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I can't quite recall how I ended up there; although the immediate surroundings were unrecognizable, their nature hinted at an unforgettable compound where the scarcity of water paled in comparison to that of shade. I scrambled partway up a slope of loose earth, pausing to squat by a cement cube crumbling to expose iron loops rusted far past their original usefulness. My rest was soon interrupted by a procession of cadets, clothed in nondescript uniforms and carrying all manner of equipment: rifles, ammunition, stretchers, tents, people.
After they had assembled into formation, a uniformed officer's familiar face materialized at my side.
"How did you get here?", asked his puzzled look of recognition, as though eight years had meant nothing and I belonged with the others. Recalling where I'd seen him last, I answered: "After giving up on the military career quest, I am currently in the academic career quest, although about to give up on that one too, and am wandering alone at the edges of Known Space in search of a tangible goal. What about you? You, too, are almost where I left you, but not quiet."
He smiled, the same smile polite to the point of bashfulness that had earned him so much scorn from the cadets, as though he wanted to grin yet was afraid the aerosol of flies, mosquitos, and desert dust would fill his mouth should it ever open without a simultaneous exhalation, and the dreamtime vacuum energy filled my mind with his hypothetical predicament:
"When you met me, I prepared artillery men for officer training. Now, I prepare officers for artillery training. I do not know whether I entered this revolving door forwards or backwards, but it spins too fast for me to leave."
As I wonder how I would navigate out of his boots, I find them gone, replaced by my own bare feet, gathering dust at the gateless gate of Abulafia's missing art; there is a war in heaven, yes, although the angels and demons are all our own.
If you'll excuse the puns, plagiarism, and General Irreverence, I'd like to begin by retelling an anecdote from George Carlin's assortment of memoirs, opinions, and other various demented ramblings, Napalm and Silly Putty. At one point, as the poor ol' fuck is reading something other than that morning's paper while eating something likely no other than bacon and overeasy, the gal asks, as she pauses to make sure that his coffee cup runneth ever brimming: "Whatcha reading for?"
Spoilers of that specific conversation are available at your friendly neighborhood hexodrome, since I have paused here to install quite a different aeromodulator on the proverbial hood.
HER: What are you writing? [ ADLAI meets HER gaze, barely suppressing an eyeroll ] HER: What are you looking at me like that for? ADLAI: Nothing, just wondering what to call this. I'm writing nonsense, mostly, although after I've written enough nonsense, I eat it, toast your health, roast the remains, grind the sun-dried cat-cut crap, and see whether the pressure cooker will distill anything worth bothering a publisher about. HER: Oh, cool! You're writing a book! ADLAI: I wish they'd stop calling it that, but you may call it so. HER: What's your book about? ADLAI: I'm writing about you! HER: How dare you presume to write an entire book about someone you've only just met, and of all possible circumstances, in these? ADLAI: Please take only the just and judicious level of offense at my upcoming response... it's quite simple: I can write about you, because you don't actually exist. HER: Of course I exist! [ HER coffee pot tilts slightly and stops suddenly, spraying tepid filth all over ADLAI, his papers, and all else ] ADLAI: Clever girl. You just proved that your work exists; you proved that your customer exists; and you proved that his work is all but bunk; yet you have yet to prove your own existence. HER: Well, lemme tell you this: I read part of what's already soaking into the blanker half of your book, while you were pissing. I recognize myself in your memories. Isn't that proof that I exist? ADLAI: Ahhh, now that is a good question! I should probably stop writing about you, and resume writing my dissertation, although the absence of a thesis precludes such presumptuous bloviation. Incidentally, does this fine establishment stock hwiskye?
Long enough ago that I've forgotten the club's name, although it had a wonderful view of the sou'eastern coast from the open rooftop, a bunch of would-be nouveau riche, along with a healthy helping of working men, working women, and the unavoidable innocent bystanders all converged for a nighttime beach bash. One fellow, local to the bone (I could tell by his accent, so I'll spare you the racial profiling), interrupted my conversation:
His attention seemed more focused on the next mark than on me, so I paused only momentarily to ascertain my own next target.
He'd taken at least a step and a half before turning half-a-round, glancing back to meet my level stare: "Coat?"
I smiled at him and shook my head quietly.
"What'd that guy want?" asked the guy awaiting the resumption of whatever bull session the businessman had interrupted; and again, I had to re-rail the thought-train after the guages hot-swapped underfoot, yet re-rail it did, and answered his question:
"I didn't quite verify, but I'm quite certain he wanted to take my coke."
Karl, Max, and... well, Ludwig (for lack of a better blamehole) walk out of the pub, because two have a beef and the third sold books on who'll win it. There's cold rain pooled in the alleyway's cracked pavement, flowing softly towards the gutter as the warm rain overflows the bounds, ripple by reflected ripple, but the clamouring boots make quick work of those cesspools, forming a ring around our three champions.
After a brief verbal dispute regarding directions perpendicular to the compass rose, as pertains to belts, and the sportsmanship of a flail improvised from a belt terminated by an oversized buckle, the clamour calls for a less partial referee, so Mycroft fishes out a brace of shattered glasses, a well-rotten dishrag, and an intact bottle of 202-proof rum, for use as emergency disinfectant.
Details of the fight are available upon request from eyewitnesses, although allegedly the subsequent claimants of stubs from the well-made books were glad to demonstrate exactly what happened; all I know is that once the salted plasma flowed so freely that none present could distinguish one pavestone from the next, Mycroft took aside the winner.
"See that river, into which yon gutter drains?"
The winner nods.
"Here's your Planck, and I never want to see you on this side of it ever again."
Barely over a decade ago, I had my conversation last (at the time of this writing) with an inspiration - words don't do him justice, so I'll use as few as possible, though fallibility and fatalism compel the use of a few extra. I don't remember our full exchange - for it took place over minutes scattered down the hours and years, blown across forest trails, grassy diamonds, and endlessly flowing pitch, level for a fleeting lifetime - so I'll avoid quoting the exact words leading to the following misinterpretations, although if reinterpret them you must, I recommend that you do so with the assistance of one or more of the locutors present at the time of that speaking...
- If you must shoot, shoot to kill.
- If your first shot isn't likely to kill, make sure you're sufficiently familiar with the firearm that you can send off a handful.
- Kill with at least one bullet.
- Don't be the guy who gets shot in his sleep on the beach.
- Don't write that book.
- If you must enlist, think once; think twice; and enlist.
He is quite likely to have meant at least one of those interpretations, and someday I hope to ask him which of those unintended were not incorrect.
- A Compass Blooms
- Head Of The Lethe
- Rhetorical Vocative
- Pervalent Brane Cancer
- Encoding For Survivability
`` Рукописи не горят. ,, - Михаиле Булгакове
Before the lies begin, I'd like to anchor this speculation partway through a conversation that actually did occur, somewhere near the Euclidean midpoint between the cafeteria of the modern languages building and the best vantage point on campus, although you'd have to use a proprietarily-weighted geometry for the mean calculation to land in the talking-aloud part of the relevant library, rather than the graveyard floors; and the talking indeed was allowed, and loud, and lewd, but the rudest dude was in too good a mood to tell the future doctors to act their age, so she and I spoke as soft as we could, short of actually whispering, while that orgy of sophomoric ineptitude raged in the rest of the room.
"You should've left a notebook", she scolded. "If you'd left a notebook at this desk, like I left one at mine, then nobody would've taken your seat."
I shrugged away the matter, for the setting sun's image, crawling up the opposed wall, bathed in its soft glow the gradually emptying room, and there was now no shortage of computers. I sat where I had before, and loaded a questionably-obtained digital reproduction of the documentation in question.
Seeing where my attention went, she asked: "You're studying from the book instead of the class materials?"
I nodded, launching into an endless paean to the greatness of the book, rapidly terminated thanks to her impatient impoliteness, likely diagnosable as attention deficit disorder by the moronic future-professionals who so recently had rendered the room entirely unfit for studying.
"Have you ever seen her book?"
Instead of asking whether she meant the author's personal copy, or some library's well-worn copy, filled with the hints and tears of past generations, I shook my head; words were rapidly becoming quite an expensive commodity to spend, as I had entered the lexical storm of an organic chemistry textbook's contents table, and needed every drop of dopamine on task.
"If it's such a good book, and you like it so much, why don't you buy it?"
At which point, I must've made some joke about how I'd rather buy her, even though she hadn't read a single page of that book, than a book that is too heavy for her to survive having dropped on her head; although I doubt I'd have survived getting the pavement dropped on my head from the height of that room; although not claiming to have said that means that the only lie in this post is the fact that it is tagged as such.
In closing, I'll elide the book's title, as there are half a dozen different works with the same name in just the first page of search results, although I will mention that the author came to be known as "Bruice Almighty".