quote unquote

We believe as much as we can. We would believe everything if we could.
William James

Minds are like parachutes. They only function when they are open.
James Dewar

Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.
G.K. Chesterton

New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.
John Locke

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!
Lewis Carroll

Why must I always explain?
Van Morrison

You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need
Rolling Stones

from the archives

My Critical Mass
  (A Room of One's Own)
It is a fact often commented upon that no one leads a Critical Mass - or rather, such duties are passed unawares to whoever happens to be in front. Not this time. After a tedious session of chitchat which we both found distasteful but were unable to disengage from without the usual gamesmanship (we both like having the last word), Theodore uncoupled his eyes from my breasts, stood up on the nearest table, which happened to be filled with the wares of one of the booksellers who makes a home under Waterloo Bridge, and whistled very loudly - a trick he claims he learned during a course of Pavlovian study and which did indeed involuntarily summon up certain shameless urges within me despite myself.

"People of the bike!" he keened in that always peculiar register he adopts whenever condescending to transmit his brainwaves to the masses. At this the bookseller whose stock was being trampled began to take an interest.

"Oi! You stand on it, you've bought it!" called the vendor, hitherto concerning himself with pulp fiction to pass the time.

In defiance, Theo bent over and stacked a few New Age volumes into an untidy and structurally unsound pile and climbed higher. "People of the bike!" he shouted again, extracting a rubberbanded volume of notes from his jacket pocket. My former husband has never been able to speak extemporaneously, even while engaged in his marital duties, now of course auctioned to the lowest bidder.

A small crowd had gathered. Curiosity or pity, I was unable to ascertain.

Theodore raised his hand, not so much a post-Leninist weatherman testing the air as a Leonard Bernstein opening the first movement:

"I have gathered you together under this profane example of architecture to serve as my shock troops as we 'reclaim the streets'. Always remember: we are the traffic! Let's go!"

Evidently a short movement, the coda almost worthy of a Hollywood scriptwriter. As it happened a woman astride a nearby fixed wheel machine at that very moment had the misfortune to tumble from her impromptu trackstand, expelling an involuntary toot of surprise on her whistle - many riders had them on lanyards around their neck. This prompted shrill rejoinders from across the crowd, which I am informed announces both impatience and joyfulness in equal measure.

As it was getting to be about that time anyway, a preliminary rustling of breathable fabrics launched the first wave of critical massers, accompanied as always by a metropolitan police escort. This later fact summoned an anti-establishment tirade from Theodore, still somehow maintaining vertical hold on his now-leaning tower of peacenik literature, face flushed with what he perceived to be his success with his troops.

"No! You can go your own way!" he barked, entirely unaware he was covering Fleetwood Mac. At this he promptly toppled into a small stack of heuristic literature. The bookseller was beside himself; I compensated for his damages from my purse, considering it a savings on the bail I would've felt unfortunately compelled to supply otherwise.

Theo didn't bother dusting himself off, but without a word of thanks rapidly mounted his Moulton and raced to the front of what he evidently imagined to be his battalion, no doubt expecting me to catch him up. He was indeed 'leading', the look of satisfaction on his face alternating with frequent scowls at the rolling Bill as well as at a young girl on a bicycle with stabilisers whom he took to be a usurper.

I won't go into the details of the route he chose, except to observe that we crisscrossed Soho more times than seemed necessary. At one point he grotesquely requested that I quickly run into a shop for something unmentionable. That I did so speaks to my Samaritan qualities and training. In fact this was his reason entire for 'inviting' me to CM, and it transpires, for attending Mass in the first place: he had been banned from that particular establishment after an argument involving PVC, and the police presence he abjured in fact ensured that whatever fantasy he had constructed involving his purchase, my stern involvement, and figures of authority would be the current which fully charged his... batteries. Thus was this Critical Mass his ultimate turn-on.

In fact other participants of that slow-moving parade later concluded this was one of the most friendly and relaxing masses in recent memory, a happy circumstance lost on Theodore, whose labyrinthine libido was of more urgent concern than "reclaiming the streets".

Returning home that night I reflected on my involvement with this perplexing man. As the old train rocked me in and out of sleep, as usual I reached no conclusions, but did attain that dreamlike state in which one cannot find answers, but can, for a time, find peace.

Oxford Street, London


from the Mothership

Captain's log, stardate 3000.1. The day after the dawn of a new millennium. Spock does not agree. He pronounced last night's celebrations premature. For crew morale, I was forced to confine his logical ass to the brig. Starfleet Command has ordered the Enterprise to return to Earth for a top secret mission. They won't even give me a hint. It's so unfair. Life is so unfair. My fan base has been diluted by morons. Picard is a prissy slap-head: the Next Generation is bald? Sisko is so wooden he mocks me -- Deep Space Boring. And Janeway's a girl. I mean, come on. No wonder the Voyager got lost. But I digress.


"Yes, ensign, I'm not deaf."

Kirk was irritable. He was sick of three-dimensional chess. All the other ships had holosuites. He needed serious R&R on terra firma, and the tender ministrations of some eager young recruit fresh out of the Academy, not another stupid mission to save whales or whatever. And now this puke CAdet was hollering into his ear first thing in the morning.

"Captain! Request shore leave when we get to Earth, sir!" trilled the crisp young man.

"Shore leave denied, mister," snapped Kirk. "Replicate yourself a toothbrush and scrub down decks 2 through 27. And vacuum the Jeffries Tubes."

"I don't think we have Jeffries Tubes, sir!" the ensign fairly screamed.

PiCARD had Jeffries Tubes. Everyone had Jeffries Tubes. This was really too much.

"Mister, report to the airlock and eat space," ordered Kirk almost conversationally.

"Yes, sir!" the ensign shouted desperately.

One of the prime directives was to lose a few faceless crewmen on every mission to thin out the ranks. (Everyone knew this. Funny how it never hurt recruitment.) When this tiresome chore was out of the way Kirk felt somewhat cheered.

"Sulu, how long till we get home?"

"At the current warp factor, about a week, sir."

"Well, get a move on, unless you want to follow ensign whatshisface out the airlock door," said Kirk. "Capeesh?"


"The Captain is utilising a 20th century slang term meaning, 'Do you understand?'" explained Spock.

Kirk swivelled his chair around. "Ah. Mr. Pointy ears is back. Have you learned your lesson?"

"Yes, Captain. The millennium begins when you say it begins. Highly illogical, but I defer to your obvious human mental superiority."

"Damn straight. Sulu, crank it up to Warp 11."

"But Captain," complained the officer, "that will bend time and space. We may get there sooner, but there's no telling what year it would be."

"It wouldn't be the first time, mister. Make it so."

The bridge fell silent. Kirk turned red. He just couldn't catch a break. "Just do it," he spluttered, his fleeting good mood shot. He savagely jabbed the com button. "Mr. Scott!" he bellowed, pre-empting the inevitable palaver. "Any crap out of you and I'm coming down to engineering and personally stuffing your bloated carcass into the fuel intake."

"But Captain," protested Scotty, "I canna fit."

"I want solutions, people, not problems," Kirk announced to the bridge at large. "If anybody needs me I'll be in my quarters. Uhuru, report to my quarters."

Captain's log, stardate 4567.889. I never could figure out these damn stardates. Well, we're here. I've ordered the landing party to the teleportation room: Spock, Bones, an ensign whose name I forget, and a hairy guy with a forehead condition named Worf who looks vaguely Klingon. Unfortunately we're an ensign short. Perhaps I was too rash. But nobody appreciates the burden of command.

"Bones, how they hanging?" Kirk was feeling jocular as they prepared to beam down.

"I'm a doctor, Jim, not a gigolo," sniffed his old friend.

"Captain, one of the teleportation ports isn't working," observed Spock.

Kirk was unconcerned. "Worf, you and ensign -- what's your name? -- never mind. You two share a port. Waste not want not."

The five beamed down to the planet's surface, but only four materialised.

"What the hell is that?!" shouted Bones. Worf and the ensign had merged to become a dog.

"An ugly one, too," said Kirk, not unkindly. "Might as well call it Woof. Our first order of business is to get this frisky fellow a leash. Where are we, Spock?"

The Vulcan consulted his tricorder. "Captain, we appear to be in London, England in the year 2000. We are standing on something called a 'pavement', about to be hit by a 'courier' approaching at significant velocity. I would suggest we step aside."

They looked curiously at the strange threat bearing down on them.

"Gentlemen, set phasers to 'Kill'," said Kirk, taking careful aim and squeezing off a shot.

"Oi!" shouted the courier as the energy pulse bounced off his radio and grazed a chestnut vendor. He ran over the dog and disappeared around a corner.

"Bones, have a look at Woof," said Kirk.

"I'm a Doctor, Jim, not a vet," complained McCoy, giving the poor creature a prod with his boot.

A hostile crowd started to form. "What's their problem?" whispered Kirk, mildly edgy now.

"The 'English' are very fond of their 'pets'," said Spock the know-it-all.

"Should keep him on a leash, mate," spat a man who was now clenching his fists menacingly and staring at Spock's ears. "You a tourist?"

An old lady slapped the doctor with her cane. "Stop kicking the poor little dear!" she shrilled.

"Madam, I assure you I'm competent to pronounce this mutt D.O.A.," said McCoy.

The crowd closed in. "Set phasers to 'Stun'" ordered Kirk.

"Captain, might I suggest we get to a tube station," said Spock, accessing the A-Z facility in his tricorder. "There's one right around the corner."

They escaped underground.

"Jim, what's our mission?" asked McCoy.

"Damned if I know at this point," said Kirk. "But the natives sure aren't friendly. Spock, what was it that courier was riding?"

"A bicycle," answered the Vulcan. "One of the most ingenious vehicles ever invented. Clearly a potential watershed for humanity. Though as you have observed, it could also be a force for evil."

"That's a bit harsh," said Kirk.

"Captain, may I remind you of your order to set our phasers to 'Kill'," said Spock matter of factly.

"Yes, well, it's my job to keep us alive," said Kirk sternly. "In any case, why haven't I ever heard of these 'bicycles'?"

"Apparently 'cyclists' were hounded out of existence by the early 22nd century. 'Cars' had long since taken over. The last few cyclists were rounded up, exiled, and never heard from again. Mention of them was expunged from standard history texts."

"These people are obviously savages," exclaimed McCoy. "Let's just go."

"We can't do that," said Kirk.

"Why not?" asked the doctor.

"Because we've just found our mission, Bones. Gentlemen, it's up to us to right this wrong. To boldly put cyclists in their rightful place."

"Jim, you can't play God," said McCoy. "It would be irresponsible to change the future."

"Just watch me," said Kirk.