This evening was an interesting dichotomy between the intellectual and the mind-numbingly stupid.
I went to Starbucks for caffiene and to read Hard Boiled Wonderland and The End Of The World (which thus far has surpassed all my expectations, and though I'm not yet close to finished with it, I would recommend to anyone).
I sat outside, because for once the weather was nice - a shockingly rare occurance in Atlanta. Cool temperatures, and that "storm front approaching" feel has been in effect all day. When I woke up this morning, typhoon-level winds were in full force and they have not abated since. I have yet to see a drop of rain, but the winds are there, and the air has that electric feel that comes before a particularly fierce storm.
At any rate, I'm sitting out there, reading my book, drinking my coffee, and refusing punk-ass teenagers who sally up and go "Hey man, can I bum a smoke?" I've found that it really irritates people when they ask that and you simply reply, "No." Not "I'm almost out," or "This is my last one," no excuses or half-baked creative half-truths. Just an unequivical, no-room-for-argument "No."
When reading, my attention is dually focused: I am reading the text before me and considering it (and as Bryan will testify, probably memorizing every word and its position on the page), but there's always a small part of my mind that detaches itself from the act of reading so it can pay attention to what's going on around me.
And that minute part of my conciousness prodded me into looking up from the book and listening to two people, about 18 years old or so, who were discussing physics - specifically, causality.
I was impressed that they were excited about the right things, but I also got the impression that neither of them really knew what the hell they were talking about. It seemed to me that they had only a passing familiarity with the topic - having picked up bits here and pieces there, they both considered themselves knowledgable on the subject.
The need for some hubris-stroking came over me, and I was forced to wander over to them and explain why they were both wrong, delivering a brief but informative (at least, I think it was informative) dissertation on the topic of Hawking radiation and how it is produced.
I enjoy giving lectures, I really do. Most people hate speaking to an audience or to any stranger, but when I know what I'm talking about, I relish the chance to do so. I've heard it said of me that I speak in full paragraphs even when I'm not lecturing, but that I probably think in complete paragraphs when I am. The charge is probably a just one.
During this, I gathered a bit of an audience, up to and including the cop that Starbucks hires to stand outside and make sure the teenagers aren't loitering, skulking, doing drugs, commiting acts of vandalism, and generally behaving like the riffraff that they are.
When I concluded my speech, the girl told me I should be a teacher. I've considered teaching as a profession before, but the utter lack of motivation that is required to pursue the education necessary for teaching credentials gets in my way.
* * * * *
I went back to my book and finished off another two chapters. It was eerie how the weather was mirroring the weather being described in the book during the End Of The World narrative. As I was considering that, that Watching The World part of my brain kicked me again, causing me to look to my right, where some kid was showing some other kid a picture that had been printed off the Internet.
He caught me looking, and goes, "You wanna see?" Curious, I went over to get a better look, and it appeared to be a photo, rendered negative, of the World Trade Center shortly before collapsing. If one were to squint a lot at this blurry image, one might be able to see something that vaguely resembles a bearded face constructed from the smoke pouring from the tower. Or maybe not.
"This," the kid assured me, "has not been touched up or anything. It's the face of Nostradamus."
"Uh huh," I replied, rolling my eyes.
"You know," his friend piped in, "Nostradamus predicted the whole thing."
Bad mistake, friend. Really bad mistake.
"Did he now," I said. "And just where did you get that idea?"
"I've read some of his stuff," he informed me, proudly. Proud of the fact that he's one of those types.. the types that honestly believe in prophets and psychics and seers and other voodoo hocus-pocus claptrap bullshit.
"Then you must be aware of how vaguely worded his 'prophecies' always were," I said.
"Well," the kid retaliated, "you have to know how to interpret it."
"Really?" I asked, not fully believing I was even having this discussion. "Exactly how many times has someone used his prophecies - interpreted 'correctly' of course - to know about something before it happened?"
"Don't bother, I'll tell you the answer: Zero. That has happened a grand total of zero times."
"Well," said the kid, and stopped.
"I don't know," he shrugged. "What's your point?"
"My point is that with something as vaguely worded as this nonsense, it's easy to 'interpret' it as a prophecy of an event after the event happened."
The kid gave me a look. Before he could respond, I went on:"And how many of his prophecies either made no sense or didn't come true at all?" I pressed.
"Yeah, well, sometimes his stuff is impossible to understand, but it's amazing that he got even one in ten things right." says the kid. "I mean, when you look at the odds, he did pretty well."
"You call that amazing? One in ten amiguously worded predictions that may or may not have come true, depending on the 'interpretation'?"
"You know what?" I said. "I predict the color blue, a tennis racket, and the letter H."
"What the fuck?"
"Yeah," I continued, "that's what I predict."
The kid muttered something that I didn't quite catch and wandered back to his table, which was only a few feet from mine. I went back to reading.
About a minute later, a girl wearing a blue jacket, who apparently knew him, walked by and said hi to him. I leaned over and said, "Blue." He ignored me, but I'm certain he heard me. I'm not known for being easy to ignore.
I'd only finished a paragraph or two when I was disturbed by an obnoxiously loud car exhaust - one of those rice-rockets with a Flowmaster muffler that I hate so much. It was a Honda.
"Hey," I said to the kid again, pointing at the car, "there's your letter H."
Kid turns, gives me a derisive glare, and says, "Dude, the letter H could have been anything."
"So could Nostradamus' writings," I countered.
"So where's the tennis racket?" he sneered.
"I don't know. I got two out of three right. That's doing better than Nostradamus."
"No it isn't."
"You said he got about one in ten things right. Two out of three is a little over six in ten."
"That's not the point," the kid says.
"Then what is the point?"
"Well?" I demanded.
"Why don't you mind your own fucking business?" he explodes.
"The prosecution rests," I declared, and went back to my book.
My work is never done.