Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. Tomorrow is also April Fools' Day. Tomorrow is also the second day of LDS General Conference, which I'm watching and as usual due to time constraints will write about next week. Tomorrow is also the beginning of Autism Acceptance Month, and I've already de-converted at least one well-meaning Autism Speaks fan. School is going well, other than my advisor declining to respond to my emails so I can't plan for next semester that I have to register for next week and if I don't get into the right classes I'll have to stay an additional semester and I really can't afford that even if I wanted to. So life is mostly good.
I don't have time to write much of a post so it's fortunate that I have another story for my Advanced Creative Fiction Writing class to post. Like the previous one I posted, this one is also about a character from "Space Girls". It isn't due for a little over a week so this is a rough draft of a rough draft and please take pity on it, but I'm posting it today because I'm busy with General Conference. So here it is. This one turned out a little differently. Jane Padgett is the de facto main character of "Space Girls", so it's mostly from her perspective, so the previous one that focused on her was in the same vein and that was easy. This one is about her robot, so it's a new perspective and it really had a lot of freedom to evolve in ways I couldn't predict. It ended up being weird. But I like it like that.
KC-1138 was programmed to fear death as a self-preservation measure, but unlike the meatbags who had created him, he had no facial muscles to project it against his will. “Hello, ugly,” he said in the region's native language to the man pointing a gun at him from the alleyway. “What do you want?”
The man was dressed in rags drawn so tightly over himself that Kaycee had to turn on his night vision to see the unshaven, haggard face. Cloth and skin alike carried a coating of aquamarine dust from the soil that covered this part of the planet. When he spoke, his breath smelled like he hadn't brushed his teeth in, well, ever. “Just the package you're carrying will suffice,” he said.
Kaycee drew himself up to his full height, which barely reached the man's waist. He wasn't built to look intimidating. His body resembled a shiny metal trash can on a set of treads, with six spindly arms – two of which cradled a small package – and a pair of binocular “eyes” mounted on an adjustable neck. He wished he could squint in a contemptuous manner. “This package is for my mistress,” he said. “Are you my mistress? I think not. She has much better fashion sense and less facial hair. Now, if you'll be so kind as to leave me alone –”
“Just give it to me and you can be on your way,” the man said, making a “gimme” motion with the fingers of his free hand. “I'm not gonna hurt you.”
“I think if you weren't gonna hurt me, you'd have left the gun at home,” Kaycee said. He spun his head around for a moment to check the unpaved street behind him. It was falling apart, full of garbage, so that the man looked perfectly at home here. At this time of day no one entered or exited the small businesses that lined it, most of them shuttered anyway, their neon lights dimmed forevermore. The drivers of the few cars that whooshed through didn't give him a single glance. A solitary spaceship passed through the purple sky overhead. The only other sign of life was a few scraggly pink trees next to the road.
His fear level rose slightly.
“I don't want to hurt you,” the man said. “This is nothing personal, is what I mean. In case you hadn't noticed, I'm starving.”
“Starving, eh?” He did look malnourished. Kaycee held the package up closer to him. “Look at the label, numbbolts. This is a polytronic combustion regulator. A spaceship component. I happen to know your variety of meatbag can't digest metal, so –”
“Maybe I'll ransom your mistress for it.”
“She doesn't have the money left to buy it again,” Kaycee lied.
“Then maybe I can resell it in a bigger town,” the man said, putting his gun away and snatching the package with a speed surprising in one so frail, breaking Kaycee's grip like a pair of twigs. “Thank you for your contribution. This will feed me for weeks, if I can find a buyer.” He turned to leave, but paused and marveled for a moment. “You know, I thought sassy robots like you only existed on TV.”
“That feature came extra,” Kaycee said. “My mistress insisted on it. She finds it charming.”
“It is, in a weird way,” the man said. He turned to leave again. “Pleasure doing business with you. Nothing personal, remember.”
“Neither's this,” Kaycee said. He sent full power to his treads and rammed the man's legs. The man sprawled one way, hitting his head on the pavement, and the package flew another. Kaycee wheeled over and picked it up. “If this is damaged, I'll come back and harvest your organs as compensation,” he said, and left.
He maneuvered around the trees as he wheeled alongside the road. The fear dissipated as he moved away, leaving a void for annoyance to rise. Creating robotic emotions was simply a matter of copying the chemistry of meatbag brains, minus the defects, and laying it down in circuitry. Kaycee's brain housed a labyrinth of electronics, like the home of some mythical beast best left undisturbed. He didn't fully understand how it worked himself. He didn't need to. He was just a beneficiary of it.
On the next block, a young woman who couldn't have been more than twenty stepped forward, dressed as poorly as the man who had just accosted him, holding out a cup. “Please, friend –” she began.
These barbarians still used physical money, but Kaycee hadn't carried any more than he needed to buy the part, and in any case he wasn't in the mood to deal with people. “Sorry, I'm done talking to freeloaders,” he said, not bothering to avoid running over her foot as he passed. She didn't so much as whimper.
About two kilometers away, Kaycee found Jane Padgett exactly where he had left her, the only customer sitting on a stool at an outdoor cafe in the nicer part of town – “nicer” being an entirely relative term, of course. There were more trees and a few small domestic animals scampering around, but the buildings were still falling apart and shady characters still lurked in the shadows.
The cafe with its bright colors was like a child's bandage failing to cover an infected wound several times its size. The plate of half-eaten food on the table next to her looked like a month-old pureed corpse, smelled worse than the mugger's breath, and made Kaycee grateful that he only ate electricity. He couldn't tell whether the food was actually rotten or just a local taste.
Kaycee didn't think he would ever understand why she had dragged them both away from the mansion she grew up in for surroundings such as this. Every time he thought they'd seen the armpit of the galaxy, she took him to another planet and proved him wrong. But at least it was better than staying on the ship. Sometimes she made him do that in case they needed to make a quick getaway, which they usually did.
“Hey, glad you made it back,” she said, refreshingly in English, rising as he approached. “You got it?”
“No, I decided to buy a pair of shoes instead,” Kaycee said. “Of course I got it, Jane. The guy said I was his first customer all week. Can we leave now?”
Jane grinned at this display of her favorite personality. “Lillis is still trying to find a thrust coil recompensator that will fit,” she said. She took the package, looked it over, and set it on the table beside her. “I should have made her wait so you could go with her.”
Their pilot, a woman about Jane's age who also competed with him for mechanical duties, ironically had less emotion than him. He liked her just fine, but being alone with her always set his processors on edge. “No thank you. This errand boy nonsense is a complete waste of my skills. Although I did finally get a bit of action, so thanks for having no regard for my safety, I guess.”
“Yeah?” He saw how her face perked up with surprise and a little worry. “What happened?”
He basked in the flattering glow of her concern for a moment. “Just some homeless loser wanting to pawn this for food. I knocked him out cold. I can show you, he's probably still there.”
“Hmm.” Jane looked upset. How could she be dissatisfied with his performance? “That wasn't nice of him to try and steal from you,” she said after a moment, “but he's probably starving, after all.”
“He did mention something about that, yes.”
“We've got food to spare,” Jane said, her eyes brightening again. “Go back and bring him some, would you?”
Kaycee was obedient, but he also had a protocol, meant to protect both himself and his mistress, that required him to make an effort at talking her out of ridiculous ideas. It seldom worked. He facepalmed with one hand while throwing the other five up in the air. “Seriously, Jane? You want me to reward him for trying to screw us over?”
“Where's your compassion?” She frowned. “Are you glitching? I swear I've seen you be compassionate before.”
“I have compassion for you, because you're my mistress,” Kaycee explained, activating a subroutine to prevent him from losing his patience. “And for Lillis, because she's your best friend. I'll do nice things for anyone else if it's in my, your, or her interest. And that's about it.”
“Then just pretend this guy is my best friend too,” Jane said.
“Because he's a person, and he has feelings, and intrinsic worth,” she said, starting to look annoyed. He didn't want her to be annoyed. He had tried, but now he would have to gracefully segue out of this discussion.
“And that concerns us how?”
“I don't have time to explain right now,” she said, forcing a smile. “Come on, let's get some food from the ship and you can bring it to him.” She grabbed the package and motioned the waiter back over to her table. With crude sign language, she indicated that she was ready to pay her bill and adamantly did not want a doggy bag. He acquiesced.
Kaycee would have been unable to suppress a smile if he'd had a mouth. In spite of himself, for all her quirks, he always felt good around Jane. “I'll bring it to him, but I won't like it,” he said, following her. “Are you coming too, or being a hypocrite?”
Jane dismissed the waiter with a curt nod. “I've got to bring this part to Lillis and see if I can help her find the other,” she said. “But I can't wait for you regale me with how good you are at making friends.” She winked.
Though the gesture made a component inside him tingle, he shook his head and said nothing. He wasn't programmed to make friends, but of course he would do as his mistress commanded.
Compassion. Why should he give a crap about compassion? If Jane had wanted him to be compassionate toward anybody but her and her close associates, she ought to have specified that when he was put together for her. It obviously hadn't been a huge concern for her at that time. But how had it come to be so now? As far as KC-1138 was aware, humans couldn't rewire their brain chemistry, at least not without extensive surgery. Shouldn't they be stuck with the worldviews and feelings they developed before adulthood?
He certainly couldn't rewire his own circuitry. If Jane wanted to have Lillis do it, well, that was her prerogative. He hoped it wouldn't come to that. He liked himself just the way he was. He was programmed to have perfect self-esteem.
The man still sat in the alley where Kaycee had left him, conscious again, staring off into space as if waiting to die. He looked up at the robot's approach, then stood and swayed for a moment. His face remained so expressionless that Kaycee couldn't even read his emotions, but Kaycee didn't particularly care what they were anyway.
“Hey, you stupid ugly meatbag, eat up,” Kaycee said, throwing the boxes of dehydrated pizza and hamburgers. The man stumbled backwards as he caught two of them and let the third fall at his feet.
The man blinked in surprise. “Seriously?”
“No, I just like throwing things at you. Add water, or spit in them, I don't care. Bye.”
“Wait,” the man said. “I want to talk to you. Thank you, first of all...”
“I don't want to talk to you,” Kaycee said. “I'm not a huge fan of people who point guns at me, believe it or not, but since my mistress has some severe issues – bless her heart – she wanted me to give this to you, and now I have, so I hope you choke on it. Bye.”
The man extended a hand. “My name's Carson.”
“My condolences.” Kaycee didn't touch the proferred hand.
Carson took it back, unperturbed. “What's your name?”
“KC-1138. My friends call me Kaycee. You can call me KC-1138.” Jane wanted to know how good he was at making friends, and this was it.
“Right, look, I know I haven't made a very good impression,” Carson said, beginning to gesticulate wildly, “but it's not my fault, you know? I had a great life, and then I lost it all. The economic crisis... the trade routes shut down... not enough resources to protect them from the Skreel... this colony is imploding and I was just another casualty. I just want to survive... is that so wrong?”
“If you really wanted to, you could have pulled yourself up by your bootstraps,” Kaycee scoffed.
Carson cocked his head. “By my what?”
Kaycee looked down at his feet. “Right, you don't wear boots on this planet. Look, I'm just saying get off your lazy keister and get a job.”
“There are no jobs. That's what I'm trying to tell you.” Carson's eyes glazed over as he looked back into the past. “I had it made, okay? Everything... and then nothing... I lost it all... lost it all... all gone forever... bye...”
Realizing that this man was a few ships short of a convoy, Kaycee started to back away. He then became aware of someone standing behind him in the mouth of the alley. “Jane,” he said, turning around, “get me away from this –” He froze. “You're not Jane.”
“Name's Branson,” the man said. He looked more muscular and stable than Carson, but less pleasant. Now he ignored Kaycee and talked past him. “Carson, you idiot, were you gonna let this robot get away? We can sell him for at least five hundred galactars.”
“You think?” Carson stroked his chin as he scrutinized Kaycee. His momentary craziness gone, Kaycee wondered if it had all been an incredibly convincing act. “I figured he wasn't worth the trouble. He's pretty banged up.”
“Hey, I'm not that banged up!” Kaycee protested. “It adds character! I'm worth at least eight hundred!” Branson stooped, picked him up by the torso, and looked him over. “Hey, hands to yourself, I just met you!”
“His internal components should be fine,” Branson said, ignoring him. “He's probably worth more as individual parts. We'll have to open him up to be sure, of course.”
“You open me up, and my mistress will open you up!” Kaycee said. “You don't want to mess with Jane Padgett. Everyone who does immediately regrets it. Like the time on Engimus Prime when someone tried to assault her, and afterward she reported it and the authorities asked 'Was the assailant male or female?' and she had to say 'Not anymore.'”
“We should get out of here,” Carson said, glancing around. “We can examine his innards later.”
The prospect of merely being taken apart held no fear for Kaycee. As a fixable and upgradeable machine, he was designed to be taken apart. But in the hands of these thieves he might not ever be put back together. His parts not even stay on the same planet. And worst of all, he would never see his mistress again.
“Jane! Lillis! Help! Help! He–” Kaycee's voice became muffled as both men clamped hands over his vocabulator. He wished he had teeth. They twisted his head at a bad angle, and a stream of ones and zeros resolved itself into white-hot pain, signaling the inordinate stress on his chassis. He fell silent. They didn't relax their grips. His fear level reached its maximum to match the danger.
This was what Jane had gotten him into. This was what her nonsense about compassion and intrinsic worth amounted to. He wanted to hate her for it, but he couldn't. That was against his programming. He mentally forgave her and hoped her next robot would do better at talking sense into her.
“Let's go,” Branson said.
Carson nodded, and they moved out into the street. Another pedestrian came their way, finally, and Kaycee started to yell again, but the man didn't even glance at him as he passed by.
“You're just a robot,” Carson said. “If no one cares about us, why should they care about you?”
Before Kaycee could reply, they turned a corner and found their blocked by a third party, one that had immediately registered on Kaycee's sensors as female. Jane?
No, he realized almost as immediately, it was the beggar girl whose foot he had run over after insulting her. Now he noticed her stark green eyes, glowing like emeralds in the sea of excrement that was this planet, showing a calmness and intelligence beyond her years. Well, space spit, as his mistress would say. He was even more screwed now.
“Leave him alone,” she said. “He doesn't belong to you. Someone needs him.”
Kaycee's processors skipped for a thousandth of a second before resuming their normal functions. What the strag? Were his aural sensors malfunctioning? He took another few thousandths of a second to run a diagnostic. No, everything was fine except one redundant chip with a slight flutter. He didn't need to worry about that now.
The men didn't look impressed. “You know,” Carson said, taking one hand off Kaycee to reach for the girl, “you wouldn't fetch half a bad price yourself.”
Before his fingers could reach her, a pistol seemed to materialize in the girl's hand and discharged twice with the slightest of movements. The men dropped to the ground like pebbles in Jupiter's gravity, without so much as a groan. Kaycee slipped from their dead fingers and flopped over onto his back. For a moment he forgot to pick himself up.
As if she could read the surprise in his face, which of course was impossible, she shrugged and said, “I was orphaned and homeless long before the economic collapse. I haven't made it this long by being a pushover.”
Kaycee was starting to wonder how seemingly everyone in this town had managed to procure a gun, but that wasn't the most pressing question by a long shot. “Why did you help me?” he demanded.
“Because you were in trouble,” she said.
He scrutinized her face for signs of deceit or ulterior motive, and found none – just fatigue and hunger. Now a less familiar sensation crept through his electronic mind. Confusion, meant to impel him toward applying his massive brainpower and solving conundrums. But this time he didn't know where to begin.
The girl gave him a nod and turned to leave, limping slightly.
It seemed like minutes, but his internal chronometer told him it was only seconds of hesitation before he followed her. “Are you really going to just leave those bodies out in the open? Are the cops going to come after us?”
She laughed, a soft tinkly sound incongruous with her disheveled appearance. “What cops? For all we know, those guys back there used to be cops. It's every being for itself here.” Yes, that much Kaycee could understand. Why she had deviated from that philosophy was the question she had evaded. Before he could inquire further, however, she froze in mid-step and looked at him. “So you're not from around here,” she said. “I don't suppose you'll be leaving soon?”
“No kidding,” Kaycee said. “We never planned to stop on this craphole in the first place. Mechanical problems.”
“Ah, should have figured.” She hesitated. He saw in her face that she wanted to ask something else but didn't dare. It didn't take much processing power to guess what.
What would Jane say in this situation? What would she want him to say? It wasn't difficult to guess that, either. It would provide them no direct benefits that he could foresee; she had no discernible skills that Jane and Lillis didn't already possess. And yet... he still wasn't feeling it, and he was under no strict obligation to do anything without a command, but the desire to please his mistress was hardwired into his very core.
“Would you...” He couldn't believe what he was saying to this total stranger. “Would you like to come with us?”
The smile that broke across her face denoted her as the first happy person he'd seen on this planet. “That'd be swell,” she said.
With the necessary repairs made, the Indomitable Spirit was soon in hyperspace, en route to its true destination. KC-1138 should have been excited, but he couldn't get those circuits charged up for some reason.
He was parked in a corner of the ship's lounge, staring at the blank television on the opposite wall, when Jane found him. “There you are,” she said. “Our guest is settled. I need you to get me in touch with the United Worlds. The situation we just left is far worse than they realized. If we can't get them to organize a relief effort or reopen the trade routes, I'll do something myself. Somehow.”
Hearing that, and still not understanding her motivation, didn't help Kaycee's confusion any. But an order was an order, so he gave her a barely perceptible nod. At least she practiced what she preached.
She squatted down beside him and placed a hand on one of his six shoulders. His sensors picked up the soft, warm touch, but derived little comfort from it. “What's the matter?” she asked.
Kaycee still stared straight ahead. “It doesn't compute,” he mumbled, as much to himself as to her. “It doesn't compute at all.”
I spent so much time this week writing a post about the MTC president scandal, revising it every day as new information kept coming out, and finally I figured I have to just shelve it for the time being and hope that soon all the facts will be known and I can fairly evaluate them. There just seems to be little point in publishing a post that will be obsolete by tomorrow at the latest. I will say for now that this scandal has been very depressing for me. For most of this week my heart has felt like it was encased in lead. I don't know what else to day.
Since I spent so much time on that post and had so little to spare in the first place, I don't feel like writing a lot more to replace it. So I'm going to repost something from Facebook, sorry not sorry. On Thursday as I was leaving the Ray B. West building, a female voice behind me said, "Crees?"
And I responded. Because I used to have a Ghanaian roommate who pronounced my name like that. And he was friends with benefits with a white girl who came over sometimes, and she thought that was actually my name. Not only did she pronounce it like that too, she once wrote "Crees" on a note that she left for me with some pizza in the fridge.
But this was not the same white girl. I don't know how I could have forgotten someone so terribly attractive, but I didn't recognize her at all. She recognized me, though. She smiled and her next words were, "You still go here??"
I was like "Uh, yeah."
She had been heading up the stairs, but now backtracked closer to me and continued, "I thought you were going to transfer to another school!"
Maybe? I don't remember anything about that. But I didn't want to burst her happy bubble. "No, I couldn't leave, I love it here too much."
She was like, "Haha! Are you still taking Spanish classes?"
I only took Spanish classes in high school. I've only taken German and Latin in college. "No, unfortunately I'm too busy, I'm just taking English classes. For creative writing..."
"Haha! How was your summer?"
"Uh... it was good."
"Did you do the Bryce Canyon thing again? St. George?"
I don't think I've ever been to St. George. "Uh... I don't remember that. I'm sorry, I have a bad memory..."
"Haha, it's fine! Well, it was good to see you!"
"You too." That was entirely true. "Have a good day." That was also entirely true.
"Thanks, you too!"
So, I'm very confused.
The other day one of my professors, who has children himself, said something to the effect of, "As you get older there comes a point where you suddenly realize your parents weren't perfect and didn't know everything."
I knew that before I knew how to read. Yes, they expected me to believe they were always right because they were grown-ups, but I'm mentally ill, not handicapped. As I've grown older I've realized that yes, they actually were wrong about most of the things I thought they were wrong about. I deleted the original rant I had here because I wouldn't want anyone to think I don't love my parents. I'll save that for my memoir. Anyway...
I also had the opportunity in another class to portray Anne Page while acting out a scene from "The Merry Wives of Windsor". Just typing the name of a Shakespeare play makes me feel pretentious. This wasn't anything fancy, just dividing the class into four groups and each acting out the scene in our own way and commenting on each other's methods. It was the scene where Shallow tries to get his nephew Slender to woo Anne Page but Slender is awkward and not really invested in it. Ours was set at a barbecue in a singles' ward. I used the same falsetto Southern belle voice I used for Titania in a "Let's Play" of Fire Emblem that remains unfinished and may never see the light of day - The Southern-ness just makes it sound more feminine, somehow - and fluttered my eyelashes a lot. My classmates loved that. Shallow and Slender were played by the same person, who talked to herself and put her finger under her nose to indicate when she was Shallow, so the two or three of us stole the show. I wish it had been recorded.
In my high and mightiness, I regarded the Puritans as thoroughly unpleasant and unlikeable people. The poetry of Anne Bradstreet, discovered through yet another class, has given me a different perspective. It turns out she was actually a human. Her poem "Verses Upon the Burning of Our House", has really resonated with me after losing perhaps forever the vast majority of music that I spent four years accumulating. And I like her Yoda-speak.
In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow near I did not look,
I wakened was with thund’ring noise
And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice.
That fearful sound of "fire" and "fire,"
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, starting up, the light did spy,
And to my God my heart did cry
To straighten me in my Distress
And not to leave me succourless.
Then, coming out, behold a space
The flame consume my dwelling place.
And when I could no longer look,
I blest His name that gave and took,
That laid my goods now in the dust.
Yea, so it was, and so ‘twas just.
It was his own, it was not mine,
Far be it that I should repine;
He might of all justly bereft
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the ruins oft I past
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast
And here and there the places spy
Where oft I sate and long did lie.
Here stood that trunk, and there that chest,
There lay that store I counted best.
My pleasant things in ashes lie
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sit,
Nor at thy Table eat a bit.
No pleasant talk shall ‘ere be told
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle e'er shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom‘s voice e'er heard shall be.
In silence ever shalt thou lie,
Adieu, Adieu, all’s vanity.
Then straight I ‘gin my heart to chide,
And did thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mould'ring dust?
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the sky
That dunghill mists away may fly.
Thou hast a house on high erect
Frameed by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent though this be fled.
It‘s purchased and paid for too
By Him who hath enough to do.
A price so vast as is unknown,
Yet by His gift is made thine own;
There‘s wealth enough, I need no more,
Farewell, my pelf, farewell, my store.
The world no longer let me love,
My hope and treasure lies above.
Why is being fed up with the rate at which American children are being slaughtered in their schools considered a political issue? Why do gun fetish activists have an aneurysm if you even mention it without saying a word about guns or legislation? Why is their first reaction to yet another shooting not "How can we prevent this from happening again?" but "Don't you dare take my guns!"? I'm not qualified to pontificate on specific legislative solutions but I'm sick of Americans playing stupid and pretending there's nothing we can do about this just because scores of other countries have successfully done something about this. While Americans are regurgitating hypothetical logic about how criminals will do whatever they want, other countries are stopping criminals. Not to say that they're free of problems, of course, but by and large their children aren't being slaughtered in their schools. Anyway, I wish I could have made it to the Capitol for the march today but this paragraph will have to suffice as my contribution for now. I mean, it's at least as effective as being in a march, right?
Icehouse - Electric Blue
I bestow ten billion points for the mullet, and another ten billion points for not rhyming "on my knees" with "begging you please".
I probably wouldn't have said anything about Stephen Hawking, about whom I know rather little, if not for the ridiculous controversies that sprang up in the wake of his death. For one thing, several dubiously self-proclaimed Christians have gloated about him going to hell because he was an atheist. Now of course I feel that any god who sends his children to hell the moment they die for having picked the wrong belief system or lack thereof is unworthy of worship. I believe that everyone has a chance in this life or the next to learn what they need to know and that they're judged rather for what they did with what they had. Unlike some other prominent atheists I could mention, Stephen Hawking chose not to be an unlikeable jackass, and I always respected him for that. (Did you hear Richard Dawkins recently advocated cloning human meat and eating it to overcome our irrational taboo against cannibalism? And this freak has the gall to criticize anyone else's beliefs why exactly?) Whether he was a good person in general is none of my business or concern. But I'm not aware of anything he ever said or did that warrants gloating over the prospect of his damnation.
Some actual Christians, in contrast, have pointed out that Stephen Hawking is now free from his wheelchair. And of course some people have chosen to misinterpret this obviously well-intentioned sentiment and go ballistic over it. "You ------s are saying that disabled people are better off dead!" Well... I don't have much in the way of physical ailments other than this thrice-damned cough that's stuck with me for four years, one week and five days and counting, but I have mental and emotional problems galore so I think I have as much right to an opinion on this as anyone. I look forward to being free. I look forward to my mind not being a daily hell to live in. The essence of life is that you have problems and then you die. Most people who have lived on Earth and who currently live on Earth have crappy lives. Most of them would be better off dead. If that's offensive then so be it. That doesn't mean I want them to be dead. But one way or another, all of them will be someday. So... I'm not sure why exactly it's offensive for obviously well-intentioned people to share their belief that they'll be free from their problems when they are.
I was just talking with a coworker last night about how I want to die by the time I'm forty, since humans hit their peak ridiculously early in life and I have zero desire to experience the deterioration of my body and/or mind over several decades to the point of eventual death. (That's not even mentioning the deterioration of society. Watching dogmatic idiots argue about politics for another half century or more could persuade me that I had already died and not gone to heaven.) She agreed with me on that and further added that if she ever becomes a vegetable or dependant on a machine to live, she wants someone to unplug it or shoot her. It's crazy how much we have in common. Maybe I have an unhealthy view of death, but I just don't take it seriously at all. It's just another step past the crappiest step in the plan. Some would argue that I believe in life after death because otherwise I'd be scared of it. Actually, when I was little I often wanted to cease to exist, mind and soul altogether, and accepting that I never would came as something of a disappointment. I'm a lot more okay with it now.
Thursday was the day that my professor and classmates critiqued the story I shared here a few weeks ago. I had all of spring break to worry about it. It's been a while since I did a writing workshop, so I was nervous. You think your writing is great and then these fresh eyes see a bunch of things wrong with it. Well, I needn't have worried because yes, of course they found things wrong with it, but overall I left feeling like
I promise this isn't humblebragging. It's just normal bragging, because this blog is like my journal and I'm happy about this so I'm writing about it. First, of course, we started with people saying what they liked about my story. The first person who spoke up gushed about how much she liked it, and since she was the only one I really cared about impressing, that was nice. And then they went on for a bit and then the professor said "Anything else?" and no one said anything else, and usually when he says "Anything else?" and no one says anything else he just moves on to the criticism portion, but this time he looked through his notes first and said three more things he liked about it. For example, that it starts in the middle of the action instead of setting it up. I learned that from some writing book, I forget which. It's called in media res and is used to great effect in the openings of most Star Wars movies, though they have the advantage of an opening crawl to provide context.
Then we did the criticisms, and the professor kind of defended me from some of them, which I took to mean he liked it a lot. Someone would say "I don't understand..." or "It was confusing how..." and he would be like "That's in there, he explained it like so..." I saw in his notes later that he had missed something like that too, though, so maybe I need to do better at clarifying these things. The most embarrassing thing, as only one person seemed to notice, was an inadvertent plot-crucial violation of the laws of physics. I wholeheartedly forgive Star Wars for prioritizing awesomeness over the laws of physics, but that's not the approach I want to take, so I appreciated him pointing this out even though it made me hate myself a little. I did a little research on the physics but didn't bother with something I thought I knew but didn't. Also, writing a scene between two characters of the same sex without constantly repeating their names to indicate which "she" you're referring to in any given sentence is kind of a pain.
One critique spoke to the story's weakness as a standalone rather than part of an anthology of prequels to a pre-existing novel, which is what I intend it to be. Someone pointed out that Chantelle, the bully of the protagonist Jane, has no explanation given for her cruelty and is kind of a flat character. In the novel, Jane is an adult and faces off against several villains who have complex backstories to make you feel sorry for them. Then Chantelle is shown in a flashback bullying her as a teenager, and I thought it would be funny if this high school bully, despite ostensibly nin being as "bad" as the actual villains, was totally one-dimensional and rotten to the core for no reason. And that's the era this short story is set in and understandably it raised an eyebrow for one person. But the professor concluded his notes with "Polish this up and send it out!" And I will, as soon as it's flawless. Maybe by the time I'm forty.
So after over a year of procrastinating, I made this meme, and I've tried to share it on Facebook, but Facebook keeps cutting off the top and completely ruining it. I didn't ask for much, Facebook. You let me down.
See, I was hoping it would go viral and get a bunch of likes for my page and visits to my website, but no, Facebook had to go crush my aspirations. And I just now realize that putting my name under Hitler makes it look like a label. But I can't possibly be comparing myself to Hitler because I don't have a girl. I've always wondered about Eva Braun, you know? People are just like "This was Hitler's girlfriend, nothing to see here, moving right along..." and I'm like "Wait wait wait wait wait. Was she evil? Was she stupid? What did she see in him? Did she support what he was doing, or did she just figure if she waited for a perfect man to come along she'd be single forever? We need to explore this person!" But it's probably too late for that now.
Culture Beat - Mr. Vain
I decided to literally just share the song that I happen to be listening to at this moment. I've never heard it before. Most of my music collection appears to be gone forever, so I'm listening to YouTube a lot and letting it just cycle through whatever songs it thinks I'll like. It got to this by starting with Mika's "Emily".
Through a series of ridiculously contrived circumstances, I have been without my laptop for nearly seven weeks during the busiest semester of my life. It would be difficult to overstate how much of an inconvenience this is, especially on Fridays when all the campus labs and city library close early while I'm at work so if I have a paper due at 11:59 pm I actually have to finish it by 2:30ish. This is also a significant factor in my sharp decrease in blog post quality this year. In its absence I have oscillated between rage, grief, and broken-spiritedness. I'm counting down the hours until I get it back tomorrow. But at least I had a phone to watch Star Wars fan films on over spring break. I need to do a really long post about Star Wars fan films. Some of them are unbelievably good. But that will have to wait.
USU had its elections recently. I haven't seen any results so I don't know if they're out yet. To be honest, I really don't care about the results because I'm only going to be here for one more semester unless I fail something. If only I could get away from Drumpf so easily. During the election, candidates put up signs with clever slogans or attempts at clever slogans and have people stand outside trying to solicit votes. For a week or so I have to take circuitous routes to avoid them. Outside the music building where I have to go for a science class for my English major, some art senator candidate or something had a sign with her big toothy smile and a few streaks of paint, I guess to symbolize artsiness. But because the paint was white it looked like birds crapped on her face and she liked it. The executive vice president candidate was running unopposed and so didn't bother with all this publicity, but I didn't want to vote for her, so I wrote in the name of someone I respect even as I realized that if this latter person won through some freak accident she would not be happy about it.
I have an enormous place in my heart for addicts. Now, I realize the American thing to do is demonize them and treat them like subhumans for trying to escape their pain, but I've decided to channel the Portugese bit of my ancestry instead. I imagine that if I go twenty years without succumbing to addiction, I will not be healed but merely an addict who hasn't relapsed for twenty years. A recovering addict has come to my congregation a couple times. She recently got out of prison, so I can rest easy knowing that the government has adequately punished her for trying to feel an emotional connection somehow. Just knowing that she's an addict makes me feel an incredible love for her and perhaps a small taste of how God feels about His children when they make poor choices. I will do anything to provide her with an alternative to drugs. Except jump out of an airplane, which I won't do for anyone under any circumstances. Unless it's still on the ground.
I tried to be a fount of supportive wisdom, saying for example that "a lot of things normal people do are stupid so they're not worthy of emulation in all aspects." But she topped that with stuff like "Alienating people is most likely due to your unique character. Which is their loss. Heaven forbid someone has an original thought or tells it how it really is. Too many people are close-minded and conditioned to be thoughtless, heartless tools. It's sad." All right, so she doesn't need my wisdom. If she sees human society for how it truly is, then no frigging wonder she feels driven to drug abuse.
I was mucking about on Wikipedia and happened to read about Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. They frequently played alongside each other as Dracula and Van Helsing, respectively, becoming dear friends despite their onscreen antagonism, and went on to appear in separate trilogies of Star Wars. Peter Cushing was Grand Moff Tarkin in "A New Hope" and recently came back from the dead to reprise that role in "Rogue One". I feel a kinship with him. Like me, he portrayed an enormous douche but in real life was the most perfect gentleman you could ever hope to meet. Carrie Fisher found it difficult to simulate her character's hatred for his character. Also, she was so nervous about talking to this great veteran actor that she accidentally mimicked his British accent in that one scene, which has been reasonably explained away as Leia mocking Tarkin. Anyway, in his Wikipedia article I found these words that simultaneously warmed and broke my heart. It's an interesting sensation. I share them now to reduce the amount of actual writing I have to do.
"In 1971 Cushing's wife died; they had had been married since 1943. The following year, he was quoted in the Radio Times as having said, "Since Helen passed on I can't find anything; the heart, quite simply, has gone out of everything. Time is interminable, the loneliness is almost unbearable and the only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that my dear Helen and I will be reunited again some day. To join Helen is my only ambition. You have my permission to publish that ... really, you know, dear boy, it's all just killing time. Please say that."
In his autobiography, Cushing implies that he attempted suicide on the night of his wife's death by running up and down stairs in the vain hope that it would induce a heart attack. He later stated that this had simply been a hysterical response borne out of grief, and that he had not purposely attempted to end his life; a poem left by Helen had implored him not to die until he had lived his life to the full, and he had resolved that to commit suicide would have meant letting her down. Although not conventionally religious, Cushing maintained a belief both in God and an afterlife. Cushing's colleagues of that period commented on his faith and his conviction that his separation from his wife was only temporary.
The effects of his wife's death proved to be as much physical as mental. For his role in Dracula A.D. 1972, Cushing had originally been cast as the father of Stephanie Beacham's character, but had aged so visibly and lost so much weight that the script was hastily re-written to make him her grandfather: it was done again in the last Dracula film from Hammer, The Satanic Rites of Dracula. In a silent tribute to Helen, a shot of Van Helsing's desk includes a photograph of her. He repeated the role of the man who lost family in other horror films, including Asylum (1972), The Creeping Flesh (1973), and The Ghoul (1975)."
Helen? More like Helluva Lucky Gal. Fortunately her husband only had to suffer for twenty-three and a half years before rejoining her. I suppose I can wait one more day to get my computer back.
Michael Giacchino - Operation Sea Lion
I haven't shared any music for a while. Let's fix that. Here is what I regard as Michael Giacchino's finest composition ever, from the game "Secret Weapons Over Normandy" and hijacked for the game "Thrillville: Off the Rails" which is where I encountered it.
Matt Walsh: Humans are more valuable than dogs
Matt Walsh: You're wrong to love dogs more than humans
Me: Bite me
Matt Walsh: I would kill every dog on the planet to save one human
Me: Go to hell
The classic debate of dogs vs. humans rears its ugly head once again. On the one hand you have disgusting, unintelligent creatures that frequently attack for no reason, and on the other hand you have dogs. Why do I love dogs more than humans? Maybe because dogs aren't the ones who bullied me every day throughout my entire childhood. Maybe because dogs aren't the ones who rejected me from their society and whispered about me behind my back. Maybe because dogs aren't the ones who expect me to conform to their unspoken, arbitrary, stupid norms of behavior and condemn me when I can't. Okay, so, maybe one dog is worth less than one human, depending on the human. I wouldn't kill one dog to save Kim Jong Un or Joseph Kony or Donald Trump. Actually, there's literally nothing I would do to save any of those humans. If all I had to do to save one of them was lift my pinky finger, I would superglue it to a table. And I would kill any human to save every dog on the planet, and if it didn't matter which one then I'd be the first to volunteer for such a noble cause.
I realize these come across as strong words. Let me add as a counterpoint that I love many individual humans I know in person or via Facebook and that my heart breaks for people I've never met who are suffering and that I try to help them by donating to humanitarian aid and advocating against Donald Trump. But don't tell me I'm wrong to prefer dogs.
I spoke in church last week. It went very well. First, of course, I had to open with a couple of jokes to reduce my nervousness level from paralyzing to merely crippling. And people laughed at those and also at three other things that weren't meant to be funny, so I came across as hilarious. That wasn't quite my intention because it was a rather serious topic. Oh well. I also had the opportunity to publicly thank whoever put paper hearts all over my door, because I'm 100% sure they were from church and, via the evidence and process of elimination, 99% sure of which ones they were. And the actual topic, "Finding Comfort in Christ", was so good that the Spirit poured out in abundance and tricked people into thinking I'm a good speaker. Suckers!
Critiquing a Mormon Blog Post I Recently Read
Dustin Phelps recently published a post called "Actually, the Mormon Position on Gay Marriage is Stronger Than You Think" that is much broader than gay marriage per se and seems determined to snuff out what little desire I have to get married myself. He wrote:
"[People claim that] 1) A hope for romantic attachment is a basic human need, and without such a hope, people are doomed to a miserable existence. 2) Romantic attachment is foundational to marriage and is 'necessary for a functioning marriage.' Those arguments seem persuasive in a world mesmerized by romantic media. But here’s the problem: for 99% of human history, people lived in a world where romantic love had virtually nothing to do with marriage (source). That’s right. Western notions of romantic attachment developed over the last few centuries, and the way our society defines it and obsesses over it is a fairly recent phenomenon (source)."
These facts are accurate. But for 99% of human history, people lived short miserable lives, so I see no reason to assume they were right and we're wrong. (Yes, millions of people still live short miserable lives, but even so the vast majority of the world's population is better off than they would have been a couple centuries ago.) We no longer need to get married at 16 so we can crank out two dozen babies so that one of them will survive to adulthood, and I don't see a problem with that.
"What we seem to have forgotten is how radically individualistic our society has become. Our world celebrates romance because it is one of the supreme expressions of individualism. But for most of human history, there was no room for such an expression. Most of our ancestors lived in a world where a person’s duty to his family or her community superseded everything else. Social and economic circumstances required a level of interdependence far greater than anything we can imagine today. Under those circumstances, the pursuit of romantic love was viewed as a social danger. It threatened a person’s commitment to communal values and distracted from more important matters (source)."
Yes, and because those circumstances no longer exist in any first world country I fail to see their relevance to anything. Why should I give a crap about the values of a community that doesn't want me to be a part of it? A quote from Kevin McCarthy as R.J. Fletcher in "UHF" seems appropriate: "The community? Let me tell you something. This community means about as much to me as a festering bowl of dog snot!" Well, actually I do very much love this beautiful little town, but it can butt the heck out of my nonexistent love life. Let me tell you, though, if I was made to understand that me getting married would somehow bring about the collapse of society, I would start doing everything in my power to make it happen.
"As society became increasingly obsessed with romantic thrills, the institution of marriage became increasingly unstable. People started believing that they were depriving themselves of true happiness if they stayed in a marriage that proved to be less than the dreamy fairy tale they expected. If you met someone who sparked your romantic flame, you were being untrue to yourself, not to pursue that new love interest (only to have the cycle repeat itself…because romantic love isn’t real love at all)... It’s one thing to use the infatuation period we call “falling in love” as a pairing mechanism. It sure beats having your parents arrange your marriage, but we’ve convinced ourselves that romantic love is more than just a way of bringing two people together. We’ve come to believe that it is the bedrock of marriage."
Brother Phelps seems to believe that romantic love is mere infatuation, which is nonsense. It has been scientifically and anecdotally proven to evolve into another form after a year or two of marriage, and anyone who thinks they'll be the exception is wrong, but it shouldn't disappear altogether. Yet he is correct that it shouldn't be the foundation for marriage. I have believed for a while, albeit with no experiential knowledge, that friendship should be the foundation for marriage because it is more likely to endure through the decidedly unromantic experiences that constitute most of life. And yet it is by no means sufficient on its own.
"[M]arriage is not predicated upon romantic love. It is built upon sacrifice, strengthened through pain, and rooted in longsuffering. Its essence is selflessness and its core is commitment. That’s not as sexy as a Nicholas Sparks novel, but I guess the truth isn’t always sexy. Paul taught spouses to love one another, 'even as Christ loved the Church.' How did Christ love? Not with the glazed over eyes of a lover, but with determination, dedication, commitment, charity, and sacrifice. It is sacrifice, motivated by charity, that lies at the true foundation of an Eternal marriage - and the very essence of the Gospel itself. By Christ’s sacrifice are we saved, and by our own sacrifices are we exalted. My wife and I bring each other happiness through romantic attachment, but I would be far from surprised to learn in the next life, that marriage is bound merely by the pure love of Christ, rather than the dopamine rush of romantic thrills."
I'm willing to sacrifice for lots of people. In theory I will someday have the pure love of Christ for all people. That doesn't mean I want to live with them forever. I'm failing to understand how marriage has any meaning or appeal whatsoever under this paradigm. Why arbitrarily pick one person to be stuck with? Why not marry the entire human race if romantic love has little or nothing to do with it?
"And I would not be shocked at all to realize that sexual orientation was only a mortal means of ensuring that men and women procreated. After all, there’s nothing in scripture that gives the impression that sexual attraction is anything but a mortal experience."
I actually hope this is correct. I have no sexual attraction in this life and really don't want to gain it in the next one. And of course, sexual attraction is neither synonymous nor interchangeable with romantic love.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.