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RAH's parents

The Brains of a Spider (NSFW)

Spider will produce these discharges at intervals as irregular as he is, whenever his medication wears off.  He does actually believe several of the things he says, but some are purest mahooha, and he is utterly disinterested in discussing which ones.  Each installment is absolutely guaranteed to contain enough pixels to produce a recognizable picture of him doing something that will astonish you, if you are a fan of nano-puzzle-solving.  He likes having his work studied that closely.

Readers are welcome to join the conversation! If you are moved to respond to Spider's musings, feel free to write in at Any responses that Spider replies to will be added to the comments on the blog page.

"I do not repudiate anything I said in TBOAS #1, last night....but later last night, I had a visit from my Jeanne, whose Soto Zen Buddhist teacher called her Dancing Wisdom; Perfect Peace.  She advised me that starting a conversation with the world with quarrels and insults is exactly the wrong thing to do.  As always she is right.  The insults may be irresistible but they butter no parsnips.  Maybe we’ll argue another time. When argument can be motivated conversation rather than mortal combat.  My life experience has been that summer and politics are a hypergolic mixture, best handled by expert bachelors in Hazmat gear.  I don’t like to overdress in summer.”

05. Great quote I just found, re our Marisa

Dear Laurie,

I just ran across this wise quote:

Don't limit a child to your own learning, for she was born in another time. --Rabindranath Tagore

One day our Marisa is gonna make me feel like such an ignorant dummy.....

Time was, hundreds of years would go by, and basically, nothing happened but soap opera: nobody learned anything new that was important.  Three or four lifetimes might go by before anybody you could possibly hear wrote a new song good enough to learn, or dreamed up a new story good enough to repeat.  Everybody was busy, every day, all day, just keeping the pilot light lit.

Today, every hour we learn something new, and I’m running out of room to store new information.  I just read an hour ago that some guys have just seen, actually seen, are seeing right now, some stars that are only 250 million years older than the Big Bang....which happened just under 14 billion years ago!  That means those stars are both unimaginably old, and unimaginably far far away, that we can’t see anywhere near that far.  

So how can these guys possibly see these most ancient of stars, when they’re too far away to be seen?

Turns out that somewhere in between us and them, there is a very large galaxy (like our Milky Way, our street) which is acting like the lens of a microscope or a magnifying glass or a telescope.  It magnifies the stars way behind it (from our point of view) so ridiculously much that it makes them visible to us.


When my grandmother Agnes graduated from school, assuming she did (how would I know?), they didn’t know there were such things as galaxies, with billions of stars: we just thought there were a few thousand stars, the ones you can see without help.  Most humans were really comfortable with the numbers one, two, three, and many.

When my mother graduated from school, mankind believed there was only one galaxy, and this was it.  The Milky Way was clearly all the stars there were.  They had no reason to believe any other star had planets.  No reason to believe they didn’t, either: we just didn’t have a clue, because we were doing real good just being able to see the very nearest stars, just up the street a way.  

Today we have seen thousands of planets, many of them very like Earth, and just the right distance from their star to permit liquid water, which means they might have life as we care about it.  

Until I was in school, we had no faintest clue how huge the universe was, and when we found out, it blew everybody’s mind!  It still blows mine.

At this rate, by the time my sweet grandchild Marisa’s thinking about taking some time off work to have her first kids, human beings might be living on a planet circling some star too far away to see with a telescope.  I just hope Marisa will also have enough spare time to tell her ignorant old Grampa, back on Earth, as much of the new information as he is capable of understanding, at his level of knowledge.  At the same time, I kinda hope she’ll often be too damn busy.

Maybe by the time her kids are ready to stop learning and start living, nobody will die anymore.  Ever.  Maybe everybody will be in love with everybody else.  Maybe in some forgotten museum there’ll be an exhibit attempting and failing to explain what, and how much, money used to mean to everybody, but it will draw very few visitors, and before too long will  Isn’t that a lovely euphemism for trashed?  It might one day be impossible to convey to anybody what scarcity was, why we insisted on constantly competing, why we thought we needed greed, why we kept insanely denying our commonality.

Sir Paul said it pretty well in “Tug Of War”:

In years to come
They may discover
What the air we breathe and the life we lead are all about
But it won't be soon enough
(soon enough....)
Soon enough
For me

No, it won't be soon enough
(soon enough....)
Soon enough

Your no-longer-outlaw in-law,


04. The name is everything, sweet Amaranth!

Case in point:

The latest previously-unheard-of stuff that’s been touted to me as a food supplement worth paying a ton of money for a tiny quantity of, and it isn’t even organic (yet), is amaranth.  The word on the cyberstreet is, it’ll put color on your genitals, strengthen your inane system, reverse that nasty shortness of pants, and cure....well, your hide if nothing else.

That name, amaranth, which sounds to me like a chick I really wanted to ball back in the Sixties, will for sure be the making of the stuff, commercially speaking, the same way “sweet potatoes” turned “yams” from something fed to hogs and Africans into solid gold.  And thus may end up bringing about its extinction, naturally.  Those Africans now eat junk food, and the pigs died of gluten deficiency—as, soon at this rate, might we.  

Are you Amaranth Cartel investors really sure you want your restaurant to be discovered by the whole world?  In no time at all, someone whose last name ends in a vowel will be selling you expensive protection....and you’ll need it.  But it won’t work above street level, and soon some giant conglomerate will take you over and run amaranth into extinction by trying to grow too much, and to literally starve the growers.

If you really think that stuff is good for your health, maybe you should have just kept your mouth shut, and kept calling it by its original name.  You do know its original name, right?

They used to call it tumbleweed.  

If I’m lyin’, I’m fryin’. That’s what amaranth is. Yuppie tumbleweed.  People really will eat any goddamn thing, if it reminds them of a chick they used to want to ball.

Oh, and while I’m on the subject of names:

I now own the finest automobile I have ever owned in my life.  I’ve owned her for fourteen years, and put a grand total of about a hundred bucks a year (Canadian!) in maintenance into her in that time.  There have until this month been no repairs, and she still works so perfectly in all respects that the dashboard clock still keeps perfect time.  She drinks a thimble of gas a week, whether she needs it or not, has her oil replaced regularly every 4 or 5 years, but never needs it topped up, and contains the very best sound system I own.  Sound crisp as breadsticks.

Toyota named it the Echo.  What a lovely, aptly evocative name.  Disappears, whoosh!, leaving behind only an echo and widespread aesthetic envy.  I’ve never been moved to give mine a personal name, like Miss Agnes or Gay Deceiver, because I’m just so pleased with Echo.

Unfortunately, while doing so, they also ran the name of the exciting new model past some “focus” groups—as in, “Focus and the horse we rode in on: we ain’t smart enough for cars yet, just pickup trucks.”  Tell us what you think of the car, they were instructed, because they seemed confused.

God help us all, and I swear this is true: the answer that came back most often was, “Love everything about her but that dumbass name.  ‘Echo’.....that’s short for ‘echological, right?  I ain’t gonna buy a car that don’t go fast, don’t cost too much, and don’t choke the losers I leave breathin’ my exhaust.  Think I want my buds and neighbors thinkin’ I’m a got-dam tree-hugger?  Give me a nice name that don’t turn me off, that don’t go meanin’ something on me—like Corolla!”

Even worse, a followup focus-in-our-asses group found that the focus group had belated focused on the odd spelling of eco, realized it must really be pronounced “etch-o,” took that to mean some sort of Mexican food....and in these strange times, that's not a meme you want scratched on your car, either.  It would remind me of a mouse named Gonzalez famous for his speed, but I’m sophisticated enough to watch cartoons.

So after a single, very successful first year, they changed the name to Yaris, which only has meaning in certain neighborhoods on (actually, under) Neptune.

And sales took off.  Sign right here to vacation with your whole family on Venus, you marching—

S’cuse me.  I was about to call the focus pocus people a name, there.  One which was coined by that prescient Cassandra Cyril M. Kornbluth back in the April 1951 GALAXY—all too accurately foreseeing today, with a classic story called, “The Marching Morons.”  

Jon Stewart certainly glossed the current President with an accurately evocative name.  Anybody but me still remember Fuckface von Clownstick?  That could have been the name of the president in Cyril’s story.

If only more of us had remembered it.

03. Inane, eh?

Dear Mary,

You grew up in the Bronx, too.  What is a Nay?  Eh?

Okay, it might be spelled Neigh, the way it turns out “getting underway” is actually spelled “getting under weigh,” an obscure nautical term.  (To do so, one weighs the anchor—get it?)

But what is one?  I’m sixty-nine, I could die last week, I don’t want to wait anymore, and I don’t want to die not knowing.  

(Or knowing, either.  I just want to be clear about that.  What I’m aiming for is, about ten minutes before I rattle me clack, a red man with horns, cloven hooves, a lawyer’s shingle, and a forked tail will appear before me and say, “Sorry, Spi—I’ve had the bastards shoveling like Heaven down there, but I’m afraid it’s no use: the whole place just froze over.”  Once that’s no longer one of the possible destinations, just answer my question and I’m ready to go anytime.)

I’ve wondered for a very long time, now.  In fact, it was one of my very first questions about language.  Ever since I started learning, back in the Bronx, to understand what others around me were saying, I’ve heard people earnestly, usually emphatically, urging me and others to fuck a nay.  Or neigh.

“Ya think Annette Funicello’s got nice boobies, Anthony?”

“Fuck a nay!”

I had no way to picture that, you see.  Or to be at all clear on whether this was something one did because one really hated nays......or because one really loved fucking them.  I didn’t even know if nays came in male and female, or what, and we won’t go there.  I mean, would advocating the fucking of nays be a prudent thing, or an imprudent thing, to do in the hearing of nays—and if the latter, how were you to know if there were any in earshot?  I knew I could be standing right next to a flaming nay and never even suspect it: perhaps naydom was something that didn’t show, like a political party, or being a Caucasian whose ancestors came from some different shithole.  It was all very worrisome.  I thought of asking somebody, but anyone I knew who looked like he might have fucked nays also looked like he might just kick the shit out of anyone who quizzed him about it.

I can only say that I have never knowingly failed to fuck a nay.  Consequently I’ve never missed it.  Nor they me, to the best of my knowledge.

I just don’t get the point of all this mystery.

And while I’m at it, what the fuck is “earshot” all about?  

A Marine sniper with a Barrett or Valmet M-82 can shoot any desired part of a human ear accurately from 4,000 meters, or 4,400 yards.  Jack Reacher could do it with his head in a bag.  But the guy whose ear it was would never hear the shot, if he was facing to either side, with his head behind that ear.  Remember that the round in question is a fifty-cal!  Hard to converse with pink mist.  I suppose it would be possible to communicate by firing a meter to the left or right of that ear in Morse code....but the message would be as private as smoke signals.

Even back when under five hundred meters was as far as anyone could shoot an arrow, that was hardly conversational distance.  What made anyone ever think of ears and shooting in the same sentence, in the same furshlugginer word—let alone every time the subject of how far one can hear came up?  Why wasn’t it, from time immemorial, known as “ear-throw”?  Because it might confuse barely literate people into thinking it was pronounced “earth-row”?  

As George Carlin said, these are the kind of questions that kept me out of the good schools....

Maybe that’s it....and maybe this happened so long ago that the “shot” they were thinking of was a sling shot.  (What do you think, David?  How about you, Goliath?)  Incidentally, not many people these days are aware that one of the earliest serious weapons was a self-explanatory and much-feared variant of the child’s slingshot called the slingshit.  (Certainly doesn’t sound serious, I know.  But trust me: it is.  I’ve been hit by one.  I said I grew up in the Bronx.)  Among its many virtues, it used one of the byproducts of another early weapon, the bullista.  An attempt at a child’s version, the kittenapult, was abandoned at the implacable insistence of a Lysistrata, and some other women.  Most other women, really.

Today, of course, no matter where on the planet we may seek to hide, the President of the United States will always have us all within earshit.  Just this president, though.

One may hope, anyway.

Your unforgivably, but understandably, smug Canadian brother
(our turn in the barrel will come.  But not this year.)


Dear Mary and John,

At regular intervals these days, I find myself standing in the hair care aisle in the pharmacy, staring helplessly at all the shampoos, trying to guess which one I want.

(At least I’m smart enough to know I DON’T want the one that advertises it’s “…like a blast of hydration to your scalp.”  That means it’s the same thing as pouring water on your head.  Why not just use real water?  It’s way cheaper.)  (Unless you insist on ORGANIC water.  But you wouldn’t believe how much of the world supply of that is monopolized by homeopathy people.)

I’m pretty sure I want some form of Pert Plus, because that one has conditioner mixed right in with it—making it, at least as far as I know, the only hair-goop you can buy that does not look EXACTLY like semen.  I like saving an entire step in the hair-washing process…and especially if it means I don’t have to artificially inseminate my scalp.  “Nice haircut, Spi.”  “Thanks—just a little something my hairdresser knocked up for me.”  No, thanks.  Even the most passionate fan of reproduction doesn’t want to watch the fetus gestate ON HIS OR HER OWN HEAD for most of a year.  Imagine the neckaches!

But there are MANY varieties of Pert Plus, each identified only by a cryptic word or two, none of which ever quite seems to apply to my particular hair.  Jeanne used to buy a variety that always worked perfectly for me…but not only do I forget which one, I have a strong suspicion they stopped making that kind.  Nothing there on the shelf looks right.  

So I stand there in the aisle, slack-jawed, a baboon examining a shelf of library books, looking for the good one.

“VOLUMIZER,” says this one.

Do I WANT my hair to have volume?  I GUESS so.  It has area.  I mean, I don’t want a PERM, but….who doesn’t look good with more hair?  If your hair DOESN’T have volume, you’re two dimensional, Mr. A Square.

“FOR DRY HAIR,” says that one.

Is my hair dry?  Uh…sure.  You know, whenever it isn’t wet.  Is YOUR hair dry when it’s wet, buddy?

“FOR CURLY HAIR,” offers another one.

To make my hair curlier, you mean?  Or to make it less curly?  And which would I prefer?  My hair’s a LITTLE curly.  How much is just right?  HOW CAN I NOT HAVE KNOWN, FOR ALL THESE YEARS?  Am I an ISLAND?


I’m not even gonna try and GUESS what the fuck THAT means.  But no, I don’t think I care to go “deep down,” fella.  You’re not gettin’ in the shower with ME.


Do I WANT moist hair?  Then why do I own a hair DRYER?

Sooner or later, I make a decision as to which of these is…well, not most accurate, but at least least inaccurate, and I buy it and take it home, and sometimes it seems to make my hair look good and sometimes it seems to make it look like shit, just like all the others.

But today, Pert finally hit my sweet spot.  It called to me from the shelf in the pharmacy.  At last, someone understands my personal style needs, groks my unique esoteric follicular requirements, supplies all I ask of hair-goop.  The label says it all:

for normal hair

I bought two bottles, just to help make sure the new format succeeds.  And I used it tonight, and you know what?  My hair is clean, by God.

And normal-looking.

What was so hard about that, fellas?

Now my only problem is, I wore my glasses into the shower (I like to look down on the unemployed).  It was a serious mistake, because now I was able to read the ingredients—which, and I swear to Grid I’m not making this up, included the following two: polymethacrylamitopropyltrimonium (yes, that’s only one word! which nobody but Danny Kaye could possibly pronounce in one breath) and, my favorite, dihyrogenated Tallowamidoethyl hydroethyl minomium methosulfate.  In my adolescence I had a favorite fantasy involving two Ethels in a Buick station wagon (they used to call them woodies, didn’t they?), but two ethyls on my HEAD, on meth, trying to steal my gestating fetus, is too much excitement for me, even today when excitement is thin on the ground (unless you’re an unarmed highschool student who forgot his or her vest).  

But the moment I glance away from those two ingredient names, they vanish from my, from anybody’s, mind.  So what’s the problem?

—yo’ bro