(This article originally appeared in the Feb. 1957 journal of Forensic Cuisine.)

ON THE ORIGINS OF PARALLEL THEORY IN THE GREAT INVERSION OF 1896 AN INTRODUCTION TO THE PARALLEL SCIENCES



By R.N. CHALFEN, Dd.T.

"The bleachers of error are strewn with the gum wrappers of possibility"

Ever since southpaw Don Unwittingly of the Dilmount Airedales heard these words out of thin air near a Schrodinger's Cat food sign during the third game of their disastrous '51 series against the Turing (Pa.) Machinists, fans everywhere have wondered if it might not be true.

What's the connection:, you may ask, between the off-the-wall musings of this legendary mounds-man and say, the principles behind the Spartan Godwheel, the Oneiric Induction Drive, the Deregulation of Swans and other notable advances in Parallel Science? Not to mention the still-mysterious In-Fly Field Rules

Well, we here at the Institute for Parallel Studies (formerly Popular Hieroglyphics) have dedicated ourselves to lifting the Veil of Understanding from the eyes of a public too long in thrall to a tyranny of received opinion and Rationalist thought.

Not affiliated with Anarcho-Spectacularism or any other cult of unknowing, the Institute is a non- profit (and how!), all-volunteer army of the foremost specialists and practitioners ever assembled without instructions.

Since its founding (on a bet) by Esperanto bible "salesman" Dave (Stuffy) Stelch and a local man known as Blind Ed at the View-Mar Lunch near Mammons Gorge, N.H. in 1947, the Institute has undertaken untold expeditions to chart the brackish branchwaters of the Parallel Domains. Outfitting our trusted cadre of reckless adventurers often with little more than a blind faith in the Other Realm and a hearty admonition to write down anything that looks suspicious, we pack them off to transgress the frontiers of the mundane, to roll back the bathmat of pragmatism and expose the unlikely image of a world we might divine but not explain.

But back to Unwittingly. As everyone no doubt recalls, he was the one who shut out the Strikebreakers back in '48 while still technically in a coma During a game in Mulweeno in'49, he changed his name three times in one inning, so confounding the Jujubees that their entire dugout went mad and the game had to be called on demonic possession. But his finest moment may have come in '51 against Wyoming, facing Floyd 'Flatfoot' Floogie, ex-patrolman and basepath visionary.

His face never betraying the innocence that comes with long experience,

Unwittingly loaded his glove with a vector of spit and flipped the ball into it a couple times. He then tossed it with a sheepish grin to ump Stony Tunguska (his lifelong nemesis), whose mouth had barely opened, his finger in the air. Stony savagely scrutinized the suspect sphere but, detecting no offending fluids, reluctantly threw it back The Wyoming manager ranged angrily about and threatened to explode unless Unwittingly were thrown from the game. "Play ball!" Tunguska stoically pronounced, casting the manager a hopeless glance. The Unwitting One's next pitch was so suspicious that some thought it Un-American and phoned the FBI. The Wyoming manager did in fact explode and quit baseball to raise orchids in a home. Unwittingly himself always refused to explain these feats, cheerfully maintaining that he didn't remember them. "Guess I'll just leave that one to the experts," he would say shyly, knocking the dust off a third baseman.

Their significance cannot really be grasped without reference to one of the forgotten wonders of the last century, the so-called "Great Inversion" of 1896. This sadly neglected event, now largely relegated to footnotes in muonics handbooks and the like, once confounded the best minds of the last century and threw the civilized world into a panic which changed the course of history--for a while. It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read thus far that some people simply have no tolerance for any deviation from the familiar. But what sort of deviation are we talking about:, A minor one measured in fractions of a degree or a major deflection that wrenches your comfortable world-view from its moorings and drives you out into the night to drink with strangers? These very questions were long the preoccupation of noted 19th c. moralist and theologian Everett Wheeler Graham (1828-1895). in such seminal and influential works as 'The Wisdom of Error" (1855),"An Experiment in Selective Ontology" (1866), and especially, "On the Confusion of Realms" (1877) Graham first formulated such key tenets of Potentiation Logic as "otherwiseness," "the world next-door," "exploiting the unknown," and "distinguishing the merely wrong from the brilliantly incorrect."

"It's always high noon in eternity," he began during a lecture at Princeton in the winter of'94. "The universe is leaning toward you on its elbows over a half-eaten tea biscuit. It's Thursday and it's raining. You glance nervously at the chocolate grinder before the cracked glass. The universe raises an eyebrow and asks: 'One lump or two?"

In his colorful yet enigmatic way the great man had framed one of the key dilemmas of modern thought. How can we be sure the universe isn�t snickering at us and, if it is, how can we get back at it? He provides a clue with his formulation "one lump or two." The first lump may be regarded as a propitiation, or votive offering, such as men have of old offered to their gods. The second lump, by repeating the gesture, might startle or confuse the universe, throwing it however briefly off the scent; then, anything might happen. In its transient, disordered state, the universe becomes curiously suggestible and, if we're quick about it, might sign anything before it comes to. Thus, he seemed to imply, through some deft and sneaky act of our OWN WILL reality itself might be up for grabs. Cataclysmic events and awesome powers could be unleashed by some seemingly trivial human action "if sufficiently intended and keenly focused to that end. " (our italics) Alas, he was not to live to see his ideas brought to fruition. For it was in 1895, the year of his death, that one of his least-promising pupils inadvertently set the Victorian world's most cherished notions on their ear. It happened late one evening in his undistinguished rooms at the Thermidor, a New Haven rooming house. Wesley Ascot-Fez, disconsolate at the loss of his mentor (The great man had left some unfinished comments on his mid-term; "C minus," he began, "You'll never..."), was idly dismantling a Spengler coil over a map of Antarctica which lay unrolled upon the table, occasionally resorting to a handkerchief soaked in petroleum ether, when a faint but alarming noise-- like a dirigible exploding far overhead--shook him from his reveries. He glanced up in astonishment as pale blue flame flickered from the brass fixtures of the room. The air filled with the distinctive smell of camphor and benzene, while seeming to hum with the buzz of a million bees. The Spengler coil in his hand grew suddenly hot; dropping it on the map (a burn at "Little Finland" even today marks the spot) it erupted in a shower of sparks, throwing him backwards from his chair and knocking him out cold against an immense biscuit tin filled with antique spoons. According to the researches of Quiche-Plankton (1937) and others, the Great Inversion of 1896 had already begun, possibly.

Its effects were first generally noted in an experimental fern-breeding program conducted by the Botany Department at the Massachusetts College of Agriculture, then firmly under the sway of Theosophists. The suggestive results, although first published in the specialist journal "The Astral Frond," were picked up by T. Carsdale Argot, a reporter for the Chicago Defamer who had been tipped off by accounts of Symbolist revels on campus by a stringer at the Pittsfield Voyeur. His resulting dispatch, "PAGAN FERN FEVER GALVANIZES COW COLLEGE," shocked drawing rooms on five continents. His popular work on the subject, "The Carnal Chalice," loosened the morals of a generation enervated by populism, elaborate wallpaper and tandem bicycles. And when a brace of journalists from the usually fastidious London Botanical Observer burst in on the Chelsea digs of Madame Blavatsky and found her in flagrante with Aleister Crowley, it only compounded popular interest. But that is another story. Its other effects were wide-ranging and no less inexplicable. Battleships stuck together, imperiling wars. The Brooklyn Bridge hummed tunelessly and sank 11 inches. Telegraphs worldwide spat blank verse. And Tammany paid back the orphans. Clearly, puzzled school children everywhere would have to be taught something new. But what?

It remained for Valdemar Poulsen, then an obscure Danish inventor laboring vainly to record speech on lengths of galvanized baling wire, to arrive at a solution. In 1915, Scott Joplin, fresh from his collaboration with W.C. Handy on the revue "Stagger Lee," composed a satirical ragtime opera about the Great Inversion, called The World Turned Upside Down, toured to acclaim on the Continent by Ma Rainey and Bert Williams. As Poulsen sat in the audience at a performance in Copenhagen, gazing in amazement at their outlandish headgear of stacked cones and silvery discs, the answer that had eluded others suddenly descended on him. Leaving the performance in mid-cakewalk, he hurried back to his study and scribbled feverishly till dawn, because typing would have kept people up. Now known to the world as the Copenhagen (or "Cakewalk") Notebooks, in their delirious diagrams and inspired equations we find formulated all the basic principles of Static Gravity, the then-revolutionary breakthrough which under-lies all the SG technology we take so much for granted today.

***

(Editors Note: Due to a typesetter's error in the original 1957 publication, a page was dropped from the article at this point. As the original manuscript could not be located as we go to press, we regretfully have no choice but to reprint the piece "as is." We hope the historical importance of the piece makes up for any inconvenience this may cause the reader.)

***

But it was not to be.

One fine autumn day in 1953, Don Unwittingly set off for third base and was never seen again. He had done what none had thought possible, taking a career it with a feat so utterly confounding that to this day any attempt to discuss it is considered a sign of feeble- mindedness. For every man who claims he was at Dilmount Field that crisp and fateful day, there are three who insist they were elsewhere. Even the film of the game is no help. Clams Conway had knocked a long fly to center at the top of the ninth with two away. Unwittingly, having gotten on base due to wind sheer (his usual gambit), lit out for second with his customary unconscious grace. As the camera follows the ball, you can just glimpse him rounding second and digging in for a mad dash to third, eyes clamped shut in fierce concentration. Ivan "The Terrible" Stang fields the ball on one hop and fires it heroically to third. The ball seems to hover for a moment above the third baseman's glove. And then--nothing. When the camera cuts away to show the action, Unwittingly had simply vanished. There's a moment's stunned silence on the field where time seems suspended. Heads spin, casting vainly about for the man who wasn't there. The camera pans awkwardly back and forth, scanning the park, as if we'd found him leaning against the dugout rail, chewing gum with maddening nonchalance, as if to say "I just didn't feel like it that time, what's it to ya anyway." But the dugout rail shone naked, unadorned with any trace of Unwittingly's laconic form. The umpires huddled to confer; you can see their frantic gestures as they argued how to call the play, eyes poking out to catch a flicker from some shadowed corner of the park Minutes passed while nothing changed and tension charged the air. Restlessness turned to puzzlement then panic and despair. The announcer near hysteric yelled "Unwittingly is GONE!" as a thousand maddened ballfans ran amok upon the lawn. "Unwittingly is GONE!" he yelled in that now-famous phrase, which a thousand naked hipsters would recite in Frisco Bay. Home
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I recieved this picture in the post along with the following message: Doktor, Thought you'd enjoy this engraving I found of the old laboratory at the Institute's original location in the Ether Gardens, corner of Transmission and Plantane streets. I'd Guess 1877, from the looks of it. And that may be Everett Wheeler Graham himself, in his days as Chief Technician. See you at the Ozone Theater. -Othmar Pez