Category Archives: Life/Times

Sam Gives Optimism a Try

I’ve been accused over the years – justly, I suppose – of being too much the pessimist. Negative expectations yield negative results, my friends tell me, and while I have argued that in my experience positive expectations yield negative results, too, I’ve been forced to admit that Murphy’s Law isn’t much of a philosophy to live by.

And so lately I’ve been attempting to think more optimistically on the assumption that, if my friends are right, positive expectations result in positive energy, thereby fostering an environment conducive to positive results. It’s working, too, and the events of the past few days bear it out. Life may be a good news/bad news proposition, but I’m beginning to see how the good outweighs the bad. Let me give you some examples.

Bad News: Last night around midnight a drunk in a junked 1937 Chevy Citation rear-ended my car, a perfectly nice 1989 Mazda MX-6, which was parked in front of my apartment building minding its own business. My car was totaled. Read more

Scatterlings of the Metrocene: Evolution, Education and the Dawn of the Cyberhuman Epoch

Samuel R. Smith, University of Colorado
Jim Booth, Surry Community College

She held out her hands, palms up, the fingers slightly spread, and with a barely audible click, ten double-edged, four centimeter scalpel blades slid from their housings beneath the  burgundy nails. She smiled. The blades slowly withdrew.
– William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)

Pat Diener…is 26 years old, and she is going deaf. Landing her in the annals of science are the microscopic electrodes that doctors have buried deep inside her brain. Two fine platinum wires – as thin as a human hair and insulated in teflon – run underneath the young woman’s skull, connecting the electrical circuitry inside her head to a black plastic plug that sticks out from behind her left ear. From there, Diener can wire herself into a pocket-sized “speech processor” that picks up sound and transmits it to the electrodes, enabling the brain to interpret it.
– Associated Press Wire Report, 12/2/92

The technological explosion of the last few decades has made workaday fact of once-wild science fictions like genetic engineering, space travel, laser surgery and computer-generated animation – not to mention the handy little construct used to produce this document, the IBM-compatible 386-SX personal computer. Read more

Memphis, Tennessee: Mythbuilding by the American Nile

Elvis was not a phenomenon. He was not a craze. He was not even, or at least not only, a singer, or an artist. He was that perfect American symbol, fundamentally a mystery, and the idea was that he would outlive us all – or live for as long as it took both him and his audience to reach the limits of what that symbol had to say.

– Greil Marcus – Dead Elvis: A Chronicle of a Cultural Obsession

It’s a shame Flannery O’Connor didn’t live long enough to see “Death Week.”

Death Week, as most people know by now, is the ritual observance of the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death on August 16, 1977. The festivities include, but are not limited to: tours of Graceland, the King’s palatial estate hard by the Memphis boulevard bearing his name; picnics; Elvis impersonators of every age, race, creed, sex, and religious persuasion; ample opportunities to spend one’s life savings on a brain-numbing array of Elvis paraphernalia; and, of course, the climactic candlelight vigil at the grave site.

This being the fifteenth anniversary of the King’s alleged demise, the size of the celebration and the amount of media attention it received were greater than usual. Read more

Looking at a Small Picture: Death of a Statistic

November, 1989

It’s a cruel crazy beautiful world
One day when you wake up I will have to say goodbye
It’s your world so live in it

-Johnny Clegg

On Tuesday, November 20 – two days before Thanksgiving – Robert Lewis, Jr., 34, was knifed to death in the parking lot of the Burlington Coat Factory in Raleigh, where he worked.

The man charged with the murder, Robert Leon Hill, is the estranged husband of one of Bobby’s co-workers. Hill apparently thought his wife and Bobby were romantically involved, but authorities have no evidence that this was the case. Read more

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