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I Was Lying About Monsters

The sound of an airplane overhead drew me outside – there were no airplanes in the sky over America that afternoon, not anywhere in the country. You could go out in your yard and hear the silence, a sound unto itself, like when an air conditioner kicks off in the middle of the night.

So I was standing there in the driveway watching the sky, hearing its hidden vacuum cleaner sounds, looking for vapor trails.

It was Air Force One, I found out when I went inside. The President of the United States, escorted by a squad of fighters, on his way to do whatever it was he needed to do that day.

No one knew if this was the beginning of the attacks or the end. It seemed like mushroom clouds could bloom on the horizon any second, and I found myself thinking about military targets in central Ohio – what was here that might be attacked?

DCSC, I thought – a defense contractor or military base or something, I didn’t know exactly what it was. But it was right there on the east side of Columbus, and we had a Federal Building downtown. And an international airport, too.

Ellen was three and a half years old. I picked her up at preschool and found a sign on the wall which asked us not to discuss the attacks with our children, since they’d only spend the next few days freaking each other out.

I remember not liking it, not liking the idea that anyone might instruct me on how to talk to my daughter about this – or how not to talk to her. And anyway, it wasn’t an option for me. Ellen is a little Deanna Troi from Star Trek, an empath, and she always has been. She can’t quite read your mind, but she can feel your emotions about as clearly as you can.

Try lying to her about being terrified – go ahead. You might as well try and convince her it’s winter on the Fourth of July.

Big Uncle Shawn had come over. His mother was in Cincinnati with her husband, and he was as convinced she was safe as one could be, and so he came to our house. If society collapsed and we had to make a break for western Canada, well let’s just say that was something we were prepared to do.

We had only recently brought a television back into the house – we hadn’t had one for years – and we moved it downstairs into the den so we could watch the news without filling the whole house with it. Ellen didn’t care if we wanted her to see it or not; she already knew something was horribly wrong, and a round of Polly Pockets was pretty much off the table.

She crept in quietly while we watched the cavalcade of non-Hollywood explosions, filthy and gray and quick, devouring New Yorkers like a freakish sandstorm. Human beings were jumping out of windows a half a mile in the sky, to escape the heat.

Ellen was simply standing there all of the sudden, next to us. She said, “Why are they jumping, Daddy?”

Shawn was accustomed to Ellen’s little girl ways, but by no means was he prepared to answer that one. I shrugged and told her the truth. “Some people crashed some airplanes into these really tall buildings in New York, and knocked them down. It’s a big deal. A lot of people died, Ellen.”

“On purpose?”

“Yes, on purpose.”

She chewed on it with her brain and then asked, “Did they die, too?”

That took me a second to figure out. She wanted to know if the guys who flew the planes into buildings on purpose had died. I hadn’t really thought of it that way – at least there was that.

“Yes, they died, too.”

Still too young to really get a grasp on death, it troubled her. With no religion to simplify it for her, we’d been forced to be as honest with her about death as I was being about the attacks – we don’t know what happens when you die, that’s all there is to it.

She said, “Why would they do that?”

More people on the television fleeing down the street as another rumbling cloud of debris overtook them, and then the camera itself. Shawn turned it off.

I said, “There are people in the world, Ellen, who are just monsters. I don’t know how else to put it. They were monsters and they did something terrible.”

She had climbed onto my lap as I answered, and now she looked up at me, her eyebrows furrowed in a level of concentration usually reserved for chess players. She said, “You told me there was no such thing as monsters, Daddy.”

That’s exactly what she said.

And I’ll never forget the look Shawn and I exchanged as that little piece of her innocence fell away, the chilling realization that these people, these monsters, these terrorists, whatever you wanted to call them – they’d done exactly what they’d meant to do.

I told her, “I’m sorry, Ellen.” And I was.

Because there wasn’t anything else to say.

 

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Atlantis Without Mermaids Is Not Interesting

Wow, wouldn’t it be cool if it turned out there was really a city called Atlantis and it sank long ago and then scientists found it? 

Bet your ass it would be cool, because Atlantis is full of aliens and shrink rays and ancient, mystic secrets.  Levitation beams.  Big, robot seahorses you can ride around on.  Aquaman and his surly pals.  What a rocking party that would be.

And it’s not just me thinking that.  Atlantis is extremely popular for something with little to no basis in historical reality at all.  You bring it up on the news, and everybody’s listening.

That’s probably why every couple of years a new batch of scientists pops up in the news and says, holy crap – we found Atlantis!

Cause they know we’re always going to perk right up and say, Really?  Where?  And they’re right – that’s what we do.

Sometimes it’s in the Gulf of Mexico.  Sometimes it’s under Antarctica.  Sometimes it’s in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.  And it’s always disappointing, because it’s always ruins.  Some blocks with coral growing on them, and not so much as a street sign.  What makes you guys so sure it’s Atlantis?

Then the answer is typically a frustrating variation of What Makes You So Sure It’s Not?  And I can’t stress this enough – that’s not the way science works.  If you guys can’t prove it’s Atlantis, then it’s not Atlantis.  Call it something else.

Imagine they’re looking for Cleveland in 2600 years and all they know is it’s by a river.  Look there’s Cleveland!  There it is again!  No wait, it’s over there!

This time it’s buried in mud in the middle of Spain (you heard ’em), probably under the plains, since in Spain that’s mainly where the rain falls.

No, really.  Not even in the ocean this time.  You guys found Spanish Pompeii and you decided that’s probably Atlantis?

Yes.  This particular incarnation of Atlantis was swamped by a tsunami, making it an even more suspicious Atlantis, the kind that decides to cash in on Tsunami Fever.  Hey, you guys are interested in Atlantis, right?  And you’re interested in tsunamis?  Well, check this out – we found it before tsunamis were all the rage, so it’s kind of an indie Atlantis.

Yeah, it’s indie all right.  Are you guys smoking crack or what?

Scientists.  Guys.  Ladies.  Gang.  Whatever.  You have to stop deciding that every city-like structure you find which isn’t sitting on a hilltop is Atlantis.

There’s not much Atlantis literature out there, you know.  Plato talked about it, 2600 years ago and said something about the Straits of Gibraltar and a rocking music scene and that it sank.  And nearly all of the remaining work on it is either Stargate: Atlantis, Aquaman comics, or it’s some kind of completely baseless, childish work of fiction.

The scientific approach favored by Atlantis hunters is, anytime someone finds a cube-shaped rock underwater off the coast, they look around and see if anything within a thousand miles could be mistaken for the Straits of Gibraltar, and then they say, Hey.  Maybe that’s Atlantis.

And you know, headlines can be nice and vague, right?  All you have to do is put in a qualifier – Unconfirmed Reports Suggest Atlantis Is Under New York City!

Or in this case, Atlantis Found, Scientist Claims!

It’s a perfectly true headline, but only because there’s really a scientist claiming it, not because the scientific community has agreed this is Atlantis.  In fact, given the six or so sentences we know about whatever Atlantis was (we know more about Xanadu and Valhalla and Hoth), I don’t see how they’re ever going to prove that any given group of ruins were once Atlantis.

Hold on – I just found Atlantis too, in my butt.  Atlantis Found, Blogger Claims!

Let me be clear.  None of you jackasses found Atlantis.  You found some other city that was destroyed by something watery.  That’s a pretty common way for cities to get destroyed, I imagine, since as far as we know, there weren’t nuclear bombs 2600 years ago.

And anyway, if you found Atlantis, and there’s not a glass dome over it, and no mermaids are swimming around in it, and there are no sea monsters, then who cares?

Seriously, guys – who the hell cares?

You’re just taking advantage of the famous name – like anytime someone finds a tooth within a hundred miles of anything Amelia Earhart flew over, same thing.  Could bone fragment belong to Amelia Earhart?

Then later, well, we don’t know.  We sort of doubt it, there are an awful lot of people.  But it COULD be!  The mystery endures!

No, it doesn’t.  It’s not a mystery.  That’s a bone fragment, and this a two thousand year old bullfighting arena or something.  If you didn’t find any Stargates or aliens or mermaids or even anything glowing green, then YOU.  DID.  NOT.  FIND.  ATLANTIS.

It’s like the Professor says – bring me a bag of Bigfoot’s droppings or shut up.  That is all.

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 20, 2011 in News/Commentary, Uncategorized

 

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The Sissification Of Billy The Kid

Here’s a big CNN article about how Governor Bill Richardson is going to decide in the next few days whether or not to posthumously pardon Billy The Kid.  Since Billy the Kid has been dead for 129 years, it makes you wonder who on Earth cares in the first place, but I can tell you three people who do – me, opportunistic New Mexico defense attorney Randi McGinn, and Pat Garrett’s grandson J.P Garrett.

It’s really simple as far as I’m concerned.  I’ve refined my thinking into three specific reasons why Billy the Kid should not be pardoned, all because Richardson is one of my favorite politicians and I don’t see why he should have to spend his time on this topic when I’ve already got it figured out for him.

Reason #1:  Billy the Kid is a badass of historical proportions.

Just look at this extremely rare, actual, full-color photograph of him:

And if you pardon him then he’s just some dude.  It may be true – as archived letters and documents apparently show – that he made an agreement with then-Governor Lew Wallace in which Billy agreed to testify in another federal court case in exchange for the pardon, and that he held up his end but then Wallace never pardoned him. 

And it’s also apparently true that Billy the Kid once sent a letter to Wallace, asking him to honor the agreement – so it seems like when he was alive, a pardon was what he wanted, too.

But that was just so he could ride his horsie around without everyone in the country chasing him around trying to shoot him.  It wasn’t because he wanted his name cleared for posterity.  It was for logistics and convenience, clearly.  And now that he’s not riding horsies around anymore, his near mythical notoriety is all that he has left.

See, if we pardon him, then he’s very likely to get angry and blast out of Hell to exact a horrible vengeance on us all, for de-sullying his bad name.  For the love of God – think, people, THINK. 

It’s like some folks have never seen a demonic cowboy zombie movie before.

Reason #2:  It was an attorney’s idea. 

I don’t like the idea is that a defense attorney pretty obviously thought of it as a way to get into a big CNN article.  She’s claiming that he’s owed a pardon because 129 years ago, Lew Wallace extra super promised him and then didn’t do it.  Time we made good on that promise, she says.

And then it’ll be time she writes a book about it and makes three and a half million dollars, I say.

It’s interesting, isn’t it?  That McGinn is so morally outraged by a (possible) broken promise from 129 years ago, and somehow that trumps all the moral outrage that she most certainly trips over every time she sets foot in an Albuquerquee courthouse?

I am not interested in “clearing” Billy the Kid’s name for the professional benefit of a defense attorney.  I know she’s working for free – how about you offer your free services to some living Americans who desperately need it, McGinn?  I know they won’t let you write a book for that or put you in any CNN articles, but on the plus side, I won’t feel like barfing anymore.

Reason #3: Pat Garrett’s grandson doesn’t want him pardoned.  I had no idea that Pat Garrett’s grandson was alive, but my guess is, he’s kind of a badass.  I don’t want any trouble with Pat Garrett’s grandson.  If there are two sides and Pat Garrett’s grandson is on one of them, then that’s the side I’m on.  Especially if the question is silly and pointless and a waste of anyone’s time who isn’t a blogger, or Pat Garrett’s grandson.

And part of this reason is of course also that, speaking of vengeful ghosts, the last thing we want to deal with is Billy the Kid’s vengeful ghost and Pat Garrett’s vengeful ghost at the same time.  It seems like the current legal designation of the events of 129 years ago have been working just fine all these years.

If it isn’t broke, and there are currently no vengeful ghosts haunting us, then don’t try to fix it.

Now I know that Pat Garrett is often portrayed as something of a coward, for shooting Billy the Kid in the back, in the dark.  So you might think that’s relevant, when considering the opinion of Garrett’s grandson.

Well I don’t know if Garrett shot the Kid in the back or not, and neither do you – but you can bet your ass that’s where I would have shot him. 

History and legend and Emilio Estevez all have different ideas about how many people Billy killed.  It’s either nine or twenty-one or 300-ish.  Whichever one it is, those were all guys who tried to shoot Billy the Kid in the front.  

See why J.P. Garrett was even able to be born?  Let’s all climb down out of Pat Garrett’s butt, he was only after one of the toughest men in history.  He probably didn’t feel like fair was the way to play it. 

Also, J.P. Garrett is concerned that pardoning Billy the Kid would mean that his grandpappy shot an innocent man.  I’m dead serious here – would you all please stop trying to make Pat Garrett’s grandson angry? 

I’m on your side, Mr. Garrett – the Old West was just fine without the ACLU ziplining in and sissying the place up.  The cards were dealt 129 years ago, and let’s all please quit trying to pretty them up.

And as for you, Emilio Estevez – get to work on Young Guns IV.  You don’t look busy.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 29, 2010 in News/Commentary

 

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Time Travelers Among Us

Hear me out, I’m about one third serious here.

First of all, you know they’re going to figure out time travel. They figure out everything.

Drives a room full of physicists nuts when you tell them that. They’ll all burst out that they’re five hundred percent sure that they’ve got proof on the blackboard behind them that no one can ever possibly time travel, not in any kind of cool, movie kind of way.

Always rolling their eyes, you know, like they are being put out, having to drop on down here to my level and explain why no one can time travel. They theatrically let you know, they’ve either never had to dumb it down this far, or they are tired of doing so.

“You’d turn into pure energy,” they’ll tell you.

Or, “You’d create a parallel universe!”

Or, “Shut up, that’s stupid.”

Clapping their hands on their knees and maybe shooing you away. Now go on, kid, scram.

I’m not going to stand there and argue with a physicist, but here’s what I can tell you for sure – they’re usually wrong, it just takes a while for everyone to figure it out.

Sometimes I think the laws of physics actually change over time – maybe that’s the problem.

For instance, it used to be that the world was the center of the universe, and you could ask any scientist about it and that’s what they’d tell you. And if you said, say, maybe something else is the center of the universe, they’d say something similar to what modern physicists say about time travel.

“That’s the only reason God would put His children here,” they’d tell you.

Or, “Shut up, that’s stupid.”

Or, “Let me just tie you to this stake, and may these cleansing flames bring you favor and mercy in the eyes of the Almighty.”

I like modern physicists better, because they don’t murder you. But they still get things wrong all the time. Even Einstein was wrong about a lot of stuff – just ask Stephen Hawking, who is frequently wrong about stuff, too.

They’re always telling us that there’s no way we can possibly do things, and then when someone does it, they just move a step forward and say, “Yeah, but that’s it, we definitely know every single thing you can do now, so that’s that.”

Hanging onto the arrogance, even though some guy just came out of nowhere and proved them wrong last time.

I remember when I foretold the coming of the DVR. Programming a VCR and a television to both turn on and tape a show was a very involved process, and my dad used to bring me to his friends’ houses to do it for them, as a kid.

In college, I could still do it – cable boxes involved by then – and I remember noticing how answering machines stopped needing tapes. Now you could just record inside the machine somehow, never have to change tapes.

I told everybody, watch. In the future, your television or your cable box is going to store all the shows you want to watch, just like answering machines do. You’ll be able to scoop up sixty hours of television while you’re on vacation, or program it to record the X-Files every time it’s on, even if the time changes.

And the tech guys went nuts. Literally, pointed and laughed and threw garbage at me. Started demanding to know if I knew stuff about computer stuff.

No, I told them. I just know that you guys are always wrong. You always have to claim that the next thing can’t be done, because you haven’t figured out how to do it yet. You don’t like that idea. So as far as your concerned, nothing’s going to happen beyond what you currently understand.

Remember when everyone thought future computers would be the size of cities? That’s what scientists would tell you in the sixties – the most brilliant computer dudes in the world would tell you that.

And if you tried suggesting that computers would eventually be microscopic, you’d get a sigh and a lecture about vaccuum tubes or something.

So just assume for a second that I’m right, and that time travel eventually gets figured out, like robotics and space travel and cloning.

What’s the world going to look like?

Well, I don’t think they’ll turn it over to the general population, like cars or computers. I think they’ll do what I’d do – go back in time and get some Sister’s Chicken and Biscuits, and then go further back in time and buy stock in Microsoft.

Some of them will just say the hell with it, and go further back in time and stay there. You know what those guys would look like? They’d look like Leonardo Da Vinci, or Benjamin Franklin, or Howard Hughes.

Maybe Tesla was a time traveler, and some other time traveler came along and bonked him on the head, took his notes.

They’d probably crash their time machines once in a while, like at Roswell for instance. Head back and help the Aztecs build runways. Pose as Egyptian Gods.

I know a lot of people think those were aliens, but aliens evolve on completely different planets. Not just different islands – different planets.

The odds of them having two arms and two legs are pretty slim. It doesn’t even seem statistically very likely that they’d be remotely our size, or that we’d even recognize them as life at all.

And ALL of the aliens people report seeing have two arms and two legs. They don’t look like aliens to me – they look like humans after a thousand generations of never having to do any physical labor at all. They look like a bunch of super-evolved, time-traveling tech guys, with scrawny arms and super hot spouses.

Alexander Graham Bell beat Elisha Gray to the patent office by just two hours. Now I may not have any “evidence” and I might have no idea what I’m “talking about.” But I’m pretty sure that’s because Elisha Gray really invented the telephone, and Alexander Grahama Bell was a time traveler who went on back and “invented” it instead.

Here’s an article at Legal Zoom where I got that first sentence up there about Elisha Gray, and it shows a whole list of people who may or may not have been beaten to the patent office by time travelers.

Like remember when that supercollider in Europe blew a three hundred mile wide crater in the face of the earth, and seventy million people died? No, of course you don’t, because a time traveler came back and stopped it from happening.

Also, you know how inbreeding is bad, right? How when you go to get married, they ask, “Okay you guys promise you’re not drunk and you’re not cousins?”

They don’t make you prove it, they just make you super duper promise. But anyway, what they’re worried about is a bunch of freaky offspring whose brains don’t work.

And a lot of people’s brains don’t work. We only use what, ten percent of it? Yeah, that’s because the entire human race is inbred with our own time-traveling kilogreat-grandchildren.

You ever get all mad while you’re driving, or trying to get your cel phone company to send you a new phone, or shopping at Wal Mart, and you think, damn it, where did all there morons come from?

They came from irresponsibly fornicating time travelers – it isn’t pretty but you’re not doing yourself any good living in denial.

Get your head out of the sand – they’re everywhere.

.

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Later:  The Charlie Chaplin Time Traveler

 
9 Comments

Posted by on June 17, 2010 in Time Travel

 

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