NASA Says Warp Drive Closer Than We Think

We’ve all heard Jean Luc Picard command the USS Enterprise to proceed at “warp factor six,” or 216 times light speed. NASA scientists already have plans for a warp drive that would allow a spaceship to travel faster than light. Of course, it’s in the testing stage. When it becomes a reality, some of us might want to volunteer for the expedition.

The April 2013 edition of Popular Science reported on a meeting of the “100 Year Starship” that included a presentation by NASA scientist Harold “Sonny” White on the subject of “Warp Field Mechanics 102.”An agency of the United States Department of Defense, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has the goal of making travel beyond our solar system a reality within the next 100 years. Among NASA’s goals for facilitating travel via chemically propelled rockets, antimatter systems and nuclear engines include the possibility of using warp drive as a means of galloping faster than light.

Of course, the law of relativity decrees that matter cannot accelerate to a light speed or faster because mass would expand infinitely and require an infinite amount of energy to achieve.

White has not only developed the concept of warp drive but is also commencing physical tests in NASA laboratory.

White suggests that warp speed would reduce travel time to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system, from 75,000 years to two weeks. A wagon train full of pioneers usually ambled along at about 2 miles per hour, if the mules were sufficiently motivated. A ship moving at the speed of light would get about 670 million miles in that period of time. (We can reach that sum by multiplying 60 seconds by 60 minutes by 186,000 miles per second.) Even a plane moving faster than the speed of sound would not affect the equation by much.

How warp drive would work is to reverse the attractive force of gravity by means of negative energy. Negative energy would not keep space and time together by mutual attraction but would pull them apart. Quantum mechanics has predicted that negative energy does indeed exist.

White could create negative energy in a NASA lab. While two conductive plates could be brought close enough to generate a small amount of negative energy, scientists are skeptical about the notion that a sufficient amount of negative energy could be generated to allow a ship to skip faster than light. They are of the opinion that warp drive would require such vast amounts of negative energy as to make propulsion by such means infeasible.

But White’s computer simulations have uncovered a “warp bubble” that would need millions of times less negative energy to carry a spaceship beyond our solar system.

Faster than light transportation has been in existence since the Big Bang, which expanded space and time such that matter within the “bang” could have been moving at warp plus speed.

Negative energy would mold space and time like clay, compressing and flattening it. Meanwhile it would wrap the spaceship in a field like a bubble. The ship could then ride along the distorted shapes of space and time.

The Popular Science article includes full-color portraits of warp drive in action.

It’s hardly news to physicists that, because of the inextricable bond of space and time as established by relativity principles, faster than light motion would tug the space pioneers not only through space but also through time. A ship wrapped in a negative energy bubble would become a time machine. Going by way of negative energy could involve sailing through negative time. Astronauts experiencing a two week trip to Alpha Centauri might also find themselves millions of years older, so to speak.

Of course, you could very well ask, how would they know the difference? We don’t even know what the planets circling Alpha Centauri look like now, much less how they appeared a few geological eras ago.

What we do know is that if you bring up the subject of warp drive to Sonny or other NASA scientists, they will tell you they’re working on it. And they will likely come up with a solution to long distance travel well before a century has passed.

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Mental Health Treatment Strides into the 18th Century

By the end of the 17th century, madness was viewed as a physical phenomenon rather than a spiritual or moral issue. But “treatment” of the mentally ill included the use of chains and the whip, as well as diet and exercise, in order to suppress the passions of those regarded as wild animals. The nickname given to the notorious “Bedlam Hospital of Saint Mary of Bethlehem in England, “Bedlam,” became a common noun for scene of pandemonium and violence.

In the 19th century, asylums were created to store the mentally ill, but “mental illness” was defined indiscriminately to confine those manifesting any condition that disquieted society, despite the fact that many of these maladies were little more than responses to oppressive societal and economic circumstances. Therapy was almost nonexistent. The asylums practiced seclusion and minimal caretaking of patients by largely untrained personnel.

In the Islamic world, as early as the 8th century, institutional care was based upon the belief that God loved the sane and insane alike, and patients were treated with special diets, baths, music, and felicitous surroundings

The asylum concept for the treatment of mentally ill seems to be thriving well into the 21st century, as evidenced by institutions such as Hotel Pawnee in North Platte, Nebraska. The facility has been cited by the Department of Health and Human Services for multiple violations of DHHS regulations, including hiring of uncertified staff, lack of safety in food preparation and administration of medications, and failure to conduct background checks of applicants. Recently Hotel Pawnee was placed probationary status and ordered to correct numerous deficiencies within the next year.

The DHHS investigation, conducted in May of 2012, disclosed a situation of peeling ceilings, moldy walls, broken light fixtures, dirty corroded bathtubs and thick piles of dust everywhere. Residents’ rooms were found to be littered with clothing and trash, and cluttered hallways contained cat litter boxes spilling feces onto the floor. Residents were being served sparse amounts of food, and nurses were administering injections without washing their hands or wearing gloves. Random examination of residents’ files by DHHS indicated that none of those suffering from mental illness or behavioral disorders were receiving specialized training in behavior management.

Hotel Pawnee was built in 1929 as the “Hotel Yancey,” and later became designated as the “Pawnee Hotel.” The eight story brick building, with its Georgian Revival architectural style, featured prominently in the history of North Platte, hosting celebrities and political figures and offering elegant receptions in its second-floor ballroom.

Disability Rights Nebraska, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the legal rights of the disability community, conducted a nine-month investigation of Nebraska assisted living facilities for individuals with mental illness that included Hotel Pawnee. Photographs of the interior of Hotel Pawnee confirm the previous reports of appalling conditions, and documentation of food service operations have disclosed the restrictions on food and other necessities disclosed in the DHHS report. Ironically, the walls and ceiling of a ballroom that so characterized the opulent appointments of the past, collapsed several years ago, and have never been repaired. Disability Rights Nebraska has characterized the conditions at Hotel Pawnee as “dangerous and inhumane,” and has undertaken efforts to require DHHS to enforce its legislatively mandated responsibilities by closing down this facility and relocating the residents to environments less inimical to their health and safety.

Eric Evans, Chief Operation Officer of Disability Rights Nebraska, has described the conditions at Hotel Pawnee as a “soul killer.” It is difficult not to regard Hotel Pawnee as a reincarnation of Bedlam Hospital.

Amazingly, Hotel Pawnee is a “private pay” institution, which means that the residents pay over $1,076.00 per month for the questionable privilege of living there.

The squalid conditions of the facility are not the most tragic aspect of the situation. Of greater significance is the isolation of the residents and their seclusion from the world. The State of Nebraska is mandated to provide not only for treatment of those suffering mental illness and behavioral disorders, but also establish the means for allowing them to integrate into the community. For example, the DHHS Division of Behavioral Health is charged with ensuring “the public health and safety of persons with behavioral health disorders” and to provide Nebraska citizens with “an appropriate array of community-based services,” a “continuum of care” and “high quality behavioral health services.”

Unfortunately, in one of her final actions as Chief Medical Director of DHHS Public Health, before leaving the agency for Blue Cross Blue Shield, Dr. Joann Schaefer issued a decision allowing Hotel Pawnee to stay in business.

Bruce Mason, Litigation Director for Disability Rights Nebraska, regards this and similar state statutes, as well as regulations promulgated by DHHS itself, as binding promises made by the State of Nebraska to provide an opportunity for all of its citizens to live decent, secure, productive lives, free of isolation and restraint. Mr. Mason says that Disability Rights Nebraska will exert all of its efforts to assure that the State honors its promises and fulfills its legal and equitable duties.

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Black Holes and Gravity Let Us Time-Travel

A NASA space telescope recently recorded two black holes shining in ultra-bright X-ray light in the galaxy Caldwell 5, 7 million light-years from Earth. Scientists speculate that these are intermediate, rather than supermassive black holes.

Black holes start from massive stars which exert tremendous gravitational force. Gravity and black holes could help us travel in time. But the kind of time travel we could do ranges from a 50% reduction in rate to an acceleration of billions of years per second.

A star exists because gravity compresses a massive cloud of hydrogen gas and heats it up so much that the nuclear force overcomes the natural repulsion of protons, which are hydrogen nuclei, so that they fuse to form helium. This fusion releases energy, which is one of the reasons that stars shine and why stars become nuclear furnaces. But this release of energy also burns hydrogen and makes helium waste. When the helium waste builds up over billions of years, it causes the furnace to shut down. Then gravity reappears like a pouncing arch-demon and crushes the star into a white dwarf. The helium waste can still be burned, given sufficient heat, like the ash from a camp fire. This is the reason that the white dwarf continues to burn, converting the helium ash into lithium and other elements, until it burns down into iron. Iron nuclei cannot fuse and release energy, so that, in medium sized stars such as our sun, the collapsing star has run out of fuel, and the white dwarf turns black. However, for stars that are several times the mass of our sun, gravity continues its labors of concentration, causing the iron core to collapse and the outer layer of the dwarf to be released as a supernova. What’s left after the explosion is a dead star, a neutron star. However, in really massive stars—ten to fifty times the size of our sun, the force of gravity continues to squeezes the neutron star into a black hole.

In an article in Science Digest (September 1982) Isaac Asimov suggested a method of time travel related to black holes. He pointed out that, in the extra-large stars, the black hole has a radius of about eighteen miles. This radius forms a spherical surface known as an “event horizon.” But beyond the event horizon, the black hole continues to collapse until its mass is squeezed into an infinitely small point, known as a singularity. We know that black holes exert such a gravitation force that even light cannot escape. But time flows at a different rate at a black hole than in the rest of space. Assuming that a human traveler could resist the gravitational forces, the traveler would discover that, just before crossing the event horizon, time would accelerate to billions of years per second, until, after crossing the event horizon, the remaining life of the universe would have passed. Unfortunately, Asimov notes, this is a one-way trip.

Another method for time travel around a black hole, offered in the same edition of Science Digest, utilizes the “light cone” first developed by the German mathematician Hermann Minkowski to visualize space and time. In actuality the time cone looks more like an hourglass, with diagonal lines to represent the speed of light and the circular top and bottom signifying the time coordinates. Light, traveling along the vertical plane, comes up through the bottom half of the hourglass, which is the past, to emerge at the top, which is the future. Light would travel through space on a horizontal axis that splits the two halves of the cone (past and future). One of the two cones would also possess the same coordinates of space and time. One cannot go outside the limits of the cone, because one would be traveling faster than light, which contradicts the law of relativity.
How the cone is involved in time travel is derived from the fact that light can be bent by gravity. The light cone, nearing a massive object such as a black hole, would start to revolve around it. The light cone could then tip into negative time. A traveler could travel along any path within the light cone. A timid voyager that faithfully adhered to the space axis would end up at the beginning, while a more adventurous soul could choose a path below the space axis (but still within the light cone) and would journey down a helical road into the past. After enjoying an earlier age of the universe, the traveler could hop onto another helical conveyor to the present.

Another less dramatic method was suggested by Stephen Hawking (see It is based on the relativistic principle that time slows and appears to stop for bodies approaching the speed of light. He postulates that, for travelers orbiting a black hole at a sufficient distance to avoid its powerful gravitation, time would slow down by half. Therefore five years spent by the travelers would translate to ten years on earth, and the passengers would return to a future Earth.

In his book, A Brief History of Time, Hawking echoes Asimov in observing that a spaceman falling through an event horizon would be confronted by a singularity and the end of time. Again, a one-way trip.

We on Earth are aware that time travel does not require a black hole. We leap forward and fall back an hour every year, in obeisance to the daylight savings commandments. And time certainly slows down when we microwave our dinner or build up our abdomens in a regimen that ostensibly lasts no more than fifteen minutes a day.

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Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar, are accused of detonating two bombs at the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15, 2013, killing three people and wounding hundreds of others. They are also accused of killing a campus police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was slain in a gun battle with police, but no cemetery in the United States appears willing to have him interred, out of fear of reprisals by the loved ones of others residing in the same cemetery. The fear is not lessened by the suggestion that Tsarnaev could be buried in an unmarked grave.
A funeral director in Worcester, Massachusetts, Peter Stefan, who assisted in the preparation of the body for burial, has received phone calls from people accusing him of being “un-American” because of his willingness to handle Tsarnaev’s funeral. A protest was staged outside his funeral home on May 5, 2013, at which protesters held American flags and chanted “USA!” One sign was more explicit declaring that Tsarnaev should not be buried on United States soil. One of the protestors shouted, “Throw him off a boat like Osama bin Laden!”
The United States government has yet to intervene and resolve this issue.
In the case of previous slain murderers, whose names and deeds remain vivid in the memories of Americans, no dispute arose concerning burial. Lee Harvey Oswald is buried in Dallas, the same city in which he assassinated President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The ashes of Oklahoma City terrorist bomber Timothy McVeigh were duly scattered. Because Tsarnaev was a Muslim, his body cannot be cremated.
Ray Madoff, a professor at Boston College Law School and specialist in the area of law related to death and burial, stated that she had never seen such a case of a dispute over burial of the dead.
Almost immediately after Tsarnaev was identified as one of the assassins, the media focused on Tsarnaev’s Muslim background. A YouTube channel that he had created includes a speech by a Muslim Russian militant. An aunt of Tsarnaev reported that he had shown a deepening interest in radical Islam.
The source of the resistance against Tsarnaev’s burial on American soil very likely stems from the idea that, as a Muslim, he was a practitioner of terrorism. The correlation of Islam with worldwide terrorism sometimes seems to be embedded in the American consciousness.
In fact, there is ample evidence from the history of Islam and its spiritual principles that Islam does not equal terrorism. In the Muslim Holy Book, the Qur’an, the Prophet Muḥammad does mention Holy War, or jihad, but in various section of the Qur’an he also condemns conflict. “Whenever they light a fire for war, God puts it out; they strive for corruption in the earth, but God loves not the corrupt.” (Sura 5 – The Table, E.H. Palmer tr.) Elsewhere he treats it as no different from any other human behavior that calls for divine pardon. “Verily, those who believe, and those who flee, and those who wage war in God’s way; these may hope for God’s mercy, for God is forgiving and merciful.” (Sura 2 – The Heifer, E.H. Palmer tr.)
Jihad is commonly misinterpreted as “holy war” though it most frequently appears in Qur’an in the idiomatic expression al-jihad fi sabil Allah, which means “striving in the way of God.”
In her book, Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet, Karen Armstrong indicates that the term jihad implies more than holy war but also a physical, moral, spiritual and intellectual effort that is completely unrelated to armed conflict. She also points out that the term “unbeliever” does not refer to a non-Muslim, but to a person that knows the truth of God but refuses to reorder his or her life in accordance with that knowledge.
Jihad is not included as one of the five “pillars,” of Islam, which are the foundation of Muslim life. These include belief in the Oneness of God, daily prayers, concern for the needy, fasting and at least one pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest place in the Muslim world. There are Muslim scholars who have tried to add jihad as a sixth pillar, a position that does not have wide Muslim support.
Muslim extremism can be traced at least in part to Wahhabism, a sect of Islam established by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the eighteenth century. Wahhab opposed any idea added to Islam after the third century of the Muslim era (about 950 C.E.). Wahhabi adherents do not consider their creed as one school of thought among many, but as the only path of true Islam. Since the establishment of the modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, there has been a close relationship between the Saudi royal family and the Wahhabi religious establishment. Wahhabism has been regularly exported from Saudi Arabia to the rest of the world by Osama bin Laden, among others.
Another form of extremist thinking can be found in Salafiyya, a reform movement that began in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in various parts of the Islamic world. Advocacy of jihad has been traced to both of these puritanical groups. Salafism, for example, has had a potent influence upon Al Qaeda. Islamic militancy was also an outgrowth of the war of resistance against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s.
In a report for Congress in 2008, entitled “The Islamic Traditions of Wahhabism and Salafiyya,” Christopher M. Blanchard, an Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs, stated that there is evidence that Saudi financial support to Afghanistan, as well as U.S. and European funding to Pakistan, may have been diverted to fund the construction and maintenance of madrasas, Islamic religious schools that have helped to spread radical interpretations of Islamic teachings. Violent promulgation of Islam is by no means acceptable to the majority of the approximately one billion Muslims in the world.
In her biography of the Prophet, Karen Armstrong quotes from the Theology of the Jihad, which maintains that jihad has a significance that transcends the concept of Holy War. It means the duty of Muslims to struggle to make the world apply divine principles to their lives and to create a just society. Islam is no different in its fundamental teachings than Christianity, Buddhism, or any other major world religion.

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From Divine Play, pp. 114-115

From the Hellmark Hill of Fame production of Romeo and Juliet
Sponsored by Hellmark Cards, Ltd.—Act II, Scene ii:

ROMEO [As Juliet appears at a window above him]
Your face, your eyes, like sun and stars,
So bright I just can’t speak.
I wish that I could be the glove
That’s stuck against your cheek!

Poor me!

I love to listen to you talk
And watch you stand above me.
You’re cuter than the angel that
Tops off the Christmas tree!

Oh you, you! Why’d you have to be you?
With a name like Montague!
If you really love me, you can bet
I’ll change my name from Capulet!

Should I speak or stay and hide?
Gosh, I’m all confused inside!

Which part is Montague? Your heart?
Your hand, your foot, your face, your butt?
You can still smell the flowers and not know their stupid names.
Why can’t cute boys be the same?
Romeo! I got a deal for thee!
Give up your little name and you get all of me!

I’ll take it, sweet thing!
I got the yang if you got the yin!

What kind of perverted creep
Would listen in on my soliloquy?

I got no name, because you hate it.
I’m gonna burn my birth certificate!

You sound like Romeo Montague.

If you want me to be someone else, that’s cool.

How’d you get over the wall? You’re good!
But you’re dead if my family finds you, dude!

Baby, my love for you’s like wings.
And if you love me, I can do anything!

If my cousins knew we were together,
They’d cut you up real bad for sure!

Every time you look at me, I’m just like jelly.
Just let my love in, they can’t do nothin’ to me!

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Excerpt from Divine Play, pp. 452-454

The waterfall extended for hundreds of meters perpendicular to the asphalt overlook on which they stood, but the frothy, bluish liquid that spilled precipitously into the chasm was not water and exuded caustic fumes into the slate-colored, frigid sky. Though diluted by humidity and rarefied by wind, the mist that enveloped them was stinging and numbing.

They’d been provided no protection but goggles and facecloths, which shielded them slightly. Also, a seamless white stone dam kept the fluid from the canyon directly below them, their destination. Gradually, the prickling skin and nausea abated.

“What is that?” Willie asked, her voice muffled by the mask.

“Smells like gas. Petroleum, I mean,” Alex ventured.

“What could possibly be the purpose of dumping thousands of liters of gas per minute like that?” Les asked.

“Maybe they know,” Emo said.

Clustered a few hundred meters behind them were a hundred or so men and women variously adorned in black, blue, or charcoal gray suits, pants or skirts, white shirts, pastel ties, scarves, high heels, wing-tips. They paced in evasive, intersecting paths, holding small silver cell phones to their ears or expostulating into the air within the ambiance of microphonic chips embedded in earplugs. Skittishly attentive, they brushed hair strands from their foreheads. Their tanned cadaverous faces exhibited a tension of self-consequence. Willie, Mikki, Les, and Coop approached them, but the executives disregarded them, and the four listened for a few moments to the conversations:

“I get this baby bundled on Monday; it’s a homeless whore by Wednesday.”

“They jetted in a frenesí to Cancún to meet with Sheila. Who they? Buddy from Omni, Sammy from Rama-Round. Of course, Sheila’s incomprendo now, but I will nail her ass through stainless steel, y’all!”

“Yeah, sokay, it was yuge. He piloted the deal. But that’s nine days now, φίλος! How long is his OCD?”

“I am completely mawooned, babe! But―you can handow him, Sven! Bobby’s gonna teww you it did ten biww on Fwiday, twelve on Saturday, but Sunday—fau. Only fau! That’s what I’m sayin’. Dead by Sunday! Dead by Sunday!”

“I tole you I tole you I tole you! No legs! Domestic gonna be death plus.”

“―at lunch with Stan at the Marquis Wednesday. He is freakin’ dying to do this. He musta said mebbe six times in a hour, ‘Incredible script―this is an incredible script.’”

“Don’t be dense, Toby! His ass is way into the tar on this ‘Son of Titanic’ thing.”

“―wearin’ this T-shirt that said ‛Lie to Me’! I am not kidding!”

“Mokatte maka?”

“―nada mas till I get off this―the detox place . . . . Yes, I did mention it. Vershure I mentioned it! . . . Last week. At Tookey’s―!”

“Na na, Walda—not megadeal, not gigadeal―transcendendeal!”

“‘Just lunch’? No such thing as ‘just lunch,’ ziphead! He blowin’ smokaroonie rings up your—!”

“—pay or play—”

“—bag of snakes—”

“—paper the house—”


“—scorched earth—”

“—small and soft—”

“—census reduction—”

“Excuse me,” Mikki announced, “but does anyone know when the next . . . thing arrives? Transport? When’s it due?”

The execs halted and stared at her for a moment, and then resumed their conversations.

“I don’t know. In pastel uniforms! . . . I am not kidding.”

“The gay marines must be recruiting . . .”

“―usually want money―”

“Thank you for your attention,” Mikki called.

“What are they doing in here, dressed like that?” Les asked.

“How can they breathe?” Willie wondered, waving her right hand before her face to fend off fumes.

“Something’s wrong,” Coop said. “They’re not ants, I don’t think, but they’re still . . . artificial.”

“Bergson’s definition of the comic, I think,” Emo observed. “Wasn’t it?”

“Right,” Vic agreed. “Bergson. ‘Something mechanical encrusted upon the living.’”

Sounds of sirens, turbines, screeching saws, and damned souls erupted from the earth. A long, narrow, black machine, shaped like a Viking ship but for the rodent masthead, arose out of the chasm. A row of
padded benches filled the craft. From its hidden speakers blared sped-up, rocked-out versions of camp songs, complete with hyperkinetic falsettos and/or croaking gutturals:

Areyoucryinglord areyoucryinglord? (blam-blam)
Areyoucryinglord areyoucryinglord?
Cumbayaaaaahhhh! Cumbayaaaaahhhh!
Old! Mac! Don—!—ald! had! a! farm, yo! Ee! Yi! Ee! Yi!
On! this! farm! he! had! some! ducks, yo! Ee! Yi! Ee! Yi!

The ship did a ninety-degree turn and alighted before them. The music stopped. The pilot was a huge, bearded, swarthy man with curly black hair and beard and ample chest hair growing over the top of his satiny white, sleeveless T-shirt. He wore tight green verrucated pants, simulating alligator hide, a black sport coat of crushed velvet, and a gold chain and scorpion-shaped medallion around his neck. On seeing the team, he held out his arms closely together, tilted his head back, and did a genuflection in the air with his right leg.

“There they are! There’re my little ones, my angels!” He bustled nearer.

“I am so thrilled to be your limo service to the eighth circus. My name’s Jerry Honnor, and”—pointing with nimble finger and supple wrist—“you are Vic Domismo and you are Willie Farina and you are Celestine Link and you are Cooper Voka and you are Emile Sogalet and you are Alex Strabis and you are Mikki Sanjuro!” He flapped the fingers of his right hand at himself, beckoning. “Suffer, little children, unto me.”

Meanwhile, the executives had folded up their phones, terminated their discourse, and hastened over en masse. They began their bargaining:

“You know, I have a life-or-death situation here—”

“I posilutely must be there in forty-five minuttoes—”

“—impossible unbelievable pressure here, Jerry! What can I get you? What can I give you?”

“Right now, Jer. A hundred and fifty people on the set right now waiting for me―at 25,000 bucks an hour―”

“I am so sorry, folks,” Jerry replied, his hands outstretched, palms flat against a mimed wall. “You’ve just been incredible to wait so patiently, but”—he lifted his eyebrows and shoulders slightly—“I have a teensy catastrophic emergency to deal with, which requires that I take these technicians down to the eighth circus, so if you could just please bear with—”
“Unfucking belie-fuckable!” screamed one.

“Knock-up-drag-down-slick-shot-shit!” a second screamed, more loudly.

The rest made various other angry noises as they simultaneously flipped open phones, thumbed handsets, and retreated in a slow, diffuse parade.

“You know,” Mikki said, “it’s really not fair for us to go first when they’ve been waiting so long.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Jerry said. “They’re not going anywhere.”

“What do you mean?” asked Les.

“They’re prisoners,” Jerry replied. “They’ve been coming here every morning for years. They gather here, drinking medicated coffee, and then stand around ’til dark and go home, in silent lines like the living dead”—he indicated a clump of gray semicircular buildings in the distance—“to those geothermal huts, eat ‘proteinamin’ gruel, remove their disposable suits and paraphernalia, and sleep it off on bunk beds. Next morning they get up, do their showering and toilette, don disposable suits and paraphernalia, and return to this cliff for another day of waiting.”

“Don’t they realize they’re not getting anywhere?” Willie asked.

“No,” Jerry answered, “they had a little laser surgery on their temporal lobes—had the medial portions removed. You know, the parts with the hippocampus and the amy—amyg—I can’t ever say that word.”

“Amygdala?” Coop offered.

“Right. Their most recent memories are of being movers and shakers and dealers. They haven’t formed new long-term memories―about being convicted of fraud and embezzlement and stock swindles, and being sent to the slammer. They wake up remembering who they were and act it out all day—until it gets dark, and then they’re nothing: no will, no self, no place in this world—nothing but indoctrinated nullities.”

“So there’re no people on the other end of those cell phones?” Mikki asked. “The conversations are in their heads?”

“No, the phones connect to simple vocal processors that’ve been fed samples―the voices of coworkers, partners, spouses―plus enough data on each inmate that they can respond, react, and banter all day by selecting among thousands of words, tones, emotions, and rationales.”

“How can you stand to breathe this without a mask?” Les asked.

“How can they?”

“Ain’ no thang! We been fixed! I was a pulmonologist―until I started selling my medicinal arsenal. Anyhoo, think about it: The respiratory tract is just a bunch of holes to push air through. Do we honestly care what kind of air it is? Just remove some mucus-secreting glands in the nose, replace receptor neurons for smelling, tweak the alveoli to transfer new gases into the blood, change the blood to use the new gases, adjust the brain to use the new blood, and there you go!” He inhaled deeply through his wide nostrils. “Jus’ like flowers ‘n’ spring rain!”

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Title: Icy-Dicey: “Manthem”

Excerpt from Divine Play, pp. 618-619

Never got the breast when I was a pup,
So I grew a lot older but I never grew up.
I chose rock ‘n’ roll to make myself self-made,
’Cause you can be an adolescent till you fall down dead.
I prance around the stage in orgasmic pain.
If I had any kind of inner life, I’d feel ashamed.

I read poetry, like baby ducks and hugs.
But I write my songs about sex and drugs.
You might say I’m a proponent of equal rights.
I think that every pretty woman is equally entitled to—

Me, myself, and I:
A love that terrifies.
I, myself, and me:
In love so fervently.

I got a thousand homes on a thousand lakes.
Hope the drugs don’t kill me and my throat don’t break.
I could tell you stories ’bout my mom and dad.
They once told me that they loved me, but the hell with that.
We go from hotel rooms to the concert stage,
But we’re so self-absorbed we rarely notice the change.

We are the life of every party that we crash.
We got people who can clean up all the blood and trash.
You might say I’m a fighter for the rights of man.
If you don’t want a fight, you better pay up for the rights from—

Me, myself, and I:
A love that putrefies.
I, myself, and me:
In love so morbidly.

Me, myself, and I:
A love that vilifies.
I, myself, and me:
In love so hopelessly.

Me, myself, and I:
A love that horrifies
I, myself, and me:
In love so urgently.
Me, myself, and I:
A love that mortifies.
I, myself, and me:
In love so sickeningly.

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