It’s a common misconception that flatus, the gas produced by bacterial fermentation in the colon, is simply methane. Flatus is so much more than that. It contains oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen—that simplest and most plentiful of molecules in the cosmos, and carbon—the molecule of life.
These elements were forged in the crucible of the big bang. They comprise the galaxies up at which we gaze with wonder and the lenses through which we gaze—the air we breathe. Each time we expel flatus, we’re releasing these elements back into the vastness from which they were gathered over the course of billions of years.
What if we are visited by aliens and instead of being transcendent light beams or something cool and modern they’re just green guys with Q*bert noses named like “Bleeborp” and they speak “Floob” and their planet is called “Zylon X.”
In 1996, Alan Sokal (an NYU physics professor) was fed up with the pervasive, waffly trend of postmodern deconstructionism in academia—of people like Derrida whose work is often riddled with circumlocution and false syllogisms and which aims to undermine the existence and importance of objective realities.
He submitted a deliberately nonsensical paper called ”Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” to an academic journal. And it was published.
Sokal describes it as "a pastiche of left-wing cant, fawning references, grandiose quotations, and outright nonsense…structured around the silliest quotations [by postmodernist academics] I could find about mathematics and physics."
Said Sokal, “Anyone who believes that the laws of physics are mere social conventions is invited to try transgressing those conventions from the windows of my apartment. I live on the twenty-first floor.”
Jean Shepherd, the raconteur best known for A Christmas Story, had a long and fascinating career as an irreverent radio host. His prank came out of frustration, like Sokal’s—specifically with the way the New York Times Bestseller list was determined.
He claimed that if enough people simply requested a book from bookstores around the country, it would make the NTY Bestseller list. He asked his viewers to request I, Libertine by Fredrick R. Ewing—a book and an author that didn’t exist. They obeyed. And it made the New York Times Bestseller list.
“What particularly surprised Lucien was the enormous quantity of practical jokes Bergere had accumulated on a shelf: solid liquids, sneezing powder, itching powder, floating sugar, an imitation of a turd and a bride’s garter. While Bergere spoke, he took the artificial turd between his fingers and considered it with gravity. ‘These jokes,’ he said, ‘have a revolutionary value. They disturb. There is more destructive power in them than in all the works of Lenin.’”—
—Sartre, The Childhood of a Leader
This is one of my favorite Sartre quotes, not least because it contains the words “he took the artificial turd between his fingers and considered it with gravity.”
Hello, I've been following you for quite some time (you are v talented) and you have mentioned more than once that you were very unhappy as a child. If it's not too personal, I was wondering why that was.
Thanks! It is for the most part too personal (not to ask just to answer on tumblr).
But on top of whatever else, I was just one of those melancholy misanthropic little kids. I had (and have) a very low tolerance for dishonesty and tactlessness and selfishness, and those are some difficult convictions to have if your peers are all elementary school kids.
It’s kind of normal for a 7 year old to say “I want to come to your house because you have an above-ground pool,” but I’d hear that and say “no, you’re trying to use me and I’m done with you as a person forever.”