Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Visitor From A Type-4 Civilization

Richard May by Richard May

"My" cat, Jessie, a renowned Zen master with cosmological interests, is apparently from a type-4 cat civilization. She is attempting to alter the fabric of space-time in such a way as to broaden the wormholes connecting her universe with parallel universes, which she explained to me are simply other quantum states of this universe from the perspective of her Zen quantum cosmology. Such broadened wormholes are called "mouseholes", according to Master Jessie.

She has not yet revealed to me whether she is simply looking for a safe retreat in which to spend her ninth (parallel) life or is searching for "parallel mice" in the universe next door. At night she claims to disappear into the interstices of brane worlds in pursuit of "dark mice", which may perhaps be exotic subatomic particles. By day she appears to watch creatures unseen by me fly by in higher-dimensional space, which she freely explores in her dream body.

When not meditating on the sound of "her original mew, before the universe was born", she contemplates the implications of super string theory and/or M theory for the movement of her tail. Sometimes I am privileged to eat from her bowl.


Terrorism: What Is it?

author - September 2003
by Martin Hunt

Most of us agree that terrorists are murderous bastards. But there are many sorts of murderous bastards. Are all murderous bastards terrorist? The Beltway snipers from a few years ago sure did spread terror - but should they be placed in the same category as suicide bombers motivated by bad religion and oppression?

Nobody doubts that the attack on 9/11 was a terrorist attack. The attack on Baghdad in the spring of 2003 was a terrorist attack too. The very term used to describe the strategy by the Pentagon; "Shock and Awe", refers to the terror that the US leaders hoped to create among Iraqis in order to minimize their resistance to invasion. The "Shock and Awe" image is particularly disturbing, because for a long time the Western democracies had tried to not be terrorists - UN peacekeeping missions were the opposite of terrorism - people risking their lives in very difficult situations to try and make populations feel safe enough to resume normal life.

Nobody doubts that suicide bombers are terrorist weapons. The point of terror is to make people scared that they will be killed or mutilated as they innocently go about their daily business. This fear is supposed to generate a political instability that will cause old power structures to collapse and new ones to arise. In this view the Beltway Snipers, terrifying as they were, were not terrorists - they were extortionists - guys out for a quick buck.

We forget that terror, as a weapon, has a long history. Israel wouldn't exist without the terrorist atrocities committed by Zionists led by Menachim Begin 50 years ago. The British were driven from Palestine by terror. A friend of mine's father was there at the time, as a British soldier. He tells of Zionists murdering people, and then booby trapping their bodies with bombs to also get the ambulance crew. My point here isn't to vilify Israel -- its only to point out that terrorism isn't only a vile tactic used against us by outsiders. Terrorism is a weapon that has been used by the ruthless through the ages - and all peoples and nations have their fair share of ruthless and violent people clawing after power, for whatever reason.

There is another aspect of terrorism that we often forget. The American people were understandably traumatized by the events of 9/11. Much of the world was traumatized by that. But surely it must be acknowledged that a large proportion of the trauma grew out of the presentation of those terrible events on TV. Hour after hour, day after day, people saw those planes slamming into those towers. Hour after hour we saw photos of the victims in the tower hurtling to the ground. I still have an image in my mind of a bald guy in mid air - head pointed to the ground, his body curled into a fetal position. My point here is that that kind of coverage magnifies the terror generated by the events tremendously.

So, in the contemporary world, some governments are using terrorist acts done by others to terrorize its own population into passive obedience. Even now, five years down the road we live in a situation where governments use terrorist acts as an excuse to do whatever they want. According to recent reports, Donald Rumsfield was agitating for an attack on Iraq the day after 9/11. He'd been wanting to do that for years, and here was his excuse. My view is that a government that uses terror in this way is itself using terror as a tool - my definition of terrorism above covers this situation very neatly.

On 9/11 al Quaeda carried out a terrorist action against the USA, and more broadly against all of the open societies in the world. I'm not particularly clear about what al Quaeda hoped to accomplish with such an act. But it is clear that many people have seized upon that attack as an excuse to transform democracy. I think that its not unreasonable to say that these people are actually trying to destroy democracy as we know it by instituing such a severe regime of security and secrecy that the citizens will not be well enough informed about their society to be able to make rational decisions.

For me, terrorism is a weapon. Weapons are used in war. I don't think that terrorism, as a weapon, is any worse than cruise missiles, atomic bombs, invasion forces or any of the other military capabilities possessed by the governments of the world. It would be nice to say that terror is too inhumane to be used because it kills so many non-combatants. All warfare kills non-combatants, and all warfare terrorizes non-combatants. It's a bit too cute to single out terrorism as intolerable while we think of the rest as being honorably military.

I have an extreme abhorrence for terrorists. For me though, George Bush is the biggest terrorist in the world. Ariel Sharon is a terrorist too. Just this summer, in Lebanon, we witnessed a war where both sides were obviously terrorsts - attacking each other's civilian populations to try and force political change. Osama Bin Laden is a terrorist also, but a minor one - one created in fact by the US in Afghanistan in the 1980's. Bin Laden is a traitor of course in that he has turned against his sponsors. But he's not the big guy.

I sure hope that this will not be construed as an anti-American rant. It's not my intention. My intention is merely to point out that if we are to resist the anti-democratic direction that our society is going that a lot of people will have to realize that they are being emotionally manipulated to have a "knee-jerk" reaction to whatever the government chooses to label "terrorist". We need to resist this manipulation and regain our perspective. If we allow democracy to be destroyed, then we will have thrown away something of tremendous value in a futile effort to be "safe". Our biggest protection is our democratic values. If we throw away our liberty then we will not be safe.


A brief history of modern chess

Albert Frank
author - a former chess
champion of Brussels.
by Albert Frank

The current rules of chess have been used since about 1580, starting in Italy. At the end of the 16th century and during the 17th century, the best players of the word were Spanish and Italian. In the 18th century, the supremacy went to France (Philidor and La Bourdonnais). In the 19th century, England became the most important country for chess. The London chess club was founded in 1807.

The title of Chess Champion of the World dates officially to 1886 (Steinitz), but even before that some players were known to be the best of their time. A dated list of the best players of the word is the following:

Andre Philidor (France) 1747 – 1795
Louis La Bourdonnais (France) 1821 – 1840
Howard Staunton (England) 1843 – 1851
Adolf Anderssen (Germany) 1851 – 1858
Paul Morphy (U.S.A.) 1858 – 1859
William Steinitz (Austria) 1866 – 1894
Emanuel Lasker (Germany) 1894 – 1921
Jose Raoul Capablanca (Cuba) 1921 – 1927
Alexander Alekhine (Russia/France) 1927 – 1935
Max Euwe (Holland) 1935 – 1937
Alexander Alekhine (Russia/France) 1937 – 1946
Mikhail Botvinnik (U.S.S.R.) 1948 – 1957
Vassily Smislov (U.S.S.R.) 1957 - 1958
Mikhail Botvinnik (U.S.S.R.) 1958 – 1960
Mikkail Tal (U.S.S.R.) 1960 – 1961
Mikhail Botvinnik (U.S.S.R.) 1961 – 1963
Tigran Petrossian (U.S.S.R.) 1963 – 1969
Boris Spassky (U.S.S.R.) 1969 – 1972
Bobby Fischer (U.S.A.) 1972 – 1975
Anatoly Karpov (U.S.S.R.) 1975 – 1985
Garry Kasparov (U.S.S.R.) 1985 – ?

We see a supremacy of the (ex) Soviet Union, starting in 1948. (Alekhine who became a French citizen and died in 1946.)

Two Americans have been World champion. Another American, Hans Berliner, was also world champion by correspondence in 1968. Dr. Berliner's work with computer chess at Carnegie University attracted world attention. His Hi-tech program was one of the first to defeat chess masters.

Most people consider Robert James (Bobby) Fischer to have been the best chess player of all time, but some consider Paul Morphy to have been as good as Fischer. Let's have a look at a game that Paul Morphy won in only seventeen moves against Adolf Anderssen who was the best in the world for the eight years before him. This game, played only a few days before Christmas, is a wonderful example of Morphy's skill in creating a situation where his tactical skills could wreak havoc and devastation.

Morphy – Anderssen, 1858

diagram #1

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e6 5. Nb5 (diagram #1)

Taimanov variation of the Sicilian. It's inter-esting to see such a modern opening being played well over a century ago.

5... d6 6. Bf4 e5 7. Be3 f5?

Anderssen seeks to open things up and give himself an opportunity to launch one of his dazzling attacks. This had always worked for him before, but it played into Morphy's hands. Modern opening theory considers this to be a weak move for Black. (More common now is 7... Nf6 8. Bg5 a6.)

8. N1c3!

Morphy continued his development in preparation for punishing Black's premature aggression.

8... f4 9.Nd5!

Better than anyone before him, Morphy understood the value of initiative and how it is often much more important than mere material.

9... fxe3

Anderssen was already in trouble, but this move would only add to it. Kf7 might have been wiser.

diagram #2

10.Nbc7+ (diagram #2)

10... Kf7

[10...Kd7 11.Qg4#]

11. Qf3+?

Now that his target had been driven into the open, Morphy pursued relentlessly. In this case though, it was a mistake. Nxa8 would have been a much better move; Morphy's immediate pursuit of the black king would have given Anderssen a small chance to draw.

11... Nf6 12. Bc4 Nd4! 13. Nxf6+ d5!

It's unlikely that Anderssen has calculated all variations after Kg6, but his instincts told him it led to disaster. [13... Kg6 14. Qh5+ Kxf6 15. Ne8+ Qxe8 16. Qxe8 Nxc2+ (16... d5 17. 0–0–0 !) 17. Kf1 e2+ ! (17... Nxa1 18. g4 !) 18. Bxe2 Nxa1 19. g4 ! and despite a good material balance Black is defenseless against the new wave of attack. -- Kasparov]

14. Bxd5+ Kg6?

[14...Qxd5 was the safest option, although White has an advantage in the endgame: 15.Nfxd5+ Nxf3+ 16.gxf3 exf2+ 17.Kxf2; 14...Ke7 ! could have made Morphy regret his over-ambitious 11th move, e.g. 15.Qh5 gxf6 16.Qf7+ Kd6 17.Nxa8 -- Kasparov]

digram #3

15. Qh5+ (diagram #3)

15... Kxf6 16.fxe3!

A classic Morphy move! The open f-file ends and with it any hope Black has had. His King is exposed and the White rook has an open file to join the attack. [The tempting 16. Ne8+ ? 16... Qxe8 17. Qxe8 Bb4+ would have been disastrous for White.]


Paul Morphy - 1859

Anderssen could have held out a little longer with Qxc7, but the end result would still have been the same. [16... Qxc7 17. Rf1+ Nf5 18. Rxf5+ ! 18... Bxf5 19. Qxf5+ Ke7 20. Qe6+ Kd8 21. 0–0–0 ! 21... Bd6 22. Bxb7 -- Kasparov]

17. Ke2

Black resigned. Anderssen realized that his exposed king with White's pieces all about, is doomed, especially with the open f-file. It was a very impressive demolition of the strongest European player of the time.


Working with "The Given"

by Fred Vaughan

This article was included in the 38th Philosopher's Carnival.

The realization that objective reality in its most basic manifestation involves exclusively subjective phenomena is an introspective “discovery” made in antiquity. For sentient beings there is a subject-defining awareness of comprehensive sets of changing sensations or perceptions commonly just referred to as “experience” but more appropriately denominated “the given” since this precedes even the subject for which it becomes experience. Because of repeated coincidences, the given “appears” to be derived at least in part from external “objects” that we would be crazy to ignore but still are not all that well confirmed. Thus, like periwinkles, we vulnerable sentient beings create a material shell around ourselves prior to any awareness using only the given and our own neurological secretions.

In addition to the creation of a physical world based on hypotheses that correlate aspects of this experiential data, the spontaneous dynamic emergence and disappearance of seemingly identical aspects suggests the concept of time. Apparent regularities in these changes provide the traditional meanings that have been given to time.

So inveterate is the habitual nature of our epistemological quest that we seldom even acknowledge the given from which it all derives. It has neither form nor substance; all one can say of it is that it is. It is by its very nature sentient being, the precursor of subject and object – the inchoate stuff of that which is real. If we would understand the real, then we must understand it.

I said sentient beings – not just thinking beings nor yet exclusively rational beings because it is more basic than that. And for this reason, we rational beings too typically consider neither the wealth of this plethora nor the terrors of puncturing through its shared surface with insanity – this rim of a multidimensional plateau separating being from nothingness.

Like those of us, blind without optical prostheses, who search long and hard for our instruments only to bump them as we attempt to rub our weary eyes, we are oblivious to how we see the world. But let’s poke at this invisible membrane just a little. The rest of you can stand guard and yell very loudly, “Have a nice day!” or “Oh, my God, it’s raining out!” if we seem to dangle too precariously over an edge. Please scream it out loudly.

At our stage of evolutionary development we are immersed so deeply in hierarchical strata of reality that it seems like our object creations are all there are and we wonder where and what we are. You ask someone to envision a house and it’s the one on Oak Street with the dormers and kitchen sink they remember from childhood but that isn’t the aspect of house-ness you meant; you try again. You want to discuss something basic like “seeing” and a landscape complete with rocks and trees or moor usurps the conversation. Once a tree acquires a needle, it ceases to be a useful concept except in very restricted conversations of conifers – and if it’s a long needle, dispense with hemlock, tamarack and fir. We need some brakes on this thing to keep each other from trampling on our visions – splashing in our given. If you want to talk about a “tree”, a “house”, a “sink”, there is no problem; we have engineered our world to accommodate these terms but they are not reality. So that, if there is some additional aspect of tree-ness that may be essential to you in a current quest, you will only learn it from the given, not from object catalogues, not from current theories of tree growth. Finally, too often in despair we discuss the kitchen sink, the rocks, the moor, growth rings and dream of one day sharing givens.

If you are a Volkswagen mechanic specializing in transmissions or a statistician who enjoys nothing more than applying regression formulas, a taxonomist…in short, if you are a doer with standard tools, words, or numbers and have seen nothing that limits your expression, you’ve wasted far too much time on this article already. Be up and at 'em!

For those still looking for meaning beneath the symbols, be advised of caveats before abandoning the shell to work with the given: It has no handles and is by its very nature fragile. If you cannot handle ridicule or self doubt for errors or stupidity, you need to pick a different genre for your creations; stick to being a mechanic, an engineer or develop taxonomies – pump some gas and sell some fries. Be a CEO; make a little money.

However, if you aspire to discovering something new, something basic about our universe you need not look in Random House, Colliers or Britannica – it isn't there. Yet! Nor will periodic peer review get you there; your peers don’t know it either! The great thinkers who have discovered what is new have all been skilled at working directly with the given; they have had to be; there is no other source of truly new ideas. Again, some further caveats: All the obvious invariances within the given have been exploited by paramecia as well as many that are not so obvious. But the given is rich with subtle meaning for those attune to its resonances.

There are several ways to work with the given: Obviously you can just let it happen because it is what happens. But it can also be manipulated in subtle ways to reveal its secrets. Patterns in the given which the natural habits of our mind careen on into objects can be studied in their own right so as to forestall precipitous ossification. We can capture patterns in their pre-object state and play with molten classes of objects not yet precluded by defining operations on our own perspective which slice through possibilities, revealing by isomorphism the one represented by the many. Or we can grasp objects already mined from the tensile ores of the given and recreate primordial impressions to determine what can be known beyond the acknowledged attributes of an object more or less as one might stroll through an art gallery not to create but to more deeply appreciate and understand the process of art. Or patterns, whose interpretation has been rushed or forced to fit some nominal mold, may be enjoyed as pure unto themselves while we explore some alternative essence unsullied by crude interpretation.

If you insist on retaining a talisman, you will have a difficult time, but do what you can.


Joey and the Great Green Cat Head

by Charmaine Frost

Whenever Joey passed Hyde House, he pushed his nose between the bars of the tall wrought-iron fence and stared into the garden of giant green animals. A seated bloodhound raised its green snout skyward; shadows etched folds in its mournful face. A rattlesnake spiraled upward in stacked coils towards an arced neck and poised, vigilant head; an iguana as long as Joey's backyard basked in the sunlight, watching him with one hooded green eye while its crisply demarcated scales glowed. In the center of the garden, the great cat head rose as high as a house, its ears pitched forward alertly, its oval eyes focusing intensely; alternating lines of darker bluish-green and pale jade green striped the face in a tabby-cat pattern.

"It's a topiary, Joey," his father said. "They prune bushes in the shapes of animals. Probably yew bushes up there, but I can't be sure; I never got close enough to see the leaves, and neither has anyone else I know."

"I'd stay away from there," his mother warned, "They say it's a bad place".

When he walked home from school, and on Saturdays when his mother thought he was playing ball with the other boys, Joey stopped at the fence. Never interested in art before, he pulled out a sketchbook and green pencil, and sat for hours by the fence drawing the animals he saw. He took the sketchbook home; at first, he only drew in his room, then he drew in front of the TV, then at the dinner table when he was supposed to be eating.

His father noticed how detailed and lifelike the drawings were, like the renderings of a mature artist, and marveled at the boy's long hidden talent. His mother noticed how each of the lifelike animals was composed of tiny leaves and how the skeletons, barely visible under the green covering, were built from branches with thick, scaly bark.

"Maybe you should try drawing something else, Joey," she suggested, working to hide her frown. "And use other colors, not just green". But Joey continued drawing calmly; he didn't even glance at her or shrug. Talking to him when he was drawing was like talking to a ghost.

"You really should stay away from that house; I've seen you up there, peeking through the fence," a visiting neighbor warned. "Bad people lived up there, maybe still live up there."

"What do you mean, 'bad people'?", Joey asked.

"Well, I don't know if I believe it myself, but some of the old timers say that Miss Hyde was a witch, the last in a long line of witches who lived up there."

"A witch!" Joey's mother snickered as she set pound cake on the table, urging Joey and the guest to eat. "She was an eccentric, that's for sure. Any woman who builds a new wing on her house, so that each of her ten cats can have its own bedroom, qualifies an odd ball. Maybe even a card-carrying wacko. But a witch?" The cats lounged on velvet seats and eiderdown comforters draping state-of-the-art mattresses under ceilings painted with frescos of leaping, wide-eyed mice. At last sighting, the old recluse's gray hair jutted in matted spikes around a drawn, ashen, beak nosed face, but that fit a crazy woman who never went outdoors.

Joey let the pound cake soften into a mushy sweetness that coated his tongue, washed it down with a gulp of Coke, and listened as the dancing carbonated bubbles pricked and teased the inside of his mouth. The sketchbook bulged in his back pocket, a hard rectangle straining against the denim, momentarily forgotten.

"But there are stories," The neighbor insisted as she poured grown-up black coffee into a grown-up china cup. " Stories from reliable people, not just tall tales from drunks staggering behind O’Hara’s Bar. Like the story, from Judge Hendricks himself, that no one's ever seen a bird or a squirrel or a rabbit or even an insect in that garden. With all that shrubbery, one would expect to see a robin or a rabbit wouldn't they?"

Joey's mother poured cream slowly into her coffee, watching the white cascade as if watching a world moving in slow motion. "But," she drawled, "You wouldn't notice a robin unless you were looking for one. And if everyone rushes by the place, afraid to look in because they think its haunted, then who's going to see a bird? They don't stop to look at anything in there."

Joey felt for his green pencil, a stub wedged in the bottom of his shirt pocket; mother's point was logical.

"Well, some people have looked," the neighbor snapped. "Watched the place for an hour, according to Judge Hendricks. And what do you make of all those stories of small dogs getting loose from their leashes, squeezing between the fence posts, racing into the garden and never being seen again? Like Mrs. Hunt's pekinese? Or the doctor's iguana? Or Mr. Marchand's dachshund? Don't tell me the dachshund got lost in there. That was a hound, and hounds can smell their way home through a garbage dump."

Joey's mother slid the pound cake back into its cellophane wrapping and shrugged. "Stories. Small town legends. Maybe the dogs were eaten by a coyote or fox that lives up there; it wouldn't be the first time that a coyote snacked on a pekinese. Or maybe the dogs ran out the other side, wandered a little further, and got taken home by someone driving down the highway. Wouldn't be the first time that a cute dog got stolen either."

The neighbor sighed. Joey's mother squeezed the carton of cream into the refrigerator, snugly between a pot of left-over stew and a plastic vat of low calorie, low fat, calcium fortified artificial butter.

"It's not like I encourage him the go up there, I've told him a hundred times to keep away." She glared at the boy. "But not because of any witches. Just because the old crone, who'd only be 80, might still be alive in there and quite mad. Mad enough to greet visitors with a loaded Remington. Or mad enough to have let all her cats turn feral in their velvet bedrooms. If we really worried about our kids' safety, we'd call Social Service or the Area Agency for Aging, have a professional look at the woman; she might need a hospital."

Everyone had heard the "Granny Get Your Gun" story. Miss Hyde had stomped across her porch floorboards, a threadbare taffeta gown dappled irregularly with fuchsia swishing behind her, and threatened the UPS delivery man with a rifle; the man noticed the hair legs and yellow talon toenails, stammered apologies as he backed away from the crevice-thin lips and pointing gun, then fled to his truck and quit his job the next day. Gossips reported that Miss Hyde had painted all the first floor windows black on the inside, so that no one could see in, and that she fed herself for years without ever leaving the house or accepting visitors. Joey wondered how the adults, who avoided the house and its hexes, knew about the painted windows.

"What do you make of the story that no one's ever seen a caretaker or gardener on the grounds, while the topiary remains perfectly pruned? That kind of garden needs a lot of maintenance; it's not a made-for-convenience, seed it and forget about it variety." The neighbor leaned against the back door and folded her arms across her chest.

"I don't know, " Joey's mother muttered. "But Joey's not stopping there any more, are you Joey?"

Joey shrugged and felt for his sketchbook.

Joey waited until he heard his father's rhythmic snoring; then he climbed out his window, tiptoed across the flat porch roof to an overhanging maple branch, crawled along the branch until he could drop to the one beneath it, then jumped to the cool, sound absorbing grass. Escape always was easy; a soft thud never awakened his parents, not in a house where settling walls and the wind interrupted the night with frequent thumps and creaks.

Joey didn't believe in witches, in a Hansel and Gretel world where wart faced hags shoved kids into ovens, roasted them, and chopped them into mincemeat eaten alongside a peppery soup of boiled cat and sautéed frog eyes. That was the land of tooth fairies with dragonfly wings, hop-along chocolate Easter bunnies, Santa Claus and magically fleet reindeer with electric red noses. Joey had grown too old and big for that world; he bumped his head on its ceilings.

Now, with good Samaritan busybodies watching out for him by day, he had to visit the garden at night, when everyone but the man in the moon slept.

He poked his nose between the bars and gaped at the giant cat head, gray and black, instead of green, at night. The eyes, luminescent and nocturnal, glowed with the inner fire of opals. In the moonlight, the spiky twigs jutted up from the ears, even more starkly hair-like than by day. The hum of traffic on the distant highway calmed and reassured him, like a purr from the cat's belly deep within the earth.

The fence was high but he could scale it; he wedged his shoe between the wrought iron vines that looped and swirled around the support poles, and climbed.

Joey inched forward, then stopped. If crazy old Miss Hyde was a witch, her topiary animals might come to life, charging him with horns as long as his bedroom; the sleeping green hound might awaken to guard duty and devour him in its snarling fanged mouth. The cat head might rise out of the soil, on great earthen loins that transformed into furry brown haunches; the cat mouth might hiss and rain spittle on him from three storeys up. He minced closer, seeing for the first time each of the slender veined leaves on the iguana's back; nothing snorted or rusted in the windless garden.

Mrs. Hyde wasn't a witch, he told himself, just an old lady with eccentric tastes in gardening and pet care. Silently, he slipped off each shoe and strolled barefoot through the grass towards the garden's interior that no one could see from the fence. Dirty shoes, encrusted with street grit and patches of hardened gum, would defile the lawn and its poised, perfect menagerie. He suppressed a cough; even the softest grunt would taint the purity of the cool, weightless, expectant silence.

"Don't go there," Joey recalled his mother's voice, sharp as a snapping twig. "And can't you use a different color pencil? Not just green?"

Joey tiptoed past topiary raccoons and toads. If he had his sketchbook now, he'd color the animals the bluish silver of moonlight reflecting off shiny leaves, draw them shining against shadows as black as windows darkened against the world. He swatted at a gray speck that fluttered in front of his face and landed to tickle his arm; then he rubbed away a dark blotch and a powdery wing. The adults were wrong; insects did live in here.

"Don't you wonder why no squirrels or birds live in there? With so many plants, you'd expect lots of birds." He heard the neighbor's nasal voice that sterilized life with its nearly ultrasonic screeches; recalling her talk, he momentarily saw the moon as a scoured white ball dripping antiseptically thin blue light over bushes as coldly untouchable as perfectly buffed chrome.

"And what about all the dogs that wander in and never come out?" He remembered the neighbor's siren-voiced warning and his mother's rational explanation that the place was only an old jerry-built house and garden, owned by a lady who'd perhaps gone mad after decades of solitude. The owner might need a psychiatrist, but this didn't mean that her eccentric garden was jinxed or enchanted.

A rabbit dashed past him, then leaped into the shadows. For a second, the shadows seem to pulse, enlarge before shrinking to their former size; Joey told himself that he was seeing tricks of the moonlight, and that he was letting himself be influenced too much by a neurotic neighbor's fears. A small bird rustled up from the silhouetted ear of a horse, then dipped towards the unlit flank of a giant evergreen guinea pig. Joey turned from the damp lit grass towards the cluster of animals grazing in shade.

"Don't go there, " the neighbor's voice rasped.

"This is better than any school field trip," he thought. "Next to this, the Empire State Building's nothing. Those teachers who think the Statue of Liberty's such a great sculpture should come here, living art a block from their own back yards. Bushes sculpted to look just like dogs and rabbits, nothing out of proportion. Next to this, the Statue of Liberty's just a hulking woman holding a torch that looks like a cone of gray cotton candy."

In the shade, an orchestra of chirping crickets, piccolo voiced mosquitoes and thrumming frogs played untitled symphonies never imagined by Beethoven. Birds caroled and trilled operatically until the music congealed into something palpable, something which teemed around him and absorbed him into its soul, but which he could also hold in his hand like a radiant amethyst nugget. He stared into the black drapery of shadows, not caring that he saw only black.

"It's a dangerous place," the busybody neighbor had warned. But what dangerous place offered its visitors amulets of perfect sound? He stood in place, transfixed.

He stood in place, vaguely aware of a tingling in his feet, then a stiffening numbness that crept up his calves and legs. A part of his mind thought that his legs might be falling asleep, while the rest of him fell into the outstretched, swaddling arms of the music.

"A hound can sniff his way home through fields of garbage. He doesn't get distracted by manure or exhaust fumes or even a lynch mob of skunks." The part of Joey which shared fear with the neighbor struggled against the mesmerizing lure of the music. As a cloud slid away, moonbeams lit the shady place and Joey glanced down.

He glanced down again. A thick skin of bark coated his legs. Tiny twigs, ending in pale young leaves, sprouted from his shins and calves. Gnarled roots twisted out from his woody feet, down into the moist, cool, hard-packed earth; his feet tingled and twitched as the roots pushed to stretch and uncoil in the mud and suck up water and minerals. His arms were rough and scaly, the skin on his shoulders course but still pink. He tried to bend his elbow; the joint was locked.

Joey tried to scream; he couldn't. Woody fibers stiffened his face. Tendrils blossomed from his cheeks and chin, then hardened into branches. Buds exploded open. Joey watched as branches divided, multiplied and thickened around him. He watched as leaves multiplied into a mane around his face. He watched until the thick, growing foliage blinded him to the moonlight and deafened him to the once mesmerizing songs.

At dawn, long before the town busybodies awoke, Miss Hyde prowled her garden, stopped near a cluster of bushes and noted that a new animal had been added to her garden of perpetually pruned, perfectly sculpted topiary.



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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Discussion List

The Reason and Rhyme Google Group is a discussion list meant for the coherent discussions of rational innovative alternative views on a broad scope of topics. This discussion may include but is not limited to discussions of articles published on the Reason and Rhyme web site. Presentation must comply with a spirit of discovery and a yearning to more clearly understand the nature of whatever topic is being presented or discussed.

You will be added to the Discussion List when you subscribe to Reason and Rhyme.

Note that all discussions on the list are available to the public on the web. However, email addresses are not available on the web.

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Publishing Articles

Article authors may submit material in Word 97, PDF, or text format to the editor at The editor will consider the article for publication and inform the author whether the article will be published or not. If the article is deemed suitable for the community in terms of content and style, the editor will likely choose to publish the article. However, the decision for publication remains solely with the editor.

The editor may require changes to the article in order for it to be published. The author is responsible for accepting these changes or, prior to publication, they may elect to retract their submission. If the author does not accept the changes or work with the editor on other modifications, the editor may choose not to publish the article.

For artistic works, the editor will work with the artist to find an appropriate media format that works within the site and in any hard copy.

Once the piece is published, Reason and Rhyme may choose to publish and sell the article electronically or in hard copy. The author retains copyright of the material.

You must be a subscriber in order to publish on Reason and Rhyme.

Again, please submit articles to the Reason and Rhyme editor at


About Reason and Rhyme

This site is all about rational innovative discussion. We would like these discussions to be coherent innovative alternative views on a broad scope of topics. Clearly it takes intelligence to be innovative in complex subject areas in which we hope to illicit article submittals, but experience has shown that desire alone, nor yet the most extreme intelligence, guarantees rational discourse. So we will restrict articles to meet what we consider reasonable criteria for rationality. Presentation must comply with a spirit of discovery and a yearning to more clearly understand the nature of whatever topic is being presented or discussed.

No topical area is unacceptable. We will accept, in addition to essays in the physical and social scientific areas, short stories, poems, puzzles and quizes (for which answers must be submitted along with the puzzle or quiz), and graphic artistic creations. All submissions will be subject to minor copy editing. Authors retain the copyright to whatever they submit, but it is understood that Reason and Rhyme is authorized to publish the creation on-line and in journal format in a hardcopy book to be made available to the general public.