The Sound of Silence


There is something very intimate about writing, so much so that you can't do it in front of certain people. This is not the same intimacy as nudity and lovemaking; I know this because you don't see many people streaking through coffee shops (more's the pity). On the other hand, hordes of writers bent over their powerbooks or their pads of paper don't rate a second glance.

Take a friend into a coffee shop, however, and chances are that you won't write. And I think that this is because writing is silence. One can have many friends, lovers even, with whom you share everything. It is a special class of friend, however, with whom you share silence. Dan does silence. Erin and I have taken him to many a coffee shop, and he's been quite content to read up on his teaching material, or start a new screenplay, or make another crack at the Great Canadian Novel. And he's rare. In most cases, you expect to fill your time with friends with chatter. If you don't speak, something is wrong.

We meet up with Dan often, and we spend a lot of time chattering away with him. However, when you run out of things to say to your friends, your usual response is to go home. That doesn't happen here.

Who do you have that you share silences with? Think a minute just how special that friend is.

So, Erin and I occasionally watch the television series John Doe. It's about this man who wakes up with absolutely no memory of who he is or how he got there, but his mind is loaded with scientific and military information. An interesting premise, even as he settles in with a local division of the Seattle police force to help solve crimes (which is what superheroes DO), but is it sustainable?

Today, we encountered an episode that was bad. Remarkably bad. So bad, we stared at the television screen for the whole hour, mouths agape. Never mind that the acting was a trifle wooden and the script drab and predictable, the science was astoundingly bad.

The plot turns on a super-secret military operation testing habitation domes for possible use in exploring Mars. John Doe and his intrepid accomplices encounter these domes in the temperate rainforest outside of Seattle (or, probably more accurately, Vancouver) Why are they there? "They must be out there because this area mirrors the climate on Mars," says John Doe.

To which I blink and say, "in what way?"

Erin replies, later, "I guess 'mirrors' is in the form of 'is the opposite of'."

John Doe also mixed up the levels of argon and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And, in terms of the mysterious death of the astronauts, John Doe couldn't seem to decide whether they collapsed from hypoxia or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Come on, guys! If you can't afford a scientific adviser, hire us! Erin can work for $1000 per episode!

If french fries are freedom fries because France won't roll over and support an invasion of Iraq, just what are Americans going to do if Turkey doesn't agree to the U.S. Government's request to accept the deployment of U.S. troops?

...and so the typical American family gathers around the table, to eat a Ben Franklin Bird, and all of the fixings...

The picture is of the tea room at the Crazy Wisdom bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I've actually been there, and it's a good place to write.

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