about vapor


NASA plans to fill the sky with colorful, artificial clouds

  • Later in June, people in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region will likely be treated to a unique early-morning sight: colorful artificial clouds, thanks to NASA.
  • The blue-green and red clouds will be produced by the launch of a Terrier Improved Malemute sounding rocket carrying 10 canisters, which will be deployed approximately five minutes after the launch.
  • These canisters will release the colorful vapor trail, which allow NASA’s scientists to track how particles move in space and learn more about upper atmospheric winds.
  • Though vapor tracers have been used by scientists in the past, the multi-canister ampoule ejection system onboard this mission will allow scientists to cover a much larger area than previous tests, the NASA website notes. Read more (6/5/17)

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anonymous asked:

🔥 like, elrond? Tell me about elrond

While I don’t remember if I said it myself, I believe my reblogs and tags have indicated my opinion that Tolkien’s wording as well as basic extrapolation strongly suggests Elrond closely identified with his Numenorean kin, but lemme try for something more actually contrary:

This is a prime example of how funny a thing fanon is, but when I read the Silm I was totally insulated from all fandom input and so my ideas about Elrond and Elros as a set of twins wound up very different from fanon. Like, there’s this idea of Elrond being very scholarly and quiet and reserved and unadventurous, especially in contrast to Elros. Which I did not pick up on in isolation at all because, what stuck out to me about Elrond when I read LOTR as a kid was his…ridiculous level of bluntness about how difficult or dangerous something will be or how much is riding on it (I was SO AMUSED at that bit where he’s just, to Aragorn, “lol if you don’t succeed everyone is doomed no pressure!!11”) And that thing where he was simultaneously like gently, “there’s no reasonable way this is ever gonna work” and “we absolutely have to do this” which I didn’t really have the framework to talk about until I read the Athrabeth, but which still struck me very strongly.

And then in the Silm, there’s that idea of, well Elrond became a loremaster, while Elros became a king. But, I imagined, post-apocalyptic loremastery with no stable institutions would be like, exploring this strange ME to collect or write down the lore and stories and history from unknown peoples or from the survivors of Beleriand; whereas Numenor is similar in its unexplored newness but is this specially prepared hallowed peaceful island, and I thought, the first king of such a place would be a visionary, a planner, a builder - a dreamer even! And I guess, it’s often mentioned that Elrond is a healer? But I barely remembered this because he’s not mentioned as a healer until the 3rd Age, whereas Elros…well, one of my first thoughts about Elros was to flash back to the first time I read ROTK, and that line “the hands of the King are the hands of a healer,” where I was like, “since when?” And once I wrapped my head around who Elros was, I was like “oh! since then?”

And in just stitching things together, I was reminded of that ridiculawesome Mary Sue description from the Hobbit: “He was as noble and as fair in face as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer.” So many different things, and so much overreaching – to live two lives even, or at least, to live one immortal life to the brim! And I feel like, especially given that his choice to become immortal means being separated from Elros by death forever, there’s a strong element of, “what’s the point of being immortal if I don’t take advantage of having all the time in the world?” And so my impression of younger!Elrond was the guy who is like, learn ALL THE THINGS! Become immortal in order to have all the time to do all the things and see all the things, because the world is so great and there’s so much of it…

Ofc this is Tolkien so everyone goes to hell and there’s a ton of war and really, chilling in a green valley and innkeeping is the A+ life, though also over the ages, it becomes more desperate, “what was the point of becoming immortal if I don’t use it” regarding Sauron and the rings, and the Akallabeth, and the Dunedain. But also…there’s this impression in fandom, and a bit in the text too, that Elros was like, an ideal human? Or, no, not the ideal in the sense of being better than other humans, but having an ideal appreciation of human mortality because he chose it freely. I love that, and I think the same would apply to Elrond, for elves. There’s that other description of him in LOTR: “in his face was the memory of many things both glad and sorrowful.” And…isn’t that close to the ideal for immortality? The focus is usually on how immortality sucks because of all the endless inescapable sorrow, but immortality also means unlimited opportunities for gladness and glad times if you can keep them in your memory, like he apparently has. Those fifteen chieftains! The line “both the sweet and the bitter” is applied to choosing mortality in LOTR, but it applies to immortality just as well.

But anyway, the point is, 2nd age Elrond, literally the most carpe diem of elves! Even though he has unlimited…diems…to…carp…I don’t speak latin at all guys.

Reasons to Play Fallen London

Free. So there.

Social interaction! Give gifts, swap items!

Friendly, classy playerbase. No git gud, no griefers.

Gay. So gay. No gender limits on romance or marriage. Cute girls! Marry a face-stealing monster spy who is A Cute. Date a razor-witted suffregist. Canon gay romances! Between famous NPCs! Including a Bishop! Nad no one in London has a problem!

Soooo funny. Want a threesome on Queen Victorias throne? You can do it!

Badass women like whoa. The Mayor of London is a woman (also a nun, madam, and teacher). One of the most brutal crime lords is a little old lady.

You can throw a sexist doctor out a window for talking about hysteria and uterine vapors.

You can learn a language that has a symbol that means “The act of kidnapping a new friend,” how cool is that?

It’s like Terry Pratchett and H.P Lovecraft had a whimsical goth phase, just play it.

luke resting his head on bodhi’s shoulder. the only light is a large moon overhead. luke’s talking quietly about tattooine, about slaving and moisture vaporators and the local gay hang out, tosche station. about miles and miles of nothing but sand and scavengers. he finishes and runs his fingers over bodhi’s palm.

“and jedha?” he says after a moment. “if you want to.”

and bodhi tells him. tells him of markets and laughter and a walkway of glass and the sour flavour of fruits handed out by passing monks, of vibrant life crammed into a city and sand control staff and old transport ships being sold as reshaped utensils.

“of course that was before,” he says.

before it was all gone. before the empire.

“at least you dont have to live with the sand anymore,” says luke, attempting to lighten the mood.

bodhi snorts. nods. “i dont like sand,” he agrees.

“its coarse.”



“gets everywhere.”

luke kisses him.

anonymous asked:

Congrats on getting down to just 20 prompts haha. Maybe one with Obi-wan getting some sort of amnesia? Post ROTS; Vaderkin finds him and Obi-wan doesn't know who he is etc. ?

His bond to Obi-Wan had told him the other was alive yet Obi-Wan had not showed up like Anakin had expected him. He had not shown up at Mustafar, had not come with Padme and had not even shown up at the Temple.

No footage of him returning to the Temple with Yoda.

No sighting.

Just Cody’s last report that Obi-Wan had been shot of a rock wall on Utapau.

And then nothing.

And everything Anakin had adored blown to ashes except for his babies as he took the role as emperor over the galaxy after he had figured out that Palpatine had been the one to drain Padme life. ‘Lost her will to live my left nut…’ Anakin growled a bit while bending over his reports. ‘Padme would have fought to her last breath, would have hunted down her opposition if needed. She was queen at fourteen and a strong one at that my delicate flower was fucking vicious and full of thorns when needed.’ He pinched his lips together before sighing and looking at the pictures on his desk.

One of Padme, brown eyes soft and sweet and smiling up at him with a pink flush on her cheeks, one of the twins as they played together and Obi-Wan, Obi-Wan caught mid laugh, his green eyes lit up and full of life.

His bond told him Obi-Wan was alive.

It was a fuzzy sensation though, it left Anakin unable to pinpoint where Obi-Wan was. Sometimes stray emotions and thoughts floated past it since Anakin had left the shields down to try and find him.

Thoughts of water, warmth, sadness, loneliness and fear entered the bond at times, fuzzy but there. One memorable occasion had blazing arousal which had left Anakin staring at the ceiling of his bedroom in shock, fighting the urge to get himself off.

He sighed and picked up the picture of Obi-Wan, wondering where in the galaxy the other was.

‘And to top it off I have to go to Tatooine to deal with Jabba.’ His lips twisted in anger. ‘Just karking great.’


The bond was clearer.

Obi-Wan was on Tatooine.

Of all the fucking places in the whole galaxy to be, Obi-Wan was on Tatooine.

Shielding himself more, Anakin reached for the others thoughts as discreetly as he could only to be confused by the mundane of Obi-Wan’s thoughts and the flimsy shields that exposed thoughts.

Worry about the vapors, curiosity about the stormtroopers, frustration over an empty pantry and a less then functional swoop.

It was almost as if…

Kark, Anakin would have to deal with Jabba first and THEN go find Obi-Wan.

Fucking worm…but at least he had a useful lead on Obi-Wan which appeased Anakin enough to give the worm a good deal and which lead him to a small hut almost on the edges to the Judland wastes but close enough for a swoop to take you into town.

There was a man outside the hut, working on a swoop and several vapors that the free time mechanic could tell were straining. But it was the man who had his focus as he stepped of the speeder, waving the troopers to remain where they were as he moved to the muttering working man, the Force filled with annoyance.

“Obi-Wan?” He murmured, voice soft to begin with before raising it a bit louder as he stared down at the copper haired man with his hair pulled back in a nerf tail when he didn’t react to begin with.

The man looked up in surprise from where he was kneeling by the swoop, a long thin pink scar that started at his right temple and went down his face and neck and into his faded green tunic. It just barely avoided his right eye, curving ever so carefully away from it.

But it was clearly Obi-Wan.

The same defined nose and cleft, same green eyes with a mole beneath the right eye, same copper hair that was starting to gain gray at the temples and same cupid bowed lips that was slightly open.

Then they curved into an all to familiar, gentle smile.

“Yes, that’s me. Obi-Wan.” He stood, using the swoop while wiping his hands on his beige leggings. “How may I help you sir?” He eyed Anakin’s expensive clothes with curiosity. But not familiarity though he was sporting a small frown. “Wait…do I know you?”

‘He doesn’t know me…’

What Anakin instead said was. “You used to, we fought in the war together until you went missing. You don’t remember me?”

“I don’t remember a lot of things.” Obi-Wan’s hand brushed the scar on his temple. “We were friends?”

Anakin reached out, capturing Obi-Wan’s hand and squeezing it between his. “The best.” He murmured, smiling gently at this confused and lost version of Obi-Wan who blinked back at him. ‘Oh Obi-Wan…’

Things I think about in regards to Voltron:

While it’s possible to exit a Lion from the top of the head (s2e1, how Keith leaves Red), seemingly the only way to enter is through the mouth- which is usually only accessible if the Lion lowers its head and opens wide. 

The mouth, which contains jaws and teeth that can crush a spaceship, and also on every single Lion, has a beam cannon mounted in the back of the throat.

It makes me wonder if Allura’s strong warning in s1e1 about how the bond between Lion and Paladin cannot be forced is not trying to preserve the sacredness of the Lions or describing any kind of ideal bond as much as it is a very matter-of-fact statement that if these creatures don’t like you, they can in fact kill you very easily.

Zarkon challenges and tries to dominate Black in a battle of wills, but even he seems to hold the attitude that the only possible way to survive Black is to be strong enough to control her entirely, and try to tell me there wasn’t fear in his eyes in s2e6 when Black blasts him. I doubt he’d be nearly so confident to stake his claim without the backing of the druids, and even then, we see it’s not only a very arduous exercise for both them and Zarkon himself, it outright stops working halfway through season 2.

In the season 1 finale, Shiro experiences firsthand how bad it feels to get “thrown from the saddle” by a Lion- but the matter stands that Black was going very easy on him. Spitting him out like that is one thing. If Black had ever actually held him in contempt… once again, she could’ve killed him very easily.

This is not something we see very overtly, or in practice. Even at the start of their relationship, Lance walks fearlessly into Blue’s mouth, past that cannon. From our perspective, we don’t even see him take note of it or register it as a threat, and I think this is in part a testament to Lance as a person, but it’s also a testament to how perfect a fit these Paladins are for their Lions, and how strong that bond really is. Even Keith, who receives the coldest reception from his Lion at first, is immediately happy to connect with Red when it does happen. (“Good kitty. Let’s roll.”)

It suggests there’s something very nurturing and safe-feeling about the presence of the Lion, as soon as it connects with the person. And unlike, say, the Baku from s2e2, who seems to use that feeling to instill lethargy and obedience in those it controls, the Lions seem to mean it as a genuine expression of love. 

But I think it’s still noteworthy that this bond is deeply essential the more you consider what the Lions could do if confronted by the unworthy. Being immediately vaporized is about the nicest way that could go- considering, as I’ve pointed out before, Black was able to, at her own leisure, completely take over Shiro’s senses to a degree that the only warning we as an audience have that it isn’t real is that Allura, on the castle, doesn’t take note of Black moving.

Androgynous Descriptions of Alexander Hamilton

Trying to compile a list of all the times Hamilton’s contemporaries or early biographers described him in or portrayed him as acting in particularly feminine or androgynous ways, positive or pejorative:

He was under middle size; thin in person, but remarkably erect and dignified in his deportment. His hair was turned back from his forehead, powdered, and collected in a club behind. His complexion was exceedingly fair, and varying from this only by the almost feminine rosiness of his cheeks. His might be considered, as to figure and color, an uncommonly handsome face. When at rest, it had rather a severe and thoughtful expression; but when engaged in conversation, it easily assumed an attractive smile.

- William Sullivan

Hamilton has a very boyish, giddy manner, and Scotch-Irish people could well call him a “skite.“

- William Maclay

He’ll, all at once, start from his chair, / Twirl his whip and sing an air, / Dance, to show his grace and shape, / Brisk and sprightly as an—Ape. / To the glass he often goes, / There adjusts his stock and clothes, / Meets his image with a glance, / Of the sweetest complaisance.

- New York Journal

Although I read with tranquility and suffered to pass without animadversion in silent contempt the base insinuations of vanity and a hundred lies besides published in a pamphlet against me by an insolent coxcomb who rarely dined in good company, where there was good wine, without getting silly and vaporing about his administration like a young girl about her brilliants and trinkets, yet I lose all patience when I think of a bastard brat of a Scotch pedlar daring to threaten to undeceive the world in their judgment of Washington by writing an history of his battles and campaigns.

- John Adams

Hamilton had no more gratitude than a Cat. If you give a hungry famished Cat a slice of meat, she will not accept it as a Gift; she will snatch at it by Force, and express in her countenance and air, that she is under no obligation to you; that she got it by her own cunning and activity, and that you are a fool for giving it to her.

- John Adams

Burr, though not one of the fomenters of the American Revolution, had been one of its officers, and every opportunity which Hamilton improved Burr had possessed in an equal degree. He, like Hamilton, had been awhile on the staff of Washington; he, like Hamilton, had the benefit of the society of the Schuyler family, in his early military days, but he made no honorable impression there. Burr, for no public services whatever, except as one of the earliest heroes of the Albany lobby, was sent to Philadelphia as United States Senator, and when Hamilton lost his political power, Mr. Burr reached the second station in the country. Yet, in the lapse of days, how insignificant appears the effigy of Burr beside this symmetrical, almost girlish engine of thought, intercourse and public science. 

- G.W.P. Custis, Katherine Baxter’s Godchild of Washington

In the intercourse of these martial youths [Hamilton and Laurens], who have been styled "the Knights of the Revolution,” there was a deep fondness of friendship, which approached the tenderness of feminine attachment.

- John Church Hamilton, Life of Alexander Hamilton

His temper was as sportive as it was kind. An eminent Presbyterian clergyman from New England was introduced to him, when on a visit to New York. On his return, his friend said, “Well, you have seen Hamilton—you have seen the great man.” “I cannot tell you about his greatness,” the Divine answered, “but he was as playful as a kitten.”

- John Church Hamilton, Life of Alexander Hamilton

There was something almost feminine in Hamilton’s gentleness and concern for the comfort and happiness of other people.

- Allan McLane Hamilton, The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton

His attachments were strangely assorted, but, as a rule, were very deep, very affectionate, and very lasting; and, as is usually the case, the less brilliant and more sober-minded friends were those that remained loyal and unselfishly devoted to him until the end, and did more for his family after his death than any of the others. It may be said that they were divided into two categories: those that were drawn to him by his humorous and almost feminine traits, which were coupled with a fascinating culture and a flow of spirits that almost bubbled over; and others, who had been engaged with him in the war, and in his legal practice, and the many public affairs which were so vital at the time. These really loved him for his great intellectual gifts and his absolute sense of justice.

- Allan McLane Hamilton, The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton

in honour of graduating in less than two weeks i wanna make a basic summary of the shit i pulled off in high school

  • drank vodka straight from a mug in latin class without the teacher noticing and when she asked me to do some task i nailed it by saying “scio me nihil scire”
  • got pizza for money collected from class with my friends. multiple times. 
  • had an energy drink every single day of senior year. each one.
  • asked my history teacher if i could leave to get coffee (a coffee machine is right outside our history classroom) and left to starbucks. 
  • skipped class to make blingees
  • when secretary approached me to tell me that tattoos are against school regulations i pulled my sleeves down and said “what tattoos”
  • got a principal’s reprimand for leaving school grounds (it’s important for the story i’ll write later on)
  • right after harambe happened i started a Harambe Movement at my school which was basically just putting harambe pictures and memes around school
  • one of the memes was making fun of our principal for giving reprimands to adult students leaving school grounds and i won’t be exaggerating if i say that every high schooler in my town knows this meme.
  • the funniest thing- i was threatened with principal’s reprimand for sharing a meme making fun of our principal for giving reprimands for stupid reasons. the fanpage is annonymous tho so i didn’t have any consequences.
  • after time harambe movement somehow turned into a Communist Student Party, now everyone knows that people who put memes around school are angry communists who fight for students liberation. 
  • i have a habit of drawing in maths and once in test i drew a hundred chairs just to picture it better. got additional points for drawing skills and patience for drawing a hundred identical chairs.
  • every single project i had i made sure there was one slightly disturbing thing on my pendrive (”blood kink fanfics”, “michael jackson & booze”) and watched my classmates look at it in terror
  • had a detailed plan to vaporize booze on my prom (which failed only because i got a tattoo appointment for my best friend 7 hours before prom and didn’t have time to get everything done)
  • did my friend’s full face make up in history class. when my teacher asked what i was doing i just said “makeup”
  • forced my biology teacher to tell us about zombie ants and spent entire hour asking questions about that topic. (honestly research that, metal as fuck)
  • got very stoned before my social studies test and it was the only time when i got a good grade. my teacher wanted to become a philosopher as a child.
  • when it snowed my friend and i wrote “bio-chem sux” in snow on our school’s court, each letter was like 3 meters tall. we are bio-chem class.
  • when in additional bio class (starting at 7:20) our teacher asked me to explain photosynthesis i just answered with “i don’t know, the only thing that matters is that it works, why do we even have to look into that” while drinking coffee
  • learnt definition of personal space by heart and said it to everyone who tried to hug me on “national hugs day” because our school hosted some kind of fucked competition on number of hugs.
  • went to a gay bar with physics teacher on a school trip
  • threw a birthday party for my friend in school basement, with champagne, birthday cake and candles
  • brought cards against humanity to each english class for two weeks straight. after that we gave our teacher a cake as an apology for not paying attention to her subject, she was so happy she let us play CAH for one more class and while she was listening to pink floyd
  • went to church with class because we were all supposed to go and complained about “shitty karaoke equipment” for the whole mass

i still have a few days left and i’m thinking about making my “vaporize vodka” plan real. 

anonymous asked:

Do you ever get ridiculously upset over Elwing and Earendil being essentially banned from ME and never seeing Elros again? because I do, and would like advice on how to cope

Anon, perhaps consider that the Numenoreans were friends with the Tol Eressean elves, who could have probably passed messages along between Elros and his parents! (tbh, I feel like some of the worldbuilding bits of Tolkien’s universe lead to fridge logic sucking the poetic drama out of some situations, but otoh the potential for other cool interaction-related stuff probably outweighs the stymied drama so…depends on your pov I guess.) Also consider like, Elros writing notes on the ground in Mittalmar in gigantic letters made out of lines of torches for Earendil to see when he rises. Or Elwing if she can fly far enough out to see them too. The Noldor inventing up some primitive aerial photography so that Earendil can snap some ancient daguerreotypes of the island of Numenor from a distance…..

Also Elrond telling his parents One Million (perfectly-remembered) stories about Elros when he finally gets to Valinor. Can’t elves make their audience hallucinate elaborate realistic visions of people who aren’t actually present by singing about them?

okay so all my Fallout nerds, you know how Deacon is the biggest geek in the universe about “Old World” stuff?

“I love those Old World widgets.”

“What must it have been like to live back then?”

“Insert something Shakespearean about your inevitable doom here!”

But so he has this taunt when you get into combat where he yells,

“I only wanted to spend the day reading Proust. And you had to ruin it!”

and like he pronounces Proust correctly and everything. this guy is a giant nerd. but the thing is it’s the fucking apocalypse. barely any of that shit survived, and even if you can track it down, most people don’t care about Proust, they care about not getting vaporized by crazy robots or eaten by Super Mutants or whatever.

but the SoSu, if you play a lady SoSu, was a lawyer, has higher education, recently got her degree from law school.  guys she TOTALLY knows who Proust is.  he was probably assigned reading in her college classes.

so please just imagine this self-avowed cynical untrusting snarky douchebag spy going along like always, hanging out with this new agent, occasionally cracking one-liners like he always does, and then dropping the Proust line.

and she starts laughing.

like, hysterically. because it’s the first time in this whole fucking blasted wasteland that anyone has said something that actually made any fucking sense to her, and here’s this dude gunning down fucking green mutant maniacs while babbling nonsense about Proust of all fucking things

and i like to imagine Deacon just having to stop for a second a stare, slack-jawed, at her, because

holy shit

she got the joke

nobody’s ever gotten the joke before

holy shit

and i have to imagine that that’s really the moment that he actually starts believing her when she says she was alive before the bombs fell.  cause anybody can spin some bullshit story about cryostasis, but nobody laughs at a Proust joke.

anonymous asked:

What kinda shoes do you wear (like brand and type)

Right now, I got in my closet:
1. Yeezy V2 Beluga
2. NMD R1 (can’t remember the exact name lol)
3. CDG high top converse
4. Roshe Trophy Pack/Hyperfuse
5. Nike SB (beaters)
6. Black AF1
7. NMD Tokyos
And like I’m thinking about adding ozweegos and vapor maxes.

anonymous asked:

why should i be a writer?

Here’s a pertinent question: why does anyone do this? Writing, I mean. You want to understand this question without that romanticism about tortured artists and their callings. Even if these romanticisms were once true, theirs was a truth of aspiration, not of fact (cf. the optimism of heroin’s etymology and how it has protected no one from the of realities of the substance it names.) Like anything worthwhile, asking a pertinent question tends to lead you away from the answer you want, tends to pull you down along the invisible contour of things, down to regions of ever greater silence and heat. This is because good questions are pickpockets of the divine.

Was there something about writing that drove Rimbaud from it, all the way to Ethiopia, into his inexplicable career as a middleman in the trade of coffee, guns and slaves? How many of the three nails driven neatly thru the notches in his belt were hammered there by Wallace’s fiction career? The belt that hung in a loop from a projecting beam on his house’s southern exposure. And then the thirsts. Rimbaud’s and Wallace’s are too dull to mention. There is Malcolm Lowry, whose left hand spilled more of himself in badly aimed bitters than his right ever did in ink. And Poe, who seemed almost ahead of his time in the deliberation with which he destroyed himself. By Raymond Carver alcoholism had become the moat protecting literary achievement. The moat that must be drunk. Even in my own life… not in the literal, by this point banal, sense of addiction, but in the way substances and the self-destructions they cause have become a lens for me. Become an essential cog in the mill of me. A magazine’s blow-in card taken for text. A story:

My father’s cancer was at last undeniable when he held a curling strip of glossy paper out to me. After I took it he lowered his head. When his head was down it seemed larger than ever. The strip of paper had three circular photographs printed on it and had bent into a loop in my hand. I straightened it out in the light of a lamp clamped to his desk. The lesion was shown in three angles. It was a pink crater that filled most of the round frames. A thin filament of blood trailed from the crater’s lip and became lost in the yellow wall of my father’s intestine.

I peered at the photographs with the useless intensity of a person caught in a lie. Then, a memory fell like a shutter. My father had just picked me up and put me on the counter of our kitchen. I was wearing mustard colored overalls. The Corian was cold and I could feel it through the denim. My father told me to pay very close attention to what was about to happen. There was a tall bottle of rye with a neck like a chimney on the counter beside me. He tossed his keys with one hand until the Swiss army knife he kept with them lay in his palm. He pulled out the blade and used it to slit the sleeve of shrink wrap keeping the cork in the bottle’s neck. He drew my attention to the way the plastic gave up its transparency to milky blue opacity where it had been folded or bent. “The chains are crooked here and scatter blue light. Blue is the narrowest light we can see. When you see it here you know that the molecules are nearly the same width.” This didn’t make much sense to me. I had barely been able to follow his definition of ‘molecule.’ (He’d taken a sugar cube and smashed it with the back of a spoon. He asked me what the mess was called. “Sugar.” I’d said. “That’s right,” he said as he continued to crush the little crystals into dust, “And a molecule is the smallest thing that’s still sugar.”)

He pointed to the surface of the liquor and told me to watch it very carefully. He held the bottle with one hand and, careful to keep it upright on the counter, twisted out its cork with the other. The cork shrieked and gave its pop. The bottle’s empty neck was suddenly filled by a white cloud. The cloud was so thick and had appeared so quickly that I thought it must be a trick, cotton wool maybe. He held the bottle up to my lips and told me to blow across its mouth. I smelled the wooden sweetness of the rye. I pursed my lips and blew through them. The bottle let out a high moan. And as I looked down my own nose I saw a thin white thread crest the bottle’s mouth and siphon away the cloud. My father said: “This was why they called it a spirit.”

This is a faithful transcription of the moment when my father’s cancer became undeniable. And even if I have told the truth I know that this truth is an interpolated one: The roundness of his tumor’s crater evoked the bottle’s mouth and the filament of blood, the cloud I blew away. Cancer for liquor. Were these associations naive? No. Who can doubt that when I was small enough to heft onto the kitchen counter and young enough to be taught about Tyndall’s effect and vapor pressure that the same three frames on slippery paper would, when shot into the prism of me, refract as emotion and not as memory? Experience has installed a mill in me. And the events that ought to illuminate my life are just the grist of evocation.

This story is how I understand Rimbaud’s exile. He landed in a place where his visionary eviscerations could be traded for the middleman’s uncomplicated keenness of mind (out of the red and into the black.) Where he could swap Verlaine’s guilty emissions for sunburn and domination (I can see Rimbaud’s eyes rolling as Verlaine drops the gun, blanches at the sight of blood and affectedly begs forgiveness.) Rimbaud was looking for a reality that could not be transgressed. A blind push through flab to touch the bone. Substance. (The sand and cancer he got instead probably seemed like a fair tax on the attempt.) Likewise, the gales of sentimentality that alcohol blows, and heroin’s flights of drooling ecstasy. These seem to be ways out of the mill, the mill whose mechanisms screen the writer from the world.

But in fact they are not ways out. These exiles and self-destructions are only writing pursued by other means. ‘Writing’ is after all just another word, and hence simply names a shadow thrown by the one and universal Substance. (The things themselves, the things we name, are only shadows cast at a characteristic angle of illumination.) Writing pursued by other means. Rimbaud wanted to feel the bones holding appearance in its shape. Lowry, to freeze the whirling pieces of himself in aspic (and glimpse in the wobbly medium of his drunkenness, the contiguous man.) Poe wanted passage into sentimentality, that land where emotions become toothless and their gnawings idle. And Wallace, to be annealed in the bliss beyond introspection. The land where mirrors are always covered.

It goes without saying that there is a hierarchy of self-destruction just as there is a hierarchy of writing: Exile is superior to addiction, addiction superior to dissolution and this last, far superior to suicide. And equally, the Substance of writing cannot be fully sifted from that of self-destruction (they are, as above, different shadows of the same thing.) They are paired like kidneys, hands or hemispheres. The best we can do to tell them apart is to call one ‘right,’ and the other ‘left.’ Writing has a dual nature and cannot be performed without its sinister aspect. This is why my faithful transcription was hopelessly corrupt. (It is in the nature of inspection to cast shadows.) Diogenes had the right idea in trying to shine a light during the day.

And even though the Substance is one and universal, even it can die. Indeed, we may well be living in a world where this has already happened. And this is because we live in the world where the Holocaust took place. An analogy:

Suppose we represent the Substance with the human body. The soles of our boots grow thin but the soles of our feet grow thick: the body lives, adapts, repairs and strengthens. If I rub my arm I feel the rubbing, but my arm it stays the same. If I scratch my arm I feel it and then my arm grows pink. If I become obsessed and continue scratching past the point of pain and wear the skin away, my arm begins to bleed. If I continue, the injury to my arm becomes more grievous and I start to see the parts of my arm’s anatomy that I am not supposed to see. Fat, muscle, tendons and even bone. You can imagine a depravity that could sever one arm with the other in this way. My arm can be destroyed by the simple repetition of an action that is harmless in itself.

Now it goes without saying that I need my body to live. And likewise that there is also a body of the mind. This is an arrangement of self in the representational space of cognition that must exist for the mind to work. In every important way, this second body perfectly traces what we mean by ‘the soul.’ But immateriality is no defense. It can be destroyed as readily as the flesh it’s lodged in. In this analogy the Substance is to us, to all of us—everywhere and at all times, what the soul is to its body. It is the persistent order and arrangement of things such that human history and experience—its fabrications and developments—can be understood by those who perform them. It is that by which we know ourselves and that through which humanity condenses from the mere physical proximity of ours to other human bodies. And yet it can die.

History has often nothing more to report than the number of bodies crushed beneath its roller. Less attested, more tragic, but at least as numerous are the souls that have been killed while the corporeal body continues to live. And yet, through every disaster of the last ten thousand years, the Substance has persisted. The Substance was durable because it was our one, completely immaterial fact of human existence. And, until very recently, we had not discovered a method to extinguish a fact of this kind. But leave it to Europe.

What one scratch will pinken many million will redden, then tear, then saw and then sever. If a million deaths are a statistic then ten million are a result. Long story short, it was conclusively proven c. 1942 that if the darker aspects of the mind’s propensity were encouraged to breed, then these hybrids could indeed reach into the space between humans and do terrible injury to the Substance. And what can be harmed can also be killed.

Has it been killed? How do you know if your soul has been killed? What do we do if the International Kilogram becomes lighter? How would we know? When we can destroy a that-by-which, we are thrown into a circular world where history curls back to meet itself (they say a mass of fat weighing two hundred kilos once condensed and clogged the crematorium’s flue at Birkenau and that operations were disrupted for several hours by the efforts to dislodge it.) After the suicide of his mother—and in an effort to understand her—the cartoonist Art Spiegelman began seeing a psychiatrist who had survived Theresienstadt. Spiegelman reports that the therapist told him: “Primo Levi was right. The only thing a survivor can do is to kill himself: Everything is Auschwitz. Auschwitz is everywhere. People eat meat. Life feeds off life. After the optimism of liberation all the optimisms fail. All you can do is protest—but to whom?”

Has it been killed? Writing and self-destruction both come in cycles. The cycle of writing tends to reciprocate (like an engine) but the rotation can slow, can collapse, and then a loop of self-destruction tightens to a knot. Writing collapsed for Tadeusz Borowski (gas stove) and Jean Améry (Veronal) and for Primo Levi (stairwell). And then the half million others who did not write, who squeezed thru the needle’s eye, who escaped death at hands of omnipotent morons, only to die by their own. These deaths do not reassure. For them the Substance was killed and replaced with Auschwitz. Has it been killed for the rest of us? The question might be all we can cling to. The answer is not known, and ignorance is the grist of hope. The Kilogram could be unchanged. The Substance may even grow thick with abuse.