By Marc Heiden, since 1997.
August 17, 2010
I think if there is one thing I am going to have to explain to my grandchildren, it is why I did not start or at least invest in an interplanetary mining concern. The descendants of the iPhone and other devices will be made with metals that are rare or non-existent on Earth; they will be omnipresent, and they will run very well, and a few people will become extraordinarily rich from supplying them, but I will not be among those people, and my grandchildren will ask why.
(I will not have to explain why we allowed the climate on Earth to get all fucked up; that will be a topic for our children, mainly, the generation for whom there is not yet a sufficient body of cartoons in which this weather and its consequences are commonplace. Our grandchildren will find talk of old weather patterns odd and mildly interesting, like our own grandparents and milkmen and ice deliveries and nickelodeons, as long as we do not go on too long about it.)
No, it is my grandchildren to whom I will have to justify our family's failure to own any portion of an interplanetary mining concern. (Possibly some portion of what remains of my 401(k) will be invested in one, several layers of involvement away from my awareness, just as today.) My grandchildren will wonder how this boundless source of wealth could not have been obvious to me. They'll know that the first space mining flight was followed by others almost immediately, and from there it never stopped — the oil and gold rushes will provide some basis of comparison, in the sense that nobody will remember how many people struck out or died in accidents, only that it resulted in the likes of John D. Rockefeller.
(But it will be a rush without violence; we will be too fragile in outer space to attack each other, and by the time we have grown secure enough for that sort of thing, we will have learned to be civilized about it.)
My grandchildren will say that we could have been rich; they will not be angry about it (they will be, after all, good kids and fond of me, as I am well-suited to grandfatherhood), just puzzled that I had what will appear to them a clear and simple choice when I was a young man: to mine in outer space and become rich, or to not mine in outer space and keep fucking around in offices — and my decision was apparently to keep fucking around in offices.
I will sigh and tell my grandchildren that someone had to stay behind and fight off all the polar bears; those things were mean.
June 15, 2005
I really want to do something to cause problems and sadness for the online job sites. I don't expect to be able to do it any time soon, but I need to develop a strategy for this, because it sets a bad precedent to allow anything to fuck with the good faith of fine people who just need a job. The only plans I have come up with so far are heavily dependent upon me having unlimited money. For example, in one scenario, everyone who works for Monster.com gets signed to lifetime contracts, making them excited, and then the focus of the company is shifted to making sculptures out of raw sewage. The company intranet is filled with ads for cushy jobs in other divisions, and employees can set up search agents that email them ads that match their criteria, allowing the employees to send their resumes with just a click of a button to a fictional email address that will never, ever reply to them.
I don't have unlimited money, though. You'd think I would, given that I've had this weblog for like eight years now, but somehow I've managed to miss it. No worries. All things considered, it's worked out pretty well for me.
The results of the Terri Schiavo autopsy are in, and although it offers categorical evidence that she was brain-dead and beyond all hope of recovery, her parents have not changed their minds and neither has President Bush. Because I have recently decided that I am a goddam mercenary as long as I don't have to work very hard and get paid holidays, let me offer the following ideas for them to bolster their case against what might otherwise appear to be overwhelming reality:
1. Doctors say that the vision centers of her brain were dead, and she could not see anything. Was that because of the lack of oxygen to her brain...or did her husband viciously put sunglasses on her while she was in a dark room, and then have the scans taken?
It would suck to have to apologize for having been completely wrong, so I expect that everyone is going to kick in for my consulting fee and hit the airwaves as soon as possible. You read it here today; you'll hear it from Bill Frist tomorrow.
I'd be remiss if I didn't link to the Martian sunset photo, if for no reason other than so I can find it again later. I'm rendered speechless and sincere by that sort of thing. It's a real photograph! Enough with the computer-corrected ultra-bright images, that's what a sunset really looks like on Mars and there's how I want my tax dollars spent. The Mars Rovers are great. When Opportunity finally got its wheel un-stuck, I went ape-shit. Why do we even care about sending people to planets? It's just empty symbolism. We'll get around to that eventually, but how much better would it be to have rovers on six moons of Saturn than two guys kicking around where rovers have already gone? We need to learn what secret, arcane practices are taking place on Venus, and rovers can tell us. (I am convinced there are some. I can lead a team to program the rover with ten thousand ways to convince aliens it's down.) There are volcanoes on Io, for fuck's sake. That is serious business. And Kurt Vonnegut has been right about everything else so far, so we need to send a rover to Titan as soon as possible.
(I will amend this entire line of argument to its incontrovertible opposite if I can be one of the two guys who gets to go to Mars. I've never completely recovered from the betrayal I felt when I learned there was no real way to get involved in astronomy without extensive use of math.)
January 3, 2003 BREAKING NEWS! Extensive audio testing has revealed the shocking truth: Bob Seger has not been singing "Like A Rock"...he has been singing "Like IRAQ" all along! Traitor! What can we do to combat this insidious threat? Well, the first step is for all broadcasters of conscience to cease playing that and all other Bob Seger songs immediately before any more damage is done to the innocent psyches of our children. (Think of all the things that have, in their formative years, been likened to Iraq! Hundreds, thousands of associations!) Secondly, we build internment camps for members of the Silver Bullet Band. The bassists and drummers may simply have been deceived through falsified sheet music and other standard bamboozlement techniques, but we have to assume complicity on the part of lead and rhythm guitar players, and especially that fucker who played piano on "Against the Wind".
There was a light dusting of snow outside when I left for work this morning. I think there is time and occasion left for a good old avalanche, a bring the city to a halt storm, but it doesn't seem to be in the offing. Well, there was Christmas Eve, and that was nice.
The library has not responded to any of my entreaties. Retaliatory gestures are in preparatory stages.
The Chinese made headlines again recently by reiterating their plans to launch manned space flights. They used the occasion to also announce their plans to send men to the moon and to Mars. I have long believed that government expenditures on anything other than sending men to Mars are bullshit, so I must give due respect to the Chinese for the announcement, although anonymous foreign sources, despite worldwide consensus in the rap world, choose to hate on the players and the game:
(news) "There are even more outlandish plans, like manned moon bases. They think they can put a man on the surface of Mars. Some of these are too ambitious but a lunar program could be the next step," the diplomat said.
Do you think that the Chinese space program is unprepared?! Check your head, sir:
Would-be spacefarers typically went through three to five years of training, including courses in rocket design, astronomy and communications, state media said. There was also a flight manual on board the spacecraft for emergencies, the Sichuan Daily quoted Qi Faren, Shenzhou's chief engineer, as saying. "In case there is a problem when people are on board, the astronauts can quickly flip through the book to find the reason," Qi said.
They have an instruction manual, so what's the problem? NASA is jealous they didn't think of that with Apollo 13.
The Chinese space program, which does not disclose the name of its astronauts, prefers to shroud its space program in a veil of secrecy. I worry, therefore, that I may come into conflict with the Chinese government over this web page. Such a showdown would be unfortunate for everyone involved. Perhaps an arrangement could be reached whereby I would receive a trip to Beijing, where I would play 'Clumsy American Astronaut' in a propaganda film about the superiority of the Chinese space program. Then, NASA could make a sequel propaganda film, also starring me, wherein 'Clumsy American Astronaut' overcomes his confusion and winds up being the best astronaut ever. Several rebuttal films later, the world is captivated by my portrayal of 'Clumsy American Astronaut' and resolves to set aside its differences, leading to a new era of peace for humanity. Alternately, I make off with the monkeys from both space programs, inherit an olive farm in the south of France, attempt to train the monkeys to pick olives, and come into hilarious conflict with the villagers. Either way, I think this is a good plan, and I recommend we get started as soon as possible.
December 26, 2002 This is the season of giving. The rabbi sent me a generously-apportioned gift card to Barnes and Noble as a holiday 'thank-you' present. (Which was quite nice, but hilarious for reasons that, for legal reasons, cannot be disclosed in writing.) I had been thinking about getting him a Martin Luther bobblehead doll as a Hanukkah present, because I thought he might enjoy that. ("Did you really think the Jews would all convert to Christianity once you implemented your reforms?" Tap the bobblehead. Luther nods. "Oh, Luther.") But Hanukkah passed, and I was on a manic streak at the time wherein I felt that the joy of basking in my fucking presence was gift enough, so I spent the money on sandwiches instead.
I had a splendid run-around in the snow on Christmas Eve. For some reason, no one else thought to go down to the lakefront after midnight during the blizzard, so I was alone in the newly-fallen snow. I had my Lomo with me and attempted to document the strange sights, but I discovered later that the aperture was set wrong, so I am not sure if any of the pictures will come out. (Lomo is tricky. I am still getting used to its ways, having previously owned only disposable cameras.) The emotional high point of the trip was walking past the empty lot where a guy in a trailer sets up to sell Christmas trees every year. Evidently assuming that there were no more sales to be made at this late point in the season, he took off, leaving seven or eight forlorn trees behind. A cartoon reindeer head overlooked them from a lightpole. The physical high point of the trip was when I stepped out on the beach and was teleported by unknown motherfuckers to the goddam moon all of a sudden. Shit! There are those who will suspect that I was hallucinating from being out in the sub-zero cold for an hour, but I have pictures, if Lomo is true.
December 9, 2002 I find myself surrounded, in this ever-mysterious season of winter, by powerful totems. My autographed 8X10 photo of Manute Bol arrived in the mail, and I have a nice frame waiting at home for it. While searching through auction sites for a suitable bowling bag for the next bowling season, I found this, which caused me to lose consciousness; when I awoke, I found that I'd done the best two hours worth of work since I arrived, and the rabbi was mighty pleased. I remain woozy. I bought a Christmas tree this weekend, and my apartment smells of pine needles. I thought my cats might find the tree interesting. Unfortunately, the younger of the two found it interesting in an eating sort of way, and he is now quite sick. He'll be fine, though, and he is being polite about where he throws up.
In a free moment, I decided to check up on the Chinese Space Program. I have been keeping an eye on those guys for a while, but every time I look away, there are new developments:
(news) Space authorities in China point to a Shenzhou 4 flying before year's end, perhaps indicative of a launch planned for sometime this month, said Phillip Clark, head of the Molniya Space Consultancy in the United Kingdom. "With just about everything tested for the manned program, I would think that Shenzhou 4 will be pretty-much a duplicate of what is planned for the first manned mission. That is, test everything out…but the men," Clark told SPACE.com. In March, Zhang Qingwei, president of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), was quoted by state-run media outlets as saying that new, more powerful launchers will boost a 20-ton permanently manned space station into orbit. "By Western and even former-Soviet standards, the Chinese manned space program is progressing at a painfully slow rate," Clark notes. "But then again, historically, the Chinese have always taken their time with programs and have taken little notice of the expectations of those observers outside China!"
Phillip Clark can talk all the space-trash he likes, but the Chinese themselves appear, by and large, to be content remaining enigmatic about their plans. They have been quite busy reserving intense domain names, and, judging by the design of the sites, some intense shit has been going down, but it has been going down in Chinese, which I do not understand, so I had to be content with raising one eyebrow at the laser-beacon CASC logo, a white-hot version of which Phillip Clark can probably expect to suddenly materialize above his bed in the near future in response to his mockery.
August 28, 2002 A memo about an all-staff gathering on September 11th went out. (All staff will gather...will begin at 8:45a.m. sharp...we will reflect on the meaning of that day's events to our nation, our community, and to ourselves...) Everyone is lining up to use the anticipated resonance of the day for their purposes. I plan to take the day off from work, whatever the cost. For that twenty-four hour period, I will not turn on my television, my radio or my web browser. I don't plan to do anything epic or sentimental to mark the day, but I am fairly intent that I will only talk to people I care about during those twenty-four hours, and I will not allow someone else to commemorate the day for me. I experienced it alone, slightly bewildered, and then I talked about it with friends, and at night I sat out on the rocks at the beach, and that is what I will do again.
Russia, I trust you. I know that you have something clever planned for when you take Lance Bass 'into space'. I believe that, in the end, you will do the right thing, which is not, of course, actually taking Lance Bass into space. You are a country of revolutions. You are a country with a long, proud history of taking fervent ideological stands with little regard to practical concerns. I know that you will trick him at the last minute and make off with the money, hiding perhaps in Siberia. It will be very funny. Millions of people are counting on you, Russia, and I know that you will come through.
April 30, 2002 I bought a sandwich for lunch. It's nice when you know exactly what kind of mood you are in, and in this case, I was in the mood for a sandwich. It didn't even cost very much. I decided to eat it while walking around, so I unwrapped one end and started eating. After the fourth bite, the bottom half of the sandwich fell through the bottom of the wrapping paper and landed on the sidewalk. I stared in disbelief. A high-powered business couple walked by. The woman said, "Ooh, looks like that sucks." Yes, it did.
It felt like a cross-check from Jesus.
Now I am in a new mood, which is not so easily articulated.
(news) A local company was indicted earlier this month by a federal grand jury on charges of importing wild, underage and pregnant monkeys to the United States. LABS of Virginia, with local offices on Canon Boulevard in Oyster Point, was accused by the Fish and Wildlife Service of illegally importing the monkeys from Indonesia in four shipments through Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. LABS of Virginia is run out of the same offices - and owned by many of the same people - as the Bionetics Corp., an established local research company that does work for NASA Langley Research Center.
If monkeys are in the news, I can be trusted to find out and get all worked up about it. As you may have expected, I have submitted my resume to LABS of Virginia for the position of wild monkey smuggler. I will not even have to commute for the job, since it's done through O'Hare, which is just a train ride away. I am excited about the challenge of passing off wild, underage monkeys as rambunctious children and midgets to get them through airport security. My track record speaks for itself. I am operating under the assumption that the company imports wild monkeys and then just lets them go, because its agenda is to turn Chicago into a new Bombay. Why else would they be importing monkeys?
What's really exciting about the article, though, is NASA's tangential - and unexplained - involvement with the monkey smuggling operation, and the fact that new Hubble Space Telescope pictures were released on the same day that the story broke, and if you give me a dollar I will write a nine hundred page book explaining the co-incidence, and Thomas Pynchon's lawyers will threaten a lawsuit and then offer me a deal whereby either I take Pynchon's place, assuming a shadowy mantle which has existed for thousands of years, or I get silenced and sacrificed to the godhead. Come on. One dollar.
There is a stain on my shirt from the fallen sandwich. I am trying to pass it off as "roguish".
December 18, 2001
I want to clarify my position on the firing of pandas into outer space, as I worry that it may have been misinterpreted. Please allow me to explain:
I. I do not want to see all pandas fired into outer space, just one, and perhaps a second, to keep the first one company. I would like to keep a majority of pandas here on earth;
I hope that clarifies my position.
December 15, 2001
I wanted a cookie, and there were only five minutes left until the store with no minimum charge closed, so I left my apartment and I ran, free, unbound, perfect in form and effortless in speed, alive in the cold air and the moonlight. Golden boy! Everyone I passed looked at me as though I wasn't wearing any pants.
From the outer space editorial desk: will China - which recently sent a monkey, dog, rabbit and snail into space - be sending up a panda any time soon? I think I am speaking for more than myself when I say that I'd like to see a panda sent into outer space.
Here are some more stories about homeless guys:
1. I am leaving the Rock 'n Roll McDonalds in downtown Chicago. I bought some sunflower seeds across the street for lunch, and I needed somewhere to sit and read while them. For some reason, I never work in buildings that have cafeterias. As I leave, trying to figure out where my office is from there, a homeless man asks me if I am an honest man. In all honesty, I am not an honest man. I tell nothing but lies, but they are sweet lies. Still, I think that he is looking for a specific answer here, so I shrug and say that I am. He bets me a dollar that by looking at my coat and my shoes, he can tell me how many children my father had. I have never met my father, so I am curious, but I have no way of confirming whether he's right, and the homeless guy isn't about to start giving it up for free. Anyway, I don't have a dollar.
2. I am one block away from work. A homeless man offers to shine my shoes. He explains that he doesn't have his shoe-shine kit with him right now, but he's pretty sure he could do a good job anyway. I am wearing my basketball shoes, which I bought because they were cheap, have no visible logo and were the only ones available in size 14, so they aren't really the type of shoes that you shine. I tell the homeless guy that. He assures me that he can do wonders, and he makes me guess how old his shoes are. When they turn out to be much older than my guess, they are held up as evidence of his shoe-shining prowess. I try to express my sincere belief in his abilities, but, as usual, I don't have a dollar. The homeless man says that it's okay and maybe we'll have dinner some time. I say, sure, why not.
3. I am approaching the turnstile at the train station, ready to pay my fare with a fully-charged transit card. A homeless man asks if I will give him three dollars. He is more ambitious than other homeless people, and for that I respect him. Still, I do not have three dollars. He offers me a mixtape in exchange, and assures me that it's really good. I shrug. He offers to give what he refers to as his favorite quarter if I will pay his fare to board the train. I am willing. I have not yet spent the quarter.
December 5, 2001
Some people have been wondering why I haven't written about China's recently announced plans to land a man, presumably a China man, on the moon in 2005. To these people, I say: I don't know. I must have been doing something else.
God damn, that is the craftiest shit I have heard in a long time. A monkey, dog, rabbit and snails all in the same spaceship? Just imagine the questions that will be answered when the results of that mission become public. Did the monkey pet the dog? Did the rabbit and the snails band together against the monkey? What the fuck happened up there, Sun Laiyan? Why won't you talk about Shenzhou II? Holy shit. As an expert on monkeys, outer space and wily schemes - the world's foremost authority on that particular cross-indexing, some say - if I had to hazard a guess, I would guess that the snails were implanted with miniaturized brains from the Khans, Genghis and Kublai and some of the other Khans that real fans are into, and it was the monkey's job to stow the snails away on the moon, where they will lie in wait for people to arrive. (They can hide from radiation in their shells until they become accustomed to it.) Before they left, the barbarian snails probably beat the crap out of the rabbit and took it with them to the moon, where they impaled it on the American flag at Tranquility Base with a poorly-translated message about the fighter plane collision from earlier this year as an ominous gesture. Meanwhile, the dog chased its own tail. Everyone sends dogs into space. The Chinese didn't want to be rude.
That's just a guess, of course. But, let's be honest, I'm right.
Scientist Liang does not lack for confidence. And that's good. You need confidence in the 21st century. I can only assume that the Chinese character for "tearing open (scientist Liang's) shirt and beating (scientist Liang's) chest" proved too difficult to translate, so they left it out, idiomatic meanings being what they are.
I have many friends who are scientists, and I heartily recommend that they refer to their work as prophecies. I have to imagine it's a morale booster. Try it. I'm warning you, though, my prophecy will come true.
Here is something useful: Jenny, a correspondent in Westmont, sent a link to an MP3 of David Sedaris reading his essay "You Can't Kill The Rooster", which is definitely the essay I would most like to hear him read. Nice. How useful is the world wide web? Fucking useful, I'd say.
Also, if anyone needs an MP3 of the Super Bowl Shuffle, let me know. I will take care of that.
Adds McKinney, blithely: "It's good for the children to be reminded what the basic building blocks of French farce are."
I woke up in a strange place is the work of Marc Heiden, born in 1978, author of two books (Chicago, Hiroshima) and some plays, and an occasional photographer.
Antarctica, Beelzetron, Books, Chicago, College, Communism, Food, Internet, Japan, Manute Bol, Monkeys and Apes, North Korea, Oregon Trail, Outer Space, Panda Porn, Politics, RabbiTech, Shakespeare, Sports, Texas.
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Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.