Takin' care of business.
kitten   January 30, 2002

I won't forget the first day the dame waltzed into my office. She didn't even knock, but that was true to her form. A pushy broad - the kind that would break your heart, or maybe your legs.

And what a pair of legs indeed, as she planted one heel on my desktop. Those calves could have been sculpted by da Vinci himself, with curves that would shame the Autobahn.

"You Mr kitten?" she asked me in a voice so husky it could tow a sled.

"S'what it says on my door," I replied.

The smoke from her cigarette mixed with the smoke from my .38 that was clearing the room. Some say dry firing improves the grip, but me, I don't play by the rules so much. It's live fire excercises all the way - the kind of cardio workout that gets the blood pumping. Or at least the lead.

Business wasn't as good as my aim, so when the dame said she had a case, I took it. The dame sounded like a case herself, but I don't choose my clients.

It wasn't so much the job itself that put me off. But now, standing in the street with the fallen bodies of the two cats I'd just greased, I was thinking maybe I should have told her where to take her case and no question. She's the one that asked me to do this, but when the hammer on my revolver fell with the sound of a Louieville Slugger on sheetmetal, her voice hit an octave usually reserved for calling dogs. But I'm not an opera critic.

I'm just another guy trying to pay the bills. And the sound of greenbacks slapping against my palm is music to my ears - the only music I'll critique.

Yeah, I do alright for myself, sometimes. She withdrew a few dead presidents from her brassiere, and in my billfold now, they're mute testament to my own Golden Rule - whoever breaks the rules gets the gold.

The dame slunk away into the night, and maybe I wouldn't see her again - but things don't end this clean, even if the blood is washed off the streets by rain, into the same gutter I throw the gun into.

You gotta realize what delicate work this is, even if it ain't exactly subtle. You drill a few new holes into a guy's head, people start asking questions, even if the greaseball deserved it. Nine tenths of my job seems to be janitorial that way. I clean up after myself. If you're looking to get to Hollywood and nail a starlet, you're in the wrong league.. My work is far from glamorous.

Which isn't to say you won't get noticed.

But I'm good at what I do, and no two ways about it. You want it done nicely, I'm your man. Money talks to me the way God talks to a priest, only God don't exactly pay the rent round here. Franklin, Grant, and Jackson are my Holy Trinity - and if you want, I'll even let you watch.

Yeah. I do alright for myself - and I do even better for my clients. My work ain't cheap, though. And dont' expect your pretty face to get you far either - the only thing that makes a queen is the green. So you wanna take your chances with my competition down the street, I'm not stopping you.

But if you want the job done right, you come talk to me. And you know where to find me.

I'm the one with "Mr kitten" on the door.

Only knock first.

Crying "havoc" that the war may come.
kitten   January 28, 2002

I was walking down the street today.

It would seem, given the normal discourse of discussion, that the world of hypothetical situations is comprised entirely of an endless boulevard, a street, upon which "you" - you, me, everyone, walks down. This avenue serves no purpose other than to provide a platform from which the hypothetical can be drawn, meeting imaginary people to further the difficulties posited by the scenario being played out, in blatant violation of Occam and his shaving implements. "Say you're walking down the street, and.."

But there I was. Walking down the street, trench splayed behind me in the wind like some sort of shedding skin, and such is the usual course of events that people ignore me or deliberately look away. I've come to stop taking it personally - almost. After all, this is the human animal, uncomfortable with eye contact, strangers who cross paths for a fleeting moment but do not affect one another. You're lucky, these days, to be acknowledged by another human as a fellow member of the species when you're walking down that street.

It has been said that my Basic Facial Expression, that neutral expression upon which all others are built, is one of quiet rage. I've long since stopped arguing the point. It isn't a concious thing - merely a byproduct of the structure of my face and the way the muscles interact when relaxed. I've looked in the silver-coated glass myself, and it's true: The man who stares back looks angry.

I'm almost tempted, at times, to suppose that it is this which pushes people away, that the standard of passing strangers on the street is not to run away - but along comes the angry-looking man in dark garb and if ever the word 'antisocial' could be applied to someone's appearance, it woulde be vested upon me.

And so walking down the street is what I was doing, as people look at their feet or pretend to be engrossed in studying the pattern of brick on the building or whatever else they can think of to avoid looking at me directly, which would mean they were recognizing me as another person, much like them, which I am not.

Not to them.

And of course, to uphold my end of the social dance, I return the favor, and avoid their eyes as much as possible. Wouldn't want to make anyone uncomfortable, you know, we can't have that. The game has rules.

Walking down the street.

I suppose I need not ennumerate my general contempt for small children here; it has been well documented. And yet from around the corner of a parked car, a small girl, no more than seven years old, appeared on the sidewalk directly in my path.

In retrospect it did not occur to me that her age very likely rendered her immune by virtue of unawareness, to the rules of the game. Simply put, it would not have occured to her that eye contact with a stranger should make her feel uncomfortable. Children are strange that way - some do not mind the presence of strangers, and others run away in terror, but either way, it is an honest reaction, at least.

And I continue my stride, and I'm rapidly approaching her. She's standing there in my way, on the sidewalk, not moving, just looking at me.

Looking at me. She's looking at me in all my antisocial quasi-scary glory; where others would conciously look elsewhere, her gut reaction is to make eye contact, to reach out to the other Homo sapiens sapiens approaching her.

It unnerved me a bit, I must admit. And thankful was I, at first, to see her mother - or at least, we can make that assumption about this new one's identity - come round the same corner of the same car to lead the young child in the direction of the sandwich shop or wherever it was they were going. But in the handful of seconds it took for the mother to plot an intercept course to the girl and steer her in the desired vector, the girl managed to wave at me in greeting and say "hi" in the inflection of one too inexperienced with the world to know what a social snafu she was committing.

And to the wonderment of anybody watching - which was nobody, of course, not that this next would have made an impression on them - I found myself waving back as I passed her, even as her own mother was doing her best to avoid me altogether and steer her daughter as far away from the Evil Looking Strange Man as possible. The vague sort of fear radiating off the mother was almost tangible.

It was at this moment I felt that the most logical thing to do would be to stop, face the mother, and inform her that she could maybe learn a lot from her daughter.

Then again, maybe not. Let this little girl be robbed of her honesty and be carefully pounded and molded into the textualized ideal of what proper social graces are.

At least then, she'll be able to fit into the dance.

On Atheism.
kitten   January 27, 2002

Editor's note: This was written on quite an antiquated word processor which does not features such tools as a spellchecker. If you notice any glaring spelling errors, deal with them and move along - I'll get around to fixing them eventually.


On Atheism
Andy Zebrowitz 01.27.02

I.
Recently I purchased a book entitled Atheism: A Reader - a collection of essays by thinkers, philosophers, theologions, and others, with experiences and modes ranging from Lucretius to Carl Sagan.

The purchase of such a tome is by no means out of the ordinary for me. Having accumulated quite a number of books on the subject of theological studies, I have noticed a peculiar behavior among that of the people around me, upon their discovery of the title of the given book: When I am engaged in reading a book that espouses the theist view (specifically, a Christian view) such as C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, no one so much as blinks. However, should the book happen to be Nietzsche's The Antichrist, or perhaps something even more obvious such as Smith's Atheism: The Case Against God, I am greeted with bizarre expressions that bely some mixture of puzzlement or contempt.

Obviously our society breeds some sort of animosity towards atheists, but curiously, it has become more and more apparent to me in my discussions with people - both laypersons and those schooled in theology alike - that very few have a proper understanding of atheism and what it means to be atheist. The most ignorant among them is under the impression that atheists are some sort of Pagans, or devil worshippers, but most are of the opinion that atheism is a religion that asserts that God does not exist.

I would like the opportunity to share with the reader some of my thoughts on the topic. I am by no means a formally educated theologion, but given my own experience and studies of theology, perhaps my opinions are not so ignorant as to be utterly without merit. This informal essay is not meant to be an all-encompassing and definitive work on the topic; rather, it is a brief examination of some of the problems associated with the theistic view and therefore, a support of atheism.


II.
Consider the word "theism", which is defined as "a belief in a god or gods". The prefix "a-" means "without", as in "ammoral" (without morals), "assymmetry" (without symmetry), "asexual" (without sexual characteristics), and so on. Therefore, the proper meaning of the word "atheism" should be understood to mean "without a belief in a god or gods". In it's most basic form, atheism is not a belief - it is the absence of a belief.

It is important to fully comprehend what this means. Atheism, in and of itself, does not make any assertions; it merely does not accept an assertion (namely, that a diety exists). Anybody who, for whatever reason, does not subscribe to a positive theistic belief, may be called an atheist.

(By "positive" I refer not to ethics or morality, but the type of knowledge being alluded to. A positive statement reveals what something is: for example, "The vase is blue" is a positive claim. A negative statement describes what something is not: "The vase is not red" would be an example of via negativa, attempting to define a thing by detailing what it is not.)

The distinction is an important one in understanding the burden of proof when it comes to theological discussions. Because the atheist is making no claims or assertions, he is not obligated to defend himself. Rather, it is the claimant - in this case, the theist - who is obliged to produce arguments and evidence supporting his claim. If he is unable to do so, reason sides solely with the atheist, who need not argue his own side, but only point out that the theist has failed to support his claim.

Many people - in fact, almost all theists - object to this, of course. When pressed, the theist will almost inevitably state that although he cannot prove the existence of his deity, the atheist cannot disprove it. While this may be correct (perhaps not), the theist is wrong for assuming that the existence of God is therefore an open question. The onus of proof is entirely on the theist to prove the existance of God; if arguments and evidence is not forthcoming, there is no reason to consider his claim to have any more merit than that of a man who claims the existance of unicorns or magic elves.


III.
The first and most important issue, it seems to me, is to have an understanding of what is meant by the word "god". Without this basic knowledge, no information of any kind can be exchanged, and the theist's claim is meaningless. Consider this dialogue:

A: I believe in God.
B: What is "God"?
A: I don't know.
B: Then what are you saying you believe in? How does this belief differ from no belief at all?

It is apparent, therefore, that we must apply some definition to the word "god" if the theist's arguments are to be intelligble; without a definition, we may as well quibble whether or not "zooks" exist while simultaneously stipulating that we have no idea what a "zook" is or what it does, or anything about it. Without some information regarding the nature of the entity being discussed, the word "god" becomes a meaningless utterance.

Unfortunately for the theist, this is not as simple a task as it seems. Many predications have been applied to the traditional Judeo-Christian concept of God, but none so far as I can tell move us one step closer to understanding what is meant by the word "god".

Let us select a few of the most common attributes assigned to God. He is often said to be wise, loving, eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, invisible, infinite, incomprehensible, ineffable, and so on.

The first task is to eliminate the negative attributes. One cannot reasonably define anything entirely on what it is not, for a being composed entirely of negative attributes is indistinguishable from nonexistance. Invisible (not visible), infinite (without limit), ineffable (cannot be described - but wait!).. these words can all be applied to nonexistance as well. God is incomprehensible, so is nonexistance. God is invisible, so is nonexistance. God is eternal (not subject to the passage of time), so is nonexistance. And so on down the list of negatives.

We see then that the via negativa methodology will not suffice here; moreso when we consider that in order to have knowledge of what a thing is not, we must know something about what it is.

And just what do we know about what God is? Loving, wise, and so on through the list of positive attributes - these may be good attributes to possess, but exactly what is the nature of the being possessing them? I know what it means to say a man is wise. Is the wisdom of God the same sort of conceptual, knowledge-based wisdom that we are familiar with? If so, then God had to acquire his knowledge from somewhere, and verify it. If not, then we cannot understand what it means to say God is "wise".

The same sort of problem arises with any other positive attribute used to describe God. These words have meaning when applied to finite beings, but wrenched from this context and applied to a supernatural, infinite entity, they become meaningless. The predication takes on a mysterious, unknown meaning - to say that God is this, or God is that, is to say nothing more than that some unknown being possesses an unknown characteristic in an unknown way.

The theist is faced with a very serious problem: He wishes to have a God that he can discuss intelligbly, but if he wishes to apply predicates to God, he must either reduce God to a manlike and finite level, or else admit that these characteristics are incomprehensible when applied to God, and therefore cannot move us one bit closer to understanding what is being referred to by the word "god".

The concepts of omnipotence and omniscience may not be subject to this conundrum, but they too force a problem on the theist. I must argue that these two attributes are mutually exclusive and totally incompatible with each other. If God is capable of knowing the future with absolute certainty, then he is powerless to change it. (The Christian God in particular is apparently often surprised by events, or unaware of them until they occur. The cold and impersonal god of Deism may be exempt from this criticism, but has problems all its own.)

IV.
God is often used as an explantory concept for three major questions which have no doubt plagued mankind since he was first able to think. These questions may be enumerated thus:

1. Where did we come from?
2. Why are we here?
3. What happens to us when we die?

These questions may be natural to the inquisitive human mind, and more often than not, people take it for granted that the underlying reason behind it all is a mysterious force, which we call God.

Let us examine the first question, upon which all the others depend. Is "god" truly a coherent method of explaining where we came from? (By "we", I mean "all this"; "the univserse".)

It seems to me that saying "God did it" presents us with manifold problems:

1. First and most seriously: by definition, "supernatural" is somehow above or beyond the natural, knowable univserse, and beyond our ability to understand (not by limits on what is presently known, but because such knowledge about supernatural entities is unknowable). By postulating a supernatural being as the cause of everything, the theist is unwittingly admitting that no explanation is possible.
2. Even if we are to accept "god" as the primary cause of everything, the question remains as unanswered as before: How did this god create existance from nonexistance? "Somehow" is not an explanation. "Through incomprehensible means" is not an explanation.
3. This argument cannot establish the present existance of a god.
4. Nor can it establish a specific religion: This argument could be applied equally well to monotheisism as polytheism.
5. Stating that the cause of everything was a force called "god" does not automatically imply that the cause was in any way concious or animate, nor does it necessarily imply that the events caused were deliberate.
6. Finally, it begs the question, "Then what caused God?" and moves us not one step closer to understanding.

Perhaps it is time to examine the issue of whether or not the question needs to be asked at all. Rather than accepting the concept of a God that "just is", why should we not be content with a universe that "just is", a universe that requires no causal explanation (as if the concept of "cause and effect" is even intelligble outside the framework of the universe)?

The atheist therefore accepts the universe itself as the metaphysical primary upon which all discourse depends. It is the theist who asks "What caused the universe?", demands an explanation, and then, by using a supernatural force as an 'answer', utterly fails to provide that explanation. Consider the "explanation" offered by the theist: A mysterious, unknown entity 'caused' the universe to snap into existance, magically, inexplicably, for unknown reasons, using unknowable means. Does this provide us with any real information regarding the concept being discussed? No, it does not. Does it provide us with a causal explanation in any meaningful sense? No, it does not.

God as an explanatory concept is useless, and so once again, the theist has failed to support his claim.


V.
Another common use of the concept of God is to explain the universe's apparent design; if there is a design, argues the theist, there must be a designer.

It is certainly true that design requires a designer, but first, one must establish that the object in question does indeed exhibit design. Only after the existance of design has been confirmed may a designer be inferred.

Consider William Paley's now-famous Watchmaker analogy, in which a man walking through the woods comes across a watch upon the ground.

Briefly: Paley argues that because the watch displays intricate inner workings that, if altered would result in the watch not functioning, and concludes that the man can therefore deduce that the watch was designed, for a specific end. He goes on to extend this analogy the the universe as a whole, pointing out that the universe displays intricacies that cannot be the result of random occurances, but are the result of directed orders from a master designer, whom we term "God".

The first objection that springs to mind is that the man has a context to compare his watch to: nature. It is obvious that the watch displays characteristics not found in nature, and therefore must be the work of artificial (manmade) design. We are, of course, not so privileged when it comes to the universe as a whole: We have no universes that we know to be "undesigned" to compare this allegedly "designed" one to, nothing to compare our universe's characteristics to and reach the conclusion that ours is the result of design.

It is obvious what Paley means when he says the watch was designed for a specific end, but what about the universe? If by "end" he means "purpose", then he is lost in a maze of circular logic, for it is a purpose to nature that he is attempting to demonstrate.

If, however, he is noting that the universe displays order, he is confusing order with design. It is a mistake to confuse the two. Consider the law of identity, "a = a", or "a thing is what it is", and the law of causality, "a thing will behave according to what it is". All objects, whether manmade or natural, are subject to these axioms, but this does not mean that order implies design. Is Paley suggesting that without God, things would cease to be what they are? That things would not act according to what they are? As George Smith puts it:

"Exactly what does the theist imagine the universe would be like if it was not guided by a master planner? What would a 'disordered' universe be like? What would an acorn do? - grow into a stone, perhaps, and then a theologion? If an acorn did grow into a stone, it would have to possess qualities radically different from what we now designate by the term 'acorn', in which case it would cease to be an 'acorn' in any meaningful sense."
Order is not synonymous with design. Order is a necessary product of existance: Once we accept that a thing exists, we must accept that it exists as something, and has definitive characteristics that necessarily limit it's possible sphere of actions. "A thing is what it is and will behave thus."

My most serious objection to Paley's argument is that evidence of manmade design is only possible within the context of nature itself, as noted before: We can infer design by those characteristics which are not found in nature. The theist must first demonstrate the existance of a supernatural being before he can propose that this being designed nature. It is therefore impossible, even in principle, to use the design argument to establish a designer without first establishing the designer independently.

VI.
Another major role that God seems to play in people's lives is that of a moral guiding light; an ethical teacher, the standards set forth by this entity are the absolutes by which we should govern our behavior and code of ethics.

The idea here is apparently that people are incapable of distinguishing good from evil, and so the theist introduces us to God, who will tell us the difference.

There are numerous objections to this concept, but I shall take the lion's approach and attack the jugular directly. If people cannot tell good from evil, then we have no way of knowing if God is good, or the ethical standards he sets forth are good. For all we know, this god may be a demon.

The only way out of this, it seems to me, is to state that people can tell good from evil, in which case we do not require a god to tell us. Postulating an entity to explain to us that which we are capable of deducing on our own is not only adding an extra dimension of difficulty to the issue, but is, to put it bluntly, absurd.

Furthermore, the existance of even one morally upright atheist would disprove the notion that God is required to instill a "proper" code of ethics.

God as an ethics teacher is a useless concept.


VII.
The refutions of common theist arguments expressed here cover but a fraction of the issue at hand, but it was not my purpose to provide a comprehensive study of theology. Rather, I merely wished to expound upon a few basic concepts, share a viewpoint that most people have never considered, and clear up the misunderstandings about what atheism is.
Atheism does not necessarily deny the existance of god, but merely lacks belief in god. There are those atheists who go a step further and declare that since the concept of "god" is unintelligible, internally inconsistant, or logically impossible, that such a being cannot exist, and therefore deny the existance of God outright - but this declaration is not part and parcel of atheism per se.

The label "atheist" announces one thing and one thing only: The disagreement, or rejection of, theism. Any other doctrines or belief systems to which the atheist may subscribe are entirely independant of his theological views. An atheist may be a Communist or a capitalist, a conservative or liberal, a producer or a destroyer. He may be an honest man or a liar, a patriot or a criminal, or anything in between. The only thing atheists necessarily share in common is their disagreement with theism.

Atheism is not an evil force, nor is it destructive in nature - and as I hope I have shown here, there are many logical reasons for adopting the atheist view.

I hope, therefore, that the next time I am reading a book that may run contrary to popular theistic views, that I am not looked down upon. I am an atheist, but I am a normal person - minus the mysticism.

There are demon-haunted worlds, regions of utter darkness.

This is an essay I wrote this evening (morning?) on atheism. I need not introduce it in much detail here; the preface does it for me.

I feel that the topic is both important and misunderstood, and I hope my meager work can clear some things up.

Enjoy.

"Fear of things invisible is the natural seed of that which every one in himself calleth religion." - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

We slip and slide as we fall in love.
kitten   January 23, 2002

Last night, she dreamed a frozen dream.

You can tell, by the twitch of her fingertips and eyelids. Something unreal in delta sleep, neurons firing, a dream as thin as morning frost on glass, and every bit as intricate. The idle wanderings of an active mind within that tiny sliver of a fragile sillouette encased in moonlight and poetry: her sleeping form.

And it was just last night, with her frozen dream.

Twisting and turning and spinning and twirling and falling into a twilight abyss without any particular destination. Through a fog of sleep she murmers her secrets, and sometimes I tell her my secrets. Delicate secrets, like lace, like filigree, ticking away into the night and nobody's listening.

Honey and candlewax and rose petals and asphalt and expanses of open highway and neon signs and chrome flanges collecting and radiating enthusiasm for yesterday's tomorrow: her frozen dream.

Last night, she dropped that frozen dream, and I picked it up, thawed it out. And swam in it.

Her hair is a mess.

On being human.
kitten   January 20, 2002

The Turing test was conceptualized as a method of determining whether or not a computer is intelligent. The essence of this test involves the computer holding a conversation - usually via text - with a human, and if the human is unable to tell if the entity he is speaking with is a computer or another human, the computer may be truly intelligent; human, if you will.

Let the following henceforth be known as the 'kitten test' for artificial intelligence. It's a simple procedure:

I say, let the computer watch Edward Scissorhands. See if it cries.

If it does not, it is not intelligent nor human.

The reasoning is simple.

If you're not in tears by the end of this movie, you are not human, and you have no soul.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my final answer.

No comment, really.

I believe that I can add nothing to this collection of quotes from Bryan's first serious drinking experience.

You've been warned.

God, it hurts.

Leave the silence. Bring the noise.
kitten   January 18, 2002

Likely, I could have handled it better.

But that would require having a solid grasp on what I want.

Pops and whistles of empty static: an oldstyle analogue tuner on a radio scanning up and down a dead dial, isolated in some frozen tundra where no intelligently modulated carrier waves can reach. Sometimes, I imagine I can hear a signal amid the noise, a voice, and so desperate am I for human contact that I sit on the frigid ground with the silver radio's speaker up to my ear, antenna pointed skyward, and this, combined with the wrinkled infrared-reflecting foil blanket, makes me look like a kind of futuristic rogue cyborg, attempting to regain contact with his lost companions on some distant twinkling world.

I could have accepted it. A gift, perhaps - a token way of saying "I care."

Swirling through the thunderous skies, a small legion of birds gains altitude and sets course, guided by the giant and eternally spinning magnet we call Earth, who hurls those mighty electromagnetic disturbances into the ether and void. But her screams into the night are swallowed by proximity to a greater force, her own sun: fiery Sol, spewing quadrillions of ions and radiation into the black nothingness by the second. Sol, who in turn is overshadowed by tens of billions of others just like her, tumultously dancing their cosmic ballet through the heavens, and with each passing scream, still another drowns it. Each gentle cold light in the heavens above, just another meaningless cataclysm of pain in empty space.

Each burning itself into eventual nothingness, each screaming its fury, weeping its sadness, and somehow making it's presence known to the others - if they're listening.

Was it her way of saying she cares? Perhaps. I cannot say. My grasp of her thought processes is roughly akin to my grasp of high-energy subatomic physics. I am left only with her flighty and indiscernable explanations, and my own doubt.

A blanket may keep me warm at night, but underneath it, I'd still be alone.

Creature comforts notwithstanding, therefore - other and more fundamental agonies take place by virtue of being born. Point a microwave telescope at any direction in the sky and that faint buzzing you hear, where there should be no noise at all? Three degrees Kelvin above absolute zero (absolute serenity, absolute finality, absolute closure), the ancient and still echoing cries from a universe being born, knowing full well the ultimate futility of it all.

Physicists call that the cosmic background radiation.

I call it fear.
I call it life.

She's my cherry pie.
kitten   January 17, 2002

With apologies to Dan Engler, I have created this quiz, useful for determining which hairmetal band you belong to.

Of course, it will probably tell Bret what we all already know.

Have fun, kids.

Curing the symptoms, but not the problems.
kitten   January 16, 2002

I remember, about a day before the Day I Found Out Everything, I was feeling kind of down. Nothing specifically wrong - merely a downtrodden, monochrome sort of emotion.

If I believed in psychic abilities, I'd say the reason was obvious.

Sitting alone - for the fourth night in a row - at Waffle House, reading. Oblivious. Stupid.

For me, reading entails an entire process. A harmony, a fugue of moments that comes together just right - if these moments aren't sequenced, if conditions are not ideal, then it isn't really reading for me. I passively take in the words but they are not processed, they are not considered.

The conditions, though, they can be manufactured - it's nothing too fancy. Nor are they anything particular; they can be produced artificially, but there is no recipe, no step-by-step, no instructions, no paint-by-bloody-number - I just know. Like the sailor reads the waves and wind, like the captain reads the skies and stars. Like instinct, ground into your double-helix, permanent, indelible. Is this book going to be read, or am I going to merely shuffle the pages, lackluster, half-hearted?

Tonight, the conditions were of the garden-mill variety. Long coat flared out over the bench-style seats, left hand splayed to hold the book open, and in my right, a cigarette. Coffee here, juice there.

And a small postcard of a kitten next to me.

Yeah, that's the real point here, innit? For me, it isn't a cure of the cause - not even a treatment. Doesn't even begin to address the underlying cause. It's a mask, a facade, a glossing-over method of survival.

Pictures of adorable kittens.
Everyone likes looking at kittens, because they're cute.

Well, maybe not everyone. But I do.

Who said this was for you?

a, b, c, d, e, and f.

Also, g.

Yay!

* * Update: * *
cute!@#%
Heh. "Play with this yarn.. if you can."
"You think that's catnip you're eating?"
"Come on, you're cuter than this. Don't think you are.. know you are."

That's the price of love.
kitten   January 15, 2002
And when this building is on fire And these flames can't burn any higher I turn sideways to the sun And in a moment, I am gone
New Order, World
Fuck tha police.
kitten   January 14, 2002

There.

After much hassle, my goddamned tag is updated. Until July, that is.

After paying to have the vehicle's emissions inspected, I presented the emission certificate to the doofus behind the counter, and paid the renewal fee, the ad valorum tax, the processing fee, the late charge, the penalty fee, the you-owe-us-too-many-fees fine, the 2002 DOT tax, a fee to process that, and an insurance surcharge.

Good thing, too - now the tag office has enough money to stay open, so they can take more money, which will let them stay open, so they can take more money, which will..

I'm not bitter.

YOU ARE ATTACKED BY A ROGUE MINE DEMON.
kitten   January 13, 2002

What a night.

2330. I arrived at Waffle House, as per usual, with the intention of finishing Pat Cadigan's Synners. Such was not the case as various distractions and other ways of wasting time cropped up. There was much talk of rogue mine demons and boxes of rockets.

0030. Tom arrives at Waffle House along with Rob. We all went to Rob's house to watch The Adventures Of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the Eighth Dimension (which, by the way, kicked ass. Incredibly stupid movie, but stupid in that Army Of Darkness kind of deliberate way).

0245. Having finished the movie, we are now going through the obligatory and superfluous special features of the DVD.

0251. Denise calls from Waffle House, and asks to speak to me. She informs me that a cop just pulled into the parking lot, looked at my expired tag, burst into the establishment and screamed "Which one of you is Andy?!"
The cop, by three seperate eyewitness accounts, began accosting various customers for their ID, attempting to find me.
Denise raised her hand and said she knew me, asked what the situation was. Cop saunters over to her and says, loud enough for the entire restaurant to hear, that because of my expired tag, he'd better not catch me driving the car off the lot. In fact, continues the cop, he's going to wait for me. He then declared his intention to have my car towed and impounded, and me taken into custody.
Over a minor, trivial thing like this.

0252. kitten panics.

0335. Tom and I arrive at Waffle House, where there is no sign of the cop. Witness accounts tell how the officer has been driving by, back and forth on the road and in and out of the parking lot, waiting for me. Watching.

0400. Tom and Denise leave. I wait, and consider my options:

  • I could get a ride home, leave the car here, and attempt to deal with this Monday. Although I sort of need my car to get to work on Monday, and anyway, I need the car to take to the emissions testing place so I can get a tag.
  • I could wait for the shift change - about 0600 - and make a run for it. But what if this cop is an overlap shift, or what if he buzzes one of his buddies to keep an eye on the situation? Maybe I could take little-used backroads to my place; unfortunately, getting to the backroads involves cutting across the very intersection that the cop is patrolling.
  • I could commit ritualistic hari-kari with the katana in my passenger seat (which the cop no doubt saw, and was no doubt less than pleased with), and finally have the sweet, sweet release from this mortal coil that I have longed for since childhood.

    None of these options sounded very appealing to me. Unfortunately, I'm looking at an almost definite arrest here, if I'm caught. Having been ticketed for this once already, I cannot play stupid, and this cop - again, by all eyewitness accounts - had what almost seemed like a personal vendetta against me. As I watched him drive by again, it was becoming increasingly obvious that he was serious about getting me, for whatever reason.

    0500. I order coffee, intending to wait here until at least 0900 or so. Maybe, I thought, I could get a lot of friends together and escort me, motorcade / convoy style, to my house, such that the tight grouping of cars would obscure my vehicle from the cop, whom I have observed driving by the establishment five times now.

    0530. I have a plan. If this officer is waiting for me, and watching to see that my car does not move, I must get the vehicle out of his sight and make him think I have left. After he curses, comic-book villain style, at my cunning foil to his plan, he will give up, and then I can leave for real.

    0538. I walk to the gas station next door and explain my situation to the guy there, who I've spoken to before on numerous occasions and who has always been incredibly cool. I ask him if I can park my car behind the oil-change station, out of sight of the road, for an hour or so. He thinks this is hilarious, and says sure, do it, good luck.

    0545. The cop cruises by once more. I count to ten and pull out of the parking lot, well behind him, and dash into the gas station lot. Under cover of darkness, I strategically park my car where it cannot be seen, even from the gas station. I walk back to Waffle House, and wait.

    0601. The cop drives by again. I wonder if he has noticed my car is missing.

    0630. I grow weary of this, as the cop drives by. Again.

    0640. I decide, enough is enough. Shift change is at 0600, overlap shifts ends at 0630. Surely he must be back at the station by now filling out the night's paperwork and reports. I make my move.
    First order of business, paying for the coffee. Second order of business, handing a hundred dollars over to Laurie, just in case I need bail. Play it safe. Have a contingency plan. Figure that in the worst-case scenario, she can use that money to post bond and spring me from the slammer.
    I go back to the gas station and warm up the car. I also remove all weapons from my person and stash them in the trunk of the car, along with the katana. Figure that if I get pulled over, I'm going to give him the least chance possible to nail me for something major.

    0700, car properly warmed up, I walk to the curb and look left, right, left. Nobody is in sight. I get in the car, pull onto the street, and slam the accelerator to the floor. This car has enough power in the engine to launch a pound of bacon into the asteroid belt, as I scream down the road, intending to make it across the river and into Fulton county, safely out of the cop's jurisdiction.

    0702. I'm across the river. The sign 'Now Entering Fulton County' has never looked sweeter.

    0720. I arrive home.


    Absolutely unbelievable.
    Is this my fault? Oh, doubtless. Without question, I should have renewed my tag on time. In defense, I am enough of a moron that I did not realize my tag had expired until two months ago when I was pulled over for it, and unfortunately, I work for a living, which means I cannot go to the tag office for a renewal. The tag office is open from the convenient hours of 0830 - 1130, and 1230 - 1630, Monday through Friday. Would someone explain to me how the normal working man is supposed to deal with this?

    It's interesting to me that the cop knew my name when he ran my tag. This tells us the obvious - that the tag on the car, although 'expired', is in fact registered to me, and that particular car. I have enormous difficulty understanding why I should have to pay the government another hundred dollars or whatever the fee is, to tell them what they already know. In my opinion, a tag should never have to be renewed - only if the car or owner changes, should a new tag be placed on the car. As we should all be aware, this annual tag fee is actually just another pointless revenue generator for the government - although in reality, it doesn't even do that. The money from the tags goes to the tag office: a circular, self-sustaining cycle of stupidity.

    "We need your money so that we can run the place that takes your money, which is why we need your money, so that we have a way to take the money, which is why we need the money in the first place, so that..."
    Ergh. I am annoyed beyond my ability to linguistically communicate, at least, not at this hour. I should have been in bed and asleep hours ago, but instead I'm playing cat-and-mouse chess games with a vindictive power-tripping jackass of a cop, who is obviously abusing his power. The simple fact that he was observed - by others as well as myself - shirking his other responsibilities in order to nail me, is totally out of line.
    Hell, dont' take my word for it, take his. The entire restaurant - no exaggeration - heard him declare his intention to wait for me, for the simple reason that I didn't pay a pointless fee to the government this year. Ugh.

    It did give me an idea, though. I've noticed that without fail, politicians focus on incredibly wide and sweeping issues. Education reform. Tax reform. Welfare. Problems so large and multilayered that they are virtually impossible to deal with. Nothing ever gets accomplished with this; the problems are simply too broad and difficult and time-consuming.
    Perhaps I should run for local government when I turn 25. My entire platform could be based on the little things, the things that I can actually do something about - the tiny little annoyances that irritate everybody, but nobody with power actually does anything about.
    I'm talking about the no-alcohol-sales-on-Sunday laws.
    I'm talking about the ridiculous revenue generators.
    Tag rewewals. Licenses for this, permits for that - things regulated by the government that aren't any of the government's legitimate business. (fishing license, banner-displaying permits, alcohol-serving permits for individuals, et al.)

    I don't know.
    I'm tired.
    Something to consider, anyway.

  • Fire on the mountain.
    kitten   January 12, 2002

    Bryan went down to Georgia
    He was looking to play Unreal.
    He was in a bind
    Cause he was way behind
    And was willin' to make a deal.
    And he came across kitten, playing Quake on an overclocked.
    And kitten jumped up on a hickory stump and said
    "harb, let me tell you what."

    "I bet you didn't know it,
    But I'm a gamer too.
    And if you care to take a dare,
    I'll make a bet with you.
    Now you play a pretty good Deathmatch
    But give kitten his due.
    I'll bet a Gameboy of gold against your soul
    Cause I think I'm better than you."

    harb said "My name is Bryan,
    And it might be a sin
    But I'll take your bet.
    You're gonna regret.
    Cause I'm the best that's ever been."

    Bryan, load up your mods and all those memory cards
    Cause Hell's broke loose in Georgia and kitten's dealin' the cards.
    And if you win you get that shiny Gameboy made of gold,
    But if you lose, then kitten gets your soul.

    kitten opened up his game and he said
    "I'll start this show."
    And fire flew from his fingertips
    As he got into the flow
    And he picked up a box of rockets
    And it made an evil hiss.
    Then a rogue mine demon attacked him
    And it sounded something like this.

    When kitten had finished, Bryan said,
    "You're pretty good there, son.
    But sit down in that chair right there
    And let me show you how it's done."

    Fraggin' in the dungeon, run boys run
    Bryan smackin' monsters with a railgun
    Pingtime to the server is down low
    Campin' with a Quad rocket, go harb go

    kitten bowed his head
    Because he knew that he'd been beat.
    And he laid that golden Gameboy on the ground at Bryan's feet.
    Bryan said "Just come on back if you ever wanna try it again.
    I told you once, you low-ping bastard, I'm the best that's ever been."

    Realize your dreams.
    kitten   January 9, 2002
    [kitten] I've decided what my goal in life is. [kitten] Admittedly, it's something of a pipe dream, because even if I started today and worked at it every day until I die, I can't do it. [kitten] But maybe the process itself would be kind of fun. [kitten] I don't know. [kitten] Like Memento. [kitten] Force yourself to have a goal that *seems* attainable but isn't, just so you have something to live for.. [harb] Are you going to try and be a world-famous ballerina, kitten? [kitten] No. [kitten] Idiot. [kitten] I'm being serious. [harb] What, then? [kitten] I'm going to kill everybody who isn't as good as me. [harb] hahah.
    The appointed hour draws nigh. The kitten cometh.
    @$#%
    kitten   January 2, 2002

    Oh for the love of all that is holy please make it stop I beg of you.

    ..and this, ladies and gentlemen, is why religious fanatics should never, ever, be allowed near a computer.

    Ever.

    Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to go claw my eyes out.
    And then boil them.

    Join me if you want to live - if not, I have no use for you.

    So I've got thoughts on snow, things that I can't litigate linguistically, things that I don't expect anybody to understand, especially not her - assuming I ever found the words.

    Nick, however, seems to have no problem explaining exactly how he feels about snow:

    [Pre] snow sucks
    [Pre] it's cold and treacherous like kitten
    [Pre] and I like to hit it with a shovel too.
    [kitten] !

    stupid kitten.

    It's snowing here.

    This is not something that happens often in Atlanta.

    People panic when it snows; they stay off the streets and cower indoors as though these crystalized water molecules are a fortune of some coming apocolypse. Consequently the streets are empty of cars and pedestrians. Traffic lights wink through their sequences, but nobody needs them.

    When the snowfall gets heavier, visibility drops, but what remains is nothing short of beautiful. It's the same city it's always been, and yet it is not - the hum and bustle of everyday life is gone, and the buildings and streets and skyscrapers and windowpanes all look as though they're being transmitted through a bad channel. Snow, the static of winter.

    The traffic lights again, mindlessly marching through their ritual, in perfect synchronization - viewed by the man standing between in the town square, long black overcoat whipping behind him and steam rising from groundvents around him. Dark spiky hair and a mind full of noise, he walks and tells his story to no one in particular.

    As though someone were listening.

    Winter, the bleak and deadening season, all cold and gray and quiet - like a secret. Like a promise.

    Snow and fireplaces and cocoa for two. Cliched movies circa 1985. It's a time for pasta dinners and red wine and candlelight, blankets and stories in soft voices, emotions heated low over an open flame.

    But no.

    I will go 'home' tonight, to my heatless, barren sensory depravation chamber of an apartment, and engage the small and ineffective spaceheater in a futile attempt to get warm. Maybe I'll get 'dinner' (if by 'dinner' we mean generic meatlike substances from vacuum-extruded fast-food establishments), and sit in front of my dying computer screen, shivering and refusing to eat the nonfood that I'll wish I hadn't spent money on, soon realizing that I'm wasting my time by even being awake.

    And under the covers, her side of the sheets are as cold as my eyes feel, and I await unconciousness.

    Wake, hate, sleep. Wake, cry, sleep. Repeat ad infinitum.

    Repeat until normal.

    Normal?

    ..never.

    So many years have passed me by: 2001 In Review
    kitten   January 1, 2002

    Welcome to kitten's "mirrorshades: a year in review".

    Bryan can do his own. This is my year. 2001, standing on the edge and looking back.

    And no, it won't be like this:

    [Dan] mirrorshades.org year in review:
    [Dan] 1. kitten hated everything about 2001
    [Dan] 2. harb hated everything about 2001, though slightly less than kitten and in a slightly more vague manner
    [Dan] 3. kitties are cute
    [Dan] This concludes the 2001 mirrorshades.org year in review.
    [kitten] !

    Anyway. Let's start the countdown.

  • January
    My year started out in a fairly depressing way, which is the usual course of things. I was in a bad way - no job, no money, no love. I was not at all happy with my life.
    I tried to get a job using a variety of methods, going to various headhunters, spamming my 'resume' out in the shotgun-style approach. Nothing worked. It's almost miraculous I managed to survive.
    I remember coming down with a rather nasty illness of some description or other, probably the flu, for several weeks, and yeah. I still think it should be a rule that when you're sick people have to be nice to you and bring you meds and soup and read to you. But nobody did.

    I was forced to defend myself in a court of law regarding terrorist activities.

    Politics being my sport of choice, I became more and more annoyed and angered over King Bush's proposals and policies.

  • February
    I tried to take a cold and scientific look at my relationship problems ('relationship problems' meaning, I didn't have one, and things weren't looking up, and I was becoming more jaded by the moment). This tactic didn't work, and makes less sense now than it did then.
    At least the inside jokes didn't stop.
    Valentine's Day was not a good day.
    I remember this all too well.. me and Bryan dredging out old logfiles from years ago and looking through them. It's usually bad for us, but we end up doing it every year or so, seems like.

  • March
    I got a job that I hated so much I ended up quitting after two weeks. I left for a coffee break one day and never came back. It was unbelievable. This is one of those things that I'm sort of pretending never happened.
    My mother was still insane.
    But none of this kept me from bitching about things that nobody cares about.
    I discovered the beauty that is All Your Base. This set the template for the rest of the year and beyond.
    Our Commander In Chief continued to annoy me.

  • April
    Sitting around, day after bloody day, with nowhere to go, nothing to do, and nobody to talk to, will drive you to find ways of occupying your time, no matter how ridiculous. Meanwhile, I became more and more sick of dealing with insane girls.
    I hate ravers.
    I hate life.
    I hate zealots.
    I hate Bryan. Okay, I really don't. But it's so easy to make fun of him.
    Sometimes I'd get borderline nostalgic about things I shouldn't think about. These things don't bother me anymore, but it's cruel irony that I'm today faced with the same sort of situation.

  • May
    I am not a morning person.
    I got yet another job, which I was fired from a month and a half later for being late to. I'm still bitter about this. I hadn't been late once to that day, and the one time I show up late - mind you, I called in advance - I get terminated because a bunch of pissy corporate managers had to be there on that one particular day and make an example out of me.
    At least I found Quake, the greatest way to waste time ever.
    The government's handling of NASA still pisses me off to this day.
    funny kitten.
    At last, we will have revenge.
    I still hate zealots.
    I found a cool club called The Chamber which I spent a few idle weekends having an okay time.
    Man, do I hate zealots.
    I also hate work.
    I also hate SUVs.
    I went to go see a movie, which marked the first time in a year and a half I'd set foot in a movie theatre, for various reasons.

  • June
    This is, unfortunately, turning out to be much more boring than I thought it would be. All I'm doing is going through old entries and sifting out the mildly interesting bits, which are few and far between. I should stop now.
    Maybe it's sort of a Bene Gesserit test for me.
    Whee.
    And sigh. I remember this night. It was the herald of more new beginnings, of pretty things and a chance to regain life.
    This has since been ripped out from under my feet, leaving me dazed and stupid.
    My controversial piece on Creationism was posted to kuro5hin, breaking a number of records.
    I met a girl.
    Satan came to Earth for a visit.
    The girl I met actually talked to me.
    Ah, I remember the night that prompted this. The first time Jen came over. Yesss.
    A few nights later, this happened.
    I was enjoying life, for once. I had a job, and more importantly, I had a wonderful girl.
    At least, I thought.
    Anyway, stuff was good for a while.

  • July
    All Your Base was still funny.
    Despite what was turning into a fulfilling relationship, sometimes I'd get a bit weird when she talked about how much she hated relationships and boyfriends. I've come to realize the fucking irony of THAT, ho ho ho.
    But at the same time, I was, for the first time in many moons, truly happy.
    Even when she wasn't there.
    At least I could still make amusing commentary.
    Bryan was an idiot and told people it was my birthday when it wasn't.
    Yeah, I was having a good time. She and I prepared for our roadtrip to Philidelphia and beyond.

    * kitten sighs.

    A collaborative post can be found here regarding the few seasons of the kitten and harb show. This, shortly before we switched from the Villa Straylight to the walled city.

  • August
    Jen and I finally arrived in Philidelphia, and I met Bryan for the first time. He proved to be everything I suspected he would be - cold-hearted, callous, insensitive, ruthless, and ugly. And stupid.
    Okay, he wasn't that bad. But Steve's pictures were.
    I thought it was cool how she was understanding about my little quirks.
    My friend Phil got married.
    Sometimes I found myself thinking that life was so good, I was living in a dream. Yes, having her made all the stupid and annoying of the world sort of melt away. At the time I was working as a waiter at a ridiculously slow restaurant, barely enough income to pay my bills, dealing with moronic customers and idiotic managers, but wow, I didn't care at all. I'd bouy myself with memories of her, and thoughts of seeing her again.
    "But it all was bullshit!
    It was a goddamn joke!
    And when I think of you, Linda,
    I hope you fucking choke!"
    - The Wedding Singer

    Er. Sorry. Uh.

  • September
    But I didn't think that at the time. My life was still going well.
    For the most part, that is.
    I don't think I need to say much about this. It still feels like something out of a movie, almost, even if the aftermath gives me lots of material to bitch about.

  • October
    I actually got a real job, believe it or not, where I proactively prioritize mission-critical objectives to empower the customer-focused e-solutions for Interweb paradigms.
    silly kitten.
    I really fucking hate Ann Coulter.
    So do a lot of other people, apparently.
    I continued seeing Jen. I really liked being with her.
    But for some reason, I didn't realize that I was spending my evenings alone while she did Kevin-knows-what with Kevin-knows-who, where "Kevin" is any random entity that don't know nothin' about nothin'.
    And then, it happened. And I was a fool for not seeing it. Not that I could have stopped it. But I should have known better.
    I found minor comfort in All Your Base. But not much.
    Back to hating life.

  • November
    I'm an emotional exhibitionist, I guess. I shouldn't do things like that.
    Maybe it's emotional masochism as well. Seems that I set myself up for the fall, every time. And yet, like cigarettes, I cannot put down that which I know is killing me.
    I oscillated between anger and depression.
    Meanwhile, society and the media continued to irritate me to the point of nonstop bitching.
    Sometimes, she'd stop and give me a glimmer of hope, that maybe things would work out, somehow. That maybe all was not lost.
    But always, always, I was wrong. And as the saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you.. fool me twice, shame on me."
    Shame on me, I suppose.. I'd been played and taken for a ride for a month and a half at this point, listening to her pretty words sugarcoating her lies and knowing the truth but ignoring it.
    I took my aggression and bottled it up and poured it into the power of rhyme.
    Bryan came to Atlanta for a weekend, and he still has yet to finish his write-up about it, so I suggest you harrass him about it.
    It's really fucking cold in here. Donations would be welcome.
    I guess my issues are blindingly obvious, even to a stupid mixnmatch cgi.

  • December
    Whee again. Why do I write these things? It's not like anyone reads them.

    Wow.
    That's uh. Pretty much it.

    Yup.

    This was incredibly boring reading, and I didn't have much fun writing it either. I apologize for the inconvenience.

    stupid life. Maybe 2002 will be better.

    Oh wait. S'what I say every fucking year. And I notice that things only get worse each year.

    I don't expect to live past 2010 at this rate.