came across today. It's a synonym for "house cat," though it originally was used to refer to a gray cat that served as a witch's familiar, which is probably the only cool thing about witches.

I have a gray cat. I have a grimalkin.

I wonder what my cat would be like if it were my familiar. First of all, I suppose that would have to mean I was a witch (or a warlock), something I'm not so comfortable with. Something has always struck me as terribly corny about witches, but that might be a direct result of their widespread corn-ification in popular culture. That, and I abhor Wicca, the closest thing to real-life witches. It is hard for me to fathom why, if you are going to pretend that you're some sort of impossible being, you would choose something as manifestly lame as a witch. No one past the age of 5 finds witches to be frightening, and not many past the mental age of 14 find them to be awe-inspiring or worthy of one's aspirations. While the concept of a witch might have been truly alarming to supersititous, naive, Christ-fed medieval plebeians, the wisp of that bygone era that remains in modern times is truly stale and fleeting. None of the essentially terrible traits of witches have any consequence in today's world.

But still, familiars are a pretty nifty concept. To me, they always seemed more sinister than the witch herself, the sight of one a more hair-raising omen, the uncertainty of their agenda more stressful and nail-biting. Just what sorts of information was that gray (black, whatever) cat gleaning about you, what sorts of weaknesses and soft spots was it reporting back to the witch? Is the rustling just outside the window at night the return of the grimalkin? Has it come to leave slightly painful, irritating scratches on your ankles? A gruesome, undulating hairball that twitches on your doorstep? Has it come to plant the Devil's seed in your own lovable tabby?

I think that's what my cat would do if it were a familiar. It would go around propagating the Devil's spawn. I think if Blue (that's my grimalkin's name) were an outdoor cat, he'd be a massive swinger. He'd work natural selection the way it was meant to be worked, spreading his genes far and wide and letting the sheer number of offspring overwhelm the gene pool and keep his cool-catness alive for generations to come. So, if he were a familiar, the extension of me, a witch (i.e. a person in cahoots with Satan), each little kitten he produced would be a distillation of the purest of evils. I'd like to think these Satanic kittens would eat their own mothers. I'd like to think that these horrendous felines would refuse to be litter-trained and would actively attempt to expel their waste atop their sleeping owners. I'd like to think that when the book of Revelations becomes reality, the armies sent forth by Satan will be comprised of thousands of demonic kittens fathered by Blue.

The other thing Blue would do is rip up people's newspapers. Somehow, he thinks that pisses us off, because my mother yelled at him for doing it randomly one day. Whenever we do something that annoys him, he finds a newspapers and bites a huge chunk out of it. It's the only example of consistent animal revenge I've ever encountered. Familiar Blue would tear people's newspapers to shreds, shrouding them in ignorance. He'd mince their books, fray their Ethernet cables, hide their cellphone chargers. People across the land would become immensely uninformed, mostly stupid, and completely helpless. They would be weak and susceptible to Satan's influence. I could cast my Level Three Spell of Doomy Doomishness without them laughing at me or pointing me out to bullies and frequenters of biker bars. Infernal domination would be close at hand.

Sadly, my grimalkin is no grimalkin. He's just intermittently moody, largely disinterested in human affairs and usually hungry. Having been neutered, he can't even spread his decidedly non-demonic seed.

But every once and a while, if you rub his belly for too long, he'll scratch you and run away.

I can only see this as potential.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

On Death, Alien Infants, and Subtle Solipsism

Over the past few days, I've been revisiting Thomas Lynch's Bodies in Motion and at Rest, a collection of essays in which the veteran funeral director and accomplished poet muses on various aspects of the "dismal trade." Though occasionally deficient structurally (but look who's talking), Lynch's essays attempt to analyze elements of his own life through the medium of mortuary philosophy, looking at death, the grieving process and people's reactions to these things and expanding their scope so as to relate them to his experiences outside of his profession, but also in a way to the universal experience we all share. His work is always interesting, often illuminating, and graceful in a way that can only be acquired through a tumultuous and storied history. Though his commentary on death and dying is sobering, it is never morbid and is most often quite touching.

Sitting in the House Chamber alone, reading the essays this afternoon was nice. It also starkly contrasted with another discussion regarding death that I was privy to earlier in the day.

"If you go down Don, that's it. I'm not putting my mouth on you. Sorry, you're dead."

This was said during a CPR training class today, and though there was no tension and perhaps a little mirth in the exchange, the speaker was not joking. A former fireman who's a little rough around the edges, Norm's past experience with CPR and his generally candid personality meant that there would be no confusion in the room regarding his message. Just so we knew, if we were unconscious, he wouldn't be clearing our airway and giving us breaths. If someone else who was willing to didn't arrive in time, sorry, but we're dead. Mouth diseases, blood diseases, mostly digested Shepard's pie; these things would not be messed around with by Norman. The CPR instructor laughed uncomfortably, but was far too docile to butt heads with Norm. I wonder if he felt a little bad for all of us? The leader of our pack had essentially bailed out on us before we ever came close to a life-threatening situation. And did his forceful nature maybe convince some of the more impressionable among us that their comfort isn't worth sacrificing for someone else's life? I'm not sure what sort of diseases could potentially be transmitted via CPR, but perhaps it's something worth including in a training course. Would the occasional cold sore be so disagreeable as to overrule the interest of a dying person, and a person you know well, at that? I don't want to harp on the issue too much, because I'm not even sure how I feel about it. I honestly don't know what I would do if I was ever presented with such a situation.

In any case, the CPR dummies we used in the training class were interesting. There was an adult head and torso, the "Actar 911 Patrol," and an infant dummy, the "Actar 911 Infantry" (clever!). While the adult dummy was reasonable looking, the infant dummy looked freakishly like some artists' depictions of space aliens.
Admittedly, these dummies were far more interesting after the class concluded, and we began preparing them to be packed up. To remove the disposable "lung bag" and prepare the infant dummy for transport, you basically decapitate it. While this was mildly amusing/disturbing, things took a turn for the Twilight Zone when you went to reassemble the dummy. After removing the inner mechanisms, you don't attach the head back on to the neck. You attach the bottom of the neck to a small phallically-ambiguous knob in between the baby's legs. So the head is upside down and facing backwards. So it looks like the infant is in fact giving birth to another infant through its ass. To pack the adult heads up, you do something that would be anatomically equivalent to packing someone's severed head into their aorta where it enters the heart. Not quite as disturbing as the infant preparation, but slightly unsettling given the fact that you were previously using these dummies to imagine the detailed functioning of human anatomy.

Two interesting asides:

1) Clyde, age 80, said this: "I wonder what's going to happen with Britney Spea--Jesus Christ, I really need to polish these shoes."

2) I'm always intrigued and entertained by how the tiniest of actions can say a lot about an individual's personality and psychological motivations. While sitting in the chamber, I noticed a particular staff member had registers (the booklets that list all of the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate) from several years back on his desk. Written in pen on the cover of each was simply, "Mine." What an interesting world this person must inhabit where such a message would be clear to anyone else who might come into possession of one of those registers. Lately, we've been having to insert a single page update sheet into every register we can get our hands on (14 unopened cases with 117 registers each today), and I was very tempted to write "Yours" at the top before slipping it in. But perhaps it's best to leave some people's bubbles un-burst.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

On Blind Plowtruck Drivers

Before I resolved to start writing every day, my most frequent concern was whether I'd be able to find anything worth writing about. Lots of things happen everyday, but lots of things don't happen. Certainly the monotonies of my day-to-day business are hardly worth scrutinizing in vivid detail. Part of my motivation to write is to try to tackle things that would be at least marginally interesting for another person to read (even if I'm not advertising this blog's existence as of now), rather than simply tabulating every inane thing that happened to me each day. Yesterday the writing came pretty easy, but when I was finished, I was already anxious about what I would write about today.

Well, today stuff happened. I need to learn to live each day until it's nearly concluded, and then trust that at least one memorable event or idea can be extracted from the experience.

Today, a plow truck backed into my car. While I was in it. No one was injured (except my poor, beaten-on car) and no one raised their voices. I was essentially nowhere near the truck when it began backing up, was stopped on a public road way, and copiously honked my pathetic little horn. People asked me why I didn't back up, but let's face it: by the time you realize that, yes, this truck is going to strike my vehicle, you've lost your backing-up window of time. Besides, it takes little effort to imagine the scenario where I frantically back-up to escape someone else who is backing-up, only to back into someone who likely thinks it's reasonable to be driving forward on a public road. And then the fault is mine.

In any case, I am now carless. The backer's (as opposed to me, the backee) insurance company has already slung around the words "potential total loss," even though they haven't looked at my vehicle yet and I tried not to be too dramatic in describing the damage over the phone. The guy at my autobody shop thinks things are totally fixable, though. While it would be uber-sweet to get a new car, it would be uber-poopy to have to start making car payments again.

I can now make a new entry on the list of things that have struck my vehicle:

  • New! A GMC Sierra
  • A Chevy Tahoe
  • An unidentified white vehicle
  • A metal post
  • Possibly a screwdriver (which was jammed through my door in order to access the locking mechanism).
Not a particularly exciting or enlightening list, but a list none-the-less. Amazingly, I've accrued a lot of damage to my car, but have yet to be at fault for any of it (well, maybe the post, but even that one is highly debatable). Hopefully my lucky streak will continue (not so much that there's a possibility I'll be found at fault now, but that I might get pwned by having to buy a new car).

So yeah. I'm not sure this escapes my fear of writing worthless drivel, but this event was certainly central to my day. Thankfully, it didn't even ruin it. As I sit here now, I'm in a great mood.

In other news, some legislators actually got semi-heated (lukewarm, really) during session today, the liveliest they've been since the start of the session. I have a feeling things will get fire-and-brimstone hot before the session's up, though. Here's to hoping!

Monday, January 14, 2008

On Snow and Feigned Contempt

Today it snowed. A lot.

Although it's generally something we come to expect in Maine, this winter has proved more fruitful snow-wise than those of the past few years. Today was one of those days where those Mainers who actually did make it in to work (myself included) sat around doing nothing, wondering why in the hell they even came in. It was one of those days where, after several hours, bosses and managers state-wide looked out the window and thought, Geez, this is bad. Maybe I should let my employees go home. It was one of those days where you then were allowed to go home, and you got to drive in the most life-threateningly exciting part of the storm.

For some reason, those of us in the Legislative branch were the last to be granted passage home by the state bigwigs, despite having probably the least-pressing need to carry out our jobs on this particular day than most of the other fine folks employed by the state. But hey, I'll accept my decent wage to sit on my ass and play Crazy 8's.

All the snow this year has got me to thinking about snow. This seems obvious; specifically, my relationship to snow, and how I've battled with it since I've gained the insight (and free time) to be able to truly ponder such natural phenomena. From a purely logical perspective, snow is terrible. It hampers freedom of movement, costs time and money and physical manpower to remove, makes roads dangerous, gets all over your clothes and then makes them uncomfortable and soggy, and eventually partially melts, creating a slush/mud hybrid that offends all but the dirtiest and most careless of individuals. To a person bound firmly by logic, snow is nothing to be excited about. Snow makes life more difficult. In our fast-paced world of instant gratification, snow slows us down and makes our socks wet. So, whenever I discuss snow with someone, I invariably express these very sentiments: I say, "Damn do I hate snow."

But here's the kicker. Here's where stupid human psychology comes in.

Whenever I hear a forecast of snow, I get excited. Like, really excited. I'm interested in this snow. How much snow will there be? When is it coming? How long will it last? Snow is coming, and I'm eagerly anticipating its arrival. I go online. I check I look at the hour-by-hour breakdown, and I mentally file away times of day and percent chances of precipitation. When I encounter particularly uninteresting or relatively unfamiliar people, I interject my knowledge in the conversation. They say one of the most common conversation pieces is the weather, and I ride the cliche to town. "I hear we're going to get dumped on again," I say. "Oh no, really?" they ask, as if they didn't know, but because they're usually a Mainer, I'm pretty sure they've gone through all the same rituals as I have, and are fully aware of the impending ass-reaming-via-snow. Whenever snow is forecast, but will only amount to a few measly inches, I feel disappointed. I feel cheated. When the estimates top a foot, my heartbeat hastens. Bring on the snow, I think. Bring it on, and bring it hard.

But why the schism between my internal desires and my external presentation? Why do I insist that I "hate" snow, yet never fail to become aroused (not like that) at the possibility of its coming (and not like that)? I really don't mind trudging through snow. I don't mind cleaning the car off, I don't mind allowing a little extra time to arrive safely at my destination, I don't mind stomping my feet before entering buildings. I don't even mind shoveling. Why lead people to believe that I feel adversely about these things?

I don't really have a good answer for that. My conservative, logical, Apollonian side believes snow sucks, and perhaps this side has the quickest brain-path to vocal realization. My unbridled, emotional, Dionysian side is excited by the awesome power of nature manifested through mega snow dumpings, and so that's how I actually feel when the situation arises. It's not as though I consciously try to hide my glee at potential snow, or that I actively attempt to persuade people that I hate snow to make them accept me as a particular kind of person. I just realized: this is how things always play out.

And by relatively illogical Maine logic, there's actually a better show I could be putting on. It's the show of indifference. Two feet of snow topped with a three-inch crust of freezing rain? Yawn. It's Maine. No big deal. Can't see the vehicles in the driveway when you get up in the morning? Have to really put your shoulder into it to get the front door open? Pssh. Didn't someone say it was supposed to snow? I'm a Mainer. This is Maine. Snow. Maine. Yeah.

Granted, the "machismo implied through feigned indifference" ploy doesn't work on fellow Mainers, because (a) half of them pull the same crap and (b) the other half are busy actually dealing with the snow problem instead of pretending it doesn't affect their super bad-ass lives. This leaves very few individuals to present such an act to.

But really, it doesn't even work on non-Mainers. It only works briefly and unimpressively on people who have never seen snow before in their lives, and has about the same effect on those who've at least seen snow a handful of times. It's merely another one of those juvenile pieces of psychology that largely contributes to making someone a big fat tool: it's like stopping into the store after work with your tie and badge on, thinking everyone will wonder what sort of intriguing job you have and admire you for having this mystery profession, or sauntering through the mall with your collar popped, thinking you're drawing the eyes of all the hotties when in reality the only people who notice are the ones who think popping your collar is utterly idiotic. What you equate in your mind to being impressive and note-worthy (i.e., the way you shrug off a brutal snow-raping) other people don't even perceive, let alone ponder long enough to arrive at any sort of conclusion about what sort of person you are and how awesome that sort of person may or may not be. We all play these little mind games. Some people just play them in the snow.

And the point? You may be mistaken if you slogged through all this expecting to go home with one. I'm blogging. This is my first blog. This is the sorry stuff I thought about today.

But I'm going to try to improve with time. For now, I'll leave my blog with this message: