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Magic Lightning

(viewed 1873 times)
(Photo of a print of the original photograph of the fifth Solvay physics conference attendees by Benamin Couprie, 1927, Brussels)

Billy Batson, when he turned into Captain Marvel, would shout the word SHAZAM!, which acronymically invoked the powers of Solomon, Hercules, Apollo, Zeus, Aristotle, and Mercury. I might have a name wrong in there, but you get the idea. A Jewish king known for wisdom, a Greek philosopher, and four fifths of an Olympian stag poker night. Seems a bit of an odd mix and heavy on the Y-chromosomes, but at least it's pronounceable. And, at least in the comic books, it comes with a bolt of magic lightning.

The Olympian crew doesn't get a lot of credit in the modern era, certainly not in Western pop culture, and, frankly, I think they should be glad to get the break.

The modern version of magic lightning is more likely provided by Tesla, and any current invocation of legendary might had better include the names of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Mendel, Mendelev, Maxwell, Einstein, Heisenberg, Feynman, Hawking, and maybe several hundred others. SHAZAM becomes an unpronouncable word of a thousand letters -- still more than a bit heavy on the Y-chromosome (everyone please wave to Madame Curie in the photo above) -- but in exchange for traditionally masculine physical might you get the ability to bend space and time and unleash atomic destruction, which I'm sure just about anyone would think is a fair trade.

In reality, though, it's not enough to merely invoke them. You must understand them, and even be prepared to call up their ghosts and correct them where they've certainly gone astray.

When you get to that point, the magic lightning will have a lot to answer for.

[*]

Posted by Laszlo Q. V. St-J. Xalieri

22nd Jul 2008, 05:54   | tags:comments (4)

The Lost Dancers

(viewed 997 times)
Picture taken by Jane Doe. All credit to Jane Doe (do you remember sending this to me years ago and challenging me to write something? Well... I've found this... in an old back-up... it was, presumably, a work still in progress... but here it is...)

THE LOST DANCERS


Side by side, we have lived, you and I.

Orbiting endlessly, like the Earth and the moon.

Trapped in a dance, a dance that twists and turns and spins us, as we revolve around one another, never touching.

Parallel lives, living along parallel lines.

I reach out to grab you, you pull away.

You learn towards me, I fall backwards.

What is it that we have lost?

Why are we trapped in this never-ending cycle?

What is it that repels us, that keeps us apart?

What fills this space that surrounds and cushions us?

Is it the space where once there was love?


Posted by Helen

21st Jul 2008, 13:20   comments (9)

Gizmo

(viewed 923 times)
This is the gizmo.

Don't ask me how it works. I can barely describe what it does. What is does is unforgivably weird.

I was there for the night of the robbery. Guy comes in stretching a stocking over his head, pulls out a gun, and walks up to the register. It was the owner of the place behind the register tonight. He sighs, flips open the cash drawer, pulls out the twenties, tens, and fives -- pointedly leaving the ones in the drawer.

The guy with the stocking on his head nods, says, "Whatever." He stuffs the money in his sweatshirt and backs toward the door. Gil, behind the register, must have looked like he was about to jump the counter because the thug puts a round into the espresso machine, causing a cascade of cups and mugs falling to the floor and a burst of steam. Gil takes a step back, cursing.

He confided in me once that the espresso machine was an Italian brand, shiny and blue with a kind of painted finish on it you usually only see on expensive sportscars. He said it cost about as much, too. Even used.

Thug backed out of the door and beat feet. It was over in less than a minute.

A couple of super-stunned people were still drinking their coffee as if nothing had happened, but shaking. One woman was on the floor under her table, sitting in a quiet puddle, sobbing. Gil comes around the counter, stepping over the busted crockery, but walks right past her and comes right up to this lamp-looking gizmo. It's never worked since I've been coming here, but Gil never got rid of it or got it fixed.

He comes over to it, flips both switches up, then down. He holds onto the switches, counting under his breath. Sobbing continues in the background, but Gil ignores it. I stare at him, because, well, the lamp thing is right next to my chair, and he's acting weird.

Then he nods and flips the switches up and down again. It's really quiet. The woman has stopped sobbing and is back in her chair like nothing happened. Gil walks away and goes over to the door. He opens it and looks out, but I know the man has to be long gone.

Gil takes a step back from the door just as the man comes in, pulling a stocking over his head. Gil grabs the gun away from him while he's half-blind and smacks him double-handed with it across the temples. The guy in the sweatshirt drops to the floor in the doorway, bleeding furiously from the forehead.

Everyone is staring, craning heads, getting up to see what's going on. Gil puts the boot in a couple of times and shoves him out into the gutter, off the sidewalk.

Gil drops the gun in a pocket and comes back in. Then he looks at me, and then he looks at my hand. I've been holding onto the lamp-gizmo the whole time.

Everybody else is milling around, buzzing. Someone's calling the cops on a cell phone, but he looked at Gil first to make sure it was okay. Gil shrugs and waves him off.

He comes over and speaks very quietly. "C'mon, man. Let go. I'm going to have to do it again."

I shake my head. If you asked me right then why, I'm not sure I'd be able to tell you why I didn't want to let go.

Gil sighed. "Suit yourself, then, man. But trust me, that's nothing you want to play with, or even admit to anyone you know anything about." Gil, a serious man, looked just about as serious as I've ever seen him.

I let go of the lamp slowly, like you let go of a stairwell's railing after an earthquake.

He reached a hand for the switches, but looked me in the eyes. Then he smiled, pulled his hands back, and went back behind the counter. All the cups were all stacked up and the espresso machine was intact.

Every night afterward I've come in here and sat in the chair next to the broken lamp gizmo. Every time Gil comes close, I find I'm gripping the stalk of the thing, white knuckled, hanging on for dear life. But I never touch the switches.

Once when it was quiet I asked Gil where he got the thing. He said he bought it off a leopard on a trip to India. I started to ask him if he meant leper, but then I decided I didn't really want to know.

[*]

Posted by Laszlo Q. V. St-J. Xalieri

20th Jul 2008, 18:56   | tags:comments (8)

17 1/2: a work of creative nonfiction

(viewed 884 times)
This intersection sums up The Atlantic Station development project in Midtown/Westside: an alien and unnatural insertion, a touch pretentious, a touch campy, and not quite legal. A debutante in her coming-out finery, slumming in a sketchy neighborhood.

There's an enormous cinema house, a "big box" discount store, a big chain grocery, an Ikea, an open-air shopping mall for shoppers and diners of wildly mismatched budgets, and a prodigious (yet insufficient) parking deck deliberately designed to resemble -- and therefore mock -- the conspicuously missing subway station.

Near the center is a small green park showing signs of its feelings of inadequacy, a wasteful and (we will soon determine) impossible to maintain decorative watercourse, and, as tasteful and subtle as a wedding-cake topper, an eighty-foot-tall classical arch called the Millennium Gate, celebrating, of all things, the triumph of Peace and Justice in America. Given the current political climate, the only thing that keeps the arch from spontaneous self-immolation is that it appears to have been constructed out of solid blocks of pure irony.

In the way that the entirety of an oak forest is encoded in chains of nucleic acid in the center of a tiny acorn, all of that is visible, if one knows how and where to look, from the sign at this intersection.

[*]

Posted by Laszlo Q. V. St-J. Xalieri

19th Jul 2008, 18:24   | tags:comments (4)

Slanted

(viewed 989 times)
"No, it wasn't non-payment of the gravity bill. That's silly. Here's what happened.

"First McDonald's trademarks The Arch. Didn't seem like a big deal at the time. You depict an arch with similar proportions to The Arch, McLawyers came after you. Build an arch too similar to The Arch, and McLawyers came after you. Robble robble robble.

"With me so far?

"Anyway, the courts took their side. The McSide. Probably fries."

"What?"

"Nevermind. Stupid joke. Anyway. Established a pretty clear precedent, stood for years unchallenged. Then. Remember a couple of years ago when Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp gave up any pretense of, you know, hiding their biases? Came out of the Right Wing closet, so to speak?"

"Yeah, maybe."

"Well. NewsCorp trademarked The Right Angle. Since then everything's been slanted."

"I don't get it."

"Nevermind."

[*]

Posted by Laszlo Q. V. St-J. Xalieri

18th Jul 2008, 17:09   | tags:comments (9)

Check-in checkout.

(viewed 927 times)
"Are you glum? or hungover?"

"Isn't it you that's hungover?!"

"Yeah? long story."

"Just tired. Now I need your passport data. You'll need to get your boarding
card for London in Berlin. I can give you one now but I can't print out a
boarding card for Berlin."

"So I will need to check in again at Berlin?"

"Yes? actually you will need to get your boarding card at the transfer
desk."

"A long day."

"There's your ticket. Three twenty."

Lugging my bag, I made to leave. "It's been beautiful."

"Thanks." She smiled widely.

Stop the plane! I'm in love.

Posted by jc1000000

18th Jul 2008, 13:08   | tags:comments (5)

Willing to Get Your Hands Wet?

(viewed 1678 times)
The magic wishing fountain was in the courtyard of a pizza joint that had been, years previously, a bus depot. The fountain wasn't even ten years old, but the plumbing that fed it previously fed a drinking fountain. Before that it was a well primarily used to fill a horse trough.

Not that continuity of any kind is necessary for these kinds of things. But continuity makes people feel better. They like to think of ancestors going all the way back to the first human being, but don't care to think much about possibly having been apes off and on for a few million years before solidifying the language thing. The fountain could have been buried for thousands of years, unused and untouched, and not itself given a damn.

Also the fountain was a couple of blocks away from a road called Ponce De Leon Avenue, but that was just a stupid coincidence and doesn't mean anything.

Spanky flipped a nickel into the bottommost tiled basin of the three-tiered fountain. A large bubble formed from the splash and obscured the surface. As Spanky watched, the bubble burst and beneath it was revealed a floating knock-off Barbie doll wearing swim fins and tiny inflatable water wings. She was otherwise naked.

He looked around. No one else was watching. He scooped her up. He heard a burbling hiss and determined that it was coming from her mouth. He held her plastic body upside down so she could drain.

"Thanks," she coughed. "You get a wish, but you should probably keep it a small one. Things aren't what they were."

Spanky fought to remember how to speak. "How small?" he asked.

She frowned. "Well, if you were to wish for wealth, I could just about give you two dollars in change, but you'd have to be prepared to get your hands wet."

"I see," he said. He thought for a moment. "And if I asked for true love and a life-long companion?"

"I think I could spot you a doll you could talk to when you were lonely. One that wouldn't care if you screwed around with other women or nag you about how much you drink or how rarely you do laundry."

"Sold," he said.

"You have an aquarium?" she asked.

Spanky thought for a second. "I could probably pick one up from a yard sale for a couple of bucks."

The little doll smiled and Spanky rolled up his sleeves.

[*]

Posted by Laszlo Q. V. St-J. Xalieri

17th Jul 2008, 05:31   | tags:comments (14)

[....]

(viewed 1102 times)
I'm in the whirl of the worlds, the trust of a child and the serenity of a sullen sea. I'm in the tiniest of brush strokes, the finest detail of an image and the feverish response to the infinitesimally small. Find me in love, friendship and betrayal, in the light and the dark.

I come when unsought, encourage unbidden and arouse serendipitous passion.

Do not call. If named aloud I’ll laugh and leave you lonely.

I am muse, partner, mistress and master.
I am food.
I am drug.

I am inspiration.

Posted by Dhamaka

16th Jul 2008, 23:20   comments (16)