Friday, November 24 2000
I've had Earthlink DSL now for about a month and a half, but today I received the following email:
Dear Gus Mueller,
Thank you for submitting your name to our EarthLink DSL waiting list.
As a valued member of our priority list, we would like you to know that we
make every effort to check your DSL serviceability status. Having recently
resubmitted your information, we unfortunately must inform you that our
records show that EarthLink DSL is still not available at your location.
Should your line become serviceable for DSL in the near future, we will
make every effort to contact you.
If you would rather not receive these communications in the future and have
not yet selected this link, please click here:
Thank you for your patience and, once again, thank you for choosing
The EarthLink Broadband Sales Team
This is, I think, a pretty good sign of communication difficulties at Earthlink.
It's pretty well established by now that in general men are more likely to develop sexual perversions and fetishes than are women. For whatever reason, male sexuality is easy to skew and distort but nearly impossible (short of castration) to destroy. This is not to say that male sexuality can be modified in any sort of predictable way, but it can easily be sent down paths altogether unrelated to the business of procreation. Women, on the other hand, when faced with perverting sexual circumstances, react in more nuanced ways. Or so I thought, until someone in my forum brought up the subject of the woman who considers herself married to the Berlin Wall. Another sexual thing about girls that sort of creeps me out is the explanation I read recently for why teenage girls love horses disproportionately more than do boys. Horses are big, muscular animals that a young girl's psychology easily identifies as representative of the male role. Girls get into horses a long time before they realize it's simply misplaced sexual craving, and our society collectively nods its approval. By the way, I wonder how many cowboys are gay?
For much of the afternoon I had this painful feeling of not knowing my place in the world, uncertain whether I had perhaps fucked things up irretrievably with, um, people. In all forms of electronic communication there existed an inexplicable existential draught. There'd been plans for today, but now it seemed that maybe those plans were off. My housemate John had gone down to a sportsbar on the Santa Monica Promenade to watch a football game and I was completely alone. So I walked up to Ralphs and did some grocery shopping. I accidentally bought AA batteries when I meant to buy AAA.
Then all of a sudden everything began to get better. Emails began to arrive, AOL instant messenger came to life, and John came home from watching the football game at the sportsbar, happy that his team had won. He announced that Junkyard Wars was on The Learning Channel and I should come watch. Junkyard Wars is definitely our kind of show. Two teams of scrappy do-it-yourself mechanics are loosed in a British junk yard with the challenge of building vehicles that will later be pitted against one another in some sort of race. They weld together bits of old motorcycles and cars and somehow build flying machines and submarines. The theme ditty consists of three notes sung like the chorus of Duran-Duran's "Girls on Film," but the lyrics go "Junkyard Wars" instead.
At about this time I began arranging with Linda for John and me to come over tonight to partake in the eating of hallucinogenic mushrooms with her and Julian. Such psychedelic adventures shouldn't normally be undertaken when there is emotional, social or psychological uncertainty, and at first (given recent events) Linda thought perhaps she was too fragile. But in the end she decided we were good to go.
For various reasons, none of which really turned out to be important, we arranged to do the mushrooms over at Julian's apartment in Park La Brea. On the ride over, John told me that he always bleaches his fingernails before he trips because it's good to smell when he's in that state.
We undertook our adventure in Julian's bedroom, which (in the aftermath of the departure of his housemate Jay) is the only fully-furnished room in the apartment. The mushrooms had been ground into a powder and packed into capsules, thereby sparing us the unpleasantness of their cashewy-chemical flavor.
The only other time I've tripped on mushrooms was Spring Break of 1987, when I'd eaten two and half grams of dehydrated mushrooms while socializing with drug-free chums from high school. The resultant trip was so powerful and frightening that I actually found myself wishing for death. This time we each took only one gram each.
About an hour later I could feel it in my stomach, a sort of cross between nausea and hunger. Then an unusual feeling spread to my arms and cheeks. The first wave of distinctly psychological effect was almost overwhelming, but I was with friends and I could think my way out of the many frightening nuances that appeared. I found myself thinking in an unexpectedly spiritual, self-critical way. I was particularly focused on the overtly sexual interpretation I'd made of recent things that have been happening between myself and Linda. There she was, like some sort of angel, especially wrapped as she was in a sheepskin she'd recently bought. I realized that I'd been terribly mistaken with my assessment of her as some sort of wanton polyamorous nymphomaniac. Her physicality was just a form of intense spirituality, not even really sexual at all. Julian, in his low-key non-judgmental way, seemed to be a similar (though complementary) sort of spirit. The thing they had between them (and they're very open about their physical affection with one another) seemed like an entirely different species of thing from whatever it was I had experienced. Suddenly I was embarrassed by the thoughts I'd had and the emails I'd written. I wanted to take them away and hide and leave Linda and Julian alone to pursue whatever it is they have without hindrance. Still, every time Linda looked over at me it had something of the warmth of springtime. I felt both conflicted and weak.
The peak of our trip happened somewhere in the middle of Radiohead's Kid A. Julian and Linda share a refined, eclectic taste in music, most of which is the same experimental/post-modern/lofi rock that I like. I've been strongly influenced by Linda's taste in music, but I'd yet to develop an understanding for her adoration of Kid A. Though I've gradually come to enjoy most of the critic-friendliness of Radiohead albums, this one has remained inaccessible. Until tonight. Having been there, I have to say that I can't imagine anything else I'd want to hear while peaking on mushrooms. The shimmering layers of sound shot through with lightning bolts of odd little hallucinogenic noises and repetitive lyrics that seem to cut to the core of what it means to be human - these things put me hopelessly in awe. By the way, of late I've found Radiohead lyrics have been speaking to my current condition better than other music I could be listening to.
During this "peaking" phase, I didn't find that I was having any hallucinations that exceeded the power of my sense organs. There were a few interesting misperceptions of movement ("trails" for example) but the only times I really saw things were when I closed my eyes. Each time I did this I was transported into a cliché hallucinogenic cartoon world, full of mandelbrot patterns made up of little human faces, twisting into a three-dimensional vortex that might well have represented a tunnel across space and time to the ultimate truth.
While Linda and Julian seemed to turn into angels in the hallucinogenic fog, for John it just seemed to bring out his attention deficit disorder. For a period of time he maniacally paced the floor while the rest of us just stared calmly at the ceiling. Other times, when we'd be talking and I'd be grappling with what seemed to me like profound mysteries, he couldn't break out of the role of stand-up comedian, not even for a moment. And the kind of comedy he was using was the most superficial kind, puns mostly, taking my words and forcing them into awkward little frames that did nothing to contribute to the ideas with which I was struggling. I think that the biggest problem in our communication when we're out socializing is that neither of us much enjoys the role of straight man in a comedic act.
But John is a good story teller and here and there in the evening he told me a number of tales that I thought were excellent. One was the story of how he'd torn a ligament in his knee and had to have it surgically replaced with the ligament of a cadaver. The best part of the story was the details of exactly how this replacement is done. The ligament is removed from the cadaver with bone attachment plugs at either end and these are inserted into holes drilled into the leg bone, and set with expansion screws. The recipient's body gradually invades the implanted bone plugs with its own vascular tissue. No immune-suppressant drugs are necessary.
Unfortunately, neither Julian nor Linda were making for much of an
audience. Every time John or I attempted to command their attention to tell them a story, they quickly became distracted and started whispering to each other. This is very different from their usual behavior. They normally sit in rapt attention to our stories.
At a certain point in the experience I realized that my usual self-assignment for an evening is to find a "unified field theory" to explain everything that is happening. It's the story teller's burden, the quest for an underlying theme that all the little events seem to be supporting. My study of the hierarchical object-oriented nature of language, particularly the analysis that went into the development of my random phrase generator, keeps taking me back to the idea that there are multiple layers of organization in textual content, the highest of which being the theme. For tonight, this theme was that "unified field theory of the evening." For my life, however, the theme is more elusive. A few months back when I dreamed of the Gummy Dude I thought perhaps my life's theme was just beginning to be revealed. And having as yet had no replacement for that particular theme, it still stands, even though I've only had two data points to support it and cannot yet understand what it means.
Tonight's grand unified field theory began gathering its supporting sub-themes early in the evening, before the mushrooms had even kicked in. I mentioned something I'd read online about a small near-Earth metallic asteroid that is worth many trillions of dollars because of all the platinum it contains, but the problem (of course) is how to get to it.
Later on, while tripping pretty hard on the mushrooms, I realized that the only value a human being has is as a wave, not as a particle. Allow me to explain. Humans are comprised of a great many atoms and molecules of different varieties, but an interesting thing about these components is that they come and go regularly and few of them persist in the human body for an entire lifetime. Humans are, in essence, disturbances on the Earth not unlike hurricanes. The water and wind that make up a hurricane are constantly being cycled through and ending up as tranquil water and still air as the hurricane continues its angry march. It's not the particulars of the components of a hurricane that make it interesting, it's the organization itself. The simplest form of this sort of phenomenon is the wave. My conclusion, then, was that the thing about John that I cared about wasn't the particles that made him up, since these particles were just cycling through like wind in a hurricane. What I cared about was his wave nature, the dynamic organization of those particles in time, the storm called John. I'm sure John made a very bad pun at this point in my articulation of my idea, but I digress.
Another idea that occurred to me was the analogy between the communication of ideas between people and the transportation of ideas and species between Polynesian Islands. I tell you something, I look in your eyes, and it's like a boat washing ashore on your island and a breeding pair of exotic monkeys disembarking and spreading their kind throughout your jungles, driving out the native species of your private thoughts. The metaphor breaks down when you try to find a discoursive analogue for a shipment of commodities between islands. This is because commodities contain no information, no reproduceable wave value that can propagate and spread in a jungle (metaphoric or otherwise). They are like platinum asteroids in that they are composed of scarce valuable particles, but such commodities are very different from ideas.
A sidenote which popped up like a mushroom tonight:
A duck is comprised largely of fat, and if you soak a dead duck in hot petroleum jelly, eventually (through osmosis) the duck's fat will be replaced by petroleum jelly in a manner not too different from the one that creates fossils.
The interesting thing about human inventions is that they have, up until very recently, been valuable principally for their commodity nature, not for the reproduceable ideas they contain. This, of course, is changing, but it's turning out to be difficult to find an economic model that can support a commerce of ideas. Information wants to be free. In one example I presented to John and Julian, a platinum ring is worth a lot more than a salamander of equal weight. The salamander might contain a great deal more information, but that information is cheap and easily reproduceable.
What does it say about our humble little planet and our state of evolution when the value of our civilizations, culture, and real estate, taken as a whole, is outvalued by the ignorant particles comprising a small metallic asteroid? What does this say about the ultimate theme of humanity as imperfectly interpreted by philosophy, biology and the world's many religions? This question was, I came to feel, the ultimate theme for the evening.
As a tiny microcosm of what I was thinking, I found myself tearing and folding a few of my company-printed business cards, thereby raising them above the commodity-like blandness of their original rectangular form. The most common of my alterations were cards that had been folded in half, ripped in two places near the center of the fold, with the resultant peninsula being counter-folded the other way to be subsumed in the greater fold. John asked for one of these altered cards and I handed it to him. Then I joked that I had "people" who had mastered the skill of manufacturing these cards, and did he want to perhaps purchase an entire shipment?
After we'd come down nearly completely, we walked to a nearby 7-11 to buy icecream. I must have still been tripping because the bright primary colors of the products in the 7-11 were awe-inspiringly over-the-top. I had no real desire to eat or drink anything, so I bought a bottle of V8 Juice, rationalizing that it was most similar to the blood in my body and wouldn't require much effort for my digestive system to process.
From left to right: Julian and Linda. Linda, former Director of Community Development at my company, used to be my boss. Julian is a project manager in the Data Systems group I'll be joining once I'm done with leading development of the UK site.
Of late Linda and I have been unexpectedly experiencing a form of intimacy that neither of us really understand.
From left to right: Housemate John and Julian.
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
previous | next