The Blue Raccoon

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Those Zany Animals: Spring Has Sprung In Richmond

Greetings to the Billion-Eyed Audience of The Blue Raccoon. Well, this morning in Richmond, the city is receiving a much-needed soaking and where from my home office window the mimosa tree hangs damp and the grey air is giving the pink blossoms a greater prominence. Stephanie Abrams told me it's going to rain all day, and what Stephanie says, I believe, and will obey.

But I thought I'd take a diversionary stroll from matters of cosmological importance to record a couple of encounters with nature that I experienced during an extended walk-for-coffee that I took on Monday afternoon. I was at work, droning away, when my bell went off and it was time to seek the jolt of the black liquid. And thus, I ambled down to the 'Sev to get see the man about my stuff.

I meandered the long way home up a side street and while musing on matters of contrafactual historical importance my ears picked up a gleeful skittering above my head. Alerted to the racket, I gazed up to the powerline above my head and witnessed two squirrels, one in hot pursuit of the other, and headed directly for a transformer.

I instinctively winced and went into a half-squat, fully expecting two small "poofs" of orange flame and the scent of fricaseed varmint to waft down to my nostrils. My anxiety is derived from the fact that twice in the past year, the building where I'm employed has lost its power apparently to similar antics. Once, during a warm summer afternoon when we actually got a Squirrel Power Outtage Half-Day, and not three months ago, though in that instance, the power came back before everyone was at work.

This isn't an uncommon problem and I have to again give my praises to the Internet. According to a writer at

In the late 1960s, an estimated 20 million squirrels migrated south along the east coast. Like lemmings, these squirrels ignored every obstacle in their path. Hundreds of thousands drowned trying to cross rivers and lakes; even more died along highways and railroad tracks. Fity-five tons of drowned squirrels were removed from a resevoir in New York.
Experts admit that the usual explanations of overpopulation and food shortages are not satisfactory, and no one knows exactly what triggers these migrations. Utilities in the northeast reported an "explosion" in squirrel-caused outages in the late 1980s, more than likely the result of the latest mass migration. Make a note.. . according to our calendar, we're about due for another invasion."

Lo and behold, I've stumbled across a trend! If you think you're noticing more squirrels in your leafier of neighborhoods, you're not imagining things. And the migratory patterns of squirrels, like birds, don't acknowledge obstacles very well since it took generations of brain pattern ingramming for the critters to learn the proper courses. That's why when all the sudden structures appear in the way they get confused and, well, find themselves fried or splattered.

Power loss via squirrel is treated also in amusing fashion here at Scary Squirrel World, from which I blatantly sampled the racy image accompanying this entry. Yet, a neighbor of ours a few doors up has taken to leaving peanut butter out for one she calls Sweetie Pie who is so domestic, she'll hop on her porch and hang out and tap on the door for attention. I'm not making this up. Once, my wife left one of those small white ketchup containers like you get at Hardee's with peanut butter in it and when she saw Sweetie Pie, she put it out for the flickering tailed animal. Sweetie absconded with the small tub between her little front paws and went to the nearest tree but was frustrated that she couldn't eat and climb at the same time. I think we all can sympathize.

Well, I continued my walk back to my office, heading west on Monument Avenue, when I heard a tick-tick-ticking of something hitting metal. I stopped to see the cause when I viewed, there on the front porch of a grande urbane manor, a starling seeing its reflection in a gold metal kick plate at the bottom of a front door. The bird thought it was courting one of its own and couldn't understand why it was getting disrespected. I hate to see anybody or anything embarrassng itself--though I realize starlings don't have an embarrassment gene.

Nonetheless, I flapped my arms to cause the starling to flee, which it did, to a nearby branch where it began to sing resignedly of its lost love.

Ah, nature.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Cosmic Word Of The Day:

Syzygy, pronounced “szz-eh-jee," is one of my favorite words. Within its syllables are entire realms of endeavor. In addition, the word sits strange in type and it's fun to say.

The most common definition is in astronomy. The word describes the moment of perfect alignment between three celestial bodies, such as that occurring during a total solar eclipse.
The Wikipedia tells us: syzygy is a kind of unity, especially through coordination or alignment, most commonly used in the astronomical sense. From the Late Latin syzygia, "conjunction," from the Greek σύζῠγος (syzygos), "yoked together."

Think of two oxen harnessed in a yoke, one male and the other female. Another way of understanding syzygy is as a union of related opposites.

The word carries meanings in philosophy, religion, math, poetry, psychology, medicine and even zoology, and somewhat sexual. For that combined weight alone, syzygy is worth knowing. Syzygy was also the title of a amusing episode of the television show The X-Files, to which I was devoted to the extent that you might call me an x-filiac. A writer, director and producer on the show was a graduate--two years behind me!--of Lloyd C. Bird High School, Vince Gilligan. Wish I could get him to let us do some live-version X-Files at the Firehouse Theatre...

Vince wrote some of the most memorable episodes and one of which is Je Souhaite about a jihn released into the contemporary world and how people really think they know what they'd wish for given the opportunity to have those desires made reality. The writing was crisp and funny, and I liked the actress who played the jihn, Paula Sorge.

But, as to the topic of the moment, syzygy:

The program's theme , as written by series originator Chris Carter, is that two high school cheerleaders, two girls "born at the same date, at the same time and at the same place" living in the town of Comity are dramatically and adversely affected by an alignment of the planets. This circumstwance also makes the entire place go off its collective rocker. Mulder and Scully bicker even more like an old married couple. The show also has some funny scenes of Mulder and Scully driving--tweakng those men-won't-ask-for-directions and women-can't-drive stereotypes. As in this exchange:

MULDER: Will you let me drive!?

SCULLY: I’m driving. Why do you always have to drive? Because you’re the guy? Because you’re the big macho-man?

MULDER: No. I was just never sure your little feet could reach the pedals.

Syzygy is also a winery in Walla Walla, Washington. No, I'm not making this up. It's the title of a 1982 speculative fiction novel, which I've even read, by Frederik Pohl and in the title of a 1947 Theodore Sturgeon speculative fiction short story, It Wasn't A Syzygy.

Lately as the world is obsessed with purported religious mysteries and myths via Da Vinci Code and end-time hysteria, the word has roots in matters of early spiritual pursuits.

A syzygy, again thanks to Wikipedia, is a divine active-passive, male-female pair of aeons, complementary to one another rather than oppositional; in their totality they comprise the divine realm of the Pleroma, and in themselves characterise aspects of the unknowable Gnostic God. The term is most common in Valentinianism

An aeon, in our case, has a ying-yang quality.

"In many Gnostic systems, the various emanations of God, who is also known by such names as the One, the Monad, Aion teleos (The Perfect Aeon), Bythos (Depth or profundity, Greek Βυθός), Proarkhe (Before the Beginning, Greek πρόαρχή), he Arkhe (The Beginning, Greek ή αρχή), are called aeons. This first being is also an æon and has an inner being within itself, known as Ennoea (Thought), Charis (Grace), or Sige (Greek Σιγη, Silence). The split perfect being conceives the second aeon, Caen (Power), within itself. Along with the male Caen comes the female æon Akhana (Truth, Love).

Aeons bear a number of similarities to Christian-Judeo angels, including their roles as servants and emanations of God, and their existence as beings of light. In fact, certain Gnostic Angels, such as Armozel, also happen to be Aeons[1].

The aeons often came in male/female pairs called syzygies, and were frequently numerous (20-30). Two of the most commonly listed æons were Jesus and Sophia. The aeons constitute the pleroma, the "region of light." The lowest regions of the pleroma are closest to the darkness — that is, the physical world."

And as follows in the various disciplines:


In mathematics, a syzygy is a relation between the generators of a module. All such relations form what is called the 'first syzygy module'. The relations between generators of the first syzygy module form the second syzygy module, and in general, the relations among the generators of the n-th syzygy module form the (n+1)-th syzygy module. See Hilbert's syzygy theorem.


In Medicine, the term is used to signify the fusion of some or all the organs.


The Russian theologian/philosopher Vladimir Solovyov used the word "syzygy" to signify "unity-friendship-community," used as either an adjective or a noun. A pair of connected or correlative things. A couple or pair of opposites.


The combination of two metrical feet into a single unit, similar to an elision.
  • Consonantal or phonetic syzygy is also similar to the effect of alliteration, where one consonant is used repeated throughout a passage, but not necessarily at the beginning of each word.

In psychology, Carl Jung used the term "syzygy" to denote an archetypal pairing of contrasexual opposites, which symbolized the communication of the conscious and unconscious minds. The conjunction of two organisms without the loss of identity.


MULDER: We are but visitors on this rock, hurling through time and space at sixty-six thousand miles an hour, tethered to a burning sphere by an invisible force and an unfathomable universe. This most of us take for granted while refusing to believe these forces have any more effect on us than a butterfly beating its wings halfway around the world. Or that two girls, born on the same date, the same time and the same place, might not find themselves the unfortunate focus of similar unseen forces, converging like the planets themselves into burning pinpoints of cosmic energy, whose absolute gravity would threaten to swallow and consume everything in its path. Or maybe the answer lies even further from our grasp.

BOB: I think it was Satan.

You have to go to Walla Walla to see this, and
maybe not even then.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

"Where's the kaboom? There was supposed
to be an earth-shattering

Well, here we are -- I guess, I assume we are here, if you are reading this -- six sixty six came and went much like Y2K but without the opportunity for as much fanfare, anxiety-production or computer security scams.

One must bear in mind, however, what the late, great philosopher Sun Ra meant when he spake unto us saying, "It's already the end of the world, don't you know that, yet?"

He meant, of course, chronon theory.
Chronon theory is one of the odd jewels in the higher intellectual altitudes of speculative physics. And it's not really new, just revived like everything else from the Greeks and improved with contemporary technology. Chronon theory basically uses complicated Western science to get at an Eastern precept; that the universe, or that-which-is-perceived-to-be-what-we-commonly-agree-to-call-"reality," is getting created and destroyed all the time, through Shiva's little rhumba. That is, with every blip on of a chronon, All is Called Into Being, and with every blip off, All Is Extinguished. And All may not always come together again like it was before, which explains missing socks in the laundry, lost car keys, mysterious disappearances of the television remote, and the vanishing promises of politicians after election time.

If chronon theory is correct, it would go a long way to understanding the role of randomness and time itself. Can anything be predicted -- especially if everything is nothing until it is everytbing again? Walter Heisenberg and Neils Bohr thought maybe not, as they debated Albert Einstein about their Uncertainty Principle. Albert Einstein famously blurted, "I cannot believe that God would choose to play dice with the universe." Bohr replied, "Einstein, don't tell God what to do." Niels Bohr (says the Wikipedia) himself acknowledged that quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle were counter-intuitive when he stated, "Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood a single word."

"The basic debate between Einstein and Bohr (including Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle) was that Einstein was in essence saying: "Of course, we can know where something is; we can know the position of a moving particle if we know every possible detail, and thereby by extension, we can predict where it will go." Bohr and Heisenberg were saying the opposite: "There is no way to know where a moving particle is ever even given every possible detail, and thereby by extension, we can never predict where it will go."

This may also be part of a way of explaining how there could be not just one universe, but many. Quoting from The Big

Andrei Linde at Stanford has brought forward the cosmological model of a multiverse, which he calls the "self-reproducing inflationary universe." The theory is based on Alan Guth's inflation model, and it includes multiple universes woven together in some kind of spacetime foam. Each universe exists in a closed volume of space and time."

Edgar Allan Poe, who considered himself a Richmonder by the way, came up with this particular theory in his little studied Eureka (1848) in which he tried explaining life, the Universe and everything using the language of a mid-19th century essayist. Note that each of Dr. Linde's universes "exists in a closed volume of space and time."

Poe puts it like this, with bolded emphasis mine:

Let me declare, only, that, as an individual, I myself feel impelled to the fancy -–without daring to call it more -–that there does exist a limitless succession of Universes, more or less similar to that of which we have cognizance -–to that of which we shall ever have cognizance -–at the very least until the return of our own particular Universe into Unity. If such clusters of clusters exist, however -–and they do -–it is abundantly clear that, having had no part in our origin, they have no portion in our laws. They neither attract us, nor we them. Their material -–their spirit is not ours -–is not that which obtains in any part of our Universe. They could not impress our senses or our souls. Among them and us -–considering all, for the moment, collectively -–there are no influences in common. Each exists, apart and independently, in the bosom of its proper and particular God."

Dr. Linde and Dr. Guth are far less florid in their approaches, but that's science.

So there could be a limitless succession of universes, winking in and out, created and destroyed. Their interior characteristics are unpredictable. Maybe. To get all New Agey, perhaps each universe is no more than a quantum, and a quantum, a universe.

Now pour yourself a drink and think about that for a minute.

It's already the end of the world, don't you know that, yet?

I'm Thinking Of A Number: The Longest Day and The End Of Days

Greetings, y'all. Yes, just like that Free Credit spokesmodel (thankfully, the annoying guy has been replaced by a husky-voiced, auburn-haired woman) I'm thinking of a number. It's today's date, the sixth day of the sixth month in 2006. The numeric confluence of t has caused holier-than-thou joy among the fundies whose simple understanding of the book they claim to tout is mixed up with watching too many Cecil B. DeMille epics. The world's supposed to end a in a big flash and burn with the righteous taken up to chill for all eternity with the Heavenly Hosts (Is that a Fox Network news show?). Anyway, all this rush to rapture is because John did 'shrooms while exiled on Patmos and under the influence then wrote one of the world's most enduring horror stories.

But this morning I have neither the time nor energy to parse apart this numerology meets mythology meets zealotry that these days seems to govern the better senses of many people who should know better. I blame television, poor education and the Left Behind novels.

What will get passing mention today -- assuming that at some point today we all don't all go simultaneous when the air becomes uranious (thank you Tom Lehrer) -- is the 62nd anniversary of the landing on the Normandy beaches by Allied forces during World War II. The moment is depicted above in one of the 11 astounding images taken by Life photographer Robert Capa. Capa took many more pictures that day but a hasty dark room clerk destroyed them.

So let's take a moment and reflect on the meaning of this day which began the liberation of Europe from Nazi tyranny. It was a climactic hour in one of the last wars of recent human history that made any sense. That statement might've seemed fairly abstract to one of those guys hugging that steel obstacle as machine gun bullets zinged around them.

Further, if you have nothing else better to do today, scroll down and read my quasi-autoptic-revisionistic-alternate history take on how June 6, 1944 could've just been another day at the French beach.

One final note. A World War II veteran of my acquaintance saw Saving Private Ryan (Did it really come out in 1998? Holy criminy.) and was moved by its battlefield authenticity. But, he was quick to point out, the hinging plot point of the entire film -- that of dispatching Capt. Tom Hanks
behind German lines in command of a platoon of stereotypes to find Private Matt Damon--wouldn't have been necessary. He shrugged, "We had radios."

Enjoy six-sixty-six. We have radios.

And, check out the film Pi. Which, also, came out in 1998 -- and Pi's web site is still running but Ryan's is not.


Here's a movie about numbers and mystery and intrigue that makes as much coherence as the boiling pot of nonsense the rest of the world is lately tripping on. And there's nary a mention of anything related to DaVinci. Its tagline is well-suited to the present: "Paranoia is faith in a hidden order behind the visible." And you can take that to the NSA.