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After one of the department events, opening or closing one semester or another, I joined a circle of students chatting over pizza and beer on the lawn. Not wanting to make uncontextual interruptions, I listened...
"The system here is so unjust!" said one student to the one sitting next to her. "It gives priority to graduate students who accept teaching positions, over those who do other kinds of work, or even don't work at all, preferring to focus on their own research."
"Word", he said, sipping his pizza, biting off the top of a beer bottle, or whatever it is that the males do on your planet.
"This is especially unjust to me, because I can't teach," she continued. I listened a little longer, but we'll skip over the bits that I did when I interrupted:
"Why did you say earlier that you can't teach?"
"Because I can't."
Maybe it had something to do with the part of the conversation over which I skipped, or maybe nobody had ever even offered her a chance to see that she's probably not the only person around who understands whatever she understands however she understands it. I guess her teachers, however faithful they may have been to the blessed curriculum, must have neglected the more important lessons.
I left her talking to the guy with whom she had chemistry; life is too far from equilibrium for useless reactions.
Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward. - Kilgore Trout
I've led a rather blessed life, so far: I've never had to perform acts of mortal violence against people, nor have I witnessed the salty splashed remains of such action. Ironically enough, those who profess a desire to save lives and heal, are more likely to end up playing the roadside autopsy game, where harm done is measured as correctness of identification rather than reduction of inflammation. But I digress, and nobody cares much about my military service; after all, as I told my lab partner just before the last sunset: "All I ever really did myself was tell other people what to do."
Some people I've known personally over the years are dead by now, as often happens to people after you know them long enough. What's less common, although does occur once you know enough people of the various kinds, is that they die by their own hand. Three times in my life have I encountered the news that yet another doctorate in practical existentialism has been granted, and coincidentally enough, none of these volunteers for an early afterlife deigned to leave behind their dissertation. I don't blame them; after all, annealing such thoughts into human language is messy enough work without the added challenge of not being around to edit the result.
On the one hand, I've already mentioned elsewhere the second instance, and I'm loathe to elaborate upon it, for a variety of reasons. The only one which matters in this case is that that story forms a brief chapter in my long-forgotten upcoming memoir. On the other hand, the third instance is simultaneously too personal, and too impersonal, and too soon, and - although that friend's memorial service just the other day triggered the thought-helix leading to this post - no, I'm not telling that story yet, either. The first instance really shouldn't count, although black humor can be found even in such sanguine remains, so I'll give it a shot - just like the instantiator himself!
One guy who went through basic training together with me was quite the basket case: the kind of dork who literally hits himself after realizing how stupid he's been, without even any bully around to mockingly tell him to stop hitting himself. This poor shmuck had glasses thicker than his own skull, and his skull was quite thick, because he spent most of basic hitting himself, because this poor shmuck just couldn't get anything right. He was the kind of kid who couldn't get through the morning routine without getting toothpaste in the barrel, gun oil on his pants, and boot black on his face. Soldiers are rarely nice people - the average platoon could make a kindergarden playground look like a safer space than the campus of Snowflake University - and we soon had a nickname for this shmuck: we called him Shock.
Shock must've had a good heart, because he volunteered for medic training. Not only did he surprise us all by actually surviving medic training (they do some rather gruesome hazing, if the stories are to be believed, but those are not mine to tell), he also volunteered for the most thankless assignment: yep, Shock went back to that part of the desert where men are turned back into boys again, where the worst of humanity is strained out and molded into rank and file: Shock went to minister to the next crop of drafted children. One day I hear the following brief tale:
"Hey, remember Shock who went to become a medic? We need to find him a new name. One of the kids there shot himself in the shower. Poor old Shock found the remains, and now he's no longer in shock!"
ONE NOTE SAMBA: Some of the facial recognitions in this dreama have been scrambled, to protect the innocent and leave the guilty enough rope to figure out which way the savage swings without even reading Huxley.
It was halfway through meal chat with a barely-recognizable homozygotion between Naked Emperor and The Comedian that I realized the self-important shmuck across the table wasn't exactly watching my six.
"Enschule-digger my shbitte!" I opened with calm loudness, turning towards the moving shadow. "Obwohl meine Deutsch ist nicht also schecht zu keine verstehe, es ist sehr impolite to behead a guest against their knowledge, without even letting them know why; and incidentally, that's not even the respectful arrangement for this kind of execution, if you honor the same codes as I've read."
My would-be assassin, lowering her scimitar-shaped lightblocker, vanished from the dream. She'd played a similar role earlier, and may have been insulted that I hadn't spoken to her much about languages, or too much in the wrong ones, but that didn't matter anymore, for I never saw her again. At this point, the plot quickened, synthesizing Wink Murder, Russian Roulette, and Garbage Contortion in a pathetic parody of how well Tim O'Brien makes war stories true by sheer force of repetition... yet it unfolded somewhat thus:
Once I'd realized my skull was so full of actors that they were about to start killing each other for the sheer joy of cooking, Old Faithful blurted out the escape coordinates: "I've got a joke in the oven and you're not afraid to tell it!" I had some trouble following that impersonal instruction, wondering whether I should just call to tell the MC "the band is just about ready, oh no,", the bassist that the guitarist forgot the chords but will be "countin' the names o' the modes until he's free", or the pianist that he should just show up taking care to bring himself - the self, and nothing but the self - and most importantly, assume the drummer hasn't practiced in a long time, until Old Faithful blurted the escape coordinates again, this time in the right projection:
Is your band named Bluesic? ...cuz you're the only blues I hear!
ACHTUNG: While this post is not about noise suppression, I'm gonna skip the bets placed by the bot identifying itself as "Opera" until further notice. (at the very least, because it placed most of 'em twice, and the rest looked like fake pentest flash dispersors!)
One night about a year ago, outside the Tel Aviv Bitcoin emBassy, some fellow was being a loudmouth; in fact, a bunch were, and I, apart of that crowd yet picking it apart as I went, got sick of the noise. Eventually the loudest one of all seemed to bellow asking for a timeout.
"Listen, son," said I, while tapping that guy on the knee. "You oughtta shut up for a while, and listen to what those guys are saying. You might not remember this story exactly thus, but you know the drill."
That sorry shmuck bellowed even louder, and crescendo to boot: "No, no, no, no, no!"
He didn't yell in English either, but you can guess what it sounded like if you've ever heard people talk... much more like an unemployed singer delivering his stage orgasm, than an actor waiting for a job. After he was done yelling, I kept listening:
"Sorry for reacting thus to your grip. I was a school soccer star and I'm not used to having my legs fouled quite so rudely. If you can listen to so many conversations in parallel yet still follow the ball, why don't you go be a sportscaster for something better than a two-bit bucket shop?"
My response arrived, and that actor even delivered a convincing impression of having understood my words: "Son, you're getting carded before you can yell like that again. Can you tell what color card this is?"
He blinked, threw his glasses aside (without stomping them underfoot, as that would have been an excessive hyperbole), and gave the correct answer: "Do you want that information in primary, secondary, or frequency-balanced nuclear spectral densities?"
Believe it or not, I still owe that guy money. I doubt he remembers how much, and the exact sum ain't worth the paper it wasn't inked into, yet the story is true; he claims the debt is owed to a man long dead, so there is much remaining to debate.