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Dream: Trying to Leave the Spiral University

Dream December 16, 2010

I was walking along the inner radius of a spirally designed university at the center of which was an airport and space launching pad. The school was situated in the heart of a vast forest, and as I walked, I stared out at the trees. I was a few years younger and knew it, and the limp with which I had grown up was heavy on my heart and subtracted from my joy at being at the University.

Reaching into my pocket, I worried at the boarding passes there, then switched them to another pocket.

Elderly professors walked all along the cobbled path of the spiral, nodding and smiling at me. However, once I reached escalators that rose to the airport, the smiling faces were replaced by a clusterfuck of anxiety and confusion. Screams of children and sobs of forlorn women and growls of impatient men.

I rose on the escalator. Above was the airport, and above that was the interstellar launching pad. The airport gates were below a transparent dome of blue glass. I could see ships up there, amorphous forms taking solid shape at the hands of scientists.

A stranger whispered in my ear: “There she is, Todd. She won’t take her eyes off you. She’s lovely.” I turned on the rising stairway and saw a gorgeous young woman with blonde hair staring seductively at me. She reached for me, and I hesitated, then was forced onto the ticket platform. I fell down, and my boarding passes whistled out of my pocket and ripped and multiplied and ripped. A forceful wind tore through the platform, scattering the thousands of torn tickets around the gates. I scrambled to grab them, unsuccessful, while people pushed past me toward their gates, trampling on the passes, shredding them.

I looked up at the interstellar platform and saw a ship forming through the blue glass that I had not seen when at first entering the platform. Its hull bubbled out like an aluminum balloon, revealing portals and structures wonderful. A vessel meant for journey beyond this galaxy.

I had to get on that ship, and I realized that my multiplying tickets were akin to the loaves and fishes. It was a miracle for me to reach the heavens! I scurried around the platform, which was constructed like an M. C. Escher drawing, each corner an ouroboros. The stack of tickets in my hands became thick and heavy as I watched the vessel above me grow larger and closer to launching.

Through the knots of passengers I saw a man who talked to others as if he were in charge. He stared up at the vessel, then routinely checked a piece of paper he held in his hands.

With my collected tickets, I ran to him. “Captain,” I said. “Captain! Here are my tickets. I have to get on that ship. You have no idea where it can be going if only I am allowed to board!”

He looked up from his paper for a moment, looking at me and my bundle of tickets with derision.

“I’m not going to let you distract me,” he said, returning his attention to his document.

Frantic, I rushed over to a long queue in front of gate counter. An unknown amount of time passed, but I felt my hair grow and the skin of my face loosen and sag. An explosion above startled me, caused me to drop my tickets on floor. Looking up, I watched the wondrous vessel disconnect itself from the launching pad and rise into an oblivion. Gone.

A young woman in front of me turned around. I recognized that she was the same one from the escalator, but strange and different. Her face was not real, but rather an imagined idea of a beautiful woman separate from any chain of DNA we knew.

“It’s you,” she said. “You look old and tired, you know? Everything within you is used up. Have a safe trip.”

I thought to say that she looked different, too, but did not say.

She grabbed somebody’s hand and walked through the gate door.

Stranger in a Strange Land - A Turd with a Plastic Halo

Stranger in a Strange Land - A Turd with a Plastic Halo

Before I had any money to buy books, the library was my sanctuary. I especially loved to investigate the science fiction and fantasy shelves, marveling at the titles and covers. It was there I picked up Ray Bradbury's 100 Greatest Short Stories and many others.
Around this time, I checked out Robert Heinlein's To Sail Beyond the Sunset. I tried and tried to read it, but it was so awfully boring, I returned it. Twenty years later, with no Heinlein in between, I opened a copy of Stranger in a Strange Land a friend had given me. This novel won the Hugo; it's considered one of his best.

Nothing had changed. I had thought that maybe his fiction was at that time beyond my grasp, but having just finished the peripheral story of Valentine Michael Smith, I see that Heinlein failed twice by me to write a story that consistently compelled me to want to know what happens next.

Flaccid characterization and lack of immediate conflict are the novel's major flaws. 375 pages into the book, I realized that nothing of major import had really HAPPENED. Conflict does arise early, with Michael twisting people and objects into discorporation. I liked this. But Mike quickly becomes a dull character, with much of his actions told through Blah Blah Blah dialogue, interspersed with an over-preachy narrative style.

Granted Jubal Harshaw is an initially interesting character, but his sauciness becomes stock and repetitive, and he offers no surprises.

There are no surprises here.

The grokking and "Thou Art God" are definitely weighty ideas, but Heinlein fails to weave these ideas into gripping characters and a gripping story.

And the women. As Mike first views Jill and other women, they are difficult for him to distinguish from one another. Whereas Jubal has the most beautiful face he's ever seen. Well, all the women are good for GROKKING.

Michael's destruction at the end of the novel could have been lead heavy in a better writer's hands, but I had absolutely no invested care in what happened to Mike and what he did next.

Just altogther unremarkable. And even worse for the fact that the story offers promises that are never kept.

I grok schlock. No more Heinlein.

London scribble

July 18 2010

Flew into London with Dad and brothers. Spent a day rustling around this huge city, jumping on and off the Tube, drinking ale and eating food which hardens the arteries.
I really don’t think they noticed London. Too fast.
From London to Thornbury, staying in Edward Stafford’s Thornbury Castle. While at the castle, the BBC used it as a setting for the production of a comedy series entitled “Whites”, starring Alan Davies. We met a crazy lady named Lisa who wanted us to accompany her to a beer-soaked public named The Plough, where she would subsequently teach us Flamenco Dancing. I think she was riding some kind of narcotic lightning, for her toes splayed and unsplayed, as if in throes of some eternal spasm.
Left Thornbury to Eastbourne, stopping in Bath, Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral. Stonehenge and the Salisbury Plains were as brilliantly mind-shadowing as I recall from seven years ago.
Did our British ancestors conceive of us? Some Bronze Age imagining of an Earth cluttered and drooling with homo-sapiens?
Salisbury Cathedral still so vast. Another structure making us seem like busy ants, but ants with some great power to suffuse mind and body for these minute beings to construct that hall of possible divinity.
And then Eastbourne, The Grand Hotel along the English Channel. Beachy Head, that chalk cliff breaking away into the salt water. Wow.
Now, Lomdon again. Reading Blood Meridian near Victoria Station, soon to grab a beer.

On a bench overlooking the Thames, I sat in melted Cadbury chocolate. I walked around London with Cadbury on my arse.