Web knows my brain seemed glisterly surfaced like a frosted turnip in furthest Buchan & Strathbogie, at that moment of a winter eventide when the thoughts of bullocks and farming lads alike turn darkly towards Maggie the buxom kitchen maid. But, my mister, I struggled onwards through the gloomy mud, always hoping.
Finally to your door I arrived, impressions careening around my Megamacranium Pro 7.1, slidy sensations insinuating themselves from all sides and several dimensions into the streams and torrents of my consciousnesses. A Charlie Parker clone was singing inappropriately in a microtonal scale, and I could hear a Schubert playing very badly in an upstairs room. Another day, another Schubert.... The oceans on a far planet heaved and crashed as I embarked on that dubious quinquereme with my poor family for distant lands, in hopes of betterment. No sooner were the sails bellying out in the scorching wind than for the seventh time I was giving birth, that old familiar pain reappearing as if the intervening three months hadn’t already passed in soft forgetfulness.
Consequentially as I draw fluently on the blessed Nitrulous, shapes rise up kaleidoscopically lit with flaming colours, each one an ethereal love, a visceral stab of anger, a frightening shock, twining and gyring, sighing, roaring, shivering like the newborn Tibetan on a summer plateau I now become, born even while giving birth, my entire long life fast-forwarded through careless youth, disciplined study, hard graft, recognition, exponential inner growth, chaotic turbulence, travel to all parts of the observable world and in my meditation to the centre of the galaxy where finally I pass into a different lightbody, ever thankful for the stabilising effects of upgrade 3.2.
Briefly I was again in Greece, feeling as though for the first time that early sunshine in the cool air, the precursor of summer-day heat. I felt the old rising tide of excitement at the prospect of entering Delphi, seeing the precious columns static in the morning air, the green wooded slopes shimmering in the distance beyond the sanctuary.
Then all these become once more the immobile sepia photographs in a folded album, snapped shut as I summon up my swimming emotions, all bottled and rendered into this poor creature now at your service, my mister. Your environs was green as glass in my infra-ready, then even in my haste I managed not to cock over the kmilk as I knicked, downlidding my instracted toxt to your iDoor. We Xchanged grittings, Allo, also, thank for opening, have a nice, don’t forget the next i-Hinge-oiling in 315 days, Webwilling.
My mister, I am coming.
Leonardo Mind for Modern Times
I take refuge in the works of Leonardos 1-3 and of J. S. Bach first edition naturally and in the paintings of the Cro Magnon Artists. I take refuge in the very first Beethoven and the Original Sibelius and in the Works of Ur-Shakespeare. I take refuge in the depths of my esoteric mind and in the arts where progress comes from unremitting pursuit. The arcane über-skills, to project bright lines on paper for drawing, to rotate three-dimensional images in my interior imagination or re-mix Charlie Parker and flamenco on a guitar of my own making. I take pleasure in the ceaseless procession of images, sounds, words and invented scenarios that flood into the creative light of Leonardo Mind for Modern Times.
May this meditation be to the benefit of all, although it probably won’t, bearing in Mind how fucking frightened we all are of achieving anything some vacuous cunt might term élitist.….
Out loud, Memus44 says, “Mrs. Wolfbane, how’s the schedule looking this morning?”
“Coffee-Detox. Sticky Bun. Mr. Bogindollo. Dr. Wolfbane, No Relation. Curare Jim Justinhaugh. Pitifully Small Lunch.”
Mrs. Venezia Wolfbane can be remarkably provocative at times.
“Then downloading. Research for your book…… ah, ‘Wank Yourself Slim’, is it?”
Again that mischievous violet flash from the ocular semiotics department.
“Incidentally, Dr. Memus, Scintilla is getting ever more unstable, and that’s saying something.”
“Yes, I don’t think I can put off the journey to Aberdeen any longer. In fact, I spoke to Professor Strellitz a couple of days ago, so we have an appointment on Thursday afternoon.”
“Fine, I’ll get Mr. Wolfbane to make sure the MG is working by then.”
Parking at the Intitute of Medical Sciences wasn’t as difficult as Memus44 had anticipated. The attendant, (Northern Philosophy, First Class Hons.), found a space for the MG without difficulty, and the only problem then was to get Scintilla across the paved area and into the stairwell unmolested by students, who were powerless to resist the cloud of pheromones released by Scintilla’s wildly oscillating parasympathetic circuits.
Somewhat out of breath, his knuckles bleeding from fending off amorous youths, but still grasping the gyrating and gibbering Scintilla by her aluminium wrist, Memus44 reached the 5th floor, and knocked on the door marked Professor W. A. Strellitz, Director of Anthropomimetics.
“Wolfie, nice to see you!”
“Well, now, Memus,” said Strellitz, his big gray moustache bristling, while reflections of the corridor lights twinkled from his massive domed pate.
“Bring her in, then. Oh dear, I see. Actually we’ve had a bad run recently with some of our sentiency algorithms. When meaningfulness generation is taken to the sixth layer, the quantum phenomena break down. We need to review how multi-dimensional contextual stability and orientation are ordinarily homeostatted in mammalian brains – it’s the key to so much, and not only in anthropomimetics.”
“But just let me page my senior lecturer, Dr. Flugelpik. He’s on secondment from Kylie St. Petersburg at Genetics, and he does the gynaecoid stuff for me at the moment. Big F will take care of Scintilla while we have a wee catch-up. I’m sure the stability patch he’s developed will do the trick.
“Maybe I can offer you some Chasse Spleen ’22? The University managed to corner the market in this particular vintage, by great good fortune the Principal was doing some research in Bordeaux at the very moment the balloon went tits up.”
“Splendid, thank you.” Memus44 replied. “This really takes me back! But you seem to be doing quite well for yourself?”
“Mustn’t complain”, replied Strellitz, turning business-like. “Now, while Scintilla’s in the Lab, I need to know how things are progressing with the relationship. Where are you now on the compassion-anger spectrum?”
“Look, Strellitz, there is a problem, actually,” said Memus44. “See, when it comes to vulnerability, certain things penetrate to my hard-wiring level. I clearly remember the expression on a child’s face at the circus – must be fifty years ago and more - when he hears sweeties being unwrapped and turns round to look at the people in the row behind him. I’m a sucker for hungry beggars on the street too, specially if they’ve a lab with them, of course. And Scintilla does project a certain attitude-set, which makes me feel protective more than anything else. Towards a Gizmo, for heaven’s sake!”
“Mm, hmm,” Strellitz replied, wincing visibly at the term, but continuing to pour from a decanter, “I see. Maybe the real issue is your antipathy towards misuse of position, then. How to handle the dynamics of a power differential?”
“Even if the problem is my own hang-up,” retorted Memus44, “that doesn’t change the necessity for the software to be able to evolve behaviours to deal with it.”
Strellitz’s response was the slightest of gestures, signifying receptivity.
“Maybe you can imagine…..,” continued Memus44, sipping the Chasse Spleen appreciatively and relaxing in an armchair, “….looking back on how I missed out on quite a few opportunities, for no reason other than that I was free to do so. Didn’t consider the hurt. Mis-use of situation, wouldn’t you say?”
“Well, well,” put in Strellitz, “We’ve all been there, in our youth, haven’t we? Who knows the springs and origins of our genetic predisposition to be attracted to one rather than another? And remember, in those times it was possible to affect a quasi-ethical antipathy towards carnality most people today would find completely unintelligible.”
“That might have been an element, sure enough,” replied Memus44, “and so too might have been that toxic little hang-up which inhibits action where the outcome seems too easy: ‘Only pursue the unattainable’. Of course, you’re right, there could also have been an element of intuition, in that I discerned an ultimate incompatibility; or, to put the best possible face on it, that I was constitutionally averse to taking advantage.”
“And, what was her name, though? Eloïse, Adéle?” Strellitz put in, with a slight twinkle.
Alpha Romeo to O, Mega
“Oh well, that was different,” said Memus. “Oh, okay then. If you really must, the story of Adrienne.”
“Hang on a moment,” said Strellitz, “I’ll turn on the audio recorder.”
Memus44 paused reflectively.
“I would have been in my second year of ancient Greek and Comparative Philology,” he began.
“She was a student of engineering, a pretty girl, with a lop-sided grin and dark hair flecked with golden-brown. Sometimes she would tell me really interesting things about the forces wind can exert on walls, or how to calculate the maximum permissable snow-loading on roof structures, and I would try out the latest theories my studies were sparking off.
“Mmm. Reading his Symposium I had become convinced that Plato must surely have been influenced by contemporary ideas in sculpture. At the time he was writing, the marvellous achievements of Pheidias at Olympia and in the Parthenon had only very recently been unveiled, and they could hardly have failed to have had an immense impact on intellectual life right across the Greek-speaking world.
“I was thinking about this as I parked my old Alfa soft-top in the woods one Friday night, and while Adrienne and I did some preliminary fumbling. Unhooking her bra and disengaging my tongue for a moment, I happened to mention that there are quite a number of useful clues in Plato’s writing. For example, his idea of perfect forms could quite credibly have drawn its origins from the sculptor’s wax model, which becomes the original for a plaster mold, which can then be used to make subsidiary waxes, and so multiply the original model any number of times, even if the secondary models are always slightly less detailed than the original or “perfect” form.
“Slipping the thick winter coat off her shoulders and sliding her thin woollen jumper upwards, over her nipples, erect and solid in the cold car-air, I described my view of the Symposium as a marvellously structured novelistic work, with distinct layers.
“‘Each successive speaker, as the focus moves from one individual to the next round the party-room, has a particular angle, as well as his own idiosyncratic way of missing the point. Appropriately enough for a book about metaphysics, there are seven of these layers in all. One could compare it to one of those Russian dolls, each set of ideas constituting one babushka layer.
“‘And, at the centre, the Priestess of Apollo, who actually seems to have read The Upanishads.’
“‘I don’t think I’ve ever heard Plato’s Symphonium’, Adrienne whispered, ‘Is that by Berlin Phil?’
“The tops of her silky nylon stockings made a marvellously soft trapezium with the short suspender-straps, and a couple of fingers could enjoy that little window of smooth opportunities, eventually moving caudally to a yet more comforting zone.”
“Steady on, now,” exclaimed Strellitz, although his grin had been getting wider for a while.
Memus44 went on: “Anyway….. ‘Ah, Socrates’, I mumbled.
“‘Mmm, mmm mmm, mmm’, said Adrienne.
“‘Always patrolling the limits of his knowledge, and acutely aware of his own ignorance of what lies beyond.’
“‘Mmm, yes, mmm, yes!’
“I continued, ‘Then there is the very interesting incident of the Silenus of Alkibiades. Alkibiades arrives at the Symposium party rather late and a bit drunk, but still highly articulate and percipient.’
“Adrienne was become ever more interested, her hands adeptly unbuttoning and unzipping.”
“I’m beginning to see your philosophical point”, said Strellitz, a touch dryly, although it occurred to Memus44 that his comments might be aimed more at the Recorded Research Assessment people than himself.
“I endeavoured to explain to Adrienne, whose attention I must say never wavered, how intrigued I was by the idea that the Silenus figures mentioned by Alkibiades might refer to technical processes in sculpture.
“I’d observed that the term ‘Sileni’ refers to water spirits in the ancient Greek world, with characteristics or connotations of ‘water bubbling as it flows’, and from my experience of sculpture-casting, that's a recognisable description of molten bronze being poured into a mold.
“You may recall that other attributes of the Sileni are said to be horse-like. Now, in the lost-wax method of bronze-casting, the receiving cup of the ceramic mold is like an upside-down hoof in appearance, and its runners & risers are like a horse’s legs and tail.
“‘So you see, the term ‘Silenus’ used by ancient craftsmen in referring to a ceramic mold, which is central to the lost-wax method and which is subsequently broken open to reveal a cast figure, seems, according to my theory, to have had its origins in a reference to the water-spirits, the Sileni. In the Symposium, Plato has Alkibiades make a multiple pun based on Socrates’ physical similarity to the satyr whose name was Silenus. And he says that although he has an ugly and off-putting exterior, once you get inside his outer layers there is something beautiful to be found.’
“’Yes yes YESYES!’ Adrienne exclaimed at this point in my description, which was delightfully insightful of her”.
“Yes indeed, Memus,” said Strellitz, poker-faced.
“‘Could you maybe just hold me,’ Adrienne was murmuring, as I segue’d into another theory of mine, the one that describes how the Greek alphabet is actually a series of pictograms or little diagrams showing how the sound of each letter is produced by the lips, teeth, tongue and palate, viewed either from in front or laterally. The extraordinary thing is, every single one of the 25 Greek letters in lower case is recognisable in this way as a pictogram.”
“Oh, interesting,” said Strellitz, “so it’s not actually an alphabet after all!”
“It can be difficult to keep the thread,” said Memus44, “when you have to disentangle arms from legs and legs from gear-sticks and steering-wheels, find discarded items of underclothing under car-seats in the dark, all the time trying to avoid snagging a finger on sharp bits of under-seat-mooring, replacing fascia parts and so on dislodged by an incautious foot. Getting rid of squishy wet articles too, that can be a problem if you’re determined not to sully and degrade the environment by chucking things out of the window through a process of extraordinary defenestration.”
“Yes, I’m with you there. So apart from those little trips in the car, how did things go? I’m assuming not entirely well?”
“Oh, no, everything was fine. But then, one day she didn’t turn up in the Students' Union Bar as we’d arranged.”
“Oh dear, had you fallen out?”
“No, there wasn’t any particular reason why she would go off like that.”
“And so you never saw her again?”
“No. Well, yes, but ….I found out she’d been sectioned.”
“Oh no! Acute psychosis?”
“Um – no, not exactly….”
“Go on, Memus, tell me,” said Strellitz quietly, swallowing a hefty bolus of his Moulis-en-Médoc as pre-medication.
“Well, you know I gave up the language studies after a serious disagreement with the Department of Ancient Lore. They had seemed to think very little of my suggestion that the ending of The Symposium was the first fade-out in the long history of media studies, and marked me down accordingly in the exam. Going from an average of 97% in the course-work to 61% in the written was a bit of an insult.
“Anyhow, a place had unexpectedly become available in Medicine, and I decided to go for it. At the time I had the idea that Hippocratic medicine and modern pharmacodynamics might have something in common that could lead to a unified system which could assimilate selected parts of both ancient and modern medicine, and I was keen to follow it up. But developments in the curriculum, in what you specialists call nowadays paedogogy, meant that I had to put these ambitions on the back burner for a while.
“A couple of years later, after the standard course in botany, still around in those days as the foundation for materia medica, I joined the mainstream medical school and began my studies of physiology, medical physics and anatomy.
“At the start of term, a small group of us were being shown round ‘The Drain’, as the Anatomy Department at Marischal College used to be called. You won’t have forgotten the pervasive smell of formalin that used to come from the dissecting room. Anyway, I noticed that on the upper shelf of a display cabinet in the Departmental Museum stood a series of glass jars, each containing a preserved human head.
“In each specimen, the scalp had been incised and folded down over the forehead, and the upper part of the skull had been removed so as to expose the brain. The faces were pallid and shiny-skinned, the expression either entirely vacant or worried-looking.
“Each jar had an old-fashioned hand-written label indicating the details, thus:
“Reading between these sparse lines, one might understand how for these people the days of freedom and lucidity had flooded past, until suddenly the realisation had dawned within each brain, now beautifully fixed and preserved in a glass jar on a green-painted shelf, that time’s flux had reached an end, that summer was finished and all summers too, beyond recall.
“Perhaps a happy childhood had changed imperceptibly into a perplexed middle-age, succeeded not by resolution but by a terrifying slide into dementia. For others, maybe life had always been a desperate struggle against people and circumstances, with never an inkling of what it might be like to live free of the control of some monstrous predator.
“With my mind rapidly filling with these sad reflections, I almost bumped into a large glass jar standing on the floor, directly facing the mad collection of insane heads.
“With a shocking chill, I realised it contained the body of a young woman preserved in formalin. She must have been quite a find, for there were no obvious signs of injury or disease to explain her demise, and her terminal circumstances must have been such that the anatomists were able to take complete possession of her dead body.
“Some of the students thought the girl was a suicide, to have died so young, yet evidently not in childbirth. Maybe she had cut her wrists, or rather her left one, for there was no way of telling, since the jar contained only her neatly prepared right sagittal section.
“Kneeling as if to fit more comfortably into the confined space, with her internal components displayed for our education, anal canal, vagina, pelvic organs, diaphragm, vertebral bodies and spinal cord terminating in the delicate cauda equina, the great vessels and vital organs in the thorax, heart, lungs and their coverings and attachments, her long, dark, gold-flecked hair floating lightly in the preservative fluid, she had been consigned to a cold and permanent womb only a couple of decades after leaving her mother’s warm interior.
“‘No photographs survive,’ I was thinking, leaning for support against the glass, despite the looks of alarm from the others, ‘of you looking out from a sepia interior with cheerful or optimistic face, bright and intelligent, or downcast and fearful, lately sentient of some chill diagnosis. No letters arrive, addressed c/o Aberdeen University Anatomy Department, no text-messages pile up in your mobile phone, carelessly abandoned somewhere in a girlish bag, no e-mails accumulate on a run-down laptop.’
“That evening as I leave the Anatomy Department, the white-coated technician turns out the lights, with a series of loud jarring metallic clicks from the brass switches. The gallery of insane heads look down at Adrienne, who stares back across the darkness with one eye and a half-smile.”
The dense silence is broken by a tap at Strellitz’s door. He turns off the recorder and Dr. Flugelpik enters, closely followed by a radiant Scintilla.
“Hi fellas!’ she cries. Her accent seems to be Australian, and her hair is darker and longer. “C’mon then, Memus, what are we waiting for?”
Memus44 and Scintilla rattle down the steel-stepped stairs of the Institute and out into the sunshine, where the parking attendant is polishing the MG’s headlights.
As the car leaves Aberdeen and heads north, Scintilla begins scribbling. She passes the note over, and Memus44 reads: “Pssst. Urgently need discuss position of Gothic between ancient tongues & modern Doric. Stop in woods after Oldmeldrum.”
They arrive home very late that evening. Mrs Venezia Wolfbane has long since departed for Fraserburgh’s bright lights.
Copyright © Donnie Ross 2010
An alternative stand-alone version of Scintilla first appeared in http://www.rammenas.nl/