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Nothing to excess

Inscribed at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, sometime before the middle of the first millennium B.C.E.


Annie had never been much of an activist. Not to the outside world, anyway. She was not someone whose first fine furious reaction to injustice was to rush in and fix it. She was a thinker who by nature would rather focus on the mote in her own eye than start hacking away at the beam in someone else's. Smart enough to graduate (psych major, what else?) without endangering either her eyesight or too many forests by over-indulgence in the literature, she retained enough respect for rationality to prefer not to argue without facts, and enough distaste for research to leave her bigger on concepts than details. If needs must, she had the ability – she breezed through her physical therapy qualifications with no more than the usual abnormal strain – she just didn't like to use it. Good for them, she'd say when she saw people leafleting for some cause she liked, I'm glad someone's doing it.

She wasn't just biased against books; TV was worse, in fact banned from the house, and radio meant music. She was never seen reading a newspaper (looking up movie times doesn't count) and browsed magazines only in waiting rooms, where she rarely spent much time since she was chronically unpunctual. To a standard modern American information junkie, she seemed completely isolated. She developed a social skill at masking her almost total ignorance of the minutiæ of gossip. Plenty of people are ignorant of sports heroes, or elected officials, or soap opera starlets, or distinguished poets; even those who are up on all such matters in one country are likely to be completely lost in another. Why did they get this Johnny Carson geezer to host the Oscars instead of someone famous, went the world-wide cry back when. Who? would say the kids in a scant decade. Exactly, said Annie, why bother noticing them at all? The global superstars you couldn't miss – as of 1990, the blessed Marley, Madonna, Arnold, Gorby, Bush ex officio, perhaps one or two more, with a few holdover has-beens like Reagan and Jagger – and the rest you didn't need. You could always imply that any given topic was a blind spot.

Annie got her information through the oral tradition. That is, her boyfriend told her things and she remembered them. This was a time-tested pick-up method, and she was not averse to using it when appropriate, but it translated usefully into longer-term relationships. Serial monogamy was her game of choice and the incumbent was Brendan, who was the kind of person who avoided thinking by collecting data. Perfect.

Brendan was a genial introvert, with a strong bent to concealing his true emotions from the entire universe, including that part of it occupied by his self. As his youth faded into adulthood, he had invested a few years in frivolous but concentrated drug use, tequila sunrises and lines of coke being his preference, with multiple minors in god knows what if she was keeping score; he claimed to have lost track but was pretty sure he'd tried it all. He usually kept quiet about those days, less out of shame than because he didn't fit the contemporary model of dependency. True, he avoided both hard liquor and cocaine, as well as smack and cigarettes, but he hadn't found himself in Jesus and he still used beer, wine and grass of an evening, especially on weekends. Basically, he said, he'd gotten bored with getting wasted but he'd nothing against putting a buzz on from time to time.

Less intellectual and more objective observers might think he had lucked out in reconnecting with a college friend who had set up an art program for kids and wanted someone to put together a magazine of children's writing. This opportunity came up exactly when Brendan was ready for a change and who's to say it didn't save him from getting serious about heroin. With his intensity, he'd have been gone by now. In the event, he was harnessed and focused, and he often loved his work, which he did with great care and responsibility. It put him in touch with the wonders of childhood almost completely untainted by tears and tantrums. Fine by Annie, who'd long decided against adding to global overpopulation.

If Brendan was Minister of Information for the pair of them, Annie was Social Director and as such scoured the Good Times, the local weekly freebie, every Thursday night for ideas. If she left it to him, nothing would be planned more than ten minutes ahead and that never worked. She liked the idea of spontaneous revelry but the reality too often included a mind-numbing stasis of indecision and/or dirty hair and inappropriate clothes. A modicum of staff work was indicated.

"Hey, this looks kinda interesting," she called out. Brendan looked less than fascinated but he lowered his book. "Mario Savio's gonna be on campus."


"You remember him, the guy from Berkeley in the Sixties."

That is, Berkeley, the city and especially the campus of the University of California, in the decade leading up to about 1973, which was the subject of a recent documentary. They'd gone to see it out of a sense of nostalgia and loyalty, and to see if they or any of their friends were in it, which they probably were, but only as distant extras in DayGlo costume in the latter part. None were identifiable for certain.

"Huh. What's he doing now?" Data, give him data or give him life.

"What do you think?"

"Talking about Berkeley ..." The natural hypothesis, given modern media techniques.

"Yeah, they've got a whole panel discussion, tomorrow night, a whole bunch of people who were in the movie, Bettina Aptheker, Frank Bardacke, they were in it, right?"

"Sure thing. Let me see."

It's a guy thing. At least it was with those two: Significant facts were expected to go into the male via the eyes and into the female via the ears. She passed over the paper without wasting a thought on it.

"Well, that looks interesting," he proclaimed as if it were an inspiration. "You wanna go?"