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Dark Thoughts
I don’t think I’m a hater, but I find myself harboring an intense dislike for dark energy. Dark energy, if you don’t know, is the single largest physical entity in the universe. Though it is impossible to be sure, it might also be made completely of evil.

What we do know is that dark energy makes up 68% of all the stuff that exists. Number two is dark matter, which accounts for 27% of the remaining stuff. Beyond that, we know approximately jack about either one. What we do know something about — plain, old, everyday energy and reach-out-and-touch-it matter — amount to a mere 5% of the total.

That is troubling by itself, especially since the 5% we do know about is already bad enough. There are black holes lurking out there, and colliding galaxies, and colossal bursts of deadly radiation, to say nothing of unwanted hair. There are some nice things, of course, like puppies, but careful observation of the “known” universe over several millennia has shown that it is at least half bad.

Dark energy, by contrast, has only been on our radar for a couple of decades. Well, not on our radar exactly, because we still haven’t “seen” it or directly detected it in any way. It’s secretive, in other words; that alone is suspicious. All we’ve uncovered to date is some goofy behavior by light and matter that points to something enormous and mysterious operating out there in the void.

The beginnings of our awareness of dark energy date back to 1929 and the work of the astronomer Edwin Hubble. He observed then that our universe is not fixed and immutable, as had been thought, but rather expanding. But here’s the scary part: recently, that news was updated with the discovery that the rate of expansion is actually increasing. After Hubble, everyone had supposed that the expansion would surely slow down as the force of the universe’s own gravity would begin to draw everything back to the point of origin. Wrong again. Something else, it appears, is counteracting the powerful pull of gravity. “Dark energy” was the name given to that force — a force that must be so large that it made up two thirds of everything that is.

Thanks to dark energy, then, the end of the universe will come only when the last erg has been spent, when there is no light or movement anywhere, and all that is left are bits of nothingness dispersed across a limitless, icy void. That’s about all we know about dark energy: it’s big, and it’s killing the universe with agonizing slowness. I’d call that evil, wouldn’t you?

No, you say? You think that the end of the cosmos by a slow, lingering death is no worse than a universe that is destined to crash back into itself in an accelerating rewind of the Big Bang? We get smashed together and exploded, or we’re turned into our own, giant gravestone; what’s the difference? Either way, we and our little puppies are toast, right?

The difference for me is the utter desolation of the gravestone scenario. There’d be no bang and no whimper, either. Just a cold, dark, eternal un-universe. Dead forever, period. With the collapsing universe scenario, at least we have the hope of rebirth, a chance to exist again, maybe over and over and over. Now, however, with the dark discovery of this dark force that dominates everything, even that faint optimism is extinguished. What would rob us of all hope other than Satan himself?

No, I do not like dark energy, not one bit, and I am not eager to learn more about it. It’s been nothing but bad news so far, and it’s obviously hiding something even more monstrous. Why else would it be invisible? Science pushes on, though. NASA, along with the European Space Agency, is mounting several missions aimed at getting a clearer picture of this shy phenomenon. More precise measurements will be made of baryonic acoustic oscillations, and the scope of the search for weak gravitational lensing will be broadened. Pretty much what you’d expect, in other words.

And that’s okay, because it’s the job of science to do that. It’s not my job to like it, though. Whatever portrait they come with, I already hate its big, ugly face.
Designated Driver
Google is working on a driverless car. They’ve recently unveiled a prototype that has no pedals, no knobs, no steering wheel. It is controlled, evidently, by our robot masters.

I’m tempted to call their vehicle the Giggle, because they can’t really be serious. Except they are. California and three other states have already given them the green light to test the car on our public highways. Am I the only person who’s alarmed by this development?

I acknowledge that I am already dependent on machines. Like most First-Worlders, I’ve gone all-in for labor-saving devices. Without them, I might well perish, but I do have some hypothetical control over the situation. I could forage for roots and make clothing out of animal skins if I needed to. I could find shelter in the wintertime. Or at least I think I could. Computers may have taken over most of my higher brain functions, but I can still delude myself into thinking I can still think. That delusion allows me the comfort of imagining that I could find a way to survive in a world without machines. But I am not ready for the driverless car. In that situation, even my deluded mind can see that all my control would be stripped away and lost.

I picture my rented auto-auto arriving at my home. I get in, inform it of my destination, and off I go. Soon, I am speeding along at high speed among thousands of other such vehicles. Their passengers, like me, are nothing but baggage — Spam in a can, as the astronauts used to say. We play no part in the handling of our devices.

What if the device malfunctions? Will it stop in time to avoid a deer bolting across the road? Does it know that a second deer will likely be trailing the first? What if it doesn’t hear me screaming “OhGodNo!”? Or what if one of the other auto-autos malfunctions? What if the whole system goes down? What if I am caught in a deadly cataclysm of robot cars gone mad?

Okay, that last scenario is kind of unlikely. In fact, we are told, the benefits of driverless cars include an improved environment, a freeing up of space once used for parking…
and a reduction in accidents. All that would certainly be wonderful — except I don’t believe the accident part. Please don’t misunderstand. I don’t want to see people to get hurt. Other people should have their driverless cars if they want them. When it comes to me and my future, however, I’m a little old-fashioned. I prefer to have complete dominion over the deadly missile I am riding in.

It’s a simple issue of trust. I don’t think the machine can protect me as well as I can. It may be a delusion, but no amount of back-up systems or calm reassurances by engineering savants will shake that conviction.

So please…don’t try to sell me a car that brakes when it senses danger or one that can parallel park itself in the tightest of spaces. And don’t ask me to get into a Giggle. If I’m destined to leave the First World ticketed for the next world, I prefer to be the one holding the wheel as I go, screaming “OhGodNo!” Just so long as I am not in the clutches of our robot masters.
Hey Man
I’ve got a message for my fellow men.

If you blame women because you can’t find love. If gentleness is a sign of weakness to you, if compassion is for suckers, if using force is the only way you know how to gain respect. If anger and hatred are the same as righteousness in your mind. If you never learned how to be nice.

If you feel that you shouldn’t have to put up with disappointment, ever. If women are bitches…

Then my message to you is: man up.
Subconscious Everlasting, Amen
I recently went past the halfway point with Subconscious Comics. I’ve been posting it on this site for almost ten years now, starting with the last episode I cranked out in 2000 and moving backward through time toward the very first one I drew. I’m just getting into 1989 now, and some time in 2022 I expect to be posting that first strip from way back in 1981.

That, as I so often find myself saying these days, was a long time ago.

I promise I’m not going to launch into a reverie about what a long, strange trip it’s been; I will leave that to the team of biographers I have placed on retainer. I will, however, take note of one truth I have learned about art. While life and history seem to bring change with every breath, art does not. Once it is created, it freezes a moment and holds it up for that ever-morphing world to ponder, theoretically forever.

Yes, theoretically. What I have been wondering as I post these old cartoons is whether anyone will ever look at my frozen moments after I am gone.

Here’s a story: Somewhere in France there is an undiscovered limestone cave filled with the most gorgeous, moving paintings ever created, but they are not art. Or rather, they are no longer art. To the creativity-crazed caveman who secretly made them fifteen thousand years ago, they were definitely art. They gave shape and meaning to his life. Then, one day, he got cheeky with the wrong mastodon and got duly stomped before he ever got a chance to show his art to anyone else. That day, his masterwork ceased to exist as a work of art.

I’m saying that art is only art if someone is creating it, looking at it, or thinking about it. A hundred years from now, my comics may still reside in some dusty anteroom of the internet, but if no one sees them, if no one is affected by them, then they will no longer exist as art. And that is probably what will happen with Subconscious Comics. After I die, give it a generation to rattle around in the minds of people who read it fresh. After they die — poof! — it will no longer exist.

I tried to stay away from the topical with Subconscious Comics because I wanted to do something distinct from my political cartoons, something that would not depend on a knowledge of history to have meaning — art, in other words, that could stand up to time. They’re only cartoons, I know, but I wanted those frozen moments to last. I’ve known all long that my little dream of immortality had no chance. I have accepted that my frozen bits will probably not survive once I’m not there to pay for the refrigeration.

Or perhaps they will survive. It could happen. They (or maybe just one really good one) might outlast the Great Pyramid of Giza or the temple at Gobekli Tepe or the caves at Lascaux. Or not. Either way, I’m okay with it. After all, what’s the point in being immortal if you’re not going to be around to enjoy it?
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon