Funny how it all works out.

The beauty of front and back (20 Sep 1994)

It is: last Thursday's _Sentinel_ "Bay Living" section
On the front: "More than a karate guy?"
On the back: "Dad jailed for making son walk to school"

It is: a coin, a token from an arcade or gaming parlor
On the front: "Freedom"
On the back: "No cash value"

It is: my phone bill
On the front: "New two-sided forms save paper"
On the back: "This page intentionally left blank"

Re: Photons (21 Nov 94)

Lilith (****** wrote:
>He shines a flashlight up into the sky. I tell him the photons
>will get to his star a hundred years after he is dead.

Do you see us? We were here.

We tore down mountains which had stood for millions of years and we turned them into towers which lasted centuries at best, and we lived in them and we thought we were pretty cool.

We flew through the sky in coffins of steel and we dropped fire on our enemies from across the world. We could see what was happening on the far side of the globe and we thought were were pretty cool.

We harnessed the wind, the water, the hydrocarbon molecule, the heaviest atoms, the lightest atoms, the electrons-- we had it all, and we thought we were pretty cool.

I'm holding this wand, a symbol of our power-- a small symbol, yes, and there are millions of better and bigger and more significant symbols-- and I point it at you. It is a wand of shaped metal and ground glass and chemical differential, and I flick it on and off and on and off, using a code we invented one day that we thought was pretty cool.

What do we look like to you? A hot little ball of radio noise? Yes, we must look like a mewling baby, spitting and hissing and throwing up on itself. But by the time you get here, we'll be gone, and the message I am sending you will be entirely moot.

Do you see us? We were here, and we thought we were pretty cool.

I would tell you not to make our mistakes, but if you're aware of our presence across this void of dusty black, it's probably too late for you, too.

Re: The World of the Future (26 Dec 1994)

All web sites will consist entirely of hotlinks pages which list the best hotlinks pages out there. Bad hotlinks pages will be nothing but a list of names; decent ones will have pictures relevant to the place, the topic, the general demeanor of each destination link. The really top-notch hotlinks pages will have highly interactive forms, which you customize to get exactly the set of hotlinks you want.

There will be no information or content. There will only be hotlinks which collect the best hotlinks available.

Two years, tops.

Order of magnitude (25 Jul 1994)

I should just like to point out that the atomic bomb is now less than ten times as old as Cindy Crawford's "House of Style".

.signature (10 August 1994)

The Donkey. The Lima Bean. And Mrs. Lima Bean. In San Juan, Puerto Rico. On the beach. On a very nice day. "Ho ho," says the Lima Bean, "The Donkey is JEALOUS for there is no fine-looking Mrs. Donkey for HIM." The Donkey is smiling. Lima Beans never learn. Photo by the Background Donkey.

The Happy Scene (3 Aug 1993)

He is an accountant. She works at Gottschalks. It is their third date, and they both think this may be the real thing. They are having dinner-- fish and wine-- in front of a wide window that overlooks the moonlit street. Their hands touch. From the outside, they are silhouetted by the interior glow of the restaurant as the bullets shatter the window and fill the interior with death. Between them, they take five rounds. Both die instantly, but many others are not so lucky.

The killer is fifteen. He is not having a good day; at least, that is what he will tell the police when they arrive. The gun belongs to his brother. It was made in Germany, on an assembly line, by a group of people who have never handled a working gun in their lives. After the magazine is empty, he throws the weapon into the street. Sitting on the frame of the shattered window, he puts his face into his hands and weeps.

There is no question of his guilt, but the newspaper still refuses to call him anything but "the suspect".

In the Morning (1 Dec 93)

SHE: Now that the sabre-tooth tiger is gone, why do I need you?
HE:  There's still a need for protection. There's still wars.
SHE: Men can have violence and wars. We'll take everything else.
HE:  You know you want to be violent, too, sometimes. C'mon, admit it.
SHE: I'd almost be willing to admit it, just to shut you up. Almost.
HE:  Rationalize it any way you choose.
SHE: See this frying pan? I'm gonna....
HE:  Bingo. Threat of physical violence.
SHE: No, I was going to say "I'm gonna scramble some eggs for breakfast."
HE:  Yummy!
SHE: And then I was going to say "I don't know what YOU plan on eating."
HE:  Oh.
SHE: You can always rustle up a sabre-tooth tiger, I suppose.

Test your American Tourism saavy! (31 Dec 1993)

You are with relatives, driving across America. Near the Arizona/New Mexico border, you stop at an Ortega's Indian Center for gas and souvenir accquisition.

Looking around the collection of stuff in the gift shop, your aunt remarks (with an air of superiority) "You know, there's nothing like fine Indian craftsmanship."


(A) Nod sadly, looking at a postcard picture of the Mesa Verde ruins,
    crumbling back into sand.

(B) Agree with an ironic smirk, while fingering the MADE IN TAIWAN lettering
    engraved in the back of a silver and turquoise belt-buckle.
(C) Correct her by saying "That's craftPERSONship, Aunt Rachel".
(D) Buy a New Jersey souvenir shotglass even though you're in Arizona.
(E) Wish you were at a Stuckey's, instead.

Stupid death (20 Apr 1994)

The knife blade was honeycomb but it cut like steel. The indigenous dominant, very insect in nature, used the stuff for everything-- shelters, weapons, vehicles. This particular knife extruded citric acid to enhace the pain inflicted by the wounds it made. It was not a knife for kitchenwork, or a knife for tailoring, or a knife for woodcarving. This was a knife for killing-- in fact, for killing humans, as the locals lacked nerve endings sensitive to the acid's aggravation. The pommel was wrapped in the leaves of a shortbush that was often made into a bleak but nutritious beverage.

Right now, this knife was doing its job.

Tea leaves. Honey. Lemon. Ensign Maddock had just enough time to laugh ironically before the knife's second puncture finished him off. In another form, the knife would have been the perfect refreshment for the hot afternoon.

Three Stoplights (4 Sept 1993)


There is a white Oldsmobile in the lane to my right, one car length ahead. The owner (or someone) has used rub-on letters of some kind to spell out I BELIEVE IN THE RIGHTS OF UNBORN WOMEN on the trunk. Two minutes later, I am still working out the possible messages intended by this statement. But I am distracted:


There is a dark van. The sign on its side says HOUSEKEEPER EXTRAORDINAIRE with phone numbers for Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, and Monterey. Their motto, apparently, is "Why rent a wife? BECAUSE YOUR TIME IS VALUABLE!" The light changes and the van accelerates away, bobbing around slower vehicles and disappearing ahead of a truck. I ponder it briefly but, once again, I am distracted:


There is a garbage truck ahead and to my left. There is someone in the passenger seat, but all I can see is his right arm, which hangs out the open door of the cab. From his hand dangles a stuffed puffer fish on a thick string, which he bounces and whirls about idly as we all wait for the light to change.

To prevent any further distractions on the way to work, I keep my eyes closed the rest of the drive. Instinct guides me.

This stuff happens all the time (16 Oct 1997)

A guy walked up to me the other day. He was weary-looking; he had the look of someone who's been dragged around the yard by the pitbull of life. He appeared by my side and pressed something towards me-- something typewriter sized, wrapped in a beach towel. I took it without thinking. It was not very heavy.

"You fucker," he said. "I finally found you. Here. Take the damn thing back. Fucking time machine. Nothing but trouble. Well, fuck it. I'm through with it. It's yours again."

Then he staggered off, before I could say a thing.

I unwrapped the object. It was flat black, mostly featureless. Like one of the 68030 NeXT slabs. But it had a big button on the top-- shiny black, not flat black, and if it were possible to be an even darker black than the box itself, this button was that shade of black.

Hm, I thought, and I pressed the button.

Instantly, I was standing in a meadow. After a few moments, I realized that I was, in fact, in exactly the same place I had just been-- except that there was no street, no buildings, nothing. I was standing on the edge of town back when there was no edge of town here yet.

Time machine, huh? Could be trouble. I wanted no part of it.

I looked around-- and who should I see but a much younger version of the man I had just met. He looked fresh and alive and happy. He was smoking something-- ah, he was enjoying a bit of pot here in the as-yet-unruined countryside. By his attire, I guessed it to be the late '60s.

After a few more minutes of consideration, I had my plan together. I walked over to him and asked if I could buy some pot from him. I told him I'd give him a time machine for an eighth, if he had that much. He was, of course, skeptical, so I told him I'd show him. He grabbed onto my shoulder and I pushed the button.

Just like that, we were back in the future. A few yards away, I watched as a worn and weary old man harrassed a few-minutes-younger version of myself. "See? This is the meadow in thirty years," I told my befuddled companion.

He was quite willing to give me the pot. "Don't worry about taking me anywhere, I'll stay here." He waved farewell and pushed the big black button. Then he was gone.

Across the street, the younger me pushed the button and vanished as well.

The weary and worn old man suddenly appeared at my side again. "Where is he? I mean, where am I? Did I miss him? I mean, did I miss me?" Yes, I said, I'm afraid, he just pushed the button and disappeared.

The old man let out a weeping wail. "It's going to be thirty more years before I can try to stop all of this again," he sobbed. "I don't even know if I'm going to live that long."

With deep shuddering sobs, he staggered off again. I went to Zacharys and had the best fucking hash browns in this, or any other, space-time continuum. Closed time-like curves always make me hungry.

Bartleby the Scrivener, Rollerball commentator (26 Jun 1998)

"Oh! and out of the far corner comes Natasha, who SLAMS into Francine Greene! Francine's limping over to the side now-- yes, over where we have our own on-the-field interviewer, Bartleby. Bartleby, how does Francine look? Can you get us a quick update on her status?"

"I would prefer not to."

"Well, okay, Harry, can you give us any quotes from Francine on whether she's going to return to the game or not?"

"I would prefer not to."

[Dead air follows for six minutes.]

Also overrated (2 Aug 19999)

b r e t t <> wrote:

Yeah, what's with scheduling the one part of your life where you don't have to be all that responsible for anything during the period where you don't really have any knowledge or capabilities?


Little bullets packed full of meat fired downrange at a row of bottles sitting on the fenceposts of the future.

>an honest day's pay for an honest day's work

Is there such a thing? I made all my MONEY.FAST with chain letters.

>San Francisco

Cities in general.

>their earlier albums

And their live shows.

>Star Wars

Wars don't belong among the stars, anyway. They belong right here on Earth.


At first I read this as "MOMA". Fuck yet, the Met is much better.


Anything that requires "deconstruction" should never have been built in the first place, wot?

>analogue oscillators

Were I to drop a black hole into the Earth, you'd change your mind about this one.

>Things that are not overrated: ...
>sex, oddly enough

Aw, sex is totally overrated.

Fucking, on the other hand, rocks.

Things which confound (3 Aug 1999)

Rimrunner <> wrote:
>The behavior of cats
>Marketing strategies

Also, marketing the behavior of cats

>The concept of fate
>Falling in love

Also, falling love with the concept of fate

>Shopping malls
>The etiquette of proper introductions

Also, the etiquette of proper introductions at shopping malls

>Emotional turbulence
>The dance remix of "Crazy"

Also, getting all emotionally turbulent during the dance remix of "Crazy"

>Having multiple phone numbers
>The crowd mentality

Also, having multiple phone numbers in a crowd

>The vicissitudes of fortune
>The imperfection of correspondence

Also, the imperfect vicissitudes of corresponding by fortune cookie

>Caring what other people think

Also, caring what other people think about Barbie

>Worrying about admittedly insoluble problems
>Free jazz

Also, worrying about how to resolve free jazz

>The popularity of Jewel [1]

Also, the popularity of Jewel Frappucinos

>Magic, religion, and the intermingling thereof
>Chick tracts

Also, the intermingling of magic and religion in Chick tracts

>The persistence of memory

Also, micromanaging persistent memory

>[1] Yeah, Vogel, I know, I know

And, of course, Rimrunner and Vogel

Entropy abounds!

Glacial Drift (27 Aug 1999)

They always seemed so innocuous, you know? We got used to the idea that, sure, they moved but it was like a snail, it was a crawl, it was just a creaking mountain of hard water rolling slowly downhill.

And everyone was worried that global warming might melt them, destroy them, turn the world into a Kevin Costner movie. As IF. God, we should have been so lucky, to have greenhouse warming kill them.

Kill them, instead of wake them up from their torpor.

"They're just ice!" the disbelieving victims scream, staring in disbelief as yet another town is claimed by one of their kind, newly awakened and hungry as fucking hell. Like that id monster in Forbidden Planet, tearing across the defensive lines and ripping through buildings and tanks and people alike. "It's just ice! Oh GOD, the PAIN!" Into the belly of history with you, I'm afraid.

I'm really disturbed by the latest research that suggests they were created by the dinosaurs as a sort of deadman switch, a defensive weapon against alien invasion. The dinosaurs were a lot smarter than we ever realized, of course. Sure, they never invented the bomb, but dear God, they invented the glacier. Invented it, bred it, stockpiled it on the poles where it would remain inert until needed.

Until we woke them all up.

It must have been bad enough for our primitive ancestors-- 20K years ago, 80K years ago-- when the occasional individual somehow snapped out of its deep storage trance long enough to prowling down across Canada, across Scandinavia, across Siberia. That wave of chilling air, the creak of ice straining as it moves faster than a cheetah-- then the hardest impact imaginable, more force than the Hiroshima bomb, as a living mountain drops onto you with a crack like lightning.

How many of us will be found, someday, in the belly of one of the beasts, like those cavemen we keep finding from time to time? Assuming they ever return to torpor... we may have just given the planet its new dominant life form. The shuttle crews are seeding grey dust into the ionosphere as much as they can, but there's just too much trapped heat.

Where can you go? They breed at the poles... they move fastest at the equator. They don't like running uphill, so everyone's fleeing in their all-wheel SUV's to the tops of the Alps, the Rockies, the Himalayas, whatever-- but I hear that there tend to be breeding nests in the high mountains, and you're just likely to stumble across a pack of babies and be torn limb from limb in their shrieking talons, ground to paste by their frozen jaws.

The deep ocean islands are pretty safe, I guess. They don't last long in real water. Hawaii, last I heard, was trying to support a population of 40 million people; the sides of Mauna Loa are covered in temporary quonset hut villages and they've decimated the jungle on Kauai to make room for an arcology. But it's not enough, everyone is desperate to be there... and I'm sure the glaciers will come up with a plan to eventually get them. I've seen their claws... they have thumbs. They could be tool users.

Me, I'm not sweating it anymore. I'm just kicking back with my oldest bottle of scotch, drinking it on the rocks, enjoying the sound of the ice tinkling in the glass. Hi there, little cousins. Your big bad uncle is on his way; I can hear him. Let's go up on the roof and wait for him, shall we?

The mood swing (21 Jun 2001)

The mood swing goes back and forth. He pushes her on it, push, and again. Fun game! They love to play it. He pushes, she goes, she's up, she comes back. and he pushes. "Faster!" she says. "Higher!" she says. It's never just right. It's never enough. "Harder!" she shouts, and he thinks, I'll give you harder, and then she comes back and his hands are there and he pushes one last time...

Later, he won't be able to remember what came over him.