I recently requested my undergraduate transcripts. I hadn’t seen them since I graduated in 1986, nor had I thought about them much. (After all, the diploma is on the wall.)
So seeing them brought back a whole host of memories — or, in some cases, empty spaces. Herewith some thoughts as I dig into my wanderings on the bucolic quad of Emory University:
Math 111 (Calculus I). I got a D in this class, taken the first semester of my freshman year — the only D and worst grade I got at Emory. (Hell, the rest of college I had only two C’s.) I took it because a) it was a logical step after Advanced Math in high school; b) it was part of a list of requirements (though I could have substituted something else). The professor, who had obviously dyed hair, had just returned from some time off and had no idea how to teach freshmen. I, in turn, had no idea how to calculate a derivative. Can I drop this course now?
Author Mark O’Connell is talking to Roen Horn, who’s accompanying transhumanist Zoltan Istvan on a trip across the country. Horn is 28 and hasn’t lived much — he’s the son of a devout Calvinist, though he’s become an atheist — yet he decides he likes the idea of living forever. “I want to have fun forever,” he says.
This is though he currently lives like, in O’Connell’s words, “a medieval monk.” No problem, Horn tells O’Connell, he’ll indulge later.
This leads to the following exchange:
“You know one really cool thing about being alive in the future?” he asked.
“Sexbots. … It’s something I’m very much looking forward to.”
He had a particular way of smiling that was half evasion and half challenge. Out of context, you might be tempted to describe it as smug, but the effect was somehow deeply endearing.
“The problem I have with sexbots,” I said, “is why wouldn’t you just have sex with an actual person? I mean, all things being equal.”
He said: “Are you kidding me? A real girl could cheat on you, sleep around. You could get an S.T.D. You could maybe even die.”
“Is that potentially a bit alarmist?”
“No way, man. It happens literally all the time. See, a personal sexbot would never cheat on you, and it would be just like a real girl.”
He said nothing for a time and drank at leisure from his glass of water. He consumed some further forkfuls of salad. He gazed out the window at the parking lot full of trucks, the Interstate beyond, the ever-present vultures hanging in the air.
I said, “Do you mind me asking if you’ve had bad experiences with people cheating on you?”
“I have so far abstained from sex,” he said. “I have never had a girlfriend.”
“You’re saving yourself for the sexbots?”
He nodded slowly, shrewdly raising his eyebrows. You bet he was saving himself for the sexbots.
“Fair enough,” I said, raising my hands in capitulation. “I hope you live that long.”
He said, “I’m pretty sure I will.”
Roen, I wish you well, but you might try a few human beings first — women, men, whatever works for you. They’re not all that bad.
Three cheers for Jeff Bagwell, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez and Tim “Rock” Raines for making the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. All three are deserved Hall of Famers, and I was particularly pleased to see Raines — much overlooked, even in his heyday, because of the truly amazing Rickey Henderson — finally get the necessary 75% of ballots. The guy could always steal a base, but unlike folks like Vince Coleman, he could also hit, hit for (some) power and play solid defense. The big problem for Raines was that he mainly played for the Montreal Expos, where he was never going to get any notice. Hell, I’d forgotten that he had some late-career years with the Yankees and actually picked up a World Series ring.
The 1966 tour hadn’t been a happy one for the Fabs — there was that international incident in the Philippines and the “bigger than Jesus” controversy. Moreover, with the early August release of “Revolver,” the group’s music had moved well beyond the relatively simple structures of the early Beatlemania days, but they were still playing the early catalog. “Eleanor Rigby” and “Love You To” never did get a live treatment from the Beatles.
Still, I know at least one person who was ecstatic to see them on that tour — at Shea Stadium, no less, thanks to an Army buddy of my father’s who worked for promoter Sid Bernstein. Lucky.
It’s also the 11th anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico landfall of Hurricane Katrina. I can remember sitting at my desk at CNN Center in Atlanta, incredulous that a Category 5 was going to smash into New Orleans, the city in which I was raised. (It was reduced to a Cat 3 just before landfall and hit just east of town, but was still incredibly destructive, of course.) My mother, who still lives in town, had decided to evacuate and came up to Atlanta that weekend, but she had to leave our cat, Nesbitt, behind. When we went back three weeks later, we found Nesbitt, but that was some of the only good news. Here’s a story I wrote about the experience, and here’s another I wrote last year.
(Note: This blog post was originally inspired by the $20 I blew on whatever idiot game I bought after my bar mitzvah. That got me thinking about what’s expressed in the title — usually material goods that I didn’t have the money for when I was a teenager or in my 20s. The idea was a whimsical list, like the kind you see on McSweeney’s from time to time. [Here’s a particularly absurdist example.] But a couple items stopped me. Did I really not care anymore? Didn’t these topics fit into the existential concept of “regret” more than the dismissal of an under-dash 8-track tape player? They did, and that’s a subject for a future post. Sometimes wistfulness intrudes upon whimsy.)
(In the meantime, though I’m sticking with the idiot game I blew $20 on, it’s obvious that I really do care. But screw it.)