The sum and total of world politics can be described this way: Change is inevitable. If you are on the top of the mountain, there's not a lot of room and down is where change will bring you. If you are at the base, there's lots of space but if you get tired not being able to see over anyone's head you have to climb.

Having everything to lose breeds fear and concrete walls. It breed bullets and mistrust. It is an unenviable position rife with paranoia and sleeplessness.

Having everything to gain is the root of progress. It provides infinite degrees of freedom. In time and space, yearning drives us forward.

Therefore, the poor are more fortunate than the rich.

There is a bridge. It's pretty and people will pay to cross it.

Interested?









On my twenty-second birthday I filled the white board of my cubicle with the number twenty-two, written in red erasable ink. White boards were a new technology, then. Only a few months prior I had a green chalkboard in my office along with sticks of chalk and erasers. One evening the physical plant guys came and replaced the chalkboard. It was there when I arrived to work in the morning.

I was working for RCA in Somerville, New Jersey. My first full-time job. I'd already been working there for nearly a year and a half, having started the summer of my junior year as a co-op student, and then moving to a part-timer, and then to a full-time permanent employee.

When I think of my youth it is all tangled up in my career. I spent my eighteenth birthday delivering prescriptions to shut-ins for the local pharmacy. On my thirteenth birthday I caddied 36 holes of golf. I watched my 32nd, 35th,and 37th birthdays dissolve into nothingness from the window of a 747 crossing the International Date Line.

In Antarctica, I met people in their early twenties who were spending multiple years climbing twenty-thousand foot mountains or volunteering in Nepalese orphanages or teaching English to children in Tanzania. They seemed to subsist outside of the world that required money for continued existence. They had no permanent addresses. No possessions beyond what they could carry on their backs or store in friends' garages. When their job in Antarctica was over, they were all going to Fiji.

In my world, going to Fiji required a massive outlay of capital. Plane tickets and hotels rooms would need to be booked. Island transport would need arranging. Meals bought.

None of this was a concern for the young Antarcticans. Missing a meal and sleeping on the beach was expected. When money was needed, it would arrive. Somehow. Someway.

This is the way the world works, apparently.

It was lost on me. I was making a decent salary. Buying a house. Buying a car so I could drive to work to pay for the house. Having babies to fill the house I bought with the money from the job I needed the car to drive to.

I had life insurance so my dependents would be cared for if I died. Auto insurance for when the car I needed was wrecked. Phone bills from calling my mother to tell her my life was fine. The power was on because I paid the electric bill. We took hot showers because the gas company had been sent their monthly vig. The bank would let us live in the house of which we owned less than ten percent.

I joked I only owned half of the garage. But there was a garage. And if I'd had an Antarctican friend in those days, I might have stored his stuff for him while he worked on the Beardmore glacier in the perpetual polar daytime. I would give it back to him when he got back from Tahiti, via Brunei, via Bombay, via Haifa, via Athens, via Rome, via Paris, via London, via St. John's Island with lots of hitchhiking and train travel in between.

He would have no children. No car. No house. He'd have a couple thousand bucks in an account in a bank in a state where the plane landed when he got back from the ice and which he had never been to again. He would have no spouse, but a girlfriend who had been traveling with him since New Zealand, but who was going to take off for Canada when they got to New Hampshire. He'd be heading west to Iowa to see his grandmother, whom he'd heard was sick some months ago. When he took his stuff out of my garage, it would only be to sell it, give it away, or move it to another garage while he planned his next season afoot.

There are many ways to live a life.

When I was young, I didn't know it.









"I hate Christmas," said my Antarctic friend.

To me, Christmas had always been the high holy day of the year. The one day all misery could come to a halt. Nothing hurt on Christmas. You could eat candy all day, not brush your teeth, and have no worries about cavities.

"I love Christmas," I replied.

"That's because you have a family."

Which was probably true. When I was a kid, the excitement of unearned booty appearing magically in the living room was too much to bear. Every kid is certain he does not deserve his Christmas gifts. The "naughty-or-nice" platitude was mythological. No kid is always naughty or nice. And every kid becomes an angel an hour before bedtime on Christmas eve.

First we are the children, and then we are the gift givers. Either way, there would be Christmas goodness that was larger than any of our abilities to extinguish with Scrooge-like grumpiness.

"What are you doing for Christmas?" I asked him, figuring I'd invite him to spend Christmas with me.

"Flying to Sydney. Going to hitchhike out to Alice Springs. I have a friend who lives in a town in the bush about 200 miles from there."

"Woah. Cool. How'd you drum up the money for a plane ticket to Australia? Last time I talked to you, you needed a hundred bucks to ransom the camping gear you left in the storage locker all winter."

"It showed."

"Just like that?"

"Dude. My mom gave me her old flat-screen television because she won a new one in some sort of bread contest. I mean, what am I going to do with that? So I sold it."

"A bread contest?"

"She bakes bread at the state fair."

"State fair."

"Wisconsin."

"Your mom lives in Wisconsin. I though she lived on Gayle Lane."

"Moved to Wisconsin two years ago."

"You stole your mom's TV, didn't you?"

"Man. Google it."

He left. I haven't seen him since.









A couple months later, when I next thought about it, I did an Internet search on his mother's name. She had indeed won a contest for her seven-grain gluten-free bread at the "Great Midwest Fair". She took second place. The prize was a 35" flat-screen Philips television, MSRP $2600.

The fair was in Illinois, not Wisconsin.

Technically, I hadn't been told the truth.









There's a saying that I remember as attributed to Massachusetts politician Paul Tsongas. He said this when he gave up his bid for the presidency after being beat by Bill Clinton and diagnosed with cancer.

Paul said: "No man ever looked up from his death bed and said,'I wish I had spent more time at the office.'"

He later went into remission and returned to public life. However, soon after his cancer returned and he died of pneumonia and liver failure.

While Paul's quote rings absolutely true to me, I always think of it as pertaining to other people. I suspect on my death bed I will wish I had spent more time at the office, because reaping the rewards of hard work might have kept me healthy enough to stay off my death bed until I was good and old and infirm. Or when I was good and old and infirm, I'd look up from my death bed and say, "Thank god I have this good medical plan due to my hard work at my job."

It's difficult for me to believe that on his death bed Paul Tsongas regretted the time he put into his career.









On my thirty-third birthday I got a nice card from my agent, Virginia Kidd. She'd just sold one of my stories. It was going to appear in the British edition of an anthology called, "Bleak Houses".

I called her to thank her. In her usual manner, she told me she preferred e-mail to phone calls. We also had one of the early versions of "AIM" through Compuserve available to us.

Writers should write, not speak, was what she was saying. And when the coven of her writers got together on line it was as if we had created another world for ourselves. I called it a Treehouse one day, and it stuck. The Treehouse was like AIM on fiscal steroids. One month, after spending a lot of time going through edits with V. on one of my stories, I racked up about $800 in Compuserve bills on my AMEX.

Didn't stop me, though. Looking back now I realize I spent more on Compuserve and postage than I ever made back selling stories.

It seemed to be about the selling back then. All of it.

Virginia particularly enjoyed receiving UPS packages as the UPS guy arrived in his characteristic brown shorts, which she felt made his ass look cute. So I sent her my manuscripts via UPS ground for which she thanked me regularly.

For her birthday I ordered her some flowers. Sent a card congratulating her on selling the unsellable me. She replied via Compuserve mail that the girl from the flower shop was even better eye candy than the UPS guy. Thanks.

She was, after all, a former member of the Futurians and so likely to sleep with anyone who would entertain the thought.

Though she divorced James Blish because in her own words, "He masturbated too much when he should have been doing me."

That was my 87-year old agent.

A couple months later I asked her how I could get a copy of "Bleak Houses". She told me the edition has been canceled. The editor had given up on the project.

I don't remember what my reply was. Most likely I put up a good front. Something on the order of, "Well, back to the drawing board," or, "That wasn't my favorite story anyway," or maybe I just switched the subject to what I was writing next.

Virginia put up a stoic facade on all things relating to business. She did not coddle me nor did she discourage me.

She'd say things like, "You will get sold. I'm never wrong." I was sold. She was not wrong.

In those days I thought my life depended on sold stories. I was already as old as Jesus ever got and I'd done nothing earth-shattering.

Meanwhile, Virginia lost Diana Gabaldon as a client and she'd just taken her first book to the NYT bestseller's list with Perry Knowlton. Virginia needed a winner to replace her. She'd picked four of us out of the dust over at the Compuserve writer's group just as she had Diana. Now Diana was gone we were all she had left.

Then Mac got Michelle pregnant, and her husband wasn't happy. So Mac had to leave town because Michelle's husband was hunting him with guns. I never thought Mac's stories were all that great, and he probably thought the same of me. Whether Michelle could write or not was immaterial now that she was forbidden to browse the Internet again by courts, who sided with her husband and kids. She was out of the Treehouse, forever, and I've never heard from her again (nor do I remember her last name).

Mac was not shot or killed, but had to leave his home in Canada because his wife kicked him out when she found out he'd been cohabitating with and knocking up another married woman and absconding with her and her infant child to various roadside motels along the New York Thruway.

Mac wound up living with Virginia at her house in the State Park in Milford, figuring nobody would find him there and that there'd be a good supply of writer-wannabe women coming through he could tap for various purposes. He managed to get Smith to leave her husband and children behind in Branson and move to Pennsylvania for a while for the purpose of collaboration on a novel Virginia was sure to sell. They worked on it in pieces. As far as I know it was never finished.

Virginia never sold any of Smith's stuff. Nor did she sell any of Michelle's. She sold a handful of Mac's short, randomly humorous stories, as she sold a handful of my bleaker ones. I always suspected Mac of attempting to poison the relationship between me and Virginia. He was always too suspicious of me for my own comfort, and I'd by then learned that people who harbor great suspicions are themselves doing things worthy of suspicion.

He did help me with my first website. I think that once Virginia was gone and he was on his own he realized how rough the real world was, and how little progress we were capable of making on our own without a mentor.

When I moved away to North Carolina I wrote a short story I sent to Virginia and got no reply. Around then I got a note from Smith saying that Virginia had retired to her second home, which was code for "assisted living." Virginia's right-hand man, Jim, had died of AIDS. Mac had hit the road with a young writer that Virginia had recruited into our Treehouse when I stopped my regular attendance. And anyway, they had turned Virginia's house into the Treehouse. It was no longer electronic.

Concurrent with the growth of my potential as a writer, my career began to take off in the electronics business. Money came in. I didn't have time to write.

Everything became finite. Meaning ceased to be subtle. I grew weary of the sexual politics going on in Milford and the bad luck I was having even getting Virginia to show anyone my stories, much less pursue an editor for publication. I never made a conscious decision to stop writing. When Betsy Mitchell turned down Tarantula Season after stringing me along for 18 months, I looked back on the thousands of hours I poured into the book and weighed it against the return I was getting from silicon valley. Writing became an irresponsible waste of time relative to my promotions and bonuses.

For about seven years all the magic in my life was measured in dollars for which I sacrificed all my time. I could buy anything I could think to want. I had more money than I ever thought I would make doing anything short of becoming a rock star (much more than Diana Gabaldon with her now 5 bestsellers).

All I thought about was how not to lose it. I thought about it night and day.

Then one day it disappeared. And I was free again.









When I moved to Alaska my wife gave me a card that said, "I believe in you."

It made me realize how easily I had accepted my bad luck not as chance occurrence, but as an unchangeable characteristic of my being. I had decided that the way to avoid bad luck was to subordinate my aspirations to a theory of pragmatism that dictated it was better not to try than to lose.

I was packing when I found a picture at the bottom of one of my many drawers full of electronic junk. In it were Virginia, Mac, and Smith. I chucked the Polaroid into the waste bin. I was in the process of eschewing the accumulation of my years of excess.

God knows why I fished out the picture. Why I look at it from time to time, the image of these people I knew mostly through a Compuserve chat room.

I also packed 450 double-spaced pages of my novel, Tarantula Season, replete with corrections by Virginia and other editors along the way.

I was thinking to have it bronzed and mounted on a plaque to remind me we don't escape our creations.









No man ever looked up from his death bed and said, "I shouldn't have written my life's story."









Eight months after my forty-third birthday I stepped off a C130 and onto the frozen surface of McMurdo Sound. For years I'd forgotten my dream had been to come to Antarctica. I'd even forgot that my first professional publication was a short story about Antarctica, one I sold before Virginia took me on as a client.

I'd forgotten about Mac and Michelle and Smith and Virginia. Were it not for seeing Diana's book in the airport bookstore, I'd have forgotten all about her as well (and news anchor Brian Williams, with whom I graduated high school).

I set foot on the ice in Antarctica and became a story I had to start writing.

One by one, stories came to me, as if they'd been locked in a garage for the summer along with the skis and snowmobile.

In Antarctica, I found the Antarcticans. The lost thirteenth tribe who migrated to the bottom of the earth in search of an unpromised land. Antarcticans who seemed to live in a dimension that inhabited the same space as "normal" earth, but was somehow not the same earth.

These people with no cellphones had sex and never discussed it. Went days without eating or drinking, and then drank whatever came their way in anticipation of the next dry season. They'd been everywhere on the planet. They were attached to nothing.

The idea of their life horrified me. Didn't their parents care about them? Didn't they love anyone?

"Am I supposed to live more than this life?" one said to me at an Antarctic bar, after explaining how she'd wound up in a hospital in Laos having come down with a rare parasite whose name had no English translation, the treatment for which was massive doses of laxatives.

"But who did you call when you were sick?"

"I managed to get a call out to my father, but he wasn't going to come out to the jungle. I mean, we were in the Golden Triangle. They'd probably kidnap him."

"How do you do these things. All by yourself? I can't stand being alone."

Her eyes glazed over. She went back to her bar drink. "I don't want to be, it's not like I have to be...I don't choose to be alone. I'd like. I mean. It just turns out that way."

You don't have to ask someone like that how it is they never run out of money.









One winter's day after my fifty-fifth birthday I will watch the sun bleed pink and green on a razor thin horizon. The snow on the mountains reflecting the sunset will appear in pastels closer to mauve and puce than primitive primary colors. Raptors will pierce the skies on their endless eagle-eyed hunts and whales will breech making distant booms like echoes of yesterday's thunder.

Behind me, golden light will flow from windows of my house while my wife and children set a bountiful holiday table. Every pine tree will be adorned in pinpoints of starlight and the ground will be strewn with brightly wrapped boxes. It will be difficult to hear the wind for the singing angels and the cry of my newborn grandchildren.

Everything will have changed yet again. Circles will complete. Trials will end and adventures will commence. Unexpected gifts will fall from the heavens and appear in the outstretched hands of laughing children who believe in such things, and their grandparents who having once surrendered to the drudgery of pragmatism, ascend back into the fantasy that can be truth.

I will stand beside my fathers. And my wife and children will say they always believed in me. Finally, I will too.

In that massive pause between birth and the final breath, both heart and mind will agree this life has been a magnificent experience. Though at times I had forgotten, I always had everything. And that even for all the pain and failure that seemed to dwarf those kernels of true joy, it has all been for

something.

Previous day

First post and explanation

Next day

Yesterday I taught my host mom Ring Around The Rosie and the word 'sketchy'

Friday my group in the Japanese class had to finish our survey and deploy it at the local education university for practice. I'm hardly enthusiastic about the HIF survey project, but this is the part that I was really, utterly dreading. I'm more or less totally functional in social situations these days, something I couldn't claim before, but if there's anything that still makes me extremely uncomfortable, it's going up to random strangers and asking them, out of the blue, to do something silly for me. Which this survey is.

They made things slightly easier in that they didn't just send us out into the university to go ask students changing between classes or something absurd like that. Instead, they sent us, in one big pack, into a lecture that was enjoying its break. Nonetheless, I felt sick to my stomach the whole time I had to give the survey, going up to people and bugging them and so on and so forth. Even if they were told ahead of time we were doing this, I just can't stand being troublesome like that, especially when I'm not even doing so voluntarily.

Fortunately enough, the people who took my survey didn't ask me any questions or engage me in any sort of conversation, when the shit really would've hit the fan since I know very little about my survey topic: Japanese-Russian relations. This project is all an individual grad student in my group's doing. If he could, he'd be giving the survey and its subsequent presentation it alone, but he's got to incorporate us two poor undergrads into his research.

Alright, enough of the crappy stuff. Let's talk about my AWESOME day after the survey.

I got the hell out of the packed cafeteria we'd been led to for god knows what reason with some friends I've made from the program, most of whom go to Yale. Two of the guys are an adorable couple. Urayamashii na. Anyway, we walked around the Goryokaku Park area, which is basically Chicago's Magnificent Mile by day and Belmont minus the gay ghetto by night. Lots of flashing signs written vertically, lots of chipper Japanese women chanting sales slogans, and crowds of people through which bicycles weave in and out.

Michael and Andrew wanted to get cellphones, which all the HIF students are desperately hankering for, technology dependent as we are, so the rest of us split off to Goryokaku Park itself, which was a five-star fort surrounded by a moat that's been turned into greenspace. Despite the relative newness of this fort design to Japan, the park had a feeling of antiquity and serenity. We got approached by a nice looking old man who asked us standard Japanese questions: Where are you from? Are you studying? Are you staying with host families? Ah, Americans, you like baseball, don't you? (I generally just say yes, to make it easier, though actually I'd prefer stabbing my eyes with the blunt ends of a pair of chopsticks to watching a whole game of baseball). As an aside, on an individual basis I swear the next question I'm always getting from every single Japanese stranger I'm approached by is, "Do you have a girlfriend?/Have you gotten a girlfriend here?" OMGWTFBBQ.

Anyway, the nice old man suddenly got super creepy and awkward when he told the two girls in our group they were beautiful and that he wanted a picture with himself and just the two of them. We obliged, but he couldn't understand English so the entire time we were taking the picture for him we made comments like, "I'm putting this up on Facebook and calling it 'really fucking awkward.'" and "Hai hai, Amanda and Alena and the creepy pervy old guy, say cheese!" He said something more about the girls that we didn't understand, but by the tone sounded complimentary, thanked us and we ran awaaaay, because another old guy was meandering in our direction with similar intent, it seemed.

We walked Michael and Andrew back to the cellphone shop, since they'd been made to wait a while so the shop could check the legitimacy of their passports, and while there played around with Japanese superior cellphone technology. Seriously, their cellphones make ours look like clunky Eighties monstrosities. Your fancy high tech American cellphone would make the average Japanese person snigger.

I returned home for dinner and some quality time with my laid back, loveable host family. I really did luck out. For example, everyone else's families have given them curfews and strict rules. I told my family I'd be coming back by midnight Friday night and their reply was, "Huh? You're not going to stay out later? Seriously, you can come back whenever." Other people are still using desu/masu polite verb forms with their families, mine switched to plain form before I could even get through introductions, they're teaching me crazy impolite dialect, and they're correcting my Japanese when it's not casual enough. Other people's families are telling them they don't study enough, mine tells me I shouldn't study so much (okay, so my parents told me that too. And my friends. And my roommate. And my house masters when I lived in the dorm at the university. So it's kind of a running gag, but anyway).

After dinner, the lot of us HIF students met back in Goryokaku for another round of drunken karaoke. As my host father was driving me there, he started telling me that I should be careful and that the area around Goryokaku is kinda sketchy at night ("Sometimes people sell drugs there!!!" OH SHIT NOES.) but he stopped himself mid-warning, laughed, and said, "Uh, right, totally just forgot you've lived in Chicago. Never mind, you know what to do." It was heartwarming, in a really fucked up sort of way.

Karaoke was karaoke. I'm a fairly good singer and I get into it when I'm drunk, the problem is that I can't pick songs. I don't like top twenty pop music or classics, so I'm no good at choosing things everyone else'll be able to sing. "Buddy Holly" by Weezer went down well enough, but the Foo Fighters or Nine Inch Nails don't settle well with a varied crowd (though I bet if my Madison friends were here, we'd do a ringing rendition of some of the Linkin Park songs they had on dial... hehe). Anyway, number one success of the night was Avril Lavigne's "Complicated." The fact that I sang my heart out to Avril Lavigne stays between you, me, and the interwebs.

After karaoke, I had a very drunken, very fluent and boisterous conversation with the taxi driver the whole way back. I'd tell you more, but I mostly just remember that for some reason I kept dropping out of desu/masu until I finally just said 'fuck it' and stuck to plain form, which he was using the whole time anyway. He also asked me (government mandated) "you like baseball, right?" and "do you have a girlfriend?" Sheesh.

When I got home, I was apparently extremely entertaining to my host mother. I also apparently devoured an apple with rather terrifying enthusiasm. What can I say... I get the munchies when I'm drunk.

I think I'm coming down with strep. Nodo ga itai zo. Otherwise everything's chill.

Peace and love yo.

My most honoured colleagues, of the Royal Society of London,

It is with no small amount of hesitation that I write to you with a humble request for your assistance, in the matter of conducting a full enquiry into a series of events that transpired at my laboratory on the afternoon of August twenty-third of this year. Having endeavoured to conduct such an enquiry myself, my efforts have been stymied by a lack of tangible evidence that might point toward any particular conclusion; and perhaps by my own inability to see past the complications I have encountered, and perceive a single crystalline solution; which is why I feel it would be beneficial to have assistance from those who are by their nature impartial.

The matter is complicated by the nature of those experiments, which I have been conducting over the past year. I have, in past, written to you at length regarding this project; but I am not so presumptuous as to assume that any of you might recollect its details, with no reminder whatever:

It has long been known, that our own senses are subjected to various infirmities the like of which might be corrected through the use of instruments, to aid the perception; in particular through the use of such optical glasses as can make the far distant manifest to our eyes, as though it lay immediately before us; and as can magnify even particles so small as to be invisible to the unaided eye, that we might observe them. It has more recently become evident that these very phaenomena that are so distant to our everyday perception, may have more profound effects upon those things that we perceive unaided, than we knew before; that the tidal habits of our oceans, result from the influence of the Moon; or that sickness, is caused by creatures imperceptibly small in size.

It is this notion, that that which is imperceptible by the unaided eye might have such effects as are manifestly evident, which guided the course of my experimentation; I sought to create an instrument that might aid the perception of other imperceptible factors that influence the visible world, namely, the supernatural. The instrument—to which I have not yet given a name, as it remains incomplete—functions, or is intended to function, following the same underlying principle as my colleague M. von G-----'s observations of colour: that, in the case of those phaenomena previously ill-understood, it is best to observe in a sidelong manner, rather than confronting the matter directly; and in the case of my instrument and its aim particularly, the barest glimpse of the Godly or the ghostly is precisely as unprecedented, as would be a close examination.

After some months of preparations I had constructed a working model, which matched the image of the instrument I held in my mind's eye; and on the afternoon of August the twenty-third I and my associate P----- set its workings into motion to test its effectiveness; for though it was incomplete, it ought to have functioned as we planned it to. I had just set my eye to the eye-piece of the instrument, and was adjusting the length of the optical tube to which it was attached; when above the whir of the machinery there came a terrible screech the origin of which I could not readily determine; and which lasted but a few moments, but echoed even more terribly for what seemed like minutes afterward; and it brought with it a brilliant flash of light which blinded me temporarily, and a sudden gust of hot wind, of sufficient force to knock me from my feet. Upon regaining my sight I looked round for P----- because I had not heard him shout with surprise; and I discovered that he had not so shouted because he was lying stone dead upon the floor; and the expression on his face was one of horror, as though he had been frightened to death. His body had no other mark upon it; and try as I might I could not close his eyelids; as though whatever had frightened him so would not relinquish its hold upon him, even in death.

I have been reluctant to call upon the help of the police, for two reasons: firstly, that since P----- and I were alone in my laboratory at the time of the incident, suspicion would naturally fall upon me, my protestations notwithstanding; and secondly, that if the incident were indeed a result of supernatural intervention of some sort, as I believe it to have been—though I cannot conceive of what could have gone so terribly awry, as to have caused such a series of events—Scotland Yard is hardly the sort of authority that can claim to preside over the wrongdoer.

Therefore I beseech your aid, with some urgency; as I fear that word of this matter cannot be contained indefinitely; my laboratory and its instruments are in disarray, and I am loath to restore them to their working order before a full enquiry has been conducted; the patron of my laboratory, Lord R----- of L-----, is distraught by the idea of anything gone amiss, and has threatened to withdraw his support; and my laboratory assistants, Messrs. B----- and M-----, are hesitant to return to their tasks, amid the disorder.

I pray you not take me at my word and dismiss me thus, but that your curiosity compels you to investigate for yourselves; nullius in verba, gentlemen.

I remain faithfully,
Yr. obt. svt.

I saw Calvin peeing today.

Of course you know which Calvin I refer to. Calvin, aka Spaceman Spiff, Grogg the Destroyer, Tyrannosaurus the Terrible, the little six year-old with an imagination to the stars who lives in a zen state with his id, a stuffed tiger named Hobbes.

I don't remember what it was that Calvin was peeing on. Usully you see the sign on the back window of one brand of pickup truck and he's peeing on the logo of another brand. Or he's peeing on whatever the vehicle owner doesn't like. I've even seen him on his knees praying to a giant, glowing cross.

Of course if you're familiar with the strip Calvin and Hobbes you realize that Calvin himself would not have done any of those things. While Calvin himself was capable of great imaginary violence against things more powerful than he, Calvin would never stoop to peeing on them. That would be crude and ordinary, something requiring no imagination. The strength of Calvin's character came from his inventiveness, his ability to twist his teacher, Miss Wormwood, into a giant insectoid bent on world destruction, and to somehow incorporate her reality into his own imaginary world. Nor was Calvin likely to bend his knee and pray, though he might at some level. Calvin was a secular character. Calvin as a fundamentalist could not be Calvin.

No, Calvin would never stoop to peeing on something. Why do that when you can just send an army of dinosaurs to do the job, or blast it with an olfacto-bomb?

I can imagine Calvin's creator, Bill Watterson, becoming furious every time he sees one of these stickers. Watterson has many times made clear his opposition to any marketing his creation. An idealistic man, he did not want to see his strip corrupted by crass commercialism. And these stickers are the worst kind of commercialism, for the makers claim they are not the Calvin, when they so clearly are drawn to be him. Of course they are not really Calvin, but a crude debased form of him, a pure example of the very crasssness Watterson despises.

For the length of its run, every day I looked forward to opening my newspaper to see the latest misadventure of Calvin, Hobbes, his father, struggling mother and abominable snowmen. One day Watterson stopped drawing the strip, exhausted and fed up. That was over a decade ago and we haven't heard a peep from him since. Not one strip, one book, nothing whatsoever from one of the late 20th century's comic geniuses. It's as if he dropped off the earth.

Bill Watterson deserves his retirement. He gave the world far more than I ever will in my mundane life. His legacy of already completed strips is timeless and will delight generations long after he leaves this earth. Yet i wish he would not stop, and wonder if back in his brain there still are more stories there, waiting to come out, more laughter for a world so dominated by division and tragedy. Reading 'Calvin and Hobbes took me away from that world for but a moment every day, and I long to fly the spaceways of Calvin's imagination again.

When I see one of those stickers I don't see Calvin peeing upon Chevrolet. bin Laden, or any of the other target of opportunity. I think it is the owner who is peeing upon Calvin, debasing and commercializing him. Perhaps these cheap imitations may stand in the way of a few more episodes of the real Calvin, the one whose mad scientist's chortle always leads to delight.

Wow! you scrolled all the way down here to see me! I'm touched! Apollyon's Adventures in India back to August 24, 2006

Back in Bombay! We have checked into the Astoria only to discover that our last Bombay hotel was ripping us off. Our room was so good (for the same price) that the rest of the day went brilliantly. We literally did cartwheels and jumped on the beds when we saw it. It has hot water, air conditioning you can control, a little light in the closet, a fridge and a balcony overlooking the centre of Bombay.
Bliss!

The Prince of Wales Museum is a great way to use two hours. The statues are better at Agenta but the weapons and Chinese and Japanese collection are really interesting. The architecture is worth a look on its own.

I’ve been getting this double take from westerners. They look at you and seem very pleased but then look away embarrassed to have been momentarily 'racist'.
Visiting a foreign country is a stretch of your empathy. You have to think and feel into the people in order to understand their culture and their motivations. It is very tiring. This is probably why we feel so good when we come back from holiday. It isn't the holiday that relaxes us, but it's the return to an easy and recognisable way of life that makes us happy. I am, like most people, very lazy in this respect. I have said this many times now: 'racism is caused by laziness, not hatred'. Is it racist to want to be with someone like yourself, to not have to try quite as hard to understand someone or explain yourself or en-un-ci-ate everything correctly? Is it racist to feel fully understood when you talk? No it isn't. (I was wrong.) However the feeling is so close, this rejection of 'where you are' over 'where you come from', that people are embarrassed when they express this desire for normalcy.
Sanket is the complete opposite. I'm still working out what that means.

I have had the opportunity to speak about my religious beliefs on two occasions in India and they have always been accepted well. I normally start of with an explanation of Bruce Lee's theories on martial arts: "I do not belive that there is such thing as like chinese way of fighting or japanese way of fighting ... because unless human being have three arms and four legs we will have a different form of fighting". (this goes down particularly well in a county with hindu as the main religion, I once counted 18 arms 18 legs and 10 heads on a statue of Ganesh, I think that even Bruce Lee would have difficulty fighting him!)
And so I explain how with all the different styles of martial arts from tai chi to boxing the objective is to overcome your opponent. I then move on to say how in every religion on earth is dominated by the same essential messages that repeat themselves over and over again.
For example the Native Americans have a phrase that when translated says: 'behave with your neighbour like you want them to behave with you'. It is messages like this, the genuinely good goals that religions pursue (there are some aspects of Satanism that are admirable too), that makes me an omni-theist.
Whether or not you believe in God, it is undeniable that if you cut faith out of your life you miss out on something that is essential to the human experience. (Whether or not humans have been made by God or vice versa)

Religious zealots strike me as a group of people who have decided to buy a car. They have all agreed on the make, the model, and the extras but they can’t decide on the colour.
So they kill each other.
It is for this reason that I stay away from any form of organisation in religion.

I had a very strange experience last night. Halfway through the night I came to some sort of realisation concerning the ideas I had just expressed above. I had turned over because I was going to wake Sanket up and tell him.
Sanket woke up, grabbed my hand and in a Highest British accent I'’ve ever heard said:
'Yes; yes of course she could just, come in here and, steal anything!'
His eyes were staring straight at me and he was wide awake. He then said two sentences in Hindu (as if he was in conversation) to the end of the bed and fell back to sleep in an instant.
I remember seeing white robes at the end of the bed.
Even though I had spent most of the last three days travelling I couldn't sleep for the rest of the night.
I think that I had been 'told' something that I wasn't supposed to tell anyone else. I have believed for the last four years that you have to have a very poor memory to understand the meaning of life. I will, given time, explain on this website why I believe that this is true.

It turns out that Sanket, the consummate atheist, thought he had seen a burglar.

Nothing was missing.

Forward to August 27, 2006

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