Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sins of Omission

I write poetry. There, I said it. I am not ashamed.

I would say that poetry gets a bad rap nowadays, but that would be incorrect in that it implies that anyone gives poetry a sliver of thought. The causes for the craft's beleaguered reputation (or lack of one) in the 21st century can be attributed to a number of causes.

  • People don't read for pleasure as much as they used to. Obv.
  • In order to sustain itself, poetry has become inextricably tethered to academia. This has the same effect you might see in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy: it's still alive, but it's sick. A huge chunk of today's poets are either MFA students or creative writing professors, and they are all writing poems for the approval of other MFA students and creative writing professors. Hence, modern verse's reputation for insularity and inaccessibility, and the very reason Robert Pinsky gets on my nerves so much.
  • Conventional wisdom: anyone under thirty who writes poetry who isn't an MFA student must be either a hipster or a goth. Neither is very popular.
  • Hip-hop. And I'm not talking about Kayne West and Lil' Wayne and whoever else, but practitioners of the more underground and intellectual strands. Talented wordsmiths are opting for a scene with a little more vitality, and who can blame them?
  • Related cause: there is no market for poetry. Not that there ever was one -- you'll notice that all of the most renowned English-speaking poets were either well-off to begin with (Tennyson, Byron, Wordsworth, etc.) or otherwise broke, laden with debt, and/or borderline insane (Whitman, Poe, Shelley, etc.) -- but most creative types embark on their careers hoping for one or both of two things: money and recognition. If there was any time when writing poetry could possibly earn you one but not the other, it ended with the Beats. These days, you're practically assured of getting neither.

But the cool part about this, and one of the reasons I enjoy reading modern poetry (at least the stuff that isn't overacademized and deliberately impenetrable), is that you know the people who still write this stuff must be both passionate about what they're doing and writing precisely what they want to. Hard to approach a project with a cynical, market-driven mindset (like you frequently see in fiction, nonfiction, comic books, television, film, music, video games, etc.) when there simply isn't a market to cater to. Poetry ain't dead. There are a lot of people doing some very cool and interesting stuff -- it's just that nobody is paying attention.

In any event, I am not a frequent poet. Every month or two, I'll find myself finishing a new piece. It's not something I can will or force; it just happens on its own. But now I'm sitting on a stack of work that's never been published (though, as usual, not for lack of trying) or presented to an audience, and have been thinking it's about time I got it out there. And this was why I headed to Brooklyn last Sunday for an open mic in Park Slope.

Open mics are always a crapshoot. All of the people who come to perform are there because they can't get invited to perform anywhere -- which doesn't necessarily mean they are awful, but in many cases it does -- and most of the people who come to listen arrive with the performers. But hell -- a free show is a free show, and an audience is an audience.

So I headed into Park Slope with Eszter and a stack of printouts and found the place without too much trouble. It was a little bar/cafe with a lovely atmosphere: red walls, low lighting, and a laid-back soundtrack. Pretty much what I expected. We arrived late. I was about twelfth on the sign-up sheet, so I took a seat, slurped on a Hot Toddy, and consulted Eszter on which of the six and seven pieces she thought would be best to read.

At 7:30, the first performer came on: a middle-aged man who strummed a guitar and sang off-key ballads about drinking and seasonal depression while a sunny-faced kid of about eighteen or nineteen accompanied him with a bongo, eyes shut, smiling, swaying from side to side like he had taken MDMA at a summer drum circle. Certainly it was a little ridiculous -- but it is hard to just earnestness too harshly, especially when you yourself cannot even coax a guitar into twanging out "Jingle Bells."

Next up was a diffident young rapper of about twenty or so. Tonight was obviously his first or second performance before an audience. You could see how nervous he was. He introduced himself louder than he rhymed, and he kept his feet rooted in one spot, but he never missed a beat. And he was sincere -- which, despite what the sneering Simon Cowells of the world will try to convince you, does count for a lot.

Meanwhile, I had ordered another drink and was eying the rest of the crowd. There they were -- a disparate group of twenty-somethings, sipping coffee and scribbling a couple of last notes into a pocket diary. Poetry fags, one and all. I was eager to hear what they had to say, and for them to listen to me in turn.

The next act was introduced. He shut his notebook, slid it into his pocket, and approached the front with a loose swagger. "Good to see you all tonight," he said, snatching the mic from the stand. "Give yourselves a hand!"

Mild applause. I raise an eyebrow.

"So, uh, anyone excited about the McRib? The McRib is back, man! Sheeit. What kinda rib is that? What animal is that from? Musta been some abomination, some kinda horrible abortion of bestiality or something. Right? Am I right? Sheeeit."

Eszter and I looked at each other. Okay, I thought. The flyer specifically welcomed "poets, musicians, and comics." So we have some lousy standup on the bill. Cool. Just a little airy levity before one of these young Keatses or Kerouacs takes the mic and astounds us with his clarity of perspective and keen precision of craftsmanship. It's gonna happen. Just wait for it.

Applause. The next act approaches the front.

"So, uh, I was out drinking the other night and I started talking sweet to this bartender chick, but her -- she won't have any of it. 'I don't date meatheads,' she tells me. So I say back to her, thinking I'm clever, 'but I'm a vegetarian!' So she says, 'I don't date faggots either.'"

BA DUM CHING! Laughter.

And so it unfolds. One after another, the comedians take the mic.

"You know what's weird? You ever think about how different it is to take a shit and give a shit?"

"I bite my nails. My girlfriend keeps telling me 'that's such a disgusting habit!' I say, 'you know what else is a disgusting habit? Being an annoying bitch.'"

"Now I'm no racist, but..."

"I never ask a chick if she's pregnant. I just sorta hang around and wait nine months and see if a baby pops out. And when I don't see a baby, I get pissed, you know? Means I just spent nine months hanging around with some weirdly-proportioned fat chick."


The crowd cackled with laughter. I go over my own material again and again. The poem about a bird. The poem about frogs. Oh, and that goopy love poem. Christ -- I brought a ukelele to a knife fight. I gave Eszter a nudge and nodded toward the door. It was time to leave.

It was the sensible thing to do, really. Neither of us were having any fun at that point. The stand-up acts all sucked; I'd take doofy poetry over artless jokes any day of the week. Eszter was seething over a misogynist jokester who left -- arm in arm with his girlfriend, no less -- two minutes after he put the mic back in its stand. But it wasn't them so much as the crowd that compelled me to quit the place. They loved these guys. How was I supposed to impress them -- follow up a routine about getting fingered in the ass the first time having sex with a piece about a blue heron? The crowd wouldn't be into it. I'd be wasting my time and theirs. So we left.

And yet I feel infinitely more foolish now than I would have had I balled up and presented my work to an unreceptive audience.

Not only because I sold myself short and copped out -- but this whole thing might have been a better story, something more worth remembering and repeating, had I swallowed it and made it happen, for better or worse. Anything is better than an anecdote that goes nowhere. Any memory is more worth retaining than "that night I was going to do something, but I didn't."

The greatest writers became what they are because they didn't lose their nerve, even when it meant standing naked before the world.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tired and/of Trolls


Busy busy busy. Busy.

I think I really need to stop reading the news. I just can't cope with it anymore.

No -- what I need to change is when I read the news. Ordinarily, the first thing I do after shutting off my alarm clock is sit down at the computer, open up my RSS feeds, and inform myself about the world while waiting for my brain to get readjusted to being in it. This now seems very foolish to me. On any given weekday morning, the very first information I consume is invariably a collection of headlines going like, GLEEFUL, AGGRESSIVELY IGNORANT LUNATICS SEIZE POWER IN AMERICA; SUN TO SWELL INTO RED GIANT AND GOBBLE UP EARTH BEFORE UNITED STATES ECONOMY RECOVERS; HUMANS AND BEDBUGS TO BE ONLY SURVIVING ANIMAL SPECIES BY 2030, BIOLOGISTS WARN; CHINA OUTSIDE, PUTTING BOOT ON YOUR CAR.

Waking up in the morning -- especially this time of year -- is already hard enough. Why would the first thing I do upon getting up be something that compels me to go back to bed?

No -- that's not it, either.

What I really need to stop doing immediately is finishing a story on the Washington Post or New York Times and clicking on the "comments" tab.

In the old days, before journalism went digital, I imagine it was possible to put down the paper after reading some heartbreaking article about the latest environmental catastrophe, egregious act of ignorance and injustice, or foreign bloodbath, eat a few Prozac, and assure yourself that the cleverness, generosity, and fundamental decency of the American character would bring about a righting of wrongs, a promise that the mistakes of yesterday would not be repeated, and an example set for the rest of the world -- even if it might take another few months, years, or decades to see it happen.

And then the Internet appeared. And then the Internet Goober Gallery came along and destroyed my faith in the American populace.

Actually, that's not entirely fair. We certainly can't blame the Internet if the people take advantage of this unprecedented age of instant global communication to demonstrate how fucking awful they are.

Over the last few minutes I've browsed the comments sections of a few Washington Posts pieces pertaining to the economy, Don't Ask Don't Tell, Afghanistan, and race. Let's see how the public feels about these difficult and multifaceted issues:

I have zero doubt that the failed 0bama administration orchestrated this. The pitiable part is that even if she knew that as a fact she would still vote for 0 just for his melanin content.

* * *

After 9 years of trying to bring Democracy to these ungrateful savages they have given US very little in return. I would suggest that we withdraw our ground forces to Pakistan and employ our much underused B-52's. Carpet bomb the entire Afghan region until every last one of these maggots are dead and leave their carcasses for the motherloving rats and buzzards. These people want a fight US than we'll blow them straight to hell. Once all is said and done with we can use their mineral resources to pay off the cost for all the time and money that's been wasted trying to help these cave dwellers.

* * *

Observation...Why is it that females seem to be so much more tolerant of homosexuality than males???? Soft Values have been the root of decay in numerous societies in the history of the world. Why should we embrace soft values in our society???

* * *

I don't hate the sob. I simply "don't like him." I wouldn't hurt him. But, I wouldn't recommend that he be allowed in presence of our Soldiers, when they're armed.
O'bama "cannot" be as dumb,as he appears. He went to school, and graduated college. Can he be dumb enought to believe that we, or any Nation, can borrow itself out of debt, or spend it's way back to prosperity? Even Jethro, of The Beverly Hillbillies, could Cypher, better than that.
So, if he's not dumb, that only leaves deliberate intent. He doesn't know how to "feel" or to "be" American.
He's living his Father's, and hid Grand-Father's dreams. He's still figting, and opposing Imperial Colonialism.
He's getting even with European Anglos, who had, at one time, imprisoned his Paternal Grand-Father.
His aim, is to destroy America.
It cannot be accidental. You're hoping that he Succeeds???

* * *


* * *

look, I'm not a racist, I try to be tolerant.
But this is our country.
They are right.
America is our country. Americans are mostly caucasians, and some blacks, who of old fought with us in the revolution, and in the Civil War and later wars and some mexicans we adopted later, and some native americans we adopted, and everybody was integrating, if especially slowly in the case of the blacks.
So yes, there is just one America. Our America. In this case, if almost no other, I will stand and fight with Palin and Beck.
The rest are unasked for but tolerated immigrants to our country. You can always go home, if we offend you.

* * *

It is us against you and you are losing big time. Make no mistake about it, I would not give you or any other liberal the time of day if your life depended on it. In fact, I would run ahead of you and destroy clocks just to hasten your demise and then laugh about it. I want you and people like you crushed and utterly destroyed, just beating you is not enough. You greatly underestimate the hatred many, many of us have towards anyone who supports the Marxist in the White House.

It's bad enough reading about how much worse off the world is today than yesterday -- that the barbarians are crowded round the gates, putting ever more chinks and cracks in the wall that stands between enlightened civilization and a new dark age -- but thanks to the Internet, I am also discovering every day that another sect of barbarians is inside the gates, hammering away at the walls from behind.

To me the Internet is seeming less and less an engine of education and community than a propagator of demagoguery and non-information. Perhaps Tolstoy wasn't completely bats when he derided the printing press for promoting ignorance and self-assuredness.


And I guess that concludes my Internet blog post about how clever I am for observing everyone else's silliness. Sheez. I'm going back to bed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


If you want to help a brother's brother out, please visit my friend's Shutterfly page and help him sort out his photographs. He's got 180 snappies and he's trying to determine which are the best. For now, all you have to have to do is visit the Photo Tournament section, decide which ones you like the least, and drop him a line telling him so.

Most of his photographs fall within three categories: photos of Manhattan graffiti, documentary photos of protests, and snapshots of security cameras. (He feels that if somebody is taking pictures of him without his permission, he should be entitled to the same liberty.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

November doldrums

November is a lousy fucking month. All I have wanted to do lately is lie in bed and play Final Fantasy Tactics. It's a good thing I can't do both at the same time.

Before I arrive at a proper answer to the question I posed in the last post, I'm going to have to do a little research in conjunction with my ruminations. Before going into exile, my father left me with a copy of Maryanne Wolf's Proust and the Squid. Once I finish it, I hope to understand enough about the act of reading to arrive at an informed idea of how it most differs from the dominant media of the day and what books can give us that television and video games cannot. I will begin reading as soon as I finish taking notes on Plato's Theaetetus. (Probably could have found a better dialogue to start with; this one doesn't even arrive at a bloody answer to its own question, but it wanders through some interesting places.)

As I finally begun picking up steam again with the Lotus Eaters, another rejection slip for The Zeroes arrived in the mailbox this afternoon. The more times you are told that "our decision is not an indication of the merit of your manuscript or your ideas," the harder it is to believe it.

Well, back to Tactics.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hey! Whatchoo readin' fer?

I have not been updating this gentleman as often as I would like or had originally intended, so I apologize for any nights you may have stayed up feverishly clicking your brower's reload button, hoping, praying, fiending for a new transmission from bitspace. This new prose project has been occupying most of my free time lately; it is probably hopeless as a novella, and will likely end up being another novel (though probably only half as long as the first -- which I still can't get anyone to publish, thank you for asking). If I can finish it by the end of the month, I have promised myself an Xbox 360. And if I don't? Well, I guess I'll just have to keep spending my spare change on tumor-growing pleasure sticks instead of downloadable brain corrosives. (But given the choice, I'd prefer to hunker down with King of Fighters 2002 UM and Rez until the days start getting longer again on December 21 or so.)

As I work on this new project (the title is "Lotus Eaters;" whether or not a "the" will get stuck at the beginning is still under deliberation), my doubting and cynical self is chiding my creative self for acting foolishly and wasting his effort. You can't sell the first book; what makes you think you'll have any better luck with a second?

He has a point. I see this project meeting with about as much success as the first (zero), and even if it did get published -- somewhere, somehow -- what would it matter? Nobody would read it. Nobody gives a fuck about fiction anymore. Why don't I just resign myself to writing nothing but video game commentary for the next twenty years and at least being assured an audience?

It saddens me that the wider public doesn't read fiction for pleasure unless their arms are twisted into it. And I'm not just saying this own my own behalf, either. People are seriously missing out. Yesterday I reread Herman Melville's "Benito Cerino" before sitting down to start a new game in Final Fantasy Tactics. As I looked back on what I did that day, which do you suppose seemed the better use of my time?

If you've followed my work for any length of time, you've noticed I like to ruminate on the aspects of DIGITAL INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT MEDIA that set it apart from the classical -- or at least older -- modes of entertainment/expression. It is true that video games can do a lot of things of which non-interactive and non-visual media, such as prose, are simply incapable. But now that video games and fiction have reversed positions -- the one that once struggled to validate its existence is now one of the most lucrative, widely consumed, and analyzed of our pastimes, while the other is practically hanging by a thread, slipping further into irrelevance as public interest and corporate profits dwindle -- I think it is worth backpedaling a bit and looking at what makes fiction what it is. What can fiction offer us that new media cannot?

For the best answer, please consult The Curtain, by Milan Kundera. For my answer -- which will probably be very similar to Kunera's, albeit shorter, less erudite, and far less eloquent -- well, sit tight a few days. I'd like to think it over a few minutes. In the meantime, I would be interested in knowing your thoughts.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Autumn poems by Po Chü-i

Today was the end of daylight savings, a date which has all but formally replaced the equinox as our occasion for marking the shifting seasons. To celebrate (or mourn), tonight I am posting a few pieces from translator Dave Hinton's collection of Po Chü-i poems. Enjoy or else.

* * * * *

Autumn Thoughts, Sent Far Away

We all share these disappointments of failing
autumn a thousand miles apart. This is where

autumn wind easily plunders courtyard trees,
but the sorrows of distance never scatter away.

Swallow shadows shake out homeward wings.
Orchid scents thin, drifting from the old thickets.

These lovely seasons and fragrant years falling
lonely away -- we share such emptiness here.

Cold Night in the Courtyard

Dew-stained bamboo seems like jade,
and blown curtain-shadow like waves.

As I grieve over falling leaves, bright
moons in the courtyard grow countless.

Ch'in Song in Clear Night

The moon's risen. Birds have settled in.
Now, sitting in these empty woods, silent

mind sounding the borders of idleness,
I can tune the ch'in's utter simplicities:

from the wood's nature, a cold clarity,
from a person's mind, a blank repose.

When mind's gathered clear calm ch'i,
wood can make such sudden song of it,

and after lingering echoes die away,
song fading into the depths of autumn night,

you suddenly hear the source of change,
all heaven and earth such depths of clarity.

Autumn Pool

My body's idle, doing perfectly nothing,
and mind, thinking perfectly nothing,

now more than ever. In this old garden
tonight, I've returned to my autumn pool,

shoreline dark now birds have settled in,
bridge incandescent under a rising moon.

Chestnut scents swell, adrift on a breeze,
and the cinnamon's a confusion of lit dew.

So much solitude in this far end of quiet,
an isolate mystery no one finally knows:

just a few words haunting a far-off mind,
asking why it took so long coming here.

In Answer to a Letter Sent by Liu Yü-Hsi on an Autumn Day

Grateful to escape such grave illness,
I'm happy to wither away at the root,

let this lamp gauge darkening eyes,
my belt measure this thinning waist.

On a day of frost turning leaves red,
in a time of hair gone white as snow,

I may grieve over old age coming on.
But once old age ends, I'm grief-free.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Rally to Restore Something Something

I almost neglected to mention that I attended Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity last weekend. This wasn't for absentmindedness or dawdling -- I deliberately refrained from wasting any time straining to find something worth adding to the thousands of photo albums and post-event reports on Facebook and the professional blogosphere. If you already wanted to know how it went, you probably already have a good idea.

For my part, I had a pretty good time. I couldn't see a goddamn thing and was just barely able to hear, but the outing as a whole was rather fun and I don't regret going.

But I couldn't help being bothered by something when I was there. It was a thrill and a great relief to see the putative "Million Moderate March" come to fruition (the turnout was higher than anyone -- even the organizers -- anticipated), but something about the scene made me uneasy. I had a difficult time putting my finger on it, until star political cartoonist Signe Wilkinson brilliantly illustrated the matter herself:

Yeah -- Tea Party is a bunch of frothing, anti-intellectual, latently racist, and easily-manipulated dolts who want to drag the United States back to the 18th Century while China, India, and Brazil go full steam into the 21st. But at least they're taking their shit seriously. We're playing for fun, while they're in it to win it.

First, from Gallup:

Next, from the Center For American Progress Action Fund:

Forty-one percent of voters in this election said they were conservatives. That’s quite a bit higher than in recent elections. Only 34 percent of voters said they were conservatives in 2008, and just 32 percent in 2006. Even in 1994, only 37 percent of voters were conservatives.

The high conservative turnout came at the expense of moderates. This group was actually smaller than conservatives as a proportion of voters in 2010—39 percent compared to 41 percent. By comparison, moderates were 44 percent of voters in 2008 and they were 47 percent of voters in 2006. And in the 1988-2004 period, the percent of moderates never dropped below 45 percent.

Thanks, guys. Way to act like the stoned slackers Bill O'Reilly says you are. Enjoy the time warp to 1785 and remember that you could have prevented it.

(Of course, I suppose I am as blameworthy as anyone else. Come 2012, I'll be knocking on doors and dialing numbers instead of wistfully hoping the electorate might provide its own motivation on election day.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

More amateur astronomy!

Last night I had the greatest thrill I've experienced in quite some time, and it might illustrate how boring I'm becoming in my old age. But hear me out.

A couple weeks ago, my grandparents in Delaware sent me home to Jersey with a small gift: a pair of binoculars that had been sitting unused in one of their closets for a number of years. They're by no means the best binoculars I could have in my pocket -- actually, most opical engineers would say they're quite lousy -- but they can still magnify an image, and the price was right.

Between ten and eleven last night I bundled up and ventured outside with the binoculars in one hand and an autumn star chart in the other. It took a bit of time, doing, and numbness of the fingers, but I found it: Messier Object 31, a nondescript grayish smudge in the sky between the triangle formed by Cassiopeia α, Pegasus α, and Pegasus β.

I'm not an expert on the history of astronomy, but I do know a thing or two about 18th century French astronomer Charles Messier. His primary objects of study were comets. Loved them. Wanted to find as many as he could. And more often than he would have liked, he'd fix his telescope on a part of the sky and think he'd found a new comet -- only to discover, after tracking it for a few nights, that his latest candidate didn't move at all like a comet, and therefore could not be one. Messier began to catalogue these objects in a kind of cosmic junk index, so as not to make the same mistakes twice and to mark them out for future comet hunters.

It is truly astonishing how the real fruits of our endeavors are sometimes evinced in the things which we mistake as being incidental -- or even obstructive -- in our progress towards our intended aims. Messier's catalogue is now regarded as his single greatest achievement and contribution to science.

In the 19th century, most of these Messier Objects were identified as nebulae, which I am sure you are familiar with. M31 was no exception -- at least not at first. The closer astronomers looked at it (thanks to improvements in telescope design), the more irregularities they discovered. For a while they believed it was a supernova. Then they decided it must be a newborn star or solar system forming in the center of disk-shaped accretion of gas. Both ideas had to be scrapped following a couple of further discoveries -- one of which had to do with M31's distance from the Earth.

The classical method of calculating astronomical distances is really quite ingenious and elegant. Imagine you have two circles, one inside of the other.

Let's say that at the center of both circles is the astronomical object (let's say a star) under consideration.

Now. Let's take a chunk out of this imaginary larger circle and assign it a value. This is our baseline. Point A is an observatory somewhere on the earth's surface; Point B is an observatory some miles elsewhere that is looking at the same star at the same time. (A greater distance between Point A and Point B makes for a more accurate measurement.)

Now. In a nutshell (and skipping a few steps), the ratio of arc AB to the circumference of the greater circle is going to be equal to that of the parallax angle to the 360 degrees of the smaller circle:
(AB/2πx) = (parallax/360)

But what's parallax, you ask? That's easy. Hold your index finger close to your face and shut one eye. Now shut that eye and open the other. Notice how your finger seems to change position with regard to objects in the background? That's parallax. When observing stars, astronomers consider the observed parallax as an angular measurement and plug it into the equation. From there, all that's left is to solve for X (the larger circle's radius, and the distance from Earth to the distant object). For the planets and some stars, it works great. As the distance to the observed object increases in proportion to the baseline (which cannot exceed the width of Earth, unless we're using some kind of wacky satellite array), the accuracy degrades.

What's the point of all this? Well, M31 has no parallax. This means that is very far away; somewhere behind pretty much every other visible object in the sky. This carried some profound and startling implications for 19th century astronomers: namely that it could not possibly be a star, a nova, a nascent solar system, or any other stellar object known to man at that time. If something that far away could still appear in the sky with the same angular (ie apparent) size of a small "local" star, it had to be unimaginably massive.

There were great debates in the early 20th century as to what M31 could possibly be. Thanks to perpetual improvements in observational technology, breakthroughs in the measurement of stellar distance, and many, many, many hours of observation and number crunching, astronomers concluded that M31 -- formerly known as the Andromeda Nebula -- was an entirely different galaxy; a stellar system existing trillions upon trillions of miles (something like 40,233,599,999,999,998 miles, to tack an actual number to it) beyond everything that astronomy had for thousands of years believed to represent the entirety of the cosmos. The realization that Andromeda was a galaxy was more or less the discovery of a new universe. This was some Silent Upon a Peak in Darien business times ten thousand.

So! That's what I saw in my binocular lenses last night. I'd seen Andromeda before in textbooks and on computer screens -- all very lovely pictures, all much clearer, crisper, and infinitely better looking than the dim grayish blob in my vision -- but this was my first time seeing the genuine article for myself. It was kind of incredible. The 2.51 million-year-old radiation from a trillion suns actually tickled my optic nerves. However briefly and however faintly, I was directly experiencing the distant touch of another cosmos.

I really do wonder why more people aren't into this stuff.

Fun fact: Whereas most of the cosmos is expanding away from Earth and the Milky Way, Andromeda is actually HURTLING TOWARD US.

(Image at the top ganked from Astro Nut.)