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American Dream Serialization (Early Chapters)
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Maurice Stoker
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Tom Bradley
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: American Dream Title Page by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 1 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 2 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 3 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 4 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 5 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 6 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 7 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 8 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 9 by Jim Chaffee
01-01-2015
Modern Tragedy, or Parodies of Ourselves by Robert Castle
01-11-2014
Totally Enchanté, Dahling by Thor Garcia
01-04-2014
Hastini by Rudy Ravindra
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 5 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
01-01-2014
Unexpected Pastures by Kim Farleigh
10-01-2013
Nonviolence by Jim Courter
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 4 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
07-01-2013
The Poet Laureate of Greenville by Al Po
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part VI by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 3 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
04-01-2013
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part V by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part IV by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 2 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
01-01-2013
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part I by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part II by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part III by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 1 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
10-01-2012
DADDY KNOWS WORST: Clown Cowers as Father Flounders! by Thor Garcia
RESURRECTON: Excerpt from Breakfast at Midnight by Louis Armand
Review of The Volcker Virus (Donald Strauss) by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
01-07-2012
Little Red Light by Suvi Mahonen and Luke Waldrip
TEXECUTION: Klown Konfab as Killer Kroaked! by Thor Garcia
Miranda's Poop by Jimmy Grist
Paul Fabulan by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
01-04-2012
Operation Scumbag by Thor Garcia
Take-Out Dick by Holly Day
Patience by Ward Webb
The Moon Hides Behind a Cloud by Barrie Darke
The Golden Limo of Slipback City by Ken Valenti
01-01-2012
Chapter from The Infinite Atrocity by Kane X. Faucher
Support the Troops By Giving Them Posthumous Boners by Tom Bradley
01-10-2011
When Good Pistols Do Bad Things by Kurt Mueller
Corporate Strategies by Bruce Douglas Reeves
The Dead Sea by Kim Farleigh
The Perfect Knot by Ernest Alanki
Girlish by Bob Bartholomew
01-07-2011
The Little Ganges by Joshua Willey
The Invisible World: René Magritte by Nick Bertelson
Honk for Jesus by Mitchell Waldman
01-04-2011
Red's Dead by Eli Richardson
The Memphis Showdown by Gabriel Ricard
Someday Man by John Grochalski
01-01-2011
I Was a Teenage Rent-a-Frankenstein by Tom Bradley
Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Fred Bubbers
10-01-2010
Believe in These Men by Adam Greenfield
The Magnus Effect by Robert Edward Sullivan
Performance Piece by Jim Chaffee
07-01-2010
Injustice for All by D. E. Fredd
The Polysyllogistic Curse by Gary J. Shipley
How It's Done by Anjoli Roy
Ghost Dance by Connor Caddigan
Two in a Van by Pavlo Kravchenko
04-01-2010
Uncreated Creatures by Connor Caddigan
Invisible by Anjoli Roy
One of Us by Sonia Ramos Rossi
Storyteller by Alan McCormick
01-01-2010
Idolatry by Robert Smith
P H I L E M A T O P H I L I A by Traci Chee
They Do! by Al Po
Full TEX Archive
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The Polysyllogistic Curse

By Gary J. Shipley

an extract from the novel C^0

Intellectual work leads practically nowhere.

—Arthur Rimbaud’s Mother

Here sits Reginald Woolly observing yet another ball-breaking, Chrysippan silence. His left hand scribbles notes of angry negation into a busy loose-leaf folder. He is, as is always to be expected these days, seated between what it is safe for most of us to call two heaps of wheat grains – one considerably smaller than the other, but increasing in size all the time in perfect harmony with the larger heap’s depletion. A 100 watt bulb sheds its unsophisticated and dazzling illumination about the cluttered room as the torrid sun tries, with no concept of failure to dishearten it, to break through the inch-thick drapes which haven’t been parted in over a year. On the table in the corner of the room, by his heavily-bolted front door, are five mounds of long grain rice, a single mound of peanut M&Ms, and two mounds of builder’s sand. On another table by the window are 500 five-legged ants in a glass tank alongside which, in another, exactly similar tank, are 500 six-legged ants; in both tanks a pair of silver tweezers and a magnifying glass are just visible amid the tumult of shiny black bodies.

Reginald Woolly is searching for a universal algorithm for the detection of clarity, so that it might be clear whether some collection of beans/seed/wheat x is clearly a heap or not, thus enabling him to rid his toolbox of those pesky, embarrassed silences and ‘don’t knows,’ leaving him with a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ and nothing more. He wants and needs (and has already started) to make the move from infallibility to omniscience. He had spent years wasting his time with nihilism, starting off local, but turning global within hours. (He had also toyed with Halldén’s and Körner’s nonsense logic, but ultimately found both versions unreasonable.) Back then he could be seen strutting about dressed from head to toe in black, accentuating the graveyard pallor of his face, with his well-thumbed copy of Begriffsschrift clutched under his armpit. Everything was empty at that time, every thought, every concept, and every word an empty shell that crumbled and dispersed into its natural state of incompleteness. He once drew himself up some sandwich boards saying, ‘THE END OF OUR WORLD NEVER HAD A BEGINNING!’, and walked through the town on weekends wearing them and answering questions of those genuinely intrigued by the plight of all thinking people. He had always, ever since the day his epiphanic quest for clarity had begun, found it hard to accept that the boundaries of his words, his concepts, and his thoughts were invisible to him; he was an unwilling subscriber, and always looking to overcome the bleak desperation that leads one to global nihilism, but for years he was unable to see past the emptiness he had found.

That fat men were thin, old men young, the bald hirsute, the dead living, heaps non-heaps, rich men poor, many few, and the ugly beautiful, proved to be a constant reminder of his being ostracised from the world in which he lived, and that every other living creature was in the same boat mattered not, appeased him not, and not only because almost every single one of them had no idea of their inherent remoteness from their world, but for other reasons as well. But little-by-little he moved away from nihilism and found hope in ignorance, in the thunder of millet seed and his grandmother’s extravagantly helical ear horn.

There had always been phalakros paradoxes everywhere he’d turned, but now he was confronted by one every time he looked in the mirror — now it was personal: the essential indexical had come into play and kicked him into touch. He couldn’t be arranging sets of mirrors in many elaborate configurations, in order to make every square millimetre of his head visible, with no hope of ever satisfying his question one way or the other. If the loss of a single hair follicle from some full head of hair always leaves a full head of hair, then successive losses of single hair follicles still leave a full head of hair – if only it did not work the other way around as well he might have been able to console himself, to let valid argumentation lie to him, but it did, so that was that. If Galen knew of nothing worse and more absurd than transgressing the Tolerance Principle, then he never had to contemplate his own hair loss with no hope of ever knowing whether or not he was bald.

He hears a yelp from an adjacent room and rushes to investigate. On entering what was once advertised as a spare bedroom (which he has transformed into a laboratory of sorts, filled with computers, measuring devices, dials and indices of all shapes and sizes, levers, cantilevers, alembic-like weighing machines, and caged animals, including cats, dogs and rats) he looks up at an LCD that reads 1,293, and sighs. Reginald is still toying with statistical regularities in — all too many — variations of word or symbol application when he wants so much to move beyond it, to free himself from the ecliptic shroud of ignorance that he now calls home.

Patch is lying on the floor of his cage, his spine snapped in two, foaming and bleeding at the mouth, his legs at corrupted angles. Reginald scratches his head and runs his hands agitatedly through his hair, and then thinks better of it and checks his fingers for signs of any dislodged follicles, of which there are, on this occasion, none. Recorded on the LCD is the total number of lead shot added to his weight transference machine before Patch’s spinal cord gave way under the pressure. The lead balls were dropped into a huge dish that directly conveyed their accumulative weight to a series of levers and finally to a pump that pressed down onto the middle of (in this case) Patch’s back, allowing Reginald to have the weight of in excess of a thousand balls condensed into a small workable area. (Who could hope to stack hundreds of anything within the relatively tight space offered by a dog’s back? He didn’t have the room or the money to test on animals with more spacious backbones, such as elephants, or even, to go down the traditional route, camels). He had lost count of the backs he had snapped; it ran into the hundreds, and he hadn’t finished yet by far.

Reginald looks down at poor old Patch and doubts that he appreciates that he is a living (well, just) example of a Hegelian preoccupation: the fact that quantitative difference instigates qualitative difference. You might think that these tests have little to do with Reginald’s obsession with vagueness, but you’d be wrong; they have everything to do with it, even if they are not obviously relevant to the existence of objects about which it is (or appears to be at least) impossible to say with any certainty whether any given term is applicable.

Reginald Woolly was, always has been to my knowledge, and still is, an unfortunate looking creature. I wouldn’t mention it but for the fact that I have never cast my eyes over a more clumsily put together individual in all my time spent encountering individual upon individual. His badly managed facial features are really rather remarkable: his face being not so much ugly as jumbled, not so much abhorrent to behold as confusing; Picasso never misused a tired and wearisome mistress in pencil, ink or oil with quite the level of contempt for order and balance displayed by Reginald’s designer of flesh and bone. His mouth, with its stringy lips and its dancing tongue, is not unlike a lizard’s. His nose is markedly off-centre, with one nostril considerably larger than the other, and unfortunately this lop-sizing of nostrils does nothing to balance out the nose being situated too far to the right; in fact, as if to piss in a drowning man’s mouth as he gasps for air, it actually accentuates the distorted logistics of his nasal placement. He is a squat man, standing only 5ft 2in. (the average height of a fifth-form schoolgirl) in his specially designed shoes, that give him an extra inch, hidden someplace between insole and heel – who could tell just where? If you drew an imaginary horizontal line from the top of his left eye across the bridge of his nose and over to the right-hand side of his face you would come across the bottom of his right eye. His eyes differ in size – an imbalance at times rectified by his conjunctivitis (not to forget his gingivitis — while I’m dealing with one itis — which, aside from gums that keep their blood on the outside, causes him to have halitosis and loose teeth) which can tend to affect one eye more than the other and so, as luck would have it, on occasion actually help balance out the horizontal plane of his face. His ears — who could forget the ears? — are, to speak in their favour, approximately the same size; however, they are ridiculously small given the hugeness of the head on which they rest.

And, of course, he is losing his hair.

art for the masses

To the casual observer, Reginald is just an Epistemicist who is somewhat reluctant to accept the necessity of his ignorance, a man engaged in an obsessive theoretical game of hide and seek with a particularly slippery quarry — the cut-off digit — and this cannot simply be dismissed as mere appearance, for there is a sense in which he is doing just that; but this would not be an entirely accurate appraisal of how he sees himself, and it is, after all, as any good Supervaluationist will tell you, only one sharpening of what it is he might be doing, which might be precisified in any number of different ways. Reginald would describe himself as a man going out on a limb, imperilling mind and soul to overcome ignorance, to dissect the penumbral blur of our words one by one — although it would be an enormous weight off his shoulders if he could just manage the one.

Reginald is not much liked and, in keeping with the ways typical of loners, puts little effort into finding reasons to like others. Even his parents, who like fragile coastlines are starting to feel the merciless erosion of time, have little to do with him and his pedantic and querulous ways. You only need to be told that as a boy he was known by the tag, ‘Igor,’ to get a fairly accurate picture of Reginald’s lab-days: those of a lonely child who spent the majority of his time dreaming, reading and making dauntless efforts to ignore, but preferably to foil in some way, his many tormentors. However, despite his having lacked familial and non-familial bonds throughout his formative years and beyond, he is not indifferent to the existence and opinions of others, for he has spent too many years involving himself with the blissfully uninformed to be able to turn his back on them or enjoy his intellectual pursuits without scheming about some future time when he will be in a position to embarrass certain people, alarm others, and — best of all — completely crush and demoralise a tiny sub-population of thinkers whose work has managed not only to get under his skin, but to live and breed there, nestled amid an ever-thickening layer of fat. There is one particular subcutaneous scholar that has done more damage than most: one Professor P.

As far as Reginald is concerned, P. is a degree theorist with a hard-on for immortality that he hides behind a neatly interwoven blanket of soulless psychology. Reginald despises him and all he stands for, hates that he is so successful, and is genuinely disturbed about where his research and the popularity of its implications among the world’s movers and shakers is leading us poor blind fools unable to find logic and clarity in the world. Reginald refuses to be just another fool, even if he is the only one refusing (which he isn’t). But he is used to being alone anyway, used to a hostile reception from humankind, and so shall not be fazed by being the wrong side of a ratio that reads, The World: One.

“No more facts to come. We know them all. They are all on full display. Then why, pray, do my words continue to resonate like slow footsteps in empty tombs, like the rapping of knuckles on suits of armour in cobwebbed stately homes? The honeycomb centres that make our symbols for this world so light will not be filled in, have their wormhole cavities made matter, by your conjunctions that not only allow contradictions to become half-truths but, as is found with the babble of drunks, are unable to distinguish repetition from contradiction. And it does not stop there. No, the abominations keep on coming and you pass over them as vain men pass over ugly women, with neither a smile nor a nod of recognition. You would have me live with my being bald or not bald qualifying as no truer than my being bald or being a woman; you see no oddity in your degree functionality account of conditionals deriving perfect truths from half-truths, and now you want, on the basis of this travesty of truth, to eradicate persons from the face of the globe. Well here is one man that won’t be lying down to be told what matters, allowing my self to be ripped from me before I have had time to locate it.”

He thumps his fist down on one of his many desktops and a pile of Escher prints flutter to the floor. As he picks up the scattered reproductions of woodcuts, engravings and lithographs, he cannot help but think that maybe now an answer will come, as his eyes run right to left and back again for the meeting of Tag und Nacht, from top to bottom in the Luft und Wasers, as he falls into the wonderland of Drehstrudel looking for the end, as he looks for where outside becomes inside in Belvedere and even takes time to acknowledge the desperation of the prisoner who is denied access to the puzzle (and its possible solution) that consumes all those free to wander, which Reginald feels is the mirror image of his own predicament. Then, almost without warning, his scarlet eyes start to glaze over with tears and the skin where his lips should be begins to tremble and quake. A tear drops off the end of his nose onto one of the apexes of the stellar dodecahedron resting in his lap, and he wipes it away, with some urgency into a collection of junk: a broken pipe, an empty sardine tin, a piece of string, a broken bottle, a broken egg shell… He sits there and envisions a time when order will come to him glinting with magnificent purity from deep beneath the frowsty, stygian appurtenances of day-to-day living; the day is coming as sure as death, and sometimes he thinks that the two might be one, either one bringing about the other. He is sure that he will be able to walk on the glassiest of surfaces and that to be a friction-lover is to be consoled with scrambling for soot while the world goes up in a puff of smoke.

Time is running out. Reginald sets his prints back on the desk in an orderly pile and gets to his feet. He has only seven more days to cross off before P.’s inaugural lecture at The Headway Institute for Practical Metaphysics and is nowhere near fully prepared to face all the possible onslaughts that might be levelled at his theories, although he does regard himself suitably equipped to successfully put his case against P. and his cronies. What he isn’t at all sure of is whether he will actually be given the chance to express himself in such prestigious, influential and, more importantly, antagonistic company. He realises that he will need something spectacular to convince the opposition and dissuade them from their misguided attempts to condense and elongate the existence of persons by denying their true essence, and he believes he has devised just such a source of persuasion, only it needs work and he cannot be sure whether a week will be enough to complete his task.

One must not get the idea that Reginald is entirely alone in his beliefs, although one would be correct in thinking him isolated with regard to the methods he employs. There are indeed others who are fearful of the rather sudden ascendancy of Professor P. and his Reductionist policies, but they are an essentially disparate bunch which offer little in the way of presentable, predicable support for their arguments, relying rather too much on the swaying power of classical logic and faith in the existence of unobservable logical objects. In a world of empiricists — see-to-believers — they find themselves, almost all of a sudden (at least in an academic sense of ‘sudden’), progressively outnumbered. Reginald, or so he hoped, was about to change all this, and finally demonstrate, for the eyes to see, the pure impredicative glory of logical truths. He would, for the first time ever, reveal a world that our words have come to hide from us ever since we stopped looking beyond them for their meaning.

He has told nobody of his recent breakthroughs, not even those in his department who sympathise with him and his philosophical perspective; in fact, he has been so silent during his 6-month sabbatical that members of his faculty, and indeed those from without, are harbouring suspicions as to his recent developments. Since he moved into this flat, nobody else has set foot inside it; only the secretary of his philosophy department actually knows of his address, and he has given express instructions that it not be disclosed to anyone. She has stuck to her word and hasn’t revealed the whereabouts of his flat to a single soul.

Reginald bends down, takes hold of Patch’s tail, and flings him into a huge black sack hanging in the corner of the room, the contents of which he will dispose of at a later date, and then shuffles back to a heap of grain in the other room and sits down.

© Gary J. Shipley 2010