Alien Thoughts

It is an alien world that is around us. Literally.

It’s outside of our experience, if our own thoughts are the only measure of reality that we can have.

I watch a bee fly over the flowers on my patio. They’re beautiful shades of pink and orange, and the bees have been busy lately, buzzing from bell to bell. I watch them and wonder what it would be like to be a bee. They get to fly and crawl around miles and miles of gorgeous flowers to gather the very energy that their society needs to sustain itself. They fly back and sometimes do a fancy dance for their identical siblings, informing the hive of the location of a particularly plentiful patch.

An alien kind of existence. Their communication system so different, so unintelligible to humans. We’re going to have to spend millions in research grants, thousands of hours of effort, entire buildings built, and gigabytes of data across the globe will go towards understanding what one bee tells another by way of its dancing and buzzing. A task that their tiny minds are incredibly well-equipped to perform.

We are spending ourselves to understand the language, the grammar of bees. Because we wish to know their alien thoughts.

And of course our own thoughts are little-more understood.

What’s up with that?

Did you know that it costs about three hundred bucks – US dollars – to build an EMP bomb? That’s 300$ for something that can fry every piece of electronics in about 10 city blocks. It’s not a big explosion, either, just a small car-bomb that goes pop and suddenly every microchip around it is gone. Say bye-bye to your phone, laptop, tablet, your car, pacemaker, thermometer, fridge, maybe even your toilet. Need I go on?

Detonate this puppy around Wall Street and you can shut down the stock exchange for a week at least. If there’s a hospital in the blast range, you’ll likely cause some deaths as well.

Trigger this thing close enough to an airport, it’s gonna rain planes.

Pop one in front of the White House and the President can’t watch his TV for a while.

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Simon Stålenhag

I’ve been a fan of Simon Stålenhag long before I knew his name. By wall of The Paper Wall an HD wallpaper gallery that’s sadly no longer in existence, I stumbled on a bunch of detailed paintings of idyllic countryside scenes with subtle additions of aliens. For a while these were the backgrounds of my monitors at work, and I wouldn’t have a good answer to people who inevitably asked “Where’s that cool picture from?”.

Apparently, it’s not that hard to find him, and his art is amazing. He also has a couple of books published. I have the first, Tales from the Loop, which is a collection of related pictures and a series of sci-fi themed captions for each photo. The captions are usually unrelated, though they do happen in the same universe and showcase the strange world where humanity found a new power source.

https://simonstalenhag.tumblr.com/post/147584391842/everywhere-i-look-theres-a-dead-end-waiting

Settled

Went through the mail the other day. Not the recent stuff, but old mail that’d been put into folders and boxes and stuck into the corner of a room with a desk. The mail that says 6/12 on it, or something from just around the second Obama administration. I’m going through the mail because it’s a simple chore to do on a Thursday night. “Arrow” was playing on TV.

The old system was to take the envelope, complete with the letter in question and in some cases a return envelope, and toss the whole thing into the folder, along with other letters received at about the same time.

That night’s activity was to go through the mail again and toss out the envelope and the associated junk, just keep the letter in question, but once in a while throw away anything I wouldn’t need.

I’m a hoarder, on some level. Can’t and won’t throw away things, especially information. Still lugging around the contents of my computer from college, somewhere on one of these hard-drives…

Throwing away mail seemed strangely final and destructive. Now way am I doing something so irreversible! Where’s Ctrl-Z?!

But in the case of electric bills from 2012, I actually paused and considered how ridiculous it was to save the damn thing. It was a long time ago. There wasn’t a person in the world who would ask me to prove that I paid sixty dollars for power in a random month some four years ago.

The account was settled then, and the most recent statements from PSE would prove just that. There was no need to keep this piece of paper around.

“I bought a doughnut and they gave me a receipt for the doughnut; I don’t need a receipt for the doughnut. I’ll just give you the money, and you give me the doughnut, end of transaction. We don’t need to bring ink and paper into this. I just can’t imagine a scenario where I would have to prove that I bought a doughnut.” – Mitch Hedberg

I paid for some service in college to make a painting of a photograph, with the deal being that if I wasn’t happy with the painting, I could get something else from them. Never did settle on the painting, and that money (was probably a hundred bucks) is gone forever. In this case, if I cared enough, a paper trail might help.

Bought some super-duper version Beatles version of Rock Band, which came with the guitar and drums and mic, and played that all of a half a dozen times. Didn’t throw it away because I’d paid good money for it. Didn’t sell it because figured I wouldn’t get anything close to what I paid. It’s true, but why should that matter anymore?

Paid some strange online MP3 service twenty bucks a decade back. Still remember that, obviously.

The “accounts” for all of these have been “settled”. There’s nothing to be done except move on with life. And realizing that, not too long ago, took a huge load off my shoulders. The realization that sometimes you need to close the door on the past, throw it all away and not be afraid to start over. That was a good moment.

Last call

He sits at the bar. He takes a seat at the edge, the spot where the two sides of the bar’s high top come together, fellow patrons on the left and right.

“What are you having?”

“Got three IPAs, don’t you?”

The bartender looks down at the menu in front of the man. It lists half a dozen, but the man doesn’t seem to be aware of it.

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Apocalypse Now 2

Cinerama organized yet another one of their impressive 70mm Film Festivals. This year the films include “2001: A Space Odyssey”, “The Sound of Music”, “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Interstellar”, “Aliens”, “Patton”. (Full listing is at the previous link.)

Two films that I’ve had a chance to watch were “Apocalypse Now” and “The Master”. The latter is a film about a charismatic founder of a cult and I’ll be puzzling over it for months to come, but seeds planted by “Apocalypse Now” have already borne fruit.

It was something like fifteen years since I’ve seen “Apocalypse Now”, way back in 2000 or so. I didn’t understand it at the time and promptly forgot about the movie. Sure, I’d “seen it”, it’s a classic, who hasn’t? But I couldn’t give you much more than the elevator pitch for the film. Didn’t really pay attention, not to the important stuff.

This time, I actually paid attention.

brando-kurtz
Marlon Brando as Col. Kurtz

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