Category Archives: Nonsense

While “nonsense” is an uncommon synonym of “gimcrackery,” I use the two differently. “Nonsense” is restricted to my fantastical weirdness. “Gimcrackery,” more often, documents my (more or less truthful) struggle with the world.

“How glad I am!”

Peter was excited to visit someplace new. He milled around more excitedly than usual, bumping up against all his classmates. Down the ramp he galloped, taking in all the fresh smells and sounds. The road to the unfamiliar building was narrow and fenced closely. Peter squinted and saw someone sitting in the grass beyond the path, outside the enclosed confines in which he was walking.

“Hello!” said Peter.

“Hello,” came the distant reply.

“My name is Peter,” said Peter, “who are you?”

“I am Paul.”

“Paul, what are you doing there? Why are you outside the boundaries that we trust and know to be safe?”

“Because it’s not my lot to be there, Peter.”

“What rubbish, Paul. It’s safe in here. You get fed, you won’t get sick, and you won’t be exposed to the elements. How glad I am not to be you, Paul!”

Paul made no reply, watching as Peter rambled his way into the building. Through a grimy window, he glimpsed the path transitioning into a conveyor, feeding an enormous machine.

“Paul, you will someday grow old, grow sick, or grow weak – and then you will die in any number of ways before your time! How glad I am not to be you, Paul!” Peter trotted to the end of the path and stopped walking as the conveyor took up his motion.

The machine belched black smoke out its top and gushed red waves out the bottom, moaning and groaning like a vengeful spirit. Peter did not notice his that his classmates were one by one entering the machine but not obviously emerging from it.

“Paul, life is good like this! How glad I am not to be you, Paul!” Shadow fell over Peter as he was swept whole into the machine.

“How glad I am not to be you, Paul!” and Peter said no more.

Paul made no reply, bowing his head.

158

We the people jointly accept a death tax of 30.000 people per year on the road (NHTSA 2015). That means that by the time you tear your eyes away from the device reading this, someone will have died in a traffic accident somewhere in the US. We don’t have the means to fix this right now, so we live with it and don’t think about it.

What happens when we throw flying cars into the mix? The motions of driving are regulated by virtue of roads being essentially one-dimensional. If we give the controls to anyone who can wave a license at you, what then? If such a disturbing percentage of our population has trouble staying on a road, how can we expect them to safely operate something that can traverse (and fail) in all 3 dimensions? (Failure will mostly involve a downward trajectory. You do not come to a stop in the air like you stop on the road if your vehicle fails. You fall, and woe betide anything in the way of your landing.)

My worry is that we will shrug and accept it. Suppose just 20 people per year get guillotined, crushed, or crashed by flying car incidents. Do we shrug and consign the report to the bottom corner of the paper? Do we accept that death has just become that much more random?

Suppose some hotshot startup creates a true transporter (I.E. one that doesn’t have the swampman problem) and makes it viable for private use. Everyone can operate one from the comfort of their home. The catch is that seriously improper misoperation will lead to an explosion that can take out two city blocks (not unreasonable for a transporter, I think). You don’t want your gin-bottle neighbor to have something like that, do you?

No death is acceptable. If we believe that willfully opening up new avenues to unexpected termination is a substantially different evil from ignoring the deaths that currently plague us (and yes, we need to work on those too), then we should oppose the freeform development of flying cars until the state and federal governments can work together to strongly regulate this dangerous and negatively disruptive industry.

“Hi,” he said, shaking my hand. “I’m Pablo Hidalgo.”

I grinned. “And I’m John Williams.”

He didn’t react. He stared blankly at me, still vacantly pumping our hands up and down.

“No, really,” I said, “no joking, who are you?”

“Pablo” sighed and motioned for me to sit. I did, still studying the old man behind the desk. This wasn’t Pablo – a few short years ago, Pablo had been so alive, zipping around the Twitterverse in an unending quest to straighten the Star Wars canon. Here I beheld a tired, thinly stretched, and graying old man who could have passed for a Jedi in exile.

“Did you orchestrate this?” Would-be Pablo held up the printed cue faintly.

“Yes.” I was more confused than peeved. Scoring was hard work, and this was the first time I had been referred to the story department on matters of music. It shaped up like a pointless dent in my schedule for wholly unmusical reasons. “Is something the matter?”

“You indicate that this cue,” said Pablo weakly, “incorporates a men’s choir.”

“Yes.”

Pablo sighed. “I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’ll have to rethink this. If you’ve built anything in particular around the sound of a men’s choir, that’s also out.”

I wasn’t shocked, but my annoyance now overtook my confusion. “Just a minute, please. What about a men’s choir is so objectionable that the story group has to step in to interfere with the scoring process?”

Pablo didn’t answer. He lay his forearms on the table, wrapping both hands wearily around a bright green mug.

“I’d really like an answer, ‘Pablo,’ because that is a lot to ask.”

I suddenly noticed the veins in Pablo’s forearms. They stood out vividly as though they had been stenciled in with magic marker. He was straining – and he was gripping his fluorescent mug pretty hard.

“Is this about that silly Sno – ”

CRASH. I flinched. The mug had shattered from between Pablo’s hands. A gash in his palm pulsed heavily, and blood began to dribble out.

“You’re bleeding, my god, you’re bleeding. Are you okay? Where’s your first aid kit?”

“Stop.” Pablo hadn’t moved.

“You’re bleeding!”

“Just.” Pablo was still sitting ramrod-straight. “Just. Please.” He didn’t sound hurt, just wearier than ever. Maybe that was shock. “Please redo this cue.” He looked me in the eye. “And please don’t try using a men’s choir again.” The cut in his hand was slowly pooling blood among the ceramic shards of his former mug.

I bolted out the door. I had passed a first-aid kit next to the hand sanitizer on my way in.

154

MIT wants your input?

Why the hell would they care about your input? Where is your input when alcohol mixed with driving kills a person in the United States every 53 minutes? Where is your input when you calculate the CDC-given figure and realize this amounts to 10,000 deaths per year? We are paying a human tax of 10,000 people per year because drunk drivers do not want and do not accept your input on “who ought to die.”

Are you, oh prideful sack of flesh, taught properly in your high school driver’s ed class on “who ought to die?” Have you ever thought about that? Has it ever come into play in a real-life situation, where the driver behind the wheel had the power to decide who lived and who died? And who was ever faulted for the decision in a true Kobayashi Maru?

This is beyond asinine. There is no issue. Simply have the autonomous car give its best effort. After all, since when have humans done any better?

The prince surely dies

A.S.E. left the ending ambiguous; the disappearing body of the prince suggests that some magic beyond adult understanding was at work, and that the little prince made it home safe and sound to his rose. I have seen discussion that “since the rest of the book was a fantastical fable, why should this bit be taken literally?”

  1. Did his flock of interplanetary migratory birds suddenly decide to not pick him up? In the first place, how the heck did he hitchhike off of them? Why would snakebite be any faster than candlelight? I think the implication is that he was marooned in the desert with nowhere to go – such is the case with the narrator, too, who does not end up in the desert by choice, and only escapes out of some lucky turn (we know that he almost dies of thirst before finding the well a week into the story). The prince was invulnerable to thirst, but he was wholly unable to transit independently between planets. Faced with the prospect of living forever removed from his beloved home, he chooses death.
  2. Why was the prince scared? Surely zipping home via snakebite is a lot less risky than flying through the hazards of outer space borne by a flock of birds. If the snakebite would just send him home, why was there any risk to the narrator? At worst he finds himself on the prince’s planet, and would have to find his way to earth as the prince did initially. No, the worst case is not a sudden comical detour to the prince’s home; the fear is that the worst case is death by a treacherous snake.

I would explain away the missing body as the narrator becoming disoriented or an overnight sandstorm obscuring the view.

The belief that he is actually home safe and sound is merely a nicety – a pretense used in a vain attempt to curtail the narrator’s sorrow at his passing, not so unlike the lie we repeat to ourselves that the deceased are “in a better place.”

J39M

149: And in the newest trashy crossover…

After sis called me about moving (I think around 9 AM) I was pretty groggy and unable to leave bed. I fell into a shallow sleep.

I was the silly secret sidekick of Andrew Scott, who now found himself under arrest. To the policemen who had cuffed him, I was some nosy passerby in a hoodie with a penchant for mouthing off to the authorities. I waved a few grapes at them and ate with great gusto. Delicious, sweet vitamin C. I juggled some and kept talking pretty quickly, waffling over their limp attempts to shoo me away. I spritzed everyone liberally with grape juice just by squeezing a single grape – and it kept dispensing juice, over and over and over. It never seemed to deflate.

An unnamed officer finally lost his temper and made to confiscate this dangerous weapon. I feigned handing it over when my fingers “slipped” – the grape snapped improbably up my sleeve and rolled into my jacket pocket; the gawking officers were too busy being misdirected by my now-empty left hand to notice my waiting right hand receiving the grape. Andrew rolled his eyes in that languid, evil-genius way that he had cultivated for Sherlock.

I “conjured” the grape into my right hand and gave everyone one last liberal spritz. The fuming officers were on the verge of arresting me when Andrew stood straight. “Right,” he said, “I’m out.” The courtesy handkerchief slipped off his wrists to reveal that they were no longer cuffed.

Foxtrot foxtrot sierra

There was talk for a while, but that went away quickly when everyone saw how compatible those two were. Their sickeningly sugary chemistry sank into the collective consciousness of Satoru’s circle (Airi’s gossiped a while longer) and no more was said about the age difference.

Their marriage was a stable and happy one. Airi wanted very much to take the Fujinuma name, while Satoru pushed back with how prettily “Katagiri” rolled off the tongue. He attracted some knowing looks from his assistants the next day, wearing a stiff collared shirt that did not fully obscure a red crescent on his neck. Airi took the Fujinuma name and that was the end of it.

142: Without malice, but also without sympathy

Let me try to summarize this in a short recast scenario.

Quoted below for posterity:

I’m a professional pianist who has been playing for 12+ years. I play entirely by ear and often learn new songs using just my knowledge of basic chord structures or sometimes a YouTube tutorial. I learned how to play a couple of Beethoven pieces using video tutorials and recently have gotten very interested in learning a piece by Chopin. For anyone who’s every played anything by him, you know the trickiest part is mastering his use of rubato (the free-form style that disregards both rhythm and tempo). Since I play by ear I depend greatly on the rhythm to guide my playing and movement…so I’m having a lot of difficulty wrapping my head around Chopin’s technique.

Any advice on how to master the Master’s music?

Btw, I’ve been trying to learn Nocturne Op. 9 No. 1 for almost a year now and still can only play the first 4 bars or so:(

A young man enters a party for financial enthusiasts. There are only two rules: you must enjoy something financial and you must not misrepresent yourself. If you don’t particularly enjoy or deal in finance, why be there? If you’re Bernie Madoff, the door is over there. The rest is up to basic decency, like “don’t be contrary.”

The people already at the party welcome him warmly. Always good to have new faces, new opinions, etc etc. His opening line: “Hi everyone, I’m a self-made rich rich person, and I need some help making ten dollars, can you help me? By the way, I’ve been rich rich rich for twelve years; I’m a really canny investor.”

The stunned reaction radiates outward, and for a moment nobody knows how to react. As the dust settles, a lot of people try to ignore the unfortunately misguided partygoer trying to run before walking.

“I know all about the yield curve and how to read it, I just need to know what an ‘interest rate’ is.”

Okay, this person is becoming a little harder to ignore.

“I’ve been trying to make these ten dollars for a year now, and all I’ve got are these five quarters I found by chance.”

At some point you throw in the towel and show this hapless young man the door, kindly suggesting a textbook and maybe a financial advisor. He becomes belligerent and insists (politely) that he is a rich and successful investor, and he doesn’t understand all the hubbub about learning about silly things like “interest rates” when he already has such an advanced grasp on things like “yield curves.”

Naturally, this imposter is impinging upon the house rules that govern this party: it is quickly becoming clear that he has rather a distorted view of what constitutes an “enthusiast,” much less a “rich and successful investor;” yet he insists on comparing himself readily to all present, putting himself on the same (or a higher) level than many of those present.

The bouncers are called, and the young man leaves in a hurry, though not without some slightly put-out words.

NOTE: I believe this poster is female, but I feel like the story sounds really nasty when I cast it in feminine form.