It’s me again
Your little talking friend
From the planet in your head
Like to propose a toast
To the humble host
Of all the crazy shit
That’s been running through my yard
It’s been a while
since we’ve felt like this
a lot of lingering love
from a literary kiss
It’s got me thinking
and I’m thirsty for more
of singing “doo doo doo”
looking out my back door
is that a flying car?
maybe you’ve gone too far
or maybe it doesn’t matter
not a DeLorean
Maybe I’ll get me one
when I’m making fat checks
writing for TV
there’s killer robots there
they’re flying through the air
and mopping up rebel meatbags
they’re not the only ones
’cause blotting out the sun
is an all-consuming ooze
made from future processed foods!
I know it’s crazy but just give it time
while purple plant people plot
to plunder your mind,
until they’re Roundup Ready
and we’re runnin’ to shore
a-singin “doo doo doo”
looking out my back door
(cue the face melting guitar solo)
(outro riff with some tribal tom beats)
singing “doo doo doo”
looking out my back door
There you go. I wrote you a song, bringing back the nostalgia of 90’s alternative pop (if you hear it the way I do, something akin to Jimmy Eat World) with a little nod to Creedence.
In case you ever thought a haiku was something I tossed off in a moment after looking at a picture — something I composed and posted in just a few minutes, consider this:
It took me two and a half hours to write today’s haiku. Do you want to know what I learned about mushrooms while writing this haiku? Because they’re fairly amazing.
The mushrooms growing on this cone are simply fruit — the outgrowth of a significantly less apparent organism. Like the shadowy few that stand behind the play of world politics, this organism stands in the background and performs the unseen transactions, deals with the silent partners, hides all of the secrets . . .
and the potential of its power, boy, is really what impresses me.
See the little white hairs growing at the base of the mushroom? They call that mycelium. Sometimes it’s visible, and sometimes it’s too small to see; but this is the powerhouse behind the more apparent fungus that is sometimes eaten, sometimes toxic, and often the bane of picky horticulturalists. It turns out that getting rid of mushrooms is just like plucking an apple from a tree, though, because they’re growing from mycelium that suffuses the surrounding earth. And although some find them annoying, very few mushroom varieties are parasitic, in effect feeding from live organisms; most are saprophytic, which means they live on dead or decaying material. They are the forest’s recycling system, transforming old carbon-rich organic material into fresh soil.
“had a contiguous growth of mycelium before logging roads cut through it. Estimated at 1,665 football fields in size and 2,200 years old, this one fungus has killed the forest above it several times over, and in so doing has built deeper soil layers that allow the growth of ever-larger stands of trees.”
There’s a case against deforestation, am I right? Point one, nature does it for us; point two, why not just grow natural plastic and take some of that wood out of the equation?
Oh wait, did you know about the plastic?
It’s no secret that plastic is made from oil and it takes a bajillion years to break down. Everyone knows that’s a problem. Enter bioplastics: technically not plastics, but similar in behavior and function, they are newer materials that could replace plastics across entire industries. They’re environmentally friendly; they’re grown, they’re biodegradable, they’re recyclable, and they’re made from mycelium, those mats of tendrils that transport nutrients from decaying organic matter to their fungal fruit. According to Marc Gunther’s article in The Guardian Can Mushrooms Replace Plastic?
“They can produce packaging, home insulation, fiberboard for furniture, even a surfboard.”
Mushroom surfboards? Sign me up, dude!
So here’s the simple list — the upshot of why making plastics from mushrooms is an awesome idea:
The base material is plentiful and inexpensive — crop waste, like corn stalks, are bought from American farmers, giving them additional revenue and saving buckets of ducats over the precious oil used to make traditional plastics. Could this bring down fuel prices as well?
Because it’s grown and not drilled, it’s renewable.
Because it’s organic it can break down naturally, in effect biodegradable.
I get excited about stuff like this – essentially, we could use the Earth to restore, renew, and rescue the Earth. Everything we need is right here, homegrown. And the following videos also got me excited:
Yes, I’m excited to live in a magical world where every day we move toward improving our symbiotic relationship with it. This is stewardship;
I, Doctor Phileas Foggwazzle, M.E., Ph.D., P.C., volunteer in the R.F.D. and esteemed member of the local rotary; hereby present to you all an invention, of my design and manufacture, to reverse pollution of all manner and kind.” He pointed the remote and a projected image lit up the faces of the board members.
THE DISSEMBLER DRONE
“Alone, a single dissembler drone is capable of rendering any substance down to its basic constituents at the atomic level using the power of the electromagnetic force. Deployed as a swarm, the dissembler drones are able to quickly break down large quantities of pollutants, thereby guaranteeing future generations a world free from environmental hazards and irritants; ensuring that air and water will be clean, dirt will be as clean as it is possible for dirt to be, and that animal husbandry may continue unabated by concerns of undesirable greenhouse gas production. In addition, hippies will finally be able to stop protesting polluters and may subsequently find some time to take a shower.
The dissembler drones are nearly ready for full deployment. Unfortunately, the field testing did not go exactly as planned; it was revealed that a small oversight concerning the different textbook applications of the term ‘pollution’ might have caused the drone swarm to render my lab and factory down to an eight inch thick layer of atomic sediment. However, cleanup efforts are in full swing and we will be back in production at the end of the month – provided we are able to secure a small grant to supplement the insurance money.”
“Doctor . . . Fogsworth, is it?” The gentleman at the head of the table looked over the top of the thin pamphlet in his hand.
“Doctor Foggwazzle.” He smiled as though he thought the old man senile. “This is an intriguing design and I’m sure it would be a huge benefit to the entire planet, but uh . . . why come to the Nevada State commission for a science grant? Isn’t there a more appropriate institution to fund your venture?”
“Oh, the answer is simple, Mr. Blume.” The doctor began to pace slowly as he spoke in measured tones. “Las Vegas is known for it’s wealth . . . of light, and sound. Some might even call those . . . pollutants.” He gave the board a sheepish grin.
Blume’s eyes narrowed. He was starting to make connections; the doctor continued. “My drone swarm is heading this way right now, and it will render all of the strip in less than a day. Seventeen-point-four hours, to be more exact. Now I have this remote -” he held it up. “It will turn the swarm away. But I can not do this without some . . . modest financial assistance.”
Blume spoke slowly. This had to be a joke. “How modest are we talking about?”
“Oh,” the doctor looked up at the ceiling. “Twenty billion should do the trick.” His gaze returned to Blume, eyes widely innocent.
“That sounds more like a ransom than a grant-”
“Ah!” The doctor threw his hands up. “You got me! This is a ransom.” He rolled his eyes. “I can’t fool you, can I?” His image fizzled briefly, then changed. The long white coat was replaced by jeans and a heavy, black turtleneck. The iron-grey hair rippled, turning black, and the scraggly, white chin stubble became the dark triangle of a neatly-groomed goatee. His eyes dark and heavy-lidded, his expression serene; he now resembled a cross between Perry Mason and Carl Sagan.
Every one of the board members recognized this man, doubtless from his picture in the papers and on the television news. Someone gasped loudly. “Doctor Malevski!” The older lady next to Mr. Blume shot up out of her seat, then smacked Blume smartly on the back of the head. “I can’t believe you fell for a stupid name like Foggwazzle!”
Blume shrank back from her, protecting his head with upraised hands. “How could I not?”
“My dear lady,” he had to hurry this up – things to do. “What matters is that my swarm of dissembler drones will gladly return Las Vegas to the desert. Now, you have approximately three hours before they arrive, so think fast or this will merely be the first stop on a cross-country trip to New York City. You’ll find an account number printed on the back of your pamphlets – deposit the money and Vegas will be spared.”
The room resounded with stunned silence. Malevski pointed to his watch.
“Well?” Vern returned Carl’s look of mischievous intent. Every time the old feller gave that look, he dropped a line that was so heavily baited it could snap a tree trunk. Thank heavens he only did it when the Coffee Stop was dead – usually Sunday mornings, while most of the town was attending church services. The only other people there were a young couple talking quietly over lattés in the corner.
“What do you think of Heidi’s take on getting involved in Syria?”
Vern sighed heavily. Politics. Democratic senators in a red state, that’s how it had been for years. The last two had both retired, and now Heidi Heitkamp was in, and was pushing for diplomacy in Syria. She said that Syria should be given 45 days to sign the international ban on chemical weapons – as if that would bring back any of the innocent people they’d killed. He topped off Carl’s coffee while weighing his thoughts. He was being baited, sure; but he was also young, opinionated, and he was ready to rise to the challenge.
“I don’t think -”
The ground shook.The lights flickered, the porcelain coffee cups tinkled in the dish racks; one of them fell and smashed on the linoleum. The front of the shop darkened momentarily as though the morning sun had been blown right out of the sky, and then it returned.
A shadow. If that was a shadow then it was the biggest damn shadow that Vern had ever seen fall over the corner café. His first thought was that one of the planes flying into Bismarck Airport had come down; they always flew low over the city, which was why nothing was allowed to be taller than the Capitol, but it wasn’t nearly loud enough to be a crash. Maybe a train had jumped the tracks that ran behind the Coffee Stop? Somewhere down the line, perhaps? Outside, the air echoed with a hundred car alarms going off at once, and Carl had disappeared. Verne popped over the counter, looking down.
Carl hadn’t disappeared; he’d hit the deck. “Well?” Verne said. “S’pose you’ll have to go wash your shorts.”
Carl looked up nervously, grinning. “I don’t know what the heck that was, but it scared the bejeezus outta . . . ”
The next noise scared the bejeezus out of Verne, too. It reminded him vaguely of the sound of metal ripping, like you hear it in the movies when bridges or buildings fall, sort of a low screeching that vibrated the little hairs in your ears, making them tickle. It started relatively soft, increasing in volume until it threatened to blow out the windows, which were vibrating even more than when bass-booming SUVs sat at the traffic light outside. Boom. The ground shook. Boom. It shook again. Just like Jurassic Park. Damn the movies, Verne thought. The things running through his head, he knew they were impossible.
The couple in the corner had already run out like yesterday’s news, and now Carl was at the window, pale as a ghost. Verne had heard one time that getting pale when you were scared – that was because the body drew the blood into the muscles so they could work faster: the fight or flight response. Carl looked back at Verne, mouth gaping. Verne came around the counter to the windows looking out on Main Street. What he saw . . .
Fight or flight. Maybe a little bit of both?
“Well what the heck . . . ” Verne had no way to finish the question, no way to put into words the proper query for why there was a dragon walking down Main Street. Stalking actually, like a predatory cat – and it seemed to be following a mohawked runner who zipped past the windows in running shorts, a tight compression shirt, and earphones.
“Woohoo!!” The runner crowed as he sped down Main Street.
“What the heck. . . ” Vern was otherwise speechless as the giant creature strode past. Carl was gibbering, pointing at the ginormous scaly legs, the lithe, swishing tail – the world had gone and went ass-over-tits crazy;
and on a Sunday morning, no less.
Rob slapped at his ear. The buzzing from his left earbud was pissing him off, but there was nothing to be done about it; he refused to stop running in order to take care of it.
I should have bought the sweat-resistant earbuds, he thought. At the store, however, he had decided that “sweat-resistant” was a gimmicky claim they had used to price those earbuds twenty dollars higher than the ones he had decided to get, which were noise reducing earbuds – that meant more tunes in his ears and less outside noise. He turned off the music to stop the buzzing but left the buds in, focusing on his form, keeping his legs going and his feet pounding the pavement. He was in the zone.
His running app offered up an audio cue. Time: fifteen minutes. Distance: two-point-one-five miles. Average pace: six minutes, fifty-nine seconds per mile. He had just smashed the seven-minute mile for the first time in five years of serious running.
Rob whooped at the top of his lungs; he didn’t care if everyone on Main Street heard him – those who weren’t in church, which was like maybe a dozen people. There was a couple looking at him like he was crazy. He nodded a greeting and kept running. Then the earbud actually shocked his ear.
Annoyed at the spark of pain in his ear, he tore the earbud out and sound came crashing in; apparently, there was a lot more going on than he’d realized. Turning his head, he saw the dragon loping along behind him.
There was a dragon chasing him; it was frickin’ huge. He couldn’t process it. A car pulled up and paced him on the empty street. The passenger window rolled down, and a lady yelled out at him. “Don’t stop! If you stop, it will attack.”
“I’m not stopping, there’s a dragon chasing me!”
“It’s not chasing you, it’s following you!”
“What’s the difference?” There was a kid standing on the sidewalk in the distance, unmoving. Crap, Rob thought, I’ll have to try and save that . . . it wasn’t a kid, though – it was a midget. Or a little person, whatever you call them. He was crouching now, one hand on the ground and the other outstretched, his face pinched in a look of intense concentration.
Rob ran around him. There was a blast of wind, and he risked another look back. The dragon was gone, the little guy was looking back at him. He was safe – and going straight home.
The lady in the car caught up with him on the way. Rob pretended not to notice; things like this didn’t happen. They didn’t. “Let’s talk about what just happened,” the lady called out to him.
“I’ve got nothing to say.”
“You can’t hide from this. If you’re not careful it can happen again.”
Rob stopped. What was she saying? “Are you saying that I did that? How could I have done that?”
The lady pulled up. “There’s a way to find out.”
No way. “You’re crazy, and I’m going home.” Rob walked off, annoyed.
First of all, for all you prompt bloggers out there, there is a new writing challenge that can take off if we are willing to help out, called the “What If? writing challenge”. Find it here.
Have you ever seen the movie Groundhog Daystarring Bill Murray? I remember having seen it several times when I was younger. I can’t remember what triggers it, or if that’s even explained, but he keeps waking up on the same morning as his alarm clock goes off, and ends up having the same day over and over and over. At first he feels like he’s going crazy, and then he kind of starts to; he tries killing himself at one point, and just ends up waking up in bed again – same bat time, same bat channel. Eventually, he begins to try to do things right, to get the day just right, and in the process he learns to play piano like a crazy virtuoso and falls in love, I think with Andie MacDowell‘s character. The rest is kind of foggy.
So I’m forced to wonder, would I really want to have this chance? Or more to the point – Murray’s character was essentially being held prisoner, a hostage to a single spin of the Earth, with some inexplicit exit clause. Is it any wonder he tried to kill himself? An American P.O.W. soldier is required by the rules to try to escape. When you’re stuck repeating the same day over and over, would you get to that point? I might. Thank goodness it’s not a possibility, right? (knocks on wood)
If I were in there, though, what day would I choose? Oh wait – this is in fact a question of ‘if I had a day to do over. . . ‘ Now that’s a little sneaky. I’m not sure what day I’d do over, and that might be a good thing; let me explain. I’ve screwed up an awful lot in my life. I’d be hard-pressed to pick just one day because where I am now is really a compounded calculation of everything that I have done up to this point, and the farther back you go the more the little things seem to count. Whether I folded my socks or balled them up in 1996 might actually have a significant impact on whether I have a wife or not right now. Consider that. It seems a little out there, but then it’s like, “if you could go back and bang any girl from your past . . . ”
Yeah, I’m not going to play that. It’s a dangerous game for several reasons.
That’s why when I’m approached with a question like this, I like to stay far away; and if I got stuck in this scenario, I’m fairly certain I don’t get a choice as to which day it is, do I? I’m more likely to believe that someone else screwed up a machine meant to bridge between parallel dimensions and now as a result I have to live across every dimension before I can move forward by a single day. Now that would have interesting effects. First of all, what’s the chance I ran across somebody who is already in the know? Well that depends upon if and when someone has entered this particular dimension. It’s like a crapshoot as to whether any one person is living the same day over and over, and then again whether they have figured it out yet. Then there’s the question of fatigue. How many dimensions are there, anyway?
Bad news, guys:
It’s probably infinite.
Ha ha! So which day would I choose? None of them!
Furthermore, is it possible to get life “right”? Let’s put it this way: what is right? What is wrong? Do we have the right to judge, between right and wrong, good and evil, black and white, Coke and Pepsi, Whopper and Big Mac? The fact is, this is why whoever wrote the bible (and don’t answer that if you don’t want my response) put a tree of the knowledge of good and evil right in the middle of the paradisaical Garden of Eden: because certain enlightened disciplines posit that nothing is good and nothing is evil, and putting a label on something does not make it so. When we do that, we only create a source of frustration for ourselves and for others who subscribe to those labels; that is why we DO. NOT. EAT. The FRUIT. The temptation is there, but to give in is the quickest path out of paradise, period.
I like my life. I would change the future by simply stating what I would like to accomplish. I will never, ever, touch the past willingly. If I had a way, I would never use it. In my book, there’s no such thing as right and wrong. Everything simply is, and I try my best to live with love. I’m never perfect, and sometimes it goes somewhat poorly.
First of all, for all you prompt bloggers out there, there is a new writing challenge that can take off if we are willing to help out, called the “What If? writing challenge”. Find it here.
Imagine for a moment that I am a mad scientist; I “have the knowledge, the lab, and the madness.” You know what I would do with that?
Me neither. Define madness! Are we talking about the kind of mad where you think destroying the planet or blowing up the Moon is a good idea for some reason that no one else can comprehend? Or is it more like the kind of mad where you’re so eccentric that nobody understands what you’re up to? I have to assume it’s not the stark, raving madness that lands one in an asylum, the madness that affects those who have been reduced to gibbering lunatics that can’t interact normally.
I’d like to think that as a mad scientist I would be one of the latter, but let’s go ahead and address the former first. Let’s say that I have a plan. I have decided that it would be a great way to assume world dominance if I held the Moon hostage; to that end, I have built a super-concentrated ion beam emitter ray, also known as a SIBER. With it, I plan to slice the moon into two pieces; each having half the original mass of the moon, will also exert half the gravitational force, and thus will fly out of the current orbit, causing meteorological havoc all over the planet – we’re talking earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, wildfires, stock market surges, new Rob Schneider films, and all manner of things generally unpleasant; complete with the attendant uptick in police and military presence, and while they’re trying to keep the peace, I will seize control of the planet with the plan which I will not reveal here.
Of course, all of that can be avoided if you just hand over the reins of power now. Think about it; nobody has to die, nobody has to get hurt. Nobody loses their home or their loved ones, their SUVs, their wood-fired meat smokers, their beehives, their plastic pink lawn flamingos. . . and then I can turn all of my mad science to good causes, like ending world hunger and curing cancer. Except the SIBER, of course. You’ll be my hostages in perpetuity, or at least until I have decided that I can trust you not to try anything. . . stupid.
Or if I were one of those (more or less) harmless mad scientists who did things that seemed like a good idea, but that are rarely understood by others, I might focus my efforts on the beneficial causes right from the start. Maybe I will end world hunger by inventing a manna machine that causes nutritive substances to form in the cloud layer and then rain down upon starving third-world countries. It’s like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, only not burgers and fries, but just kind of a hyper-nutritive bread from heaven that will biodegrade over a short period of time. On the other hand, if things do not go as planned there might be issues of pollution and meteorological havoc to deal with, as well as possible unintended effects upon the ozone layer, worldwide darkness, things like that. All easily fixable, I’m sure.
Or maybe I could cure cancer by creating nanoscopic swarms of robots, controlled by custom software algorithms, finely tuned to the individual patient, that will allow them to work together to seek out and destroy cancerous tumors and cells; or in some cases where that’s not possible, at the very least keep them under control, limit angiogenesis, and prevent metastasis. That is, if I can prevent them from getting outside of the body, which is famous for being able to expel anything that does not belong in it (and some things that do.) Once on the outside they might cause havoc by creating a grey goo epidemic, which would lead to widespread respiratory illness and heaven knows what else, thanks to the individual nature of the algorithms and variation between different people, plus possible unforeseen bugs in the software. Ha ha! Yeah, we probably ought to address that now. . .
Now, those are just two examples, and in fact I took them from the previous supposition that I was out to rule the world. But what if the so-called “evil” mad scientist really thought he was doing what was best for humankind? I mean, what person commits senseless acts on a worldwide scale for no reason? What do you do with the money when you have to take down the economy to get it, right? That mad scientist who wants to rule the world probably has some really good ideas for reinventing Earth into the planet of the future; it might involve killing all of the lawyers and politicians, but hey, how do you make an omelette without breaking some eggs? Especially if the end result is an end to world hunger, an end to dependence upon fossil fuels, an end to terminal illness, an end to involuntary workaholism – making the world, in essence, a veritable utopia?
And what if the average brilliant scientist came up with a perfectly good plan that backfired in unforeseen and unimagined ways, would we villainize him, even demonize him to the point where everyone believes that he was up to no good in the first place? How do we punish someone who really just made an innocent mistake, but doesn’t really relate that well to others and so could possibly flub his defense?
If all the lawyers are already dead, I’d hope I could get Neil DeGrasse Tyson to represent me. People just love that guy!
This post was prompted by today’s What If? writing challenge prompt
I imagine I’m on a long flight sitting next to someone who, as it turns out, is a palm reader. Or, at least they think they can read palms. So, at first they might offer nicely to read my palm for me. I start to consider switching seats, but I can’t figure out why anybody would want to sit next to a person who asks to read your palm on a flight. There is something a little wrong with that. Is it a way to segue into a terrorist attack, or is it just going to be the most awkward flight in the history of mankind?
I would do my best to avoid this, because I really don’t believe that the palm has anything to say about a person’s past or future or anything else, for that matter; however, somehow the prompt has got me acquiescing. So what does this charlatan tell me? Can I look forward to health? Do I expect wealth, or success? Am I going to meet a beautiful dark mysterious lady, who will make my life complete – before I reveal to this palmist that I’m married with child? Will my fortune be specific, or will it be a collection of generalities that are supposed to lead me toward believing in this hocus-pocus?
Those people are supposed to be pretty good at cold-reading others, drawing out facts from a person like pulling pickles from a jar, while making it seem as though the “psychic” is divining them somehow. I’ve learned to cultivate a healthy skepticism toward a lot of superstition related to fortune-telling. I like newspaper horoscopes because they often give good advice, and somehow horoscopes are more often than not correctly guessing a person’s personality by their zodiac sign. But that does not mean that I believe in it.
My hands are strong, but finely structured with some callousing on the palms. So I’m a working man and I desire money, right? I’d settle for a decent pickup with a tonneau cover, really. And what do I know of lifelines? I’m pretty sure mine is at least this long.