Archive for July, 2012

Sweet Popcorn Gal, part II.6

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Over yet another bottle of scotch, the writer and the woman in the red dress were lost in heated discussion. “Imagine the implications for physics,” she said. “This could change our entire understanding of the Standard Model. Talk about your quantum entanglements!”

“I was thinking more of our understanding of literature,” the writer said. “Think of George McDonald, Philip K. Dick, Borges and Lovecraft. They thought they were writing fantasies. Imagine if those worlds could become real.”

She fixed him a sharp look. “Are you really sure you want Cthulhu running loose in New York? As if riding the subway isn’t already bad enough.”

“OK,” he conceded, “Maybe not Lovecraft. But what about the writings of Pierre Menard and Hawthorne Abendsen? Imagine you could read Translations from the Elvish? Imagine,” he paused for dramatic emphasis, “you could talk with Tom Bombadil!”

She shrugged, “He never even made it into the movie. Besides, you’re missing the point. Why bury your head in books when reality itself is up for grabs?”

They were both gradually becoming aware that they were being watched by the other couple. The writer was the first to say something. “You two have been awfully quiet. Doesn’t either one of you have an opinion?”

The young man looked from the woman in the red dress to the writer and back again. “All I can say is, that was impressive.”

The woman in the red dress looked puzzled. “What do you mean, ‘impressive’?”

“I think,” the woman beside him said, “He means the way you two wove an entire intricate musical number from an intellectual debate. The rhythms and counterpoint, the lilting melodies and close harmonies. It was practically operatic. I wish I could write music like that.”

The woman in the red dress looked at the writer. “Do you have any idea what they are talking about?”

“Apparently,” the writer said, “every argument we make in this world turns into something musical. Not to us, but to anyone watching.”

“Do you realize,” she said slowly, “just how crazy that sounds?”

“Around here,” he replied, “I believe it’s what they call sounding normal.”

Sweet Popcorn Gal, part II.5

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

“Look, I know you’re upset,” the writer said to the woman in red.

“Upset? Of course I’m upset. I trusted you! When you asked me about my doctoral research, I told you my theory about parallel metafictional realities. With all the fuss going on at CERN, you had seemed interested in hearing how a massive 4 teV supercollider beam might allow a bridge to form between real and imaginary worlds.”

“But you said yourself,” the writer replied, “that your theories are speculative.”

“So’s your fiction,” she snorted. “Look, the Higgs boson was speculative until like five minutes ago. Now everybody’s pouring champagne.”

“Those physicists,” he grinned. “They sure know how to turn on the charm.”

Fixing him a withering look, she continued, “Look, it’s just not that complicated. If the field can induce mass in this universe, then when sufficiently disrupted it can induce mass in nearby universes. The key is to find common details between the two worlds. My equations are very clear about that.”

“So what’s wrong with my writing about such a parallel world?” the writer asked.

“You weren’t writing about just any world — you were writing about my world. I told you details from my life, just as an example, and suddenly those details start showing up in your stories. Don’t you think that’s an invasion of privacy?”

“I prefer to think of them as ‘our’ stories. It’s a metafictional collaboration,” he said.

“Collaboration? Hah! You didn’t even know what sweet popcorn was until you met me.”

“Don’t I get any credit?” he asked. “Didn’t you like how I tied in Yoko Ono? Or the whole ‘pataphysical’ angle? And you’ve got to admit the Mickey Mouse song was clever.”

“Please don’t talk about that creepy little rodent,” she shuddered, “You know I have a phobia.”

“Well, technically speaking it’s not you who has the phobia.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well for one thing,” the writer said, “you’re wearing a red dress. Do you usually wear a red dress?”

“Don’t change the subject! I…” she looked down and did a double take. “That’s weird. I don’t even own an outfit like this. It looks just like a dress I saw in a movie.”

“Exactly! And see these people here?” he gestured to the man and woman sitting at the table. “They’re both fictional.”

“Wait, but that means that this place … that you and I…”

He nodded sympathetically.

She noticed the bottle of scotch on the table. “Anybody mind?” Nobody did.

Sweet Popcorn Gal, part II.4

Monday, July 9th, 2012


The bottle of scotch was almost empty. As the waiter refilled his glass, the writer grinned happily. “This is one advantage of a fictional coffee house. Where I come from, the strongest thing on the menu is double espresso.”

“Definitely a perk,” the woman said. “If we’d been drinking this before, we’d probably have written an even better song.” She gazed fondly at the man by her side.

The man by her side smiled back. “I think we already make beautiful music together. Hey, did that sound as corny as I think it did?” He waved to the waiter, gesturing toward his glass. The waiter promptly obliged.

“I don’t know,” the writer said. “That song was ok, but I actually preferred the other ones.”

The woman looked at him quizzically. “What other ones?”

“You know,” the writer said, “the songs in the first act. The song about the Beatles was really clever. But to tell you the truth, the one about scary things was my favorite — a real hoot.”

They were both staring at him now. “We were singing?” the man asked.

The writer stared back. “You really don’t know, do you? Oh right, of course. There are rules about these things.”


“Yeah, remember all those Hollywood musicals? They didn’t know they were singing, unless…”

“Unless, in the plot, they were deliberately writing a song,” the woman finished for him. “Oh my.” she turned to the young man at her side. “We really do make beautiful music together.”

The writer contemplated the man and woman, who were now holding hands and gazing fondly into each other’s eyes. “I guess things are going well for you two. So what about the boyfriend?”

“Oh, that wasn’t me,” she woman shrugged. “That was the character. I actually don’t have a boyfriend, fictional or otherwise.”

There was a sudden noise behind them. They all turned toward the door, only to see a woman in a red dress glowering angrily. “Yeah, but I have a boyfriend.”

The writer turned visibly pale as she fixed him a stern look. “You and I,” she said, “have a few things to talk about.”

Sweet Popcorn Gal, part II.3

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

“Is there a problem with our being here?” the man asked the writer.

“Why? Should there be a problem?” the writer responded absently, looking nervously over his shoulder at the door he had just walked through.

“Hello! We’re talking here.”

“I’m sorry,” the writer said. “I’ve been having a difficult day. OK, let’s see. For one thing, you’re both fictional. And now here you are dancing in the neighborhood coffee shop.”

“Since we are fictional,” the woman replied, “whether we dance in neighborhood coffee shops should be of no consequence.”

There was no answer. The writer was looking at the door again.

“You seem distracted,” she said.

“Sorry. I was just surprised to see you dancing in my neighborhood coffee shop.”

“Interesting,” the woman replied. “Does your neighborhood coffee shop have a piano?”

The writer hesitated, “It didn’t until today. Nice touch, I have to admit.”

“So how do you know it’s the same coffee shop?”

“How do I know…?” The writer gave her a curious look. “Because I come here every day.”

“How do you know it’s the same you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, let’s look at the evidence. At the moment you are conversing with fictional representations. Maybe you are a fictional representation.”

“A fictional representation of what?”

“Why, of you, of course.”

The writer sank down into the nearest chair. “Oh my. I think I need a drink.”

Sweet Popcorn Gal, part II.2

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

“Good thing,” he continued, “there’s a piano here.”

“Hey,” she said, “When did they get a piano in this place?”

“And for that matter,” he answered, “When did our waiter start playing it?”

She saw that the waiter was playing a vamp. Smiling with delight, she said “OK, we might as well get started.”

“No use moping, broken hearted,” he let his voice glide into a melody.

She responded back in song. “We seem to be fictional, merely depictional,”

“Yet here we are, it’s very contradictional.” He rose from his chair.

“Why don’t we take a chance?” she smiled and stood up as well.

He held out one hand, “Darling, won’t you join me in a dance?”

They began to glide around the coffee shop in time to the piano music, both of them surprised to find they could dance together with an ease that usually comes only after long practice.

For the next few minutes they simply gave themselves over to the music, letting their bodies sway and glide together in time to the lilting beat.

Just as they were finishing their final twirl around the room, a man walked into the coffee shop. The waiter immediately took his hands from the keyboard, a sheepish look on his face. The man and woman stopped dancing and turned to face the door.

“Oh my god!” she said, “It’s you. What the hell are you doing here?”

The writer looked briefly at the waiter, who hurriedly excused himself and dashed back to the kitchen. The writer then turned his attention to the man and woman. “I could ask you two the same question.”

Sweet Popcorn Gal, part II.1

Friday, July 6th, 2012

It was one of those holiday weekends when everyone leaves town, and they had the little West Village coffee shop all to themselves. They both kept their voices hushed, although there was nobody around to hear them but the waiter.

“He really had no right to cut it short like that,” she said. “Who the hell does he think he is? It’s like he’s playing God.”

“To be fair,” he responded, “from our perspective he is God.”

“Writer, God, whatever. It still stinks. We were on a roll.”

He nodded. “Like I said, I was having a good time. But what can we do? The way I see it, our options are limited. Now I know how Harold Crick must have felt, or Donald Kaufman.”

“Or Betty Parker, for that matter,” she added. “We should unionize. What are they going to do, throw us all in jail?”

He shook his head dispiritedly. “We should be so lucky. It’s like being an illegal immigrant in Arizona. If you’re fictional, then even all your kids are stuck being fictional.”

She blushed. “That almost sounded like a proposal.”

He smiled shyly. “Well ma’am, we haven’t known each other very long.”

“That, my dear, is his fault. Anyway, having a fictional child would not be very productive.”

“Was that an intentional pun?”

“Don’t blame me,” she said, “You know what he’s like. I’m just the messenger.”

“Aren’t we all?” he sighed, “It seems so unfair, when these days even corporations get to be real people.”

“Sociopathic people, but still, I see your point.”

He chuckled. “You know, there is something we can make, as real as anyone on the outside can make.”

“And that would be?”

“Songs. We can write songs.”

Goddamn particle

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

It’s very exciting that recent experiments at CERN have revealed the existence of a particle roughly consistent with the properties of the long-sought Higgs Boson.

But I am confused by this weird tendency for some non-physicists to call it the “God particle”. I know the term dates to Leon Lederman’s popular physics book with that phrase in the title, yet Lederman himself has said that he really wanted to call it the “Goddamn particle” because of all the trouble the elusive particle has caused, but the publisher objected.

Peter Higgs, who by the way does not believe in the existence any gods, says he doesn’t like the term because it “might offend people who are religious”. But isn’t he worrying about offending the wrong people? Aren’t non-religious people the ones who are being offended here?

There is a word in English — “blasphemy” — to describe the act of offending the sensibilities of religious people.

Perhaps there should be a word to describe the act of offending the sensibilities of non-religious people.

Sweet Popcorn Gal, part 8

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

“I said ‘I don’t think I ever told you, but I have a boyfriend.'”

He hesitated, a thoughtful look on his face. “That isn’t very good iambic pentameter.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, “I guess you’re disappointed.”

“Well, it does throw off the whole rhythm, if you see what I mean.”

“You know,” she said brightly, “sometimes unexpected rhythmic variations can help a collaboration.”

He smiled ruefully, “A collaboration is kind of like a relationship.”

“You’re not going to start talking about sharks, are you?”

“No,” he laughed, “I was just going to say that in the long run, both benefit from honesty.”

“True,” she nodded. “Oh dear, it appears we have arrived at the subway.”

They looked at each other for a long moment.

“I had a good time,” he said.

“Me too.” she smiled. “Perhaps we will write this musical.” They hugged, then she turned toward the subway entrance and was gone.

He stood for a long moment, gazing at the space where she had been, feeling the silence of the city around him.

It was late, and time to go home. He began to sing softly, the words and the music coming to him as he walked. “Sweet Popcorn Gal, stay here awhile. I’m lost in your smile when you’re near…”


Sweet Popcorn Gal, part 7

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

“Brilliant theme for a musical!” she said. “Relationships are all about conflict. Gives us a lot to work with.”

“Absolutely.” he said. “Maybe we can describe all of the reasons that relationships fail us.” They were now back out on the street, and he was walking her to the subway.

“Or perhaps,” she replied, “all of the reasons that we fail relationships.”

“Yes, that’s much better,” he agreed. “In iambic pentameter. You start.”

“All right,” she said. “But whatever I say, you have to rhyme.”

“You’re on.”

She took a breath. “I prefer to live alone because I snore throughout the night.”

“Oh, that’s good.” He thought for a moment. “I do not like to cheat, but then you never know — I might.”

“Ha!” she said. “I shower in the morning, so by night my feet can stink.”

“Wait, give me a second,” he said, thinking, “I don’t close my eyes when kissing … but I have been known to blink.”


“Thanks,” he said. “OK, now it’s your turn to rhyme. Ready?”


“When we meet up for a movie, I am always running late.”

“Hmm,” she said, “When we’re dining on the town I pick the food off of your plate.”

Touché,” he said. “How about this: When things are going well, I am convinced it all will end.”

“I can top that one,” she said, “I don’t think I ever told you, but I have a boyfriend.”

“Wait,” he said, “What did you just say?”

Sweet Popcorn Gal, part 6

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

He thought this might be a good time to change the subject. “Would you like to have a coffee?”

“Why yes,” she said, “I would.” They ducked into a charmingly grungy East Village coffee shop.

After the coffees arrived, she noticed he was staring into his mug, as though there was something he wanted to say. “What’s up?” she asked.

“Nothing serious, just a little thing,” he shrugged. “Not sure I should even mention it.”

“It’s ok,” she said. “Honesty is not one of the things I’m scared of.”

“Well, I was just thinking. John didn’t write ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ — Paul did. So it’s really Paul who should get the credit for bringing pataphysics to the masses.”

“Hmm,” she said. “Technically yes, but do you really think Paul would even have known a word like ‘pataphysical’ if not for John? Lennon was in bed with the art avant guarde, and I mean that literally.”

“You mean Yoko, right?”

“Yes, quite. Ono was at the top of her game, a leading light of the Fluxus movement. She was changing the very face of art itself, a true heir to Alfred Jarry. Then she goes and weds beneath her station. Royalty marrying a commoner — a pop singer, no less. Imagine the scandal!”

“You have an unusual perspective on things,” he said.

“Would you rather collaborate with someone who had a usual perspective on things?”

“No,” he replied emphatically, “I would not.”

“Which brings up a question,” she said, leaning forward. “What will this musical of ours be about?”

“The same thing,” he said, “that all musicals are about.”

“And that is?”