Sweet Popcorn Gal, part 4

“What if,” he said while they were walking to the movie theater, “the title of our musical is something that describes itself, maybe an acronym.”

“Can you give me an example?” she asked.

“How about ‘My Enchanted Theatre Adventure.'”

“Nice!” she said, impressed. “Very meta indeed.”

“Thank you kindly,” he said. “Your turn.”

She pondered in silence for a bit. “OK, I’ve got it. ‘Endless Parade Of New York Melodies.'”

“Of course, an eponym! Clever.”

By this point they had arrived that the theatre, and he noticed that there was no line at the concession stand. He asked if she wanted any popcorn.

“Where I come from we have sweet popcorn. I never really had a taste for the other kind.”

“A scary movie without popcorn?”

“Sorry,” she shrugged. “I guess I’m just a sweet popcorn gal.”

That made him laugh. He was still smiling when the movie started.

The film was surprisingly good, much better than the average horror movie, but also a lot more intense than either of them had thought it would be.

During one particularly scary scene she clung to him instinctively. That was the moment he realized they would name their musical “Sweet Popcorn Gal.”

Sweet Popcorn Gal, part 3

Afterward he asked for her number, and gave her his. They parted saying it would be fun to collaborate.

Walking home, he wondered what the odds were that they would actually follow up. People run into each other all the time in New York, have fascinating conversations, then never see each other again. All part of life in the big city — a million sparks, only rarely catching fire.

He found himself thinking about what kind of musical they would have written together. Or had that just been a way of having a conversation? Maybe their musical would itself be destined to remain a fiction, like Tom Riddle’s diary or Liebkind’s “Springtime for Hitler”.

He was still musing on this when he noticed a woman pass rapidly by on the street. It took him a moment to realize it was she. He called her name, she turned around.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“I felt like taking in a movie,” she said.

“There’s one I’ve been wanting to see,” he said, improvising. “It’s playing a block from here.”

“What kind of movie?”

“A scary movie, but it’s supposed to be a good one.”

She hesitated for just a moment. “Okay.”

Sweet Popcorn Gal, part 2

“Minimalism, that’s the key,” he said.

“Exactly!” she nodded. “Imagine a musical with no songs. It would be perfect.”

“Well you could go the other way,” he mused. “Throw everything at it. Amp up your theatre. Big actions, big emotions, hearts threatening to burst right up there on the stage.”

“Right,” she said, “Crank it up. Go all pataphysical.”

“Pataphysical? You know Alfred Jarry?”

“Well yeah”, she said, “but only because of the Beatles.”

“Wait,” he said, looking confused. “The Beatles?”

“Yes, of course, silly. ‘Joan was quizzical, studied pataphysical science in the home.’ John Lennon led me to Jarry, Ubu Roi, Baudrillard, all that stuff.”

“Oh, I see,” he said, “The Beatles. It’s always good to start with the classics. Good old Maxwell Edison and his silver hammer.”

“Yes,” she smiled brightly, “The boy certainly had his demons.”

He thought it would be easy to get lost in her smile. “I believe,” he said, “that was the other Maxwell. James Clerk.”

“Why couldn’t you combine them?” she asked. “Maxwell’s Demon and Maxwell’s Hammer — a tale of two British fictional creatures, both dedicated to breaking the laws.”

“We could call it ‘The Demon and the Hammer'”, he said, warming to the theme. “Perfect name for a musical.”

“A metaphysical musical!” she said.

“Yes, a Mephistophelean metaphysical McCartney-esque musical. Would it have a love story?”

She looked at him thoughtfully. “We’d have to think about that.”

“You,” he said, “are fun to talk with.”

Sweet Popcorn Gal, part 1

It was one of those downtown theatre events. Everyone who was there knew somebody in the cast, or the crew, or maybe the playwright. There was wine, and an unexpected amount of beer.

For the first few minutes of the intermission they didn’t even notice each other. A general circle of people in the conversation gradually narrowing down to four, then three, then somehow to just the two of them. He liked the sound of her voice.

“You can tell this is real theatre because the tourists don’t know about it,” she was saying.

“Yes,” he nodded conspiratorially, “The Theatre must be pure, a secret ritual. People showing up just ruins the whole thing.”

“That’s true,” she agreed. “Not even the actors should be here.”

“Oh my god,” he said, warming to the theme. “We shouldn’t be here either.”

“A bare stage,” she proclaimed, “is the only true Theatre.”

They looked at each other, as if seeing one another for the first time. In that moment, ever so slightly, the Universe shifted.

Shiny new packages

Old wounds come wrapped in shiny new packages.
From the ribbons and bows, I think: one of those
I look back on, it seems, every now, every then.
Looks like Christmas was here, all over again.

An old ghost can dress up in fancy new duds
All dapper and down for a night on the town
Sporting fresh chains, and a shiny new mask.
I was late for that party — oh don’t even ask.

We all have our secrets, you and I both,
The ones we don’t tell, which is all just as well.
I’ve been unwrapping packages, please do not stare.
My heart was inside one, I’m just not sure where.

Outsourcing memory

Continuing the theme from my June 22 post — watching my own process of work and creation, and trying to figure out what I’m really doing — I realize that I am in the habit of outsourcing memory.

What I mean by this is that I often make suggestions to collaborators about what I might do that would be of use to them. Having made such a suggestion, I promptly forget all about it.

Some of the time, I get back an email saying “hey, that would be really useful”. When I receive such an email, I then remember the original train of thought, and I set about making it happen.

In effect, I am outsourcing my memory to clients. If they think something I’ve told them is worth remembering, then it’s worth remembering.


It’s wonderful that Gay Pride Day here in New York is being celebrated the day after Alan Turing’s 100th birthday. Very life affirming.

Of course straight people can also celebrate Alan Turing. Digital computation, artificial intelligence and a world in which the Nazis were defeated are not benefits bestowed only upon gay people. Straight people get to enjoy these things as well.

It’s a good thing that we stupid straight people didn’t manage to kill Alan Turing until after he had saved the world.

Rivers running together

There can come a point while I am working on a project when I realize it connects to some other project I am also working on.

Recently I’ve noticed this happening a lot. All of the various rivulets seem to be coalescing into larger streams, which in turn are starting to merge into a single coherently flowing entity.

I wonder whether all of our projects in life are actually just facets of one big project. Like the sides of a sculpture, or the movements of a symphony, perhaps all of one’s efforts cannot help but form a single large life’s work.

We may not be aware of this while it is happening. In fact, it may be years before we see how all the pieces fit together. But even if that is so, isn’t it worth the wait?

Artificial unlaziness

I am a very lazy person. I delight in lounging around the apartment, raiding the fridge, taking an entire day just to read the newspaper.

Yet by most objective standards I get a lot done. How can this be? I think I have it figured out.

When there is something I really want to get done, I start to create all sorts of artificial deadlines. I schedule a talk where I need to show the demo I haven’t implemented yet, or a meeting where somebody important is coming to visit, expecting to play with software that’s still just a gleam in my eye.

Without even thinking about it on a conscious level, I tend to organize the external world of people and events around me as a forcing function, nudging my lazy soul into a completely artificial unlaziness.

The result is that I no longer need face the pressure of doing it “just for me”, since now I need to do it for them.

Of course, I am still doing it for me. 🙂

A curious thing

I’ve been noticing a curious thing: Every year, there are more younger people.

I’m not sure where they all come from. Perhaps there is a factory somewhere that manufactures younger people. While I wouldn’t rule this out as an explanation, I would find it surprising, given that the United States long ago outsourced its manufacturing industry to other parts of the world.

Even more mysterious is another phenomenon I’ve been noticing: Every year, there are fewer older people.

Now, I am not one to go in for conspiracy theories, but I cannot help thinking there may be some connection here. Could it be that there is some strange mechanism at work, which “converts” older people to younger people?

Perhaps they go into a kind of machine, like some sort of retrochronomic tanning salon. An older person makes an appointment, sits there and reads a magazine for a few hours, maybe on their lunch break, and Voila! a younger person comes out.

None of this really disturbs me. After all, the one reliable thing I have noticed as the years go by, is that I myself remain completely unchanged.

It is good to have at least one thing you can rely on.