Genealogy of a Dream


You will shortly understand the reason for this illustration:


Tonight, for the first time all week, my cat did not shove her dear little face into mine whilst howling, or use the bed as a trampoline, or do any of the other things designed to wake Mommy up from her nap because Kitteh wants to go hang out on the porch. This allowed me to dream. I dreamt of Edward (is that his name?) from Twilight.

Now, ordinarily, this would have been a traumatic experience. I haven’t read the books or seen the movies, but heard just enough to realize that reading the books or seeing the movies would induce terminal vomiting. However. This dream answered an important question: why the fuck would a vampire want to afflict himself with perpetual high school?

Enter Desmonda. I’m not sure what she was. Some kind of immortal, not a vampire, who as a tween (apparently before becoming immortal, or discovering she was immortal, or whatthefuckever) had been taken in by Edward during a runaway episode. Apparently, he raised her right. The dream opened with her, and she was h-h-hot and Einstein-smart. Picture her, dressed in skin-tight jeans and some sassy red shirt, purse flung casually over her shoulder, dark hair flowing, and striding up the sidewalk with an attitude destined to leave you awestruck. K? Got her envisioned?

She was going back to high school.

She was posing as a teenager specificially so she could go back to high school.

And my brain supplied the backstory: she was posing as a teenager so she could go back to high school in order to make being a nerd so irresistably sexy, so unutterably cool, that all the kids would of course strive to become nerds themselves. She was going to influence a generation to believe brains = beauty (which they do, but how many kids believe that?). And she wasn’t just preaching it to the kids, because we all know that talking to teens is rather like telling your cat to go play trampoline somewhere else.

Desmonda meets Edward coming up the sidewalk near the school from the other direction, and lo, he has independently reached the same conclusion. He, too, is returning to high school in order to make nerd the ideal every teen wishes to attain. And I can guarantee you that reason for endless high school is so much more awesome than whatever excuse Stephanie Meyer cooked up that they can only be fit onto one graph if one uses a logarithmic scale.

I may have to write this as a fan-fic story someday, just for shits and giggles. It delighted me. It puzzled me for a moment – I mean, WTF? But then I discovered the genealogy of the dream.

My friend Raji at work had been yammering about having to get New Moon soon, which made me want to cry. I can’t believe so many of my friends are so tragically coming down with this Twilight disease.

And the second element was PZ’s post, in which he immolates Mooney and Kirshenbaum’s vapid new book, then lights a thousand candles from the flames:

In order to be what it is, though, science must live. It’s a process carried out by human beings, and it can’t be gagged and enslaved and shackled to a narrow goal, one that doesn’t rock the boat. Imagine they’d written a book that tried to tell artists that they shouldn’t challenge the culture; we’d laugh ourselves sick and tell them that they were completely missing the point. Why do you think some of us are rolling our eyes at their absurd request that scientists should obliging accommodate themselves to a safe frame that every middle-class American would find cozy? They don’t get it.

Somehow, they think that Carl Sagan’s great magic trick was that he didn’t make Americans feel uncomfortable. I think they’re wrong. Sagan’s great talent was that he showed a passion for science. People made fun of his talk of “billyuns and billyuns”, but it was affectionate, because at the same time he was talking about these strange, abstract, cosmic phenomena, everyone could tell he was sincere — he loved this stuff.

[snip]

Our next generation of great science communicators should be flesh-and-blood people with personalities, every one different and every one with different priorities, all singing out enthusiastically for everything from astronomy to zoology, and they should sometimes be angry and sometimes sorrowful and sometimes deliriously excited. They shouldn’t hesitate to say what they think, even if it might make Joe the Plumber surly. If you want to improve American science and the perception of science by the public, teach science first and foremost, because what you’ll find is that your discipline is then populated with people who are there because they love the ideas. And, by the way, let them know every step of the way that science is also a performing art, and that they have an obligation as a public intellectual to take their hard-earned learning and share it with the world.

Thus you have Edward and Desmonda, headed back to high school to turn science into chic.