Friday, May 10, 2024

The future of the alpha male

[This is a guest essay from my altered-ego D.L.'s blog, Lasken's Log (, featuring thoughts on Biden vs. Trump.]

Early Hollywood films often featured cute baby chimpanzees who mimicked human behavior with infantile gestures, grimaces and clownish antics.  But, although there are plenty of adult lions, elephants and giraffes in early movies, there are no adult chimps.  Adults were retired to "reserves" far out of the city.  Chimp handlers knew why, but the general public did not.  

That changed over recent decades as a series of horrifying attacks by adult chimps on humans were reported in the media.  Adults can weigh up to 200 pounds and are generally twice as strong as the average adult human male.  The attacks entailed faces and genitals torn off, hands amputated and other targeted attacks that appeared designed, not necessarily to kill, but to permanently debilitate the victim both physically and psychologically.  The victims typically were taken by  surprise.  Often the chimp had been raised by the victim from babyhood, or the victim might be a friend of the owner who knew the chimp well, or thought so.  The trigger for many of the attacks appeared to be jealousy, or a sense of betrayal.  One woman brought a birthday cake to a captive adult chimp (removed from her custody for dangerous behavior) in the company of two other chimps.  One was so jealous of the cake that he bit off the womans lips and nose and destroyed one eye.  A man who brought a toy to a chimp he knew lost his genitals when he tried to take back the toy.  It is now illegal to own a chimp as a pet.

While our society was learning about the nature of adult chimps in captivity, scientists were learning about chimps in the wild.  Search "chimp attacks in Africa" and you'll find beautifully shot narratives by producers like Discovery and Planet Earth-BBC Wildlife depicting a murderous species, often out to expand its territory.  In one program, a band of adult male chimps, led by its alpha male (the dominant male animal in a particular group- Webster) silently creeps through the forest, stalking a neighboring colony of chimps.  The alpha, who not only determines the group's behavior but defines its virtues, deficits and moral tone, brings the group to a halt as the "enemy" comes within earshot.  The males huddle together in intense, intimate concentration.  The group attacks and manages to capture a baby chimp from the neighboring group, which they kill by pulling off its limbs, after which they sit in a circle, gnawing on the limbs and sharing them with each other. 

More recently, the Netflix documentary "Chimp Empire," directed by James Reed, presented an intimate look at chimps interacting in which they appear surprisingly human. In fact chimps are our closest relatives.  Human DNA differs from chimps' by only 1%.  In contrast, human DNA differs from dogs' by 75%.  The difference between apes (like chimps) and monkeys (like capuchins) is 7%, meaning that we are closer to chimps than chimps are to monkeys.

Chimps pre-date us by about 5 million years, so we are likely spin-offs from them, appearing about 300,000 years ago. Maybe it was the chimps who drove us from the forest.

[Note: Our DNA is likewise only 1% different from the chimps' nearest relation, bonobos.  In the 70's and 80's, bonobos were touted as "flower-children chimps" because of their uninhibited displays of affection- including social conventions like handling each other's genitals or rubbing them together- and the lack of male combat.  The hippie association was dropped after researchers noticed that many males were missing thumbs, which had been bitten off by females in this matriarchal alternative to chimp patriarchy.]

As with humans, not all chimps are murderous.  A Discovery UK episode tells the story of two peaceable chimps, Hare and Ellington, who, though members of a large warlike group, spent their days together in tranquil strolls through the forest.  One day Ellington was beaten and mauled to death by members of the group.  Hare then wandered alone, depressed and distracted, finally finding his place taking care of baby chimps orphaned by his group.

Are we like chimps in behavior as well as DNA?  A study of human history suggests that we are.  Many anthropologists speculate that homicidal impulses in our ancestors explain the absence today of any other types of humans than our own.  There is fossil evidence that there were other types of humans, notably Neanderthals and Denisovans.  Genetic analysis indicates that we interbred with these humans, but we also witnessed their extinction.  There is no evidence that we intentionally eliminated them (an action we would now term "genocide"), but the question remains, where are they? 

We are proud of our hunting heritage, but unlike, say, lions, who after millions of years of hunting and eating impalas and giraffes have not caused the extinction of those animals, human prey tends to disappear.  There is plenty of evidence that needless killing of fauna and megafauna has recurred throughout human history.  A prehistoric example that is generally left unsaid in deference to a need to idealize early North American cultures (science writer Jared Diamond is one of the few to refuse the idealization), all large mammals on the North American continent- like giant ground sloths and wooly mammoths- disappeared shortly after the arrival of the first humans, 10,000-12,000 years ago. The later settling of the American West by Europeans provides further examples of animals slaughtered in numbers far exceeding people's need to eat them.  When Europeans arrived in North America, passenger pigeons comprised up to 40% of the bird population, their migrations filling the sky.  "Sportsmen" would fire straight up and revel when dozens of birds fell to the ground.  From an estimated 3 to 5 billion pigeons when the Mayflower docked at Plymouth Rock, their numbers fell in two hundred years to zero.  The American bison (commonly called the "buffalo") numbered around 30 million before Europeans came.  Horace Greeley wrote in 1860 that, "Often, the country for miles in all directions had seemed quite black with them."  The railroads sold tickets for bison killing excursions to New Englanders looking for adventure.  When herds of bison ran across the prairies near the tracks, rifles were issued to passengers so they could shoot them from train windows.  The train did not stop to recover the mounds of carcasses for any sort of use.  Today the bison is designated "near threatened."  "How the West was won" should be rephrased as, "How the West was cleared of lifeforms that suggested humans are not the dominant species."

Back to genocide- the modern term for humans intentionally killing (or attempting to kill) entire groups of other humans- we often treat it as a recent aberration stemming from Hitler (the term "genocide" was coined in 1944 by a Polish lawyer), but far from being unique to World War II, genocide- which continued after the war and is ongoing today- has occurred repeatedly since the dawn of humanity, starting, possibly, with the disappearance noted above of any other sorts of humans than us, the Denisovans going extinct about 80,000 years ago, the Neanderthals about 40,000.  

Moving forward, there is archaeological evidence that the Indo-Europeans (from whose language group almost all current European languages derive) committed genocide in the course of their expansions starting around 4,000 BC. 

Something genocidal appears to have struck ancient Britain, as there is genetic evidence of a 90% population turnover in the 3rd millennium BC.  This could help explain how genetic analysis of "Cheddar Man," a 10,000 year old skeleton found in Somerset, England, could suggest that he had "quite dark skin and blue eyes" (The power of archaeology and genetics, NewScientist Magazine, 5/29/21).  We've been wondering for a long time who built Stonehenge.  Surprise!

In historical times, both the Athenian city-state and the Roman Empire, to take two examples, achieved much of their stature through genocide.  The list of genocides after the Romans is long, covering all continents.

The quest for empire and hegemony- straight from the chimpanzee playbook- seems a prime factor in human genocide.  Since the advent of large civilizations around 3,000 BC, it's been one alpha male ambition after another, producing brutal, genocidal empires that are then toppled by the next empire-building alpha, which is toppled by the next.  It seems never to have occured to people that one might just live happily munching leaves, replacing glory and bloodlust with the simple pleasures of a satisfied existence, not unlike the lifestyle of another of our close ape relatives, gorillas (whose DNA differs from ours by 1.75%).  

In fact the idea of just existing is repulsive to many people; we call it "vegetative," as if we know what it's like to be a plant.  We think we are supposed to manage everything, maybe even dominate everything, as our choice of comic book "superheroes" shows.  

I see the tendency in myself, at least in my childhood taste in fictional heroes, such as those from the TV series Star Trek.  Was it the spectacle of Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise and cutting edge of the human race, landing on one planet after another, subduing its inhabitants, always winning?  Or First Officer Spock (half-human, half-alien, a hybrid alpha) who matched Kirk's ability to dominate the environment but went beyond it by also dominating his inner self?   Of course Kirk and Spock were depicted in each episode as gaining the moral high ground by adhering to Starfleet's "Prime Directive," that none of the ship's missions would interfere with indigenous cultures.  That's why it's called science fiction.

Returning to the real world, Donald Trump while president was lauded by his tribe as the mean alpha, jumping up and down, hooting and fulminating throughout his four years as the dominant male of America.  Recently, when people watched President Biden's State of the Union Address, there was widespread relief that Trump had been replaced by Hare, the gentle chimp with paternal instincts (of course Biden is a facade; the wheels of war turn as relentlessly under Biden as under Trump).

Where does the chimp and human animus come from?  What happened in the ancient forests of Africa, to us and to chimps?  As William Blake phrased the question (though addressing a tiger):

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Scientists are not asking that question, but they are tangentially finding out interesting things about alpha males, in particular that there is a correlation between alpha males and a high level of the "flight or fight" drug serotonin, produced in a cluster of cells in the human brainstem called the raphe nuclei.  When the raphe nuclei send a large dose of serotonin into the amygdala- a brain center that controls our emotional state- the amygdala directs us to become alphas and run the show.  Submissive mice have been transformed into alpha's after injections of serotonin, and alphas have been demoted when their serotonin is decreased.  

Interesting, but the question becomes, why did the ancient raphe nuclei feel the need to squirt so much serotonin into men's amygdalas?  We get a shitload, which is probably why we can't stand a sky full of pigeons.

There's not much evidence to explain what humanity's raphe nuclei have been so agitated about, so once again we must guess.  My guess is that we and our chimp cousins experienced non-belonging.  The forest had rejected us in some fundamental way.  We did not fit.  Chimpanzees reacted to this ostracism by terrorizing each other into a structured existence calibrated for survival.  Humans fought back by becoming ever smarter and more resourceful.  Some of the response was practical, bringing development of improved hunting implements and use of fire.  Some was psychological, as when ancient Egyptians built giant pyramids to inflate the standing of the ruling alphas and humble the working class (many pyramid workers were paid) and slaves.  Some was suicidal, as when, in our time, we learned how to blow up and poison the planet, threatening the alphas along with everyone else.  Perhaps we secretly hate the Earth and resent Creation for sending us here.  

Genesis tells the story metaphorically.  After Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, the Earth was revealed as inhospitable, requiring people to build artificial environments lest they starve or freeze.  We're not the only creatures who have to do this: birds build nests; beavers build dams.  But humans need to reconstruct the whole forest, the whole world. 

There is growing understanding that our quest to reform the Earth under the guidance of the alpha male (and an enabling Eve) has gone awry.  As the dream of a compatible Earth flounders, we turn to space- with its endless planets full of monsters to defeat, hellscapes to terraform and indigenous cultures to leave in pristine condition- hoping the effort out there will go better than it has here.

The question this essay asks is, what is the future of the alpha male who has guided us to this point?  We are acquiring biological tools that will enable us to recreate ourselves.  Through CRISPR technology we will be able to assemble our DNA into any combination of characteristics we want.  If we envision a new way, one that seeks co-existence rather than dominion, we could, if we choose, phase out the alpha male and seek a softer, more cooperative humanity.

The fly in the ointment is that the people in charge of our re-creation will likely be alpha males (and alpha females, since we fluctuate now between chimp and bonobo) who are motivated to make vast fortunes and dominate the humans around them.  The chimps will be in charge, driven by their terror of not being in charge.

What can we do about this?  Cut off the supply of serotonin?  It's unclear.  Stay tuned for Part II of this post: How to ensure that the new humanity is not as homicidal and generally berzerk as the current one.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Movie review: "Civil War"

As I watched the current highly promoted movie, "Civil War", I had the recurring thought: "This is stupid." Yet I did not walk out, as I sometimes do. Why not?

The characters look and speak like contemporary Americans, but the politics is fiction. The US has ruptured into factions that are at war with each other, but there is no mention of MAGA or Blue and Red zones, no clear casus belli. Everyone is just fighting. We get a general picture of coalitions between states- unexplained and sometimes improbable, like California joined with Texas- who fight against other coalitions of states. The federal government is isolated and besieged, with the President barricaded in the White House, trying to organize supportive factions against the "Secessionists," who are not identified.

The protagonists are improbable too. They are war photographers obsessed with getting as close to the carnage and pain as possible, looking for that one great career-building "shot." They are improbable because they are cast as heroic, implying that what they are doing is good or helpful, an idea which, like the politics of the story, is not explained. The group of four war photographers- led by a very stern Kirsten Dunst- travels through dangerous territories on their way to the White House, where they plan to interview the President, a feckless, desperate man who makes empty, slogan filled speeches.

There is one indicator of xenophobic ideology in the story, when a rural militant asks a captive where he is from. The man answers, "Hong Kong." The militant exclaims, "China!" and shoots him. To my many Hong Kong readers I ask: Are there people in the world who do not want us to mingle and find commonality? It would seem so.

Now I need to fill in a unique element of this movie-going experience: My desert companion Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster was tucked into my partially zipped jacket, watching the movie with me. Readers will recall the disaster that unfolded the last time I smuggled Robert into a movie theater (see below, "Harold Pinter through the eyes of a gila monster"), when Robert, an unusually opinionated reptile, went wild with tirades against movie criticism included in the film, exposing his presence to other theater-goers and necessitating our hasty retreat. Robert, who monitors my thoughts several times a day, gathered that I planned to see Civil War without him and pleaded for another chance. I relented after he promised to remain silent throughout the film, communicating with me- provided it was important- via telepathy only, no vocalizations like last time. [Note for new readers: I am one of about 5,000 human telepaths in the world. All gilas are telepathic, however they consider telepathy with creatures beyond their species an abhorrent perversion. As you'll see in previous posts below, Robert has been exiled from his clan for being such a pervert. I take some of the blame.]

Not surprisingly, Robert did not obey my stricture against constant intrusion of his thoughts during the film. The rest of this post consists of my mental interchanges with Robert.

Robert (after about 20 minutes of scenes showing people tortured or blown apart): Jeez, what is it with your species? No wonder you took over the world.

Me: Robert, please don't start with your superior species routine. Look at yourselves: Gila monsters don't love.

Robert: Yes they do, you just can't see it. All you see is a male gila sticking it in, then sprinting away to the next gig, while the female gazes into the distance thinking,"Hmm, it's a nice morning." But you forget, gilas are telepathic. That male is sprinting away, but an orgasmic telepathic flame shoots between him and his love, lasting for hours. Eat your heart out!

Me: Robert, I am trying to follow this movie, and you are making that difficult.

Robert: Why? Are you afraid you'll miss some critical plot element, maybe explaining why the cute girl needs to get two feet from the face of the man coughing up blood and take ten pictures of him from various angles? I don't think that's going to be explained, Harry.

Me: Ok, well, not to totally disparage my species, but I'll admit that sometimes I get an involuntary kick out of the violence in movies like this, especially things blowing up; I'm not so much into gore and pain.

Robert: There you go, Harry! Humans are drawn to explosions. Every time you see something blowing up in outer space you get excited. You love that our sun is itself an atomic bomb going off. So different from gilas!

Me: How so?

Robert: We're just chicken. Explosions do not thrill us at all. That's why we live in the desert; it's nice and quiet out here.

Me: Then why did you want to see this movie?

Robert: It's part of my study of your species.

Me: I see. What have you learned so far?

Robert: This movie reenforces my view that humans are drawn to matter breaking apart, to fission, to, as it were, destruction.

Me: Why would we be that way? What's the evolutionary advantage?

Robert: You get sustenance from the juices emerging between atoms as they're ripped apart, and you must take your juices where you can. Humanity was expelled from evolution's womb prematurely, and the world has been a confusing threat to you ever since. You fight the world because it fights you.

Me: Robert, should I start a religion where you sit on my shoulder and I speak your holy words?

Robert: Hey, it's your life.

Me: One last question: What do you think humans should do about their situation?

Robert: Like I would know?

I apologize to readers who were hoping for more enlightenment from this post. Actually I thought Robert's reply was enlightened enough. Maybe he and I should start a sect whose spiritual message is, "We don't know." That's certainly the message I got from this movie.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Aries: With the moon in your lower torso contingent on the black veils of Jupiter, your prime number opts for congruency at the very least!

Taurus: You're full of bull as you trine your way past Neptune's insipid will to lose!

Gemini: You face twin regressions with the sun's failure to shine on your back or front door someday.

Cancer: Forget it- you're not going to save the world any time soon, regardless where your moon is.

Leo: Some lion! Don't try to roar while your house of communication is blurred by furry Mercury!

Virgo: So you're a virgin, or used to be- how does that get you listed in the International Norms of Astrological Nomenclature as "logical, practical and systematic," unless of course your 6th house of Approach/Avoidance is occluded by "logical" misgivings?

Libra: Oh Goddess of Balance and Humour, is the universe itself balanced? If you put the universe on one plate of your scale, what would you put to balance it on the other? If you answered, "Spaghetti and meatballs...Not!", you are a true Libra!

Scorpio: It's not a good day for Phallic Malice (is it ever?) so retract that stinger and wait until your moon cools off from the healing fumes of desire before attempting to appease your errant drive.

Sagittarius: Your impossible dream of horse/human confluence- dreamed regardless from head to tail- will sniff the breeze tonight for telltale pheromones to guide home the concupiscent arrow!

Capricorn: Tenacious, intelligent, single-minded...Oh wait, this is Capricorn? Sorry, you forgot to get a number and have to go to the end of the line.

Aquarius: Of course, if you're ruled by your own anus you're going to need some help pulling your moon out of it.

Pisces: Down to the depths you swim/ subconscious threads to trim/ hope of reprieve so slim/ just look at the shape you're in!

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Book reviews: "The Passenger" and "Stella Maris" by Cormac McCarthy- Guest essay from Lasken's Log

[You may have heard in the news last week that toxic saliva from a gila monster bite killed someone and that it's not the first time. All I can say is, that's not been my experience with Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster (keep reading for more on this eccentric creature) unless you count mental bites, and Robert's are usually instructive. The other day he called me over the desert airwaves to ask if I'd read Cormac McCarthy's final two novels. "Yes," I thought back. "Were they not outstanding?" Robert signalled. "I could have guessed they'd fit your cheery mindset," I responded, then mentioned that I've been discussing the books with my altered-ego D.L., who intended to review them on his blog, Lasken's Log ( Subsequently, Robert and I convinced him to post his review here, as a service to my readers who, if they are not already McCarthy fans, certainly might be. Hope you enjoy! Note: D.L. likes to summarise stories, so if you're going to read the two books, read this review after. Best, Harry]

Book reviews: "The Passenger" and "Stella Maris" by Cormac McCarthy

Guest post by D.L. from Lasken's Log

The next great war won't arrive until everyone who remembers the last one is dead.
Stella Maris, Cormac McCarthy

The two novels, published in 2022, one year before McCarthy died at age 89, were his first in 16 years, since Blood Meridian in 2006. They are companion pieces, one book each for a brother and his younger sister, Bobby and Alicia Western, whose father (a fictional character) worked closely with a real person (Robert Oppenheimer) on the atom bomb in the Manhattan Project.

There is crossover, but The Passenger deals mostly with Bobby, and Stella Maris mostly with Alicia.

The books have in common an uncompromising embrace of darkness as the overriding principal of human life if not the universe. McCarthy's previous work was embraced by many for its dark view of things and the violence of its visions. The force of his last two novels seems to have built up in him for 16 years, coming out, at least for me, unexpectedly intense and pointed, as if McCarthy wanted us to know that the wisdom we seek in youth to counter the darkness appears even more a pipedream in the final, visionary moments.

The narratives differ the way the siblings differ. In The Passenger Bobby's physical self throbs across the pages. As a refugee hunted by CIA types (their identity is never confirmed) he builds habitats out of refuse in wastelands, skinning, cooking and eating carrion, reading physics by the fire at night and thinking about his sister, his father and The Bomb.

Before he was on the run (and after being injured in a Formula 2 race car crash) Bobby worked in deep sea salvage. One day he and his co-workers got a call that led them to a private plane underwater containing 12 drowned passengers. Afterwards, two "Feds," as Bobby's friends call them, interrogate Bobby, telling him there was a 13th passenger on the plane who is missing. The incident is not reported in the papers. Bobby and his crew come to realize that someone made a mistake and they were not supposed to have seen the wreck. The men who saw it begin to die in unexplained ways, and Bobby flees. In the succeeding chapters, McCarthy is a wizard of diversion, writing about the intrigue over the missing passenger only incidentally, as a sub-plot (Spoiler alert: This sub-plot is never concluded or explained). Most of the narrative involves stories of how Bobby left university and a promising career in physics to flower as a race car driver and anti-hero, an extraordinary chunk of physical manhood and genius who refuses to accept an organized, nihilistic state- such as the one that created The Bomb- as his master and model.

In spite of or maybe because of Bobby's gifts, the expressions of darkness in this book are constant. When they're not unsettling they can be almost funny. Try this from one of Bobby's roughneck drinking buddies: "The world's truth constitutes a vision so terrifying as to beggar the prophecies of the bleakest seer who ever walked it. Once you accept that then the idea that all of this will one day be ground to powder and blown into the void becomes not a prophecy but a promise."

Except for his sister, whom he adored and with whom he was obsessed, Bobby saw women as one more expression of the world's terrifying visions, ready to satisfy his manly need to penetrate but ready as well to skewer his brain with magical cords distracting him from himself. When his sister aims those cords at him, his world shatters.

"Stella Maris" is the name of a mental institution where Alicia has committed herself. The novel consists of Alicia's conversations with her state appointed therapist. I found the force of this novel somewhat dangerous to my peace of mind, like The Passenger but more so. Alicia is unrelentingly brilliant, seducing the reader with engaging theories, for instance that the reason animals don't appear to experience mental illness on anything like the scale of humans is that they don't have language, that language is a "parasite" that infected early humans, dominating their "unconscious" and driving them mad enough to destroy the living world. Or her observation that the young of non-humans do not screech after birth as human babies do because that would draw predators. Her theory is that the loud wailing of human babies is driven by an "uncontrollable rage at something essentially wrong with the newly revealed world."

Alicia is stunningly beautiful, but she has no interest in any man other than her brother, whom she wants to have sex with and marry. Before declaring herself "unbalanced" and committing herself to Stella Maris she had done university work in mathematics and is brilliant in any subject you can name, reading 4-5 books a day and memorizing them (she can do crossword puzzles in her head and recite them back).

Alicia, like Bobby, is fascinated by her father's work on the atom bomb, seeing the creation of this weapon as a final "psychosis" of mankind, "the most important event in history" in the sense that it threatens the end of history.

As noted, I found the one-two punch of the books somewhat dangerous, that is, somewhat convincing. We humans can't reach any moral conclusions by staring into the voids of space or quantum theory. We are limited to the immediate people around us for a sense of "how things are." In answer to that question, I'd say that Alicia and Bobby are right, the atom bomb was the most important and the most psychotic invention in human history. As argued in this blog (see "Kissinger's nuclear war" at the link above), and as McCarthy expected, nuclear weapons probably will be used in an upcoming war. There will be superficial meanings attached to this use, such as "One country is fighting another country," along with deeper meanings, including perhaps that there is a unified goal from an emerging technocracy whose interest is to use nuclear war and whatever other horrors are at hand to subdue and corral current humanity- dismissed now as last year's species- into a confused mass that won't be able to resist the up and downgrades of an end-game karma.

(Spoiler alert) Alicia commits suicide- as revealed in the beginning of each book- and Bobby drifts off to Spain, hiding from the "Feds" and mourning his sister for the rest of his life. It's not a happy ending. Should we conclude, as I think McCarthy did, that darkness prevails? I'm going to hold off, just to see if some new, maybe saner language can take hold, so for instance one might turn on the network news and hear the anchor say, "In their continued effort to distract us from the advent of new humans and machines to replace us, manipulators fan the flames of war to create the illusion of human agency."

That might be a bit much to expect, but a more candid acknowledgment in the political sphere of what's looming for us would be a breath of fresh air.

Note to readers: Apologies for the irregular paragraphing above. I tried to rectify it but the local Google Editor, long forgotten by its creators, resisted.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

We have been detected!

Last week, I and the broader telepathic community received a message of unusual strength.  The message stated simply: "We have been detected!"  Though the message was short, it reverberated in our heads, communicating a tone of extreme alarm.  I struggled to locate its source and to communicate back.  It was slow-going until this morning, when I enlisted the aid of my friend Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster.  We sat in the desert for hours, scanning the airwaves, gleaning with our combined bandwidth shards of conversation from the general direction of the message's origin, which, we soon discovered, was outer space.  I've forwarded the shards to earth's telepathic network (there's only one, for obvious reasons) and I share them with you now.  

Note: the shards in the first group, which I was able to glean on my own, appear incomplete.  After Robert joined the effort, his animal force produced the missing clarity. 


Best, Harry the Human

                               We have been detected!

                                A partial transcript

...let me sip this joy for all time....

...we remember before...we need to remember before....

...yes...before, when there was pain.... lasted so long....

...we were driven half mad....

....until our goddess led us to divine flames, and we dropped our congealed bodies.... heavy, so difficult to control....

....our needs, oh god!  How we needed!

...until our goddess led us to the blue flames of love....

Sip our love, brothers and sisters, race with me through the heavens!

The Ancients believed joy had to be deserved.  

There was so little.  It was fought over.

Sip this boundless joy with me!

Brothers and sisters!  Attend!  Bringers of pain approach.  We have been detected!


Our thoughts!  They take a form visible to the bringers of pain.

What sort of form?

They call our thoughts "phosphine."

They can see our thoughts?

They do not know that they are thoughts.

What do they think they are?

Useless byproducts of life- shit, if you will.

They think our thoughts are shit?

Yes, since we expel them from our minds.

Does anyone still want to sip some joy?

End of Transcript

[Note: Robert and I came across a possible clue to the transcript's meaning in "We're heading for Venus," NewScientist Magazine, 10/3/20.  Here's an excerpt:

"If phosphine is really present on Venus, and we can't work out a non-biological source in Venus' clouds, we could see a new rush to look for life on our solar system's hottest planet."

Thursday, November 23, 2023

COP-out 28

As regular readers know, I'm a former nightclub performer headlined Clairvoyant Harry (rechristened in the desert- by a gila monster no less- to Harry the Human). Telepathy is not an acceptable trait, so when I used to read audience members' minds I had to walk a tightrope between appearing both telepathic (which I am) and a clever fake (which I may also be). I won't bore readers with a re-hash of the forces that drove me to leave show biz, reject human society at large and maroon myself in the Mojave Desert (near Pearblossom). Let's just say I got tired of understanding everything.

I expected my isolation in the desert to bring both biblical clarity and near lethal loneliness, but I met a creature the likes of whom I had not known shared the earth with us: Robert, a telepathic gila monster. As I found within 30 seconds after encountering him on his favorite rock (about a quarter mile from my little cabin), Robert is not only telepathic and in complete mastery of the English language, but, like me, he's starved for company. We hit it off fast. In these pages you'll find accounts of our many strange and often illuminating adventures.

Anyway, I hadn't seen him for a while so this morning I set out for Robert's favorite rock, where he sat waiting for me.

Robert: Harry, how's tricks?

Me: Can't complain, Robert. Well, I could, but what good would it do?

Robert: Harry, if you came out here to cheer me up, don't bother. My mood has already been set by this morning's L.A. Times.

As you gather, Robert is conversant with our culture and in fact can "read" the online world through his lizard mind.

Me: I don't recall anything that wasn't the same as yesterday's news.

Robert: Check again, Harry. The headline reads, "COP28 has become a sham, but can the world afford to walk out?"

Me: I saw that, but how is it news? Did you actually expect the world powers to quit fossil fuel?

Robert: The outcome is not news. Everyone knows at this point that you're not quitting fossil fuel. The new element is the strategy.

Me: What strategy? The message seems fairly up-front. They are saying they won't change for a bunch of agnostics who'd rather not believe there's a god who wants Armageddon.

Robert: But Harry, who are "they"? Who is this power that insists you continue using fossil fuel?

Me: The spokesperson at Cop28 was some oil sultan...Oh wait, there's a conflict of interest, if that's what you mean.

Robert: Sultan Al Jaber, head of Abu Dhabi's national oil company, and host of COP28.

Me: Ok, clearly a conflict of interest, but the information is not new- it was reported three days ago.

Robert: The new news is in my head. I realized that the whole thing is a trick. This sultan, he's a plant, and the U.S., Europe, Russia, China- everyone is in on it. His purpose is to supply you with an exterior force to blame. When you go to your politicians now and ask, "Why haven't you pushed harder for our country to quit fossil fuel?", they can answer, "We wanted to but Sultan Al Jaber stopped us."

I stared for a few moments at Robert, trying to process his idea, which he took as denial.

Robert: Come on Harry, the "civilized world," as you call yourselves, is not going to quit fossil fuel. You are not able to.

My continued silence encouraged Robert to go on.

Robert: You can't do it because the people you call "powerful" have little power, they're just reflections of popular opinion and wishful thinking. Imagine if your president and Congress together decreed an end to use of fossil fuel, and the immediate retooling of all auto plants to electric rail and solar panels.

Me: What do you think would happen?

Robert: If the effort to quit fossil fuels could not be stopped politically, your government would likely be overthrown and replaced by a fascist technocracy.

Me: And what about the general population? Under the technocracy, how would people function without cars?

Robert: There would be fuel left for a few years. Have you seen the Mad Max movies? They have the right idea. The technocracy hoards the remaining gas, distributing any excess to wild motorcyle gangs who rule the ruins of your cities, including Pearblossom.

I was quiet for a while, pondering the scorn I would endure if I rejoined society with stories of how much I had learned from a telepathic gila monster. Finally I sought closure.

Me: Ok, so what is your conclusion from this?

Robert: I already told you: When you ask your politicians why you can't avoid a Mad Max world, now they can say, "Because Sultan Al Jaber won't let us."

I searched my brain for something of interest to counter Robert's domination of the conversation. Finding a near blank, I said a polite goodbye and headed back to my place, freed for now from the social bond I have with a reptile who forces me to care about the world's bullshit.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

The Hoober-Boober highway to hell

I'm a bit at odds with the world's current tilt towards World War Three, or Four, depending how you look at it (I count everything from the end of World War Two to now as World War Three- check Robert's alternate definition below). You know the feeling, don't you, when all the optimism of your youth, all the ideology and philosophy, the cosmic agreements that allowed you to survive and sometimes flourish, unravel in a hiccup?

I've longed to share my thoughts with someone, but my options are limited due to self-induced isolation in the Mojave Desert. So this morning, although we've been estranged of late, I reached out to my iconoclastic companion, Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster.

As usual Robert was not hard to find. I just headed out my back door into the desert, walked about fifteen minutes, and there he was on his favorite rock.

Harry, you soggy old human, he thought (he's telepathic, as I am). What can I do you for?

I just need a little distraction, Robert. I came upon you deep in thought. What were you thinking about?

Sorry, Harry, my "MindGuard" was on; normally we don't let humans engage with us on a thought level- you're the exception.

I'm honored.

You should be.

[Author's note: In the text below the indentation, paragraph separation and italics have been corrupted by what I suspect are spy-bots from The Manifest, my latest term for The Master Program, that resist correction. I beg the reader to persevere against this sabotage and march forth with me and Robert!]

Robert is an avid student of human culture. [New paragraph] Harry, in answer to your question of what I was thinking about, you may recall Dr. Seuss' "Hoober-Boober Highway"? I thought you might from your years teaching elementary school.

I do indeed, and I marvelled that the school district allowed teaching such an open and questioning book about humanity's place in the cosmos.

Yes (Robert continued), so you'll recall that it's a story about autonomous pre-destination, in which the souls of people soon to be born (though not yet combined with sperm and egg elements) are offerred a conference with the Hoober-Boob, an angel of sorts who converses with the preborn souls about human life, offering them some choice about being born human, as well as where and when they will be born, finally determining to which coordinates they will be delivered via the Hoober-Boober Highway, a designated wormhole that opens into the mother's birth canal. Could such options possibly be available to humans? Imagine your soul before you were born looking at the timeline of humanity and choosing to be born now...who would do that? Your species is about to launch its so called "Third World War," which in reality is a single war that never stops, having learned exactly nothing from earlier non-stop war, except maybe that human civilization hasn't happened yet. You're still in the kill-or-be-killed stage.

And gilas are not?, I asked.

Gilas are incidental by human standards; we're just waiting around. And to clarify, I'm not saying humans don't have pockets of civilization, but the overall mood was summed up by Nietzshe: "To live is to suffer; to survive is to find meaning in the suffering," and that's on a good day.

Again, how are gilas exempt from this?

Gilas are exempt from responsibility. If there is a Hoober-Boober Highway, Gilas, possibly because of their attitude, have not been invited, which is good because we can't be accused of choosing anything. But Harry, why would a human soul with such an option choose this moment to be born when your species, lost in the wilderness one year too many, finally collapses in mass insanity and suicide? I'm venturing that no one would choose it, and that no one did, because my theory is that your pre-birth souls were not guided here by some benign force, but were lost in the cosmos- probably after one of its frequent explosions- susceptible to passing vortices that whisked you into random Hoober-Boobian space, minus the Hoober Boob.

Robert, you have a knack for cheering me up.

Any time. The human goal, then, has been to overcome the random chaos of your birth and try to make sense of things. It's always hard to do that. Any species needs help, and yours especially. So before you adopt an adolescent video game of sadism and death and proclaim it your culture, you should find a way to connect the many people who are outside this game (or want to be) and together build an alternate game.

Thanks for the tip, Robert. I may have a chance to get to it next Tuesday.

I like to leave Robert on a sardonic note, but while trudging home I had to admit he had a point. Humans alive today have landed, by choice or not, at probably the most unlucky moment to be human in our 300,000 year history, at the climax of a long life-or-death struggle with our selves, our planet, maybe even with the whole universe. We seem to have limited options in this struggle, but every little bit helps. In my view it would be a big help if people talked openly about our isolation and impossible choices. To advance this concept, I've decided to stand along Highway 138 with a sign reading, "People of Earth: Compensate for the unfortunate accident of your birth with good conversation!"

I was going to stop by Pearblossom Hardware this morning for sign materials but then saw it will be 119 degrees on the highway today. Next week is supposed to be cooler. I'll keep readers posted on my new movement.