Under Pressure 1.02 - Allegory of the Deep
DR JAMIE MACMILLAN-BARRIE
DR SIDNEY PETERSEN
DR HAMISH TURIN
SCENE ONE: the residential wing of the Amphitrite - day
SOUND A CANDY WRAPPER OPENS, MUNCHING
JAMIE Ah (OBVIOUSLY SEARCHING FOR A WORD OTHER THAN “SHIT”) crap, I already hit record. Oh well.
Good...day. This is the audio notes of Dr Jamie MacMillan-Barrie aboard the DSS Amphitrite, recorded for the Cassida Memorial Research fund. I have been onboard for (PAUSES, DOING THE MATH IN HER HEAD) sixteen days now.
SOUND INTRO MUSIC
JAMIE (MUNCHING) I’m starting to get the number of how this place works; we defer first to Phaedra––Captain Aspros––then to Hamish, then Sidney, then Jack, then Mona. (PAUSE) You will realize that I am not on the list.
JAMIE CONT’D OVER
JAMIE CONT’D That is by design; whose design I’m not really sure, but let’s just say that Sidney’s opinion of my work is not a rare one at negative thirty thousand feet.
You know, the thing that’s most annoying? There’s no one to talk to. I mean, the crew is friendly enough, but they don’t know the first thing about philosophical research, or humanities research at all. It’s all “what’s your hypothesis, Jamie” and “can you really control for that variable, Jamie”. Which. The answer is “no,” obviously, but that doesn’t mean what I’m doing isn’t still research.
I guess... (SIGHS) topside there was always someone to talk these things through with. Even if it was all the way from the beginning, like, “what is the difference between a metaphor and a simile,” level beginning, I could still talk it through. Down here I’m by myself, for the most part.
JAMIE Even that micro-conversation with Mona two weeks ago was enough to get me started on “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” But since then I’ve just...hit a wall.
JAMIE It doesn’t help that there just isn’t anything else to do down here. We have a television, but no streaming, and you’re expected to bring your own DVDs. Who even owns DVDs anymore? I could read, but that feels a lot like work, even my favorites. There’s a gym, but I can only elliptical for so long before even I start to go nuts. About the only real entertainment we have is each other, and no one likes me enough to actually want to hang out, or they’re too busy, so I’m pretty bereft of company. I have my knitting. I’m going to have to request more yarn in the next shipment. Honestly, at this point, I think I've knitted a scarf long enough to wrap around the entire station three times. Lengthwise.
JAMIE Actually, though, Captain Aspros does the monthly requests, and since I told her about stealing the clif bars, she’s been a little. Well.
JAMIE CONT’D OVER
JAMIE CONT’D She’s about at the level you’d expect someone to be at when they have very limited personal possessions, and then you steal some, and then they blame their best friend for it.
SOUND WRAPPER CRINKLING, MORE MUNCHING
JAMIE (MOUTH FULL) I didn’t tell Aspros about the full extent of my theft. That was the best decision I’ve made in months.
JAMIE (PAUSE, DOWNTRODDEN) This place is bleak; there’s honestly no better way to describe it. It’s both too light and too dark at the same time because of these massive industrial style lights on the ceiling that are apparently fairly expensive because they’re full spectrum; it’s like being in sunlight only worse, because it’s not even warm.
JAMIE CONT’D OVER
JAMIE CONT’D And the walls are kind of an off white color, but the shadows from the pipes running over the walls make all the compartments seem smaller than they are -- something to do with the light, I think? And the ceiling is low, even for me, it’s only about six and a half feet. Honestly, it feels like I’m in a jail cell with a desk and some old-timey books. I’m gonna have to see if I can get Rebecca or someone topside to send me down some lights, but according to the station safety rules I have to have them specially insulated, so I’m stuck with the industrial BS until I can con someone into spending a couple hundred bucks making me new lighting. I guess I have a lamp in my bedroom that’s decent, but that’s it.
JAMIE And the station smells weird too: mildewy, but also like chemicals. I’ve been here for two weeks and I’m still surprised every time I get hit in the face with damp, vaguely unpleasant smelling air when I open the doors. JAMIE CONT’D OVER
JAMIE CONT’D The only time the station smells different is when someone’s cooking, and then it’s just sad because it’s only ever single servings. I was sick of ramen and mug cookies when I was nineteen, and I don’t understand why I have to keep eating them now. I guess I could learn to cook, but at my age trying to learn to do something like that honestly feels pretty depressing.
JAMIE [PAUSE, THEN A LONG, DRAWN OUT GROAN] I guess I’ll just read out some of my half baked notes from the Verne and see if I get anywhere saying it out loud.
JAMIE So 20k leagues is a book uniquely couched in its time––there’s a lot of historical allegory, there’s a direct Hugo reference that’s more an in joke than anything--so any analysis has to be couched in the time also. It was written in the tail end of the industrial revolution, and there’s quite a few references to industrialism in the book--see: the cuttlefish.
JAMIE CONT’D OVER
JAMIE CONT’D That being said, there’s quite a bit in terms of the self-imposed exile that’s very useful from a psycho-philosophical standpoint. For example--
SOUND A QUICK RAP ON THE DOOR, FOLLOWED BY ENTRY INTO THE OFFICE
JAMIE Come-- oh, I guess you’re already in, hi Sid- Dr Petersen.
PETERSEN Barrie, I need you to do something for me.
JAMIE It’s MacMillan-Barrie.
PETERSEN Whatever, so--
JAMIE (TOP) No, not whatever. If you’re going to come in here and ask for a favor you could at least get my name right.
PETERSEN Fine, MacMillan-Barrie. Can you--
JAMIE (TOP) Thank you, Dr Petersen. Where have you been these last few days? And shouldn’t you be poking those submariners with sharp, pointy objects?
PETERSEN I was poking them; they’re getting ready to leave this afternoon. Anyway. Do you know how to bake a cake?
JAMIE (BEWILDERED) Do I know how to bake a cake?
PETERSEN Yes, do you know how to bake a cake?
JAMIE Do I-- I mean, I can make a mean latke, but only from real potatoes, not potato flakes. I made waffles with a recipe once. And bagels, I know how to make bagels. Look why do you need a cake?
PETERSEN It’s Hamish’s birthday. We’re trying to surprise him with a cake. The Captain requisitioned the ingredients but neglected to ask for a recipe.
JAMIE That sucks. Why didn't you just get a boxed cake?
PETERSEN (PAUSE; NO ONE THOUGHT OF THAT OBVIOUS OPTION) I don’t think that would have worked; we would have to have edited the recipe for the pressurized environment.
JAMIE (KNOWS PETERSEN IS FEEDING HER BULLSHIT LIKE VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS) Mmm-hm. (PAUSE) Wait, you’re trying to have a surprise party?
JAMIE A surprise party. (PAUSE) Six people live on this station.
PETERSEN What’s your point?
JAMIE Just that if you managed to actually keep it a secret for this long, more power to you. Anyways I can’t--
SOUND EXTREME GROANING AND CLANKING, AS IF A VITAL SYSTEM IS BEING RUDELY TORN ASUNDER FROM THE AMPHITRITE. A SUB IS LEAVING THE STATION.
JAMIE What the hell is that?
PETERSEN Those submariners I was poking with sharp objects. They’re leaving.
JAMIE Is it supposed to sound like that?
PETERSEN Yeah, it’s just caused by the station getting used to the change in pressure again. It’s nothing to worry about.
JAMIE Are any of the sounds on this station worth worrying over?
PETERSEN If an actual alarm goes off, you should be worried. Other than that, probably not. We’re where people shouldn’t be, logically. There’s bound to be weird noises. Back to the issue at hand though--
JAMIE I think the station falling apart is a pretty important issue!
PETERSEN The station is not falling apart, the station is just groaning about losing weight. Can you make a cake?
JAMIE (EXASPERATED) No, sorry.
PETERSEN Yeah, whatever. Thanks, Barrie.
SOUND THE DOOR OPENS AND SIDNEY WALKS AWAY
JAMIE It’s MacMillan-Barrie!
PETERSEN (OFF MIKE) Whatever!
SOUND JAMIE STANDS WITH A SIGH AND CLOSES THE DOOR
JAMIE (UNDER HER BREATH) God they’re annoying. JAMIE CONT’D OVER
JAMIE CONT’D (IN REGULAR VOICE) As you can see, my relationship with the ship’s doctor has not improved. I’m still trying, but it’s not going very well. I’m just so irritated that they won’t call me by my name. Anyway, back to the-- hold on.
SOUND KEYS CLACK
JAMIE The allegory of the cave...I wonder if there’s something there about that I can do about the cake. Hmm. (PAUSE) Like, things are only what we say they are. We say a birthday cake is a certain thing, but down here we’re a microcosm, we’re very small society, and we can say a birthday cake is whatever we want it to be.
JAMIE (PAUSE) This is all such crap, isn’t it?
JAMIE Oh wait, no more submariners means (KEYBOARD CLACKS) Oh thank god.
SOUND MORE KEYBOARD CLACKING
JAMIE The sound from earlier was a US Naval submarine leaving the station. That’s what those three hundred beds in the short term section of the station are for: navy, cargo subs, the very odd tourist cruise will dock here, stay a few days, use a real shower with decent water pressure. The real draw, though, is the communications array. We’re the only place in the Pacific with Wifi. Well, the only man-made place in the Pacific with Wifi. I'm guessing there's Wifi somewhere on the Australian continent. And if my twitter feed is anything to go by (PAUSE) there is definitely wifi in Indonesia.
SOUND JAMIE BROWSES TWITTER, OCCASIONALLY LAUGHING
SOUND KNOCKING ON A METAL DOOR
JAMIE Oh shi–– (FRANTICALLY TYPING) Come in!
SOUND DOOR OPENS WITH A SQUEAK
DR HAMISH TURIN (OFF MIKE) Can I come in?
JAMIE (DISTRACTED) Yeah, sure.
SOUND HAMISH SITS ON JAMIE’S COUCH
HAMISH This has to be the best couch on the station.
JAMIE Thanks (?)
SOUND MORE TYPING
JAMIE So you’re a geologist?
HAMISH I am a geophysicist and a vulcanist.
JAMIE Earthquakes and lava?
HAMISH In a word.
SOUND TYPING CONTINUES
HAMISH So what’s new on Twitter?
SOUND TYPING ABRUPTLY STOPS
HAMISH I saw the logo when I walked in.
JAMIE (PAUSE) Nothing much, a few friends from undergrad getting married, new babies, that sort of thing. It’s all very mundane.
HAMISH Well, I won’t tell Phaedra if you won’t.
JAMIE (AFTER A MOMENT’S CONSIDERATION) You’re a cool dude. (PAUSE) Want a clif bar?
HAMISH Absolutely. Anything’s better than the cake they’re going to scrounge together for me later.
JAMIE You’re not supposed to know about that!
HAMISH There are six people living in very close proximity to each other on this station. You really think I didn’t hear Sidney shouting about butter cream?
JAMIE That’s a fair point. (PAUSE). So, why the earthquakes and lava?
HAMISH Would you like the long answer or short answer?
JAMIE Long answer, I think.
HAMISH When I was thirteen (HAMISH PAUSES, TRYING TO DECIDE WHAT TO SAY) When I was thirteen, my parents took my little sister and I on a family vacation to Iceland. We weren’t planning on staying more than about a week, and most of the reason we went was because my mother wanted to soak in the Blue Lagoon; she was a big believer in homeopathic remedies, and wanted to soak in all the volcanic silt.
JAMIE Is the silt why it’s blue?
HAMISH To some extent. “Silt” isn’t exactly the right word, but the blue has to do with chemical interactions, sulfur, and silica; the sulfur and silica are volcanic silt, for lack of a better term. There are real medical benefits to be found in the blue lagoon, a lot of decent dermatological effects. But I digress. We were planning on staying for two weeks, and doing a tour through the whole country, but when we were about ready to go back to [country] there was a dirty thunderstorm.
JAMIE That sounds somewhat more serious than lightning with a shot of espresso.
JAMIE It has to do with coffee, when you get a chai latte you can-- nevermind, this is your story, go on.
HAMISH I’m happy to hear about ‘dirty chai’.
JAMIE Dirty chai several degrees less interesting than something called a “dirty thunderstorm.”
HAMISH Fair enough. And yes, it is somewhat more serious than a shot of espresso; a dirty thunderstorm is what it's called when lightning is generated in a volcanic plume.
HAMISH (CHUCKLES) Indeed. To continue the narrative: we were at a B&B on the coast, not far from the mountain, and it went off. We spent 3 days, my parents increasingly terrified that we were about to be killed, with nothing to do in the hotel except watch the storm and read the old Encyclopedia Britannica. There was something about the juxtaposition between what was going on on the page and what I could see outside the window that hooked me, and I’ve been editing that encylopedia entry ever since.
JAMIE Huh. (PAUSE) How many times have you told that story?
HAMISH Several hundred, probably.
JAMIE Is it true?
HAMISH Of course it’s true.
JAMIE Hmm. So that was the long version. What’s the short version?
HAMISH I like rocks.
JAMIE (LAUGHS) Reasonable. Why’d you come all the way down here?
HAMISH For the astonishingly good company.
JAMIE Well, you can never go wrong with surly science folks. Seriously, though, what brought you down to the bottom of the sea?
HAMISH A spirit of discovery. And it’s something new. I’ve never lived anywhere as an adult longer than I’ll to live down here. I’m thinking of settling down to a professorship once I’m done with this stint of research, you know, inviting my niece to come live in Hawai’i while I teach snot nosed teenagers about rocks.
JAMIE That sounds nice. I’d bet you’d be a good teacher.
HAMISH Thank you. (PAUSE) Why are you on the station? This isn’t the most common posting for a philosopher.
JAMIE I’m a lit doctor, actually.
HAMISH Doubly-uncommon then. Why aren’t you in a university or a publishing house somewhere?
JAMIE (PAUSE) I needed a change too.
HAMISH That’s not quite an answer.
JAMIE Why do you want to know?
HAMISH Turnabout’s fair play.
JAMIE (SIGHS) I didn’t want to be a professor anymore, and one of my mentors all but filled out the application for the residency for me. I didn’t actually think I’d get it, but. Here I am. And, like you said, it’s something new.
HAMISH Ah. (PAUSE) What are you working on, then?
JAMIE (SIGHS) Right now, I’m looking at how philosophical constructs of the Allegory of the Cave could be applied to the station.
HAMISH Ah, the Republic. I read it as my humanities requirement when I was first in university, and I remember that my professor said something to the effect that every work in the Western Canon until Marx was derivative of it. (TEASING) What say you, philosopher?
JAMIE Eh, I’m sure there’s got to be at least one original idea from Cicero. But I also think that originality isn’t what one is going for, necessarily, it’s uniqueness in how you think about things, as opposed to what, specifically, you think. And my favorite was always Symposium, actually, just for personal edification.
HAMISH Why? Are you looking for platonic love.
JAMIE (I MAY HAVE MADE A TACTICAL ERROR) No, it’s because I’m (TRYING TO THINK OF AN ANSWER THAT DOESN’T INVOLVE THE WORD ‘BUTTSEX’) a big fan of the Iliad.
HAMISH (CHUCKLES. HE UNDERSTANDS SHE’S TALKING ABOUT BUTTSEX.) I understand.
JAMIE My cohort in grad school got a lot of mileage out of that particular piece.
HAMISH I can only imagine. What are you thinking about the Allegory of the Cave though? Something about distance making the heart grow fonder?
HAMISH Well, the farther we are from the truth of the things, the easier it is to idealize them. By the same token, though, I imagine that it’s also easy to forget what they’re actually like.
SOUND DOOR ABRUPTLY OPENS
PETERSEN Barrie, are you absolutely certain that you don’t know how-- Oh. Hey, Hamish.
HAMISH Good afternoon, Sidney.
PETERSEN Happy birthday, again.
HAMISH Thank you. (PAUSE) Well, I’m headed back to the lab. I’ll see you this evening, Sidney, Jamie.
JAMIE Have a good one, Hamish.
PETERSEN Yeah, bye.
SOUND DOOR CLANGS SHUT
JAMIE What can I do for you, Doctor?
PETERSEN Just (PAUSE AS SIDNEY THINKS FOR A MOMENT) Are you sure you can’t bake a cake?
JAMIE Pretty damn sure.
PETERSEN You can make latkes but not a cake?
JAMIE My grandmother was an Ashkenazi Jew who thought I should learn how to make the traditional food. Is an Ashkenazi Jew, actually, she’s still alive. Anyway. No, I can’t make a cake, sorry to disappoint you.
PETERSEN (TO THEMSELVES) This can’t be my day, I can’t be running around when I have data to crunch from this naval sub to play with. (PAUSE, DRAMATICALLY) It’s fine, I just had to ask everyone again before Jack would say yes.
JAMIE Wait, Jack can bake?
PETERSEN Jack, apparently, can bake. It was a shock to me too. Gotta run, that oven won’t preheat itself.
PETERSEN CONT’D OVER
PETERSEN CONT’D Also: you should stop by the lab later; apparently Mona caught a fish in one of her nets and it’s horrifying, like honestly one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen in my life and I’ve dissected cadavers. It’s awesome.
JAMIE (PAUSE) I’m gonna give that a hard pass.
PETERSEN (OFF MIKE) Your loss. Later Barrie.
SOUND DOOR SQUEAKS OPEN, SHUTS
JAMIE (LOUDLY) MacMillan-- (IN NORMAL VOICE) Oh, hell. It’ll happen someday.
SOUND KEYS CLACKING, SLOWER THIS TIME
JAMIE Hamish’s idea was actually helpful--distance makes the heart grow fonder.
JAMIE CONT’D OVER
JAMIE CONT’D If I’m going off the allegory of the cave model, then I can say that it doesn’t matter what the cake looks like, because we’re so far from the light that everything gets distorted, and we only have our memories to go off of. Like a funhouse mirror.
(GROAN) Of everything I’ve said today, “we’re so far from the light that everything gets distorted” is the only thing that’s worth anything in the twenty first century. And that’s only worth a cookie and a drink at a communist bar. Anyway. I doubt I’m going to get any further on this line of thought today, I just don’t have the energy for it. I’m going to try reread The Republic then go to this birthday party and try again tomorrow, so for now, this has been the audio notes of Dr Jamie MacMillan-Barrie, signing off.
SOUND EXIT MUSIC
CREDITS Under Pressure is a production of the Procyon Podcast Network. This episode was written by Margaret Clark and edited by Phoebe Seiders. Madison Schaeffer played Jamie McMillan-Barrie, Georie Taylor played Sidney Peterson, and Greg Martin played Hamish Turin. You can find us at procyonpodcasts.com/underpressure, on tumblr at underpressurepodcast.tumblr.com, and on twitter @U_P_podcast or @ProcyonPodcasts.