Last Fall my short play, "The Chocolate Center" was Performed as part of the WARP showcase of shorts entitled MetaWARPhosis. WARP (Writers and Actors Reading and Performing) is guided under the leadership of John Paul Sharp, the Creative Director, and Jason Dooley, the Managing Director. Below are a couple still pictures of the cast, from left-to-right, Molly Blades (Her directorial debut!), Gene Hawkridge (as Grandpa) and Danela Butler (as Sally). I'm pictured to the far right in the right-hand picture. The play also had a cameo appearance by Greg Beach (not pictured). Below the still photos is a youtube video of the play, which was shot by Jeff Weedman. I am grateful to all involved. I think it turned out beautifully. I'm looking forward to being part of the WARP Spring Showcase which is currently being developed.
THE GREAT WHITE MOUTH
I like to cruise. Back and forth, looking left, then right. It’s great to be the most badass fish in the ocean. That’s me. Look at ‘em scatter! I can eat anything! The Universe is my bitch! What does not kill me, makes me stronger. And NOTHING kills me. All those limp-finned wimps out there can suck on my dorsal. I’m a shark among minnows! I go back 400 million years. Longer than the dinosaurs. BETTER than the dinosaurs! Like those pussy Tyrannosaurus Rex—with their pussy seal-baby arms. (Waving his arms.) “Look at me! I’m a little dino-pussy!”
I hear the dino-dicks got killed by little-shit mammals that ate their eggs. I’m not surprised. Wimps. What they needed to do was build a big fence and keep those little bastards out. If they did that, they wouldn’t have any problems. That’s what I am—a problem solver. I drive a hard bargain, and I back it up with some teeth!
So, if you wanna be part of this, and make Earth the best planet in the Galaxy, you’re gonna vote for me for top animal. Be a part of a winner! Thank you. Better yet, you should thank me.
by Scot Bastian
(Singing in italics)
You better watch out
You better not cry--
—Wait! Wait! What’s wrong with crying? I mean, just ‘cause I’m male doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings too!
It’s just a song. The idea is you’re supposed to be happy.
I resent being told how I should feel. My feelings are my own.
Lemme start over.
You better watch out--
—What am I watching out for anyway?
Hold on, you’ll find out later in the song.
You better watch out.
You better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why--
—You’re awful pedantic, aren’t you?
Santa Claus is coming to town--
—Yeah, so what?
He knows when you are sleeping
He knows when you’re awake--
—Jesus! This guy have a camera in my bedroom? What a creep!
He knows when you been bad or good.
So be good for goodness sake.
Who the fuck does he think he is? Why is he the ultimate judge of bad and good? Sheesh!
Santa Claus is coming
Santa Claus is coming
Santa Claus is coming--
—Well, tell him to come already, I’m sick and tired of the foreplay!
Santa Claus is coming to town!
Sounds more intrusive than the NSA!
You really, don’t get the Christmas spirit, do you?
I’m gonna buy me a gun. I need protection from this guy.
Yo! It's that time of year again, and I'm about to leave for TTITD (That Thing In The Desert), AKA Burning Man. In celebration of this epic event, I have written an epic poem about evolution which I will read at a couple of events on the Playa. For those not attending this event, below is a copy. If you're coming to Burning Man this year come and visit me and we can chat.
THE LIFE FORCE
by Scot Bastian © 2015
Camp Althing in Hushville at 5:15 and E.
I sit under the palm trees, breathing in the trade winds, as the cirrus clouds sweep by calling, calling, ever so quietly: come. Bring your dreams to the ocean, my friend. Come to the sea. My eyes open and the sun is falling and the fish jump to escape the sea lions and the sea lions flee the sharks. Come, come to me. Poseidon, my father, you are so deep. So blue. So kind. So limitless. With the foam hissing on the shore and the waves rising and falling. I ask why?
Never mind the why, just tell me when.
Such are my dreams.
It is hard to imagine time.
From molten marble, to pale blue dot
the rumbling Earth awakens from its fiery past. It is also hard to imagine liquid rock.
To parse time into increments does it a disservice, for each moment is infinitely divisible.
Four and a half billion years.
Did I begin with a bang?
The crack of a lightning bolt
striking a pond of dark ooze?
Or did I begin with a bubble
clinging to the edge of a volcanic vent?
Perhaps I started elsewhere
arriving on an ancient meteor originating from another planet.
I guess I’ll never know,
but I wonder.
Molecules break apart, then recombine.
Rare events that seem to defy entropy.
But the sun can reverse entropic chaos.
Patterns are formed. Order from disorder. Repeating units. Molecular arrays.
My life force traverses through millennia.
Then the sun goes and the sky blackens and my eyes close. I dream of mermaids and mermen skipping through the surf. Playing games of tag and singing songs. Joyous chortling and catching breaths. The sea never stops, you know, mermen and mermaids never die. They never stop cavorting through the waves. They also never eat, living in a continuous state of delight, giggling and guffawing forever. A mad loop of laughter and frantic swimming. Their favorite game is tag, but everyone wants to be “it.” They so love to chase. They never tire. They never cease.
Such are my dreams.
And here I swim at the edge of the sea
Not quite a land dweller, yet not a typical fish.
I am a mudskipper.
When the tide is low there are many things to see.
The bones of my mind are exposed.
I wish to crawl freely onto the land, but I am attached.
It will take many years until I can emerge freely.
Then she arises as Botticelli’s Venus from the clam shell. I, waiting like a child. Wanting. Wanting it so. And she smiles. Botticelli’s Venus, da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and the countless Virgin Marys all bear the same smile. It is the smile of Earth-mother ever expecting. Let me lie in your arms Goddess-of-all. Gaia. Demeter. Diana, Goddess of the Moon. Can I just curl up in your arms? Can I be your child and feel the warmth of your breast. Caress me, not like a God, but hold me like a mother. Come Mother, and find me. And she does.
Such are my dreams.
In the tide pool, the sea stars have nowhere to go, nor do they want to. But I gulp spoons of warm sunshine, and gaze longingly at the shore. I break the surface with a rapid exhalation of breath. I crawl from my saltwater birthplace, carrying the salt within my veins. I cannot escape the sea—I carry it with me. I am newly-born. Emergent! I am cold mother. I walk the sand on the beach. Am I the child of the fish or the cousin of the mudskipper? The frog prince. My ventral sacs swell as I push out air. It is not a croak, it is a song. Others respond and we multiply. My skin hardens, as I breathe more freely. I walk slowly munching on the jungle. Now, so tall I can reach the canopy. Roaring with the gods! But, like the gods, I am arrogant, and thus fade. Fade away. Raging fires always blow out. Embers burn slowly, red hot, but inconspicuous, I live in the shadows of giants. Did my ancestors nibble on the eggs of the terrible lizards, contributing to their demise?
When I first escaped the ocean did I know that some my descendants would crawl back?
Are the dinosaurs the ghosts of birds? When the mighty fall I take wing. Soaring in the atmosphere, I look down not at the smallness of all things, but at the largeness of the expanse. The wind rushes through me. I am drawn again to the seashore. I light upon the cliff face and stuff bits of crab into my nestlings mouths. They are such beggars. They rustle their wings, nearly casting each other off the cliff side. I turn a gaze at the sea. The waves crash, exploding on the cliff.
My nose wiggles and my tail grows. I learn to scurry and then to run, launching onto my rear haunches I lean forward the wind whistling and then roaring through my hair. I plop down and survey the scene. Cycads and lichens abound. I gaze at the curl of the horizon and want more.
When the tide is low there are many things to see. When spirits are low and exposed, like driftwood washing onto the beach, my smooth, white, desires bake in the sun. The gulls call and drop from the sky, poking around, seeking bits of rotting fish and beached crabs. The air is rank and heavy, like a salty barnyard with fish-soaked silage. Stones and sand are interspersed with bits of glass rendered smooth by the waves grinding in the tumble of churning sand. The horizon curves into infinity, stretching in all directions. But I look to the sea. The sun shines, but it has no carefully circumscribed edge. I close my eyes again.
Such are my dreams.
My parents sort, and pair off, performing the love dance and the gene shuffle.
And I am conceived.
I dig into the wall of mother’s uterus, a spelunker in the primordial cave.
I dig deeper, releasing enzymes that allow me to burrow and implant.
Can I want, or do I only exist?
Can a fetus ask a question?
And now, I am man.
But what is man?
How far back do I go?
I am the sum of all my ancestors.
I am not the endpoint.
The journey is not over.
The life force continues to transform and grow.
How long will the journey last?
How can I know?
Perhaps, I will reach for the stars…Such are my dreams.
by Scot Bastian (with apologies to Dylan Thomas)
Is there a quark in your belfry?
A meme in your bonnet?
Do you, and yours, wax eusocial?
Do you try to grok the neurosciences?
Are you a heterogeneous, Homo sapiens, or, perhaps, a transhumanist?
Do you argue:
Charon or Karon?
Sagan or Tyson?
Cosmos 1 or 2?
Star Wars or Star Trek?
Kirk or Picard?
And who is right:
Hawking and Musk, or Krause?
Are your dreams peppered with the stars of the cosmos, rather than the stars of Hollywood?
Do you love NASA more than the NFL?
Do you dream of androids dreaming of electric sheep?
Do you love spiders and snakes?
Do you ask these questions--and dream these dreams?
Then, I extend my welcome.
For you and I are in the same tribe.
We are star stuff.
I exhort you!
Do not go gentle into that vacuous pit of the culturally inane
Rage, rage against the dumbing of the mind!
A few days ago I put the following quip on Facebook:
I find it interesting that what many call a "faith crisis" is what I consider a "reality epiphany."
Based on the number of "likes" it has been receiving, this is a pretty popular sentiment. I wonder how many of my fellow skeptics, atheists, ignostics, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers--whatever you in what I think of as the rational community--are often annoyed when we are told we "lack faith" as if it is some kind of deficiency? "If we only would try to believe." "If only we would pray." "If only we would open the door to ask God's grace." The torrent of condescension seems to never end. Even worse, is when we're told that "atheism is just another faith." Ridiculous. Somewhere I've seen the sentiment that atheism is another faith the way that baldness is another hairstyle. Yes, science has it's assumptions, such as reproduciblility. Yes, scientists rely on mathematical and physical laws. But that's a far cry from inventing unicorns, angels,talking snakes and virgin births.
I guess this blog entry is more of a rant than I originally wanted it to be when I started writing.
But, occasionally, there is a news item that gives me hope that humanity, however slowly, is turning away from the supernatural ghosts of the past. Here is a link to a news story of a group of a hundred people who en masse resigned from the Mormon Church. Welcome fellow realists. Turning away from supernatural deities and beliefs can lead to some uncomfortable conclusions, not the least of which is facing mortality rather than some kind of fake transition into a netherworld, or heaven, or some form of reincarnation. But, really, if you have any respect for the truth, isn't that, in the end, more satisfying than a comforting delusion?
A recent New Yorker article about the precarious position that us Northwesterners find ourselves in, regarding the potential for a massive earthquake has created a bit of a collective stir in paranoid consciousness. The article suggests, if the big one hits, everything west of Interstate-5, might be "toast." This has created quite a hornets nest of fear in the more skittish members of the local populace. This collective anxiety reminded me of the planet Bethselamin, from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe, by legendary author Douglas Adams. Here is the wikipedia description of the planet:
Bethselamin is a fabulously beautiful planet which attracts billions of tourists each year. Unsurprisingly, cumulative erosion is a serious concern of the local authorities. Their solution is to calculate the net imbalance between the amount of matter eaten and the amount subsequently excreted by each visitor, and remove the weight difference through amputative surgery. Thus it is vitally important to get a receipt after every trip to the lavatory while on the planet.
How is this related? I have a novel hypothesis on why this threat, which has really been here all along, has only recently become a hot topic of discussion. The reason is that, similar to Douglas Adams' planet, the risk of earthquake has been significantly enhanced by the collective humanity that has poured into the region. It is simple physics. There is now more weight in this region of the country from all the human beings moving here, which creates an imbalance in the subduction zone, which might exacerbate seismic activity. As far as I know this idea is completely novel, and this hypothesis awaits testing by the scientific community. But, until testing confirms my theory, I propose that we take the following precautions; 1) No one will be allowed to move to Seattle or Portland unless they can persuade at least two people to leave. This has the dual benefit of ameliorating some of the problems with traffic congestion and the housing shortage that have plagued Seattle recently. 2) If you feel compelled to visit, you must pay a homeless person (and house and feed them, of course) to travel elsewhere during the duration of your stay. This idea also has multiple benefits. It provides gainful employment to the indigent population and encourages tourism (and cultural exchange!) between different regions of the country.
I realize this is a novel idea, and will likely be controversial, but it is my hope that this small blog entry will be a starting point of community discussion, that will lead to endless town hall meetings, followed by the formation of an actionable change in public policy, followed by more public discussion, and eventual death in committee. Spread the word. We need to take action on this now.
Oh, what fun! This week the New Horizons NASA Mission to flyby Pluto is coming to fruition. As I have said before, NASA is, by far, my favorite government agency. I am in continuous awe of what the NASA engineers can get done across the unbelievable expanse of space. And they often do it flawlessly. One of the things I learned this week, is how big that Charon, the moon of Pluto, compared to the planetoid. Check out this recent, false-color image of Pluto next to Charon (Note: The distance between the two is also false.)
Another striking fact, is that both Pluto and Charon are much smaller than Earth. Below is a depiction that I find striking. Note that this might be fractionally off, because now that we're in the neighborhood, it seems that Pluto is a little larger than we thought. It's still only about the size of the US.
One interesting speculation that I have, is I wonder if the flyby mission wasn't launched a few months before pluto was "demoted" from planet to planetoid, if this mission would have taken a different trajectory. No matter, Pluto is still the coolest dwarf planet I know.
There are three Pluotopalooza Parties brewing locally that I know about, one is right here in West Seattle tonight at the library, another celebration by Astronomy On Tap, tomorrow, July 15th and yet another big celebration at the Museum of Flight on Sunday the 19th. Woo-Hoo, go get yer astrofix!
Finally! My short play, "Waiting For Boa" which was part of the showcase of plays from in the Writer's and Actors Reading and Performing (WARP) show "WARP Springs a Gnu" in May 2014, is available on video. The play, which was directed by John Paul Sharp and Jason Dooley, starred Brendan Mack and Julian Garcia as the rats Elmo and Ben, Joshua Moore as the snake and Beatrix Turner-Rodriguez as the hand and voice. The video was shot by Stacy Kwimm. Special thanks to Jeff Weedman for loading it up on Youtube.
As described previously on this blog, the comedy was based on a true story. Several years ago I visited my cousin and her young son owned a caged boa constrictor. Next to the cage was another cage containing Snakie's prospective dinner--a couple of caged rats. What were the rats thinking? What was Snakie thinking? Watch the video below and find out. Below the video are some pics taken by Carl Nelson of the first performances.
A special thanks to everyone involved in this production. I love this play and thought everyone did a spectacular job.
I am very proud of the production of my short play "Lack of Life Valley," which was part of a showcase of plays produced by Writers and Actors Reading and Performing (WARP). The WARP show, entitled Playwright Under Pressure, was produced by Ellen Covey. The play was directed by Justin Ordonez and starred Justin Ordonez, as the tall vulture, Jeff Weedman, as the short vulture, and Ashley Salazar, as the bunny. All of them did a great job. Below are a couple of still photos from the production, and below that is a video. Enjoy.
Scot Bastian Ph.D. is a scientist and artist who lives in Seattle WA.