Whatever It Takes

Evidence that I’ve been thinking too much about web-design lately: I was looking at a very elegant multi-column university letterhead yesterday, and I thought to myself: “Oh sure, it looks good now, but how will it cope when someone resizes the paper?” Funny that a window has become my default, rather than a page. When do I ever compose something to be printed?

Driving home northwards along Lincoln in rush-hour traffic, a man standing in the courtyard of a roadside motel talking urgently on his mobile. And wearing nothing but a towel. That’s a story, that is.

Dinner last week, to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Walking towards Santa Monica Pier, we pass a new-agey type shop where two customers, an older man and woman, watch as the assistant reaches up behind the counter and takes down Sigmund Freud and Jesus action figures. Then to the Pier [GM], where a young man and woman play the Dance Dance Revolution machine like it’s directly wired into their brains. I wonder about the future of arcades. The video games seem entirely redundant these days; the graphics are significantly less advanced than I have on my PlayStation. So what’s the point? The retro games like Pac-Man still swallow some quarters, but mostly it’s the amusements which rely on yer actual real-life physics that seem to be lasting: air hockey; shooting galleries; maybe pinball, if anyone could be bothered to maintain the tables properly.

And then to the Hollywood Bowl [GM] for a night of Mozart — or maybe a night of Mozart as an excuse to go to the Hollywood Bowl. I can’t help thinking of it as something from a Tom and Jerry cartoon. I’m disappointed at first that there’s no grand piano for Jerry to romp mischievously around in, but after the first couple of pieces, to my delight one is wheeled on. (How many American references I knew first from cartoons: skunks; drive-ins; ten-pin bowling.) The music is fine, but curiously perfunctory; I miss some banter between Neville Marriner and the audience, but he’s just quiet and serene, smiling happily on the big screens either side of the stage, which looks as it always has, like it’s made from an architecture student’s modelling card. An entirely wonderful moment towards the beginning when a coyote in the hills howls along with the orchestra. And planes droning across the sky, though it’s split by twin searchlights to deter them. It’s an occasion which allows itself the danger of a hostile environment.

And tonight, a bit dispirited by reading Deepak Chopra’s wilfully ignorant new-age bullshit. If I could choose only a single thing to plant, whole and complete, in the mind of every school-leaver around the world, it would be a firm grasp of the principles of evolution by natural selection, which is not random, nor intelligent, nor teleological. Propose a god of the gaps, sure, but the point is that you have to stay in the gaps. More generally, it’s profoundly disturbing to me right now how questions which ought to have been answered with a clanging finality are perceived as up for grabs: along with new Supreme Court appointments comes the question of whether Roe vs. Wade might be overturned; school boards abandon the teaching of evolution, or pair it with the neo-creationism that’s peddled by “Intelligent Design” hucksters. This is still a young country, and its soul is still being fought over. But Cindy Sheehan makes the news more and more, because she’s a woman alone — but whatever it takes. Whatever it takes.

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