Infinite monkey theorem

•May 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment

We entered the room. Anemic winter light filtered through small windows, fingering random parts of tarnished metal thingums, the like of which I’d never seen before. The apparatuses were stacked everywhere – on the ground, on tables low and high, on chairs and shelves…chunky, all-black relics that had to have hailed from our technological infancy. The “Arcane Tours” guide shuffled ahead of us and stopped when he could move no further.

“They look like Zipfian meteorites,” my wife whispered to me. I agreed. It was hard to imagine a time when humans used things so large, so opaque and mechanical. Rows of three-dimensional buttons composed the lower half of each instrument, and each button had a mysterious marking on it. A symbol of some kind. I’d seen images of such machines before, but I couldn’t remember where or when.

“What did these do?” I asked the guide, in wonderment.

“We-ll, they’re called typewriters,” he said, in a voice threaded with little unintentional buzzes and burbles. The man was no spring chicken. I guessed upwards of 140.

“Their ex-tinction goes back about, uh – three centuries – to when, uh, most information and literature was writ-ten… you know, writ-ten instead of pictorialized… People of the time created texts with them.”

“No kidding,” I said. I walked up to one, tried to press a button with my right index. It barely budged.

“The keys re-quire a lot of physical exertion to dep-ress,” the guide said.

“Huh. Why are there peanut shells everywhere?” my wife asked.

“We-ll, we have monkeys,” the guide answered. “They’re, uh, gone for the day now. But they’re he-re most days.”

“Monkeys! What on this big brown earth for?”

“Uh, a small group of anach-ronistic folks – a couple scientists, a historian, a linguist – made some big stink twenty years ago, claiming it was imp-erative to ‘better preserve our text-ual past’… and be-cause the majority of text-ual artifacts were near total disint-egration, and obviously no human could interpret or re-create the writ-ten symbols, they brought in the chimp-an-zees.”

“Amazing.” I noticed stacks of white rectangular material, possibly almost as thin as our miAll screens, in the far corners.

“The chimp-ees took very quickly to the task, and had soon rewrit-ten many of the old stories. At least, the scholars concerned were pret-ty sure that the new texts were the same. Their image soft-ware analyses concluded so, anyway. And our dear prim-ates have kept at it, diligent souls – for there was an enormous lit-erature that almost became dust.”

“What an extraordinary concept,” said my wife. “Would we be able to see a bit of this – ‘writing’?”

“In fa-ct. You can,” the guide said, and he pinched out a tiny smile, genuine, the first I’d seen from him. “We’re not sup-posed to offer unprompt-ed. But if the customer asks directly… Here.” He scuttled to a side bench and retrieved a handhold of white rectangles, like the piles I’d seen, with each thin piece encased in mylar, and placed them between my open fingers.

So many tiny symbols! So tightly crammed together. No colors, no cohesion. The idea of our unsophisticated ancestry using this as their entertainment was laughable and absurd. But fitting? Life must have been impossibly dull. My curiosity waned into boredom after a second or two. I handed the sheets to my wife. She looked at them just as briefly.

“Wait,” the guide said. “We have an app that lets you read them.” And he directed his miAll at mine and my wife’s in turn, transferring the software. “Hover your screen over the sheet.”

I did, seeing with renewed interest how the unknown symbols popped to bright, instantly-readable pictorials. “Cool,” I said, and scanned the remaining pages. “Seems the old writers were more creative than I’d have expected – look: in the end monkeys are sporting golden crowns, eating peanuts in the Oval Office. And here, troops of naked men and women are building massive pyramidal structures out of trees. What’s the title of this doozie? The author?”

“Y’know, uh, I don’t know. We’re mis-sing the cover page to that one.”

“Too bad. I’d have liked to know what intellectual nutcase produced such a gem. Oh well. The mysteries of history, I suppose.”

My wife chuckled. “It’s about time to go, dear,” she said. “I only got twelve hours last night. I’m exhausted.”

“Of course,” I replied. “A pleasure,” I said to the guide, “but we must be heading home. Thank you for this fascinating peep into the past.”

“You’re wel-come,” he said, and led us out to the exit.

When the rains came

•April 24, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The rains finally came. After decades of drought, fallow fields, skin like sand, shaking fists at a bleached-out cold fish sky. Except by then, we had evolved to live without water. Suddenly we could drink to our heart’s deepest whim, and it no longer mattered. Our tissues were generating their own fluids.

Evolution kicked up her heels and began to sprint. Things started coming out of our mouths that we didn’t know had been in our bodies. Living bees, the seeds of desert plants, cysts the size of cantaloupes, palimpsests detailing each historic war. When the regurgitations finished, we became entirely self-sufficient, recyclable. Ours was a Kafka headstand. Instead of alienation, we achieved a single hive mind.

Rules kept sliding down the invisible supports of the world and forming puddles in the spaces betwixt rivers newly created by the interminable rains. Enveloped in the green-grey-blue cocoon of mist I could eventually hear an underhum of voices… indistinguishable words as unspoken thoughts as a current directly beneath the continent’s crust.

“We’re in another’s dream,” I told my lover. “Or else, we’re characters in a story. This is no reality.”

“No,” she said. “It’s our collective imagination. Our imagination was defunct, was then resurrected by the onslaught of rain, and is now utterly flooded and deranged. It was squashed under the too-ponderous weight of the earth’s dying, but toward the planet’s very end, we turned on the juice. Now our imagination creates reality. Humanity endures.”

I couldn’t tell truth from poppycock. Since it felt airy and nice, I decided to believe her, and took my belief into the fresh cold lake in our front yard, where I lay on my back, light as a buoy, eyes closed against the downpour, and listened to the subterranean buzz of my species: possibly the greatest survivors… possibly almost extinct.

Exercises in style (21): à la e.e. cummings

•March 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

deadstars a
wonder-luminous balloon
moon and
a man grimly stares window-through(eyes dull
)quite.
enclosed within the attic room slanted such-
ways,walls vined,be-petaled,deeper colOurs
crying,his lady her secret
petalmOuth sings yOu,yOu,nobody,every-
          body
he wishes weak.ly at the
defunct,crepuscular world
for a backwards tickling of time

she through yellowhair braids
death-twine,cries love-crumbs,sings
yOu,yOu,nobody.every-
          body
breathing,pale fingers dancing.sleeping(dreams)

this man moon-gazing
remembers weesomethings,the body’s hows
          her thrill-flesh,gaily
                   its pleasure,kissingly
while pink flowers,white bright
green rain colOurs and
monkey and birds;giant whistling things
curl,surge,bloat from walls
to)air

beautifully he becomes a
stupid empty clean-bOned carcass
carrying no questionmarks for history.knowing
only moon-texture
          (night sky-full and
animal silence)
far-whisked by dreamroom jungles

Garden of Sideways Delights*

•March 12, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Ranulf’s penchant for de-eyeballing owls was about to get us in the shit once again. I’d wring the dumb bastard’s neck! Our instructions could not have been more straightforward: in this particular battle between God and Mephisto, we were to parade around the central pond in which beautiful and chaste naked women bathed, balancing lustrous red apples atop their heads. Apples, and also egrets. The pond was teal as an un-nibbled raspberry. The grass was lighter in the foreground, probably from peacock piss. We were panting heavily, placed atop horses, camels, unicorns, blue leopards, white goats, giant hogs. We were to guard the ladies’ virginities against inevitable thievery attempts – essays that could reasonably come from any members of our parading ring. We were all, to a man, death-starved for cunny. Of course we knew that those who succeeded in despoilment would be zipped forthwith into the scalding lavas of Hell, and those who, instead, prevented another from proceeding with his heinous act would be zipped forthwith to the Egyptian cotton bedspreads of Heaven. Even ravenously under-laid, who would be stupid enough to venture Mephisto’s option? Many. I knew my cohort, and their thoughts were stuck present. The future was an unreality whispering amid the screams of their testicular desires.  Release from long-term imprisonment will do that – turn you animal and immediate. Every fellow was filled to the gills with both black and white (in fact, our scrambled innards were entirely grey) but a single action one way or the other pronounced us ‘good’, pronounced us ‘evil’. Destiny? Well then, make no mistake; I was destined for those infinite-threadcount sheets. Except Ranulf… Ranulf was fucking it up! His off-task removal of that enormous hooter’s ocular parts, several paces outside our ring, was distracting everybody…and moving us sideways! Neither God nor Mephisto would be too pleased. The guy had to be stopped. I quit the circular train momentarily to throw him in a translucent orb, together with a long-quilled porcupine. That ought to keep him under control. At least for the moment.

 

* Insights may be available upon viewing the middle panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights”. Go here and click to make larger.

The awful truth (Or: The suicide)

•February 24, 2017 • 1 Comment

I’m trying to get to the core of myself. Some awful truth is trapped there, although I do not know even its faintest contours. The way is interminably long, and the terrain perilous. A journey to the earth’s core would be less fraught with hardship, the planet’s molten bowels a welcome relief. How did my body build these layers of impenetrable rock? My mind plays at civil war. If I can’t tunnel to the center, I’ll unhinge. All my life I’ve tongued flavors of foreboding, ferried constantly to my lips on the currents of a complicit wind. (That is to say: every day of my self-reflective life, which began around my fifteenth birthday). I need to have that truth cracked open, its poison made known. Even if it destroys me.

How do I get there? The layers of fluff and gauze are harder to penetrate than those made of diamond – each time I push or dig or drill or detonate, the fluff thickens and the gauze stretches to accommodate my newly-made shape. I test potential realities by guessing: abuseincestdrugsrapetorture? Persecutionabductionexperimentation by necromantic or alien powers?  Nothing clicks, and my heart grows desolate and dim. Meanwhile, my mind oozes minute psychoneurosis, and measly but habitual troubles plague my physical self: rashes, neck pain, toenail fungus, dry eye, hair loss, poor circulation, constipation, asthma.

 

A half-century later, towards the end of my life, the truth surfaces nonchalantly, like an escaped helium balloon: there was never any trauma. Period. My childhood was no-hiccups idyllic; the bland mediocrity of my adultness has reflected that dearth of early adversity. Sure, I’ve had splashes of mental and bodily strain – nothing major enough to make things interesting though. My being has meant very little to me, and less to anyone else. Existence is an astounding fact. And I think, not quite bitterly, perhaps with a tiny wry upturn of mouth corners, that its wonderment was wasted on me.

Land of the Rising Sushi

•February 14, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Sake. Ahi. Toro. Ebi. Ika. Hotate.

They didn’t know what any of the transliterated words meant, and this menu lacked the bright pictures they’d seen at other establishments. So they asked for the omakase, because that’s what their guidebook advised. The balding husband sneezed thrice and wiped his sweaty face with the hot towel set at his plate. The overtanned wife pulled out her compact and reapplied a cruddy powder that occluded the air about them, settling thickly on her neighbor’s miso soup. Soon the sushi chef placed before the two gaijin a precise and beautiful platter of colorful raw sea creatures over rice. Pink, white, ecru, grey-purple, bluish, neon-orange roe: a delectable rainbow to be shortly bereft of any epicurean appreciation.

“Are they all uncooked? I get nervous with the uncooked stuff,” Helen said to her husband, skeptically bobbing her hiding-grey blond curls.

“These folks eat ‘em, seems like,” Jerry replied with a shrug, gesturing to the Japanese patrons who filled the cozy room. “Should be fine.” He snorted. “Just gotta get over the ick factor.”

Their skills in manipulating chopsticks were nonexistent. Jerry speared his side bowl of rice with the wooden utensils, a vertical call to death, and poured himself a cup of sake. His wife did the same. Finally they selected pieces of sushi with their fingers.

“Wait, I think we’re supposed to use this too,” Jerry said, lumping some ginger atop the fish. Nearby diners eyed them surreptitiously, shaking their heads gently, knowing what was to come.

“Here goes nothin’,” Jerry said, and popped the piece into his mouth. Helen reluctantly placed her orangey-pink lump tongue-side. She chewed several times, disgust tangling the wrinkles around her eyes, and swallowed.

They both paused. Helen spoke.

“That was nasty. Revolting. I couldn’t possibly eat another bite.”

“Yup,” Jerry agreed, picking his front teeth with a nail. “Not my favorite. Not by a long shot.”

Helen looked with dismay at the platter. A rose-colored blob and its rice underbelly began to wiggle.

“Oh my good goddamn, it’s still alive!” Helen yipped.

Jerry’s bottom lip retracted into his chin as he saw several of the finely prepared and plated ocean delicacies dancing to and fro, hitting each other in irked fashion.

“Holy gads! Get it away from here,” and Jerry shoved the dish along the bar, into a cup of sencha recently cradled by the old man sitting next to him.

It was too late though – things had been set in motion. Scallop and tuna nigiri were writhing so violently that they rose into the air; salmon, squid, and shrimp followed suit. Within seconds, every morsel from the sushi arrangement was buzzing and dipping around the ill-fated couple’s heads. Helen squealed and yelped and wailed while her spouse made uncoordinated, unfruitful attempts to smack their flying foe with his big clammy hands, yelling “Do something, you fucking freaks!”

No one made a move to help them. Customers looked on with amused interest, but without surprise.

Then the real attack commenced. Diving straight to Jerry’s face, the scallop bit off a chunk of pulpy nose flesh. The salmon went for Helen’s right ear, tearing off its lobe. Among screams, curses, dodging, and slapping, the creatures made quick, vicious work of the tourists’ craniums. Within five minutes, all that remained were two bloody lumps on bodies standing motionless, still upright, at the end of the sushi bar.

The clientele went back to their dishes and conversations. A server came by with two large plastic bags, wrapped them efficiently over the demolished head-stumps, laid the bodies down, and dragged them by their feet carefully out the back door of the restaurant.

Magritte in the OR

•November 26, 2016 • Leave a Comment

The grass he lay on felt as smooth as cotton sheets. He sighed contentedly and opened his eyes to the navy-black sky embroidered with stars. A portly moon hung directly above. He looked at it, and was surprised to see gone the patterns forming its “face”. Suddenly, several paces from the first, a second fulgent moon flashed open.

“What on earth…?” the man murmured. His lids widened.

There was a third bright sphere, then a fourth. A fifth and sixth followed. They themselves formed a larger circle, floating high overhead, lighting the night like a noon picnic. The man tried to scramble to his feet, but couldn’t get up.

“Jamie!” he called. “Jamie, where’d you go, the sky’s acting berserk!”

“Calm, calm,” he heard by his ear. And then further away, “Could you bump up the anesthesia? He’s taking too long to respond.”

The same voice, closer again: “Mr. Thompson, everything will be fine. It’s a new procedure but we’ve had great success so far. Your wife felt compelled to register you, remember? Please try to relax.”

The many white moons were melting into a total black. The man attempted one last ineffectual wiggle, and then was still.