Tuesday, June 11, 2024

 


Ask Your Doctor About Padloxidoxicillimen (TM)


It's the only drug clinically proven to eliminate the side effects of other prescribed medications that are marketed on television.

(Padloxidoxicillimen itself may cause bleeding gums and shortness of breath that in rare cases progresses to respiratory arrest.  Do not take Padloxidoxicillimen if you are pregnant and operating heavy machinery.)

Cut to a husband and wife who are barely able to contain their joie de vivre.  He is about 60, black with a helmet of grey hair.  She is much younger, Asian-American or perhaps a Pacific Islander.  She has just said something that has precipitated a laugh from her husband while they wait for a white man at the counter, equally carefree but servile, to spray disinfectant inside their bowling shoes.



Monday, June 3, 2024

 


The Blood Red Badge of Nihilism


Every day now, you can tune in to an X/Twitter channel that will allow you to witness the destruction of Russians in the fields of Ukraine, unexpurgated.  Of course, if the drone that does them in is a kamikaze, the video will end with impact.  More often, though, the same drone that dropped a bomb on them will record the aftermath.  Sometimes the killing seems clean and antiseptic; the "200" cooperate by lying face down as they bleed out.  Sometimes bodies come apart in the explosion; more often they are shredded by little bomblets designed for just such anti-personnel work.

More often now, a wounded Russian will abandon all hope of medical assistance or retreat, and end it all himself by blowing his brains out.  (We think of the expression -- "to blow one's brains out" -- as metaphorical, like "to work one's ass off" in the factory, but when you put a Kalashnikov under your chin and fire a round, the damage done is not metaphorical.)

«Петя!  Сколько раз мы тебе говорили, што спрашивать Дядю Ваню о СМО запрещено?»

"Petey!  How many times have we told you not to ask Uncle Vanya about the Special Military Operation?"



Thursday, May 9, 2024

 


Two Old Friends


Whom I had not seen in decades appeared, in separate dreams, last night.

In the first, David stayed at my home for a couple of days.  He was effusive in his expression of affection for me throughout the visit, and I returned the emotion.  It was as if we both knew that this would be our last encounter.

David's brother showed up unexpectedly.  He led us in a Native American-inspired ritual that involved the burning of a small circle of grass in a clearing in a wood.  This was somehow connected with the friendship.  We stayed up very late that evening.  When David woke me at 10AM the following day, I was very groggy.  He announced then that he was leaving, immediately and without forewarning, for Atlanta.  I offered to walk him to his car, and he was gone.

In the second, Barbara and I were on a city bus, at night.  One of the other passengers, a scruffy middle-aged man, began to go off the deep end.  The driver stopped the bus and everyone except for me and Barbara, including the driver and "Mr. Berserk," fled on foot.  But a little while later Mr. Berserk reappeared, a few blocks away, holding a big bazooka.  He took aim several times at me and Barbara and the bus.  He nearly hit us, and his aim was getting better.  Barbara got behind the wheel, slammed the door shut with its remote handle, and drove us backwards at some speed through the city streets until we were well out of sight.

Then we disembarked and tried to blend into the knots of people in the neighborhood.  As we walked, Barbara began to talk about her husband, whom I knew back in the day, but in exceedingly cryptic fashion.  I said "Let me try to paraphrase what you just said about your marriage," and I did, very accurately according to Barbara.  This was intriguing, and I wanted to carry on exploring this theme, but she disappeared into the lobby of a building and was gone, for good.



Saturday, May 4, 2024

 


A Darkness Complete


In the 19th century, a string of fortifications guarded major ports along the East Coast of the United States.  Two of them have a special place in American history.  "The rocket's red glare" over Ft. McHenry in Baltimore inspired the writing of our national anthem.  And the Confederate attack on Ft. Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina signaled that the Civil War had erupted in earnest.

The more modest history of Ft. Warren, which sits astride Georges Island in the heart of the outer ranges of Boston Harbor, is not without note.  During and immediately after the Civil War, it served as a prison for Confederates, among whom was Alexander H. Stephens, the Vice President of the C.S.A. under Jefferson Davis.  And "John Brown's Body," sung by soldiers of the Army of the Potomac to the tune later adapted as the famous "Battle Hymn," was penned there.  As late as WWII, great "disappearing" guns of the fort were trained on the eastern approaches to Boston.  Its guns were never, in the history of the fort, fired in anger.  This does not mean that they were superfluous, but rather that they did their job of deterrence to perfection.

Ft. Warren is accessible by ferry, and it is maintained and administered by rangers employed by the Commonwealth.   In my young adulthood, I took part in a guided tour of the fort and the surrounding island.  The high point for me was not the abandoned gun emplacements, but a gingerly walk en masse into a great, cavernous room below the parapets, perhaps built as a magazine, that was entirely without natural or artificial light except for the sunlight visible at its entrance -- visible, that is, until one turned a corner into a part of the chamber from which there was no line of sight to that entrance.  There we in the tour group became a great, blind centipede.  The guide had us keep the tips of left fingers in touch with one wall and our right hands in touch with the person in front of us.  When we got to our destination and dropped our hands, the effect of the perfect darkness approximated an out-of-body experience; it was as if, without visual cues of location, our souls could float where they pleased.  (In sensory deprivation tanks, it is known, people after a period of time begin to hallucinate wildly, as if having taken a heavy dose of LSD or psylocibin.)

The feeling was thrilling, but if our guide at that moment had chosen to play a prank on us and unleash a recording of a dog growling or a snake hissing, I am sure that we all would have run each other down in a screaming panic.  Instead and in good time, we used our right-hand fingertips to trace our way back to the entrance, to the light.  The many ghosts of Ft. Warren there let us be.



Tuesday, April 30, 2024

 


In the Hour of the Wolf


Which is to say the hour of acute insomnia, all of the contingent facts about me are sinister.

My left thumb is double-jointed.  I had a tonsillectomy at age six.  I once flew upside down in a Yak-52.

Any contingent fact about me is like the contents of a black trash bag that lies in a landfill.  The mountain of trash bags is nearly, but not quite yet, complete.  A cherry at the top of this sundae will be most sinister, for what it portends, which is a completed life.

Compare and contrast facts that are necessary, logical, mathematical, geometrical.  (The analytic philosophers were obsessed with the distinction.)  Without the contingency, I can take comfort in them.  

So I broke the spell of the Hour of the Wolf not by counting sheep (as the wolf himself might), but by repeating to myself that C = piD.  The circumference of a circle will always be equal to its diameter times 22/7.  If I grasp hold of this and never let go, I thought, it may carry me off to a forever future, one free of contingency.



Sunday, April 21, 2024

 


In My Dream


I was placed in command, by default and by necessity, of a large sailing ship as it was making course in the Tropics, on a close reach.  I knew how to sail a dinghy.  I knew how to sail a ship of this scale in principle; in fact, I had no idea which line controlled the end of which yard, which halyard had a purpose to raise or lower a particular sail among the fifteen at my disposal (main and foremasts each carrying a main, lower tops'l, upper tops'l, topgallant and royal, and the mizzen supporting a spanker, topgallant and royal; two headsails.)  What's more, the mate was dead and I had earned no authority before the other men.

First I had to ascertain where we were and where we were going, at roughly what speed.  With luck, I thought, we could hold our course until we came to an island or an inhabited coast.  There I could at least bring her up into the wind, wait for her to stall out completely, and drop anchor.  The sails and the lines would be a mess, but perhaps that could be sorted out at leisure.

Indeed, this is what happened, and as we were sorting the mess, a captain's gig rowed out with a new "master and commander," short, befuddled expression, bad teeth.  My personal futility, in other words, gave way to a more generalized one.



Sunday, April 7, 2024

 


Rendered Fat


... by Photoshop and bad personal habits, Lizzo raises a ruckus, which only further inflates her notoriety and her net worth.