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Stuff and Things

Procrastination means that I am looking through drafts that go back years and years, which led me to discover this photo-post from last summer which got forgotten about. Last summer, we got chickens. 11 chickens, to be precise. 10 hens and one very, very testosterone-ridden rooster. They are my absolute favorite things in the world and really the main reason I can’t wait to be home is that I miss them like hell. So here they are.

So I took a science class last spring. An actual, honest-to-God science class. With p-sets. And math. And things.

It was sort of a soft-astrophysics class. And if you’re wondering how on earth astrophysics can be made “soft,” well the answer is it can’t really be and the class was very hard (though not as hard, of course, as an astrophysics class that hadn’t masqueraded as soft). In the end, I scraped an A, mostly because I got away with de-sciencing the final project by convincing someone to let me write a science-fiction short story, rather than design an experiment or go to a local elementary school to try and soften quantum theory even further.

The end product was an eighteen-page romp through a future Pasadena, peppered with fancy jargon (which I understood when I wrote this and since have completely forgotten), which did its absolute best to make it look like I actually understood the theoretical science I was using to send my maniacal antiques dealer through to a parallel universe. The result is absolutely ridiculous; I lifted heavily from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (explanations turn into a whole lot of handwaving at crucial moments) and the tone I struck sounds somewhat like a weak parody of the 40s and 50s scifi I love so much shot through with a good dose of wannabe-Douglas Adams.

I reread this yesterday while doing anything I could to avoid writing a paper on Tennyson’s Idylls of the King and, since it’s been long enough that its ridiculousness makes me laugh rather than cringe, here it is.

(Let it be noted that, since this was a final for a science class, I wrote it in the science library, which definitely legitimates my entire project.)

“Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory does not understand it.” Niels Bohr, 1927

“Nobody understands quantum theory.” Richard Feynman, 1967

Inter-state

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Elgin stopped scrolling—he’d read enough. Owen had done it. All those years of trial and error in a Caltech basement (well, Elgin wasn’t really sure whether it was a basement. Owen was probably important enough to have an office or a lab or whatever it was physicists had) hadn’t been for nothing and he’d done it. This could—no this would—change everything. Read More

1.

I met a man in the street today whose collar was turned up even though there was no wind. I did not nod to him, but pushed my left index finger through the hole in my left coat pocket and kept walking.

I think that’s all.

2.

Most people are good people until they are given the opportunity to go bad. This reminds me of an aunt who died last year alone in her apartment. They only noticed because the neighbors complained of the smell. The aunt had rotted because she had been given the opportunity.

3.

When not speaking, keep your mouth shut.

4.

“Lyuba!” cried the undertaker.

“Elena!” cried the baker.

“Kchkch!” cried Irina, raising the doorknob.

Behind the fence Serge drank the goat’s milk and listened to the thwacking.

April 18, 2017

5.

Matvei ate peas from a spoon.

The children’s grandmother peeked out from behind the curtains.

The goat in the garden bleated.

The sun went down.

Andrei waited in the dark.

Mice squeaked and Arseni died. Read More

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Hughie O’Donaghue, Long-Legged Fly, in response to Yeats’ “Long-Legged Fly.”

Each stanza of Yeats’ “Long-Legged Fly” opens with the same word, “that,” carrying all the force of “in order that.” Immediately, just in this one word, we feel that something tremendously important is at stake, even before Yeats conjures the images of what’s at stake for us (partly through the incantation-like repetition of “that”): a sinking of civilization, the burning towers of Troy, the onslaught of sexual awareness in young girls. It’s easy to read the poem as an analysis of the cycles of civilization, the role of the individual in history, and of the creative moment. In the first stanza, a general saves civilization in a great battle, in the second civilization is destroyed by a woman and the love men bear for her face, and in the third it’s rebuilt through art and sexuality. Each stage is depicted through a single great figure, around which history narrows to a point, before it opens up again, having for a moment been one with their action. History, in this vision, is defined by these great figures—generals, lovers, and artists—who tower above the rest of us in their importance. And yet, in the long view of history, these people (all of whom seem to fall under the umbrella of “creative” in Yeats’ mind) are as but flies in contact with the ever-flowing stream that is simultaneously the stream of history and a timeless source of creative power. For each of these people—in the moments they are depicted—to access this creative power and accomplish what they must, silence and solitude are necessary. The fly becomes a metaphor for the artist: connected and yet separate, suspended on the surface by long spindly legs, but not actually in the stream. The creative moment, in this vision, is one profoundly important, upon which the very fate of the world may rest, but it is also one cut off from the world by its reliance upon solitude and silence. Read More

Or, I get “interesting” with a scanner

There’s a museum in LA called the Museum of Broken Relationships which I’ve never been to, but nonetheless feel I can judge. I only bring this up because these photographs of dried corsages and boutonnieres from high school dances I made at the end of the summer strike me as something which could very well be in the same vein. They aren’t—I was experimenting with scanner photography and seized upon the nearest available interesting things to scan at well-past midnight one night. There isn’t any latent (or blatant) symbolism here. But imagine a gallery full of these, each supposedly symbolizing the demise of a high school love. Each with a little blurb about or from the person whose corsage or boutonniere it (supposedly) was. Broken relationships, dried-up high school dreams, shriveled romances. Dead flowers, dead relationships. You get the picture. John Quinn would probably love it.