If you presume to study English literature, even a little, at this technical institute (then first of all, get better at math or god help you, but never mind that for now), you will inevitably cross paths with Dr. Jonathan Stanton, and when you do, like the old Dickens tale everyone likes, you must understand two things, or nothing that will follow will seem wondrous: one, that the recently-tenured Dr. Stanton is the leading scholar in the world on the eighteenth-century English wit and memoirist David Blume, whose impressive collection of personal diaries and letters comprises his sole literary output. And two, obviously, that David Blume doesn’t exist, and never did.
—Hey Frank, wouldn't it be great if there was a machine that could predict someone's death? Where you would give the machine a sample of your blood and it would spit out a paper that would accurately reveal the cause of your own death on a little sheet of paper? But it wouldn't tell you when or where it happens, so people spend their whole lives worrying about it? And this machine would delight in ironically vague deaths, so you could never really know exactly how you would die? Like if your prediction said “natural causes,” you could still die from like a wild koala bear attack or something like that? Wouldn't that really be something? —I guess so, Gordon. But why are we wearing these dinosaur costumes?
—Did you know, Jeremiah wondered out loud, that people actually collect butterflies? —It’s easy to see why, replied Toby. They’re delicate, fascinating creatures, each one different in some way. Like snowflakes. —Yeah, and fingerprints. —Or people! —Right, people in general are all different from each other too.
It’s not too obscure, but not so sickeningly mainstream. Its subject matter fits the occasion, of course. And it’s melodic, easy to sing to, builds to an anthemic chorus at the end, and for all that easy to sustain with just an acoustic guitar and voice. And the lyrics. Happyish, technically even optimistic, but devastating in their finality, once you really listen to them there’s no going back.
"What are you all celebrating? We’re all going to die when the sun comes up! Don’t you get it? We’re all going to die!"
You might be surprised by my father's wish to be sent off to sea; the sea, water in its unpiped form, disorganized, rowdy and boisterous, not a help to anyone who wants to wash his hands or make some tea, or soup maybe. Yet my father, even if he did not love it, had always held a deep respect for the mighty, churning sea. To him, a body of water was not chaos, not disunity, but instead represented the potential, the possible plumbing system, water that could be piped from one reservoir to another, the Atlantic a conduit of copper that channeled its salty deep waters from the Americas to Europe, the Mississippi a mighty pipeline pumping downstream across the Midwest, unparalleled in its immense and unwavering water pressure.
Those with highly-developed technology are powerless to stop him, and those without technology are powerless anyway...