Archive for the ‘The Stories’ Category

Astronomers Now Believe There Are 2 Trillion Galaxies – 10 Times the Previous Estimate

(A husband overheard speaking to his wife Grace) Wow. Will you look at that. It's just Amazing Grace. I mean amazing, Grace. (A husband overheard speaking to his wife Grace) Wow. Will you look at that. It’s just Amazing Grace. I mean amazing, Grace.

Thanks Ass-tronomers – could you make a guy feel any more insignificant? Just when I was getting comfortable with my place in the 200 billion galaxy cosmos, suddenly it’s 10 times larger thereby making me 10 times smaller. Although we live in an expanding universe, I prefer the tidiness of a static universe. A reliable place with a finite number of galaxies operating with exacting Newtonian mechanics. A place where video solitaire can tranquilize an entire nation and live streaming can mean different things; depending on if you’re watching Netflix or recently drank 2 cups of coffee. 

We are born purposely unaware of the universe’s enormity. That’s just the way it is. And it is that way so we’re better able to focus on the tasks at hand. For example, one time I had to return a substandard chicken pot pie I’d purchased at Costco. They have a very generous return policy – too generous. In fact I had already eaten it and I returned it in its digested form – and they still took it back. And if you think that’s bad, the lady in front of me returned a 7-layer guacamole dip – also eaten. The Costco Scatological Return Specialist could only identify 5 of the layers, so instead of a full refund, they issued her a store credit for 5/7ths of the price – unbelievable. My point is, if I was overly aware of the goings-on in the Magellanic Cloud Galaxy, I might’ve been completely unaware of Costco’s generous return policy and I would’ve missed out on a good deal, and an even greater story. So we come to understand how it pays to not have our head in the clouds – particularly if they’re Magellanic Clouds.

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Alfred Nobel’s Irony, Featuring Me

What hath Nobel wrought? A deft recovery from a sordid situation. What hath Nobel wrought? A deft recovery from a sordid situation.

The reason Nobel Prizes exist is found in the guilt-ridden remorse of Alfred Nobel. Mr. Nobel (1833-1896) was a Swedish arms merchant who invented dynamite. Unlike nitroglycerin which can explode merely by jostling it, dynamite is a very stable compound – at least until it’s detonated. And for the record, TNT (despite AC/DC’s lyrics to the contrary) is not dynamite. Nobel invented dynamite a few years after the less stable and less powerful TNT came to market. OK, so much for a crash course in mid-19th Century explosives. The question is, how did we get from a rapacious arms merchant in Sweden to the revered Nobel Prizes we have today? Read the rest of this entry »

Death and Other Grave Situations

This is what the unseen looks like This is what the unseen looks like.

Growing old is a contradiction in terms. It’s more like “shrinking” old. Aging is like doing the bad kind of pucker-up. But before I pile on and make growing old sound like a death sentence (which it is), let’s remember it’s perfectly natural and obviously part of our architecture. Reaching one’s expiration date might seem unpalatable, but it can actually be quite tasty when we sugar-coat our terms and serve it up with a dollop of perspective. What’s actually being destroyed here? It’s the body and not the spirit. In fact they’re 2 completely different animals – one really is an animal (the body) and the other is eternal (the spirit). Isn’t that comforting? Maybe it’s cold comfort, but I find great solace in the natural rhythms of the universe. Of course I might not revel in the virtues of nature if I’m attached to a morphine drip because my self-driving car decided to drive myself off a cliff. But that’s another story (Note to self: Make next story about a suicidal self-driving car.).
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Rescue Girlfriends vs. Service Girlfriends: Two Completely Different Animals

Me (Zak) and Sadie. Blissfully together for 3 years, which is like 21 in dog years. Me (Zak) and Sadie. Blissfully together for 3 years, which is like 21 in dog years.

After a string of disastrous dates I decided to pursue a new relationship strategy. Did I want a girlfriend who would be loving and grateful (a Rescue Girlfriend) or one that would be stable and well-trained (a Service Girlfriend)? I opted for the former and visited our local rescue shelter (Our Lady of Mascara) on a scouting trip. Critics say these shelters are just meet markets where shifty men go to pick-up damaged women on the cheap. And while that may be true in some cases, it’s not true in this case because the man doing the picking-up (me) was just as damaged – and yet I’m considered the rescuer?

Body language is an important part of the initial encounter. According to the shelter, if the bitch (their term, not mine) wags any part of her body toward the male rescuer, she’s released to his kennel (my term, not theirs). And while the shelter may look for body language, from my Pavlovian male perspective, I look for a woman who smells good (more on that later). Read the rest of this entry »

Awed Shucks: 4 Views

David Foster Wallace endeavoring to explain the box of stars in his head.

David Foster Wallace endeavoring to explain the box of stars in his head.

Take I: In attempting to power through David Foster Wallace’s brilliant and dense Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays, I was stunned into a literary-induced coma by the following sentence:

 

The positivist assumptions that underlie Methodological Descriptivism have been thoroughly confuted and displaced—in Lit by the rise of post-structuralism, Reader-Response Criticism, and Jaussian Reception Theory, in linguistics by the rise of Pragmatics—and it’s now pretty much universally accepted that (a) meaning is inseparable from some act of interpretation and (b) an act of interpretation is always somewhat biased, i.e., informed by the interpreter’s particular ideology.

By the time I came to, I had been knocked into the next chapter. Wallace’s arguments, which he conveys with the force of a firehose pressurized at 200 psi (enough to keep a Mini Cooper airborne for 6 minutes), are tossed-off with easy éclat – like he’s armed with a ready nose-dropper of concentrated insights and pinches a tiny tincture into each sentence. However stingy he may be with his pinches, they swamped me like a tsunami. When I finally surfaced I realized I didn’t understand much of what he was saying – at least at first. But when I thought about it some more I realized, I didn’t understand any of what he was saying. Read the rest of this entry »

There Must Be Some Mistake. I Don’t Belong Here.

reincarnation

They told me I was through with this world. Imagine my surprise when I showed-up in this body. They told me I was through with this world. Imagine my surprise when I showed-up in this body.

What am I doing back here on Earth?  It could be God’s reincarnation file was hacked and I was mistakenly assigned the “Earth end of the stick.” Or perhaps it’s just an easily rectified clerical error. Either way it’s the worst do-over since Milli Vanilli got back together. How an enlightened soul like me could get conscripted (shanghaied really) into fighting this Earthly battle again is beyond me. I’m not even on anybody’s side. I’m just a shell-shocked spiritual vagrant, tramping around down here on some kind of unrevealed maneuvers. At least in the military there’s a defined mission with a clear goal and all activities support the mission. But on Earth the mission is alarmingly vague. Is it to: Live long and prosper or To relieve suffering or To do unto others before they do unto you? – I’m perplexed. The good news is I’ll never suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because I suffer from Current-Traumatic Panic Attack. Read the rest of this entry »

Chang and Eng: Inseparable Till the End

Chang and Eng: Siamese twins before Siamese twins were cool. Chang and Eng: Siamese twins before Siamese twins were cool.

The “There but for the grace of God go I” wince-factor associated with the misfortune of conjoined twins, often morphs into a head-shaking, disbelieving giggle when confronted with the sheer absurdity of 2 people sharing one belly button or the same eardrum. As is the case with many strange things in life, this condition is a very unfunny cosmic joke. The closest we stand-alone creatures come to experiencing this involuntary merge is when we run in a 3-legged race or file joint tax returns. Conversely the closest Siamese twins come to experiencing separateness, is when they’re happily dreaming about deftly slipping through a revolving door all by themselves.

Oh well, “There but for the grace of God go I,” said the author, shaking his head while stifling laughter.   Read the rest of this entry »

A Seriously Humorous Look at the Upside of Dying

Think this is wishful thinking? It happens millions of times a day. Think this afterlife scenario is wishful thinking? It probably happens to dearly departed people millions of times a day – billions of time if you include bugs and stuff.

Professional sports leagues provide the best euphemisms for those souls who’ve dearly departed the playing field. For example, the NFL describes death as being placed on the “Permanently Unable to Perform List.” If you do not go gently into that good night, Major League Baseball will put you on the “Involuntary Retirement List.” And to the NBA death is that strange thing where you suddenly find yourself playing for the 6 feet and under league. And while some run in terror from the Grim Reaper, others see an opportunity in being Reaped by His Grimness. For instance, after your body has been repossessed by the Grim Repo Man, you no longer have to watch in disbelief while it slowly delaminates and its once sculpted contours begin to look like something you’d see in a Funhouse mirror. Death also makes you very easy to shop for at Christmas. I mean what do you get for the person who has no pulse? – Defibrillators? Read the rest of this entry »

Judaism to be Shuttered as Jews Decide to “Throw in the Torah.”

We're doing what? Who knew? We’re doing what? Who knew?

Judaism, a 4000 year old monotheistic religion whose deepest expression can be found in the music of Neil Diamond, has decided to call it quits citing: “Enough already.” It’s just the latest case of a major institution opting out of the global hierarchy in what some religious scholars are calling a “Jewxit.” Jews from holocaust the world…I mean Jews from all across the world decided to shutter their religion after almost 4000 years of unleavened success. It seems a slow-forming consensus had developed among Temple elders who advised followers to, “stop being so damn Jewish and get on with your lives already.” In a surprising show of solidarity, Zionists applauded the move by throwing in their yarmulkes and snipping off their curly little side ringlets as they began a process of moving to a new Promised Land where they hoped to buy lots wholesale – proving once again that old habits do indeed die hard. The closure becomes official once everyone gets back their deposits on the Bar Mitzvah halls. Read the rest of this entry »

What NASA Doesn’t Want You to Know About the Moon Landing

 

That's one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind. And a “That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for…hold it! What’s that dog doing in the picture? Never mind. I can see what he’s doing.”

It is often said that “dog is man’s best friend.” And although he’s recently been replaced by the iPhone, our faithful little buddy is still a very popular app. Their loyalty and devotion is unquestioned. We are humbled by a dog’s gratitude for the simplest of pleasures; like that plastic spaghetti spoon thing we use to launch a tennis ball a mile and a half with a simple flip of a wrist. Dogs possess a deeply embedded pack instinct, so it was no great surprise to Mission Control when Neil Armstrong’s dog Astro bounded out of the VIP grandstand enclosure at Launch Control and onto the Sea of Tranquility just as Mr. Armstrong was about to take his historic moonwalk. I mean is it really any wonder that when his master went for a walk, the dog would follow. Read the rest of this entry »