Entry 1525 — Beginning of a Revision

August 1st, 2014

My attempt to fix my play (main revisions in red) didn’t get too far:

INTRUSION

Act 1, scene i: RACHEL, 15, and HENRY, 17, are in the living room of RACHEL’S one-story suburban house in Darien, Connecticut.  They are rehearsing an experimental play.  A tape-recorder (TAPE, for short) is also “participating” in the play.

TAPE, in a female monotone:  Over come over come over come . . .  (TAPE continues to repeat the preceding until otherwise indicated.)

HENRY:  Babbo, the foaming cleanser.

RACHEL:  Babble, the phoning censor.

HENRY:  Baffle the stoning centaur.  (Pause.)  Rachel.  That’s when you’re supposed to do the somersault.

RACHEL:  I know.

HENRY:  Well, do it, then.

RACHEL:  Henry, let’s just do lines now, okay?  I don’t have the energy for gymnastics.

HENRY:  Come on, Rachel.  We can’t get the timing down if you just do lines.

RACHEL:  So what?  Nobody will notice.

HENRY:  Miss Zachery will.  (He resets the tape-recorder.)  Please do it right this time.

RACHEL:  Henry, we’ve been going over this scene for ages!  I’m really getting tired.

HENRY:  Good grief, Rachel, we’ve barely gotten to the second scene and we should have the whole first act learned by now!  (Pause.)  Rachel, please.  We have to get through this scene at least.  (Pause.)  All right.  I’ll just tell Miss Zachery we need someone else for Plinx.

RACHEL:  Oh, will you?  And lose your only chance to spend any time with me at all?  You can’t do that: I’m too important in your nerdy little life–even though I can’t stand you.

HENRY:  You are important in my nerdy little life, Rachel–even though you can’t stand me; but Miss Zachery’s play is more important!

RACHEL: You can’t be serious.

HENRY:  Rachel, I’m turning the tape-recorder back on.  Either you do what you’re supposed to, or I’ll get you canned.

RACHEL, after a Pause:  You rat.  (HENRY turns the tape-recorder back on.  Pause.)

TAPE:  Over come over come over come over . . .

HENRY:  Babbo, the foaming cleanser.

RACHEL:  Babble, the phoning senator.

HENRY:  Baffle the stoning senator.  (RACHEL turns a somersault, sullenly.)

RACHEL:  Raffle Trigger, the wonder horse.

HENRY, acting enraged:  Old MacDonald had a farm!  (RACHEL runs into the audience.)

RACHEL:  Eeee eye.  (She does a jumping jack.)  Oh.  (She pulls a spectator out of his seat and stands in it.)  Oh oh oh.

HENRY, with extreme pathos, as RACHEL returns to the stage:  Old MacDonald . . . had . . . a farm.

TAPE, in a male monotone:  Yes yes yes yes yes . . .  (And so on until otherwise indicated.)

RACHEL:  Eeee eye.

HENRY, striking a weird, contorted pose:  Come over mah house,  Checker-Goat Freddy, and Zinc-Man will cobble your gaiters.

TAPE:  Wail, winds, wail. (Pause.)

HENRY:  The. Sky. Is.

RACHEL:  Blue.  (Pause.)  The sky is the.  (Long Pause.) HENRY, running to RACHEL:  Plinx, you are as beautiful as a cement-mixer in July, or a newly-painted butterknife, or a farmer, nude among his cows.  (He begins stiffly to play Pattycakes with her.  At this point SUSAN, 19, and GEORGE, 20,  enter the Gliss living room.)

RACHEL:  Oh, nuts, Susan’s back–with that crumb George.

TAPE:  Not bananas.  (RACHEL turns the tape-recorder off.)

GEORGE: Rachel–and Henry!  Hi!  What are you two up to?

RACHEL:  We’re rehearsing a play.

GEORGE:  Wow, I didn’t know you were a thespian!  What play is it?

RACHEL:  Aah, it’s some stupid thing Miss Zachery wrote.

HENRY:  It’s called The Other Dwarf’s Iron Petunia.  It’s very good, actually, but it’s experimental, and you have to have a brain if you want to get anything out of it, so Rachel, of course, doesn’t like it.

RACHEL:  Yeah, yeah.  I’m really dumb.

GEORGE:  Well, if you’re not genuinely in sympathy with the play, you probably shouldn’t be in it.

RACHEL:  Aah, if I don’t stay in it, I’ll flunk Drama.  Then Mom and Dad would cut off my allowance.

SUSAN:  I just love your positive outlook, Rachel.

GEORGE:  Maybe once you’ve familiarized yourself with the play, you’ll come to appreciate it after all.

RACHEL:  I wouldn’t bet on it: it’s pure gibberish.

HENRY:  Actually it’s not gibberish at all.  It’s an assault upon dead modes of thought.  It’s a trapdoor into buried subconscious truths!  It’s an exit from the falsity of our capitalistic society!

RACHEL, cutting him off:  So Miss Zachery is always lecturing us.  But nobody but Henry believes her.

PLINX, suddenly appearing in a puff of smoke, center stage: Don’t move—anybody!  (He has a gun.)

RACHEL:  What the. . . !

PLINX:  Shut up!  (Pause.)  My name, in case you don’t recognize me, is Plinx.

RACHEL & HENRY, simultaneously: Plinx?!!

PLINX:  Ah, you are surprised.  (He laughs.)  That’s to be expected, I guess.  We literary characters have been quite good at keeping our powers concealed.

GEORGE:  Literary character?

HENRY:  There’s someone in our play by that name but–

PLINX:  Yes, indeed—there is a man in your play by that name whom you play as a freaking woman!  (The stage goes dark except for a spotlight stage front that PLINX steps into.)  Alas, my Mississippi upbringing cursed me with a preference for being a male that I can’t easily overcome sufficiently to recognize what an honor it is to be depicted as a member of the sex all rational human beings now recognize as the sole redeeming members of the white race . . . except for queerboys.  (Pause.)  Oh, Great God in Heaven, forgive me yet again, but my Mississippi upbringing prevented even my time as a student and then professor at Harvard from coming to terms with my incorrigible homophobia however much I’ve tried to overcome it, even sharing cupcakes with homosexuals at cooking classes.  (The lighting returns to normal.)

GEORGE: You absolute jerk!  Don’t think I, for one, don’t recognize your sarcasm!

PLINX, shooting him in the head:  You demean my struggle, you swine!  (GEORGE just stares back at him, apparently unharmed by the shot.)  Damn, I forgot we can’t affect the stinking real world.  Idiot!  (He throws his gun angrily off the stage.  Then he turns to GEORGE.)  I really have struggled.  You really think anyone in his right mind would be homophobic in my world (or yours) if not for his upbringing!  Or, even worse, be upset to be depicted as a woman in a play?!

RACHEL:  If it’s any solace to you, I was only playing you in the play because Miss Zachery could only get one boy screwed-up enough to act in it, and half the parts are male.

GEORGE:  You really are a redneck by upbringing—in Mississippi?

PLINX:  Alas, yes.  They call me “Plinxy-Bob” back home.

GEORGE:  We have to forgive him.  Now that the UN has certified Islamic suicide bombers as a Victim Group, it can’t be too long before even rednecks are.

SUSAN:  Even this one?!  My God, have you not been watching him?!  Look how he drools when looking at my comely breasts, fully-clothed although they are.

PLINX:  Yes, yes, it’s true, horribly true!  Your knockers turn me on!  Oh, Lord, how I wish I’d been born in Connecticut or San Francisco!  (He drops heavily down into an easy chair.)

RACHEL:  So, how’d you suddenly appear, and why are you here?

GEORGE:  Good questions.  You can’t be a literary character, but real people don’t suddenly appear out of nowhere.

PLINX:  Oh, please.  This whole universe came out of nowhere.  Why shouldn’t a simple literary character be able to do the same thing?

GEORGE:  There have been a lot of books about literary characters doing just that.  But only in novels.

HENRY: He’s wrong about the universe, too: the latest issue of Scientific American has an article about the big bang that is clearly accurate: a four-dimensional black hole in a universe this one is now in, exploded, and its three-dimensional interface blew off it to form our universe.

RACHEL:  I remember that article.  It didn’t make any sense to me.

HENRY & SUSAN, simultaneously: You!?  You read something in Scientific American!?

PLINX:  Ha, see!  Even you dwellers of the noble liberal state of Connecticut are sexist!

HENRY:  Never!

SUSAN:  Me, a woman majoring in interstellar hydraulic engineering, intimating that any female would not have the brains to appreciate a magazine like Scientific American!?  You’re out of your mind.

GEORGE:  You are making a mistake I fear too many liberals make: the mistake that only a sexist could contend that any woman might be unequipped to handle something scientific.  Surely some women, just as some men, are.  In this case, Henry was no doubt surprised by Rachel’s claim because she is only 15, and has never, so far as we are aware, shown any interest in science.  I’m sure Henry would agree with me that if she had any interest in science, she would be capable not only of reading that magazine, but of writing for it.  Although, I don’t understand why she thought the article in question, which I also have read, made no sense.  Two of its three authors had Ph.D.’s in physics and the third, a woman, was working on a doctorate in that subject.

PLINX:  Okay, okay: you got me.  But it’s not my fault that my author gave me a rather unsophisticated sociopolitical attitude.

RACHEL:  I read it at my dentist’s.  There wasn’t anything else there to read.

HENRY:  I’m curious about what didn’t make sense to you.

GEORGE:  Right.  As I said, its authors certainly had the right credentials.  And two of them were professors, as I recall.

RACHEL:  Okay, for one thing, I don’t see why inventing another universe for ours to come from is any help since that just means we have to explain where that universe came from. (Pause.) Something that seems even more daffy to me is the idea that the interfaces of black whole in our universe are two dimensional. I don’t see how anything in our universe can be two-dimensional.


PLINX:  You never saw a piece of paper?

RACHEL:  Not one with no thickness.

HENRY:  Actually, that’s something that’s bothered me, too.  I’ve been meaning to ask Mr. Shoffle, my physics teacher about it.  Something two-dimensional would have length and width but zero thickness, and w times l times zero is zero.

GEORGE:  Interesting observation.  I’m not a science major, but I’m sure scientists can explain it.

RACHEL:  As far as I’m concerned, scientists are nuts.  They think anything that exists in mathematics can exist in the real world.  But the real world has three spatial dimensions, no more and no less, and that’s that.  The interface of a black hole is merely the surface of whatever three-dimensional matter happens to be there.  The entirely three-dimensional black hole’s interface, like any face of anything material, is simply the last of its sub-atomic particles–which are pressed against the three-dimensional face of whatever is next to it.  In the case of the black hole, that’s space.  Which is some kind of material that can be curved but is otherwise beyond me.

PLINX:  But as far as I can see, I am in this world immaterial.  Am I therefore non-existent?red

RACHEL:  Oh, you just did some kind of trivial magic trick.

GEORGE:  But why?

SUSAN:  Somebody’s practical joke is my guess.  (She looks at RACHEL pointedly.)

PLINX:  I assure you, I am no one’s practical joke.

RACHEL:  Well, if you’re what you say you are, you aren’t a very bright literary character.  We’re just actors following a script—a pretty ridiculous one to live in, I would say.  We weren’t responsible for demeaning you, the author of the stupid play we were acting in was.

PLINX:  Wait a minute.  Just where in hell am I?!  Something’s very wrong here.

SUSAN:  You’re in the home of the Gliss family in Darien, Connecticut, as I rather suspect you are aware.

PLINX:  A home?  But it looks like some kind of auditorium to me.

HENRY:  Well, Rachel and I were trying to rehearse a play, but here, not in an auditorium.

PLINX, gesturing toward the audience:  Then what are those people doing here?

GEORGE, laughing:  He seems to think he’s double-fictional!

SUSAN: Just what are you trying to pull?  I don’t see any people; I just see our kitchen.

PLINX, laughing idiotically:  Right!  The people out there are real, but you’re fictional!  It makes perfect sense!

GEORGE: I think I see your problem.  If we’re fictional and don’t know it, we must be in some kind of fiction that includes the audience!

AUDIENCE MEMBER 1, standing up:  Ridiculous.  The explanation is obvious: all four of you are actors in a play that’s getting more and more stupid!

HENRY:  All five of us.

AUDMEM1: Right, all five of you.

GEORGE:  I must admit that I’m getting confused.  How did this fellow suddenly get into the kitchen?  Is he in the play you’ve come from, uh . . .  (He is looking a PLINX.)

PLINX:  Plinx, the name in Plinx, simply Plinx.  And, no, he is certainly not from my world!

I stopped here because I have too much other much more important stuff to work on than this dumb play.  (But if ten or more of you guys visiting it beg me to continue my revision, I will.)

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Entry 1524 — A One-Act

July 31st, 2014

What follows is the beginning of a play aimed at high school drama departments I wrote possibly as long ago as 1980.  More likely the middle eighties.  Yesterday, I broke into it with a new character, the one named Plinx, and wrote the last 1700 or so words.  So it’s mostly a first draft.  I thought it amusing as I was writing, and still think it’s funny in a couple of places, but close to self-indulgent.  It’s supposed to be for adults now.  Comments, especially negative ones, welcome, as I always waste space to say.

INTRUSION

Act 1, scene i: RACHEL and HENRY are in the living room of RACHEL’S one-story suburban house.  They are rehearsing an experimental play.  A tape-recorder (TAPE, for short) is also “participating” in the play.

 TAPE, in a female monotone:  Over come over come over come . . .  (TAPE continues to repeat the preceding until otherwise indicated.)

 HENRY:  Babbo, the foaming cleanser.

 RACHEL:  Babble, the phoning censor.

 HENRY:  Baffle the stoning centaur.  (Pause.)  Rachel.  That’s when you’re supposed to do the somersault.

 RACHEL:  I know.

 HENRY:  Well, do it, then.

 RACHEL:  Henry, let’s just do lines now, okay?  I don’t have the energy for gymnastics.

 HENRY:  Come on, Rachel.  We can’t get the timing down if you just do lines.

 RACHEL:  So what?  Nobody will notice.

 HENRY:  Miss Zachery will.  (He resets the tape-recorder.)  Please do it right this time.

 RACHEL:  Henry, we’ve been going over this scene for ages!  I’m really getting tired.

 HENRY:  Good grief, Rachel, we’ve barely gotten to the second scene and we should have the whole first act learned by now!  (Pause.)  Rachel, please.  We have to get through this scene at least.  (Pause.)  All right.  I’ll just tell Miss Zachery we need someone else for Plinx.

 RACHEL:  Oh, will you?  And lose your only chance to spend any time with me at all?  You can’t do that: I’m too important in your nerdy little life–even though I can’t stand you.

 HENRY:  You are important in my nerdy little life, Rachel–even though you can’t stand me; but Miss Zachery’s play is more important!

 RACHEL: You can’t be serious.

 HENRY:  Rachel, I’m turning the tape-recorder back on.  Either you do what you’re supposed to, or I’ll get you canned.

 RACHEL, after a Pause:  You rat.  (HENRY turns the tape-recorder back on.  Pause.)

 TAPE:  Over come over come over come over . . .

 HENRY:  Babbo, the foaming cleanser.

 RACHEL:  Babble, the phoning senator.

 HENRY:  Baffle the stoning senator.  (RACHEL turns a somersault, sullenly.)

 RACHEL:  Raffle Trigger, the wonder horse.

 HENRY, acting enraged:  Old MacDonald had a farm!  (RACHEL runs into the audience.)

 RACHEL:  Eeee eye.  (She does a jumping jack.)  Oh.  (She pulls a spectator out of his seat and stands in it.)  Oh oh oh.

 HENRY, with extreme pathos, as RACHEL returns to the stage:  Old MacDonald . . . had . . . a farm.

 TAPE, in a male monotone:  Yes yes yes yes yes . . .  (And so on until otherwise indicated.)

 RACHEL:  Eeee eye.

 HENRY, striking a weird, contorted pose:  Come over mah house,  Checker-Goat Freddy, and Zinc-Man will cobble your gaiters.

 TAPE:  Wail, winds, wail. (Pause.)

 HENRY:  The. Sky. Is.

 RACHEL:  Blue.  (Pause.)  The sky is the.  (Long Pause.) HENRY, running to RACHEL:  Plinx, you are as beautiful as a cement-mixer in July, or a newly-painted butterknife, or a farmer, nude among his cows.  (He begins stiffly to play Pattycakes with her.  At this point SUSAN and GEORGE enter the Gliss living room.)

 RACHEL:  Oh, nuts, Susan’s back–with that crumb George.

 TAPE:  Not bananas.  (RACHEL quickly turns the tape-recorder off without GEORGE’S seeing her, then returns to HENRY.)

GEORGE: Rachel–and Henry!  Hi!  What are you two up to?

RACHEL:  We’re rehearsing a play.

 GEORGE:  Wow, I didn’t know you were a thespian!  What play is it?

 RACHEL:  Aah, it’s some stupid thing Miss Zachery wrote.

 HENRY:  It’s called The Other Dwarf’s Iron Petunia.  It’s very good, actually, but it’s experimental, and you have to have a brain if you want to get anything out of it, so Rachel, of course, doesn’t like it.

 RACHEL:  Yeah, yeah.  I’m really dumb.

 GEORGE:  Well, if you’re not genuinely in sympathy with the play, you probably shouldn’t be in it.

 RACHEL:  Aah, if I don’t stay in it, I’ll flunk Drama.  Then my parents would cut off my allowance.

 SUSAN:  I just love your positive outlook, Rachel.

 GEORGE:  Maybe once you’ve familiarized yourself with the play, you’ll come to appreciate it after all.

 RACHEL:  I wouldn’t bet on it: it’s pure gibberish.

 HENRY:  Actually it’s not gibberish at all.  It’s an assault upon dead modes of thought.  It’s a trapdoor into buried subconscious truths!  It’s an exit from the falsity of our capitalistic society!

 RACHEL, cutting him off:  So Miss Zachery is always lecturing us.  But nobody believes her.

 HENRY:  I do.

 PLINX, suddenly appearing in a puff of smoke, center stage: Don’t move—anybody!  (He has a gun.)

 RACHEL:  What the. . . !

 PLINX:  Shut up!  (Pause.)  My name, in case you don’t recognize me, is Plinx.

 RACHEL & HENRY, simultaneously: Plinx?!!

 PLINX:  Ah, you surprised.  (He laughs.)  That’s to be expected, I guess.  We literary characters have been quite good at keeping our powers concealed.

 GEORGE:  Literary character?

 HENRY:  There’s someone in our play by that name but–

 PLINX:  Yes, indeed—there is a man in your play by that name whom you play as a freaking woman!  (The stage goes dark except for a spotlight stage front that PLINX steps into.)  Alas, my Mississippi upbringing cursed me with a preference for being a male that I can’t easily overcome sufficiently to recognize what an honor it is to be depicted as a member of the sex all rational human beings now recognize as the sole redeeming members of the white race . . . except for queerboys.  (Pause.)  Oh, Great God in Heaven, forgive me yet again, but my Mississippi upbringing prevented even my time as a student and then professor at Harvard from coming to terms with my incorrigible homophobia however much I’ve tried to overcome it, even sharing cupcakes with them at cooking classes.  (The lighting returns to normal.)

 GEORGE: You absolute jerk!  Don’t think I, for one, don’t recognize your sarcasm!

 PLINX, shooting him in the head:  You demean my struggle, you swine!  (GEORGE just stares back at him, apparently unharmed by the shot.)  Damn, I forgot we can’t affect the stinking real world.  Idiot!  (He throws his gun angrily off the stage.  Then he turns to GEORGE.)  I really have struggled.  You really think anyone in his right mind would be homophobic in this world if not for his upbringing!  Or, even worse, be upset to be depicted as a woman in a play?!

 RACHEL:  If it’s any solace to you, I was only playing you in the play because Miss Zachery could only get one boy screwed-up enough to act in it.

 GEORGE:  You really are a redneck by upbringing—in Mississippi?

 PLINX:  Alas, yes.  They call me “Plinx-Bob” back home.

 HENRY:  We have to forgive him.  Now that the UN has certified Islamic suicide bombers as a Victim Group, it can’t be too long before even rednecks are.

 SUSAN:  Even this one?!  My God, have you not been watching him?!  Look how he drools when looking at my comely breasts, fully-clothed although they are.

 PLINX:  Yes, yes, it’s true, horribly true!  Your knockers turn me on!  Oh, Lord, how I wish I’d been born in Connecticut or San Francisco!  (He drops heavily down into an easy chair.)

 RACHEL:  So, how’d you suddenly appear, and why are you here?

 GEORGE:  Good questions.  You can’t be a literary character, but real people don’t suddenly appear out of nowhere.

 PLINX:  Oh, please.  This whole universe came out of nowhere.  Why shouldn’t a simple literary character be able to do the same thing?

 HENRY:  There have been a lot of books about literary characters doing just that.  But only in novels.

 GEORGE: He’s wrong about the universe, too: the latest issue of Scientific American has an article about the big bang that is clearly accurate: a four-dimensional black hole in a universe this one is now in, exploded, and its three-dimensional interface blew off it to form our universe.

 RACHEL:  I remember that article.  It didn’t make any sense to me.

 HENRY & SUSAN, simultaneously: You!  You read something in Scientific American!

 PLINX:  Ha, see!  Even you dwellers of the noble liberal state of Connecticut are sexist!

 HENRY:  Never!

 SUSAN:  Me, a woman majoring in interstellar hydraulic engineering, intimating that any female would not have the brains to appreciate a magazine like Scientific American!?  You’re out of your mind.

 GEORGE:  You are making a mistake I fear too many liberals make: the mistake that only a sexist denigrate the mentality of a particular woman, the idea that no woman might be unequipped to handle anything scientific.  I this case, we were all surprised by Rachel’s claim because she is only 15, and has never, to my knowledge, shown any interest in science.  We certainly realize that if she had any interest in science, she would be capable not only of reading that magazine, but of writing for it.  Although, I don’t understand why she thought the article in question made no sense.  Two of its three authors had Ph.D.’s in physics and the third, a woman, was working a a doctorate in that subject.

 PLINX:  Okay, okay: you got me.  But it’s not my fault that my author gave me a rather unsophisticated sociopolitical attitude.

 RACHEL:  I read it at my dentist’s.  There wasn’t anything else there to read.

 HENRY:  I’m curious about what didn’t make sense to you.

 GEORGE:  Right.  As I said, its authors certainly had the right credentials.  And two of them were professors, as I recall.

 RACHEL:  Okay, for one thing, I don’t see why inventing another universe for ours to come from is any help since that just means we have to explain where that universe came from. (Pause.)  Something that seems even more daffy to me is the idea that the interfaces of black whole in our universe are two dimensional.  I don’t see how anything in our universe can be two-dimensional.

 PLINX:  You never saw a piece of paper?

 RACHEL:  Not one with no thickness.

 HENRY:  Actually, that’s something that’s bothered me, too.  I’ve been meaning to ask Mr. Shoffle, my physics teacher about it.  Something two-dimensional would have length and width but zero thickness, and w times l times zero is zero.

 GEORGE:  Interesting observation.  I didn’t major in science, but I’m sure scientists can explain it.

 RACHEL:  As far as I’m concerned, scientists are nuts.  They think anything that exists in mathematics can exist in the real world.  But the real world has three spatial dimensions, no more and no less, and that’s that.

 PLINX:  Which means I must not exist.

 RACHEL:  Oh, you just did some kind of trivial magic trick.

 GEORGE:  But why?

 SUSAN:  Somebody’s practical joke is my guess.  (She looks at RACHEL pointedly.)

 PLINX:  I assure you, I am no one’s practical joke.

 RACHEL:  Well, if you’re what you say you are, you aren’t a very bright literary character.  We’re just actors following a script—a pretty ridiculous one to live in, I would say.  We weren’t responsible for demeaning you, the author of the stupid play we were acting in was.

AUTHOR’S LATER NOTE:  At this point I got very confused.  I hope to have another version tomorrow that makes more sense.

 GEORGE, laughing:  Right.  If you are what you say you are, you are a character in one fictional world come to life in a second fictional world!  You’re still fictional!

 HENRY:  Hold up, George.  You’re going too fast for me.  (Pause.)  You’re not saying that . . .

 GEORGE:  Yes: I’m saying that we are fictional characters as is the author of the play this Plinx fellow is from.  All of us were created by the wacko who wrote the play containing the play he is in.

 SUSAN:  You’re not saying we’re not real?

 RACHEL:  What else could he be saying?

 PLINX:  Well, I know I’m fictional.  I tend to believe you would know you were, too, if you were.  And look—you have an audience.  Conclusion: you are actors playing fictional characters before an audience, not fictional characters.

 HENRY:  You’re saying we’re actors playing high school kids rehearsing a play?  It makes sense.  The problem is that I thought I was a real high school kid, not a fictional character.

 RACHEL:  What difference does it make?

 SUSAN:  Well, I for one would certainly not want to be fictional!

 RACHEL:  Why not?  (Pause.)

 A MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE, rising:  Sorry to butt in, but it seems to me you’re telling us we’re fictional.  That can’t be!

 ANOTHER MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE, jumping up:  He’s right.  We perceive all of you as actors, including this Plinx idiot.  You just won’t admit it because you’re adhering to your silly script!

  SUSAN, overlapping:  My goodness, what are you two doing in our kitchen!?

 GEORGE:  But how do we know you’re not saying that because you’re a character in the same play we are?

 FIRST MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE:  You’re being ridiculous.

 RACHEL:  I still want to know what difference it makes.  We are what we are.

 SECOND MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE:  Oh, can it.  Get back to the play before this Plinx joker came in.  It wasn’t very good but it was better than this damned philosophical nihilism!

 PLINX:  Wait a minute.  (He retrieves his gun.)  I think I can prove I, at least, am fictional.  This gun won’t work in your world, but guns like it work all the time in mine!  Which is to say, that in my fictional world fictional guns kill fictional people!  Like me.  (He holds the gun up to his head.)

 GEORGE:  Wait, wait!  My God, my good fellow, you don’t have to kill yourself to make your point!

 PLINX:  Right you are.  I got a bit carried away, didn’t I.  But you got me thinking about the meaningless of being a puppet of some author.

 GEORGE, laughing:  Especially one who is just a puppet of another author!

 PLINX: Right.  But I still have some kind of self-preservation instinct, so I’ll just do this.  (Grimacing, he shoots himself in the foot.)  Oooo!

 SUSAN:  Look—blood!

 HENRY:  He’s bleeding!

 SECOND AUDIENCE MEMBER:  So what?  There are all kinds of tricks you can use to make it seem like some actor is bleeding.  (Enter Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.)

 HOLMES:  And here he is.  One additional instance, Watson, of the power of analytical thinking.  (He grabs PLINX by the collar and drags him offstage.)

 WATSON:  Excuse the interruption, my friends, but it wouldn’t do for too many people to be exposed to this wretch.  Some of the best books have fictional characters whose evil would make your world try to destroy the books they’re in regardless of the many good characters in them.  (Exeunt he and HOLMES.)

 HENRY:  That doesn’t make sense.  This Plinx character demonstrated he couldn’t harm us.

 RACHEL:  Not physically.  But think how much his revelations bothered those clowns in the audience.  As if it makes any difference whether we’re fictional or not.  We either exist or we don’t, and if we don’t, and define our non-existence as “existence,” how will anything be different from our actually existing and defining that as “existence?”

 GEORGE: I’m afraid you’ve lost me, Rachel.

 HENRY:  Me, too.  (Pause.)  Well, now that our visitor is gone, we can get back to our rehearsal.  Where were we?

 STAGE-HAND, darting to HENRY’S side with an open script:  Right here, Roger.  (Exit.)

 HENRY:  Roger?  (Curtain.) 

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Scientific American Blog Relocated

July 30th, 2014

My Scientific American Blog is now here–with a complete table of contents.

AHOY!  I finally got Entry 18 done.  It is now here.    Comments Welcome! Please let me know of any typos or gross factual errors. Warning: it’s me at my abstrusest worst–for over 8,000 words.

Later note: From time to time, I will be revising Entry 18.  I hope eventually to correct all the many mistakes in the version first posted.

Entry 1523 — An Injunctive Rhyme

July 30th, 2014

On Tue, Jul 29, 2014 at 5:52 PM, jforjames via NowPoetry <nowpoetry@googlegroups.com> wrote:

 
During a recent stroll in Fort Tryon Park, in upper Manhattan, I spotted a green placard emerging from a tuft of purple flowers. Its white letters read:
 
Let no one say, and say it to your shame,
That all was beauty here, until you came.
 
I was enchanted to find a park sign filled with poetry rather than the usual mishmash of information, rules, and thinly veiled threats. And such doting poetry: the park, the sign implied, had not been entirely beautiful without me. (I never mind a compliment, even when it comes from an inanimate object.)

I had problems with this.  How is the text a compliment to the reader?  For me, it reads: it was beautiful here until you arrived: don’t spoil it.  It’s also a little silly since it means that the only way you won’t spoil it is by being beautiful yourself, which isn’t possible for most of us (at least those of us believe the meaning of a word like “beautiful” should be linguistically useful–in this case apply to many fewer people than sentimentalists want it to).  Actually, it suggests that the many sane like me, who are pitifully short of being beautiful (even if you believe, like sentimentalists, that beauty is not skin-deep), ought not visit the park–it is for the beautiful only.

Further thought: that the sign should be ashamed of itself.
Just to be sure of annoying everyone who reads this, let me add that the couplet is not a poem, it’s a moral injunction.  The goal of a poem is to give pleasure, not tell you who to act.

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Entry 1522 — Morality Thoughts No. 5

July 29th, 2014

I feel like I’m re-cycling very stale standard ideas–badly.   But I have nothing else for today than the following excerpt from what I wrote two days ago while at my politically-incorrect worst (which is why the really outrageous opinions in what I wrote aren’t below):

A point worth making is that judging the morality of an act should consider not just the act but all that led up to it, which many people are incapable of doing or even thinking ought to be done.  For instance, take the execution of some gentleman who was believed by a jury of twelve, a judge and many policemen to have buthered 27 youngs boys and buried their remains.  There is a sizable minority who seem empathic only with the man to be executed–because, apparently, their attention spans don’t go back to his effect on others.

Which brings me to the question of the morality of revenge.  I believe the desire to for revenge may be an ethiplex.  The good of revenge is making acts like whatever was revenged less likely in the future.  Revenge makes the world safer–when justified.  It also makes those who take revenge successfully, and those vicariously partaking of his revenge, happy–because that is what the ethiplex does: make the moral act it compels a person to take, when it is stronger than any ethiplex or group of ethiplexes combined that oppose it result in happiness.

In the largest field of play, the revenge ethiplex is why the Romans eventually had to demolish Carthage.  Frankly, I’m a much bigger fan of the Phoenicians than of the Romans, so rather wish Carthage flattened Rome.  I think.  Actually, I don’t know that much about Phoenicia except that their civilization is credited with the alphabet, and they were great explorers (who may have gotten to American, but without discovering it since they didn’t add directions to it to World Culture the way its true discoverer, Columbus, did).

I guess this won’t be going into a blog entry.  Too disgustingly intelligent for the politically-correctniks.

Conclusion: Whether a given moral act is good or evil is not a snap to determine.  Note: a moral act can be evil, as well as good.  It is the reducticeptual awareness that finally evaluates a moral act–reason, that is.  I guess I’m saying moral behavior is not completely governed by the anthroceptual awareness; it is influenced by evaluatory processes in the reducti-evaluceptual association area where a person considers any moral act “unemotionally”–which is to say, without regard to instinctive responses like anti-violence or revenge.  Which is mostly where I am now, except for my outbursts in retaliation to political-correctniks crap.  And my racism, sexism, etc.

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Entry 1521 — Morality Thoughts No. 4

July 28th, 2014

It may be that all ethiplexes are located in the anthro-evaluceptual association area.  That is to say, morality is purely people-centered (“anthrocentric” is my preferred term for this).  I must confess that I at sea about them.  I know they must exist but an unsure which ones do.  So I have been noting every one I think possible, however slightly, and will continue do so now.

First let me explain how I will evaluate my suggested ethiplexes, which is the way I try to evluate everything in my theory of psychology.  I ask the following questions about it:

1. Does it make intuitive sense to me?  If not, it means it doesn’t fit in with my general experience of the world–in this case, the world’s people.  Or that there’s something else wrong with it that I can’t put my finger on.  If the latter, I’ll put it aside and ask my other questions about it.  One of them should apprise me of its defect.  If none do, I’ll keep it under consideration. If the former, I’ll junk it–with the assumption that I’m wrong about it, something will make me remember it and analyze it again.

2. Is it consistent with the bulk of my knowlecular psychology?  My knowlecular psychology may be wrong, but if so, my acceptance of something also wrong won’t matter.  I also feel that the more elements of my theory that fit well with one another, the greater the likelihood that they’re valid.

3. Is it consistent with what I know about validated neurophysiology.  I don’t know much about that, but (a) there so far isn’t enough of importance to know and (2) I know enough of it to know when I’m definitely wrong.

4. Does the existence of a given ethiplex make evolutionary sense?  This means I must try to show how it could have been biologically selected.

I don’t require a 100% yes to each of these, just a reasonably strong one.

Now to my ethiplexes.  The first I’m going to try to make sense of is the anti-violence instinct.  I believe we are wired from birth to be morally opposed to violent acts against the property of others.  That we nevertheless often steal, vandalize, or destroy others’ acquired property and damage or render others’ . . . “natural property?” (I mean the physical property a person comes with–everything inside his skin; can’t think of the right term) inoperative does not mean we don’t have it.  It only means that our ethiplexes must compete with each other–in an “ethization,” or organization of ethiplexes.

One reason I began my discussion of ethiplexes with the anti-violence ethiplex is that it most clearly (and un-anti-violently) demonstrates the complexity of moral behavior due to the number of moral choices which are determined by which of two or more ethiplexes in conflict with one another wins.  A simple example: a lunatic charges a man’s wife holding an ax over his head; the man can shoot him.  Should he?

To put it simply, his defense-of-the-weak ethiplex should be stronger in this instance than his anti-violence ethiplex, so the answer is yes.  It may not be simple, though.  What if the wife has just made a derogatory comment about the ax-man’s race?

I’m stopping here because I went on to become very incorrect politically and am too cowardly to reveal the magnitude of my wickedness.  Indeed, I may already have gone too far.

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Entry 1520 — Morality Thoughts No. 3

July 27th, 2014

When I went to my workshop to continue my notes on morality, I found this:

It is important to consider the empathy instinct, too–the instinct for making others happy, or less unhappy–by giving a present to a friend in order  vicariously to enjoy his enjoyment of it, for instance, or to experience the bliss imagining the relief of his loved one due to what he was going to do for her that Sidney Carton felt.

Related to that is the innate need to gain the approbation of society most of us have, I’m certain. Sidney Carton, I’m sure, had more of his share of that, too.  But people vary considerably in the strength of both their empathy instinct and social approbation need.  The strength of a person’s competing drives varies greatly to, and has a good deal of say in what will, in his opinion, result in the highest lifetime pleasure-to-pain ratio.

It is these two drives together that I believe responsible for all our moral acts.  Needless to say, they won’t do much if not for the upbringing that helps us discover how best to use them, and they are probably weaker in children, especially boys, than they are in adults.  This makes sense since a person needs to learn how best to take care of himself before learning how best to interact, as an adult, with others.  And during his time of self-centeredness, he will have adults looking out for him, particularly a mother with maximum inter-personal morality.

Ah, you ask, what do you mean by “inter-personal morality?”  Isn’t all morality inter-personal?  No.  Some human being will be involved in every moral event, of course, but while most such events will be about human interactions, and all of them will finally be about what’s best for some group of people, or nation, or all of humanity, some will involve either intra-personal or impersonal behavior.

Intra-personal morality consists of one’s moral behavior concerning oneself only.  For instance: should I keep plugging away at this question although I’m pretty fuzzy about it, or should I stop writing for the day and go back to the thriller I’m reading?

Impersonal behavior, if there is such a thing, might involve making a choice between have a copse cleared in a park one is designing so mothers won’t fear perverts will hide in them waiting for a child to wander near without no adult companion or leave it because a park needs at least little wilderness as relief from the stress of civilization.  People are part of the moral choice but it centers on what parks and trees are.

I feel pretty much out of ideas about my subject now–the ones I had didn’t last very long.

I remember writing it but not when.  It repeats some previous material.  Probably when I cut & pasted for one of my entries, I missed it. Anyway, I can use it to take care of this entry.   More (sorry) tomorrow.
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Entry 1519 — Thoughts on Morality, Continued

July 26th, 2014

When writing about morality yesterday, I puttered on after finishing the part I post in yesterday’s blog entry.  That resulted in this:

When I first had my little cluster of ideas, I thought I could describe how what I consider the central innate human drive, the pleasure-to-pain ratio maximization (P2P) drive, leads to a person’s internalized morality (also innate).  Further reflection on this was what put me in my null zone.  What follows are fragments from the system I thought I could come up with.

To begin with, the P2P drive, as its name, indicates, compels a person to try to maximize his pleasure (or minimize his pain). The “try” is important for he won’t necessarily know what will lead to a maximum pleasure and/or minimum pain.  Hence, his attempt may result in the opposite of what he wants.

By maximum pleasure, by the way, I mean anything that causes happiness or diminishes pain, not just wine, women and song, or the like.  It is most important to note, too, that I am speaking of a person’s lifetime of pleasure.  Hence, heavy, unpleasant physical exercising, or piano-practice, or studying–because of the pleasure the person believes his sacrifices will lead to.  The same reasoning holds for minimum pain.

I feel pretty much out of ideas about my subject now–the ones I had didn’t last very long.  But I going to try now to add a few thoughts about the innate mechanisms I think most of us have that influence our moral behavior.  “Ethiplexes,” I think I’ll call them for now.

Two are the empathy instinct and need for social approbation drive that I’ve already mentioned.  It occurred to me that a sub-instinct of the empathy instinct might be the maternal drive, narrowly defined here as a human need to nurture and protect children, infants in particular, and much more developed in most women than in men.  But it is definitely present in most men–which is why there is so much more grief when a homicidal lunatic’s victims are children rather than adults.  I think it may well be the basis of the nanny-state western nations have turned into.  It has something to do with the perception of losers as infants by those with strong maternal drives.

I’m not sure how to discuss this without mortally offending just about everybody.  I’ll just add that evidence in support of my contention is the way exploration of space halted once we got to the moon, with almost no complaints.  Which reminds me of another drive that is too morally influential in my opinion: the species-preservation drive.  It seems like the more people we have in the world, the more horrifying events like the Challenger disaster seem.  I suppose the media is part of that.

The social approbation drive is also a conformity drive; an offshoot may be the drive to make others conform, the totalitarian drive.  “Do what you’re told” is a leading moral tenet.  Because utter conformity wouldn’t work for a species, I believe a few of us have an anti-authoritarian drive.  Perhaps most boys (and many fewer girls) have one that weakens as they age.

Yes, I’m really dragging today.  Not thinking clearly or deeply.  I was hoping I’d get going but it doesn’t look like I will today.  Maybe tomorrow.

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Entry 1518 — Scramblog No. 1

July 25th, 2014

A lot of things I wanna write about today.  One is that I know I’m not unusual in being self-analytical.  Most neurotics are, and most people with IQs above 114 are neurotics, or more out of it, as I must be.  Of course, I contend that I am also not at all neurotic–’cause I’m in charge of my neurosis.  What I mostly wanna say on this topic right now is that most self-analytical peoples iz not quite a self-analytical as I.

For instance, and from now on I’ll try to stifle my cuteness of style, which is mainly, I think, a defense against pretentiousness.  For instance, I seem to need to search for a Proper Reason for so much that I do.  Certainly for what I write.  I hardly ever just sit down to my keyboard and begin typing.  If I do, I almost always pause to wonder just what it is that I’m doing and why I’m doing it.  I’m not a Dull Boy, though, for I’m quite capable of concluding I’m just having irrlevant fun, and continue.

But under that is my long-held view that recreational activities of no value in themselves are a sine qua non for a productive life.  A productive life. I continue to hold as inalienably true that I was born with an over-sized need to have a productive life.  Not that most people don’t have a similar need, but . . . I guess their definition of a productive life is less megalomaniacal than mine.

Anyway, today my main goal is to fill a few pages with notes for a definitive study of human morality.  (It was hard to keep from saying that uncutely, I must tell you.)  I thought the ideas I had two days ago, thinking in bed about the topic would automatically yield such an essay, and woke up yesterday morning still sure it would, but after leaving the house for tennis, my confidence evaporated.

Because I was no longer endocrinologically capable of confidence?  The was part of it, no doubt, but I believe the loss of confidence was rational, too: my ideas were not well-organized, and didn’t cover my entire topic.  Ergo, I went into what I call my null zone.  I could not write a definitive essay on human morality, there was therefore no way I could write anything on the topic that would contribute to a productive life (culturally productive, I am reminded to say–note: I am going to post what I say here without revision–except for fixing the typos I notice, for the sake of posterity, which will certainly be grateful for all my first drafts, following the thinking of Grumman being for them approximately what following the thinking–make that Thinking–of the Almighty was for medieval Western philosophers).

This morning, though, I snapped out of the null zone with the realization that simply jotting down my recent thoughts about morality would be worth doing on the grounds that they might be an effective first step toward a definitive study of morality–someone else’s if not mine.  Wahgoo, said I aloud to myself, I will compile mine notes–nay, I will write a Magnificent Familiar Essay around those notes.  And, behold, that is what I have begun.

I began thinking about morality shortly after beginning an excellent article in Free Inquiry (August/September 2014, Volume 33, Number 5) called “How Morality Has the Objectivity that Matters–Without God,” by Ronald A. Lindsay.  I thought I’d be saying much different things than he had, but when I returned to his article the day after beginning it, I found that I had very few disagreements with what he said.  In fact, that may have been part of the reason I toppled into my null zone.  But I now feel I have enough to add to what he said for a worthwhile essay.

I will be using a term he used (and may have invented): “intersubjective validation.”  It means about what I’ve meant when I’ve used “wide consensus of opinion in support,” or the like, in my philosophizing (or whatever it is I do) as a requirement for “maxobjective truths” or in my literary criticism as a requirement of an interpretation of a poem or other artwork.  I think I would elitistly prefer the term, “interalphasubjective validation,” though, meaning the validation of an idea’s validity not by a broad range of people in support of it but by a sizable majority of people who have shown they have sufficient intelligence and experience with what they are validating for them to most likely be doing the right thing.  Of course, that they do have the right qualifications is a matter of opinion.  That, I would leave up to simple intersubjective validation.

Interesting: I seem to have forgotten all the different, unconnected topics I was going to babble about here.  I’ve tunneled my way to a one-topic focus.  Now all I need is an organizing priciple.  But I can’t think about that–I gotta begin my thought-scatter.

Perhaps my most central thought concerns the final subjectivity of every moral belief.  I have an example which should make that clear: my own dogged belief in the sanctity of freedom of speech, meaning the right to say or write whatever, not what all the world’s governments mean by it.  So fanatically in favor of it am I that I am on record (if only in my private diary until now) of stating that the main reason Hitler should have been executed for crimes against humanity was his abrogation of the relative freedom of speech his citizens had, not his genocide. Nonetheless, I understand that my belief in the sanctity of freedom of speech is, at bottom, subjective.

Why?  Because I recognize that it can be harmful to some people.  I would argue that the benefits of freedom of speech far outweigh their evils because truth, for instance, is more important than hurt feelings–and because (as I always say) it is tyrannical to outlaw something simple because a miniscule minority will misuse it.  As what I call a “constitutional anarchist” (i.e., a Jeffersonian, not a Thoreauvian), I could make this essay book-length or longer going on to defend what I ultimately consider mankind’s chief right: the right to own private property (i.e., one’s material possession, including one’s body, and one’s thoughts)  and do with it as one sees fit so long as what you do with it significantly harms some other innocent person without his permission without interference by any government.  Here, though, my concern is merely to describe what to me is the inevitable final relativity of any moral belief.

Lindsay recognizes the same limitation and, it seems to me, deals with it about the way I do: by ruling that intersubjective validation (or interalphasubjective validation, which I will drop from now on as unnecessarily complicating) is sufficient for an effective morality–genuine full objectivity is not.  I use the term “maxobjective” to indicate a view sufficiently valid objectively for any sane person to accept, and about as close to full objectivity, which is impossible, as we can get.

So, a morally refined person should be willing to concede that no moral belief he holds is absolutely valid.  When it is opposed, this recourse is thus to provide rational, maxobjective reasons that it will do what a moral should do better than its opposite would.  I go along with Lindsay’s definition of morality as that code of human behavior the function of which is “to serve these related purposes: it creates stability, provides security, ameliorates harmful conditions, fosters trust, and facilitates cooperation in achieving shared and complementary goals.”  Or: it promotes social cohesion for the greater good.

My partial solution to the free speech problem would be to allow a person to ban or allow any kind of speech he wants to on his own property, and allow him to form groups with meeting halls they own in which they decide what can be said and not said.  I would prefer a nation whose government owns practically no land, but–being realistic–would want the government to set aside free-speech areas and nice-speech areas.  I would even allow a government to make all electronic speech nice–BUT give computer, radio and television manufacturers the right to make computers that could receive and transmit anything whatever.  Hence, offendables would be protected from political incorrectnesses and the like for free while people like me would have to pay some (small, I hope) fee to have access to any idea or image anyone feels like making public, and make our own ideas or images available.

TO BE CONTINUED

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Entry 1517 — Interruptions

July 24th, 2014

I’m interrupting my reading of an essay by Jan Baetens about minimalist poetry to say that it just made me see that there are two kinds of minimalist poetry: poetry whose form is minimal in size, and poetry whose content is minimal in size.  The letter “a” repeated 1776 times in a font a foot high would be an example of the latter, the kind of poems I’ve always thought of as the only kind of minimalist poem–”lighght,” for instance–are the other kind.  Then there are poems like “tundra,” which takes up a whole page (and at its best should probably take up a page ten feet wide), so is larger than many conventional poems, but whose content is not minimal in size, or John M. Bennett’s “The Shirt, The Sheet.” which is a sound poem consisting of those four words repeated indefinitely, so with an unminimal form but with variations that make its content nowhere near minimal in content.

Conclusion: I must define a minimalist poem as one whose content approaches zero and/or whose form does.

Meanwhile, I suddenly want to write an essay on the innate morality I believe we all have.  I hope to have it here tomorrow.  Then, maybe, I will return to what I may be calling “The Poetry Enterprise in America.”

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