Living in such a state taTestaTesTaTe etats a hcus ni gniviL of mind in which time sTATEsTAtEsTaTeStA emit hcihw ni dnim of does not pass, space STateSTaTeSTaTeStAtE ecaps ,ssap ton seod does not exist, and sTATeSt oFOfOfo dna ,tsixe ton seod idea is not there. STatEst ofoFOFo .ereht ton si aedi Stuck in a place staTEsT OfOFofo ecalp a ni kcutS where movements TATeSTa foFofoF stnemevom erehw are impossible fOFoFOf elbissopmi era in all forms, UsOFofO ,smrof lla ni physical and nbEifof dna lacisyhp or mental - uNBeInO - latnem ro your mind is UNbeinG si dnim rouy focusing on a unBEING a no gnisucof lone thing, or NBeINgu ro ,gniht enol a lone nothing. bEinGUn .gnihton enol a You are numb and EiNguNB dna bmun era ouY unaware to events stneve ot erawanu taking place - not -iSSuE- ton - ecalp gnikat knowing how or what THiRTY-TWO tahw ro woh gniwonk to think. You are in 12/30/96 ni era uoY .kniht ot a state of unbeing.... ....gniebnu fo etats a
On December 9th, Introvert, a local Austin BBS user, walked barefoot onto the sand dunes on the beach at Port Aransas, Texas and shot himself with a shotgun.
I never fleshmet Jae. I hadn't really talked to him that much since early 1996 when I fell out of the local BBS circulation over the summer and going out of town when I transferred colleges. When Isis Unveiled was up, though, we used to talk quite a bit.
I remember one night, probably in July of 1995, when Jae logged onto my board and paged me. He related the story of how he had been driving down I-35 and had some huge car on his ass for a long time. He finally decided to change lanes, but the car decided to pass him. He pulled back into his lane, the other car swerved, and Jae said he heard a large crash. When he looked into his rear view mirror, he saw that the car had hit another car, and both were on the side of the road.
Jae exited and circled back, passing by the scene again. He wondered if he should stop, if he had been the cause of the accident. Instead, he came home and called my board.
A lot of times I think I'm pretty unimportant, that I'm just a little insignificant speck in the universe waiting to be blown away by the demiurge's breath. And then, something like this happens. A guy you've never seen IRL calls and asks for your advice. I calmed him down and he went on with his life. But it made me feel good, and I never got to thank him for that.
He also requested my input into his zine, The Vertigo Voice around that time as well. We talked about different formats, styles, and other things only zine editors could even want to discuss. I highly recommend that you check out the issues that Jae put out. The zine has his own personal touch and his ingenuity as well. Sometimes I still get jealous at certain little things he did that I should have thought of.
I was away at school when I heard that he had killed himself. I didn't know how or why, and I still don't know why. But whatever the reasons, we'll still miss him. We dedicate this issue of State of unBeing to his memory.
1996 was a good year. Sorta. Three people I know died. That sucked. I'm still alive. Sometimes that sucks. Maybe 1997 will just be not sucky.
If you're wondering why the hell I haven't responded to your email, well, my account is long-distance from the place where I am staying over the holidays, so I'm doing good to actually get submissions. I'm working out a way to send mail so it'll be from me, and hopefully after the first of the year I'll get back to everyone who has responded.
And a note on submissions, while we're at it. Please include a title and the name you'd like to be known as. Some people like using handles, some don't. I don't care, but I really don't like using email addresses unless that's what you want.
As most of you know, we're about to enter our fourth year of publication. That means time for another one of Kilgore's retrospective editorials, where he talks about how he's surprised the zine has lasted so long, his writers are way too cool, and how he still needs submissions. But that's all for the next issue. Anyway, SoB is going to have a new look for 1997. A new header, new layout, everything. This ain't your father's SoB, son. Any suggestions you have concerning layout and design changes should be sent to me.
Concerning this issue, well, the last issue of 1996 is certainly one of the best. People remember our dear friend Introvert, Clockwork describes his homelife, Ansat reviews the decadents, Nathan tackles the brain and the flu, and someone comes out of the depths of the public education system to tell us what sucks about it. Plus, we've got more poetrie by StormChaser and even a story by me.
Hope you enjoy, keep those submissions coming, and don't die while you're using the new year as an excuse to party hardy. Unless, of course, you weren't planning on writing anything.
From firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Fri, 20 Dec 1996 03:53:51 -0600 (CST) From: Timothy Morris <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Can you help me? Hello, I have what I hope is an easy question. I'm trying to find out more about an e-zine called the Vertigo Voice. A friend of mine was editing/contributing to it when he died, and I have only found out recently about his involvement. If you could help me find out where to access this publication I would be very thankful. All I have a couple of extracts, so any momento of his work would be a real find for me. Thanks if you can help. I also rambled through your zine and liked what I saw, keep it up, and thanks for helping protect free speach in America. Tim Morris ^ ^ 0 0 > \/
[introvert edited the vertigo voice, which should be available on local austin boards like the ringworm's lair (512.255.6832). i thought copies were stored at the huge e-zine archive at ftp.etext.org, but apparently i was wrong. after the new year, i will be carrying the complete run of the vertigo voice on my web page, which is at < http://www.sage.net/~kilgore >. thanks for rambling through the zine. as for us protecting free speech, well, we do our part. sometimes, though, we like to put duct tape over our mouths and rip it off just for the pain.]
From Mozhga@aol.com Mon Dec 30 14:39:48 1996 Date: Wed, 25 Dec 1996 13:54:20 -0500 From: Mozhga@aol.com To: email@example.com Subject: subscribe I fear I may cut open a vien, if you do not add me to your subscribers list. - Paula May I also humbly offer my pathetic works of non-art?
[remember, if you do cut open a vein, cut down the arm, not across the wrist. it bleeds much better that way. a nice, warm bath helps too. but there's really no need to do that, because you're now added to the subscriber's list. and yes, you may submit your works of non-art. non-art ain't art, so it's got that going for it.]
From firstname.lastname@example.org Mon Dec 30 14:40:05 1996 Date: Wed, 25 Dec 1996 14:25:20 -0600 (CST) From: Hagbard <email@example.com> To: Kilgore Trout <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Merry Christmas Merry Christmas! What did Santa bring you?
[santa brought me lots of cash which i foolishly spent on a new sony stereo system so i didn't have to listen to my cds in my computer anymore. unfortunately, santa didn't bring an end to all of my debt, so i must have done something bad this year. i also got a gargoyle's paint and marker book which is occupying quite a bit of my time.]
Dark Crystal Sphere Floating Between Two Universes
I Wish My Name Were Nathan
Jae and I were never very close. That is why I am surprised by the amount of contact that I had with him. I don't remember where we first glanced each other. It was on a BBS somewhere, but I don't remember which one. Anyway, we were both on the same board somewhere and somehow he ended up on my board, Cyberverse. He was going by the name of The Azure Vortex at that point. We all chatted a bit there, but it was just another one of the numerous boards which he called. Then he decided to start his own e-zine, The Vertigo Voice, and came back to Cyberverse after a moderately long absence because he knew that we were rather literary minded and the type of people that would think it was cool to do a project like that. I think that is when we first started to really hang out, as that is the time period which most of my memories of Jae are from. There are three sections on my BBS which are restricted access. Access is by invitation only and any queries regarding said access are met with indifference, hostility, or misdirection, and Jae is the only person with access to those sections whose relationship with me, the giver of access, was not primarily a phenomena of the physical world. After the advent of Jae's e-zine, the Vertigo Voice, I saw a lot more of Jae. I don't just mean that I saw him more often, but that I saw more of that jumble of personality and appearance which distinguishes Jae from all of the rest of the people in the world. One of the restricted access sections on my board is a judgment-free zone for the discussion of things which might cause self-conscious awkwardness or embarrassment if it were not a judgment-free zone. At first he just watched and read, but after a while, he started to post, about the 'zine and his apprehensions thereof, about his ever present social troubles, and about his life in general. I think that in that period of time in which the 'zine was going I knew more about Jae's life than his real-world friends. He even came to a few real-world get-togethers. I remember one time trying to explain to him that we were all a bit apprehensive because we thought that he was incredibly cool and were afraid that he would perhaps think us to be boring, silly, or generally not cool. I expressed it badly, as I always do, and he thought that I was being sarcastic and condescending, but I tried. I also remember riding back from somewhere with him and telling him my views on magick and him telling me his views on music, industrial and otherwise. My favorite memories of Jae, though, are when he was playing the guitar. I went to see him play at Saradora's coffee shop, but I didn't get there until the last song, unfortunately. Even better, though, are the times when we all got together and jammed. I have a picture of him playing my guitar at one such event. I also have a recording of him playing bass on a little project which we called Death of the Party. One of the other people on the board, Merilee, knew Jae better than any of the rest of us. She even dated him for a while and kept in contact after he stopped getting on the BBS, after he quit publishing The Vertigo Voice. She has a recording of a song that she and Jae wrote on bass and cello, which is quite nice. They recorded it at our biggest jam session of all. I think the only other thing that got recorded was the opening of a can of Sprite, to be used in a song I wrote called The Great Soda Can Metaphore. Jae liked it so much that I said he could have and make millions of dollars off of it and give me nothing in return. I did it because, well, Jae was cool, and he was a good enough musician to have had a future if he hadn't been such a slacker and so preoccupied with social matters. After a while, Jae stopped hanging out on the board. I saw him at a concert, but we didn't have much to say to each other, as we weren't all that close. He kept some ties, though, mainly with Merilee and Emily. I hadn't seen Jae for months, nor had he been on the board. We all liked him and admired him, and I have been told that he liked us just as much, but he always kept distant because, well, he was Jae. I am still amazed at how much contact I had with the ever-distant Jae. I even still have the KMFDM CD that he lent me.
A writer's life is short -- limited to the life of the paper on which his words are inscribed, and the memory-span of his readers. Paper is brittle and soon crumbles to dust, and the worms eat memories.
I have quoted these words from Robert Bloch's Night-World once before, upon the death of their author. Then I mourned only the passing of a creative light, a man I never knew nor would ever know. Now I quote them upon the passing of one of our own writers, Introvert.
Introvert himself lived in a night world, and that is what led to his self destruction. Introvert was a good man who could not see his own good- ness. While I never met him in the flesh, those of us who carried on discus- sions with him, especially in the days of the once-and-future Isis Unveiled, always looked forward to his distinctive -i- gracing the ends of his posts. In this land without boundaries, where people discuss what is really on their minds rather than that which the conventions of the fleshworld allow them to, Introvert laid himself open, and it is in this way that we learned how great a man he truly was. Now I mourn not only the State of unBeing writer, not only the editor of the Vertigo Voice, but also a great man who, had he lived -- had he seen his own worth -- would have gone on not only to be loved for his writing, but also for his being. I cannot say how great a man Mr. Bloch was, a man who lived his life and died a natural death, but I can say that the world lost more than just writing when Introvert died. When Introvert killed himself he destroyed something beautiful.
Today we here at State of unBeing both mourn the passing of a creative genius and friend and celebrate a life. Introvert, in his short time with us, created fine writing both for State of unBeing and for his own zine, the Vertigo Voice. I urge all of you to not allow his writing to be done in vain, but to go back and see what this mind wrought, and to celebrate this man with us. Capture something of the beauty that was Introvert in that which he created, and you will, perchance, understand some of the splendour that was Introvert. He was not a man to be forgotten, and he did not write not to be read. The worms will soon destroy all trace of us all, but do not let the memory of Introvert die before have finished their final gnawing.
I trust you with this. Know that you are now part of a revolutionary force. You have been brainwashed and kept in the dark for far too long, and now it's time to undo all that you have been taught. Our freedom lies in our minds. If you can unlearn, you will be free. I'm going to fill your head with dangerous information, knowledge that threatens to shake our educational system's infrastructure to the core.
First, however, some things must be taken care of. This document is to be freely distributed among your peers, and whoever else. I encourage you to discuss the material contained herein with anybody you feel like. Observe caution when dealing with educational faculty -- their beliefs are set so deep in their minds, that they are not likely to be very receptive to the teachings found below. All the more reason to shove this back at them, eh? Good luck. Open your head.
Let the brainwashing begin.
Does anybody know what the word ENTRENCH means? ENTRENCH means to put something very, very deeply into something else, in this case into someone's mind. Yours. For example, when you are a baby, you are taught what is right and what is wrong. It is wrong to kill, steal, lie, etc. It is right to be honest, kind, etc. These beliefs have become ENTRENCHED in your mind, and as a result, you act on them everyday without even knowing it. You just kind of assume that everything you have been taught is true. You are defenseless against it. ENTRENCH is a very useful word I have found, so remember what we learned today, kids. Let's say it together, EN-TRENCH. Very good.
What does this have to do with anything? Glad you asked. Now shut up and let me speak. Our educational system has entrenched certain beliefs into our head since elementary school. Beliefs like, "You learn from doing worksheets, and taking tests..." You may not remember a teacher ever specifically saying this, but it has been taught to you by the very practice of giving out worksheets and tests. Morals are also taught in the same, indirect way. This is what sociologists refer to as the "hidden curriculum." This method of teaching isn't inherently (necessarily) bad or good, but it is suspect. We can't always be sure that everything we are taught is correct. Because of the entrenched assumption that our teachers are correct, however, we have no choice but to passively accept what we are given. The assumptions that have been put into our heads impair our ability to think, and they give government power over us. That is the only reason the education system, the government, any government or authority has any real power over us: we can't get past our built-in assumptions.
This is not okay, even if our teachers are correct. Why? For the simple reason that they haven't justified why learning the way that we are learning is good. If our method of taking tests and doing worksheets does have a flaw, we are powerless to stop it from dominating our lives, because we can't get rid of it. We can't get rid of our way of learning because it's entrenched. It is entrenched because it has been used on us since grade school, because it hasn't been justified to us, and because no alternatives were given to us. It's the only way we know, like it or not. I'm not saying we should explain all of this to five-year olds. It gives me a headache thinking about it for too long. Nor am I trying to critique the exact method of learning imposed on us. No. The point I'm making is a far more general one, although I believe tests and worksheets are bad in and of themselves. That's an essay for another time, however.
Now, a story. I call it TOM AND SUZY iLLUSTRATE THE FALLACY OF ENTRENCHMENT iN A MODERN EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM. (A SHORT PLAY IN TWO ACTS)
|TOM:||I am a high-school age boy. I have been making C's in school because certain entrenched philosophies in my brain have incapacitated my ability to think for myself.|
|TOM:||I am a product of the system. I can't think on a larger level than "Math is hard." I can't think about things like, "Is math true?"|
|SUZY:||Why do I walk to my next class when the bell rings? Where did that idea come from? Why do I act stupid? Why don't I examine all of the assumptions put into my head since grade school?|
|TOM:||A major change is needed around here, something like, A NEW CLASS! This will teach us something useful, but unfortunately, it suffers from the same problem of entrenchment that our classes do now. So do other proposed changes, like hooking everyone up to the internet, and...|
|SUZY:||DIE!!! DIE!!! DIE ASSUMPTIONS!!! I AM FREE!!! TOM, YOU MISERABLE IGNORANT FOOL!!! (pulling out a gun) DIE!!! (firing) YOU ARE FREE, TOM!!!|
ACT II (one year later)
|NARRATOR:||Oh, crud! I don't believe this! I can't think of anything to write for Act II! Tom, help!|
|TOM:||I can't. I'm dead.|
|SUZY:||I'M LIBERATED NOW!!! I DON'T HAVE TO CONFORM TO YOU ANYMORE!!! (pulls out a gun, fires)|
|NARRATOR:||Wait! You can't kill me! I'm writing this! I won't allow it! I'm ending this story right now!|
(Applause. Hand in hand, the Narrator and Suzy take their bows. Tom gets up and bows. There is a standing ovation. The set suddenly catches fire and everyone is incinerated in the blaze. Everyone, except of course, for the Narrator.)
Ditching the grading system won't stop how they are teaching us, so why bother fixing that until the primary cause is solved? It just doesn't make any sense.
I propose a solution to this. It is kind of nihilistic, in a way. (I don't claim to understand nihilism at all, so I'm not going to define it and all that crud.) The only way to free yourself from the power of entrenched beliefs is to analyze them, examine them, and if they are flawed, to rip them up and invent something new. The way to correct the problem I've pointed out all through this essay does not begin with Congress or school board meetings. It begins where the real battle is, where the power is. It begins in your head. Take the assumption, tests measure learning, for example. Ask yourself, why? Why do we have tests? Why do we take tests? Why do they measure learning? How? What happens when someone who already knows lots about a certain subject, takes a test on that subject? Did that person learn? Is the practice of taking tests flawed? Why?
I'm not going to answer any of these questions here. This is still a general critique. Answer them for yourself. That is the specific way to free your mind. The general way is just to think for yourself, and challenge anything that is just asserted. Challenge ideas you are given. Ask "WHY?" until you are satisfied with the answer. We've constructed a whole education system on flawed assumptions. It's time to break it all down, and see which of those assumptions are true. That responsibility lies with us. Not with faculty. Us. The students. Everything taught to you is suspect.
Distribute this brainwash to anyone. They deserve the truth, too.
The human brain is intricately beautiful, as any scientist or cannibal will tell you. While research into its operation has yielded significant findings in the past twenty years, I still sense an aura of mystery around how it works. Contrarily, human societies have sensed the basic functions, but neurological findings haven't yet been popularly integrated with the layman's intuitions. I want to help draw back the curtain from your eyes, so to speak, to help you see things you probably already knew.
The outer lobe of the brain, the cerebral cortex, represents the highest evolutionary level of brain development [and please note, that I am taking an anthrocentric viewpoint here]. This lobe, which in codfish represents a mere seventh of the total brain volume, clearly dominates the proportions of the mammalian brain. The cerebral cortex integrates high-level perception, speech, hearing, motor, and memory functions. While basic abilities to sense light and conduct reflexes exist in the most basic level of the brain, the enhancements in the cerebral cortex are the means to recognizing lines and words, as well as being able to draw them.
Neurons are the building block of the cerebral cortex, and their function is central to understanding the subtleties of the human experience.
On its own, each neuron is utterly useless. Memory is not contained in a neuron, per se -- so any association with a computer memory is misguided. The word "dog" is not stored in three consecutive neurons, or even in one. On the other hand, one neuron could dictate whether you think "dog" is a noun or a verb. This is because the neuron's purpose is to connect. Somewhat similar to a computer, however, is the fact that neurons have variables associated with them. A greatly simplified model works like this:
Each neuron is a cell, and so contains a cell body. Protruding from this body are numerous fingerlike dendrites and a long, branching axon. In the nervous system, the neurons are connected to each other in extremely complex ways, by junctions between dendrites and axons. In the brain, in fact, each neuron has from a thousand to a hundred thousand dendrites.
It is at the junctions, or synapses, where neurons exhibit their special behavior. This is why a lone neuron is useless. In general, electrical impulses flow out of axons, through junctions, and into dendrites of other neurons. In more ancient species, impulses could flow in the other direction as well, but all mammals have unidirectional flows of electricity. Each impulse is not identical, however; depending on the nature of the synapse, the impulse provides either a positive (excitatory) or negative (inhibitory) input to the target neuron; furthermore, the impulses do not exhibit the same influence on that target -- the synapse may weaken or strengthen it. Which axons happened to "fire" determines the target neuron's response. In effect, the neuron arithmetically adds the inputs, and then sends forth its own impulse if it received enough excitatory input.
An abstract view of the neuron, to solidify your understanding: it is as if it has ten thousand possible inputs of 0 or 1, which in the synapses are converted to the range -1 to +1; the neuron adds together the active inputs, compares the result to 0, and if positive, sends forth its own output of 1, else sends no impulse at all. In effect, the neurons are decision-makers.
But how does this account for memory? How does it account for dreams, even, which seem to require no input besides what's already inside our heads? What about love, or anger? How do these result from this conceptually simple structure? Again, this is a highly simplified model of the brain. It may not even be correct. The ideas, however, have led to the development of neural networks in computing, which have yielded promising results.
Neural networks, first developed in the 1970's, attempt to emulate the brain's decision-making process, for use in artificial intelligence. Neural nets usually forego the "physical" process of variably sending out impulses in favor of a clean mathematical representation. In one common form of a neural net, a brain is represented by rows of neurons, in which each neuron in a row connects to every neuron in the next row, and so on. Input to the brain is through the first row, setting each neuron's total input to some number in the range -1 to +1. Through mathematical manipulations, each "neuron" supplies this input directly to its target neurons in the next row. Each input is changed by means of its "weight," or synaptic strength, to form a part of the target neuron's input. The target neuron adds its weighted inputs to come up with its output. And, it always fires, but with a -1 to +1 output. The original input is passed through these levels until it reaches the "end," or the output neurons. The numbers in those neurons represents the network's "answer" for the inputs it was given.
A simple start, but an amazingly useful one, for neural nets show us how memory works. When "training" a neural net, i.e., teaching it, a program sets the input and output neurons to the desired states, and then fiddles with the weights of all the connections in between to ensure that the input will trigger the given output. What's amazing is that, with the proper algorithm, a completely different association can be trained, without obliterating the original one. It is much like developing a polynomial equation that will have just the roots you want. The weights on the neurons, when tuned appropriately, can associate an input with any output. Therefore, memory exists merely in the nature of the connections.
There are limits to memory, of course. With a neural net containing 64 neurons and using a very simple algorithm, only three associations can be encoded. What happens when four or more trainings take place is that the earliest memories are distorted in favor of later knowledge. This shines light on the validity of childhood memories, doesn't it?
Neural nets lead to the idea of associative memories. Consider the input neurons are your eyes, and the output neurons are connected to your autonomic nervous system. You see two ominously glowing eyes in the dark, and before you can consciously think about it, your heart is beating faster. Instinct. Preprogrammed neurons. Somewhere there is a strong connection between glowing eyes and the fight-or-flight response. Your mind already knows it's a good idea to be afraid of glowing eyes, since they might be connected to a brain which thinks a hairless prostrate beast is good food.
Realizing that the sensory organs are effectively input-only neurons, and that muscles are controlled by output-only neurons, as in the neural net, you can see that the whole brain may operate simply by taking in sensations and exhibiting physical reactions. Makes you feel like an automaton, doesn't it?
The neural net paradigm is inherently limited on the computer. It is not feasible to have brain-sized neural networks on modern computers. First of all, the memory requirements are staggering -- the brain contains on the order of a ten billion neurons, with approximately fifty thousand connections each. Even using two bits of accuracy for the weights of the connections, this brain would require 112 terabytes of RAM. Also, executing this algorithm just once would surely take years on a serial computer. Parallel computers, containing upwards of a hundred processors, exist nowadays, but would only cut the workload down a hundred-fold. The brain, however, exists in real-time, and all the neurons can work simultaneously, something computers are not meant to do. And, the neurons, working on the atomic level, are fast and small. Biology clearly has technology beat in this simulation.
Any fantasies about mind-uploading must be postponed. But given the rate of technological expansion, only until about, say, 2012.
Given that neurons can make decisions and store memories, how does learning occur? At the basic neuron, learning is a process of altering synaptic connection strengths, allowing an incoming impulse to have a different effect upon the neuron. Where a synapse may have provided an excitatory input, it may be changed to an inhibitory, or otherwise.
During development, the DNA gives instructions for building the brain. The deepest, most primitive levels are hard-wired for feeding and reproduction, motor skills, lust, disgust, heartbeat. The cerebral cortex is built out of the aforementioned billions of neurons, connected in a highly structured way. Presumably, the synaptic strengths between the neurons are all the same, since an infant seems to be a "blank slate" rather than an utterly confused sack of quivering bones and blood. Again, it's all semantics. Throughout life, the brain learns, and learns well. But how?
Currently, it is believed that simply activating two neurons strengthens its synaptic connections. This is the Hebb learning rule. Consider learning a foreign language. At the beginning, you will glance over the first page in the "ruski yazik" and comprehend nothing, not even the letters. Then, in learning the alphabet, the words will seem to make sense, if only in the fact that you understand the letters and what they sound like. In learning the vocabulary, you may mix up two words, but in purposely memorizing their meanings, the confusion goes away. All this, due to neurons being activated.
Over time, however, connections fade without stimulation. This can be due either to ionic leaking (the electrochemistry of the neuron involves ion balances) or to learning new things that, like mentioned above, obfuscate older memories. Consider the process of forgetting, or of relearning. These are obvious analogs to the neural mechanism. This is why you cannot consciously forget -- the act of consciously remembering "X" to forget "X" cancels out your efforts. This is also why memories fade. Unless you consciously relive your past months and years, you will forget things. But reading a page from a diary will seem so familiar, because the connections are still there, and restrengthened by remembering.
But this is really high-level learning. What about classical conditioning? Why did Pavlov's dog salivate at the bell? Why do students jump at the bell? Why did Poe cringe at the bells? Consider the neural pathways. The first time you hear a bell, it is a novel and beautiful sound. The pathway your mind happened to follow, from auditory "ding" to intellectual "aaah," is activated, and therefore strengthened, by that event.
What about the bell tower you're looking at? If you only heard the bell once and weren't paying attention, perhaps it means nothing that you were looking at a bell tower. But when the bell rings again, your mind trained to hear it, you instantly realize that it must have come from the bell tower. A new kind of learning has taken place. Look -- the "bell" pathway was activated, and the "bell tower" pathway was activated. If Hebb is right, this means that "bell" and "bell tower" are now associated in your mind, however weakly at first. Hearing a bell may conjure up an image of a bell tower, and vice versa. Each time you see a bell tower and hear a bell -- or, every time you imagine that a bell tower indeed causes a bell sound -- the association is strengthened and learning becomes permanent.
Some people may have first heard the bell sound associated with a dinner bell. For them, "bell" may be associated with food, rather than a bell. Intellectually, they may be able to comprehend that the bell is not food, and that there could be food without a bell, but the association will exist until the person forgets it. This may require a complete isolation from situations in which bells signify dinner, i.e., moving away from Pavlov.
Consider the ramifications of this. Your mind learns simply by perceiving two or more events together. Sounds simplistic, doesn't it? Indeed it does. In schools, we are taught the principle of causality, which allows us to defeat our minds' tendency to associate all simultaneous events with each other. Thinking back to Hebb's rule, you can see how troublesome learning can be -- when any association in the mind, such as "an unused faucet provides only cold water" or "cars stop when you press the brake" or "formal writing is necessarily true" is reinforced, you tend to take it for absolute fact until provided with alternative possibilities. This is, of course, habituation.
In a lot of cases, this is helpful, especially when you consider our evolutionary past, when searching for food and defending yourself from predators was important, and predictable. We did not evolve in a society with other creatures as crafty as we were, so we didn't need to have a "think twice" feature in our brains. Snakes would bite you and some would poison you; it didn't make sense for the primeval apeman to regard an oncoming slithery beast and wonder, "Hmm, will this particular snake want to bite me? Let's see." The current design is better -- if you witness someone suffering from a snakebite, or if you learn that snakes are poisonous, or if you get bitten yourself, then the first association in your mind is "snakes are poisonous"; later, this can be amended: "Joey's snake doesn't bite at all."
What about the first time you encounter a snake in your bedroom? You always knew snakes appeared in tall grass or in trees, but not in your bedroom. What gives? Why does this surprise you? This brings up another issue -- what does the mind do with all the input it's receiving while learning? All else aside, you probably consider the snake and the tall grass to be part of the same association -- snakes appear in tall grass; tall grass harbors snakes. This was apparently learned at the same time that you learned that snakes are poisonous. Remember, the sources of "input" for the human include billions of nerve cells in the skin, the intricate array of rods and cones in the eye, the chemical receptors in the nose and tongue; inner ear balances, blood-sugar detectors in the brain, et cetera: this makes for a very complex set of interactions. The signals on each of these inputs affects how you learn. Ever wondered why you take tests better in the classroom you learned in? The environment and the subject matter interact to affect your learning. This is the reason for "environment-dependent learning," where you may learn a particular skill while drunk and not be able to replicate it sober.
What sensory inputs you take into account during learning are directly related to what you think is important, though. The neural pathways must be active in order to be reinforced. This is why you probably don't associate a taste with your computer, unless you're particularly sensitive to EMF or you're some sort of pervert.
A topic I've alluded to is differentiation, also at the heart of learning, which biologically is the process whereby the strength of connections between certain neurons change. The ability to recognize the difference between different types of snakes is differentiation. The ability to distinguish a bell sound from a clanging sound is differentiation.
Consider the possibility that everything you now know was learned by adjusting the reaction to the first thing you ever learned. In other words, the "tabula rasa" (blank slate) theory. What if everything you believed and did revolved around something that occurred in the womb? It's not an absurd idea. Psychologists understand very well that early-life experiences are vital for proper adult functioning -- namely, attaching to one's parents, learning language, and forming proper human relationships. You can see that this is because the infant brain is "undeveloped" and is prime for learning.
Does this then mean that everything in your mind is related? Could you draw a tree for your mind, starting from your first association, with a branch for each differentiation you devised from then on? If the neural theory and Hebb's rule have any validity, this should be possible, although a graph might be a more appropriate structure (I don't know if any neurons ever connect to themselves through any sort of path in the brain).
The tabula rasa theory is flawed in one significant way, however, which Jung pointed out, and which biologists already knew: Instinct exists. Archetypes exist. Everyone experiences the same set of basic emotions and ideas. From a modern viewpoint, a large part of this shared humanity is genetic. The DNA codes instructions for the basic processes like sexual attraction, fear, curiosity, and anger in the more primitive sections of the brain; the earliest learning feeds off the interaction between the environment and these structures.
Is this an absurd idea? I don't think so. Can anyone explain fear or anger? What differentiates these? They both evoke similar physiological responses, but we know they're not the same. Why does one thing evoke fear, while another evokes anger? Knowing whether you can defeat that thing? Maybe. I suggest that those basic processes that people cannot explain are indeed hard-wired into the brain through archetypes or genetics, and are therefore beyond explanation. Perhaps the "a priori" really exists after all.
Where do "slips of the tongue" come from? Are these really results of Freudian battles between the id and the superego? Why the hell does that stop sign conjure up the image of a monkey? Why are LSD and marijuana so interesting? All these can be clarified when you consider the neurological perspective.
First off, the brain is an electrochemical factory; all the neurons and nerve cells are made specifically to transmit electrical impulses. Besides the myelin sheaths on nerve cells, "leaks" occur. So, occasionally, depending on your nutrition, some electrical signals will cross over to other neurons, triggering random thoughts. These random thoughts are, of course, limited by physical scope. This explains why it's not often that you appear to see sounds; instead, you may see the wrong thing, since the centers of sight and hearing are separated in the brain.
Slow thinking and sharp thinking are likewise affected by biology. Sodium and potassium ions are the means by which neurons fire, so lack or excess of either of these chemicals will affect thinking. Any sort of nutritional deficiency can affect it.
Psychedelic drugs are interesting because they don't merely cross signals or impede them; instead, they affect the synapses of neurons. A more detailed picture of neural interaction: inert neurotransmitter chemicals exist in the synapses, and when a neuron fires behind it, the chemicals are converted into a signal-carrying form, thereby passing on the signal. After a signal has been passed on, the neurotransmitters are converted back into their inert form. Psychedelic drugs affect this conversion process. LSD in particular inhibits the conversion of the neurotransmitter back into the inert form, so that any impulses activating a synapse remain in effect much longer than usual. This creates a "thought salad" whereby, for example, an image may be perceived as a related image, depending on what the user is thinking about (hence the reason I tend to imagine seeing a lot of police cars when tripping in public). In ordinary functioning, the neural connections to the related images are too weak to be conjured up; but with LSD, any of them may be a candidate. The emotional distress LSD may cause is intimately related with what the user expects and believes about LSD (set) and the environment the user is in (setting). Self-fulfilling prophecies are especially potent.
With ideas about the brain's functioning in hand, social issues pop up. What can we do about education in the world? What about child care? What about basic ethics and objectivity?
An important factor in education is one's receptivity to learning. Wanting to learn is very important. It is when the student is concentrating on what's being taught and trying to integrate it with other concepts (i.e., finding the best neural pathways with which to associate the new information). Having a closed mind is very effective -- telling yourself that you'll ignore anything you don't believe will work; also, simple inattention defeats learning as well. Unfortunately, the institutionalized setting of modern education provokes the latter mindset.
Child care, aside from the obvious issues of feeding and physical protection, is a thorny issue as well. People learn a lot through observation; if a child is raised by a bad babysitter or by television, he almost certainly will learn different things than what his parents would like him to. Whatever side you take on the issue, the important thing to notice is that children aren't being raised in homogenous, highly controlled environments anymore (though, if this was ever the case is questionable).
Given this, you can see that the means of passing on culture has become fragmented and distorted. What citizens used to learn in school, the home, or the state church is now being learned from multiple religious viewpoints (or none at all), the movie theater, the novel, the comic book, and the arcade as well. Not to mention the impact that radical individuality has on what one chooses to believe. Think about how long it's taken people to create a society based on individuality, a premise highly threatening to the conformity that culture demands. Think about how long such a tension between the demands of the individual and the group can last. (And if you don't, I'll sue you for emotional damages.)
Questions about absolute morality have come hand-in-hand with the Enlightenment and radical individuality: can everyone be treated under the same moral code? Considering the sheer randomness involved in neural learning (i.e., how one thought or concept relates to another), it seems impossible that everyone can see eye-to-eye on all topics. The differences in people's brains might lead you to consider that ethical solipsism isn't as invalid as previously thought -- people may indeed wonder, "Am I the only one who sees this? Am I the only one who thinks like this?"
Understanding some facets of the brain's functioning is liberating, as it allows you to take more control over what you learn, not to mention over how you understand other people. We live in very "interesting" times, with big changes in religion, society, government, and personal liberty sure to come; rather than taking this as a curse, we should consider it exciting.
trans. Stacy Diamond
(New York: Citadel, 1996) 179 + xxii pp., $9.95
The great works of the French Decadence -- or the most famous ones, at least -- have long been readily available in English. Huysmans's A Rebours was brought out in a Penguin edition in 1959, for example, and Dover brought a 1920s translation of La-Bas back into print in 1972. New Directions has been printing Baudelaire's poetry in English since at least 1947, and Citadel itself published the collection Baudelaire Rimbaud Verlaine: Selected Verse and Prose Poems back in 1947. Unfortunately, despite the availability to those who know where to look, and the unquestioned genius of Decadence's greatest authors, the French Decadence is largely unknown and unread in contemporary America. Almost everyone has heard of Rimbaud and Baudelaire, but few have read them.
Fortunately, this is beginning to change. Citadel brought the above collection back into print in 1993. Atlas Press has been printing some of the works, particularly of Huysmans, and making available others, though apparently more for their influence on the later Symbolist and Surrealist schools than for the inherent worth of the Decadence. In 1992, Hector Zazou brought together many musicians to set Rimbaud's work to music, as The Cure had earlier done to Baudelaire in their song "How Beautiful You Are..." Doing the most to revive Decadence, of course, is Dedalus, with its excellent Decadence from Dedalus series.
Into this recent resurgence Citadel brings a new translation of Baudelaire's book, Artificial Paradises. First published in 1860, and printed by Citadel in its new translation this year, it was released just three years after The Flowers of Evil had made Baudelaire known as a connoisseur of the forbidden. In Artificial Paradises he explores opium and hashish. Neither opium nor hashish (incidentally, the hashish Baudelaire is concerned with is not merely marijuana, but a mixture that included opium) were unknown in Europe at this time, and there were a great many addicts of opium, especially in the form of laudanum. These addicts, though, generally used opiates for medicinal purposes, and the recreational use of drugs was a rather new pastime for Europeans. At the time Baudelaire was writing, it had been adopted as a new thing to try among certain sectors of the literary elite. Baudelaire himself used both, although for the most part he does not speak first hand of opium, letting De Quincey speak through him. (More on De Quincey later.)
This edition opens with a new introduction by the translator and editor, Stacy Diamond, which, together with the endnotes, helps set the work in time and space. The introduction introduces both Baudelaire and Artificial Paradises, and for the quotes from Baudelaire and contemporaries alone it is worthwhile. (The endnotes are marked by asterisks in the text, but are at the end of the volume to avoid confusion with the footnotes of Baudelaire himself, which appear at the bottoms of the pages.) Following this is the 1851 essay "On Wine and Hashish", included to show the development of the first part of Artificial Paradises, which draws considerably on the earlier work.
Artificial Paradises itself is divided into two parts, "The Poem of Hashish" and "An Opium Eater". The first is a reworking and expansion of the hashish section of the earlier essay. The second is less an original writing than a kind of reworked translation, even an extended book review, of Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater.
Baudelaire is well known for his work with Edgar Allen Poe. He introduced Poe to France, and his translations -- with some rewriting on Baudelaire's part -- are said to read even better than the originals. This is essentially the same effect Baudelaire has with De Quincey. This Englishman is well known for his work, which is available in innumerable editions and is very -- and justly -- famous. Baudelaire had proposed a translation, but due to space constraints and his own initiative, Artificial Paradises resulted. It ended as a melange of Confessions of an English Opium Eater, De Quincey's never completed sequel Suspiria de Profundis, and Baudelaire's commentary. Having read both Baudelaire and De Quincey, this reviewer can say they are quite different. Baudelaire tells, in effect, the same story with a different perspective. For someone looking for plot twists and novel occurrences, reading both would be a disappointment. For someone interested in literature, it is no such thing.
On the other hand, recreational drug use is far less shocking or novel today than it was almost a century and a half ago. One wonders if Baudelaire would have bothered writing Artificial Paradises today. The writing is poetic and worth reading, but cannot be said to be the most worthwhile of his work. For the serious aficionado of the Decadence, having read both De Quincey and Baudelaire is likely a requirement. For the newcomer to Decadence, it is more likely to turn off anyone without a bizarre fixation on drug use. Baudelaire's poetry, especially his prose poetry, come more highly recommended.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is an obvious -- and thoroughly Decadent -- point most modern enthusiasts of drugs seem to miss. Drugs simply are not for everyone. Indeed, Baudelaire takes only an interest in the effects on the best of men, the most poetic and philosophic of minds. For the masses, he has barely a few lines, and they usually read something along the lines of:
But there are others in whom the drug [in this case hashish] raises only a raucous madness, a violent merriment resembling vertigo, which brings on dancing, jumping and wild laughter. These individuals have, so to speak, a completely physical hashish. They are intolerable to the spiritualists [those of a poetic and philosophic temperament], who profoundly pity them. Their vile personalities can give rise to scandal. (page 23)At its essence, like Confessions of an English Opium Eater, indeed like all the true Decadence, Artificial Paradises is a thoroughly moral book.
As stated, the book is well worth cost and reading time for someone interested in Baudelaire. The notes and introduction appear well researched, and, perhaps more important, the book itself is finely printed and excellently bound. Save an odd tendency in this copy to drop periods here and there, it is fairly flawless. It may not command the first place on one's reading list, but nonetheless ought to be on it.
*** Message (#1) from [username withheld] at 00:54 *** >I really love it when you wear the diaper for me. I just love to fantasize >that you're 2 years old! Makes me hard! OH, yes!
This article will present some useful tips for combating the influenza epidemic that is likely to hit you this year. Estimates are that, during this winter, around 10 or 20 percent of people will come down with the standard symptoms -- fever, chills, sore throat, cough, and muscle aches. One surefire way to avoid it:
This "flu" thing is a disturbing trend. Every year I hear reports about the virus "morphing" into new shapes, just to hurt you. Bullshit! Here's God's honest truth, that even He would love for you to know: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THE FLU. Not at all!
The flu has reportedly been around for quite some time, hasn't it? One would think so by all the whining, aching, and moaning we've all gotten used to. In the past, flu was something very different, although its origins were believed to be the same ("influenza" means, literally, "that which flew in, i.e., the mouth"). Besides the means of transmission, in the olden days, flu caused "catastrophic windfalls, torrents of rain and muck, and general spinning about" . Sound anything like today's "flu," people?
Of course not! The flu virus was successfully captured and jailed in 1929 by Dr. Wolfgang McGarr. Every schoolchild knows this historic tale, about how he started off his day exhibiting the classic symptoms of influenza, how he spun out of bed to head for the tub and close the windows, and how he decided 'I've had enough of this shite!' and captured the virus by heroically spitting in his hands and transferring the resulting material to a test tube, and how within three marvelous days he had succumbed to the flu, but how within his test tube was the killer, and how humankind was saved .
Since then, there has been no flu! None at all! What the popular liberal press describes nowadays as being the flu is merely the common cold. Would it sound scaaaaaary enough if the news reports ballyhooed the deadly "common cold virus?" Hayl no! Who wants to be a commoner? Everyone's apparently a God nowadays, by the way I hear it.
After Dr. McGarr died for the flu, there immediately came about in America a replacement illness -- depression. Still with us today is this phoney illness, although it was considered eradicated in the eighties. This fake illness was associated with the symptoms, "hunger, exhaustion, negative outlook on the future, and profusion of apple carts" . Yeah, reeks of the past, doesn't it?
But depression was outlawed in the late 1980's, so Americans had to scurry for something new to be sick about. Hence came the retro '20's retrovirus, influenza, back into popular longing. First it was the high school kids, always ahead of the mainstream in marking out the new fad-ways. "I just figgered, hey, what th' hell, we studied it in health class," modestly relates Stu Chicken, the flu's modern revitalizer. He came to school one day, imitating flu symptoms -- muscle pain, chills, fever, cough. His utter lack of accuracy is a black eye for our school system. The fact that the nation blindly followed his lead is another black eye, although darker and painfuller.
"They just let us all go home," Chicken recounts gleefully, "but then, since everyone in the school was sick, and we had to have our 180 days of education..." You know the rest. So was home-schooling started. Doesn't it seem strange or coincidental that the "flu," home-schooling, and the pitiful state of education are all important national issues? Probably not. I know a lot of you out there don't bother to study history, so I have to do it for you.
C'mon, folks. Re-examine your symptoms, and understand that you only have the common cold. Medicine companies are getting rich off of your ignorance! But if you're still sure that, against the plain evidence of scientific facts, that you have the flu, try my favorite remedy: a kick in the ass!
It is difficult to live in a family that consists of two alcoholic parents, one manic depressive, the other abusive, a brother who is a seventeen-year-old drug dealer who refuses to go to school and ran-away from home, and a twelve year old sister who you have no clue what teenage rebellious acts lie ahead for. And here you are, leaving your life as a teenager and entering the land of the twenty-something generation, already been through defiant age, now able to step back and look at the problems of the family as a whole and individually, still knowing very well you have problems to resolve yourself, and what are you supposed to do?
Your father recently had a heart attack due to "extreme stress," according to the medical professionals. Of course, you were not told this until he had been in the hospital for two days already, when you came home one evening and your mother casually said, "Oh, by the way, your father is in the hospital," followed with, "you should get your brother to go see him to calm him down." You know this means she thinks it is your brother's fault, although she doesn't come right out and say it.
You are the only one who talks to your brother since he left three weeks ago, although before then you never talked to him at all. Now you are forming somewhat of a bond, getting closer together, and what is the thing that is being used as a tool to do this? Drugs and family problems. You've been there before, you know how your parents act, you still understand why your brother acts and reacts certain ways. Insight which your parents seem to overlook. You started taking drugs to escape, only to broaden your mind and provide healing for yourself and those around you. He is still taking drugs to escape, and he can get you drugs to broaden your mind, so you are guilt-ridden.
You come home one evening, after taking a tab of ecstasy thirty minutes beforehand, and sit on the couch to converse with your parents while casually watching television. Time passes, and the drug starts to kick in. Your mother then mentions, "If you happen to talk to your brother, tell him I am very disappointed that he didn't call or come by yesterday." This is the third time she's said this to you in the past 24 hours, and so you reply quite calmly, "Mother, that is not my fault."
At this point in time she gets very defensive, and flat out states your father's heart attack was your brother's fault, among other rude, offensive comments about your brother -- which you have had to put up with for the past week, by the way. You attempt to explain to her that she can not blame your father's heart attack on him. Even if it is correct, she can not approach it like that, and will make matters worse for everyone if she does.
Also, she is drunk.
You attempt to explain to her teenage behavior, acts of rebelliousness, breaking free from the parents to form one's own mind and life. You try to explain that you did the same exact things - maybe not exactly to the tee, but the same type of things. You were an alcoholic, he is/was a drug addict. You've tried to commit suicide a few times, and he hasn't. However, your mother disagrees with you completely, saying nothing like that every happened to you when you were growing up. You try to remind her of living here for the past ten years. She refuses to believe any of it, even though you know it, your siblings know it, and most of your friends know it. So you start wondering if the problem actually lies with your brother.
This continues and escalates into your mother sobbing about how she has tried everything and everything has failed. You try to explain about stepping back from problems, because people become too emotionally attached and can't understand what exactly they are doing. She takes this personally, after twisting some words around, yelling something to the effect of, "So I should just give up on him? Is that what you think? Don't accuse me of."
She trails off as she puts her head into her hands and then starts yelling at your father, who just recently had a heart attack due to extreme stress, and is supposed to reach the pinnacle of relaxation at this time in his life so he will not die, and starts yelling at him, telling him to listen and talk to you.
Your father tells your mother to shut up and tells you a story of an event a week ago, when he went to take the car keys away from your brother and your brother refused. He finally got the keys from him, searched the car, found a little more than a quarter-bag of pot and flushed it. This pot was not your brother's, it was pot that was already sold -- money had already exchanged hands. Your father tells you that your brother then said he was going to kill him. But nothing ever happened. You are not sure whether to believe this, because you know your father's temper, especially after he has been drinking. In fact, a month ago your father said he was going to kill you and chased you down the block to do so. You contemplate explaining to your father that those confrontations have occurred with everyone in the family over the past ten years, so it is nothing abnormal, but you don't want to take the chance of upsetting him.
You try to explain things further to your mother, but she just turns her head and walks out of the room while you are in mid-sentence. Your father eventually gets up and wander out to the kitchen where your mother is and you overhear her sobbing more and mumbling about her "fucking kids," and how everyone always blames her. You stay in the living room and talk to your sister, hoping she won't overhear it, although you know she does. After ten minutes or so they wander back into the room, completely dropping the subject and moving on with their lives.
But after five minutes, your mother asks your sister where her sweat pants were to put in the laundry, and your sister replies, "Right here on the couch like they have always been. Didn't you wash them?" And your mother says they weren't there before, but you know they were because you saw them, and the mumbles about your sister being "a little shit."
After all this, you have come to the conclusion that your mother is the one who needs therapy, not your brother. But, how are you going to convince her of that?
"The poets? They stink. They write badly. They're idiots you see, because the strong people don't write poetry.... They become hitmen for the Mafia. The good people do the serious jobs."
The sand is scorching her feet
Confused and alone
The water crashes onto the beach
The only sign of life left in the world
It is all gone; everything is gone
Man's ultimate nemesis has won the war
We were oblivious to it's power and it went feared by few
Until the nemesis destroyed itself
And left her holding the only beating heart in the entire world
The memory of the light haunts her
The blinding flash that lasted only long enough
To set fear and realization into the souls of man
And the blast that destroyed it all
All but her. One girl left alone to rebuild life
To rebuild the nemesis
She can't do it. Her feet hurt so much
So confused; So alone
She was glad when the blackness came
She slept for eternity. And with her went the world
This world is not right.
And it molds me
I try to resist
But the fingers knead my brain
The confusion hurts
It encages my sanity
Let it go
I don't want to be here any more
But there is no where else to go
Except the afterlife.
Whatever the hell that is
Free minds have disappeared
Searching is futile
They live within the wires
Like a marionette
The wires control me
No matter how much I squirm
They will always hold me
I don't want to be here any more
I have nothing left,
My sanity is gone
My mind is controlled
I have no freedom
The thought of future sends waves of horror
Pulsating through my blood
The hatred and the hunger
The lack of life
I can see Soylent Green bodies
Ingested by the moronic public
Stopping at nothing for one more taste
Of their loves deceased.
Wherever it belongs
Here, my mind rots
I will waste away into nothing
Until I am just another clone of this world
This world that is not right.
"So, what did you do last night?" Rob asked.
"Heh. I watched Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn on cable," I replied.
Rob grimaced. "Can't say I've had the pleasure to see that. Oh, darn."
"Hey, don't knock it. It's got Richard Moll and Tim Thomerson."
"Tim Thomerson? Who's that?"
"Dollman! He's Dollman! He's a thirteen inch cop with an attitude!"
"Uh, Gray, you watch some really stupid movies."
"And I love em, too. Who needs high brow, artsy movies all the time? Of course, there is a fine line between bad and boring. Stuff like Independence Day and any John Grishman film are simply inept filmmaking. The movies I like are really inept, so bad that they are funny."
Rob sighed. "And now you're going to bring up Ed Wood, right?"
"Why not?" I asked, shrugging. "He's certainly the most infamous bad director out there: Plan 9 From Outer Space, Glen or Glenda, Orgy of the Dead, and others."
"Hey, I saw that Orgy of the Dead flick. I never thought it would be so boring to watch twelve dancing naked ladies."
"But that's the whole point. It's bad, and that's what I like. Who else do you know could sit through Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time? Multiple viewings, even?"
"Jeez, Gray, you are one goofy guy. Why don't you have a life?"
I stood up. "I do too have a life. It's just a little different than everybody else's."
"I think you need to go out more."
"Maybe. But I can't go out tonight, cuz they're showing Master of the Flying Guillotine, and I definitely can't miss that."
"So, Rob, have fun last night?" I asked.
"Definitely, Gray. Man, I went to this party, and I usually don't participate in these types of activities, but someone had some pot there, so I got high."
"You know if you're high and it's light outside, you'll look at the sun and go blind," I warned.
"Wrong, bucko," Rob retorted. "That's LSD. LSD makes you do that goofy stuff, like jumping out of windows in tall buildings. Didn't you see that ABC Afterschool special with Helen Hunt?"
"She wasn't on LSD. She was on PCP. Angel Dust, ya know? There was even a Quincy, M.E. episode about that. They showed a film of some guy breaking handcuffs off of his wrists, and he didn't feel any pain at all."
"Wow. Sounds pretty serious. Guess I should stay away from that stuff."
"You oughta stay away from all drugs, Rob. They make you go bonkers. Didn't you listen in D.A.R.E. class when we were in school?"
"Oh, those people don't know anything. They just want to keep us from having some fun. Besides, I've got the Internet as my information guide."
"And I'm sure everything you read that tells you that drugs are okay comes from highly respected scientists."
"Well, no, but--"
"Could it be that the people writing this stuff are already whacked upside the head, and everything they are telling you is wrong?"
"Drugs make you do strange things, Rob, and they make you want to do bad things, like rape white women and steal televisions and eat lots of tortillas when the munchies hit. Could it be that they are out to get you? To turn you into a druggie like them?"
"Oh my god. You must be right. How could I have been so stupid? Thanks, Gray."
"No problem," I grinned. "That's what friends are for."
"I'm never going to touch that stuff again. So, what did you do last night?"
"I took twelve Drixoral cough tablets."
"Wow, you musta had a really bad cough."
"Yeah, Rob. That's it."
I looked up. "Hi, Rob. Get back from your shopping spree?"
"Yeah, and look at all this cool stuff I got. First, I went down to the music store and bought some CDs."
"What did you get?"
"Well, I finally got the Alanis Morrisette album. I really dig that chick."
"Ugh. Strike number one. What else?"
He fumbled around in his bag. "Umm, lessee. Here's the No Doubt album, the new Snoop tape, and the Wallflowers."
"I don't think California has a four strikes law, but there oughta be. Have you heard of something called good taste?"
"Excuse me? This from the man that has a coloring book called Cute Little Bunny in Bumland where Jesus gets a blowjob and Santa is crucified while Mrs. Claus gets raped? I'd like to know where you get your definition of 'good taste,' much less where your Christmas spirit is."
"We aren't talking about coloring books. We're talking about music. Are all of your tastes dictated by MTV? Which, by the way, would be quite amazing nowadays since they hardly show music videos anymore."
"Well, what music is in YOUR CD player, huh? Then we can decide who has better taste."
I leaned back and hit the eject button on my CD player. I hit the disk check button and the carousel tray spun around.
"Okay, Rob. We've got Tom Wait's Blue Valentine, a New Order compilation CD, Burke Ingraffia, Vanessa Daou's Zipless, and a Pop Will Eat Itself CD."
"Uh, I've never heard of those people. How am I supposed to know if they're good or bad?"
"There's your problem. You don't go outside of the mainstream culture to check out different music. You don't experiment. You are just spoonfed crap."
"Not everything they play on MTV is bad."
"True. I've seen them play some stuff that is just now getting popular, such as Prodigy, but it has to be pretty popular to get played on MTV. Or at least have a wide audience appeal, that is."
"But I don't always listen to popular stuff. What about all of my Marilyn Manson tapes and bootlegs?"
"Oooh, scary. Gimmick band. Next."
"You know, Gray, I don't get you. How come you're the one whose tastes in everything are always right? How come you think you know everything?"
"Because I do. Simple as that."
"Dude, what's kickin'?" I asked.
Rob was relaxed on the couch. "Just looking through the new Victoria Secrets catalog. I'm looking for something for Ashley."
"Uh, do I need to remind you that you two broke up months ago?"
"Well, no, but that doesn't mean I can't look at lingerie for her."
"That's a little bit twisted. Why don't you just admit you want to look at scantily clad women?"
"Nice lingerie," Rob mumbled, staring down at the magazine. "Nice body. Nice body wearing nice lingerie."
I clapped my hands and Rob glanced up. "If you're going to drool, maybe you'd like me to leave."
He put the magazine down. "No, that's okay. I'll find something for her later. It is almost her birthday, you know."
"Lingerie from the ex-boyfriend is not my idea of a good gift."
"Well, what would you suggest getting her?"
"How about nothing? She did cheat on you, remember? Well, you cheated on her too, but she got caught first. Why don't you forget about her?"
"I should send her something."
"How about one of those crappy CDs you bought yesterday?"
"Hey, would you lay off that subject? I'm getting tired of hearing about how my tastes suck."
"Okay, fine. What else about you would you like me to make fun of?"
"Actually, maybe you should go now. I've got some stuff I need to do."
"Will do," I said, heading for the door. "Have fun."
"Hello," I greeted.
"Yo, Gray," Rob answered. "What are we doing tonight? It's Friday."
"I dunno. We could go to a club."
"No. Last time I went I got into a fight. Maybe next week."
"Okay. We could go see a movie."
"Nothing good is playing."
"Um, we could go to a nice restaurant."
"I don't have that much money."
"How about a coffeehouse? We could sit around and discuss all the problems of society instead of actually trying to fix them?"
"I quit smoking, and I can't be philosophical without cigarettes."
I scratched my head. "Hmm. Uh, we could go watch a hockey game."
"I don't like hockey."
"Okay, then. What do you want to do tonight?"
"Let's just stay in and watch TV. Maybe we'll think of something later. Should we order some pizza?"
"I guess. How come we never do anything anymore?"
"Maybe we're married and just don't know it."
"I doubt it. This isn't Hawaii."
"Does it ever seem to you like our lives are too much like some Quentin Tarantino movie?" I asked.
"What do you mean?" Rob said.
"Well, think about it. We're totally immersed in pop culture whether we like it or not, we do nothing but talk about absolutely stupid stuff, and sometimes we do drugs."
"I think we'd need guns. Without guns, it's not a Tarantino picture."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. Oh well, it was just a thought."
"Shut up and go back to sleep."
"I'm supposed to go eat with my folks today," I told Rob. "You can come if you want."
"No, that's okay. Maybe some other time."
"Alright. Are you sure?"
"Yeah. It just feels too imposing."
"My parents aren't like yours, Rob. They don't care. Really."
"I know. Like I said, some other time. I think I'm going to take a nap, and it is Sunday, after all."
"Are you implying that you are God?"
"No way. I wouldn't want to take that title away from you."
"Lordy, lordy. Okay, well, I'll be back later. Do you want me to bring any leftovers?
"Nah. I'll be okay. Bye."
--SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-- State of unBeing is copyrighted (c) 1996 by Kilgore Trout and Apocalypse Culture Publications. All rights are reserved to cover, format, editorials, and all incidental material. All individual items are copyrighted (c) 1996 by the individual author, unless otherwise stated. This file may be disseminated without restriction for nonprofit purposes so long as it is preserved complete and unmodified. Quotes and ideas not already in the public domain may be freely used so long as due recognition is provided. State of unBeing is available at the following places: CYBERVERSE 512.255.5728 14.4 TEENAGE RiOt 418.833.4213 14.4 NUP: COSMIC_JOKE THAT STUPID PLACE 215.985.0462 14.4 ftp to ftp.io.com /pub/SoB World Wide Web http://www.io.com/~hagbard/sob.html Submissions may also be sent to Kilgore Trout at <email@example.com>. The SoB distribution list may also be joined by sending email to Kilgore Trout. --SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB--