Friday, July 21, 2006

Bog Man

Bog Man
by s.c.virtes

Maybe this story was never told.

Of how it began and how it developed,
I suspect you know naught.

The ending which might have shocked generations
you cannot reconstruct from the brain tissue
you stole from our bog, from my head.

How you pulled me from my days of rest
and proved that I was one of you,
this story you proudly
but mistakenly tell.

But the true story, the one my father told me,
I told it to my flesh which
delivered it to the earth
from which all stories begin.

But the more you scrape my bones
the more I hesitate and wonder
if I was ever told at all.


Written 11/20/86, just found in an old notebook & revised 7/21/06.
A story version of this was written but never published.

least exciting medical mystery ever

I have to admit, I enjoy watching medical mystery shows. The fictional ones are okay, but the factual ones keep showing that the real world is stranger than we can make up easily. Things like "Mystery Diagnosis" or "Medical Incredible", where people may have all their skin fall off or their eyeballs explode, or get crushed by elephants and survive.

It's partly research -- what are the limits of the human body? And partly fascination or a grim curiosity. But there's a big relief factor. If you think you had a bad day, here's a guy whose lower legs are on backwards, or whatever. It's encouraging to know that these things can be survived and overcome.

Trouble is, in real life, I have a bit of a medical mystery. Dizzy spells, and if I spend too much time around people, I can end up fainting. Seems like it's mostly acid reflux; just enough of it at times to make me nauseous, and then if I don't pay attention to the little symptoms they can turn ugly. But I've given up soda and caffeine and tomatoes and some other things; no snacking 2 hours before bed (it's worst at night and in the morning), allow extra time to get up and chug water in the morning. Other things. Odds are, some diet will keep it under control.

But when I do go to a doctor they just get everything all confused. Diabetes? Sleep disorder? Liver problem? Thyroid? I had some extensive blood work last week, part of a physical. The results came back. Everything normal except that my bad cholesterol is good and my good cholesterol is bad. Yeah, that solves it. I just need to drink one small fish every day ...

Frankly, this is the least exciting medical mystery ever. They write weird shit in our charts and then we have a hard time getting insurance to pay for them to write more weird shit in our charts. It's probably nothing big in the end, although I should be at Comic-Con this week but I'm worried that I'll crash just waiting in line for those three hours to get inside.

Monday, July 17, 2006

free world collapsing

I regularly hear wild arguments that all art should be free. It's obviously consumers talking here. Easy for them to say! How's that supposed to work, exactly? Who is going to write books 20 years from now if there's no way to make money doing so?

Aside from being purely selfish, some of this comes from common delusions about how writing (or other arts) actually work, from a business standpoint. Maybe they think all writers are greedy bastards who make millions of dollars by overcharging for their work. Then I'd agree that some things could change. The few successful artists get all the media coverage, painting a completely reversed image of what it's really like. The vast majority of artists are struggling to make ends meet, just hoping to be seen among the glut of products cranked out every day. And if they succeed in getting a book deal or distribution deal, they end up getting just a small percentage, while publishers set the prices and control everything.

If anything, it would be fair to ask that creators get a bigger cut of the money earned by their work, and all the middlemen settle for less ... but I know that's unrealistic, because it's an industry, many roles interlocked into a beast that just barely functions.

If all art was free, then an appalling gloom would set in. We'd never get away from our crap jobs. We'll never be able to do what we love to do full time. We'll always be somebody's slaves. There will be no hope of success anymore.

But I suspect these rabid consumers wouldn't care. There's plenty of stuff already written. Why bother creating any more? You may think that "anyone can do it", but you'd be surprised ... anyone can make a half-assed attempt at creating art. But is that what we should set our sights on?

Artists should be free to do their best, and consumers are free to choose what they will or will not buy. But this arrogant grabby attitude of people wanting work handed to them for free ... no. Maybe they should work a few weeks at their regular jobs without a paycheck and see what that's like. Maybe their jobs are the ones with no value in the end.

Monday, July 10, 2006

a real telescope eye

I'm an amateur astronomer who has never been able to afford a telescope. I have many other ironic failures to share, but let's stick to this one. Luckily, there's a boom in astronomy right now, with a mind-boggling array of surveys and catalogs and tools available online. In most other ways, the 21st century has been lame so far. According to the sci-fi classics, we oughta be much further along than we are, but the world continues to be 99% dull, and hardly anything seems to change. The internet itself is almost entirely drivel, but there are some astronomical gems if you know where to look.

And don't forget to look away from time to time ...

This weekend I was up at the 60" telescope on Palomar Mountain. An unexpected invitation and twisty road trip into darkness. Okay, if it was dark, the astronomers would have been too busy to see us, but the full moon was out, the deer were lurking, and there we went.

Comically, since the real astronomers never actually look through the scope with their eyes, when there's a tour they only have a really, really old eyepiece to slap on there. Looking through this telescope is like having a volkswagen suspended over your head, but looking through the tailpipe you can see millions of light years away. That, and zero emissions. And those precious moments where you feel you can touch the universe in some way. A vehicle of sorts after all.

Of course, there was a little control room full of computers. Every time they opened the door, this insane blue glow came pouring out. No wonder we can't find all that dark matter -- our eyes have become accustomed to the radiation.

A very interesting trip. Including the discovery that there is more than one road up on that mountain, and the other one doesn't go anywhere. A brief shift in reality, and then we were gone.

Thanks, Mike.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Shatner rules & Earth escapes destruction

I have to say, I enjoy watching William Shatner, no matter what he's doing. He could be doing some weird "Worst Songs of the 80's" show on VH-1, or narrating something about comets, or trying to sell me a hotel room. heck, there was even a 2-hour special recently called "How William Shatner Changed the World." He's older now, but seems to enjoy himself so much more. Sometimes he's lampooning his old characters or just hamming it up. I don't care. He's friendly and entertaining.

And then there's Denny Crane, his trigger-happy larger-than-life character on "Boston Legal". He could just walk through a plate glass window at any moment. You never know with him. Brooding, strange, flamboyant, dangerous. We can't take our eyes off him. Like it or not, he can perform.

Just now I had to go outside and look up. It was cloudy (again) but it was sobering to think that an asteroid was zipping past the earth at that very moment -- a near miss this time around. Naturally, the silent event was narrated by Mr. Shatner. "Tumbling through ... the cold depths of space ... an insignificant rock hurtles towards a blue ... planet."

It just wouldn't have been the same without him.