Waiting for Lady Gaga II
Harpa, Reykjavík, October 2012
Lost in the now. A non-event, nothing happened. Yet within these organisms are billions of cells, each with its own strands of DNA, each cell living in coordination with the others. The code is complete; it has been refined through thousands of generations. Pinnacles of evolution, now motivated by a culture of conflicting desire and conformity.
Flowers! The Movie!
A nice hot 'n humid summer evening. Sitting on the open front porch with a southwest breeze bringing me dozens of scents. Every once in a while one will come to the forefront of my consciousness, as if to say "smell me! smell me!" Flowers all around; the cool and wet spring was good for something. This 3-D technicolor production (in Odor-Rama) is presented for a target audience of bees and bugs, I just snuk in when the usher wasn't looking.
Text originally posted July 21, 2004
Image captured July 20, 2014
On the Road, Again
Mary and Sean were in Idaho, driving through the Clearwater National Forest, heading into Montana. Mary was taking the first shift, hoping that by driving her nausea wouldn't flare up again.
"I was never really aware of how big the world was until I helped my step-mother move." she said. "When I was young my world ended in Seattle."
"She's in Santa Fe, right?" said Sean.
"Yes, she's been down there for fifteen years, since the divorce. She loves it there. It's too dry for me."
"Do you ever hear from your step-father? He's still in Seattle isn't he?"
"He lives in the University district. He doesn't have much to do with either of us. I don't think he was ever comfortable with the idea of adoption; I've never quite figured out the dynamic between him and my step-mom. He acted like he was an open-minded, progressive male, but I think that really he thought that adopting a black child would prove to the world how morally superior he was. I would characterize him as a 'distant' father."
"What about your step-mother? Why did she want to adopt?"
"She wanted a baby, she was infertile, although later on, when I was a teenager, I think she regretted it."
"Was that because you are black?"
"No, it was more about the fact that she could never appreciate my nerdiness. I think she read too many articles about D&D players being devil-worshipers. When the internet took off in the mid nineties and I started to make money gaming she thought I was doing something illegal."
"Which you were?"
"I understood how to game the games. It was my 'gateway drug' to data search."
"And now you're going cold turkey?"
Mary paused before answering.
"I never thought I'd say it, but I've come to the conclusion that there are better ways to live than interacting with a computer all day."
"Is that one of the reasons you got pregnant?"
"Having a baby is beyond reason. My new role module: Supermom. Besides, your Icelandic love-child needs a cousin."
"Hmm. It seems like a pretty half-baked plan for starting a dynasty. That child could be Billy's, however." said Sean.
"A cousin either way. I do wonder why you got that photo of the child, with no letter attached. I would think that his mother would be looking for some child support, or at least an acknowledgement. I could have our lawyers look into it when we get back."
"A guilt trip? Or maybe the Senator's lawyers got to her first. He has a history of paying out hush money."
"If they know about her and the baby. You didn't tell anyone about her, did you?"
"Sally O'Donnell knew I had seen her, but that's all, as far as I know. They thought she was one of Billy's girlfriends. I don't know if they followed up on her."
"That's the Montana border ahead, Missoula is another 45 miles, let's get something to eat there and then you can drive. I want to check in with the legal team."
"Cold turkey, huh?"
"That sounds delicious. No, I just want to see if anything happened while we we're gone."
"And I should call Tina; let her know when we'll be there. If we push it, we can make Rapid City tonight and Decorah tomorrow night."
"That's a couple of very long stretches. We should stop in Billings instead; we've got time. Let's stay off the interstate, the world can get along without us for another day. Call your Aunt tomorrow."
"Sounds like a plan… a fully baked plan."
"I'm starting to like being out of the loop… " Mary said, "… no clients, no employees, no one scrutinizing our every move."
"Inscrutable Supermom. I like it."
"Please don't become a 'Distant Dad.' I need you in on this."
Mary slammed on the brakes as a mule deer bounded in front of the car, missing it by inches. The scent of burning rubber filed the cabin. Visibly shaken, Mary pulled the car over to the side of the highway.
"Are you alright?"
"That was too close." Mary said, turning off the engine. "I think it's your turn to drive, Sean."
They got out of the car to change places. After undergoing a couple of hours of road noise, the silence of the forest was palpable. Sean put his arms around Mary, she was trembling.
"Are you sure you're all right?" asked Sean.
"I'll be fine in a minute. I… when that deer was in front of us, it turned and looked at me, there was something in the eyes… it was as if it knew me."
Thirty Years Ago…
Stacy, Minnesota, July 1984
Looking back at the pictures of the kids is always bittersweet, although there is little to be gained in going over the "what might have beens". The kids turned out OK, in spite of some setbacks and lapses in judgement on my part. These were good times, to be sure: the children were given the freedom to play, fresh air, good food to eat, clean water to drink, a safe place to sleep; with each new day offering new opportunities.
That is more than many kids have; the horrid wars of hatred still fester, stealing the childhoods of many. But this day, thirty years ago, this day was perfect.
Down at the end of the block is Sam's place, noteworthy for its magnificent yard full of gnomes, milk cans, butterflies and other decorations. As long as I've lived here the spindly fence around Sam's yard has always been in a state of decay. Sam always patches it up, I'll see him working on it while out on my evening constitutional. I'll say hello, he doesn't talk much, but is always friendly.
This has been a 'good' year for garage sales. Good tools, three boxes full of primed cedar shakes (which I put on the front of the garage to match the house) and some other supplies I know I'll use. Of course when ever things like that are for sale it means that another old guy has hung it up, either incapacitated or gone, leaving a widow and/or children with his lifetime of accrued possessions. My turn is coming, I've already gotten rid of a lot of stuff I thought I'd never use, but a lot remains. Actuary tables suggest that I've got at least a couple more decades to go, but it could be tomorrow. And if I do go longer the house will need upkeep.
It's been a couple of months since I've seen Sam.
His fence needs work.
Seattle's tech community is all a twittering over the latest news that the secretive data mining firm Applied Diffusion Research (ADR) has been bought out by Amasales, the internet marketing colossus. Founder Mary Robinson and her partner Sean Carroll have reportedly each received a seven figure payoff in the sale, with additional stock options for Ms. Robinson. Sean was notorious for his role in the 'Billygate' affair (which sank Senator Clarkson's 2012 presidential bid) but had 'fallen off the radar' in recent months. Mary has always been a shadowy figure, even to those who worked with her, none of the ex-ADR employees we contacted would speak to us, but others who have dealt with her in the past have described her as "brilliant" and "driven." It is thought that by purchasing ADR Amasales was seeking to beef up its communications security, recent embarrassing incidents have led Amasales to rethink its approach to data encryption. ADR's proprietary systems proved to be uncrackable during the Billygate affair, one of the few systems with an NSA 'backdoor' according to experts in the field.
As a couple, Mary and Sean have been seen together more often since Sean's return from Washington D.C.. Mary has also been spotted with Molly Berenson, Sean's former girlfriend, starting tongues in the tight-knit tech community wagging. Pictures and more on page 5.
"Oh Mary. " Sean said, embracing her.
"Careful, you wouldn't want to squeeze anymore barf out of me." Mary said. "I've just surprised you with the news that I'm pregnant, I'm reeking of puke and yet you still put your arms around me. Most men would run away. Your mother must have done something right when she was raising you."
"And Aunt Tina." said Sean. "I know what I want and I want you, and our baby. Anyway, what's a little vomit between friends? There's mouthwash in my shaving kit."
"I never thought I'd have a man, much less a baby, but there is something about all this, the things we've gone through… how we got together… it's as if we're in some weird techie rom-com. Do you think, maybe, there is some greater force at work?" Mary's eyes glistened.
"Destiny? Sure, why not? Stranger things have happened. To me. Oh Mary, this is such a great thing. For us. Mary… are you crying?"
"I'm going to use that mouthwash now." Mary turned away and went back into the bathroom.
A low rumble in the distance signaled the approach of a storm. Sean went out onto the room's small balcony where he could see the lighting over the mountains in the distance. It was different from Seattle weather, and also different from the glorious thunderstorms he experienced as a child. Here the sky was open, almost clear in spots, with ethereal electrical discharges instead of massive Iowa thunderbolts. He heard the bathroom door open and saw Mary come out. Joining him on the balcony, she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him.
"You're a good man, Sean… " she whispered, "… may nothing ever come between us."
Roger Ramsen, alone in his home office, scrolled down the front page of Tech Creeper. His eyes narrowed when he read about Mary and Sean's buyout. It was obvious from the article that he wasn't the only person interested in the couple. He picked up his phone and entered a speed dial code.
"Ramsen here. What's the latest information you have on Carroll and Robinson, besides what I can read in the online tabloids? Any reaction to the baby picture? Any scandalous actions at all?"
"No reaction to the photo that we know of. No records of any calls or trips to Iceland. Your guy is a deadbeat dad. We've got some photographs of him and Robinson coming out of a dive bar, but it's nothing really. They don't lead the most exciting lives."
"What about the surveillance cameras on their apartment, anyone seen going in or out, any parties?"
"Nobody went in or out but them. What are you looking for?"
"I need something to discredit them: drug dealers, hackers, spies; what about that Molly woman—she was connected with that guy that got out of prison—there's a picture of Mary and her together in a coffee shop in the Tech Creeper story, ferchristssake. Have you looked at all the surveillance footage?"
"Everything but the night footage of their balcony. I looked it a little and didn't see anything. They turn off the lights around ten and they get up around six."
"You looked at it a little? Look at it again, all of it, there has to be something."
"OK, Mr. Ramsen. There's ten hours of it at one frame per second, it will take a while, even at a faster playback."
"Call me when you've finished."
Ramsen hung up. He was tired, but too agitated to sleep. He surfed the net, intently, as if he was on the verge of a great discovery. After an hour of this he was interrupted by a knock on the door.
Sally O'Donnell walked in.
"Aren't you coming to bed? It's after midnight."
"In a minute… " Roger said, "Just a few things I'm working on."
As he was speaking the phone rang.
"Excuse me." He picked up the receiver. "Ramsen here."
"Good News, bad news. Good news: I've got something. I put the best shots in an email, they're still raw, but you'll get the idea."
Just then his computer flashed a notification in the corner.
"I've got them."
Ramsen opened the files. The images were of Mary, on her balcony, arms upraised, and naked.
Sally looked over his shoulder at the screen.
"Great work, where are Robinson and Carroll now?"
"That's the bad news. They're gone, the last confirmed sighting was at 1100 hours, boarding the Edmonds ferry. The tail I had following them missed the cut-off. They haven't returned; the Olympic Peninsula is pretty big."
"They'll turn up. Get those files enhanced and send them to me in the morning."
"Ayup Roger, over and out."
Roger hung up.
"Roger, this is about Sean and Mary, isn't it?" asked Sally. "Why don't you leave them alone?"
"He's not going to get away with this. He's got money now, enough for a lawsuit. He'll try to take Clarkson for every penny he has."
"What is that picture supposed to prove?"
"It proves that that black bitch of his is a witch."
Some songs gain a life beyond the music and lyrics. Paul McCartney's simple child's ditty (written with a little help from his friends) is one of a number of Beatles songs which have entered the gestalt: a structure, configuration, or pattern of physical, biological, or psychological phenomena so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable by summation of its parts* (or something to that effect.)
The song's charm starts with the first line of the first verse with all the other nouns equally evocative; starting with a routine tale (town—born—man—sea—life—land) and throwing in the kicker, submarines, turning the story into an exotic adventure:
In the town where I was born
The next verse turns surreal, with a trip to the sun and its mysterious sea of green:
Lived a man who sailed to sea
And he told us of his life
In the land of submarines
So we sailed up to the sun
And quickly turns into a party:
Till we found the sea of green
And we lived beneath the waves
In our yellow submarine
And our friends are all on board
Many more of them live next door
And the band begins to play
We all live in a yellow submarine
And, like the fairy tale which it is, everyone lives happily ever after:
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
As we live a life of ease
Everyone of us has all we need
Sky of blue and sea of green
In our yellow submarine
The song began as a tune to give Ringo a vocal presence on Revolver which is perhaps the most critically acclaimed Beatles album. With the exception of Eleanor Rigby, none of the other songs have such a wide appeal. Yellow Submarine grew into a colossus with an animated feature film which was followed by a tsunami of merchandise: toys, clothes, and uncountable ephemera—which continues to this day. Other Beatle songs have inspired art in other forms: Norwegian Wood figures heavily in Haruki Murakami's novel of the same name; the new film The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, draws its title from the song (which was the flip side of the Yellow Submarine single.) In addition to the films starring The Beatles, Sgt. Peppers, Across the Universe, P.S. I Love You, Helter Skelter, Can't Buy Me Love, I Wanna Hold Your Hand and many others show up from time to time. But none of these have had the cultural impact of one of the simplest tunes in the entire Beatles canon.