Archive for June, 2011
I don’t think we need any more of that here. Lest next I descend to posting selections from the outhouse sequence in Ulysses, or maybe great chunks of Celine.
So, on this Saturday night, let’s go somewhere Real. Like space. Courtesy one of the shows from the 1971 Port Chester telepathy experiments.
Once upon a time there flickered a possibility that I might venture to Australia, there to compile a travel guide to the place. So I spent a fair amount of time soaking up information about the various whys and wherefores of the down-under realm.
Among the things I learned was that Australians, and particularly Australian males, can tend towards a relationship with alcohol that is somewhat reminiscent of that of early Americans. Which is, put simply: there can never be too much to drink. I learned that there had even occurred the coining of a word—”chunder”—to describe that process by which Australian males stumble out of pubs to spatter onto the ground their stomach contents, so that they might then be sufficiently emptied to return to the pub to consume more beverages. This practice was even immortalized in “Down Under,” the 1981 anthem from the Australian band Men At Work:
I come from a land down under
Where beer does flow and men chunder
The high alcohol content ever-present in the bodies of these chunderers encourages them to engage in pursuits that would not often appeal to people when they are Ordinary. To wit, in some pubs the chunderers compete in contests to see who can furthest hurl a human dwarf.
I admit to experiencing some concern when I learned that some of these men, when not drinking and chundering and hurling dwarves, pilot upon the nation’s highways vehicles called “road trains”—endless diesel-powered assemblages linking so many freight-trailers that the things can become longer than many towns. In Australia these behemoths replaced camel trains; camels, it is true, have been known to bite and spit and buck, but rarely has it been reported that a camel plunged into a beer/vomit/beer cycle, and then stumbled out into the night to blearily guide tens of thousands of pounds of metal at alarming speeds along the asphalt.
I next learned that some elements of this drinking culture have ventured across the water to take root in the somewhat-neighboring isles of New Zealand. Though no road trains travel that nation’s roads, and chundering is less of a national sport. Still, when the Googles informed me this morning that in a pub down in Wellington they are today cheerily guzzling horse semen, I was not surprised.
There are some problems here.
Several years ago I ran this film for someone who had never before seen it. When it was over, she said: “I’m glad I waited to see this until it had become a documentary.”
In Soylent Green, the answer to no food and lots of people, we learn, is to grind up lots of people into food. Sister, brother, auntie, uncle, cousin, nephew, friend, grandma in the corner, too—all transformed into flat green crackers, distributed to the hungry, unknowing masses each Tuesday: “Soylent Green Day!”
So far as is known, here in the “real” world, people are not yet being foisted onto other people as food. However, according to this here tubes newspaper, we might soon be munching on something sort of getting there: to wit, human feces.
In Neal Stephenson’s Anathem, Arbrean avout several times dialog the notion of a sun with a block of ice at its core, as an example of a Reality that might require some trouble to reach, unmoored as it is from what hereabouts is considered Possible.
In the 1936 C&W oater “Cool Water,” a trudging wanderer presumed to be unhinged by mirages is heard at one point to observe “each star’s a pool of water.”
Now it appears that this man may actually be an astute visionary.
Yes boys and girls—and those who have Platonically reconnected, and are therefore again both—it is time, once again, to redefine Reality. For out there in the great wide open is a young’un star that is pouring forth water.
Seven hundred and fifty light-years from Earth, a young, sunlike star has been found with jets that blast epic quantities of water into interstellar space, shooting out droplets that move faster than a speeding bullet.
The discovery suggests that protostars may be seeding the universe with water. These stellar embryos shoot jets of material from their north and south poles as their growth is fed by infalling dust that circles the bodies in vast disks.
Every second, this ebullient star is sending forth more water than flows through the Amazon. No more than a hundred thousand years old—a wee tyke, then—this protostar is watering the constellation of Perseus; in doing so, it is undergoing what Science Man have now decided is a common stellar “rite of passage.”
“We are only now beginning to understand that sunlike stars probably all undergo a very energetic phase when they are young,” [University in the Netherlands astronomer Lars] Kristensen said. “It’s at this point in their lives when they spew out a lot of high-velocity material—part of which we now know is water.”
The latest Thought is that these stars form a sort of sprinkler system, which encourages the growth of other stars.
The water-jet phenomenon seen in Perseus is “probably a short-lived phase all protostars go through,” Kristensen said.
“But if we have enough of these sprinklers going off throughout the galaxy—this starts to become interesting on many levels.”
Meanwhile, the June issue of Harper’s reports that, also out there in the great wide open, is a “failed sun” that burns at but 86 degrees. It has an atmosphere. Depending on what’s in that atmosphere, it might be possible for Terrans to walk around on it. So long as they have good shoes.
The surge to retain the surge in Afghanistan has begun.
Friday morning the Wall Street Journal reported that the nation’s military “is asking President Barack Obama to hold off on ending the Afghanistan troop surge until the fall of 2012, in a proposal that would keep a large portion of the 33,000 extra forces in the country through the next two warm-weather fighting seasons.”
From the Journal jumping to Fox Radio “News,” where all day yesterday, every hour on the hour, blared word that the generals had decreed that any deflation of the “surge” would Imperil The Nation. The president, it was commanded, must, as was said back in Reagantime, “stay the corpse.”
No. I don’t think so.
Obama knew these people would do this. In the fall of 2009 he rejected the Kerry/Biden wisdom, which pronounced Afghanistan “Chaosistan,” and proposed confining American involvement there to spies, special forces units, and drones, all targeted solely on elements of Al Qaeda. Obama instead acceded to the demands of his generals, who wanted more bodies.
However, there was a caveat. Although he would give them the bodies, the generals would need to succeed with those bodies by July of 2011, because on that date he would begin to bring the bodies home.
And Obama extracted a promise, from the people with stars on their shoulders: that they could and would do what they said needed to be done by July of 2011, and would not instead wait until that date to come crying to him that they needed more time with more bodies.
Then, Obama and his people leaked details of that promise. Twice. To Jonathan Alter for The Promise, and Bob Woodward for Obama’s Wars.
Now that the gunmen are doing what they promised they wouldn’t do, Obama can, and should, say: “Nope. You said you wouldn’t do this. Yet you’re standing here doing it. Too bad. Too late. In Afghanistan, I feel like goin’ home.”
I’m thinking that if I had it to do over again, I might be a Science Man. Because it is becoming increasingly clear to me that Science Men get paid money to do Fun Things.
Adamatzky is something of an aficionado of slime mould; previously, he had employed the creatures to solve a geometry problem usually approached via complex computing: “finding the many-sided shape that encompasses a number of points—called the ‘concave hull’.” Slime moulds have also been used to navigate mazes, including one that reproduced the Tokyo subway system, and to mimic “logic gates,” the foundation of computers. At this fascinating link, slime moulds can be perceived forming, in a virtual United States, a more efficient interstate highway system than exists in the “real” one.
As I confessed here, I am a fan of slime mould myself. These are people neither fish nor fowl—not an animal, not a plant, previously misapprehended as fungi, now understood as, instead, “protists.”
Slime moulds wander all the world, where they feed on microorganisms that in turn feed on dead plant material. Like all protists, slime moulds are unicellular, or multicellular without specialized tissues. Meaning they don’t have what we understand as “brains,” or much of anything else.
For most of their lives, slime moulds behave Normally. But when the food supply runs low, they release signal molecules that allow them to find one another, and then they group together in swarms, sometimes creating a tiny, multicellular, coordinated, slug-like creature, that crawls like an animal to an open, sunny place, and there grows into what the Science Men call “a fruiting body,” releasing spores. A picture of one a slime mould conglomeration, going after beer, can be seen above.
With such photographic evidence, baldly exposing the slime mould’s brazen predilection for alcohol, it is not surprising that Science Man Adamatzky, once he had completed his Study, concluded that slime mould will, when give the choice, prefer drugs, rather than food.