Monthly Archives: July 2002

forgotten things

three times today, within the space of fifteen minutes or less, i saw people drop or forget things as they rushed to point B. guardian angel, or merely observant bystander? i couldn’t figure out which…it just seemed weird that this would happen three times in rapid succession.

the first was a woman at the Wells Fargo ATM. she made her deal with the machine, then walked away, a faint beeping following her into the street. i looked at the machine, and saw her card sticking out of it like a gold tongue. “excuse me, ma’am? i think you forgot your card…” she didn’t even really seem surprised that she had left her friend behind (i actually left my card at an ATM once, so i could relate).

the second was a man walking his dogs. as one ran past, the other lagged at a particularly tantalizing parking meter. he yelled, “come on rusty!”, and the dog dutifully ran along. the owner bent over, unclipped his dog’s leash, dropped a studded dog collar from his pocket, and continued on his way. “excuse me, sir? i think you dropped something…or perhaps it was your dog.” (har)

the third, not ten seconds after, was a woman crossing the street with a stroller. as she inched the nose of the stroller up over the curb, baby squealing with joy, a small box of (raisins?) fell off the back of the tipped baby buggy. “excuse me, ma’am? i think you dropped something.”

i felt like i accomplished a full day’s work in those fifteen minutes. i got some good karma points, too. (well, at least for the ATM card. and maybe the raisins. just think how angry that kid would have been without her raisins.)
as i walked home, i thought of all the things we forget, or drop, or lose. if, as Douglas Adams posited, they all wind up on some planet in outer space reserved for lost things, then there must be a heck of a lot of stuff piled up on that planet.

let’s see…if 50% of the people lose only 1 item per year, and the time-weighted average of population over the last 2000 years is something like 1 billion people, then that means (rusty wheels turning)…500,000,000 people losing 2000 things, which adds up to…a trillion lost things. that’s probably a conservative estimate. really conservative.
trillions upon trillions of lost and forgotten things. carl sagan would be proud.

the test dream

the dream world can simultaneously be a great and terrible place. it’s a place with no limitations, where anything can happen, and it often does. sometimes you’re a majestic eagle, flying through fantastic lands. other times, you’re the kid who wet his pants at school, and you have to walk around like that all day…

dreams come in many varieties, but perhaps one familiar to most people is the recurring dream. i suppose it’s possible to have more than one recurring dream – maybe a whole stable of them that run through your mind like wild horses. i, on the other hand, seem to have only one recurring dream – the test dream.

i had it again this morning. it’s always the same, although with slight variations. the teacher may be different, or maybe it’s college instead of high school. i’ve had it with chemistry, math and french as the subjects of anxiety. the core, though, is repeated to a perfect T.

the test dream
the day of the final exam has arrived. i have forgotten to study. in fact, in all likelihood, i’ve forgotten that i even had the class. suddenly, there it is – the final – and i’ve come out of my amnesiac state to realize that i’ve been totally delinquent in my student duties (‘holy sheepsh*t, batman! the final is today!’). i’ve got three hours (maybe four) to make it happen – learn a whole semester or figure out how to fake it. enjoy.
today’s exam
this morning, it was with Mr. Reich, my high school biology teacher. he was good, smart, but man could he scare the bejesus out of kids. i’ll never forget the story he told about doing autopsies on decomposing bodies, and the tricks they used to quench the stench…but i digress.

the exam was organic chemistry or biology or some mixture of the two. as always, i realized very late that i had the exam. did i study? no. everyone was in another room taking the exam, but i was sitting alone in a separate room. people started filing in after finishing the exam, but i still hadn’t started. i looked to my friend (Chris Mitchell, with whom i went to high school) and i asked him, ‘if there were three things that i absolutely had to know from this semester, what would they be?’ how the heck do you answer that question? chris did ok…i don’t remember if i even took the test. the dream is not about taking the test. it’s about the terror of being unprepared, of shirking responsibility, of not knowing. which leads me to my next point…

deep Jungian analysis
ok…maybe not. i’m not a trained Jungian analyst (or Freudian, for that matter). i know enough not to interpret my dreams literally. i think they’re some mixture of post-processed life events, insecurities, fears, fantasies, and neurochemical noise. the recurring dream probably draws more substantially from the ‘fears and insecurities’ end of things; that seems pretty clear. but why this one dream in particular? i mean, couldn’t my brain come up with a more significant neurosis to obsess over? so i spent a lot of my life in school – what’s it to you, brain? why can’t you dream about vacations in belize instead?

bring on your dreams
anybody want to share their recurring dreams (no analysis required)? you know what to do – click that ‘comment’ link at the bottom of this entry. use a bogus name and email if you need to. ;-)

the conversation

the conversation
i just watched ‘The Conversation,’ an intriguing movie that explores issues surrounding personal privacy, responsibility, and social isolation. it’s funny, but it was produced in the 70s, yet all of these themes have resonance today.

why do we value privacy? it seems like an obvious question, but after watching this film, and thinking about it a bit, the answer is anything but obvious to me. do we want privacy to conceal things that we consider embarrassing? or perhaps to conceal crimes, however minor? what about retaining a sense of individuality within mass culture, having a sense that there are certain things that belong to us as individuals, and no one else? the last seems the most promising alternative, although the others could come into play, given the right circumstances.
privacy. individuality. socially imposed morality. anonymity. somehow these issues seem tied together in a gordian knot.

it reminds me of a book that a friend loaned to me (last year, i think): ‘how to be invisible’ (in the societal and economical, not physical, senses). a hundred years ago, being invisible would have been easy: leave town, don’t tell anyone, and try to lay low. now our fingerprints are everywhere. the digital age has given us many freedoms, a world of information at our fingertips. it has also made us visible…credit card traces, information stored in unknown databases, a wealth of statistics available to many bidders. and what about all those vidcaps of you standing at the teller machine or walking through the airport or doing XYZ? sureveillance is everywhere (i’m not being paranoid – just look for the cameras, and you’ll see more than you might like…).

is this bad or good? in the liberal information age, freedom of information is often considered good. information wants to be free. but what about freedom of your information? there is a curious double standard we set up here regarding information that is considered relevant to the public (and therefore consumable), and information that is private, sacrosanct, visible only to us and those we consider trustworthy.

i dunno. maybe having a PO box wouldn’t hurt after all…

theory – action

one small quote from ‘waking life,’ before i forget. these four guys are walking along the street, spewing this crazy stream-of-consciousness rant about social contracts and moral relativism and deconstructivist nyah nyah, when all of a sudden, they come across an old guy who’s climbed up to the top of a telephone pole.

sartre: “Need any help getting down there mister?”
old man (looking uncertainly down at the ground): “Nope. I don’t think so.”
sartre (walking away): “Crazy old bastard.”
nietzsche: “That guy’s all action and no theory. We’re all theory and no action.”

waking life

waking life
i think i just experienced a buffer overflow in my brain.

‘waking life,’ by Richard Linklater, was my entertainment for the evening, and unfortunately it has reduced me to incoherence. as the dvd spun, the images and thoughts and ideas kept cramming themselves into my head, like laundry into a hamper, and now i’m full.

people in Linklater films always seem so witty and energized and filled with curiosity and wonder. even the insane spew venom in an articulate way. their narratives and fantastic philosophies seem to unfold in real time like some renaissance tapestry, thrown off the loom as fast as a cheap t-shirt. no stuttering or hemming or hawing – not even an ‘um’ to break the existentialist train of thought. people are insightful or crazy or hysterical, all at the speed of sound. it’s not always perfect, and occasionally borders on mental masturbation, but it’s still a fun ride.

but it’s all just a simulacrum (a dream, maybe?)…in the real deal, we don’t really get to rehearse. it all just happens.

just think how different life would be if we could say, “Cut! ok…i didn’t sound really coherent there. let me try again, and this time i’m gonna do it like some crazy french philosopher who’s had one too many espressos. ok…ready…Rrrrroll it!”