Culture vulture

Photo By C. Owsley Rain

Why culture?
The more time we spend on this Petri dish Earth, the more we are inclined to view it as an experiment gone rampantly out of control. Perhaps the cosmic scientist who started the whole process became infected by his own inoculants and expired on the laboratory floor eons ago, leaving the various strains of life with which the experiment had begun to battle it out unsupervised as we consume the self-renewing but finite resources of our confinement.

Or perhaps the experiment is being minutely studied with keen, discerning instruments of observation, and the interactions of the elements set in motion here on Earth are being duly noted in properly scientific jargon and processed for further research and development, thusly:

“The addition of diverse theological elements into separated branches of a technologically oriented species dependent upon the physical environment for its survival inevitably leads to ideological and economic disturbances that, if allowed to continue unchecked, may bring about the termination of the experiment.”

Viewed from a cosmic distance, such shenanigans as religious war and economic collapse may seem no more significant than the lifecycle of a spot of mold on a piece of cheese that’s been in the back of the refrigerator drawer for a little too long, but for those of us living through such cataclysms the cosmic view is cold comfort at best.

Yet even the most jaded among us would have to admit, eventually, that cold comfort is better than no comfort.

Why vulture?
In his novel Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut created a character, car salesman supreme Dwayne Hoover, who becomes obsessed with the writing of Kilgore Trout, a science-fiction writer whose published works can for the most part be found as filler between photographic spreads in assorted low-budget porno magazines. One of Hoover’s favorite quotations from Trout—when Trout was asked to state the meaning of life—is: “To be the eyes and ears and conscience of the Creator of the Universe, you fool.”

Like Dwayne Hoover and his literary predecessor in the Vonnegutian universe, Eliot Rosewater, Culture Vulture has long held a fascination with science fiction and its writers, the best of whom—H.G. Wells, H.P. Lovecraft, Philip K. Dick and William Gibson, to name just a few—have skimmed the topics of their writing from the detritus of industrialized Western culture.

Vultures, besides being bald-headed, shabby-feathered, dark-gray denizens of the never-ending roadkill buffet, serve the dual purpose of alerting us to the presence of death and cleaning up its consequences if no one comes along to claim or otherwise usurp their prize.

Somewhere between Vonnegut’s eyes and ears and conscience of the Creator of the Universe and that shabby carrion-consumer peeling a putrescent strip of skunk flesh off last week’s roadkill victim is where you’ll find me.