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Christmas Eve: A Cop’s Story

December 16th, 2009

Back in the days of big everything, another lifetime ago, we had mega cities, mega population, mega weapons, mega crime, mega consumption, mega debt. And of course, mega police. The very word “police” comes from the ancient word for city, so you can imagine how big the police force had to become to keep up with vast, metastasizing urban sprawls. In all that bigness, it was easy to forget we were human beings – all of us, even the crooks.

Boy looking at store window display of toys.

Boy looking at store window display of toys.

In those days there weren’t many females on the force, mostly token ones. We were expected to be tougher and more hardboiled than any male cop, and at the same time were given all the jobs requiring sympathy or sensitivity, like breaking bad news to parents or interviewing grief-stricken witnesses. Well, that’s just the way it was then, but even in those unenlightened times and in that cruelest of jobs, the most bizarre mysteries could still arise. Which is how I was assigned ICU duty one Christmas Eve.

You have to go to the history books to learn what Christmas was then, and nothing they say can tell what it was really like. What we quietly celebrate now as an ancient seasonal festival had become in those times a mega orgy of consumption. There were mega stores and even huge complexes of stores called shopping malls where people spent their year’s income and more – going into unimaginable debt — buying gifts for each other that few needed or even wanted, all to be given on this one insane holiday. Many businesses depended on that annual burst of shopping to survive, and even some of the smallest, independent shops stayed open well into the night on the evening before Christmas, when frenzied shoppers swept entire shelves clean of anything they had seen advertised on their televisions.

The woman in the ICU worked in such a place, a small bookshop near River Road that carried new and used books and had a back room for children’s books and toys. A pleasant little shop, I enjoyed browsing there myself when I could, and I remembered the woman as a helpful, cheerful soul, always willing to go the extra mile for a customer. She wasn’t cheerful that night, and I’m sure she didn’t recognize me. In fact, she was a wreck. She sat on a stool next to the bed where her child lay, unconscious, his small body swathed in heated sheets and plugged into a bank of monitors, oxygen tubes, and IV hookups. Oblivious to doctors, nurses, technicians swarming around the bed, she held the boy’s hand and spoke to him in an incessant, sing-song murmur.

I was supposed to get her statement, but how does one interrupt such a fierce, intense situation? I waited patiently, dodging interns and orderlies, and slowly recognized what the woman was saying so persistently to her child.

Boy beside store window display of Christmas ornaments.

Boy beside store window display of Christmas ornaments.

“Mike Mulligan had a steam shovel, a bright red steam shovel,” she said. “Her name was Mary Anne. Mike Mulligan loved Mary Anne. He always said she could dig as much in a day as a hundred men could dig in a week….” Word for word, she told the entire story of Mike Mulligan and His Steamshovel, then without pause began, “Five little puppies dug a hole under the fence and went for a walk in the wide, wide world….” Nonstop, she recited from memory “Peter Rabbit,” “The Story About Ping,” “Babar and Father Christmas.” The monitors blinked on and on with little or no change, the medics continued their arcane rituals, and the child lay motionless, somewhere between life and death, his mother willing him back to her with familiar, beloved words. “Once upon a time in Spain there was a little bull and his name was Ferdinand….”

I was as tough and hardboiled as the meanest male cop in town, but no way I could break the spell that desperate woman was casting. Only the medics dared do that. As she finished the Story of Ferdinand, they gently eased her from the bed, promising she could return in a few minutes after they tried another procedure. I led her to a corner, out of the way of the trauma team, and gave her a cup of cocoa brought by a young male nurse. I had to help her hold the cup to her lips to sip, and then she nearly spilled it. She had eyes and thought only for the child a few feet away.

“Mrs. Parsons,” I said, holding her up as she sagged toward the bed.

“Janice,” she said automatically. “Just Janice. Please. Oh god, what are they doing?”

“They’re doing everything they can to save him,” I said. “Trust them, you must trust them and let them do their work.”

Shit, I hated my job in that moment. Under orders to get her statement ASAP, I introduced myself and asked her to tell me what happened.

“The ice,” she said, her eyes never wavering from the activity around the bed. “It must have been the ice….”

We had already figured that. The storm had hit with little warning, a blast of sleet and frozen air from the north that coated the roads with lethal black ice. She had had to work late because her boss, the proprietor, was late returning from his dinner, held up by the road conditions. Her little boy, Davy, had been happily playing in the back room since his day care closed, while Janice cheerfully waited on harried customers. Finally her boss had returned and she had headed home with Davy, driving carefully along River Road….

Her voice dwindled away, as if memory ended there.
“Janice,” I said. “The car. Who else was in the car?”

She stared blankly at her child, and I wasn’t sure she’d heard me. “Oh,” she said suddenly. “The car. A man. I forgot…”

The man had come into the shop along with a surge of other customers, and she had hardly noticed him until, showing a grandmother the children’s room, she noticed him talking earnestly to Davy, who was pulling books off the shelf to show him. He was looking for a present for his nephew, he told her, and Davy was being a great help. A while later, she saw him and Davy putting together a wooden train toy, which he bought along with the books Davy had chosen. Her boss had returned and she was gift wrapping the man’s purchases, including a wonderful magnet set he insisted on buying for Davy, when the man hesitantly asked her if she was going home by the river road, and whether he might catch a ride. His sister lived that way, he said, and he specially wanted to deliver his nephew’s gifts that night.

“Davy had already told him he could ride with us,” she said. “He doesn’t remember his dad, you know, and the man was so friendly and kind, buying the magnet set for him ….”

They had set off in a blur of colored lights and streaming sleet, the man sitting in the back seat with Davy, making sure they were both belted in, laughing, singing Christmas carols. All so snug and jolly, and then in one slow motion instant, all a blur of terror and freezing water: the car sliding beyond her control, bouncing on a guard rail and then flipping in an infinite arc into the black river.

She stopped there, as if unable to recall anything more, and then suddenly took her eyes off the child for the first time. “The man. Oh my god, the man. Where is he?”

Haltingly, she told what little more she remembered: icy water, darkness, a voice yelling at her to open the window, the door bursting open, black water pouring in, a hand fumbling, frantic, releasing her seat belt, and her son being thrust over the seat-back into her arms, a force stronger than the river shoving them out of the car. Water, ice, darkness, then lights, unseen men and women pulling her and Davy from the river.

The woman’s body went rigid with the horror of it. I was as tough and hardboiled as they come, but half my job that night was compassion. I held her, patted her frozen shoulders.

“The man,” she said faintly. “He saved Davy, pushed us out.” She looked at me. “Did he….”

“No,” I told her. “They found him in the car, his seat belt jammed.”

She had no time to respond. A monitor shrieked, and she lunged for the bed, taking her place with Davy’s hand in hers. Something was happening, the monitor lines became jagged, their pulses speeding up. Janice stroked the cold little face, and the eyelids flickered faintly.

“King John was not a good man, he had his little ways,” she recited, her voice breaking at last, “and sometimes no one spoke to him for days and days and days….”

I backed away, my job mostly done. Time enough later to tell her who the man was. Already the wires were humming with news she would never, ever comprehend. A crane truck and rescue squad had pulled her car out of the river. In the back seat, his dead hands gripping sodden, gift-wrapped packages, we had found the object of a five-year, nation-wide manhunt, one of the most wanted child-killers of all time, a friendly, nondescript young man who tortured his victims unspeakably until death released them from his horrors.

Needless to say, he had no sister living out River Road.

“King John was not a good man,” Janice continued, her voice stronger now, “Next morning when the sun…”

A small, whispery voice joined hers, “Rose up to tell a waiting world that Christmas had begun…”

The Art Race: or Where Have All the Artists Gone?

November 18th, 2009

Translated from the French by Tangier Peavine

Always the Americans have outspent Europe on art. Not on artists, of course, but just on their works, and especially after they’re dead and unable to dilute the market with more products. Thus has much of the world’s greatest art ended up in America, and not only in public museums. Indeed, the greatest and most precious works adorn the walls and atria of American banks, CEO offices, and billionaire celebrity homes, enjoyed only by nominal owners and their select acquaintance.

Crayola on butcher paper  is earliest known work by Sam Praline, drawn when he was 3 and a half years old and titled Slef Protrait.

Crayola on butcher paper is earliest known work by Sam Praline, drawn when he was 3 and a half years old and titled Slef Protrait.

The result of this imbalance, predicted by 20th and 21st century art historians and market analysts, was that American art languished while market prices for dwindling supplies of foreign art skyrocketed. When a single Fabergé egg retrieved from a tsarist cache in Russia was bought by Goldman Sachs for $8.37 billion, the U.S. Congress finally took notice and created the now notorious Federal Arts Revival and Trade Commission. With typical American ingenuity, the newly created FART Commission approved funding for a technical and expensive solution to the art wars. The counter-productive result is nowhere more poignantly evident than in the tale of our belovéd Sam Praline.

Sam was born extremely slow, but the type of slow where he is meticulous and persistent. He mother was once an art teacher and gifted portrait artist, but now worked a menial supermarket job to help pay the bills that his father’s job as a factory worker wouldn’t cover.

Sam’s father came from a long line of gifted sculptors, but the only time you’d ever see his talent was in the way he’d stack the beer cans when he was done drowning himself with their contents.

From both sides, Sam’s genes were flooded with creative talent. But the reason his mother no longer taught or painted and his father never attempted a single sculpture was because of the creation of the Simple Machine.

The Simple Machine (SM) was the $87 billion creation of the American government’s FART project. It was a room-size machine that created the most intricate, complex, random, beautiful pieces of art ever seen or made. The purpose of the machine was to corner the growing global market in contemporary art, which in the U.S. was far behind other countries such as France, that subsidize artists and value their work.

No one could compete with SM and there was no reason for Americans to create art any more since their work was totally overshadowed by SM. All you had to do was add to the machine whatever material you wanted (clay, marble, canvas, oil paints, acrylics, etc.), enter the style and mode desired, and the program would develop the precise formula for the best possible outcome. You could also enter specs for a previous artist’s work and the machine would produce simulations of their art indistinguishable from original works.

According to federal law, if anyone could beat the machine in creating works in various categories so unique and well made that the SM couldn’t duplicate them, the government would pay the artist $10 million and the SM would be permanently scrapped, its reassembly outlawed. Also, the winning artist would become the head of the National Arts Institute. The fee for each entry was $10,000, nonrefundable unless you win.

From a very early age, Sam understood why his parents were not able to pursue their true professions and were forced into cheap labor. He accompanied them on secret missions to tenements and villages with an underground organization to promote and allow art in all forms. And while he was growing up, he himself was always painting or sculpting, using whatever materials he could find: mud, cream cheese, scrap paper, printing paper he stole from school, wood from abandoned buildings, resin from dying trees. He’d work with anything at all.

When he was fifteen years old, Sam decided to try to beat the Simple Machine.

An anonymous donor from his parents’ art underground provided the entry fee for Sam’s first entry. Having grown up working with makeshift, unconventional materials, and with his persistent, unswerving dedication, Sam’s work was unquestionably of genius quality. Over the years, one by one, he was able to stump the SM in each category of art. When his work was entered in SM, the machine repeated error messages until it was unplugged and rebooted. For example, when a solid block of marble was entered along with Sam’s finished marble “Father Undecided” sculpture, the machine churned out the same block of marble with the message “+ + + UNABLE TO DUPLICATE + + + ERROR + + +” chiseled on all sides.

Finally, Sam’s last piece was ready, his piéce de resistance, a masterpiece of nanometallic sculpture . The FART Commission, horrified at the possibility of a real, live – and lower class – artist beating the machine and taking over their department, were determined to prevent his success. They contracted with Halliburton Looters and Plunderers (HLP, Inc.) to sabotage all further entries Sam submitted to SM. HLM saboteurs rigged the machine to mangle Sam’s entry beyond repair or recognition. HLM also wrote the infamous press release for the FART Commission suggesting that Sam’s entry was a fraud and his entry fee paid by terrorist groups.

The press release was FART’s undoing, in the end. Outraged, the international art community supported American artists’ demands for a congressional investigation, which were, of course, ignored. Sam, now a hero to artists everywhere, had a back-up entry for the machine, a piece he had created in his youth out of now-extinct animal feces, titled PROMETHEUS BOUND. He entered this under a false name and beat the machine once again. Public outrage increased when his entry was disqualified, his triumph prevented, because he had entered in disguise. The FART Commission’s spin on this wasn’t even reported by the New York Times; the government had lost all credibility on artistic judgment by refusing to investigate sabotage that the government itself had ordered.

At that time, into the breach stepped the government of France. Seizing the moment, France offered Sam $10 million to relocate and become a French citizen artist, creating art that no machine could match. A mass exodus of artists from the U.S. to France and other art-friendly countries ensued. Sam brought his parents to France, where they lived happily ever after in Paris.

And the American machine? When the international art market turned decisively to human-made art, the Simple Machine, its innards permanently clogged by its attempts to replicate Prometheus Bound, was relegated to a Virginia storage unit. Late last year, it was bought by the Louvre and donated to the Smithsonian as a Monument to Futility.

Eulogy

October 19th, 2009

Most of you knew him as the Old Dude. Don’t look so surprised, he knew what you called him, how you laughed at him sometimes, pitied him at others. There wasn’t much he didn’t know, but he refused to humiliate others by revealing their secrets or having more knowledge than they did. That’s the way he was. And here’s one of the secrets he kept from you: not a single one of you would be here today were it not for him.

Oh, you might exist without him, but you wouldn’t be here, in this place, safe and healthy and even on occasion happy. He never wanted credit for what he did, but now he’s gone I’m going to do what he asked me never to do: tell the story of the man you are burying today, the story of Jude Elihu Lazarus.

That wasn’t his real name. Not even he knew his real name; for as long as he could remember he only had a number. It was 108329877. The reason, as you’ve guessed, was that he grew up in the great American prison system. I have only been able to piece together bits of his early life and can’t even tell you his parents’ names; he never knew them himself. From the age of four he was in “The System,” which some of you might have experienced yourselves: the social workers, teachers, guardians, warders, cops, juvenile officers, judges, psychologists, foster parents, and clergy who with such terrible kindness and authority tear a child’s soul apart and attempt to mold it into some image of their own.

Some children, as you all know, resist this castration of their souls. That’s a strong word, and I choose it deliberately, because that’s what it is: whether boy or girl child, it’s involuntary surgical removal of individuality. Child number 108329877 was one who resisted. Never with violence, he was clever enough to see that violence was what they expected of him, and he learned early always to do the opposite of what the System expected of him. He also learned early on something that served him well his entire prison life, which was to conceal at all costs his knowledge and intelligence from both his fellow inmates and from the wardens, guards, and judges who had total power over him.

“Power makes fools of those who wield it,” he used to say, “and there’s nothing more vicious than the fool’s resentment of intelligence in others. Because no matter how much power he has, wisdom is the one thing a fool can’t take from you.”

The other side of that coin is that Number 108329877 became exceedingly skilled at looking like a typical, downtrodden, ignorant inmate. That way you don’t attract attention, and in prison any attention at all has negative consequences. So the old guy you thought was just a doddering collection of senior moments was actually putting a big one over on you. That’s okay, it’s the way he wanted it. The fact that you were here and free to laugh at him gave him a joy you’ll probably never know. The joy of a hopeless dream come true.

He was 19 or 20 or thereabouts the first time I heard it. “What if there was a place where no one had power over any other?” he would ask, urging the zombies to think about it. “What if there was a place where life meant more than things?
What if… ?”

He never got answers.

Then came the earthquake, tsunami, fire, flood, the total breakdown, including prison walls. He saved everyone in that pod, guards, staff, inmates, all of them, and then walked away in the dark.

In the confusion I walked away, too. During the years of chaos that followed I heard nothing of him. I was busy trying to put my own life together somehow, always looking for something or someone I never found. Then I picked up a rumor, and remembered. I followed the rumors & clues & found this place, and found Number 108329877. Only now he was Lazarus – Jude Elihu Lazarus. He had put together all the elements of his dream, and you are the result, all of you.

How did it start? Not in a way even I could’ve imagined. It turned out that not only did he hide his intelligence all those years, but also his wealth. Yeah, wealth, a concept no longer needed here, but vital in that old sad time. I knew nothing about it until he told me recently, near the end. It wasn’t anything he was proud of, just thought it was a huge joke. During our prison years, he had put together a cookbook. Yeah, a friggin’ cookbook. It was “recipes” for all the godawful things prisoners concocted from whatever they could get, usually outdated, toxic junk food from commissary or vending machines: candy, chips, jerky, ramen noodles, that kind of stuff, with an occasional rat or pigeon and one glorious goose that snared itself in the razor wire.

He called the recipes “Mastering the Art of Prison Cooking,” and sent it out to an editor at Playboy or somewhere like that, he couldn’t even remember. Whoever it was took it and ran with it, got it published – under a pseudonym, of course, which just happened to be Jude Elihu. And it became a best-seller, sales off the charts, the talk of tv anchors and tabloids for months, all royalties carefully stashed as cash by that rare editor. So when Number 108329877 walked away, he had only to walk to one of the stashes for money enough to buy land, which in those days was going cheap.

In the beginning, he looked for a place with healthy owls. That’s what he told me – owls are at the top of the food chain, and if they are healthy their territory is healthy. Then he just planted his rumors, started the word: there’s a place if you need it, especially if you’re alone in the world; he never intended to be a pied piper, luring kids away from families. But the world had collapsed so far that many kids had no one; it was those – you, in fact — that he reached for. You are grown up now, and his dream grew with you, evolving as all of us must in response to changing climate and community. What he never imagined was how all of you bloomed, showing ever-expanding resourcefulness and wisdom and ingenuity in a place free of judgment and control.

He knew better than to expect much at first. “If you can’t be good, be kind,” he told you when you arrived, and then was amazed at the result. He never tired of watching and admiring you and your children, in all your varied glory, delighting equally over a math prodigy, astronomer, musician, physics wizard, poet, mechanic, storyteller, or teacher.

“Is it something in the water?” he asked me once, half seriously. “Some little mutation that erased crime and increased their brain capacity twenty percent?”

“No,” I’d tell him, half joking. “It’s just you, and your damn owls.”

We are his legacy. May we preserve what he began! We are now aliens in our own country, as we all know. He urged us to make expeditions, to go out there and hide among the the yahoos, wearing whatever’s in, learning the new slang, pretending. But we don’t belong. It’s important that we go out there once in a while, to make sure, to see if they’ve changed, but my own experience is that every time I go, it looks worse and home looks better.

And so, in his honor, in memory of Number 108329877 and Jude Elihu Lazarus, and in hopes you will never need or find the ingredients, here is a recipe from the long out of print “Mastering the Art of Prison Cooking.”

From: Mastering the Art of Prison Cooking, by Jude Elihu:

How to Make Spreads

Here in prison, we are, of course, extremely limited to specific, security-friendly items and commodities. This has caused generations of convicts to devise unique ways to create things that simulate what would normally be available in the free world. Such things range from home-made lighters and shaving cream to tattoo guns and icecream. Here I am going to tell you about spreads.

Spreads come in many varieties. There are icecream spreads, candy spreads, soup spreads, and medley spreads. The most common is a noodle spread. It can be made many different ways and most resembles a casserole in comparison with any other ordinary dish.

The first step is to order the ingredients. These vary so vastly that I will stick with the most basic ones. I order from the canteen a collection of meat, cheese, Ramen soups, chips, beans, peppers, and any other items I can afford at the moment. Some items can be substituted easily, such as crackers for chips, or dill pickles for peppers. The flavors of Ramen vary and it is sometimes fun to mix and match, but in the end, the flavoring becomes little more than saltiness. As should be noted, all items are non-perishable in this situation.

When I have the ingredients together, I make sure there is a supply of hot water handy. Then I begin by breaking up the pre-cooked, hardened noodles, usually by smacking them against the floor while they are still in the package. For some reason this is very satisfying. The broken noodles provide for smaller pieces, which makes for easier bites. The noodles are then emptied into a bowl or Tupperware container, or if all else fails, a plastic or foil food wrapper. Choose something large enough to account for the rest of the ingredients.

There are many types of meat that can be used, but I have found that pre-cooked meats with spices added to them, such as pepperoni meat sticks, are the best. Other kinds of meats, like sliced roast beef, chicken, or turkey, don’t give the dish as much flavor. I chop the meat into small pieces, close to dice-sized. The meat is added to the dry noodles along with pre-cooked beans and rice: for every package of Ramen, an ounce and a half of meat and three-quarters cup beans and rice. The amount need not be exact. Personal preference should always be the guiding factor when considering amounts. Some people may prefer to exclude certain ingredients altogether, such as a vegetarian skipping the meat.

The hot water is now added to the bowl. This should be hot, but not too hot, about the temperature for making tea or coffee. Even tap water can work if it is hot enough. Add enough hot water to submerge all the ingredients completely and stir well.

While the noodles cook, the vegetables are chopped. Again, the variety and amount are according to personal preference. I suggest a couple of pickled jalapeños or something similar with a lot of flavor. Things like carrots or peas are not ideal for this dish.

The noodles are cooked until soft. By then all the other ingredients will also be ready. Then most of the water is drained . Since I usually eyeball the amount of water left, I can only suggest you leave the contents somewhat soggy, like freshly-strained macaroni noodles.

The only cheese available to us is the “spreadable” processed variety, much like the jalapeño cheese dip sold for chips. This cheese is ideal, given no choice, but many may desire a healthier pick, even melting down a piece of a block variety. Whatever the choice, the cheese needs to be as liquid as possible so as to mix in thoroughly. The more flavorful the cheese, the better.

I add to the bowl the cheese, vegetables, and then the seasoning packets from the Ramen soups. Any kind of seasoning is suitable, just not an overwhelming amount. The contents must be stirred until well mixed. If too much water has been removed and the mixture seems dry, add more water until it is very moist.

Lastly, add the chips, or crackers, depending on availability and your preference. I recommend a flavored corn chip such as Doritos. Crush an amount of these roughly equal to a quarter of the spread already mixed, and add them to the bowl. Mix them in well. The extra water that remained in the spread will be absorbed by the chips.

Your spread is done at this point. It is a creative dish, though, so things like hot sauce, raisins, or even honey can be added to change the style or flavor. It is a dish you can make for one or for many.

President pitches perfect game

September 28th, 2009

She is lovely, brilliant, reasonable, logical, and totally incorruptible, and has no past to cover up. She is immune to bribery or any financial inducements. She is beholden to no corporation or political machine. She has no racial identity, but shares features with all races. For all these reasons the American people overwhelmingly rejected both parties’ candidates and chose her for President.

Wikipedia.

Awaiting a pitch: batter, catcher, and umpire. Photo: Wikipedia.

No one asked, though, if she could play ball.

The world found out this afternoon, when President Wollemi took the mound for the Nationals in the opening game of the season, against the much-heralded Tokyo Roses. The President’s sizzling fastball belied all odds that she wouldn’t get the ball to the plate without at least one bounce: the pitch was an unqualified strike, smacking into catcher Egerton’s glove to the cheers of a standing-room-only crowd.

Her second pitch, a curve ball that seemed to shimmer tantalizingly before crossing the plate, was also a strike, as was her third. Nationals pitcher Hup Tarnley, standing by to pitch as scheduled, took off his cap and bowed, presenting the President with his glove and cap. Fans were treated to the first-ever perfect game in National Park as the President struck out the Roses with three pitches each, carrying the Nationals to a 4-0 victory.

Following the game the President returned Tarnley’s gear, graciously declining offers from Nationals manager Loren Gearheart to sign on for the season. “I apologize for the hasty departure, but I am late for a Senate briefing on agriculture,” she said before climbing into the waiting Presidential limousine.

Comments:

laserdickkk:

What’ planet is this writer on? Like she’s a ROBOT, and its never mentioned even once. Of course a robot can pitch a perfect game.

Dourmouse:

She throws a perfect game, but doesn’t that in fact signal a serious problem in her programming? Good pitching don’t mean she can run the country.

foolsgold:

So laserdickkk, tell me one other robot’s ever pitched a perfect game.

forktong:

You all miss the point, dudes. Which is you can’t stop this chick, robot or whatever. She starts something, she finishes it. Like she throws one pitch she’s gonna throw a whole game, same with ending the 30-year wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, she told voters she would end them and two weeks after inauguration the wars are over. No bio-prez did that in my lifetime.

shuttlecock:

Somebody made her that way. Robots gotta be programmed. Its called intelligent design, software designed in Tokyo.

foolsgold:

That some creationist tag? What’s your beef with Tokyo?

shuttlecock

No beef with Tokyo, just that’s whose team she shut out. Irony, its called.

Fracassee:

No iron involved, or beef, either. She’s a plasmobot, remember.

lucindadarling:

Actually, she’s a demonstration of intelligently-directed evolution (or de-evolution), since an intelligent politician is the motive factor for the execution of the opening pitch and not a random factor in the ultimate design.

uncadonald:

What’s the prejudice against robots, plasmobots? They can think, reason, analyze, and reach nuanced conclusions far better than mere humans.

Siltdottir:

Yeah, but the bottom line is they’re not edible.

Shuttlecock:

Man, you say our opinions are based on cannibalism?

Siltdottir:

It’s as good a basis as any, turdbrain.

uncadonald:

I don’t mean to be rude, but are you even human? I don’t personally find eating anything organic disgusting… we’re pretty much here to eat one another. I don’t know why I’m even responding to this… but I’ve been drinking and I’m going to hit the submit reply button anyway.

All About Belief: The Magi Deception and How a Bestseller Revived Publishing

September 5th, 2009

A PW Exclusive

The Magi Deception, the blockbuster novel that has outsold Harry Potter, Tolkien, and Dan Brown combined, is about to make film and political history as well. NextWorld Studios, the dark horse indie that optioned the book two years before it was published, has leased the Gaza Strip and twelve square miles of the Sinai desert for filming activities, drawing together Israeli, Egyptian, and Palestinian authorities in a joint venture to produce the film on location.

In a signing ceremony at its new film complex on a former Israeli settlement, NextWorld president Gerald Overby also announced the closing of its extras lottery yesterday after portions of the Israeli-built wall collapsed under the press of applicants. The drawing for lucky winners will be broadcast live on Friday by both cable and news networks worldwide, and the actual filming will be the subject of a year-long tv series.

Turning the making of the movie into a media event itself has become a hallmark of NextWorld’s involvement in the Magi project. Trailers for the book featured shots of presses and binders churning out finished books by the rail-car load, translators casting the text into hundreds of languages, and clips of its enigmatic author at his laptop, the screen flashing constantly from text to maps, ancient art, magic sites, and back to text, his fingers typing faster than camera or eye could follow.

“Long before the book appeared in print or e-text, a world-wide audience was conditioned not only to salivate at the very title, but also to believe uncritically in every word,” notes Martha Denby-Wilcox, professor emeritus of philosophy at Cornell University and author of The Public Mind: A Quintessential Oxymoron.

In a world poised on the brink of ecological, social, political, and economic collapse, a work of fiction being taken as gospel truth is not surprising, Dr. Denby-Wilcox adds. “Historically, in times of great stress or in the face of inexorable change, there seems to be an overwhelming public urge – amounting to desperation, really – to believe in unprovable, often reactionary and preposterous notions.” A case in point detailed in her book is the huge popularity of spiritualism, Theosophy, psychic phenomena, and the occult during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; these were public reactions, she writes, to revolutionary changes wrought by the mysterious power of electricity, the First World War, the American Civil War, world-altering discoveries in chemistry, physics, and medicine, and not least of all, the abolitionist and women’s suffrage movements.

mosaic in Chora museum, Istanbul, Turkey

Turning water into wine: mosaic in Chora museum, Istanbul, Turkey

“The frightening aspect of this is how vulnerable the public thus becomes to mush-brained fanatics, charlatans, frauds, and tricksters at the very times that clear-headed rationality is most needed,” Denby-Wilcox concludes.

Alastair McManus, investment analyst at Megatherium Trust and a significant backer of the film, puts it another way. “Wholesale willingness to believe in a two-thousand-year-old conspiracy to suppress the truth reflects not only people’s disillusionment with established religion, but also generalized mistrust of all authority,” he says.

Whether Fassil Munn, the reclusive author of The Magi Deception, had this phenomenon in mind is unknown, as he has never appeared or been interviewed in public. The only comment attributed to him, however, suggests otherwise. Speaking to a librarian in Terre Haute, Indiana, during a research expedition for the book, he reportedly said he was writing a story modeled on the old Hardy Boys adventures that he devoured as a youth.

There is, indeed, a Hardy Boys quality to The Magi Deception. Stripped of its religious and historical implications, the story is predictable and verges on pulp fiction. Shortly after the midnight visit of an elderly theater manager bearing a mysterious package, the teen-aged, mixed-race Steadman brothers are alarmed by the sudden disappearance of their father, a professor of linguistics and ancient languages. Seeking clues to his disappearance, the boys hack into their father’s computer and discover – after defeating numerous firewalls and encryption codes – his translations of ancient scrolls long hidden in Gaza caves. The scrolls had been found by Australian soldiers in World War I, and through a series of misadventures ended up buried in the prop room of the university theater.

The brothers’ adventures in pursuit of their father and the original scrolls are pure Hardy Boys, threatened at every turn by a sinister, powerful financial-religious cabal willing to murder to prevent the scrolls’ revelations from ever seeing daylight. What the scrolls contain, of course, is far more world-shattering than the genealogical banalities of The DaVinci Code. The scrolls, it turns out, are records kept by an ancient magician’s assistant whose master is none other than Jesus of Nazareth, a failed carpenter turned prestidigitator. Jesus, the apprentice boasts, is so skilled in illusionist and mesmeric arts that his huge public following believes he can walk on water, raise the dead, and turn water into wine, his ultimate performance being to stage his own death and resurrection. His “posthumous” career, reports the apprentice, was to rename himself Simon Magus and challenge his own disciples to illusion contests and withering philosophical arguments.

What the boys learn from their father’s translation and notes is that Magi is the plural form of Magus, an ancient word for magician, sorcerer, wizard, holder of arcane knowledge and power. The Magi who followed the star to Bethlehem were in fact not kings, they were magicians, and their famous deception of King Herod was not their only deception. Their mission was to herald the birth of one of their own, bringing traditional gifts as well as gifts of magical knowledge (the tools of the trade, so to speak). The true Magi deception was the knowledge of how to trick the multitudes, and Jesus honed this one to perfection.

Further muddying the line between fiction and reality, NextWorld has signed Chriss Angel, the famous Las Vegas magician, to play Jesus. Angel himself is already well known for his Vegas and street-side acts of walking on water, levitation, and other tricks attributed to Jesus. “We all want to believe,” he says, “and I’m all about belief.”

Predictably, the Vatican ban of both book and movie has reinforced public belief in Magi’s fictional conspiracy, and orchestrated mob book-burnings in the U.S. along with effigy lynchings of its author have catapulted sales beyond all previous publishing records.

How an unfinished novel by an unknown writer became a hot property overnight seems as miraculous as its publishing success.

“It was serendipity,” says Gerald Overby, NextWorld president. “We were riding the success of our Zombies in Congress series, when I ran into Fassil at the dentist’s office, of all places. I hadn’t seen him since third grade, but you don’t forget a name like Fassil Munn…. So we’re catchin’ up with each other, and he drops that he’s writing this book and can’t find a publisher, and when he tells me what it’s about I wrote him a check on the spot, right there in the waiting room. Not that I thought it would be such a hit, I just liked the warped logic of it, but the option gave him an edge – and the rest is history.”

History indeed. Invented or otherwise, it’s all about belief.

Excerpts from Prospectus submitted to SEC for IPO (Initial Public Offering) application by OmniPrescient Nano Green Technology, Inc. (OpN Green)

August 1st, 2009

logoPROSPECTUS

3,300,000 Shares

Common Stock

This is OpN GreenTechnology, Inc.’s initial public offering of common stock.

Prior to the offering, no public market existed for the shares. The common stock has been approved for listing on the Nasdaq National Market under the symbol “”OPNgT.”

Investing in the common stock involves risks which are described in the

“Risk Factors” section of this prospectus.

Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission nor any state securities commission has approved or disapproved of these securities or determined if this prospectus is truthful or complete. Any representation to the contrary is a criminal offense.

PROSPECTUS SUMMARY

This summary is not complete and does not contain all of the information that may be important to you. You should read the entire prospectus carefully, including the financial data and related notes, before making an investment decision.

OpN Technology

OpN develops and supplies nano-tech products for both new and established markets in security systems, medicine, personal hygiene, education, law enforcement, criminal defense, and tax evasion.  Recent developments in these areas have created an urgent need for corrective technologies to remedy unforeseen consequences of previously successful products; hence the development of our NanoCorrect line of products such as:

  • NanoCorrect Treeless Self-Erasing Paper:  Numerous nano-bot and bio-bot technologies having eliminated any possibility of electronic security, the universal return to hand-written paper records threatens to consume the planet’s last forest resources.  OpN’s development of Treeless Self-Erasing Paper guarantees that not a single tree is sacrificed to make high quality, high brightness white or tinted synthetic paper, suitable for all printing, copying, and recording uses.  Our NPT (No Paper Trail) Executive label ensures that anything written, printed, drawn, or copied onto this paper will be irretrievably erased after 72 hours unless our patented pre-treatment solution is applied.  Erased paper is “as good as new” for repeated re-use and is already the first choice of government procurement officers, time-tested by Executive and Legislative offices, the Pentagon, Fortune 500 accountants, and the Union of Financial Laundering Service Workers Worldwide.  A full court press of consumer products are in development.  Approvals for food and beverage packaging are anticipated shortly.
  • NanoCorrect Omni-Slim Reverse Technology:  The phenomenal success of OpN’s revolutionary Nano-Slim product lines has had the unfortunate consequence of being unstoppable. Nano-Slim meal and snack products not only provide no calories whatsoever, but also introduce OpN’s patented nano-bot lipophils, which remove excess body fat effortlessly. OpN’s lipophils, however, proliferate in perpetua after a single dose, resulting in progressive emaciation, death, and shrinking customer base.  OpN offers a complete solution with NanoCorrect Omni-Slim ReVerse, which halts the action of lipophil nano-bots while converting them into fat, ultimately creating a profitable cycle of repeat-performance Omni-Slim and ReVerse treatments.

Due to the ever-explanding unforeseen consequences of nanotechnology, there is a growing demand for standards-based products engineered to correct such consequences efficiently and profitably.

RISK FACTORS

You should carefully consider the following factors as well as other information contained in this prospectus before deciding to invest in shares of the common stock:

Our Operating Results May Fluctuate Signicantly Due to Factors Which Are Not Within Our Control

Our quarterly operating results have fluctuated significantly in the past and are expected to fluctuate significantly in the future based on a number of factors, many of which are not in our control.

Rapid Technological Change Could Make Our Products Obsolete

The nanotech industry is characterized by rapidly changing technology and industry standards, along with frequent new product introductions. Consequently, our future success depends on our ability to identify trends in our target markets and to offer new nanoproducts, as well as other products and services, that address the changing needs of our target customers.

We Must Make Significant Research and Development Expenditures Prior to Generating Revenues from Products

To establish market acceptance of a new nanoproduct, we must dedicate significant resources to research and development, production and sales and marketing. Prospective investors should note that our efforts to introduce new nanoproducts or other products or services may not be successful or profitable. In addition, products or technologies developed by others may render our products or technologies obsolete or noncompetitive.

Defects in Our Products Could Increase Our Costs and Delay Our Product Shipments

Our products are complex. While we test our products, these products may still have errors, defects or side effects that we find only after commercial production has begun. We have experienced errors, defects and side effects in the past in connection with new products. We may have to spend significant amounts of capital and resources to address and fix problems in new products as well as pay damages to injured customers.

Rapid Changes in Regulatory Policy and Enforcement Could Increase Our Costs and Jeopardize Survival of the Company

Adoption of precautionary regulations requiring us to establish the safety of our products before marketing could raise production costs significantly, resulting in retail price increases beyond our customers’ willingness to pay.  Additionally, strengthened whistle-blower laws, adoption of universal jury instructions regarding fraudulent concealment,  and enforcement of existing consumer safety statutes could result in costly criminal proceedings, delisting of company stock, dissolution of the company, and possible incarceration of corporate officers.

FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

This prospectus includes forward-looking statements. We have based these forward-looking statements on our current expectations and projections about future events. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks, uncertainties and assumptions about OpN, including:

— Our ability to identify trends in our target markets and to offer new nanoproducts that address the changing needs of our target customers,

— Changes in our pricing policies and those of our competitors or suppliers,

— Our ability to compete successfully against direct and indirect competitors,

— Growth in demand for nanoproducts, and

— Our ability to avoid prosecution.

justice

SETI HQ Transcript of intra-office phone conversation 5:32 p.m.

July 28th, 2009

SETI DIRECTOR:  Yeah?  What now?SETI

TECH VOICE:  Sir, we have a – uh – problem?

SETI DIRECTOR: Shit, you lose the frequency again?  Look, I’m on the air in half an hour — live feeds world wide, ISS hook-up, the White House …. They’re – ouch! —  doing my make-up this minute.

TECH VOICE:  That’s what I’m calling about – the press conference?

SETI DIRECTOR:  What about it?    Don’t tell me – not another friggin’ hoax or something!

TECH VOICE:  No, sir, the signals are real.  Like we said in the briefing, we’re not sure exactly where they originate due to gravitational lensing and other phenomena.  But it’s – uh — the visual segment of the signals you wanted us to prepare?

SETI DIRECTOR: That’s our proof of the pudding – no one’ll believe it without visuals.  What’s the problem?

TECH VOICE: Well, we’ve succeeded in decoding about 2 minutes of visuals…

SETI DIRECTOR: That’s great!  More than enough to convince ’em.

TECH VOICE:  But you – um – well, these aren’t what you’d call appropriate?

SETI DIRECTOR:  Jesus, man, spell it out!  What’s the fuckin’ problem?

TECH VOICE:  Okay.  Look, you ever hear of – um, Miss Brooks?

SETI DIRECTOR: Who?

TECH VOICE:  Connie.  Our Miss Brooks.  And Captain Video?  Princess Summerfall Winterspring?  Milton Berle?

SETI DIRECTOR:  Stop, dammit!  Explain.

TECH VOICE:  That’s just it, I can’t explain.  Only hazard some guesses?

SETI DIRECTOR: So start hazarding – we’re 20 minutes from air time!Milton

TECH VOICE:  Far as I can find out, they’re all, like, early TV stars, show characters?  From way before our time.  Like Howdy Doody?  Gracie Allen?  And – um – well, these bits, fragments, like, of those first TV broadcasts?  Well, those TV signals didn’t just stay on earth, see.  They kept on going, and got picked up – well, fragments of them, broken up by event horizons and lensing and gamma ray explosions and such-like interferences – so just bits got picked up by whoever these beings are out there – like way out there!  — and reconstructed according to their – um – their understanding of earth people.

SETI DIRECTOR:  Okay, you lost me already.  So what’s the frigging problem?

TECH VOICE:  I’m trying to tell you, sir.  What we’ve received is what appears to be an intersteller trailer for a movie or some related form of – uh – entertainment?

SETI DIRECTOR:  With these old tv shows in it?

TECH VOICE:   Yeah.

SETI DIRECTOR: Fuck a duck.  You mean these shows are bouncing around the universe and back to us?  How the hell does that prove intelligent life out there?

TECH VOICE:  Oh, it shows some kind of intelligent life – or at least clever tinkering.  No way what we’re receiving happened by accident.  See, the shows aren’t intact – I mean, like, they’ve put them together and filled in the missing bits – uh – well, in what you might call X-rated fashion?  According to their own interpretations and – um — anatomy, that is.

SETI DIRECTOR:  (sighing)  Okay, spell it out.

TECH VOICE:  Well, for starters there’s Buffalo Bob doin’ it with Arthur Godfrey, and the Video Rangers gang-banging Lucille Ball…. oh, and there’s audio:

MALE CHORUS SINGS:

We wipe your pipe
We pump your gas
We jack your back
We scrub your glass….

SETI DIRECTOR:  Cut!  Enough already.  Sweet Jesus, all we’ve got to show for 70 years work is two minutes of interplanetary porn?

TECH VOICE:  ‘Fraid so, sir.

SETI DIRECTOR:  But it absolutely establishes an alien intelligence – tinkerer, hacker, whatever – without any doubt whatsoever?our girl

TECH VOICE:  Absolutely.  No question of that – they’ve even inserted … well, I mean, you got to see it!  But for a press conference?  Not appropriate PR material …

SETI DIRECTOR:  On the contrary.  It’s perfect!  Exactly the kind of proof we needed!

(Long pause.)  Well, think about it, man.  The first thing we’ll be accused of is fabrication.  But if we created a hoax, is this what we’d come up with?  Is this what anyone on earth could invent?

TECH VOICE:  No way.  (Suppressed giggle.)  So  — um – play it as is and reschedule to adult programming?

SETI DIRECTOR: Adult programming?  Hell, it’ll be all over YouTube within minutes, anyway.   Not our lookout.  The main thing, we have a signal — success at last!  Another giant step for America, right?  Those were American shows they picked up  …but hey, one question…

TECH VOICE:  Yeah?

SETI DIRECTOR:  Who the hell was our Miss Brooks?

Intergalactic Net (Ign) Translation & Penpal Service

July 6th, 2009

Dear Penpal,elephant

Thank you for your Ign message.  I was so excited to receive it and at the next power outage when I can see the stars again I will look past Arcturus just to think of you out there somewhere.  Now I will try to answer some of your questions.

I’m sorry to say I have never seen an elephant.  Not alive, that is.  I have seen a preserved elephant in a museum.  I will send you a picture from the time when there were live elephants, and also a picture of something called a bird that flew without a motor.  I’m not sure I believe in birds.  I wish I could have seen one fly.

My grandmother saw the last living elephant on our planet.  It was in a pen called a zoo.  My grandmother said it looked very sad and lonely with no others of its kind left.  I don’t know which would be worse, to be the only one of your kind left, or to be crowded among billions of your kind with no space to get away.  What do you think?

birdAs you guessed, we have a different way of reproducing from yours, because we have two separate body forms, a male and a female.  This is like the flower forms your probes observed on our Mars agriculture plantations, except in humans the male and female are completely separate bodies.  The male inserts his genetic material into the female by a process called sex, which is very pleasurable to both male and female forms.  It is so pleasurable that our species has completely over-run the planet, which is why there are no more birds or elephants and we have to grow our food on Mars.

Your way of reproducing may not be any fun but I think it is probably more sensible, especially the suspended development phase that prevents overpopulation, which is still a major problem on our planet.  The more intelligent our species became and the more technology we devised to increase our survival rate, the more rapidly our numbers outgrew the planet’s food-producing capacity.  This might have been a limiting factor, until the technology was developed to teleport vegetable matter between planets.  At the same time it was discovered that plants grow faster and retain more of their nutrients on certain other planetary bodies like Mars and some of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter, perhaps due to their gravitational positions.  Mars, the planet explored by your probes,  was the first to be developed into plantations of organically grown food plants.  Thousands of Martian acres are now greenhoused, all their produce teleported directly to earth upon harvest.

Vegas sprawlThe first Martian crops were dedicated solely to continents like Africa that had the greatest numbers of starving people.  I was one of them, and such abundance of fruits and nuts and grains was truly a miracle to me and my family.  The experiment worked so well that humans reproduced themselves more rapidly than ever before, and the entire planet is now fed by t-foods – teleport foods — from Mars and other satellites, where carbon dioxide teleported from earth nourishes excellent crops and even vintage wineries.

I do not think you would enjoy visiting here.  As you can see, the planet is no more than a rather boring housing development.  Your own planet sounds much more varied and interesting!  I hope you will send some pictures of your wooly friend and other creatures that you see every day.  Long ago humans also had other species as friends and pets, but they became extinct along with the elephants and birds.  I look forward to hearing from you again soon.

Your friend and penpal,

Fred TAGP

SERVICE & THERAPY FOWL* — AS SEEN ON TV!

July 3rd, 2009

CHICKENS (Barred Rock; Rhode Island Red; Wyandotte; Buff Orpington)fowl

DUCKS (Muscovy, mallard, Indian runner, Black Cayuga)

GEESE (Egyptian; Toulouse)fowl 2

Specially bred and raised for calm, affectionate, attentive natures and reliable egg-laying habits, trained by experts.  Combine the qualities of assistance/therapy/companion animals with portable provender in perilous times.

Accessories: Fowl nappies, all sizes; lightweight folding cages; backpack cages; leashes; collars; harness; fowl carts and sulkies; solar powered egg poacher; folding nest boxes.

NEW!  PROPERTY SECURITY & PERSONAL PROTECTION FOWL:

RHEAfowl 3

OSTRICH

EMU

These birds must be imprinted on owner/handler, and require strenuous training.  May be considered lethal weapons by local ordinances; owners legally responsible for injuries inflicted by personal protection birds.

EMDEN GEESE: sold only as flock, for property and livestock security; these aggressive, hyper-alert birds are used to guard distilleries in Scotland and military facilities in Europe.

Prices for Personal Protection Fowl include required imprinting and training course, including 6 refresher courses.

ostrich

Discontinued: Peacocks, guinea fowl, swans
SEE OUR WEBSITE FOR DETAILS AND LOTS OF COOL PHOTOS

*All states except Alaska, D.C., and Texas now recognize service and therapy fowl under both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Survival, Sustenance & Social Needs Acts of 2024-5.

The Dumbest Thing

July 2nd, 2009

“Possessing the Neanderthal genome raises the possibility of bringing Neanderthals back to life. Dr. George Church, a leading genome researcher at the Harvard Medical School, said Thursday that a Neanderthal could be brought to life with present technology for about $30 million.”*

A few old-timers still remember the days when a single complete sentence was enough to cost a neandjournalist’s job. The rest of us might recall the mid-century blowback, when an epidemic confusion of nouns with verbs was linked conclusively to atrophy of the amygdala and other judgment/discernment areas of the brain. A scramble to re-institute grammatical speech and writing in popular culture ensued, hindered by the dearth of teachers able to distinguish “text” from “write.”

One of the most effective programs in that era turned out to be a simple game show called “Storytelling 101.” Contestants were required to answer the question of the week with a story from their own experience or imagination; the only rule was that every sentence had to be grammatically correct. For the first few seasons, winners were few and far between, but as the show caught on, contestants boned up on their English and the audience became more and more savvy.

The popularity of “Storytelling 101,” I believe, was due primarily to the clever use of questions designed to expose the more embarrassing or ludicrous elements of human nature. The most popular question of all turned out to be “What is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done?” Contestants never seemed to run out of appalling, ridiculous or heartbreaking anecdotes about themselves. Today, long after the need for the program has faded, reruns continue to attract new audiences, who may wonder at contestants’ grammatical heroics, but recognize immediately the follies and fallacies of human nature. In that vein, the editors have collected here some favorite winners from the show.

* * * * * * *

30-Million-Dollar Baby

My name is Rawley and if you want my age any closer than between two-score and three-score, you are out of luck.

The dumbest thing I ever did was to volunteer in a science experiment. It wasn’t called a science experiment, which probably sounded too low-grade. No, they called it research. Whatever it was called, it was a mistake, and I made the biggest, dumbest mistake of all.

Here’s what happened. I was in my early twenties and had no money for college. In those days, believe it or not, you had to pay to go to a college or university, and people would spend the rest of their lives trying to pay off the loans they took out to get a degree in economics or accounting. I did not like owing money to anyone, so I would waitress days and pole-dance nights for one term, to make enough for the next term. Then I saw this ad in the student paper, asking for volunteers in a long-term research project. The money offered was enough to pay for my entire university fees through grad school. If that was too good to be true, I thought I’d be able to tell. I was wrong.

At first the job seemed simple and straightforward enough. Five young women were chosen to test a new method of artificial insemination. Or so we were told. Along with four other girls, I fit their criteria and was chosen. We had to sign a lengthy contract agreeing to carry any resulting pregnancy to term, to forego any heterosexual activities for the duration of the contract, to breast-feed the infant for six months, and then to give it up forever, never to make contact again. In return for this, we would receive free housing, meals, recreation and medical care for the entire term of the pregnancy and breast-feeding period, as well as three large payments: first upon signing the contract, second upon giving birth, and third upon surrendering the baby forever. Pregnancies that failed or miscarried were to be recompensed at two-thirds the total.

I thought it over and figured I could sacrifice a couple of years for that fat fee. I assumed the babies would be adopted by loving families, and since I’d never been pregnant it might even be interesting. It was, at first. The other girls were good company, and we all enjoyed our new-found security and wealth. In no time at all, it seemed, three of us were pregnant and two had miscarried and been paid off. It was about that time I began to have misgivings. I was four or five weeks along and the doctors put my mood down to morning sickness, but I knew better. A third girl miscarried and then got in touch, telling us a rumor she had heard in the lab after going back to classes.

The rumor seemed too weird to be true, but there was enough detail in it to raise questions. By being nosy and pumping gossipy staff, we remaining diehards were able to confirm that the experiment we were in had nothing to do with artificial insemination technology. It was, in fact, an attempt to reproduce a Neanderthal person by replacing human DNA with reconstructed Neanderthal DNA and implanting it in our unsuspecting wombs. The project budget was 30 million dollars, and the scientists heading it figured to become world famous as well as rich.

Neither Tina – my remaining pregnant subject – nor I felt comfortable with this, though we couldn’t say exactly why. Tina herself was greatly relieved when she began bleeding and miscarried, happy to leave with her fat check in hand. The cottage they’d rented for us seemed vacant and gloomy after she left. With no one to talk things out with, I brooded. That’s when I learned what a broody hen goes through.

From the web and the library I read everything I could find about Neanderthals, and was not comforted. They were a different species from humans and our own DNA contained no remnant of theirs; they’d gone extinct 30,000 years ago and no one knew what they were like, whether they’d had language or songs, what kind of society they had. The thought of this unknown, alien creature growing inside me was distinctly unsettling; the idea of it sucking my breasts even worse. With no one to talk to, I became a bit morbid about the whole thing.

I was two months pregnant when the breakthrough happened. I don’t know what else to call it. Every day I was supposed to walk at least two miles as part of the health regimen for the pregnancy, and one day for variety I walked a bit farther to the arboretum and new aquarium the city had just built. In the main exhibit, a large circular tank with glass panels on the submerged walls, a young whale of some once-extinct species swam incessantly in disconsolate circles. At the glass panels and on walkways above the tank, crowds gathered, pointing and staring, asking inane questions of the keepers.

“What does he eat?”

“Does he bite?”

“Can I give him a sandwich?”

“Does he ever sleep?”

“Make him stop for a picture.”

whaleI stood with the crowd, watching the whale and wishing illogically that he would stare back, would notice me, make eye contact. Every day that week I came back, hating that poor whale but unable to stay away. On the last day, a Sunday, the crowds were so dense I never came close enough to see the whale. I sat on a bench among pagoda trees in the arboretum to rest, and suddenly, without conscious thought, I saw the same crowds jostling and staring with prurient zeal at my baby in a glass display case – first as infant, then toddler, then naked teenager, perpetually on exhibit, perpetually alone in a world vacant of all comfort or companionship or love or fun or adventure.

I never went back to the cottage. Late that afternoon I checked into a clinic in a distant city and aborted a grateful 30-million-dollar exhibit. I say grateful because in my dreams she turns to me, half smiling, and fades into peaceful extinction once more. A few days later the young whale died, of loneliness I think. All funding for the Neanderthal revival project dried up after my escape, and so far as I know the project is long forgotten. I certainly hope so. It was a mistake I would hate to see any young woman repeat.

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