Old Paper

On Tuesday, that scary bump on the subway came at the exact moment a tall man sneezed violently. By the time I got to the last few steps to exit the 23rd Street station, I felt a different kind of ache in my legs. It has been nearly a year since I closed and reopened. Maybe I’m just out of shape.

The security gates along the row of stores to my gallery still sat tight against the blackened dots of forgotten sidewalk gum. The chill in the breeze swirled at me with bits of paper and leaves. I entered my shop, tossed my coat to the chair, turned back to scan the exhibit, and noted to mop the floor. I went back outside and took photos of the black dots. I tried to connect the gum with the footsteps that made them, but I couldn’t. By the next day, those uncomplicated, conventional actions shifted my outlook unexpectedly, and I was not fond of the way I was thinking.

Art must be allowed to die the way Sleeping Beauty did. That was my conclusion. No matter how writers twirl fine phrases into your mind or painters watch your puzzled eye, the paint will dry in the tube, absent the story’s truth. All the while, music plays and plays to the silent, moody listeners of its class. The tedious work of sense-making only consumes a lack of purpose with the fear of survival. Forgive me, I felt this in my bones all of Tuesday. Today is Wednesday, and I feel a bit better.

It was pointless to think of anything else that could be worse. I still had my joy of novelty, black dots on a sidewalk, red tail jets, the joy of getting a sudden smile, and sitting in playgrounds filled with giggles. My darling partner called this odd attentiveness my silly stupidness. The art I chose for the season reopening was fresh but steadily becoming more frivolous each hour since that Tuesday. The questions friends and lovers asked were the right ones. Still, I could not prevent a sense of meaninglessness from spreading amongst us. Science was injecting a different way of thinking about playfulness within the arts. But I wouldn’t say I enjoyed one bit of this intrusion.

I rattled my newspaper and spread it across my desk. I heard Leslie enter early, as expected. Up went the gallery lights to their entire “buy me” intensity. She nodded hello, sat across me, already reading strange tensions in my so-called “aura of the day.” I put up with that silliness. Having her back could save the shop. I never had a better managing salesperson and partner. Once after a profitable sale of several paintings, she said, “I could sell eggs to hens.” I made the mistake of asking something like how or why. Hand on hip, turning with a glint, she said, “Right after the rooster’s vasectomy.”

On the other hand, my aura was not vaguely humorous. Tapping my desk she said, “What are you reading in the dead tree press this morning.” She liked to say the word ‘this’ with emphasis. It was a sales thing. I want to hold a newspaper even at the cost of three dollars daily. So I looked up and said, “discrete-time crystals.” The ceiling became interesting to her at that moment. I continued, “I’m not silly. They may be a way to measure the parts of matter that oscillate in a repeating cycle for use in quantum computers, and that could improve everything.” No reaction.

The story told me that humanity needs quantum computers to solve today’s unsolvable problems faster. But, I am watching a long and terrifying list of them grow. And abruptly, like that sneeze on the train the other morning, there was the Sleeping Beauty problem laid before me. We are fearful of not waking up in a dream going bad. But, unlike this beauty, maybe we can find a way to permit a kiss from a quantum sovereign prince.

“Leslie,” I said, sitting there in my old paper world, “My aura, as you call it, is getting pushed into the new news. It is wrapped up neatly in a purple dimension of existence I barely understand. I wheeled to my laptop. “Look here,” I said. “It is a world without art, but there remains the need. This story is about truth and hope, instead of beauty, money instead of love, speed instead of rest, yet it is still about dreams. Innovation in a new brand of reality. Maybe it will wake us up, but for now, please give Gregory a call and see if he can clean up our sticky gummed-up sidewalk and put that nonslip polish on the floor before the weekend. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and for your information, I’m already feeling a little bit of red in the binary digits of my so-called aura.”

“Okay,” she said. Then, standing, she turned, walked out, waving her arm back and forth above her head. “Off, no, on to the deeds of the day.”

Source: Natalie Wolchover Quantum Magazine, Eternal Change for No Energy: A Time Crystal Finally Made Real

The Red Tail Plane

Toward the end of 2018, in New York City during blue sky days, several planes with red tails would catch my attention. Was this more than coincidental? I did what any curious person would do in this situation; I Googled it. The universe answered. People photograph, collect and share tail images. The phrase “red-tail plane” yielded a loyal constituency sharing photos of the tails and planes of the entire airline industry. Each tail is captured and graphically consolidated into the wonderfully thematic world. Lesson: a strange query can keep you going.

The desire to share observations, coupled with the capacity to do so on millions of free-to-edge platforms, yields a subset of individuals who have leaped from that edge to ask and answer one question. What do I want and need to know? As any economist will tell you, descriptions of the differences and links between want and need fill volumes of hard textbooks and soft, entertaining paperbacks. The “what to know problem” remains at the core of the debate in a world where there is nothing you can’t add.

The business of discovering how people, communities, even whole nations choose what they want and need to know begins with a helpful relationship with the world no matter what the experience. The ability to establish other relationships based on force is another where the red tail plane exists. What do these planes want from me? Why are they constantly in my line of sight? I eventually solved my planes with red tails problems like odors make your nose blind. I don’t see red tail planes anymore, and that is when it hit me like a slap in the face.

I got a hold of Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail, to hear about his experience since his work at Wired and his book.  Jumping from “red tail” to “long tail” is a switch to allow yourself to use the power-law to focus on modern life. Anderson’s real-time number-driven vision of the world became future-driven by playing robotics with his kids and online. This is where the red tail and the long tail get interesting. He talked about meeting youthful engineers online and ended up building a drone factory in Tijuana. (Details).

When a sense of injustice threatens well-being, people flee, often in high numbers. Chris’s experience straightened me out.  He sees the importance of a north-south vision of the American continents and, in his way, foretold the futility of Xenophobia slapped in our face like a wall. Then I saw it, the long tail of a 4,000 km march beginning in San Pedro Sula in northern Honduras and ending along the Mexico border.

I know why the red-tail plane brought me to a 4,000 km long-tail walk through Mexico. People like Chris Anderson figure out ways to prevent bloodshed and make those numbers in the long tail work. Sí, se puede my brothers and sisters, Sí, se puede.