flavors of mammalian earwax
Sunday, December 23 2001
the ever-shrinking New York Times help wanted section
This morning I went into the hallway to steal the classified section from neighbor Ernie's New York Times. (Gretchen stopped getting the Times well over a month ago.) What a shocking disappointment it was!
It was only six pages long, and one of those was taken up by a full-page house ad for the New York Times itself. What a long way we've come from the go-go 90s! I remember when I first got to San Diego back in September '98 and wondered if I'd ever find a job. In those days I had nothing to fear; the computer section of the Union Tribune all by itself was at least as long as today's entire New York Times help wanted section.
fight for your right to freedom of chemistry
John Ashcroft and his more photogenic henchmen can dismantle our rights piece by wretched piece, but really, no one was ever free the moment we lost the right to freedom within the chemistry of our own mortal bodies. At sundown, Gretchen and I decided to artificially unleash reserves of serotonin, a critical neurotransmitter in our nervous systems. We did so by twice the normal amount, since it always seems that a $25 unit of MDMA lasts us about a half hour at most. Come to think of it, if we ever wanted to make a habit of being messed up that briefly for that amount of money, we should really cultivate a greater fondness for either crack or Nitrous Oxide.
eliminated are the detrimental memes
In the half hour or so we had remaining of normal reality, we set off for the Vale of Cashmere with Sally the Dog. Our reality gradually assumed its altered form as we sat on the park benches beside the partially-dry fountain ponds. For some reason we were discussing the origins of things in our society. My evolutionist perspective is so strong that I view absolutely every detail of society as having been selected for by Darwinian forces in the struggle for genes, individuals, and whole societies to survive upon a limited Earth. Indeed, even memes as seemingly counterproductive as racism, homophobia, gender bias, and boy band obsession probably have contributory roles to play in our society. Racism, for example, is the active pursuit of a racial purity, and the implicit goal of racism is to keep the genes and ideas of others from "contaminating" a culture as it goes about its business of world domination. In white American racism, this advances the cause of less-advantage-conferring genes and cultural ideas within "white culture" that "contamination" would otherwise replace. In the short term, if perpetrated successfully, this racism preserves a racial or cultural identity, but in the long run it is conterproductive to the descendants denied beneficial memes (hybrid vigor). However, it needs to be conceded that there are also advantages to a world-wide human population having cultural and genetic diversity. The existence of unique races with real differences (whether a consequence of racial purity laws, the island effect, or otherwise) counteracts the vulnerability of the monoculture.
Similarly, homophobia serves a compelling need, especially at the family-unit level. A father wishing to be fruitful and multiply wants his children to do the same. At the same time, homosexuality itself, as a persistent trait woven into our very biology, also probably contributes to our society's survival.
And no, not because of any sort of "survival advantage" conferred by the checking of fecundity - disease and famine have traditionally kept human populations under control just fine and will continue to do so when technology eventually fails us. I'm talking about (on the family level) the cognitive effects of homosexuality, and on the societal level, the social effects. I'd rather not discuss cognitive effects just now and instead focus on what I mean by social effects. Gays form fundamentally different - but parallel - social networks from those formed by reproducing straights. These networks permeate culture and provide additional avenues for economic and social information, thereby strengthening the society around it. Similarly, the presence of certain ethnic groups (the Jews, Hispanics and Chinese come to mind) create additional widespread social networks that can stabilize society and lubricate the economy. Oh yes, and thanks be to God for the Russian and Isræli MDMA-running rings - or so I'm told.
It's safe to conclude that all these memes, both good and bad, will probably persist in humanity until the end of time, since under different circumstances they all have contributions to make. We'd like to entertain the thought that humanity is striving towards enlightenment, that one day we will all be equal, peaceful, wealthy, and free. Unfortunately, though, freedom is a meme like anything else, and the kind we have is here merely because it serves a Darwinian purpose in this particular time. Indeed, we see it takes a relatively modest effort to completely upset the balance that freedom and equality depend upon.
saying "I'm lonely"
How can I describe the matter-of-fact beauty of the fans of leafless boughs set against the glowing sky? The only caveat was the presence of nighttime cruisers creeping back and forth against this very same sky on the rim of the Vale. I'd never been in the Vale of Cashmere so late, and I didn't really want to stay much longer.
Walking back to Park Slope across the Long Meadow, the wind reached its clammy fingers through every pore of my Mountain Hard Wear® ski jacket (a gift of Bathtubgirl's mother, Christmas 1999) to enfold me in a relentless molestation. Meanwhile Gretchen's Patagonia Northface® had no such vulnerability, but in this case I was the squeaky wheel. As we passed through the Meadowport Archway to the vicinity of Grand Army Plaza, Gretchen told me that when she was younger, she couldn't say the word "lonely" because its very sound was too terrifyingly bleak to bear. The word came to be a taboo. She's older now, of course, but the word is still no friend. For this reason, she told me, she was delighted to discover a song that addressed her precise issue with the admission of - verbally coming to terms with - loneliness. The song is "Two Hearts" by the Jayhawks, a band that opened for Bob Dylan when Gretchen had a free ticket to one of his concerts. It was an intriguing story, so I wanted to hear the song when we got back to the brownstone.
We'd been listening to the Jayhawks last night and I'd appreciated the jangly electric folk-rock songs. Now, though, in my particular altered condition, some of these songs really blew me away. "Two Hearts" was heartbreakingly transcendent, followed immediately by the appropriately rocking jangler "Real Light." It's always good (and realistic) when honest expressions of despair are immediately followed by the frustrated smashing of things. The other song I love is "Nothing Left to Borrow." My main complaint with the Jayhawks concerns their occasionally excessive use of piano, which more often than not seems to cheapen their sound. Also one of the songs ("Red's Song") has a sound that for me bears an off-putting resemblance to the Grateful Dead. Another ("Ten Little Kids") rather resembles a slide-guitar-equipped Superchunk, but not in a way that excites me.
In our empathetic little world of tears and hugs, I wanted the "keyads" (Sally, Edna and Noah) to participate. Sally was pretty into it, though occasionally she had a look of "you guys are weird" on her face. Still, she wasn't complaining at I let her lick the front of my face, something I never normally do. Edna hung out for awhile too but then had her fill and went off to lie in the tiniest footprint of space upon the floor. I ventured into the bedroom and one point and returned with an armload of fluffiness, Noah. He was a good sport, but eventually he too had had enough.
Aside my overwhelming feelings of empathy and goodwill, the only thing that was strongly different about me was my eyesight. I kept seeing the world get caught in little spasms of jerking back and forth, like the wocka-wocka-wocka of a scratching DJ. It was not the least bit disturbing, though I figured it might be making my eyes look peculiar.
flavors of mammalian earwax
It says something about the state I was in that I finally got around to tasting the earwax of all the various creatures. Dog earwax, I discovered, has no flavor whatsoever. Cat earwax is bitter, but not in the same way as human earwax. It's a simpler, less persistent kind of bitter. For her part, Sally has tasted human and cat earwax on numerous occasions and probably has no idea that her own is the only without flavor in the household.
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