Thursday, September 27, 2007

High in the Mountains

Just when the last rockets left Earth, a small group of secessionists were busy setting up base camp on Everest. The ground was littered with the garbage of a thousand previous attempts. Jerry Zajdel, team leader and former paramilitary commando, was busy with the communications array when an unexpected transmission sent him racing for the tents.

Aliens had landed.

They wished to speak to the leader.

They wished to purchase property.

How Jerry understood them was easily explained. Earth was a hot property in the solar system. At the end of the day there were not as many virgin (by the aliens estimation) planets as there had been predicted by Earth science and naturally, following the exodus of most of humanity to greener pastures, the aliens wanted a slice of Earth's pie before humanity realized how little real estate was actually left out there.

So, of course, they spoke several Earth languages, including English.

"You've got to here this!"
"Uh? Jerry?"
"They've landed and they want to talk to the leader."
"Who's that?"

Jerry, veteran of countless opportunities, knew his moment.

"Everybody get dressed!"

Running and kicking climbers out of their sleeping bags, Jerry rushed back to the radio and told the aliens possibly the most unbelievable fishing story in the history books.

He told them he was the leader.

Having no concept of lying themselves, the aliens believed him.

It was almost true anyway, most leaders had been the first to take advantage of faster than light travel. Lured by the desire to spawn whole planets under their political vision.

All that was left of humanity were the antiextraplanetary seccessionists and a few crackpots.

Jerry sold them Everest for the monetary equivalent of trillions, in any currency. His team of climbers roped into the charade by the comfortable expedient of wealth beyond their wildest dreams.

The aliens themselves were ecstatic, had they but known the metaphor, they would have said they bought the island of manhattan for a song. While they knew nothing of lying, they certainly knew the difference between cost and value.

Jerry and his team, having first refused to leave, were now eager to go.

Paradise pales when it's all you've ever known.

On a chance intercepted transmission, Jerry had staked their future.

Now the stars themselves reached out to their entrepreneurial spirt.

"What a beautiful universe," sighed his first officer, formerly Jane Simon, champion climber.

"Yes," said Jerry, before adding:

"Let's develop it."

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Ratiocinator

Eviction - originally, the physical expulsion of someone from land by the assertion of paramount title or legal proceedings

Larceny - the felonious taking and carrying away of the personal property of another, without his consent, with intent to deprive the owner of the property

Gifis, Steven H., dictionary of legal terms

One day, the entire population of the planet Earth was evicted and moved to a replica world. Not only humans, but plants and animals, down to the smallest bacteria and virus. The process was seamless and transpired over 24 hours, each section of the world disappearing under cover of night.

Earth itself was molecularized in order to feed the enormous power demands of an advanced spacefaring civilization, once the potential threat posed by humanity was removed, the rest of the solar system, including Earth's sun, was also molecularized.

This alien race had not yet fully abandoned all morality, hence, the replica. More efficiently built than an actual planet, using construction methods and materials far beyond the technology of the people of Earth, orbiting a synthetic star, in a reproduction solar system, mirroring the astronomical behaviour of it's referents in every way that modern human technology could detect.

However the economies created by the aliens were not without their costs. The replica solar system had a short lifespan, only a few thousand years.

Humanity had until then to find a way off the planet.

Humanity wasn't even trying.

Interstate Jones, a drifter, doctor of philosophy, sculptor, handyman, political lobbyist, Sunday school teacher, librarian, roughneck, soldier of fortune, attorney and beautician, studied the classifieds and noticed an opening for physics professor at the State University. Well, he reasoned, I haven't been a physicist yet, I may as well apply.

Interstate Jones, possibly the worlds' smartest man, knew how to get any job he wanted. He just walked to the University and started teaching physics to the first group of students he found. It didn't matter that they were first year pre-law students. It didn't matter that there was already a professor teaching the class. Jones just went in and did his thing and before anyone knew anything, the entire class including their law professor was taking notes on Unruh-Minkowski equations and discussing Hamiltonian operators and everyone was generally getting very excited indeed.

Jones reasoned any person of modestly above-average intelligence could be taught anything if you made things addictively fascinating. For all his intelligence, he didn't understand why everybody didn't do things that way all the time. The only person who knew the real answer to that question was so smart even Jones didn't understand her sometimes.

Little sisters can be annoying that way.

Naturally the administration discovered what was going on and sent security to stop him from trespassing.

The security guards did very well on the next quiz.

Finally, their options exhausted, University administration hired him as a tenured professor with the highest salary in the history of the school.

On Wednesday, Professor Jones and his students built the first prototype zero point energy phase space modulator.

On Thursday, Universities around the world had duplicated his results.

On Friday an Astronomy class on a field trip to the asteroid belt found carved into the side of a large asteroid something unusual, words in several languages, clearly alien.

Professor Jones had guest lectured their astronomy class on xenolinguistics after guest lecturing the tourism and hospitality students next door on n-parallel processor design and construction.

As the asteroid spun into full view outside their portholes, the entire class gasped as the meaning of the words became clear to them.

The nearest English equivalent meant: Temporary Replacement Solar System. Made in the Horse Head nebula, for questions or comments, contact...

When Interstate Jones heard about this, he shrugged, took down the contact information, sued the spacefaring alien civilization for infringement and incredibly, Jones won. It was all the more incredible because before Jones won his case for humanity, among the aliens there was no concept for court, law, lawyer, unlawful eviction, larceny, judge, jury, tort, negligence, or even legal in the human sense of the word.

A shamefaced and puzzled galaxy spanning civilization put everything back where they found it.

Jones walked out of a lecture one day and disappeared, possibly off-planet, possibly kidnapped by the government, possibly just bored with all the attention and hiding out in a log cabin in the mountains somewhere.

Lenny Vin was new to waitering. He didn't know how long either the new name or the new job would last.

Kids from the local college came here to drink bottomless coffee and study.

Recently they'd been doing incredibly well in school.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

You know the beginning, you know the middle, this is how it ends.

Fred woke up in his new apartment and switched off his alarm. The flat was much bigger than he had either use or furniture for, after years with too many things and not enough space, he'd decided to try it the other way around. The only room in the flat that looked busy and lived in was the kitchen. Spacious, not always organized, a well stocked fridge, fresh herbs on the window sill, a generous spice rack, a breakfast bar, a flat panel television in the corner and a radio; Fred spent most of the time in the kitchen. The rest of the place didn't quite seem like home yet.

But it would.

There was a radio in the kitchen, set to 97.7 fm 'tok' radio. Warsaw's first and only talk radio station. Fred kept it on most of the time. Radio gave the place a simulated life. It was the first thing he turned on in the morning and the last thing he turned off at night.

Beginnings were always delicate times.

In the enormous living room, without couch or coffee table, only piles of assorted cushions, Fred spent his hours after work reading or watching television. On the far wall, designed by him and built with the help of his friends, a shelving unit made of a single column of bricks set closer to the floorlength windows and brushed steel beams for shelves radiating across the expanse and into the far wall.

Fred was wounded by such details. At once, they hurt yet felt so good.

Sometimes while in the middle of an exciting scene in a book he was reading, Fred would look up at his bookshelf. Admire how its design belied its strength. It always looked on the verge of falling over, books, shelves, column and wall.

Sometimes when this happened he would say something to himself, his own voice would surprise him.

Few friends knew that Fred, so talkative in company, was silent as a monastery at midnight when alone.

In the evenings, not too late, Fred would turn in. Turning off 97.7 just before he went to bed. In his bedroom there was only a bed. He had resolved that his bedroom would never again have anything in it but a bed. Even though he enjoyed reading tremendously, he had consciously decided not to install a reading light.

In between waking and sleeping, Fred worked of course, and while Fred loved his career this isn't about Fred and his career, This is about Fred and his life.

About how it ends.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Nicky Thundercats versus the Pumas of war

Nicky dove as the first timed explosion rocked the pier. Splinters of wood drove into him and the shockwave knocked him off his feet into the water, he dove further to escape the heavy machine guns erupting from the dockside bunkers. Tearing away at the splinters he could reach, some as thick as a dart, he pulled himself deeper. Even underwater he heard the clumsy whup whup whup of an assault helicopter getting closer.

Nicky had to act fast. Pulling a 10 minute microlung from its velco safety sleeve at his shoulder he bit down on the rubber nipple and forced his lungs to breathe slowly. Ogladam Puma, a television fanatic, and Gram Puma, a video game addict, would not give up until they killed him.

With swift underwater strokes he quickly left the burning pier behind and reached his cache of scuba gear, just a rebreather and long fins.

Silent and invisible, he swam down deeper and headed for open water.

On the burning pier, Ogladam and Gram hoped it had been worth it. This elaborate ruse.

Nicky had it coming. The virus he unwittingly carried away from this attack, from a dart fired at the moment of the explosion, would deal with him.

It would deal with his whole operation in South America. The Outfit was finished.

Their most hated enemy, now their avenger.

The Puma brothers didn't smile. Had they been what they were not, they would have.

Monday, September 17, 2007

An open letter to everyone who complains too much composed entirely of quotations from recent movies

Everybody with a car has done it, when you feel like things are out of control, you get in your car and drive.

Nowhere in particular, just driving.

It's reassuring that you can keep a ton of metal under control when it feels like you can't keep the rest of your life that way.

It's never what's happening that's the issue, it's your reaction to what's happening.

Living your life with your face pressed up against it isn't the best way to ogle the chocolates behind the glass.

It's not disengagement, it's voluntary engagement I'm advocating.

To let that which is truly unimportant just slide.

Nobody gets respect from a torrent of sob stories.

Be an example, care but do not care.

grip tightly, let go lightly.

Carry on, stiff upper lip.

Whatever happens, as long as you're warm, dry, fed and no one is trying to kill you; relax.

Your problems are not real. They are just bad ideas.

Stop confusing conception with reality.

Stop alienating your friends and relatives with your silly behaviour.

Suck it up and get on with it.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Oulad Bou' abid (A suburb of Casablanca)

Huffrey Bogurt was a detective who recognized the irony in his name. He was a not-quite-well-known private investigator. This was important to Bogurt. He wanted to live up to his name and no further. While he did solve cases he made sure to choose ones he clearly foresaw as easily solvable.

Like the lost car keys case, oh, last week. He'd followed a hunch that lost things were always in the last place you look and he knew from years of experience that most lost objects in a house inevitably migrated to the sofa. Something to do with the seasons.

Sure enough, they were in the last place he looked, under the sofa.

Bogurt felt warm when he thought about that case.

It was nothing like the case he'd just accepted.

Somebody had lost their remote control.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Internal Dialogue

An ordinary day. In any of our heads. It could be occuring to you right now. You have thought about this before.

One night. Maxwell Mallet-Argent, an 8 year old boy, dreamt of the future. Everyone was a robot. but they looked just like ordinary people. Robots built other robots yet Maxwell knew that even as they did this, the robots didn't know that everything they did was robotic.

None of the robots in Maxwell's dream knew that they were robots or robotic in any way. Although Maxwell dreamt that he would know. But what if he was a robot too?

He dreamt that the robots suddenly remembered they were robots. He felt the change inside every robot.

But nothing in his dream changed. They still just looked like ordinary people. Whether these robots knew what they were didn't make any difference at all.

That was Maxwell's dream.