I shook my head at Alan. “You’ll have to tell me. I’ve been trying to figure it out for two weeks. What’s behind the enclosure?”
Alan shivered. “Don’t worry about it. Shift change is in ten minutes.”
“Come on, man. No one ever talks about it.” I sat back down in front of the panel of occasionally-flashing buttons.
“Something you wouldn’t believe anyway. A bio experiment gone horribly wrong. There’s nothing in there at all now except a very dense mass of baby spiders. Like if you … compressed them.” He shivered again.
I heard the door clang shut. “The next guys must be coming in.”
“Yeah. Or else they’ve auto-sealed and the enclosure’s about to drop.” He smiled and looked up. We both saw that no one was coming.
The thick walls of the enclosure dropped. Topping it was a living dark mass. The lights failed.
As I’ve always struggled with the burden of too many possibilities in the moment, I was motivated to eventually come up with my own theory, which, the name I’ll have to explain in a second.
My theory is that it can be useful to intentionally over-simplify situations according to a system of -2, -1, 0, +1, and +2 (very bad, bad, neutral, good, very good). You can apply that to different frameworks, like doing a pros and cons, or trying to figure out the dynamics of a situation.
For example, if you’re wrestling with whether or not it’s good to make fun of the President, you could pros and cons it. The satisfaction of getting some feelings out is a +1. The drag on your positivity will be a -1, and bringing up politics in mixed company is a -1. So it would seem to be a bad idea.
Sacrificing necessary food money for clothing — which is an all-too-common dilemma in this world — could be pros and cons’d this way too. Getting new clothes is an investment, so if food is a +1, buying clothes is definitely a +2. Going hungry is a -2 though. So if you decide not to buy clothes, the +2 and -2 haven’t happened, and you’re left with the +1 of buying enough food to live on. If you choose to buy clothes, be willing to operate at a 0 until the next time that you have food money, because the +2 and -2 have canceled each other out, and you don’t have the +1 of having food.
Asking someone on a date depends on whether or not the anxiety is a -1 or -2, and whether or not the likelihood of not being rejected is a 0 or a +1. The -2 of rejection, and the +2 of acceptance cancel each other out, so really it’s about anxiety and taking risks. You’re probably going to operate at a -1 or -2 during the process, but that just has to be accepted, if you want to succeed. If you fail, however, you will go from operating at (perhaps) a -2, to operating at a -4, and only positives will drag you out of that, so you might be talking a good couple days of being way down. It’s a risk.
In terms of figuring out the dynamics to a situation, you can weigh whether or not to say something based on this theory. It’s been said, only say it if it’s kind, necessary, true, and helpful. Those would all be +1s. Along the lines of don’t say it if, perhaps it could be if it’s too much information, if it shouldn’t be said in mixed company, or if it’s awkward. These would all be -1s. I know it’s a lot of variables to consider, but really it’s a feeling of equilibrium in the heart that you develop over time. You shouldn’t burden someone’s heart, so perhaps if you can tell that there’s an overall -1 to what you want to say to someone, you should keep it to yourself. If you can feel that overall it’s a +2, you almost have a duty to tell that person.
The name comes from the idea that if I had come up with my own theory, I could give it a random name and then demand that it be referred to that way. The name itself is self-referential, in that it refers to the random moment when we see an armadillo scuttling about at the beginning of Tod Browning’s Dracula (with Bela Lugosi). I like self-referential / recursive names, even though I’m a Windows person, and not a Linux person — where the habit is tradition. (I had gotten the name of the animal wrong. But that’s part of the randomness of the name.)
(For the sake of punk rock.)
Since I’m a Gen X’er, I was never around people listening to the music of the 00’s. (I know so many 80’s pop songs because of having been in that milieu.) My Gen Y / Xennial friend Zak used to tell me back around 2000 about this pop singer entirely manufactured by her record company, who happened to be playing pop punk. I eventually saw bits of her on YouTube. I saw her being interviewed, and acting as if she were a spoiled child. For a while she wore ties as her signature fashion statement, and asked an interviewer, in response to the question did she listen to the Sex Pistols, “Does the singer for the Sex Pistols wear ties?” She may have been in a music industry bubble and more a depressing celebrity than anything else, but there is something almost militantly important about retaining the spirit of punk rock, if you are in fact going to represent it.
I once sent her a YouTube video via Twitter. It was the Dead Kennedys playing “Pull My Strings” live at the Bay Area Music Awards, March 1980. (Audio only.) (Known to us 80’s kids through a compilation they’d released that we’d all had.) The band had been booked for the awards show because they were the biggest punk band in San Francisco. They all came on wearing ties (!), which were flipped over their shoulders. They were all dressed the same, in black slacks and white shirts with big S’s written on the front. They were supposed to play one of their singles, but they stopped right at the beginning, flipped their ties down to turn the S’s into dollar signs, and then did their only performance (or recording) of one of the greatest attacks on the music industry ever recorded. Its chorus: “Is my cock big enough / Is my brain small enough / For you to make me a star / Give me a toot / I’ll sell you my soul / Pull my strings and I’ll go far”. I have no idea if she paid any attention to that or saw it. But it was a shitty thing that I did to a human being, to my mind as a defense of the “purity” of punk, or what have you, but really to be a bully to someone anonymous, though actually famous. So that happened. I did it to her two more times, I think. Along the same lines. Something undoubtedly clever and biting about her posing and fronting and being a false punk idol. I know. Making fun of the fact that she married the singer of Nickelback. Which she did. She can only blame herself for that.
I guess the third time was when she tried re-inventing herself in the guise of a J-Pop star — including a video done religiously in the style of Japanese television and to the taste of Japanese audiences, forgetting how jarring and ridiculous she was being — stealing the famous Skrillex hairstyle in the process. Akin to the time Madonna announced her big re-invention, appeared on a European hotel balcony dressed as a Hindu goddess, was ridiculed instantly, and then chucked the idea.
Having Avril Lavigne do a cover of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” is, to me, a fantastic record company idea. Both as safe and dangerous as exactly necessary. And it’s a great cover. But it’s just not right. It just cannot be accepted. Is my Gen X opinion.
In the end — possibly having seen the documentary The Punk Singer, about Kathleen Hanna, the lead singer of Bikini Kill and catalyst for the riot grrrl movement — she announced that she too was battling Lyme Disease, asked for prayers on social media, and disappeared.
She may actually be recording music and releasing it, and I just haven’t noticed. Because, as I said, I’ve never actually listened to anything she’s ever done other than that one cover. My buddy Zak and I just used to talk about her when we were sitting in restaurants about twenty years ago.
It occurs to me that, had I not been riddled with all manner of attention deficit and hyperactivity, and finished my major in English to become a professor, like some of my friends now, I would find a satisfaction in knowing that — if I could get the information into the heads of my students — it would likely be there for good.
There are some disciplines in high school (such as physics) where everyone needs to be prepped for it, in case they go on to further study, but which no one will remember unless they actually do go on needing it in their professions. Regardless of how significant the mechanics of the universe may be, it will simply not be as important to any random human being as the collective memory of humankind.