1999 Notebook: Interval XVI

24 May 1999
Aesthetic Elf-indulgence
I emailed a friend that I was taking great pleasure in my "aesthetic self-indulgence," but something went terribly wrong. There was some sort of belch in the space-time continuum that distorted the message slightly. Actually, only one character was lost, so I suppose it was technically more like a burp in the space-time continuum.

Anyway, my friend wrote back and says she's looking forward to seeing the fruits of my "aesthetic elf-indulgence." And so now I'm stuck.

I don't have the technical expertise to explain how or why the missing "s" failed to make it from my computer to hers. I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't the first idea about how to engage in aesthetic elf-indulgence. And worst of all, I can't even begin to think how I might lie my way out of this mess.

Oh well, the life of an artist is fraught with difficulties; I guess elf-indulgence is the aesthetic problem d'jour.

25 May 1999
Virtual Nonsense
"We're not really biological creatures anymore."

That's according to Hans Moravec, the director of the Mobile Robot Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University. He maintains that by downloading all our essential bits into a robot, "you'll be able to do much more, understand much more, go more places, not die--all those things."

I don't share his enthusiasm. I fear Hans Moravec has been spending more time fiddling with his electronic bits than fiddling with his animal bits. Tasting the virtual salt of virtual tears seems virtually undesirable. I think Hans Moravec should swim naked in the ocean on the summer solstice, gently kiss a mermaid on the neck, and bark at the moon, before he goes virtually mad.

26 May 1999
Like Watering a Saudi Garden
A Moslem friend of mine told me he'd seen a couple of beheadings when he was working in Saudi Arabia.

"It was all horrible," he said. "They kill two Filipino men. They have a bag on their heads. One man, he doesn't want to bend down in front of the killer man [executioner], so he poke him with his big sword until he bend over, then ..."

My friend made a long sweeping chop with his hand, complete with the "whooooosh" sound effect.

"The head, it flies five or six meters from the neck. The blood shoot out the neck like watering the garden. Horrible."

I asked him whether witnessing these executions had affected his views on the death penalty.

"I don't like to see persons killed. We were born from a mistake, we should be able to make mistake."

I didn't feel like debating the death penalty, so I suggested that we drink some more beer.

We did.

27 May 1999
The Boggs Mint
I normally don't like artists who repeat themselves, but I'll make an exception for J.S.G. Boggs, for he is an exceptional artist. He's been making realistic illustrations of various countries' currencies for years. The various countries' treasury officials get annoyed that Boggs is introducing contemporary aesthetics into their fine-tuned capitalist machinery, so they prosecute him for some sort of infraction. From what I've read, he generally wins such legal cases, albeit after paying the obligatory high legal fees with new currency he's created.

Boggs is currently in a protracted legal dispute with the U.S. government. The government has reportedly spent some four million dollars trying to nail Boggs. The artist, meanwhile, has racked up eight hundred thousands dollars in legal bills from the prestigious New York law firm that's defending him. He's paid his lawyers with eight one-hundred-thousand dollar notes he's made.

With both sides in the dispute printing their own money, I imagine this case will be unresolved for quite some time.

28 May 1999
The Second Mouse Theory
I just got a note from Deborah. She's upset because someone launched a new project almost identical to the one on which she's been working for nearly two years. I find it difficult to believe the both Deborah and her competitor both stole the same old Sanskrit idea, but that certainly appears to be the case.

Deborah need not worry. Here's what I told her: the second mouse gets the cheese.

29 May 1999
Deep and Shallow Breathing
I just took a test and discovered that my lungs hold 6.53 liters of anything I choose to breathe. Wow, I should run out and get 6.53 liters of something to celebrate my capacity! I think I have big lungs after all the childhood and adolescent years I spent playing the horn. At least I think they're big. After all, only the largest, most ridiculous, cars have engines bigger than 6.53 liters.

Discovering my lung capacity reminded me of a piece I did a few years ago, A Lifetime of Inspiration, a piece in which I calculated the volume of air I'd breathe during my lifetime. I estimated that I'd take ten half-liter breaths a minute for seventy years.

I wonder if I need to make the piece over again? I don't think I will. Since I breathe so shallowly (except for special occasions), I think it's not unlikely that I use less than eight percent of my 6.53 liters of lung capacity on an average breath.

30 May 1999
Maybe It Is, It Is Not
I told Janey about a dream I had in which I realized everything in the world was in one of three conditions: what is, what may not be but is, and what is but may not be.

Janey was not impressed.

"Were you drinking cheap wine and listening to bad Led Zeppelin songs before you went to sleep or something?" she asked.

"Now that you mention it, no," I lied. (I was drinking cheap whiskey.)

"Whatever. It sounds to me like you've come up with an ersatz version of what the Jains came up with a millennium and a half or so ago," she said. "Look it up."

So I did. The Jains, or Jainas, had seven categories of logic:

    Maybe it is.
    Maybe it is not.
    Maybe it is, it is not.
    Maybe it is indeterminate.
    Maybe it is and also indeterminate.
    Maybe it is not and also indeterminate.
    Maybe it is and is not and also indeterminate.

How about that! Leave it to Janey to know about Jains.

31 May 1999
Heading to Thailand
I'm on my way to Thailand with seven dollars and ninety-two cents, an airline ticket, and a friend with a big credit card. Never underestimate the importance of having a friend along, I always say. My computer tells me that I'll be traveling 32,686 kilometers this trip; that means I'll have one penny to spend every 41.27 kilometers. Since the airline serves free drinks on international flights, I figure that should be more than enough cash.

Dr. Jüngling told me that Thailand is the land of a thousand smiles, and that she can't understand most of them. I understand all of Dr. Jüngling's three smiles: somewhat beguiling, beguiling, and extraordinarily beguiling. (She also has a rancid sauerkraut expression that I never see except when she hears one of my jokes.)

At some point I'll be crossing the international dateline for the first time, and that has me a little concerned. I remember hearing that there's some sort of initiation rite the first time one crosses the international date line, something about drinking rum and painting the traveler's genitals blue or something like that.

I checked into it, and discovered that I don't have to worry because that particular rite is saved for when someone crosses the equator for the first time, something I have yet to do. And, after checking my records, it turns out that I crossed the international date line twice in 1983, first when I accidentally invaded the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and then again when I uninvaded the CCCP.

Anyway, I have no idea what I'll do when I get to Thailand. I suppose I'll be fine if I keep my eyes open, brush my teeth, and smile a lot. That seems to work in most places.

gratuitous image
1 June 1999
Harland Sanders (snaportrait)
Colonel Sanders met me at the airport in Bangkok. (Buddah-bellied statues of Colonel Sanders and Ronald McDonald are everywhere here.)

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©1999 David Glenn Rinehart