There are a lot of stories on NPR's, "This American Life," or, "RadioLab," or, "To The Best of Our Knowledge," which are either derived from great books, or which could easilly be made into a great book. BTW - I like how, "T.A.L.," has sometimes had a healthy subversive edge, with stories which indirectly criticise uncivil police or government agencies.
- A story about amateur filmmakers in CA who 'inspire' their cop actors to be illegal.
- A story about a janitor in upstate NY who commandeered an entire school system by his bullying, and advanced to gain a salary of well over $100,000.
- A story about a NYC cop who went against the department's quota system and ended up being severely harassed and followed by other officers.
- More than one story about former illegal drug-runners who were in association with the government.
- A story about an FBI informant who was prodded to bark up the wrong tree to no avail; and yet the FBI finally arrested his subject despite gaining no evidence against him.
- Stories about 9/11, and so on.
Most of these stories probably followed from books.
However, while listening to NPR (+BBC) in the last few days, I have noted that some mere factoids I've heard have been good enough to write a book on - or at least expand into a story featured by T.A.L., etc.
On Sunday morning, I heard a mention of experiments done w/ dolphins in the 1950's, on my beloved NPR environmental magazine, "Living On Earth." The 1950's psychedelic mad scientist, who was obsessed with dolphins, suddenly realised that he could teach dolphins to speak English, if only they could live in houses like we do. So, he arranged an experiment where a dolphin and a human teacher would live together in a house filled with water. Now - isn't that totally bookworthy, in every which way?! For the climax of this real-life book, the female teacher ends up having a sexual relationship with the horny dolphin. Because. That's what really happened. And I said, "....!"
Sure enough, later that day, "RadioLab," did a story about this very experiment! They interviewed the woman who had attempted to teach the dolphin to speak English, in between pleasuring the dolphin. It was far-out, wild, hip, mod, groovy and right-on, man. Drugs were involved. The experiment was promptly shut done by public outrage, even though it had some noteworthy successes. RadioLab's main topic was, "words found in the wild," and was very good. (Possibly, I will get back to the subject of language and marine mammals later in this post).
What is another recent NPR tidbit, worthy of making into a book?
How about a philosophy book? I heard on, "Wait, Wait! Don't Tell Me!" that Syrian refugees got to Finland, and then turned back, because it was too boring. From what I have learnt, Finland is in fact boring. But imagine coming from a war zone into something analogous to an ocean dead zone! Well, this in itself could be made into a little family saga. Boringness could be made into something so potent that it is even more deadly than a drone.
So, then I started thinking about boredom as a weapon - to keep aliens away. Imagine entering your new-school's playground, and all the other kids just stand there - BORING at you. They bore at you and bore at you, and you must get away! Clearly, this playground belongs to THEM. And who would care to fight to gain a place in their territory, when its boringness is simply too much to withstand?! You, a little party animal, shrink away like an antique violet, admitting complete defeat. "How strong are these Fins," you remark. "How well they withstand boringness. It is as if they are endowed with superhuman genes!"
And this is the way the Nordic countries keep the Mediterraneans out, while the cold takes care of the mosquitoes. The North would be a Valhalla - perhaps it is for them - but it is just so terminally dull. People play cards for Christmas; watch Ingmar Bergman films for Easter; ride taxis around in the middle of the night, which is 8 months long; drink moderately all day, and yet there are no bars; stew in their shoes eating Lutefisk, listening to, "Prairie Home Companion," judging everyone who moves on a Sunday - and vote-in Socialism because it's too cold to work. Sadly, aliens hear about this Socialism, and then get bored out of their minds as if by a sonic weapon, and flee to less peaceful, libertarian realms, like Somalia.
Everyone is white. And everyone is furry. And everyone is half asleep, slurping on a slurry.
This may seem trite, but I think it's right. I think it's a phenomenon, far and wide. Just look at the churches here, where, after a week of clatter, everyone files in to a mass ceremony that is nothing less than pure hell - boring to the most eager, exuberant, innocent soul - satisfying to the most droll, artificial and insecure. This is how the churches say, "Just abide by our rote rituals, long empty pauses, mechanical mass-reactions, strained musical strains, and wooden chairs and kneelers - just abide long enough, and we may think of accepting you as one of us. We may begin to consider you trustworthy and uninteresting, for hath you not shared with us our deepest intimacy?"
And, many gnash their teeth and scream, "No!!!!!!!!!!!!!" - running for the high heavens. Or provinces akin to Somalia.
And, think of grade school, and Junior High, and so on! All 30+ years of them. Ya sit there, and ya slowly die! Am I wrong? Need I even get descriptive about this boring boringness? No! It has nothing to do with learning, because our brains wanted to do that ANYWAY. It is about boring away all propensity for wild learning, and then bopping you on the head continuously with official dogma, dogma, dogma. Some may excel in math, or English, or music, and tolerate this trap. And, some may escape sane. But, mainly, it is asylum for the insane. It is meant to grind into the dirt all hope an aspiration, and culture criminals in the black market, who will be recruited by the CIA, and make sure that ONLY THE BORINGEST OF THE BORING graduate into the upper echelons of social control. Only the most craven masochists, seeking eventual graduation into a life of happy sadism.
I tell you, boringness is the major weapon of the civilised - and nowhere is this more brazen than in the selection of the few into the upper echelons of power and of class. The nouveau riche are regimented towards Babylon, jumping through hoops of boredom, sheering away their skin, until they are preened into virtual bubble-babies, rolling around over everyone else, whining and complaining, and executing their power over vast economies. The country Clubs, the Bored Rooms, the drinking problems, the depressed wives, the suicidal children, the insatiable addictions and lust - all to compensate the widening gyre of immortal boredom. But it is no use. Despite their Satanic, homosexual orgies, (woohoo), and such, they somehow manage to die, leaving a legacy of boredom. The one thing they have successfully served was this:
Keeping sane people poor.
The BBC featured a short story about a genius man. His brain was so big, he could have been a dolphin. His life was one long dishevelled morning jacket. His previous wives left him, because he was not only absent-minded, he was fixated on two things. Math. And. Like a dolphin, the only other thing he wanted was sex. And I thought, "This is kinda like me." I meant that in the sense that he had been through a difficult life, and was a spectacular dunce. The sex part, I dunno, what's sex?
In college, I came down with CFS, to the worst of my knowledge. I was so tired, I stayed in my bedroom a lot. My roommate once blurted out, weirdly, "I heard that mentally retarded people masturbate all the time." And his girlfriend got the extreme umption up to say, "What made you say something like that?!" "I don't know. That's just something I heard." Well, the point was, he was trying to intimate that I was always in my room, masturbating. Thus began the global campaign of passive-aggression to exploit my CFS, and blame or accuse me of every damn thing. Later, I was to discover that human beings are just moralistic holograms, so I stopped caring.
Early on, I taped this tiny picture of a little girl in an awkward pose, in Penny's underwear, or something, up on my wall, as a joke, since I had no real college-boy big nasty pictures of boobus giganticus and affiliated bimboids. It was an obvious joke. I pointed at it, and my roommate just glared at me with profound suspicion, hovering over me so close that his eyeballs nearly spilled onto my head. I was to suffer years and years of silent scorn and neglect from friends, family, and others, all because my CFS had tainted me as being some terrible guy, who avoids work, and stays in his bedroom, must be a pedophile, etc., while they were out enjoying their countless crimes.
Well, when I found out that the genius guy, who only wanted math and sex, had incurred a triple-bypass surgery, then I thought, "Well, maybe his life was worse than mine." On the other hand, maybe not. I have had years of heart difficulties, and everything else, and more some. But, this guy on the BBC, he surely was one of those Oliver Sacks cases. And, so it was, his latest wife apparently mistook him for a sex pistol.
"All he wants is math and sex. I can give him the sex, but I can't give him the math."
And, I thought, "Why? Why would someone want to marry this poor guy? Why would someone want to be sucked into a life so BORING?! Just to give him sex? Like he's a dolphin?!"
It's so mind-bending, such a puzzle, this tidbit.
So: wouldn't this make a great book?! I thought, "Yes!"
[My journal is the book I would have writ].
Except, math is boring.
Where are all these selfless women, so willing to please, by the way?
Alas, In fact, I can't be near them. I would sit down with one in a cafe and see our reflection in the window: Woody Allen and Jodi Foster, or something, and that just isn't me. Jodi Foster is from Yee Olde City, pretty much, btw. Clarissa Flockhart is from nearby, but I haven't run into her.
Speaking of dolphins, back to our house containing the horny dolphin and the flower child research woman, who oddly never went to jail for bestiality: At the end of the RadioLab story, it told of the dolphin performing some sort of ritual on the woman.* [* - On her foot, to be precise. (This has been a footnote)].
The dolphin would take in some air, and then sink to the bottom of the water, where he would clasp the woman's foot with his beak. He would stay there, holding her foot, until he had to come up for more air. Then he would go down on her again. Over and over. All we heard was the dolphin, coming up, breathing, going down; coming up, breathing, going down. It was rather sad. Maybe he was returning the party favour, he thought. Or, maybe this was some mating ritual that dolphins do: maybe he likened her foot unto a dolphin's fin. (This would be interesting to find out).
But, it was Flowers-for-Algernon sad, like Lucy the Ape, shot because she loved a human. Such hurt, sometimes, the distance between species, tragically bridged. It reminds us of our own animality, and mortality. The human condition is the world condition.
And, if a foot were a fin, it would be fitting. Because, it would be a sad foot. Or, a doleful fin.
Or, maybe just dull.
There is a dolphin named Fungie, who willfully visits the Bay of Dingle, in Eire. He puts on a show for the Dingle townsfolk, even though he is wild. Like the true Irish would do, they let the boy come and go as he wished, as the boy whom he was. (They were not the controllaholic, narcissistic corruption of Irish, who would coax and coerce, then bless the beast once the life had been beaten out of it). And so, the boy is a star. A natural-born star. And this is how it has been for many years. With no greedy human interlopers super-imposing themselves and stealing the show.
And, I thought! What an idea for a book!
This is somewhat in contrast to sticking a dolphin in a house, isn't it?
A girl, who wanted to talk to animals ever since she was 12, grew up and became a scientist who took a boat out to the ocean, and tried to talk to Spotted Dolphins.
The first year was a loss for her, and her little scientific team. The second year was full of technical errors. For five years, they waited for dolphins to come by and talk, of their own dolphinic volition. Five years of boredom. Why wasn't this working? I will volunteer my animal perspective: Dolphins are smart, and busy. They know to stay away from boat noises and marauding profiteers. They are smart enough to know better.
The researcher found a guy who built her a box which would speak, and translate, dolphin, and human. After several tries, and after a little "rain-type-dance" to summon dolphins, a bunch of dolphins finally approached. Yay! the eager beaver researcher splashed down into the water. Two dolphins swam right up to her, and stared at her, from two feet away.
Dolphins staring - two feet away.
These were not the Spotted Dolphins. These were Bottle-Nosed Dolphins. And if you ask me why, I will say. Dolphins are smart. These guys were the guardians of the gulf, and they heard from the Spotted Dolphins that this human and her team were messing around up there for many years, and so what is going on? "Who are you? What do you want from us? Can we trust you?..."
I have a few instances of marine mammals coming up out of the water to thank people who rescued them, from nets, etc., and stared right into their eyes, from only feet away. They would go right up to each person, stop and stare for minutes, and then swim away. This called communication. This is called feeling. I have also experienced a few analogous things in my life, like when the neighbours stare at my boxers.
So, they scoped the scene, they cased the place, and they sent sonar waves into the researcher's bones. They decided she had a heart of gold, and so, after the left, next came the Spotted Dolphins. "Coast is clear!"
After all the probes, and tangled nets, and toxins, and trophy fishing, and deafening noise, and shotguns, and boat motors, and oil spills, you would think that dolphins would forever steer clear of us, at least until after our world came tumbling down, as it has been wont to do in the past. But, they know how to forgive. And, they are psychic. All it takes is a dance, a song, a wish - and the willingness to communicate - and they will show up. Because, we both have more in common than most other species, including a love of anchovies.
The researcher's mission was not unsuccessful. She actually caught suggestions of the dolphins responding to their names, as pronounced by the machine. My guess is that they are so discriminating, they knew it was artificial. But, they were good sports.
Dolphins have names. Names they give each other. They have been heard discussing other dolphins when those dolphins were away. I suppose this could be called gossip, but possibly something more positive. However, these names are WORDS. Dolphins know how to talk. We are just lame, because, since they don't speak our language, we assume all other animals cannot communicate. This is idiotic, and betrays our low intelligence.
Back to the dolphin in the house. He did everything he could to pronounce English words for the flower girl research woman. He spent a lot of time, alone, practicing! And, in order to pronounce a word with the, "M," sound, he would roll sideways, so that a some water would partly block his blow-hole, and this would produce the sound. Imagine having to do something like that, every time you had to pronounce a consonant. The fact is, dolphins did not evolve bodilly tools to speak English - they evolved to speak dolphin. Let me see you speak dolphin as well as this dolphin spoke English.
You may be able to swing a hammer, but can you see into another's soul?
Dolphins are very interesting, in their evolution. They fled the land as a kind of hooved wolf. Gradually swimming further and deeper, after anchovies or away from bigger wolves, they evolved into giant monsters, with big mouths full of teeth. Then, they seemed to learn the utility of cooperation, and so they slim-lined down to the impeccable intelligence machines we all know and love.
Maybe marine mammals have learnt themselves away from the mistakes of libertarian, Darwinian competition, and found their niche. Maybe they are like benevolent aliens now. But, they do carry on their competition games, transformed into cooperation. They love to pass around a fish, from one to another, before anyone eats it. And, they loved to throw around the researcher's scarf, underwater. At what point did humans learn themselves away from the mistakes of fatal competition? Look at what we are doing to the planet.
When I learnt that Orca's toss seals around, into the air, from mouth to mouth, like volley balls, I was stunned. But, this is sport - this is game - in the real, human sense of the words. This is prey. This gets to be a religion, these rituals, these victuals. But, these games, are they competition or cooperation? I guess they are both. Like a dog toying with a live mouse. Wanting to share it with others. It's sad, but we intelligent, social beings tend to be predators, although, I could never win an algae game with an algae.
In the RadioLab show about, "Words in the Wild," a British researcher observed monkeys in the heart of Africa. One species of monkeys would call out a word that warned of an approaching cougar(?), which was almost identical to the call warning of an approaching eagle. Yet, the two words were distinct enough to warn those monkeys to run UP trees, or else DOWN trees, respectively.
Not only did these words warn THOSE monkeys, but OTHER species of monkeys in the jungle. And - not just monkeys - but also species of birds, etc. In other words a diversity of animals understood the meanings of these words, and responded to them correctly. So, when you walk out at night, hearing sounds of birds, or of desert, or of jungle, be aware that the diversity of insects and animals are probably, over the millions of years, tuned into the communications of each other.
When a predator approaches, the jungle responds like a single organism. This cooperation should not be surprising to us. This united competition against the solitary predators should not be surprising. This is the beauty of nature. Everything is balanced tautly. Everything interacts. Everything knows the ways of the forest. And everyone is descended in the same grand family. This has been going on forever. This communication. This sharing. And the predators know the name of the game, just as the game does.
Just like a diversity of gut biota, each animal, and each species, is sending out its effects and strivings into the environment, witnessed by all others. Felt by all others as part of the whole. The air breathed, the water, the decaying plants, the seeds, all is recycled, and balanced. In its very essence, the jungle is one being.
Likewise, each animal, and each species, is sending out its words, some easier to understand than others. They are like little balloons of abstraction, forming a larger sphere of imaginary territory around the animal or species. Just like the bird territories marked by songs in the Midwest, there is a diversity of word-territories perpetually mapped out in the jungle. To sing is to announce territory. To dance or have sex is to declare safety in territory.
But all of these bubbles forever overlap, within and without species, and individuals. It is a richer, "more rudimentary," form of our economic marketplace. The utility of information within the environment of real struggle.
Well, this overlapping, this "bleed-through," is indicative of the dynamism of nature, both in communication, and in physical reality. By tuning in and out this or that sound, individuals and species perfect there own unique languages. Unique, but only because they are part of the living, breathing whole. This is how we should think of nature, and of any animal or species within it. As an ocean.
How vain we have been.
So, imagine the dolphins, swimming around with their big heads, underwater where an explosion of infinite sounds carries on forever, for miles and miles and miles.
Imagine how perfect their language must have become, and what refined creatures these creatures must be. Far more than we. All we see are ziggy zaggy lines denoting chaotic whistles and clicks. But, they speak volumes we may never read. Imagine their expertise to survive so many, many millions of years, perfecting a superb language unlike no other in the ocean, present, past or future. Think of the virtuoso music they have created, by distinguishing sounds from all others, marking their own path, and existence. A music so deep, it scintillates your bones. A word so true, it calls you to love.
They are oracles in their own right.
It was not on NPR, I heard the next story. It was on, "60 Minutes," I believe. Secret microphones and cameras sneaked into a giant warehouse in China. Shark fins were stacked up, as far as the eye could see. Shark fins were stacked on the roof, drying in the sun. Thousands. Millions. Many more of these warehouses exist in China, and elsewhere. Warehouses exists for many other animal parts. It is a tragedy.
We are only beginning to learn to spare the dolphins, and other marine mammals. Whales are still hunted in other countries. I don't know how they can want to continue living down there, in the ocean, with all that deafening human noise, plastic nano-particles, and radiation. But, we miss saving all the other species, merely because they seem less like us. How will the planet be saved if we only hold dear the predators, who are doomed no matter what we do, as everything beneath them is dropping out?
There is not enough time. There is only time to marvel at what we have left, and to do what we each can do, despite the fall. I am filled with shame, as if in sight of a lost child, during war, wishing I could have been oh so much more responsible for my life. But we are caught in the waves of mindless history. And. Maybe it doesn't matter if we even try to learn from history, this time. Because this book is coming to a close, my friend. This is the end...
Or, as the Nordic movie darkens.
And the wild wind begins.
The congregation of dolphins in the Pacific,
urging humans to wake up to our global tragedy.