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Subject:Kelly Link - "Catskin"
Time:11:20 pm
At last he knows what happened to the little, starving, naked thing in the forest, where it went. It crawled into his catskin, while he was asleep, and then it climbed right inside him, his Small skin, and now it huddled in his chest, still cold and sad and hungry. It is eating him from the inside, and getting bigger, and one day there will be no Small left at all, only that nameless, hungry child, wearing a Small skin.

--Kelly Link, "Catskin"
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Subject:Richard Feynman - "The Feynman Lectures on Physics"
Time:06:01 pm
Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars - mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is 'mere'. I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination - stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern - of which I am a part... What is the pattern or the meaning or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little more about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent.


--Richard Feynman, "The Feynman Lectures on Physics"
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Subject:Kathryn Cramer - "On Science and Science Fiction"
Time:05:58 pm
This perception of the similarity of science and hard [science fiction] is manifest in [Gregory Benford's] definition of hard [science fiction] in that essay:
My minimum definition of hard [science fiction] demands that it highly prize fidelity to the physical facts of the universe, while constructing a new objective "reality" within a fictional matrix. It is not enough to merely use science as integral to the narrative ... [Science fiction] must use science in a speculative fashion. The physical sciences are the most capable of detailed prediction (and thus falsification by experiment), so they are perceived in fiction as more reliable indicators of future possibilities, or stable grounds for orderly speculation.

This view of the relationship between hard [science fiction] and science is oversimplified and omits certain important distinctions: As mathematician Jules-Henri Poincaré pointed out, only a small minority of the human race experiences mathematics pleasurably. So, while mathematics is the bones holding up the scientific animal, the science must be "de-boned" before it can be used in fiction, because the majority of readers, even hard [science fiction] readers wil tolerate very few equations in a work of fiction. Even the anthology Mathenauts, edited by Rudy Rucker, contains, by my count, only four equations, of those, none are beyond the ken of a high-school freshman.


--Kathryn Cramer, "On Science and Science Fiction"
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Subject:Marilynne Robinson - "Houskeeping"
Time:06:16 pm

To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing--the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one's hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. Though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smoothes our hair, and brings us wild strawberries.


--Marilynne Robinson, "Housekeeping"
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Subject:Lucius Shepard - "A Handbook of American Prayer"
Time:10:43 pm
"You'll save yourself a lot of grief, man. Right now it's just you and Treat. Baby Jesus and the Devil. You don't take care of him now, meaner sharks than Treat are gonna come snooting around."

"What's meaner than the Devil?"

"Someone hails from a colder place. The Devil's a creature of heat. That causes him to make passionate errors.There's them out there who could take the Devil for a stroll and come back gnawing on his shinbone. Same goes for Baby Jesus ... especially if were talking Trinket Jesus. Problem for avatars is, they attract a special class of predator."


--Lucius Shepard, "A Handbook of American Prayer"
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Subject:Lucius Shepard - "A Handbook of American Prayer"
Time:12:40 am
Sitting in a red leatherette booth, we could hear the bling-bling from the main room of the casino above the Muzak and the tinkling and clatter of glasses and plates and utensils and the rough parlance of gamblers taking a break to sop up some grease and carbohydrates, edgy hookers waiting for their pill man, lonesome hillbillies wearing black jeans and thin gold lamé belts and fancy cowboy shirts, their eyes shifting like nervous money, wasted on coffee and bourbon and uppers, and the rest of the assortment of losers that collect in such places. Therese had an upset stomach. She ordered the Big Jackpot Waffle and milk, and when our waitress brought the waffle, Therese stared at it as if it were a newspaper with an end-of-the-world banner headline. I knew what her mind was doing. After years by herself, getting chased by every clown who passed through Pershing, here she was giving it up to a mail-order ex-con - though she had already made a commitment, she couldn't help having reservations. Just to break the silence, I said, "Better eat that before it gets cold," and she laughed dismayingly and said, "Is everything a metaphor?"

--Lucius Shepard, "A Handbook of American Prayer"
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Current Location:Phoeniz, AZ
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Subject:Bill Bryson, "A Walk in the Woods"
Time:04:21 pm
Current Mood:starvin' marvin

For all its mass, a tree is a remarkably delicate thing. All of its internal life exists within three paper-thin layers of tissue--the phloem, xylem, and cambium--just beneath the bark, which together form a moist sleeve around the dead heartwood. However tall it grows, a tree is just a few pounds of living cells thinly spread between roots and leaves. These three diligent layers of cells perform all the intricate science and engineering needed to keep a tree alive, and the efficiency with which they do it is one of the wonders of life. Without noise or fuss, every tree in a forest lifts massive volumes of water--several hundred gallons in the case of a large tree on a hot day--from its roots to its leaves, where it is returned to the atmosphere. Imagine the din of commotion, the clutter of machinery, that would be needed for a fire department to raise a similar volume of water.


--Bill Bryson, "A Walk in the Woods"
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Subject:M. John Harrison - "Light"
Time:09:53 pm
It was a long time before he could sleep. When he did, he experienced, in the form of a dream, a memory of his childhood.

It was very clear. He was three years old, perhaps less, and he was collecting pebbles on a beach. All the visual values of the beach were pushed, as in some advertising image, so that things seemed a little too sharp, a little too bright, a little too distinct. Sunlight glittered on a receding tide. The sand curved gently away, the colour of linen blinds. Gulls stood in a line on the groyne nearby. Michael Kearney sat among the pebbles. Still wet, and sorted by the undertow into drifts and bands of different sizes, they lay around him like jewels, dried fruit, nubs of bone. He ran them through his fingers, choosing, discarding, choosing and discarding. He saw cream, white, grey; he saw tiger colours. He saw ruby red. He wanted them all! He glanced up to make sure his mother was paying attention, and when he looked down again, some shift of vision had altered his perspective: he saw clearly that the gaps between the larger stones made the same sorts of shapes as the gaps between the smaller ones. The more he looked, the more the arrangement repeated itself. Suddenly he undestood this as a condition of things - if you could see the patterns the waves made, or remember the shapes of a million small white clouds, there it would be, a boiling inexplicable, vertiginous smilarity in all the processes of the world, roaring silently away from you in ever-shifting repetitions, always the same, never the same thing twice.

In that moment he was lost. Out of the sand, the sky, the pebbles - out of what he would later think of as the willed fractality of things, emerged the Shrander. He had no name for it then. It had no shape for him. But it was in his dreames thereafter, as a hollow, an absence, a shadow on a door. He woke from this latest dream, forty years later, and it was a pale wet morning with fog in the trees on the other side of the road. Anna Kearney clung to him saying his name.


--M. John Harrison, "Light"
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Subject:Johnathan Lethem - "Motherless Brooklyn"
Time:09:32 am
There are days when I get up in the morning and stagger into the bathroom and begin running water and then I look up and I don't even recognize my own toothbrush in the mirror. I mean, the object looks strange, oddly particular in its design, strange tapered handle and slotted, miter-cut bristles, and I wonder if I've ever looked at it closely before or whether someone snuck in overnight and substituted this new toothbrush for my old one. I have this relationship to objects in general - they will sometimes become uncontrollably new and vivid to me, and I don't know whether this is a symptom of Tourette's or not. I've never seen it described in the literature. Here's the strangeness of having a Tourette's brain, then: no control in my personal experiment of self. What might be only strangeness must always be auditioned for relegation to the domain of symptom, just as symptoms always push into other domains, demanding the chance to audition for their moment of acuity or relevance, their brief shot - coulda been a contender! - at centrality.


What about vengeance?

I gave it five or ten minutes of my time once. That's a lot, a lifetime, when it comes to vengeance. I had wanted to think vengeance wasn't me, wasn't Tourettic or Essroggian at all. Like the subway, say.

Then I took the V train. I did it with a cell phone and a number in Jersey, I did it standing by a lighthouse in Maine. I did it with a handful of names and other words, strung together into something more effective than a tic. That was me, Lionel, hurtling through those subterranean tunnels, visiting the labyrinth that runs under the world, which everyone pretends is not there.

You can go back to pretending if you like. I know I will, though the Minna brothers are a part of me, deep in my grain, deeper than mere behavior, deeper even than regret, Frank because he gave me my life and Gerard because, though I hardly knew him, I took his away.

I'll pretend I never rode that train, but I did.


-- Johnathan Lethem, "Motherless Brooklyn"
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Subject:Fernán Silva Valdés - "Estrella"
Time:05:57 pm
Qué lindo,
vengan a ver qué lindo:
en medio de la calle ha caído una estrella;
y un hombre enmascarado
por ver qué tiene adentro se está quemando en ella...

Vengan a ver qué lindo:
en medio de la calle ha caído una estrella;
y la gente, asombrada,
le ha formado una rueda
para verla morir entre sus deslumbrantes
boqueadas celestes.

Estoy frente a un prodigio
- a ver quine me lo niega -
en medio de la calle
ha caído una estrella.
How lovely,
come see how lovely:
in the street a star has fallen;
and a masked man
to see what inside her is burning ...

Come see how lovely:
in the street a star has fallen,
and the people, astonished,
have formed a circle
to watch her die amid dazzling
celestial gasps.

I am before a miracle
- who dares deny it -
in the middle of the street
a star has fallen.


-- Fernán Silva Valdés, "Estrella"


I understand that this is about a man who repairs roads.
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