Saturday, February 17, 2018

Quantum Alchemy

I'm obliged to frequent commentatrix Knittergran for pointing me to the amazing Crystal Light Bed. The Crystal Light Bed allows you to cleanse, balance, and align your energies, and if you go to a reputable dealer, you can even commune with certain curated angels, arranged alphabetically from Ariel to Zadkiel. As these things go, this sounds promising to me, inasmuch as my favorite state of being is horizontal.

The Crystal Light Bed is used by various practitioners around the world although it was invented by someone named John Of God, who sounds plenty qualified to me right there. One such is Kalisa Augustine (Kalisa Of Brooklyn), who, according to her website, uses spiritual technology and quantum alchemy to detoxify and purify the electromagnetic field, and Lord knows somebody needed to do that after all these years of neglect. Quantum alchemy is best left to the most certifiable masters of charlatanism, so it is comforting to note that Kalisa is quite blonde and has a nice set of credentials on her.

The basic idea of the Crystal Light Bed is simple. The client lies down on an ordinary massage table, facing up, and seven quartz crystals are set dangling twelve inches above his seven major chakras, pointy side down. Edgar Allan Poe probably had a bed just like it. The seven chakras are aligned, ideally, at various points along the body's median strip from crotch to bald spot, so the crystals are arranged like track lighting. Oh, they're also lit up with colors that match the accompanying chakra color, and polished with a holy shamwow. I would imagine the array concentrates the mind wonderfully, especially the crystal hovering above the Root Chakra. (Don't bother googling the Root Chakra. You all know perfectly well where that is.)

Ms. Augustine of Brooklyn goes on to explain that a crystal's natural structure is a six-sided prism with a terminated end. You definitely don't want the kind of end that goes on and on. This is not actually accurate with regard to any number of crystals I can think of, but it does describe quartz, so we'll let it go this time. She says crystals share this configuration with water and energy molecules.

[Energy molecules are principally composed of excitement atoms and zest, and remain mysterious to science to this day.]

In a nutshell, Kalisa's crystal bed is a "multisensory, meditative, cleansing experience that takes you into greater realms of depth." In fact, you can't really get much deeper.

I am not by nature wooful, but I accept that I too have at least seven chakras, in the same way I accept that I harbor a spleen, somewhere. I'm not intimate with them. The meridians are the pathways for the qi between the various chakras, as I understand it, and it's important to keep them reamed out so you don't clog your life force. This is all somewhat more challenging for me, because one side of my chest--for the moment, we're going to refer to these as "sides of my chest"--is much bigger than the other side of my chest, and that throws off the meridians, which have to make a little pivot halfway to my brain. In general, any sort of reboot of my spiritual body is going to be problematic, because I haven't even taken it out of the box yet.

They don't have a crystal light bed for every possibility. Some believe there are as many as twelve chakras, and the extraneous ones are located outside of the body. For instance, the galactic chakra (#11) is located just above the solar chakra, somewhere above your head where the lightbulb would be if you had a thought, and allows you to transcend space and time and even access the Akashic Records, the library of all that was ever or will ever be human. This is not as big a deal now since the Akashic Records went digital. The Universal Chakra (#12) is even farther out. Theoretically, with the universal chakra you can achieve enlightenment and operate all your devices at once, but it never works as advertised.

Basically, the 12th chakra is out there with Pluto, and I hope they're having a good time. We're not going to worry about it now. It's not practical to make a Crystal Light Bed for all the chakras that might potentially be found. You'd end up sleeping inside a geode.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Festerive Occasion

I'd just taken my friend Ruth to the doctor's office for a routine appointment. She emerged apologetic. "I know you don't have all day," she said. "But the doctor wants me to get an X-ray. He's hearing something in my chest he doesn't like, and my left arm feels funny."

Ruth is 93, in honkin' good health. I was alarmed. While she was in X-ray, I thought about my other friend who's sick. And my other other friend who's even sicker. Suddenly I felt like I was in danger of being pulled underwater. I decided to call my friend to see how she was faring. My phone didn't work.

That snapped it. I felt tears pushing up. Which is ridiculous. I'm upset because my phone is balky? It's like I'd been jumping from stone to stone over a surging sea and lost it because my socks got wet. Get a grip, dude. Quit feeling sorry for yourself.

That's when I saw the man looming over the horizon and headed my way. There's no one else around. Oh no. He's going to be a talker. I am not ready for a talker.

There's this one old guy over in Dermatology who prowls the waiting room looking for veterans to talk to. He's a Korean War vet and he wants to relive it all day long. He'll talk to me for a little while but neither of us is into it, and after I thankhimforhisservice he's off to find a fresh mark. I went to the dermatologist three widely-spaced times and he was there every one of them. I don't know if you count as homeless if you live in Dermatology.

This other man--I'll call him "Clyde," because that's what the nurse called him--has now wheeled himself over and is pointing at his knee, which is just visible under his belly. He is enormous. Planetary. He explains that he can't walk because his knee is a mess. He gestures at the knee in question with his coffee-cup hand and sloshes coffee onto his sweatsuit.

"They won't give me a new knee until I lose all this weight," he explains cheerfully, "but I can't lose weight if I can't even walk, can I?" He's grinning.

Ruth is back now and we nod in sympathy.

"And even if they do replace that knee, this one is about to go too," he goes on, launching coffee at the other knee. "It's had all that work to do to make up for the other one. Plus it hasn't been right since I got that massive open sore on my thigh. Went to sepsis, that did."

Clyde is clearly in a pickle, but I'm still not sure I want to hear about it, and I glance away. You're never sure how long this is going to go on. Ruth is much nicer. She wants to know if he's in here for the knee.

"Oh no. I'm going to have them check on this." He holds up a fatly bandaged finger. "Took the tip off with a table saw," he said. We were horrified. He shrugged. "I don't even feel it much.  I have diabetes." He gestured at his purple toes and a bit more coffee set sail.

"So I see it got some of your middle finger too."

"Naw. That one was years ago."

Oh. So were they able to reattach the finger this time?

"Yeah. But that's the thing. They don't know if it will stay on. And I'd like to know, because if it isn't going to take, I'd just as soon they leave it off. You know? Like when a woman is raped, she ought to be able to have an abortion, if she wants one. It's a matter of choice."

I'm perking up. "So you'd like the freedom to choose whether or not to keep your fingertip?"

"Sure. It's not a big deal. I've been fine without these--"

He waggled the fingers of his other hand, three of which were shorter than the original set.

"Table saw?" Ruth asked.

"Naw. Got 'em caught in a hoist chain at work. I heard them coming off, and I thought: oh, brother, not again. I knew just what it was."

"Maybe you should stay away from heavy machinery," Ruth said.

At least until you've mastered the coffee cup, I thought.

Suddenly I realized I'd cheered right up. After all, this fellow was jolly enough. Sometimes that's what  it takes. Sometimes it takes hearing about someone else's troubles so that you can appreciate your own good fortune. Sometimes you need to get that different perspective, consider the wider world. This is what the mature person is able to do.

Naturally, that's not what I did. I started visualizing what would happen if our new friend sticks around any longer. Things are going to start flying off him like Jiffy Pop. Boop! Boop! He'll go off like a grenade. Things are going to cave in, bubble up, plink off. There'll be Clyde shrapnel everywhere! It'll be awesome.

Remember, it's Ruth who's the nice one, not me.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Decrepitator

Oh, you shiny young people! Yes, you can get up out of a chair without gruntulating. Yes, you can herd the Internet through the ether using only your retinas. Yes, you have tiny adorable pores. Good for you! But you know what you can't do? You can't age somebody fifty years just like that.

We can do that. We do it all the time. It's awesome. Just the other day I saw a picture of a little old man who turned out to be one of the Monkees. Not the cute one, or the other cute one, or the super cute one--the smart one. I happen to know exactly what he looks like, with his little knitted hat, because he's right there in my head. I'd recognize him anywhere. And he went straight from that little knitted hat to this little old man, the kind you'd see fumbling in the grocery line trying to swipe his card four different ways before the clerk does it for him, and not like a Daydream Believer at all.

Sometimes the rocker types continue, in their seventies, to dress in their underpants and eye makeup and scary hair like they're still twenty, and they look like twenty-year-old burn victims. And it's not as shocking. It's what you'd expect. If you're a kid in the '60s and you try to imagine your Monkee fifty years older, you'd give him a receding hairline and a saggy chin and draw some lines on his face, but somehow you'd miss the true picture. Ultimately, he was recognizable. Respectable, even.

I remember watching TV with my mom and dad when June Allison or somebody else I'd never heard of came on hawking diapers in a commercial and both my parents went Whoa, what happened to her, as though whatever it was hadn't happened to them too. I thought: Why would anyone be surprised by what a little old lady looks like? She looks like a little old lady. Naturally, I assumed little old ladies were born that way, so the process of transition was pretty theoretical to me. It was not, at any rate, something to take seriously.

It's thrilling to witness an abrupt fifty-year aging. It's the kind of thing high school reunions are famous for, and it's remarkable how fast you get used to it. You're all, Whoa, dudes, what happened to you? And then a minute later it's Oh Hi Steve Linda Gary Debbie, and everyone settles down. Somebody will show up looking like Jane Fonda does at eighty, which is not natural, and you're mature enough to shrug and not take it personally.

You young people can't do that. You can't suddenly see your friends transform into old people. Closest you can come is that age-progression thing you might see on a milk carton where they take some little kid who's been missing a while and try to computerate him into his current age, but it never looks right. It looks like weirdly artificial skin deterioration, as though the kid has aged for real and then gone in with a grade-B photo editor and tried to smudge himself up. But that's the best you can do. You know, unless your friends are on meth.

The thing young people don't quite get about us old ladies is that we still feel all fresh and new and spongey inside our old lady suits. And then we peer out our eye-holes and BAM our friends are suddenly fifty years older. It feels like having a superpower. We're, like, The Decrepitator!

It's a few minutes before we recognize the flaw in our outlook. That we're really more like Superman, tracking in a little Kryptonite on our booties. Uh-oh!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Tales From The Zymoglyphic

Jim Stewart is a lucky man, but not just because he has a Root Worm living above his garage. This is Portland. People are pouring in and rents are unaffordable and a lot of folks are falling through the cracks, and if you have a room above your garage, odds are you're going to get a Root Worm in it sooner or later. And all of its friends.

Mr. Stewart is the chief instigator of the Zymoglyphic Museum, located in a room above his garage, in which are displayed numerous examples of artifacts from the Zymoglyphic region, such as that root worm. In fact, Jim probably has a corner on the market. The Zymoglyphic region exists at the intersection of the whole world and the space between his ears. He apparently began collecting museum-worthy items as a boy, and the discovery of glass eyes and glue set him on his current path. The thing about the Zymoglyphic is it's real easy to overlook, for most people, until you start noticing it. And that's what makes Jim lucky. Noticers are acquainted with joy.

He's lucky because he can go anywhere and find Zymoglyphic curiosities, and most people can't. Some people can get a little bump out of life by trolling the thrift stores for salt-cellars, or tin boxes, or thimbles, giving them that narrow but true joy of the collector, but Jim is a generalist. Which makes his joy broad in the beam.

I remember going on scavenger hunts when I was a kid, and it was a gas. It's hard to understand why it's so exciting to find and check off the items on the list--a feather, a rubber band, a clothespin; after all, many of us spend large parts of the day trying to find crap we know we put down somewhere and we can get pretty cranky about it. But scavenger-hunt items are random and irrelevant to anything but the hunt itself, and it forces us to look, and to see. To notice.

We have wonders all around us, yet many of us maintain a tedious existence merely by failing to notice them. Noticing is a habit we can develop, though. That's what birders do, after all. These are merely people who have learned to pay attention to what is all around them, and any minute, anywhere they go, a choice rarity might drop by. Feather! Rubber band! Clothespin! If you're not somewhere with a lot of birds around, you should really move. It's not good for you.

Wandering Burial Urn
Unfortunately, many people believe it costs money to enjoy yourself, and what with one thing and the Republican party, that means they're out of luck a lot of the time. But the best things in life have always been free, and certainly everything in the Zymoglyphic museum was. Dioramas of creatures from the Age of Wonder; conglomerations from the Rust Age; all Zymoglyphic artifacts began as noticed objects, requiring some assembly and reanimated by intuition. Here's a fungus that is lacking only its eyeball; there's a swashbuckling lichen two seed-pods and a leaf gall away from full sensibility. When you're scouting for your museum, you're not wondering what's wrong with your knee. You're not worrying about the performance of your portfolio in a downturn. You're alive. You're curating your own enthusiasm.

And in the Zymoglyphic Museum, even the dust is archival.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Good Book

I took a little stroll through the Bible the other day. I was familiar with it as a child but you never know if your literary tastes hold up into adulthood. I thought I'd just flip through but instead I got completely caught up in the first book. Talk about your pacing!

Right off the bat, humans started screwing up, starting with disobeying an admittedly arbitrary rule and then plunging right into murder. Some of the action is off-screen: for instance, you're got your two humans who are supposed to get the population ball rolling, which means their kids are going to have to get fruitful either with each other or their mom, but we soon learn this kind of thing is totally normal in Genesis. Anyway God looked at the whole mess and called for a do-over, with good reason, and send down ark instructions and invented the rainbow. (Noah, the one God had taken a liking to, had three sons and a vineyard, and one day he got drunk and blacked out in his tent naked, and his sons carefully covered him up without peeking at him, and for some reason this really ticked him off. Whatever.) The three sons ended up populating the whole world.

Which brings us eventually to Abraham. He and the Lord conversed, leaving Abraham in fine shape. He traveled to Egypt with his wife Sarah but worried that the Egyptians were going to want to have their way with her because she was so beautiful, even though she was at least 65 at that point--people didn't let themselves go so much back then--and he told her to tell everyone she was his sister, so they wouldn't kill him. (It's bad to steal another man's wife, but murdering him is okay.) And sure enough he palms her off on the Pharaoh, but it falls apart eventually when the Lord sent plagues to punish the Egyptians for all this; but Abraham is in no trouble at all with the Lord, and they leave and get rich again. They pull the exact same sister gambit later on with the king of Gerar. And not only that, but when Sarah, who really was his half-sister but who's counting, fails to have children, she suggests he help himself to her pretty Egyptian maid, and soon enough Abraham is a first-time dad at 86.

God was cool with all this and looked favorably upon Abraham and told him he was going to be the father of kings and nations, and all he had to do was snip off a bit of skin around his then-99-year-old penis and do the same to his son and his slaves and any other males in the vicinity. That had to have gone over well. And not only that, but it was going to be Sarah having the anchor baby for the nation-building. Sarah overheard this and chuckled at the Lord, which you should not do. "Is any thing too hard for the Lord?" the Lord demanded, rhetorically, and maybe no thing is, but he made Sarah bear a child at age ninety, and that can't have been easy.

Meanwhile, their nephew Lot had decided to move to the greater Sodom area, which was a bad move. Abraham found out Sodom was doomed and asked God if he'd really smite Sodom if there were fifty good men there, and God said he wouldn't, and then Abraham, who thought he had a good rapport, bargained him down to ten good men, and probably thought he'd done well, but God didn't look too hard and stuck with his plan to take Sodom out with fire and brimstone anyway.

God decided Lot was okay and encouraged him to leave Sodom but he didn't, so he sent some angels that looked like men after him to close the deal. The wicked men of the city wanted to meet the new "men" but Lot, being a good guy, refused to make the introduction, instead generously offering to send out his two virgin daughters for them to do with as they wished.

Then the angels dragged him and his wife and daughters out and told them not to look back while God smote the city, but Lot's wife did, probably because her other kids were still back there, for Pete's sake, and she was promptly mineralized for her maternal instinct. Lot and his daughters scampered off to a cave and his daughters drugged him with wine and got themselves knocked up by him--their own dad--without (wink, wink) even waking him up. All that was fine and dandy.

Then, the Lord popped back to Abraham and suggested he murder his own son Isaac to prove his devotion, and poor Abe got all the way to the point he had his kid trussed up and on kindling and a knife at his throat before the Lord went all, ha ha, just kidding, take this here sheep instead. Isaac in turn grew up and went to a new town, where he started telling people his beautiful wife Rebekah was his sister, just in case the men in town would be inclined to kill him in order to ravish his wife. Stop me if any of this sounds familiar. But the jig was up when he was caught sporting with her, and the town king said she must be his wife, because no one would ever sport with his own sister, there's no precedent for that, and the king promised Isaac he'd kill anyone who touched his wife, and everything worked out great because the Lord blessed all this and wanted them to be fruitful.

So Isaac and Rebekah had twin boys and those two went at it with each other before day one. Whoever was first out of the womb got the birthright (cows, goats, honor and glory and such) and apparently they knew this in utero. This was troublesome to Mom who had the audacity to ask the Lord why things had gotten so rough and unruly in there and the Lord explained "Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels."

Women really do not get much of a break in this book.

Esau squeaked out first but fairly promptly sold his birthright to his brother for a bowl of lentil soup. Basically, Jacob wasn't that nice and Esau wasn't that bright. Also, they kept trying to kill each other. Eventually, Esau married two women from out of town, but nobody including God liked foreigners, so any thought of getting that birthright back was out of the question, because it was important to keep those lines of descent pure, if incestuous and homicidal.

We are not thirty pages into this tome. Already I have the vapors. I swan.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Fido and Fideux

Do you want someone who thinks you're perfect just the way you are, and will love you without condition or reserve, in sickness and in health, in petulance and in affability? Of course you do. And if you have an extra $50,000 lying around the house near a nice dog, you can have it forever and ever. That's what it costs to get your dog copied and shipped so you can take that guesswork out of finding your new best friend. Yes, you too can thumb your nose at death and loneliness and get a whole new fifteen years of picking up poop through the simplicity of cloning.

Everyone remembers that first clone, Dolly the sheep. Sheep were considered ideal subjects for cloning because no one could tell them apart anyway. But Dolly was merely the first animal cloned from a body cell. The first animal cloned at all was a sea urchin. Hans Dreisch did it in 1885, presumably after having developed quite a fondness for a particular urchin. He shook an urchin embryo until its cells came unglued and discovered that the loose cells became identical urchins. He was delighted. The other biologists talked about him behind his back.

In 1902, Han Spemann continued the work with the altogether more laudable Salamander. He was able to separate its embryonic cells by teasing them apart with a loop of baby hair. He made identical salamanders up to a certain point of embryonic development, after which his cells just produced half-embryos, resulting in salamanders that paddled around in circles all their lives. There is today no market for cloned pet salamanders, because all salamander lovers know each one is just as wonderful as the next.

The first pet cloned was a cat, through the auspices of an outfit called Genetic Savings and Clone. Cats come cheaper. I could have gotten a whole new (Saint) Larry for a paltry 25 grand. I'm not inclined to, though. I know I can do just fine by selecting a short-haired tortoiseshell kitten the next time I'm bereft, even it if arrived the old-fashioned way, through cat lust. Tortoiseshell kitties are the very very best. I know this from the 100% satisfaction rating I got using my scientifically unimpeachable sample size of One. I most certainly was looking for a tortoiseshell the last time I went to the Humane Society, after Larry had been gone a year, but there weren't any that day, and my need for an immediate cat overcame my inclination to wait for a speckly one, and that's how Tater ensued. Tater wasn't the first one I played with but she was the only one with any personality, and my streak of picking funny and affectionate cats is unbroken: Tater is one fine bundle of furry pudding. Unfortunately her adoration is almost completely directed toward Dave. She'll give me the time of day but it's Dave that lights her up. I have to go down the street now to be greeted properly by a cat, a small torty named Millie who is willing to take a good rumpling and whose owner is no longer alarmed by me.

There's only one explanation for the price discrepancy between getting a dog cloned and a cat cloned, and it's not the one the company provides. The company says the entire operation is expensive because they have the very best equipment and the very finest staff with the very stoutest salaries, but it's got to be the same equipment they're using for the $15,000 cloned cow. Presumably the cat is less expensive because surrogate mommy cats go into heat more often than dogs do. So they're charging twice as much just to make you wait around until the bitch gets frisky? I don't think so. I think it's a matter of demand. I think they know dog people are just that much more nuts. A cat person that nuts just accumulates a bunch more cats.

Low-tech clone
There's no guarantee though. What if you buy your cloned dog and it's everything your old dog was, except enamored of you? What if it likes your spouse better? As long as it doesn't  have horns and an extra tail, you're not getting a refund.

Plus, you're not the same person you were fifteen years ago when you got your best dog. You've completely forgotten what a pain in the ass your best dog was as a puppy, and you're fifteen years crankier about dealing with it.

Many people suggest that this whole project is a waste of fifty grand when you could buy a bazillion mosquito nets for Africans with the same money, but that's a strained argument. You wouldn't have done that anyway.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Power To The People

The truths we used to hold to be self-evident are so two centuries ago. We've got new truths now, conceived in think tanks and dedicated to the proposition that rich people need more money. Government is the problem. Taxes are bad. Regulation needs to get out of the way of business. And this will lead to prosperity. That's the narrative we're being sold, and a whole lot of us are buying.

How's that working out for us?

A few of us are very prosperous indeed. Many of us are much worse off. The middle class has declined. Our natural world is despoiled and its systems on the verge of collapse. Our resources are dwindling. We've been at war for years, and we're barking for new wars.

This isn't my notion of prosperity.

Maybe what they're selling us is fake goods. Maybe government and taxes and regulation aren't really the problem after all. Maybe it's time to yank the narrative back, by telling the truth.

What is this nasty old Government, anyway? Well, we're trying an amazing experiment here. We declared we are the government: we the people. We gave limited power to those we elected to represent us. We have banded together to achieve for ourselves that which we cannot achieve on our own. Do we want clean water and clean air? Do we want safe food and educated children? Do we want to provide for our defense sensibly? Do we want to share the donuts or give them all to the fat guy? We're in charge. If we're not getting what we want, it's up to us to change things.

But we're easily swayed. We're hanging onto all these myths from back when we could head out and homestead all the land we could steal. We're rugged individualists; we're cowboys. We think we can do just fine for ourselves if The Government would just leave us alone. But there are more than 320 million of us cowboys now and no place left to dump the trash. We need to be careful.

So the next time someone goes full Bundy on us and declares the government the enemy and demands that the land be given back to We The People [sic], remember that government land is our land, and the people who want it for their own purposes--to run cattle on, or mine, or drill, or clear--do not care about ours.

Regulation? It's not there to thwart enterprise. It's there to do an accounting of the true costs of business. Go ahead and grow your business as much as you want, but you don't get to skate on the garbage bill. If you pollute, or you endanger, or enslave, or misrepresent, or cheat, you have to answer to us. Regulation means your bottom line might be somewhere different from where you'd like it, but we're all under the same sky, and someone's always downstream. There's a cost to everything, and if we run our economy without accounting for all of it, we're letting pirate ships sail away with our treasure.

So we regulate. When we strip away regulations, we give more to those who have too much already, while we pick up the tab. When we lower everyone's taxes, we discover ourselves without what we need, just to further enrich those who need nothing.

Do we want clean drinking water at the tap? Then that is something we should keep in the commons. We hire people to make it happen--they're called government workers--and we pay them. Government workers are not our enemies. They're the people we pay to do the things we want done, that we can't do by ourselves, at no profit.

Right now, the shrink-the-government crowd prefers to use our taxes to pay private outfits to do the things we want, so they can profit. Water. Power. Prisons. Schools. Even our war-making is delegated to mercenaries, with Blackwater and Halliburton raking in the billions. The already-wealthy want ever more of our treasure, and that's who's running the show.

That's because a few people with great wealth have an outsized effect on what happens in our name. But it doesn't have to be so. We are the people, and if our government is not doing what we want, we can change it. Our power is in our numbers, and our will, if we exercise it.

What could we accomplish if we banded together? Could we be as powerful as Walmart?

Walmart, the largest private employer in the world, became the behemoth it is by hacking the middle class off at the knees. It arranged for products to be made in low-wage countries with low environmental standards, and then insisted our local manufacturers cut wages and benefits or lose their market. They led the charge to the bottom. Their prices were so low they wiped out smaller local businesses. Now they are so powerful that they can bargain for lower pharmaceutical prices and everyone thinks that's a good thing. But we the people can do that too. If we the people got together to provide for our own medical care by adopting single-payer insurance, we could negotiate our own drug prices and the costs of our procedures.

True, the for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical industries would take a huge hit. True, we wouldn't enable six human beings named Walton to have more wealth than the bottom 40% of the American people. But we'd have health care.