The Astrakhan Awareness Network

In which I encourage Paul to get a haircut.

“If you're staying over, write something for Ftrain,” said Paul. “Quickly. While I finish up work for Consolidated Undulating Prong.” That's not the name of the company Paul's writing for, but it could be.

“All right,” I replied. “I will write about your hair.”


“Because I am thinking, I can't even begin to describe that thing on your head. I need a tool to help me, something that gives me super-human expressive capabilities. My mental ability must be augmented. What is the thing on your computer, Wordbox?”


“Let me see that.” Paul, with exasperated patience, brought up the program and I entered a the word “weasel.” “See, I am trying to find exactly the right kind of animal. Muskrat, maybe. There. Coordinate terms. Beaver. Yes and no. In the mammalian sense, no, but euphemistically, maybe so. Chinchilla, too nice.” I scrolled around a bit more. “Here, astrakhan - the fur of young lambs. That is what you have on your head.”

“Astrakhan. It sounds like a 70's funk band.”

“Yes. Lamb fur. With some white.”

“I thought it was wool.”

“Man, you're talking to your friend George Miller there, not me. Wordhonker says 'fur.' Of young lambs. As opposed to those ancient, old lambs. Which would be sheep. I think George Miller is dropping the ball.”

“I should never have told you about George Miller. That man is a saint. I'm sure it's graduate students entering the words, not George.”

“You are the only person I've ever met who gets excited about a fucking thesaurus. Let me put up a picture of your hair on the site.”

“It's a lexical database, not a thesaurus.”

“You are even worse for correcting me. It's a lexical database. Why don't you just say, 'kill me'? Because when I hear the words 'lexical database' from your mouth I think of killing you, so you could save me the trouble of making the connection myself.” I needed a breath, so I took one. “Whatever it's called, people need to see what an astrakhan head looks like. So that this can be stopped before it spreads.”

“One day I won't put up with you. It'll just be over. Where will you sleep?”

“You'll always have to put up with me. I'll be throwing things at you in the old folk's home, knocking big wads of oily tinfoil right off your head. If you haven't merged with the network by then in dork ecstasy. But right now I want to raise astrakhan awareness, and you're refusing a civic duty.”

“I won't let you exploit my hair.”

“Are you too good to be a poster child? Did Ryan White say to Elton John, don't use me to bring greater awareness to HIV? Did that kid with cancer not hold Michael Jackson's hand?”

He paused for a long time. “All right,” he said. “Here's something.” He opened a few folders and clicked on an image. “I took this yesterday.”

Oh no.

“You look so sincere - no, don't try to close the file - let me look.” I nodded, slowly. “Yes, Paul, yes. That's exactly it. You see, it captures something. Because I have, in my life, never met such a simpering fuck as you. And this picture, that captures what we can call simperingfuckitude with perspicacity. Wait - no, don't close it. Why in God's name would you even show me something like this? What are you thinking? You know better than this. You know what I will make of this. Are those really your eyelashes?”

The room filled with Paul's sigh.

“Let me take a new picture,” I said.

“I gave you a picture.”

“One that shows you as something other than a simpering fuck, if possible. I've got your digital camera right here.” It had been on a cabinet a few feet from Paul, and I'd tucked it under my arm like a football while he wasn't looking. His shoulders fell. “It will take nary a moment. You're so tousled.”

“Give me the camera.”


“It's my camera. I don't want my picture taken. You can't just violate my property, or my privacy.”

Property? Mr. Pro-Union Progressive? Mr. Protester, all worried about property and owning, you capitalist running dog. No earthships for you.”

“For God's sake -”

The room filled with a flash.

“That's a good one. I didn't get your hair but your tongue is sort of out and you look genuinely stupid.”

“Give it -” A flash.

And one more time, before he wrested the camera from my hands.

“Ooh, that's good, too. One more. Come on. Cooperate. Both chins, don't hold back.”

And then again, a flash.

“There. Now the world knows, ataraxic hair is no good.”

“Atakhan hair,” said Paul. “You made fun of Wordnet, but you can't use words.”

“Also that,” I said. “Thank you for correcting me. Not bad for a man with a life-threatening hair handicap.”

.  .  .  .  .  

This ridiculous nonsense was sponsored by Caitlin Smith, Michael Welch, and Soubriquet, but they are good people, and I alone accept all blame.




Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford. (1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and the historical fallacy. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

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