Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cannibalistic Humanoid Under-appreciated Ducks

Did you ever wonder why Pluto is Mickey's dog, but Goofy, who's also a dog, is on a more or less equal footing? (This what you get when I wake up with insomnia.) When I was a kid, this used to bug the hell out of me. I count it as one of the triumphs of my life that I was eventually able to learn the answer straight from the mouse's mouth, as it were. Once I was working for Disney animation I had to climb a surprisingly long way up the chain of command to find out; eventually Jeffrey Katzenberg himself told me. And, as is the case with most things Disney, there's a certain twisted logic to it.

It seems that, among the various sentient beings of the Disneyverse, (by which I mean those created by the studio, not purchased as outside properties such as Baloo the Bear or Winnie-the-Pooh -- who's also a bear, come to think [I prefer to read into this merely the fact that I'm typing this at 6 AM]), anyway, among the inhabitants of Duckburg (and before you ask, I have no fucking idea if Mickey lives in Duckburg or the neighboring hamlet of Mouseville [which I believe I just made up]. For all I know, he lives in Secaucus), so anyway, the way it works is simply thus:

It doesn't matter what kind of animal you are in a Disney cartoon; if you are bipedal, can talk and wear clothes, then PETA be damned; you can own "lower" animals and do with them as you will.

This answers a lot of questions. Goofy, for instance, is nominally a dog. But he's bipedal (albeit with horrendous posture), wears clothes (sort of; interestingly, he's one of the few inhabitants whose ensemble includes pants), and speaks a colorful patois of English. All of which evidence his canine antecedents while simultaneously showcasing his cultural and evolutionary superiority over Pluto, who's also a dog, but who goes on all fours and wears naught but a dog collar (and to all those with fingers poised gleefully over their keyboards who live in West Hollywood, the Castro District, or other places like them -- you're only muddying the waters; shut up).

As I said, this clears up a lot of questions. But it also opened -- for me, anyway -- a veritable Matryoshka of Pandora's boxes. None of which I intend to go into now, save to note that I'm still not at peace -- and most likely never will be -- with the horror I felt as a seven-year old when I opened an Uncle Scrooge comic and witnessed the entire McDuck clan -- Scrooge, Donald, Daisy, and the trifecta of nephews -- sitting down with drooling beaks, utensils firmly gripped in feathered fists, and napkins knotted around wattled necks, to a turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Universal Thoughts

It has always amazed me that, considering what pale, insubstantial wraiths we are, we can still feel as intensely as we do. We are all of us, less than the faintest wisps of ephemerality; 99.99999999% of our bodies are, quite literally nothing -- nothing at all, not even air. consider the simplest of all atoms: hydrogen. the nucleus is a lone proton, orbited by a solitary electron. If that nucleus were the size of your thumbnail, the electron would orbit it a quarter mile away, making that single hydrogen atom roughly the size of a baseball stadium, and the vast majority of it -- nothing.

And yet, we feel.

We are revenants, but at least we occupy a world of comforting solidity, right? Wrong. When the Big Bang blew, it created matter and antimatter in very close to equal amounts, and thus both atoms and anti-atoms immediately and enthusiastically launched into wholesale mutual slaughter. When the dust settled, one atom out of every two billion was left whole. In other words, for every billion atoms of antimatter, the primordial explosion had created a billion and one atoms of matter. So right from the start all the cosmic matter was dramatically thinned. Now, nearly fifteen billion years later, the universe is still an anemic shadow of a far more robust initial state. Furthermore, even those pale scraps of plasma and interstellar gas make up only a tiny part of the "real" universe.

And yet, we care.

Ghosts we indeed are, living in a universe just as ghostly, a world that makes the pink, fluffy clouds of Heaven itself look like a WWII concrete pillbox. The matter we interact with (baryonic matter, it's called), comprises less than 5% of reality. The overwhelming majority consists of two other matter/energy states, called, with stunning originality, dark matter and dark energy. We can't touch, see, hear or smell the reality of the material universe, because the stuff doesn't interact with electromagnetism. it only shows up indirectly, through gravitational waves.

And yet, we love.

On top of all this, we are truly creatures of a day; our time spent in this world is no longer than a breath, a blink, a barely noticeable instant when held against the turnings of the cosmos. It seems impossible to have and hold anything, so quickly do we go from wombs of flesh to wombs of dust.

And yet we feel.
And yet we care.
And yet we love.

Friday, February 10, 2012

East Meets West

Here's the thing:  I have Parkinson's Disease.

Had it for about 20 years. I've been able to slow its progress considerably by a combination of medicine and electrodes placed deep in my sub-thalamus. But I'm running out of options that western medicine can provide, and so I'm considering alternatives.

I've read numerous articles on the therapeutic effects of Tai Chi, Qi Gong and the like. Although I'm a writer of fantastic fiction (used to be mostly TV; now it's mostly movies and books), I'm a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic, pragmatist and atheist. These might seem contradictory positions, but they're really not. (Think of it as cognitive dissidence.) I make a decent living writing about little green men, vampires, ghosts, etc. But it's all make believe. I don't believe any of it. I'm just grateful for whatever genetic quirk gave me the ability to make up stories and get paid to do it.

But the wonderful thing about science is that, unlike dogmatism, it thrives on being proven wrong. We learn from doing, screwing up, doing a face-palm and trying again -- until we get it right. I have no vested interest in believing in God, but on the other hand, I have nothing against being proven wrong. If Jesus Christ staged his big comeback tonight, I'd probably think -- well, probably at first I'd think he was, as John Lennon said, someone dressed up like Jesus, but after he'd, say, produced a few thousand loaves and fishes out of a bag of Long John Silver's, I might be inclined to admit that he was working some decent mojo. And if he finished up the evening's entertainment by lobbing a few lightning bolts up the collective asses of Messrs Romney, Gingrich and Santorum, I might have to admit that I may have misjudged Son'o'God. 

I'm not planning on losing any sanity points over it, however. In terms of cosmic horror Jesus can't hold a votive candle to Cthulhu, and in terms of sheer cosmic silliness it's hard to imagine any religion that rises in risability higher than Scientology, though evangelical Christianity comes about as close as any belief can. Where else but in churches deep within the Mason-Dixon singularity can one find nominal adults willing to fight for their belief that The Flintstones is a documentary?

So, as I've said, I intend to give the East a shot. There's a Tai Chi class within five minutes of my place (of course there is; this is California.) I'll let you know how it all works out.