Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Destiny's Child - "Bug-A-Boo"

There was some man yelling hoarsely in Spanish, but I couldn’t initially tell from where. I hadn’t seen or heard from her in thirteen, maybe fifteen years. Between his shouts, she was whimpering and growling, like a beaten dog. Or a bitch in heat.

I wasn’t the violent type. Not when I knew her before, not when I knew her then. But the rock was there and his head was awfully loud and she’s in trouble and you must protect her because maybe her being here is that sign you’ve been waiting for, looking for, I told myself.

I would’ve called the authorities, but she was always impatient and he was bleeding slowly enough that it would look like he was just sleeping for at least another fifteen minutes. And who knows, maybe he was.

She didn’t recognize me at first, or maybe I just didn’t recognize the way she used to recognize me. After I bought her lunch, though, we shared the moments of awkwardness that should’ve been our reintroduction. She still drank carbonated water, I noted. I was still a pescatarian, she noted. We held hands on the way to my car.

Enid Heights? Really? It took all that I had to balance my incredulity and embarrassment into some fashion of polite discourse as I drove her home. Even as humbled and humiliated as I was by her infidelity, I’d found solace (hospice?) in the notion that I’d be more successful than her. I’d fall in more love, I’d make more money, and I’d forget more about her. Her house was enormous and white and her husband was out of town on international business.

We were both out of shape, aged. The sex was better than it had ever been before.

I didn’t particularly enjoy sneaking around and sharing her, but I lusted for the lingering iota of vivacity she came to represent in my life. Subconsciously, of course – I wasn’t the masochistic type. Her husband was a fine man – wealthy, polite, caring, and compassionate. He donated to tax-deductable charities, but not so much that his worth didn’t divide into a very healthy quotient when she divorced him.

That money, plus the little I’d saved up, was enough to secure us a nice new condo in the city. She said she’d missed the bustle.

The wedding was fine, and most of our relatives had forgotten we’d ever dated before, so little explanation was necessary. And they hadn’t started showing, so she was able to fit into the dress she wanted and look as pretty as a recycled bride could hope to. She’d been worried about that.

Of course we didn’t notice anything wrong, not having scrutinized countless before, but the doctor found the ultrasound quite perplexing. He wouldn’t tell us why, but assured us they were growing healthily and insisted that we return for “another peek” in two weeks. He repeated this every successive visit until they were a month out. We were then recommended a specialist.

She lived further out into the country than I’d really ever cared to explore, and her practice seemed more than a log cabin with a collection of dated medical supplies than a respectable clinic. But it was all new to us, what did we know.

Even under different circumstances, I cannot possibly imagine birth having been something beautiful or otherwise not disturbing. Sweating, screaming, bleeding. Sweating, screaming, bleeding. Sweating, hissing, bleeding.

They confused me before they terrified me, probably because of how thoroughly mollified I was by their twenty-three minute preamble. It wasn’t until all three of them were heaped on the table in front of me that I gagged and lost my.. composure.

The doctor, she cleaned them and blanketed them and left me in the room with them. My wife, their mother, had fainted of exhaustion before seeing them.

Oddly, the first thing I noticed was their wiry black hair – babies, as best I could remember, were not typically born covered in an intermittent fuzz. Their large, large eyes like mesh screens; ovals oriented perpendicular those of a human. The humming, hissing, buzzing noises they were making came from syphon-like extensions that twitched and convulsed, hanging off their faces like hoses on gasmasks. I didn’t count their rigid, skin-stretched limbs.

We had brought a pink duffle of blankets, toys, and disposable cameras, which I placed on the bed by her feet as I cradled their trembling forms into the bag. I felt guilty trying to comfort them through the canvas as their buzzing and writhing increased. She was still asleep when I kissed her forehead and left.

I had to move the baby seat to make room for them in the car.

At first, I had no idea where to go. I just drove. They must’ve been getting hungry, and might’ve been doing some kind of crying, so I turned the radio up. I considered the hospital, the shelter, the police station. Eventually deciding I wouldn’t be able to talk my way out of things, especially not knowing what “things” were, I ran the tank dry on my way to the bluffs.

I had to write her the letter first; I felt like it’d ensure that what I said was done would actually get done. I don’t blame you, I said, please don’t blame me, I said. They’ve been taken care of, they’re all gone, I said, and you won’t have to worry about them. I hope the doctor didn’t tell you anything. I’m sorry, I said, but I don’t want a wrong life.

I wasn’t the cruel type. Not when I knew her before, not when I knew her then. I made sure the zipper and snaps were securely fastened so the two lumps in the bag wouldn’t have faces when I dropped them or when they were falling or when the rocks broke their frail skeletons.

I haven’t seen or heard from her in thirteen, maybe fifteen years. He’s learning about the birds and the bees; he wants to meet his mother.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Summer Sausage – or – How to Tune a Guitar

“Sixteen years, Dick. Sixteen goddamn years.”

“I know, I know. And you’ve been a fine cop the whole run.”

“And I’ve been a fine cop the whole run.”

Charles Swein exhaled loudly, leaning back against the padded emerald vinyl of the booth. Sick of this diner, sick of this heat, sick of the sweat on his back soaking through his shirt, pasting him to the cracked and worn upholstery. Sick of the force and sick of this prick of a captain sitting across the table, smiling like some Susie waiting to show off her new pony. It wasn’t necessary to take him down here, away from the rest of the guys, like he’s some child’s going to cry when he doesn’t get his way.

Not like he’d been spared embarrassment before. Not like he’d been spared embarrassment when some highschool quarterback hero realized he was small potatoes in the game and life and joined the force with an All-American smile and wits dim enough to woo a ten-years-married woman into a house and ring bought by his daddy. Not like he’d been spared when the whole PD was invited to the wedding and the whole PD attended the wedding. Or when the newlywed was promoted shortly thereafter to sit pretty with the precinct higher-ups, the newly-divorced demoted to some rookie’s beat for “disorderly conduct” towards his “fellow” officer.

So Charles was working alone, conducting his investigations alone, eating dinner and sleeping alone. Being alone isn’t lonely if there isn’t anyone you want to be with.

“I just think you could use some support. You’ve been out of Homicide for some spell now, and it may take a bit to get your sealegs back.”

“Don’t bullshit me. This isn’t a favor. This isn’t you caring. It’s you not wanting to care.”

“Chas, really –”

“I do my goddamn job. Last thing I need is some easytown greenhorn with a gun for a co–”

“Gun for a what?” Easytown greenhorn stood at the end of the table with a shit-eating grin, hands at his hips. You could call it a Superman pose; Charles thought Wonder Woman.

“Excuse us a minute, Chas.” The captain took the napkin from his collar and rested it on the table next to his plate. Diner gravy, thought Charles, will be that man’s undoing.

Dick and easytown greenhorn walked toward the bathrooms, speaking quietly to blend with the din. They must’ve been talking about Charles, Charles thought. Talking about his poor attitude, his distaste for authority. Dick was sharing the story about when he found him passed-out in a chair outside a motel room with a suffocated prostitute and an overdosed youth minister inside. And/or the one about his intoxicated stumbling-through of an elementary school substance awareness assembly. And/or the one about his pre-op transsexual son being stabbed four times on his way home from school, paralyzing him from the waist down. Dick was sharing stories and strategies, dictating Charles’ dossier. As if it needed further distinguishing. The two shook hands with solemnity and returned to the table, easytown greenhorn occupying Dick’s place in the booth while he remained standing.

“Chas, this is Jack Coban. He’s your new partner. Jack, this is Chas. He’s your new.. partner.” Charles grunted. The grin returned to Jack’s face as he extended his well-manicured hand. Fingernails clean and filed, healthy cuticles, and none of those streaks you get from a lack of calcium. The man stunk with a musk that assumed a two-block downwind would be as pleased with his presence as he was. Why was he so pleasant?

“Why’re you so goddamn pleasant?” Charles fidgeted in the booth, skin peeling from the vinyl. This heat made him uncomfortable and ornery.

Chuckling, “Friends call me Jacky.”

“I ain’t your godda–”

“You ain’t my goddamn friend. Right, right. Friends and you call me Jacky.” Some kind of amused, Jack straightened his posture, propping himself on the table with his elbows. Still grinning, he glanced to Dick. “I think we’ll be fine. This is fine. This’ll go well.” Dick sighed his heavy, fat man’s sigh and reached for his wallet. Halting his sweaty sausage of a hand, “It’s on me. You’re fine.”

Dick nodded a heavy, fat man’s nod. “Don’t dilly-dally. You’re both on duty. Get to know each other, share a milkshake, then back to work.” A heavy, fat man’s laugh at his own joke as he shuffled out of the diner, eyeing the waitress on his way.


Pleasantly, “So let’s open a dialogue, huh? We’re going to have to get to know one another to make all this go smoothly. Personally, I work better when I have a more.. informal relationship with my partner. I find that my partner often handles his or her tasks with a more efficient adequacy as well. It’s important to be close. If we’re close, we’ll be fine. Just fine.” The waitress came and filled Dick’s coffee cup. Jack smiled at it, pulled it close, and began sipping. “So what do you think, partner? Tell me something about yourself.”


Jack knew enough already. Probably knew that Charles vomited on himself and his wife while they took the first dance. That they’d tried to have four kids, but Charles’ sterility prevented the conception of even one, eventually turning them to a surrogate father.

The afternoon sun was unbearable. Charles could taste the sweat on his lips.

Probably knew about his eleventh toe. The time he broke into his ex-wife’s new home to bring her a cheap grocery store bouquet of week-old Easter flowers. She’d been kind to not tell her former highschool football hero husband.

“Well that’s fine then, partner. We’re fine. Do you have any questions for me?” Jack sipped Dick’s coffee. To his credit, the man took heat well. Not a bead on his brow. Pleasant.

Charles thought: Two kids. Cookie-cutter home in a mid-80s suburban development. Attractive, but aging, wife. Staling but existent sex life. Quality, but not flashy, sedan for himself. A station wagon for the wife and kids. Dog. Gym membership, but old aerobic equipment at home in the basement. Sports-watching, beer-drinking friends, also married. Father or grandfather was a cop, maybe both.

You’d think the diner’d have an air conditioner or a fan or something.

Shifting his weight, feeling the cool of his sweaty shirt on his back, “No.”

“Well, I was raised mostly by my uncle. He was a police officer. I don’t have much time for friends or recreational activities because of work, but I try to get a workout in at a gym when I can. Or just freeweights at home. My wife and I got our daughter a golden retriever for her birthday last year. She named him after her goldfish, Sammy. I like to do my commute by bicycle, but it’s rather impractical living out in Rosewood Hills, so I usually just drive my truck.” Apparently pleased with his summary, Jack finished Dick’s coffee with a smile, looking out the window towards the sun, half-descended. “Well, I think this was just fine. I’ll get the tab.”

Charles had suffered a heatstroke at a Boy Scout camp when he was younger. He’d refused to drink any water or wear a hat during a long hike, trying to make himself look tougher than the other Scouts. He fainted near the top of the trail, knocking two of the other boys over. Charles and one of the boys were cut and scratched, the other boy broke his wrist in the fall.
Charles looked at Jack and drank the glass of melted ice water the waitress’d filled when Dick arrived. “I didn’t get anything.”

“That’s fine.”

After paying for Dick’s twelve-dollar chicken fried steak and one-dollar coffee, Jack approached the jukebox. After a minute or two of flipping through the forty-fives while Charles peeled himself from the booth, Jack put his quarter in and made a selection.

“I’ll walk you to your car, partner.”

The interior of Charles’ car was sweltering. The dark leather seats and steel buckles burned his exposed skin. “It was fine meeting you, Chas. Really a pleasure.” Charles rolled his windows down, expecting his silence to serve as the rude goodbye he was too warm to emphatically gesticulate.

Lee Hazlewood introduced and drawled an old Spanish lullaby in the diner.

Why was he so pleasant?

Charles “Chas” Swein is survived by his son, Lyle, 18. The memorial service will be wheelchair accessible.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wonder Woman/Lie

We’re sitting at a round table, almost directly centered in the main dining room of the Peking Dragon, when Pam Stewart unbuttons her paisley blouse and, as if it were a minotaur-hide water pouch, dislodges her left breast from its white cotton holster, (sacrificially) offering the war-weary nipple to her daughter’s gummy maw. Holly is six months old, and, of the Stewarts’ five conceptions, she is the second to find a place in the family (the other three were healthily-born boys, immediately put up for adoption per their mother’s insistence), preceded six years by her sister, Xena. Seated, their father, George, is a head shorter than Pam, a disparity doubled when the two’re standing. Smiling meekly as he spoons the last of the sweet and sour chicken onto his plate, he is evidently accustomed to his Amazon wife’s maternal exhibitionism. The Stewarts are one of an increasing many modern families founded and matriarchally dominated by women hailing from the warrior nation.

Growing up in a state most of us have been fortunate enough to forget about (Iowa, Ohio, West Virginia?), George was raised by the perverted union of two broad-shoulder, corn-fed Midwestern autonomous lesbian hermits who contributed nothing more to the world than a distasteful mental image and his failing whimper of humanity (I won’t patronize the reader with the obvious Freudianism at play here). As if it were in contention to his unapologetically corrupted upbringing, George Stewart, following in the footsteps of most men with two first names that came before him, directed himself a life of unremarkable banality (so unremarkable, it seems, that it is remarkable). Until, of course, he met Pam (her name, I later sleuthed, is an appropriation of the Amazon Penthesilea).

The Stewarts’ premarital courtship is a testament to the Amazon queering of interpersonal relations. The two’d been climbing ladders at separate corporate dot-coms and reached the tops around the same time. While George’s company was content to exist and excel in its generalized content and business approach, Pam’s soon found itself to be too niche, unable to self-sustain without exploiting a foreign seed of inspiration and (pro)creativity. The actionable woman that she is, Pam (and her company) made George (and his company) a collection of offers he (it) could not refuse, resulting in the outright acquisition of all assets, both monetary and masculine. The established contract of collaboration is consummated annually, both protecting George’s company’s relevance in the market as well as fertilizing Pam’s company’s fecund soil. Though there have been dissenters in the tribe, George holds that his repeat submission is willful and wise, even with six years’ hindsight.

While her relationships may be need-based and calculated, Pam’s nursing is to her like a yawn. The physiological urge to do so comes unexpectedly and, just as it’s not uncommon for one to yawn when not especially tired, Pam nurses her daughters (Xena, at six, is still breastfed) even when they are not especially hungry or thirsty or whatever bestial compulsion you’d credit it to. (Let us hope that yawns aren’t actually contagious.) This unhealthily aggressive femininity is overtly manifest in every aspect of her life – so much so that one is almost blind to her crippled right breast. (From birth, Amazons are trained and prepared with a perfected skill set designed to give them an advantage against any opponents they may face. One such preparation is the scalding of the right breast to prevent its growth, which can be assumed to facilitate better handling of a mouse and keyboard in clerical and secretarial work.) A deliberate symbol of cultural sedition to disparage the docile, dual-breasted woman, the slack of cloth over Pam’s chest affronts the honored image of motherhood.

Not sated by her own unwitting mutilation, Pam scalded the right breast of both of her daughters within three months of their births, damning them to an existence of meaningless loneliness in which they will be evaluated by the quality of their character and nothing more. A parent myself, I can’t help but express my concern for the girls’ well-being. The following chart (Figure 1) details the daunting disproportions the Stewart girls face.

Figure 1 - Fun Levels of Modern Women

Statistics paint a troubling, but not surprising, picture. While single, dual-breasted women (who shall henceforth be referred to as “normal”) express nine Cindy Laupers of desired fun, and actually have an often-overwhelming ten Sheryl Crows of actual fun, single mono-breasted women (henceforth “Amazonormal”) not only “just wanna” have fewer Cyndi Laupers of fun, but they actually only experience a fraction of the Sheryl Crows as normal women. Amazonormal women find themselves too bogged down with aesthetic, social, and work-related stresses their lifestyles exacerbate to even wish for more fulfilling lives. This so bitters them that by the time they’ve found a mate of sufficiently diminutive character, their Amazon nature becomes their family’s nurture, and no one has any fun.

As she swallows whole her seventh eggroll and brushes the crumbs off of the still-suckling Holly’s fontanel, Pam eagerly summarizes home life under her lordship.

The sole provider for the family, she works an overloaded schedule running her own company, as well as her husband’s, while he idly lazes around the house in faded flannel pajama pants and a bleach-stained Olympics t-shirt (it should be noted that she describes his slovenly lifestyle with pride; his compliant sedation is a battle won). Her daughters (of whom she insists she is extremely proud and dedicated to, despite the suspicions raised by my earlier analysis) are kept in strict discipline. In addition to her schooling, Xena (whose namesake is simply a patient indulgence allowed of George’s unhealthy obsession with the eponymous television series) is held to a tight practice agenda with lessons in equestrianism, archery, and fencing thrice a week. Similarly, Holly (derivitive of Hippolyta), who’s been walking for a month now, has begun her toilet training and development of color and shape cognition. Though this rigorous approach to raising a child could be seen as progressive and productive, it is little more than Pam’s unchecked, conniving lust for falsely-exalted feminine empowerment at the cost of her family’s lives, dignity, and image. Running the home as if it were her dictatorship, the Amazon is a domestic despot who will stop at no end to uproot and subdue any force reaching to the sun of his own volition.

Throughout the course of the dinner, George’s contributions are insubstantial at best. Rather than a collected parental unit, bouncing stories and memories of their children’s rearing off of one another, he and Pam conjure Hemmingway’s Henry and Catherine, though with inversed gender roles. George is a pathetically simpleton nurse, agreeable and submissive in every way to his warred wife and her questionable motives. The man of the house is not only robbed entirely of a relationship with his children (both daughters and sons), but of wearing the (figurative) pants as well.

The Stewart nuclear is, if nothing else, a testament to the early stages in the gradual decline of familial order and natural hierarchy. Proponents of Amazon integration, though global in their representation, remain an esoteric fringe for now. Advocating awareness and tolerance as the keys to what they call a “successful collaboration and collectivization of cultures,” they consider the Amazon household the next step towards what they call “true sexual equality.” Not surprisingly, most funding for the propaganda and disinformation about supposed “genderless birthrights” comes from wealthy Amazon glitterati who, after migrating from their riverfront properties along the Thermodon, have found themselves in the self-perpetuating cycle of hawking one’s own culture as a defense against alienation in another. At present, it’s an easy problem to ignore, but choosing to do so will surely result in the assimilation of the modern family until entire generations are founded in pseudomachismo and sexual flippancy and every living room’s davenport, portraits, coffee tables, and fine china are replaced by bows and arrows, swords, crescent shields, and anatomically-lewd armor.

Apparently satisfied, Pam allows Holly to cease her guzzling, tossing her to Xena like a bow-legged medicine ball. After issuing a handful of stern orders to her subordinates regarding their chores for the evening, she breaks open every cookie and reads the fortunes in silence before deciding to whom each should belong.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Scholars; Ballers

Numerous studies and sciences flourished under the prosperity and eclectic integration of Islamic culture and civilization during the Abbasid Caliphate. Scholars, many of whom came from wealthy backgrounds, found themselves stimulated and encouraged by the world around them. With so little knowledge previously attained, so much was available for gain. Relative to the rest of the world at the time, Islam was in a veritable era of enlightenment. Many of those studying, researching, and experimenting in and around the cultural hub of Baghdad made advancements both specialized and generalized that shaped, and, in many cases, created, some of today’s most prominent and paramount schools and disciplines.

Two such scholars are Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi, an astronomer and mathematician, and Abū Yūsuf Yaʻqūb ibn Isḥāq al-Kindī, who, though he is most commonly cited for his philosophical treatises, was exceptionally studious and influential in seemingly every science he explored. Though there was little overlap in their specific endeavors, both worked to incorporate and learn from the Greek scholars of the past, who the Europeans had long-since disregarded and would not reinvestigate until the extent of their knowledge had already been tapped by Islamic civilization.

Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi, or, as he is known in the Western world, Azophi, was born on the seventh of December in the year 903, according to the Gregorian calendar. A Persian, Al-Sufi was raised and lived his entire life in the comfort of Emire Add ad-Daula’s court in Isfahan. Though he was an expert in both mathematics and astronomy, the former was more a facilitator of his successes in the latter, rather than a dedicated focus of its own.

Al-Sufi began his studies on the foundations laid by Ptolemy in his Mathematike Syntaxis (“The Mathematical Arrangement”), which was translated into Arabic under the Abbasids in 827. The translated work was titled Almagest, a corruption of the Greek word, megiste, meaning “greatest”. Al-Sufi was the first to attempt to relate Greek and Arabic astrology through star names and constellations (a difficult task due to marginal concurrence) in his most lasting and notable publication, Kitab al-Kawatib al-Thabit al-Musawwar (“Book of Fixed Stars”).

The book was a calculated documentation of the celestial globe, as written and illustrated in accordance with Greek and Arabic astronomy. In it, al-Sufi corrected many errors in Ptolemy’s data, particularly the brightness and magnitudes of various stars. He presented 1,018 stars by constellation, each depicted by two illustrations: one from outside (as it would appear in the context of space), and one from within the celestial globe (as it would appear from Earth). Several astral bodies debut in the book, among them the Omnicrum Velorum cluster and the Large Magellanic Cloud (al-Bakr, or “White Ox”), which he also noted was only visible from Southern Arabia, near the Strait of Babd al-Mandab. The work is also the first known documentation of the Andromeda Galaxy. Called “Little Cloud” and drawn near the mouth of the Arabic constellation, “Big Fish,” the galaxy is proved to’ve been discovered at least 648 years before the invention of the telescope enabled its premier in European science (it is speculated that Andromeda had actually been known by Isfahan astronomers even before 905).

Al-Sufi also wrote on and proposed many different uses and applications of the astrolabe, which had been appropriated into Islamic study by fellow mathematician and astronomer, Abu abdallah Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Fazari. He died on the 25th of May in the year 986.

To this day, Kitab al-Kawatib al-Thabit al-Musawwar is used to study and observe proper motions and long-period variables of the stars. Additionally, many of the star names assigned by al-Sufi are still used, though in their corrupted Western forms. Beyond these examples, the direct and indirect contributions and influence of al-Sufi’s work are difficult to quantify, but the significance of his highly-advanced celestial mapping is undeniable. Though it took the Europeans quite some time before they were able to accept his work into their own studies, it eventually provided them with access to two cultures’ worth of compiled astronomic calculation and study, surely catalyzing further progression and development. Acknowledging this, the astronomy community has paid respect by naming both a lunar crater (Azophi) and a minor planet (12621 Alsufi) after him.

Though he is most acclaimed for his philosophical treatises, Abū Yūsuf Yaʻqūb ibn Isḥāq al-Kindī, or Alkindus to the West, was a scholar of virtually established study of his day (astrology, astronomy, cosmology, chemistry, logic, mathematics, music, physics, psychology, and meteorology, among others). Descendent of the Kinda tribe originating in Najd, al-Kindī was born, raised, and received his early education in Kufa before moving to Baghdad, where he thenceforth found himself in steady employ of the caliphs to continue his research and teaching.

Al-Kindī was the first Muslim Peripatetic philosopher, drawing from separately from Aristotle and Plato’s teachings to introduce Greek and Hellenistic culture and philosophy to the Arab world. His most lasting work is On First Philosophy, in which he puts forth the introductory thought and insights that establish him as the first legitimate Muslim philosopher. Al-Kindī’s writing sees an obvious parallel between metaphysics (which, he said, is the knowledge of God) and theology. He describes God as an absolute one, composed of a solitary body, contrasted by the rest of existence, which, though possibly singular in a particular context, is invariably multiple in another. A flock of birds may only be one flock, but that one flock is comprised of multiple birds. The one God, however, is comprised solely of Himself. Additionally, al-Kindī writes of God as a Creator, and that the universe is of his deliberate action. Both of these theories were disputed by later Muslim philosophers, but their concepts have nonetheless withstood.

Other major focuses of al-Kindī’s philosophical writing included an epistemologic assertion of humanity’s limited perception relative to universal concepts and truths, an immaterial soul, journeying to the afterlife with the corporeal form as little more than vessel (much in cue with myriad other faiths and philosophies), and progressive validation and qualification of philosophers versus prophets and the disparity between their communication and projection of ideas.

Al-Kindī’s other advancements were as many as they were varied. Appointed to the House of Wisdom by the caliph, he contributed many translated texts to the progressive library. A cryptologist, he introduced Indian numerals to Islamic and Christian study and developed the frequency analysis method of solving ciphers. This mathematics familiarity, coupled with experience in medicine, enabled him to create a scale by which a medicine’s potency could be quantified, an invaluable step in pharmacology. A chemist, he was the first to debunk alchemy on the whole - in particular the potential transformation of crude materials into silver or gold - in his works, Warning Against the Deceptions of the Alchemists and Refutation of the Claim of Those Who Claim the Artificial Fabrication of Gold and Silver. He also was the first to isolate ethanol, contributing to its now countless uses. Al-Kindī compared and contrasted Aristotelian and Eclidian physics, particularly in the realm of optics, deeming Euclidian the more accurate of the two schools by his shared theory of light rays following a straight path, now accepted as fact. Adept with scent, he is credited as the father of the perfume industry. Pioneering experimental psychology, he revealed that sensation is proportionate to stimulus, studied dream theories and interpretation, and practiced mental and physical music therapy. Perhaps most curiously, al-Kindī also wrote the earliest known investigation of environmentalism and pollution, discussing resource contamination and improper waste disposal, insight that is all too relevant today.

While the afore list in no way fully encompasses the breadth and ripple of al-Kindī’s accomplishments, it is at least indicative of how immense his influence was and is to philosophy and the sciences. The importance of the isolation of alcohol and the quantification of medicinal effects alone are obvious in their significance, drastically progressing scientific and medical exploration. Al-Kindī’s philosophy is still studied in the modern context, and was continually present throughout the development of both Eastern and Western thought.

Because so little concentrated study and research had been done, and even less was readily documented and available, the era of the Abbasid Caliphate was prime for progress. Because many schools of knowledge were still in their infancy, becoming an expert and studying in several fields simultaneously was an entirely feasible task. This cooperative collaboration of intellectual wealth fostered a productive and enlightening era, conducive to the countless advancements and developments that have defined many modern practices.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Icarus Programme: Bearing Witness to the Glaringly Witless

The liberal agenda is of ubiquitous manifest in modern life. While scheming and conspiracy has long since found a home in the arts and what’s passing for education these days, such dangerous thinking has gained unprecedented influence in the sciences, engineering, and contemporary mechanics. There have always been fringe groups threatening the stability, structure, and stamina of these pursuits, but their exploits are foolishly disregarded and ignored as unthreatening. This negligent naivety not only allows for Lord-only-knows-what sorts of offenses and shenanigans to go about unchecked, but it practically welcomes the absurdities of talking monkeys and little green aliens into the realm of credible endeavor.

By far the most distressing of these studies is that of, as the United States Army has so over-dignified it, the Small Rocket Lift Device, or SRLD. Colloquially the “jetpack” or “rocket-belt,” the SRLD has been gradually gaining momentum in both fact and fairy-tale since its early introduction in 1920s and ‘30s pulp science-fiction. Frivolous stories, though plaguing in their own right, are one thing, but when both our government’s armed forces and aeronautics research and researchers are burning the American’s tax dollars in pursuing (and, in the case of aeronautics, actually utilizing) such obscene misappropriations of technology, it is the lackadaisical complacent who sits idly by, submissive to the stenched winds of change.

The most prevalent images of SRLDs are, as mentioned, rooted in indulgent, unrealistic fantasy worlds where, clearly, the Godfearing man is in dire minority. Not only are these preposterous universes wholly detrimental to our social attentiveness in their hedonist escapism, but their comprising characters and their milieux are given such a grandiose presentation in popular culture that what is or is not generally deemed socially acceptable is all but thrown out the window. Grown men floating around in any kind and color of form-fitting clothing with jet propulsion devices strapped to themselves, wielding fanciful retrofuturistic weaponry with one arm and clutching a helpless (hapless) young woman whose fallaciously buxom proportions are scarcely contained by mere wisps of silver space-fabric (likely a polyester) simply have no place in respectable mores. In this brand of storytelling, however, such perversions of idyllic humanity are heroic, even iconified.

Two such characters, though vastly different in their respective contexts (but, by no coincidence, similar in their cultural resonance), are Anthony “Buck” Rogers and Cliff Secord, or The Rocketeer.

Buck Rogers, though not always equipped with an SRLD, was first introduced to the American in 1928, behind the cover portrait of short-lived jetpacker, The Skylark of Space. So even when Rogers is more grounded in his transportation, the reader’s first impression of the flying man will linger. Immediately duping the dopes of opportunistic syndication, Rogers soon found himself illustrated in sequential narrative throughout the nation’s newspapers (also of no coincidence, the Tarzan comic strip debuted on the same day, revealing an obvious cooperation of both sci-fi and feral nudist radicals towards an anarchic world of levitating apemen). That the strip was so widely published alludes to the breadth of liberal power in mass-media at the time. That Rogers and his adventures in 25th Century heresy are still so widely published and admired alludes to the breadth of liberal power in mass-media now, not to mention its irrevocable influence on modern society. In fact, it is homage to Rogers and his ilk that spawned the hellion Rocketeer.

Unlike Rogers, whose use of SRLDs is inconsistent and situational, The Rocketeer is defined by his ability to jet through the sky, combating Nazis and mobsters under falsely American pretenses. While Secord’s antics may seem patriotic and just on the surface, a scrutinizing eye, well-founded in its American institutions of lawfulness and normalcy, sees the irresponsible acrobat for what he really is: an exhibitionist vigilante with no appreciation for the candor of identity our country was founded on. A flaunty golden helmet, red jacket, and heeled boots disguise the subversive, uneducated scofflaw as he leaches off the studied intellect of his supposed friend, Peabody. A deliberately unexplored personage, Peabody is the educated force of conservative reason, created solely for the writers to image as an uncool worrywart naysayer; reluctantly submitting and following, an undesirable contrast to the extravagant Rocketeer. It takes conspirators with the same reckless disregard for the American way of life as their “hero” to put forth such a publication into the hands of the American’s child.

Unfortunately, the liberal brainwash, though stymied by the enduring values of family, social responsibility, cultural integrity, and it-not-being-the-future, has had its successes. SRLDs are currently in various stages of production by companies the world over, the most notorious of which, Jet Pack International (Jet P.I.), is based in Denver, Colorado. Not surprisingly, Jet P.I. was founded by an avid skydiver who evidently did not think betting his God-given life against gravity alone was free-spirited enough. Why just fall in fluorescent colors when I could fall and possibly explode in fluorescent colors, he likely thought. In effort to conceal the shame that weights him for dismissing the gift (of life) he’s been given, Troy Widgery promotes his company with sports drinks (Jet P.I.’s sister company, Go Fast Sports & Beverage), the extreme sports buzz that dominates every caffeine-hyped early adolescent male, and the unfounded braggadocio so commonly displayed by the outlaws of recreational activity. Jet P.I. has begun marketing one of its models for sale in an obvious move against the lucrative bored-billionaire-playboy demographic. If left unchecked, broader assimilation will surely follow.

Perhaps even more terrifying than entire companies of subversives, however, is the isolationist personal pursuit of jetpackery. At present, one such citizen is known to’ve independently created a functioning SRLD. Gerard Martowlis is so thoroughly deceived by the likes of the aforementioned left propaganda that he’s dedicated vast sums of personal time and capital towards realizing the ridiculous flying contraption. Why he’s been so overthrown by this programmed compulsion is a sad and disgraceful psychology best left to its own speculative discourse, but its significance requires little explanation. The American’s integrity is taking a backseat to his fantasies, and the compromise of the individual’s contribution to productive and proper scientific advancement and development is no easy blow to withstand.

As the world’s most militaristically and aeronautically advanced nation, one would logically assume the United States of America would have developed a discerning eye for worthwhile expenditures of time and effort. And, oftentimes, one would be correct in this assumption. However, in this instance, we are again reminded of how deeply the liberal agenda permeates American soil, poisoning our empire at its very roots.

The United States Army has demonstrated an active interest in SRLDs since the late 1950s, over the years contracting several organizations to produce an actionable result to be used in the field by engineers and scouts. The obvious contradiction in intent being that the U.S. Army, the defenders of freedom, democracy, and capitalism, are devoting precious resources to devices that not only do not kill opponents of freedom, democracy, and capitalism, but in fact make its own ranks more vulnerable, elevated targets. Small ants on the horizon, huddled behind cover and blending in with the foliage, would be replaced by frolicking gnats, easily mapped in the enemy’s reticule by contrails and, soon after, entrails. It’s hard to say which would be more mutilated: the pilot or his dignity. Sources insist that funding these projects has ceased, but it is probable that these claims are merely disinformation.

While the long-term effects of this conniving impregnation of contemptible experimentation in playing God have yet to be seen, the damages done in these first eighty-some years do not bode well. Almost overnight the image of man has transformed from that of a contented, comfortable lot, pleased to spend his days at rest on the Lord’s grasses and knolls, to that of an insatiable and flamboyant purveyor of concepts so preternatural and perverse that the metallic fuchsias of his leotard practically prance their stain of skylust across the fibers of American morality. What remains are the smoldering ashes of a once-great nation, so thoroughly sapped by fantastical indulgences that its most brilliant minds and advancements, even its very culture and the arms that sheltered it, cannot extinguish the deceitful flames of a scoffed conspiracy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Davy Croquet

David Sunrise Allender wasn’t much. Just overweight enough to be made fun of for it, but not so much so that anyone would come to his defense and tell the other kids that their jeering was mean. Bad at sports, but had a decent punt, so was never last-pick. Not particularly smart, but Cs kept him above the special attention bracket. The handful of friends he had were of similar inconsequence, but were at least polarized by their academic failings or cliché social degeneracy. Really, David’s most notable trait was the silly middle name that his ex-hippy hashhead father had managed to convince his late-life baptism conservative mother to allow on the birth certificate. It’s hard to say how couples like that ever end up getting to the point of conception, but I’d guess it was either David’s dad trying to “enlighten” his mom, or her trying to rebel against some suburban family convention she’d been weighted by for so long by marrying the first man she could find whose dank patchouli stench overpowered her parents’ potpourri. In any case, the union was predictably short-lived, and David found himself in one of those preposterous court hearings where who a seven year-old boy chose to live with had as much legal weight as the parental credibility of either of his options. So Davy grew up a momma’s boy.

As with most people that find themselves in similarly bleak and unremarkable situations, Davy wasn’t very widely known. Which, on one hand, is too bad, because I’m sure he was just as interesting as any human can be when given the opportunity to explain his or herself. On the other hand, however, being popular in one’s mediocrity can foster a lasting humiliation I doubt someone like Davy would’ve had the strength or basic gusto of life to shrug off. I’m not about to claim to’ve been close to him, as people often do in effort to shake whatever irrational guilt they find themselves weighted with, but I did spend a fair amount of time with him. It was during these hangings-out that he would eagerly divulge as much of his life story as I had time to hear. Of course I didn’t think much about it then, but I’m relatively certain that almost anyone who gave him an afternoon was privy to similar confession. A highschool counselor’s menial psychology degree would probably credit Davy’s openness and sensitivity to the lack of a legitimate father figure in his life. In the three years we were acquainted, Davy mentioned speaking with his dad only a handful of times, maybe half of which were in person, and even then, deliberately fleeting.

I met Davy in a bland corporate bookstore through a mutual friend. Erica was nondescript in her own way, but enjoyed marginal social cushion leftover from her freshman year as a majorette. Most of her girlfriends had gone on to be cheerleaders, and she probably could’ve, but seemed to prefer a plainer agenda. I was never told how the two had met, but the complete lack of overlap in their friend circles pointed to forced seating assignments in a lab class or something. How the two first found themselves romantically entangled, I also do not know, but can only suspect it was under equally uncomfortable and awkward circumstances.

But entangled they were, and for that three months, I exchanged little more with Davy than nods or minimal salutations as we passed in the halls between classes. Unlike most adolescent relationships, the nature and details of theirs weren’t under the slightest scrutiny. No gossip whatsoever. And I always kind of admired that. More than likely it was just because neither of the two were hot topics on their own, so their sum was of little ripple, but even that is its own poetic cliché in the isolated satisfaction they seemed to find in one another’s company. But, considering how things eventually transpired, the affection may’ve been heavily lopsided.

Croquet is pretty hilarious. Of all the ninny games of upper white British society, why did croquet (and badminton) have to survive in tennis’s shadow? It was this, and how the game had managed to trot its way into our P.E. “curriculum”, that accounted for me being knee-deep in ponder when Davy trudged out of the gymnasium onto the field fifteen minutes after the rest of us. So quizzed was I by the absurdity of whacking wooden balls with wooden mallets through seemingly arbitrarily-placed metal goals that I didn’t notice that he was completely flushed until halfway through the period. Had we been playing soccer or basketball, a sweaty, red-faced Davy would’ve been no oddity, but that he was so physically defeated and that his brow was so furrowed by a game even a Lady could play was a point of curiosity among my teammate (we played in teams because the school could only afford so many wooden balls and wooden mallets and metal goals) and me.

Even though I was on casually friendly terms with him, it was a while before I gathered the nerve to intrude on Davy’s game and ask if he was feeling alright. Something told me his afternoon consternations were deeper set than my own (though that’s not to undermine the utter preposterousness of spending two weeks’ worth of P.E. on a game so akin to crochet, both in phonetics and debasement of pubescent masculinity). He shrugged off my inquiries and continued with the game, growing progressively more serious and competitive, eventually refusing to allow his teammate any turns, insisting that he would “Only fuck things up.” So we all backed off as much as possible, offering forfeit. Voice cracking, Davy insisted that we finish the game, because, he said, we never finish anything.

The more people you meet and experience the less surprised you find yourself when you see someone in a state alien to that which you’ve come to expect of them. At sixteen, however, it’s easy to forget that you and your closest friends aren’t the only ones knelt before the desperate whim of hormonal entropy. Davy was soft-spoken, agreeable, and passive. So when Davy was not soft-spoken, agreeable, and passive, I’d no idea how to approach or interact with him. The most I could muster were weak congratulatory remarks when he’d whack the wooden balls with the wooden mallet in a direction I guess must’ve been the right one. As his emotional condition further manifested itself, the game seemed to slow. The more his tears traced the runs from his sweat, the more carefully he plotted his angles. The more his nose ran onto his lip, the more deliberately he took his shots. When he’d reached his goal, or whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish in the game, he practically barked that he’d finish my team’s game for us. Fumbling for words, we gestured towards our balls in compliance, still trying to settle a balance between ignoring his throes and feigning understanding and commiseration.

Davy finished the game and almost immediately reverted to his demure self. His mom took a job somewhere in the Midwest six months later. We weren’t close enough to keep in touch.

Erica had broken up with him that afternoon in the break before our P.E. class. Supposedly he’d spent that fifteen minutes throwing up on the floor of the locker room, but everything was cleaned up by the time we went back in to change.

To attempt qualify something as impossibly intangible as real-life experience and revelation is not only tryingly trite, but also a little too assuming. It assumes that, because his parents got divorced, Davy lost faith in love, and so that, when he thought he’d found it, to lose it and have his doubts confirmed was exponentially more difficult than it would’ve otherwise been; than it was for Erica, whose parents were not divorced. It assumes that, because he was raised by, and held a close relationship with, a conservative single mother, he was overly sensitive and susceptible to an emotional dependency that most boys of his age were spared by a more prominent patriarch. While these are valid conclusions to draw, they’re too simple and easy. They seem to undermine everything else in Davy’s life that may’ve contributed to the importance of that game of croquet.

So maybe it’s more honest, or at least more encompassing, to evaluate how things don’t affect you. How they don’t change the way you see things. How they don’t distort or pervert your concepts and perceptions. How when Davy hanged himself in his mom’s house two years later and detailed the entire event and the croquet game in his suicide letter, it meant absolutely nothing to me.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Fence

Beatrice Bella lives in a beautiful blue-sky ballroom, isolated from the world beyond her picket fence. Morn to Eve she lives a dream, dancing happily within her ivory boundary.

Until one grey night after she’s turned out the light, Beatrice glimpses a glancing Bandito Bonaparte, cresting his crown where the Sun’d settled down.

Though a fright at first sight, their love soon takes flight on the wings of a rosey-dusk bird.