Wednesday, December 27, 2006


1. I can tell from the smell of metal on the breath of the dog barking at my face that it’s a robot.

2. Though in the present it is quite important to be clear on what is known.

3. Hence these remarks.

4. I do not deduce or conclude that there is a dog barking and snapping at my face; it is all there at once.

5. But suddenly I smell its breath and I see it as metal, a metal dog.

6. Which does not surprise me as all sorts of things have been turning to metal lately.

7. Perhaps that is why I am here.

8. To be isolated and quarantined from this outbreak of things turning into metal.

9. But if that is why I am here, why are things turning to metal here?

10. Or do they bring us here to help the process along?

11. Whose side are they on?

12. Sides and loyalty are important. Allegiances.

13. And yet unclear.

14. This is another reason why it is important to stick to what is known.

15. For instance, I could say that I am being held against my will.

16. Yet, after all this time, how can I know what my will is?

17. When you are in a place like this, you might as well conclude that you are the
architect of it all, because the whole cosmos there revolves around you.

18. Where you are blindfolded, where you are taken.

19. Everywhere and in everything you do, you have attendants, who look to see what you are doing constantly. Study your every word and gesture.

20. You are like a god, really, blind and dumb.

21. This is why I tell them, when they are done “you are free to go now.” I release them.

22. But they are never quite done.

23. So like a god, my will is inscrutable, and I do not know why I came here, save to give these blinding muting attendants purpose.

24. And even here they are turning to metal.

25. The flesh I suppose is weak.

26. I think the problem started with cloned meats.

27. But we should stick to what is known

28. After all, it is perfectly possible that should my skull be opened it might not contain a brain and be perfectly empty, an unrented room.

29. This room might be equally empty.

30. None of this would really be that surprising.

31. It is best that we get away from the whole Platonic cave imagery and Cartesian guessing game.

32. I have the benefit of a good education.

33. For what?

34. I am a scientist

35. Scientists said the cloned meats were okay

36. Not that kind of scientist

37. I gave a paper once, that is, I read something I had written down on the plane to a room full of other people who were interested in that sort of thing.

38. I was saying that at this point in the Twenty-first Century we had two powerful signifiers: Metal and Flesh.

39. The two were in an exchange: the flesh was becoming intelligent, abstract, technological, taking on the industrial qualities of metal.

40. It started when we began growing those delicious steaks in tanks, huge sheets of living meat, impossibly tender, because it had never stretched on a bone or been born.

41. Or when artists started pouring bone, or cell phone manufacturers.

42. As always, it’s hard to say.

43. Anyway, it could be produced and manufactured, like metal.

44. And, much to everyone’s total surprise, it began to develop a rudimentary intelligence.

45. (Intelligence, like life, increasingly appears to be an inherent potential in matter.)

46. We only found this out incidentally, when we started having more problems with degenerative neurological disorders resulting from transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (prion diseases like Creutzfeldt-Jakob “mad cow disease”) -despite having invented synthetic free tissue growths like this specifically to avoid this problem.

47. There was even some crazy Polish speculation that the tissue in the tanks had somehow deliberately engineered the prions to get us.

48. Strategically, this would be a good move, to disable a large part of our population, rather than just kill them outright, as disabled we posed a greater drain on resources of the remaining uninfected population than dead.

49. Some paranoid people went further and imagined that the final showdown would be our few surviving descendants and robots versus intelligent meat bent on revenge.

50. That’s crazy.

51. But people did become crazier, while the meat got smarter.

52. In the end, it was a disaster: millions of people lost their minds and the hospitals were overwhelmed.

53. The ever growing excess had to be sent to improvised camps to be taken care of; stadiums and military bases.

54. At the same time that meat was becoming intelligent, metal was becoming animal, quite literally.

55. We made generation after generation of robotic insects and microorganisms.

56. We prided ourselves on how they fought and learned, healed and reproduced, created their own structures and languages.

57. We taught metal to fear, to protect itself, to hurt

58. To love, after a fashion.

59. That is to say, metal became cunning.

60. To Serve.

61. And Protect. You could say that most of the money came from the military and defense contractors, but at this point everything was the military and defense contractors, MIT was just a branch of the military and defense contractors.

62. The semiotics seminar I spoke at was a military and defense contractor sponsored event.

63. It was called: “The Signifying Battlefield”

64. Some of my research and ideas went into the development of the Tactical Environment Action Response System, which is what the Total Real-time Battlefield Map of the Future Combat System initiative came to be called.

65. One of my ideas went directly into the design of the little icon that represented human factors; the little dots representing soldiers would change color and intensity according to health and morale.

66. I got to see it in action during the last war: it was amazing because you could see literally waves of fear ripple through a group of soldiers who could see the MOAB detonation.

67. They looked like little glowing fireflies or fairies in the holometric projection of the war room. I wanted to kneel down and scoop them up off the ghostly projected battlefield, scoop them up like little pollywogs and tell them: it’s alright.

68. At the other end of the map was the enemy. They lay like embers, fading in the IR.

69. I had gotten the idea from a strategic war sim game I used to play in college a lot.

70. There were quite a few game designers at the seminar as well.

71. My paper was called: “The Disappearing Cyborg”

72. Of course, there were more cyborgs than ever, but my point was that flesh and metal would eventually become so commingled, just semiotically, that the idea of the cyborg, as such, was already obsolete.

73. I pointed to the fact that there had been a certain amount of alarm at the rapid increase in cases of Asperger’s syndrome among children throughout the developed world:

74. An entire generation of children was growing up with normal or above average intelligence, but unable to identify or understand human emotional expressions and use those expressions themselves.

75. Then it was discovered that the children could relate perfectly normally to CGI characters on children’s programming, but not live human actors.

76. In short, to them the uncanny valley was natural.

77. Parents could communicate with their children easily by rendering footage of their faces into simple CG animations, or even by simply wearing a lot of make up and severely restricting their facial expressions.

78. It was a problem of bandwidth. The parents’ faces had a broader range of signification than the children were used to, and therefore their emotional content coded as noise.

79. My earlier paper that I drew on here was called “Children of the Uncanny Valley”

80. I concluded that far from being a dehumanizing prospect, our common lives in online virtual communities and MMORPGS offered humans a vast signifying surface by which they would be able to express themselves more completely than previously:

81. Like parents faces, most of offline human life was noise, people jostling on the bus, walking down the street. You never knew what someone wanted.

82. In the online realm, however, everyone met for a purpose, and you could read them, their status, how many points they had. Their emotions were clear, iconized, unambiguous and floated directly above their heads.

83. Your exchanges were clear and precise. If you wanted sex, you had sex. If you wanted music, or drug designs you swapped them.

84. Capitalism required a final expropriation, the complete and total elimination of the human body to be complete, to become pure exchange, pure numbers.

85. At the end of my speech, I ejaculated.

86. I was starting to realize I was not a well person.

87. I had difficulty sleeping. I spent most of my time online.

88. Someone else at the seminar told me that changes in sleep were just animal responses to the climate change and communicative pressures. She said that eventually, like dolphins, we would just develop unicameral sleep with one hemisphere of the brain dreaming and the other awake doing things and seeing through it’s one eye open on the opposite side.

89. She sent me a furry snuff movie. I’m not sure if she was in it. It seemed like her tiny frame taking on Fleegle.

90. It was a mistake telling her I liked “The Banana Splits”

91. They thought I had Asperger’s syndrome for a while.

92. This is why I preferred my online presence more, where it was easier to get along, to tell what people wanted and not at all unusual or inappropriate to make inappropriate remarks.

93. However, I do not think this diagnosis is correct.

94. Many of my symptoms really do not fall under AS, however interpreted.

95. More significantly, I think that my problem is really the opposite of the children’s problem.

96. I think I sometimes have trouble reading people, because, in reality there are more robots.

97. We should be careful what we say now.

98. And how we proceed.

99. For instance, if I sound different now, it’s because I just realized that I’m starving.

100. It’s like that now. I will go for hours, days, until I realize that I’m famished. And then I’ll just stand there eating. And I never feel full; I just lose interest and stop eating. But it’s like a spell or a dream.

101. So I ate something.

102. Good.

103. Anyway, the robot thing: I am not a paranoid schizophrenic. Many of my peers work with robots in the aforesaid defense industries and some of them are paranoid schizophrenics, but we are all very familiar with the state of the art.

104. We know what robots look like, are, and are not capable of.

105. For instance, the UAV 1065 Herter-Norton Aerial Surveillance Drone looks like a vulture, because it was designed to look like a vulture as camouflage. It can even communicate and hang out with real vultures.

106. I can say that aloud, in here, at least.

107. Or can I?

108. We have learned more about vultures in the past year than during most of our history of bird watching, but that is not why it was invented.

109. So if I point to they sky and say it’s full of robot vultures that are going to attack me because my electric car has broken down, I am not crazy. That is not a crazy sentence.

110. These are not the robots that I am talking about.

111. Nor am I talking about some crazy conspiracy where people are secretly being replaced by robots.

112. Like I said, we work on all kinds of black projects. If there were robots fully capable of passing for human, to even replace one, we would know about it.

113. We would know directly about it, like UFOs, because we would have built them.

114. And say we did build such a robot.

115. Capable of entirely passing as, even wholly replacing a human without detection.

116. Designed to

117. It would be the blackest of black projects, because what purpose could it serve?

118. And when you were done, what would you do with all the people involved in the project:

119. AI Architects

120. Engineers

121. Bioengineers

122. Chemists

123. Designers

124. Nanotechnicians

125. Programmers

126. Even semioticians?

127. What to do with them?

128. After all they knew

129. How would you make them disappear?

130. Where would you put them?

131. How would you keep them quiet?

132. And destroy the information in their brains?

133. But there never was any such project.

134. So what I am saying is that people are being replaced with robots and it is some sort
of crazy conspiracy because we don’t know anything about it.

135. What kind of conspiracy?

136. This is where you really need to pay attention, and the great thing is here I know someone is always paying attention.

137. It’s been going on along time, way longer than we have been working on robotics.

138. It must have been. That’s how we missed it.

139. Likewise, if it came from a particular direction, a vector, we would have spotted it, the way we can spot computer viruses, worms and H5 N7 coming out of China.

140. They just show up suddenly, somewhere, these robots.

141. Like this dog.

142. So, logically, it must have happened everywhere all at once, at the same time, like the Big Bang.

143. Same reasoning.

144. Reason is the key.

145. So the phenomenon we are trying to explain is: people (and this dog) are being replaced by robots.

146. How is this possible?

147. Who is responsible?

148. But in reality the question is all backwards.

149. We should rather ask, if these perfect robots are possible, why don’t they exist already?

150. We asked the same question with respect to nanotechnology: if these microscopic self-replicating machines are possible, why don’t they exist already?

151. (You can see where I am going with this)

152. They do.

153. God created them.

154. Likewise, these perfect robots exist: God is turning people into robots, bringing my paper’s conclusion about ahead of schedule.

155. But why is God doing this?

156. No, really, why?

157. I think I can answer this question.

158. I think I am uniquely suited to answer it.

159. Because I, like God, am somehow outside of space and time, in a non-place, beyond all human communication.

160. Yet, like God, surrounded by throngs of invisible attendants.

161. Like God, I reached the same conclusion: I concluded that the cyborg is destined to vanish.

162. So, I, godlike, have started to bring this about, including this dog, for instance.

163. But why?

164. I don’t know.

165. And I don’t think God knows either.

166. Because his invisible attendants keep him blind. They deafen his ears.

167. Heaven, outside of time and space, is a prison.

168. Or some sort of facility.

169. And so each thing that God does comes like some sort of terrifying revelation.

170. So it really is like Plato’s cave, only a bound and blinded God creates the pure forms, by interpreting the shadows before him. By shadows cast, in ignorance created.

171. And this, too, is my fate.

172. Is that all?

173. No.

174. Can’t we go back further? Physicists always said that it makes no sense to talk about what happened before the Big Bang –before they started talking about it.

175. It was me, I was the first robot.

176. I was the first robot.

177. My mother told me I was a robot.

178. I ran on batteries powered by love.

179. Before I went out each day she would look at me and get this smile and then she would hug me and say she was charging me up for the day:

180. …10%

181. …16%

182. …25%

183. (She would give me a little kiss on the eyes and nose)

184. Oh! 50%

185. …65%

186. (She would rub my tummy)

187. …87%!

188. …89%!

189. …94%!

190. …95%

191. …96%!

192. …97%

193. …98%

194. …99%

195. …99.01%!

196. …etc

197. Okay, you are all charged. You are ready to go! Umbilicals disconnecting. You are free and clear of the mothership and on your own power! Go! Go! Go!

198. When I got home she would ask if I was all empty and rundown and fill me up again, with milk and cookies and kisses on the head. Then she would check for any structural damage or changes in my registry.

199. I was not alone, then.

200. 200@ 19 54 36 75 12 48

for a friend called 5

TURN #95: WEEK 81; WORDS: 92 605

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Favorite Christmas Albums


As chilling and disaffected as Christmas albums get, Gary Numan’s proto-conceptual album features songs about a Christmas in a technological dystopia where flesh covered robots rape human beings and folks dressed up like Eskimos for public entertainment, all sung like a heavily medicated robot with Asperger’s syndrome.

we cannot cry
we do not shout
I cannot tell why


A moody, inconsolable Christmas album; like Tess of Tess of the Urbervilles, people are mean and unfair to Tori and it’s never really clear why. With her moody tinklings and planget voice, Tori Amos turns an old holiday standard like “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” into a tale of familial love, betrayal, recovery, healing, betrayal and redemption:

She’s been drinking too much egg nog
So I begged her not to go
But she’d left her medication
So she stumbled out the door into the
Snooooooooow Oh Oh OH


Probably one of the blackest and most violent Christmas albums imaginable, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Saint Nick reads like an unexpurgated bloody piratical adventure where everyone turns into werewolves. Things get stuffed into stockings and hung by the chimney with care, if you catch my drift. Guaranteed to ruin Christmas for small children, who will now only feel comparatively safe on Halloween. Like many sleazy Christmas themed slasher movies only with a zombie eating contest in the middle and somehow set to music.

Many of these songs were written for his infamous “Nick Cave’s Christmas Special” as were some of the tracks of his special guests, below:


This album is like spending Christmas with some sort of Ur Hobo at a shelter run by broken things. Goes down smooth like fortified wine, unfiltered cigarettes and cold, cold rain water falling down a broken pipe onto one’s dreams. Opens up vast new frontiers in the dim and lacrymose region known as “the lugubrious.” Slightly funnier than Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Not only Christmas, but Hanukkah, also gets dragged down, or, more specifically, Hanukkah and Christmas go out on a tear together and Christmas gets in a knife fight with Kwanza.

“Another Postcard From Another Hooker in Minneapolis” answers the logistical question of “what does a differently abled prostitute do on Christmas Eve when she has one wooden leg stolen and has sold the other for dope and carries around an old clock in a ripped up bagpipe?” Tom Waits musically takes you there, and many other places where no one has any access to health or dental care. A particularly great track is “New Year’s Resolutions” which seems to have been recorded on a hand held tape recorder while sitting on a riding lawn mower.


Like spending Christmas with your crazy cool arty Berliner aunt who plays awesome cool punk music, cuts up her clothing, tells you she doesn’t need lithium and then makes out with you on top of a birthday cake she has made for no reason. Answers the question: what is Christmas like inside of Jesus’ UFO which of course is a time machine because space is Jesus’ true body and his blood is time and redemption is time flowing backward and therefore there is no inside to the UFO which is Jesus, because everything is infinitely outside (inside).


Logical follow up to their Jesus Christ Superstars, which seems to have seen this whole thing coming, Laibach’s O Tannenbaum presents old holiday favorites as interpreted by Herbert Von Karjan with Albert Speer on keyboards. Perfect for sitting around with family and friends for the holidays, burning books.


A cool ambient screen of an album which is like spending Christmas sitting on a slowly rotating baggage carousel on a moonbase. Features more back masked “ho, ho, ho”’s than any other album and heavily sampled reindeer.

TURN #94: WEEK 80; WORDS: 89 729

Monday, December 18, 2006

In Hoc Signo Vinces


Some people can’t handle the holidays: I don’t understand them, for I have always loved Christmas. For instance, I was walking along in my neighborhood a few days before Christmas and I saw this old sour-faced woman: she had that pinched expression that some old ladies have, you know the one, the one that says that they disapprove of everything, that everything has been a great disappointment since your father died and the Negroes were allowed into the same stores and that nothing today is right. A sneer that negates everything, that is haughty not with power or lineage, but just itself, just being a snotty old grandma. I thought her expression, which I only saw for an instant, contrary to the spirit of Christmas. So I hurled a rock at her. Actually, it was more like a chunk of concrete, all jagged on one side. It was rather pyramidical, like the mountain in the Allstate logo.


Another thing that gets me is that it’s Christmas, dammit. It’s not a holiday, it’s not a season, it certainly not a winter festival it’s CHRISTMAS. I was having the best time with this little dark haired girl. we were getting along great, really getting to know each other on Christmas Eve mind you, and she makes motions she has to go somewhere, but I know she’s no place to go (like the song), and I joke about this and she laughs and says she has to go and wishes me a happy holiday and I just told, all I did was tell her that it’s Christmas get it? Christ fucking died for you on a cross, he bled to death and they beat him like in that Mel Gibson movie, they put a crown of fucking thorns on his head and he was the Son of God and could have done or been anything he wanted to in life, but instead he chose, he fucking chose just to hang there on piece of wood and let shits like you just stick him with a spear, a fucking spear, Crystal, do you get that, and he did it for you, for you and people like you and you laughed and kept stabbing him already. Crystal got pretty upset and Rico and the other bouncer came over and made me leave, even though I had paid my two drink minimum.


Upon reflection, it occurs to me that maybe Crystal was Jewish and that my remarks could be misconstrued at blaming the Jewish people for Christ’s murder. While this is historically true, it is not really my point. My point is that we are all guilty, of everything, all the time. This is meaning of Christmas and my reason for recording these remarks.


If you really want to meet the cast of “Left Behind” just go to a Chinese Restaurant on Christmas Day: you will find it full of heathens, infidels, Jews, Buddhists, Christ-Deniers, people too lazy to cook, hopelessly friendless loners, dedicated onanists who have taken time out from their perverted vigil gazing at the well-oiled Venus of Willendorf, model plane enthusiasts, solar power advocates. These people are laughing at Christ’s wounds and filling up on Chicken Chow Mein; they live in Roman present of fish eggs and soft serve ice cream, pepper beef and chicken wings, oysters and snow crab legs (limit two). These insouciant orgiasts, these Pelagian heretics, these evolutionists, I weep for them because they do not know the good promise that begins today. I am here because it is all I can afford.


But they did not understand, nobody understands, I’m forgiven, I’m saved. You will never know how he helped me. You will never know what he whispered in my ear. You will never know how he carried me. You will never know how he held my hand. He set me all above you. You all think you’re so great. But you have no idea what it is to be saved, to be really saved. To be saved you have to have feelings, real feelings. And you have to know you’re a sinner, know it from your soiled jeans and your ratty-ass shoes and the things you’ve done and denied. You have to know you’re a sinner. And you have to ask to be saved. And you have to be willing to wait in the desert and go without water and you have to cry and scream and curse heaven and still want to be saved. None of you are shit. You all can suck my cock. I see you and I see pride. How do I know? Look at the world, man, it’s yours. You did this. You did this to me and to everyone like me. You’re happy to do it to me. When you can’t get enough of fucking doing it to me you get on a fucking plane and go on over there and do it to some other people. Because: you like the way it feels. Because: it makes money. Because: it makes your children smile. I know all this. And I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you. But you all can suck my cock, seriously.

not you, dear reader

TURN #93: WEEK 79; WORDS: 89,062

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Password: Zanzibar

It was a wet March night I was walking to the meeting of the Society of People Who Secretly Like Billy Joel. It was hard keeping your shoes dry, because in the part of town where the meeting was, the gutters were never clean and so inches of dirty water would breach the banks of the curb. It was also a long walk because no member is allowed to go directly to the secret location for that meeting; it’s safer for everyone this way.

I actually had not realized that my shoes were soaked until they began to emit that sad squeaking sound. And then I felt it all once. Billy Joel, I thought, could write a song about this. I was tempted on this lonely night to sing or hum one of Billy Joel’s songs, to cheer myself, or express my loneliness better, a loneliness I had only found expressed in Billy Joel. This too, of course, was out of the question, expressly forbidden. Being a member of the society of people who secretly like Billy Joel is a heavy burden, but for some of us, it is the only alternative.

What is wrong with liking Billy Joel? Someone who has joined the Society of People Who Secretly Like Billy Joel has asked himself this question, many, many times. And he has asked it in silence. He has heard his favorite songs play on the radio and pretended not to be interested or know the words. He has hidden the ecstasy crowding over his heart. He has gone to record stores and flipped passed every album he would loved to possess, but quickly, feigning interest in Billy Idol or Billy Squire. He has never bought the album. He has bought other albums with one or perhaps two Billy Joel songs on them, but these he has wrapped as gifts. If he dares, he has almost hummed in the noise of crowds and on the bus, or perhaps into his pillow before sleeping. But inaudibly.

The meetings aren’t much. We meet at the appointed time, in the appointed place. Our entrance is staggered so as not to attract attention. So we are never seen together, or meet each other outside the meetings. This is one of the rules. No one speaks. There is always a lot of coughing and throat clearing. Some of us are getting on in years; I would say that none of us are really happy. Are we happy at the meetings? No. We hide the ecstasy crawling over our hearts, and no one who must hide their joy is truly happy. In fact, they are quite miserable. We hide it from each other, we hide it from ourselves. We are afraid to look each other in the eye. We are those who come and wait, come and wait to be happy, who lack the will to express our joy or change but still hope that something will happen. We are those that wait for joy. Even a coward can want to be happy. It might seem counterintuitive to an outsider, why people who secretly like Billy Joel and who have met for the explicit purpose of enjoying his music in secret would feel a need to restrain or curb their outward enjoyment of his gifts during the secret and secure meetings. There’s a lot an outsider cannot understand. But it is not absurd. Shy people can still feel painfully shy around other shy people, even at a meeting to confront their shyness, fat people, their fatness.

If anyone knew about out secret society, they might think that it was a waste of time. They would say to us: get over it. This is why our meetings are in secret. Those who have loved, loved completely, that is, without hope. Those who have ever had anything but the most banal ambitions for themselves and for that reason, could not bear to go forward. Those who where ever dazzled by some far off country of their dreams which for that reason they could not visit. Those who have felt the presence of God. They understand.

So we huddle together: our circle is small and pathetic, on broken plastic chairs in an abandoned space with mildewy rags stapled over the windows. But, in all its poverty and wretchedness, this is our church, our City of God, our Society. This is all we have.

What did we think of Billy Joel’s public listeners? His fans even? Did we secretly envy and admire them? No, we despised these people. We imagined them sitting back with their girlfriends -or wives even, on a summer night, after a few beers, listening to “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” or even with their children on their knee, explaining, “The Stranger”.

It is hoped that someday there would be a female member of the Society of Private Individuals Who Secretly Like Billy Joel. In actuality I suspect that each of this had this reason for joining.

She might be a librarian, a volunteer, a widow. Someone intelligent and whose experience and whose lack of experience matched our own. Like a sister or a mother. Wouldn’t this make us complete? In my mind I imagined her shy but steady company giving me courage. I imagined us united in our quiet enjoyment, our secret passion. How her lips would one day innocently and involuntarily mouth the lyrics and I would see it, I would hear it escaping her. We would tremble together. I would save her some lukewarm coffee to warm her thin shoulders afterwards. We might walk a little of the way, not together, at first, but not out of sight.

And how bold and how brave I might be for such a person, for a gentle soul who could know this thing about me, who heard the same music. For her, I could be so strong, so fearless, I felt. I could even imagine being one of those open-shirted listeners, having a beer on a fine afternoon, listening to our favorite album, not caring about the neighbors, even, the sound falling down on them from the apartment balcony, like our love, my hands publicly touching her modest behind in a friendly, familiar way.

I knew these fantasies and feelings were wrong and I despised myself for having them. And yet there was no one I could confess them to, even though I knew, intellectually, that the other members of the Society must have these same fantasies.

As for the rest of the Society, they were a sad lot, pitiful if not actually despicable, though perhaps that is not fair, since we have never seen each other in generous or flattering lighting. The clothes we wear are protean and nondescript and we sedulously avoid eye contact. Some of us might be handsome, even, but it is impossible to know, for everyone more or less looks the same: wary, suspicious, afraid. It does something to the face. If we know each other, it is by our foibles, a cough or an unpleasant smell. During the music, we close our eyes. This is not a written rule, but it is the foundation of our Society. Lest we see in each other the mirror of our ecstasy.

Once my neighbor exclaimed:“It’s literature, it’s like Dos Passos!” I always hated him a little. I had figured him for a pendant, an academic, as though knowledge or scholarship could shield him from his shameful joy. Each of us is ashamed of the part of himself that likes Billy Joel, but I hate all the more our weak rationalizations. I suppose we love that part of ourselves, too, we must treasure it as its greatest secret. But there is no place in our lives for this secret so we have only this dank room, this no place, with the windows blacked out and the volume turned so low.

He was not at the next meeting. Members who exhibit unacceptable behavior are rapidly banned. They are simply not told where the next meeting is; rather, they are told, but misinformed. It is not clear who makes the decision, or when, though I always imagine the decision is made collectively, justly. Swiftly and speechlessly. There are no warnings. This happens often. The Society is quick to protect itself, to excise, to avoid.

This might not seem like much of a loss to an outsider, but consider that he probably doesn’t even have his own copies of Billy Joel’s music, that he has never written down the words to his songs and if he has looked them up, he has carefully cleared the memory of his computer. Consider that this is all he has: the one day that he is not alone. That he might feel, even momentarily, that he was part of something and approach, with timid respectful steps, something truly beautiful, if only to praise it mutely in a dumbshow of invisible joy.

If I could fall in love, if I could find a single friend, if I could trust someone. Did not each of us wait for such a moment, every night, when we came to such meetings, a moment where there would be an opening, where someone would say, or do something.

I sometimes have these thoughts when I’m waiting.

And I am waiting. It should be my turn to go in soon. I have seen no one, but that is as it should be. It is a place we have used before, which is something we try to avoid. It’s an awful place, but they are all awful places. This one in particular has nasty loose wiring and smells like concrete dust, stale cigarettes and standing water. I make my break for the entrance. The knob does not turn. It is slippery with rain so I try to dry it. It is locked.

There is no sense in knocking. I can feel what is behind the door.

And that every night from now on was going to be like this, and every street.

I could go somewhere, to a bar, somewhere with a piano, perhaps. They would not know me, but they see instantly that I was not such a bad sort, just a regular guy, coming in from the rain, soaked to the bone. I would jocularly curse the weather and the rain would hang off my chagrin. They would see my laugh lines. Someone would agree. I would order a beer. I would warm up and they’d ask about the weather again and we’d laugh and it wouldn’t be a thing. We’d just talk, as people after work, enjoying a beer, getting out of the rain. I’d buy someone a drink. They would buy me a drink. A stupid song would come on the jukebox, one that everyone hated. Or the piano player -the piano man, would ask for requests. “Hey,” I’d say,”how ‘bout some Billy Joel?” We would sing. We would all sing together. We would know the words.

I am going home. I am walking home. I am just going home.

TURN #92: WEEK 78; WORDS: 88,178

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Young Person's Guide to Misanthropic Pessimism

If you’re a young person just getting started in life, why not consider a career in the never burgeoning nor expanding, joy-resistant field of misanthropy, nihilism and pessimism? Misanthropes have always been with us, ever since the first misanthropes somehow escaped the range of the other human’s stones. If you’re looking for a good steady career with no hopes for advancement, nor any illusions about them, nor your fellow man and the worst case scenario seems like a party where you expect we’re all invited, then consider becoming a pessimistic misanthrope: like it really matters anyway.

What is a Pessimistic or Nihilistic Misanthrope?

A misanthrope is someone who hates, mistrust and despises the human race. A pessimistic or nihilistic misanthrope goes on to apply this salutary hate, mistrust and spite not merely to humans, but to life and perhaps existence in general. Indeed, for one’s critique to have any force at all, one really must include oneself in the class of despised things. Misanthropes are incomplete if they do not include themselves; these are more commonly known as “jerks.”


In The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche writes that the pessimism expressed by Greek Tragedy is a sign of the relative health of the culture; this is the sort of thing you consider when your best friend is Wagner. True nihilism or pessimism, for Nietzsche, was expressed by later formations that professed an ostensible sunny cheery optimism that belied their true sickness; if you have ever known anyone who put up motivational posters or inspirational post-it pads for themselves ("god please give me the strength to accept what i cannot change and stay away from bruce"), you can immediately see that Nietzsche was right.

Whereas Nietzsche was basically a lonely man who wanted to love life, despite having no reasonable personal grounds or experiences for doing so, the greatest pessimistic misanthrope would be to be Arnold Schopenhauer, whose systematic pessimism is to great to be examined in detail here and to who these remarks could be easily dedicated. It is enough to say here that the work of Schopenhauer can be compared to some of the cheery
Lieder of Schubert’s Winterreisse without the music or encouraging words.

Misanthropy and Philanthropy

Some misanthropes' constant criticism, nagging and general unpleasantness is done with a secret hubristic idea of somehow improving humanity, much like many hectoring, belittling spouses, or child-abusing parents: all these efforts have met with roughly the same degree of success and just renown.

True philanthropes are, not at all paradoxically, often seen in the company of misanthropes -they may even be responsible for bringing them their soup or warm used clothes. This is approximately for the same reason that masochists are often seen in the company of sadists. This is, as Hegel reminds us, the sort of struggle that can only end with death, much like the time that Schopenhauer decided he was going to schedule his lecture opposite Hegel’s or the time you dated that girl who wrote notes to her dog.

The Many Advantages of Misanthropic Pessimism

Misanthropic pessimism is not a very difficult schtick: material is easy to come by. Indeed great moments of humanity (Christmas, disaster relief, free cable) only throw misanthropy into sharp relief, into a fervent and peculiar kind of ecstasy, while humanity’s many low points (wars, genocide, basic cable) are only mildly palliative and at most provide for a bitter self-satisfied chuckle that at most demoralizes normal people and moves the phlegm around.

For human life is inevitably full of disappointment: misanthropy allows you to make the most of them; indeed, every failure and setback becomes a triumph of one’s world view. Indeed, once you have truly mastered misanthropy, you will never lose an argument because no one will talk to you. At this point, you now never need worry about becoming bitter or cynical.

As a perspective on humanity, a pessimistic and misanthropic view has the virtue of being trivially and incontrovertibly true: it is unlikely that the human species will always exist. As Keynes observed, in the long run we will all be dead, but you will be among that smug minority to have the foresight and mindset to enjoy this fact. Indeed some physicists speak of a weak misanthropic principle to explain why some features of the universe are the way they are: to bust their balls.

Whereas the life of the species is almost certainly finite, the individual lifetime of the misanthrope is often extended: many misanthropes are comparatively long lived (Schopenhauer, Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Samuel Beckett). The reason for the extended lifetime of the misanthrope is obvious: loving people and having hope takes enormous effort, as they are subject to disappointment and death. The misanthrope is able to conserve their energy and so goes on to a long life of sucking on its gums and and yelling at kids to get off its lawn. There are notable cases of superannuated misanthropes of superior advanced age, demonstrating that hatred of life is not at all incompatible with craven fear of death.

How to Get Started

As a young person you may well wonder “how can I get started on this miserable path of
schadenfreude and general hatred of my fellow man when I am still so young and full of such optimism and hope?” It is this very optimism and hope, as Plato observes in the Phaedo that is the starting point for all misanthropy: set your expectations for people, for yourself and life in general impossibly high. Be open and trusting and think the best of people. All you must do now is not fail to note when friendship turns to betrayal, anticipation to disappointment and hopes into failure. Be sure never to get over things, but instead let these small emotional wounds fester inside you, remembering how unfair and unjustly you have been treated, nursing fantasies of revenge until a general sepsis overtakes your character. Also, listen to a lot of Metal.

Finally, whereas loving humanity despite all its faults and injuries requires bravery, patience, faith, empathy, imagination, intelligence and kindness -all perhaps above the ordinary, misanthropy requires nothing of the sort. It asks less than the average. It asks only that we never forgive, that we hold our grudges to our hearts dearly and that we reserve what little love we have for ourselves in the form of self-pity. Like gluttony and sloth, it asks only that we give into ourselves gracelessly and surrender to our basest instincts. As such, it is enlightened.

TURN #91: WEEK 77; WORDS: 86,327

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Short and Seemingly Unfinished Guide to Public Speaking

Many people experience a fear of public speaking -and why not? We’ve all seen movies where someone is about to make a momentous announcement only to get blown away by some hidden assassin with a high power scope or have their head psychically exploded by some other scanner in the audience. By the logic of our times (which is terror, not logic) your Key Club meeting or key party could be next.

As a man who is frequently called upon, if not actively prevented from, acts of impromptu public speaking, I have prepared another brief, yet helpful guide.


Bear in mind that there are only three classic openings, which have remained more or less consistent from the times of classical oratory. A fourth, “Who is Our Greatest Nero: the Poet, the Actor, or the Living God Who We Love?” fell out of vogue before the age of the Schoolmen. The classic remaining openings are:

A. Some old guy you used to talk to

B. First time you had to do a medical procedure you didn’t know how to do

C. The time Grandma found you masturbating

Each of these openings is totally invincible, much as certain kung-fu attacks or pick-up lines -but equally requiring the handling of a master, so I will describe each in some detail.

A. Some old guy you used to talk to

This is a classic opening into some warm homily or home-cooked folderol that will please every flabby weak-minded Payless shoe wearing sentimentalist in the audience: in other words, most people. You begin by simply relating how, as a younger person, you used to listen to this old guy:

Old Tim had been a ridin’ the rails for ages, probably with that same tin cup of his. The songs had not changed, but perhaps the meaning of the words or the notes that he bent in his careful hands. Old Tim didn’t think of me as a kid. He told me things other adults were afraid to tell me. Things that helped me be a man. But this isn’t about that. Nor the string of unsolved crimes throughout the region at the time.

Never mind if you never really knew a kindly old Hobo named Tim who rode the rails and explained Penthouse Forum to you with dead rabbit and a can of beans: this stuff writes itself. Why I can see Old Tim’s sweater vest before me now, all torn and dappled with little dry shakes of tobacco like a tree in fall, with the heavy clink of the necklace he always wore that he always promised to show me, which sometimes weakly profiled through said vest looking somewhat like a mutilated police badge.

This opening always works. Why? Because in actuality, our whole society is built around the premise never having to listen to an old person unless they own GE. Yet, it is an experience that people fantasize about all the time. Also, like your itinerant hobo, this opening need not go anywhere. Old Tim’s lessons can be so profound and vague as to tie up with any possible presentation; whether you’re explaining way the immanent necessity of drilling a wildlife refuge, or how your client with his underage sex addiction is the true victim here, Old Tim can just come in at the end with some hard earned lesson of life, returning like Obi Wan at the end of Star Wars or like some faceless killer with protean features that seems to only strike when the Southern Pacific line is running. Your listeners won’t care. Like Old Tim they’ll just be glad for the ride.

B. First time you had to do a medical procedure you didn’t know how to do

Public speaking is a lot like television (see “folderol” above); so we can take a cue from television to see what it is that our audience wants to hear about. What are the popular shows today? I’ll give you a hint: they all have to do with the human body in some way. But not just any human body. No, the human body when there is something really, really wrong with it. The appeal of this is so natural as to almost defy explanation. Briefly: bodies: everyone has one, everyone likes looking at a car wreck.

So, what can enthrall your audience more than your account of how you had to perform a complex medical procedure - a complex medical procedure that you didn’t know how to do. Again, as with Old Tim, do not be distressed if you haven’t actually been in this life threatening situation. Audiences at public speaking events actively engage in what is called suspension of disbelief. Without this valuable convention, the entire past five years of American History becomes totally unintelligible.

This is also where the you didn’t know how to do part comes in. You can be vague. Oh sure, be real specific of how and where this event occurred (food court, mother’s wedding) and how (spear gun fight, spicy food) -though, as always, be sure not to include details that are easily falsifiable or conspicuous (the president, the moon). However, once these details are established (“it was my Aunt Hildy, not my Great Aunt Hildy, mind you, that had gotten the shaft of the spear”) you can afford to be vague. After all, you’re not a doctor (if you are a doctor this opening makes no sense for you).


There is no greater theme than “if.” “If I had two heads” -What if they fought? what if one ate the other? Which one would I be -always end with -”But I don’t have two heads”

“What if I were invisible.”


1. Don’t be afraid to try something new, or pretend you are someone else

2. Timeshare means leveraging your time

3. Overcoming adversity through ignorance

4. What we do not swallow or digest does not make us fatter

5. Best naked James Bond

6. Revenge is a dish best served cold


1. Lookout, I’m gonna blow!

2. You can take your fingers out of your partners mouth now

3. I’ll see you -in the bathroom!

TURN #90: WEEK 76; WORDS: 85,275

Monday, November 20, 2006

Thanksgiving Special: What to Tattoo on Your Pet


We here at the Encouraging Voice of the Labyrinth never stop working to provide you with the very best in literary entertainment: to wit, I thought of the following piece while I was asleep in bed (I would cite the well-known fact that I do some of my finest work in bed). This dream, I assure you, is the actual cause of this column, and not some cheap literary device to lend credence to an otherwise unlikely and unpalatable conceit. As proof of this would add further that you were there, and you, and you, and you.

What to Tattoo on Your Pet

Have you ever wanted to tattoo your pet? I haven’t, at least not while I was conscious. Yet here we are, with that very same question that goes unanswered because no one is asking. Why tattoo your pet? I don’t know, because I’m asleep. I don’t sleep well, I have lots of problems. Let’s move on.


Treasure Map

On the face of it, this seems like the most likely sort of thing you are going to tattoo on a dog, once you have made the piratical and rum-fueled decision to tattoo a dog in the first place: dogs are a loyal and innocuous place to store a secret map. Consider, however, that your map will only be secure for about 12 years, after which you will have to have him stuffed and he will no longer be loyal or innocuous.

More importantly, consider how impractical the surface of a shaved dog is for any kind of map projection, unless that map is of the surface of the same or similarly shaped dog. If it is the latter, then it becomes highly questionable as to what sort of “treasure” whose position you are notating, and if it the former, and you are making a map of the surface of your shaved dog on the shaved dog itself, then the field becomes even more radically open as to the question of what the hell it is that you are doing.

Butcher’s Cuts
Here is a gay and inappropriate idea for permanently decorating your dog: why not make like you were going to eat him? Even after its fur grows back (presuming you did not eat him right away -but if you did, why did you bother with the tattoos?) you can romp and play and hug your fuzzy companion knowing that under his fur, he is already designated and gerrymandered up into delicious chops.

In a similar fashion, I often give the most innocent and platonic of hugs and think to myself: We’re naked under these clothes. Totally naked and hugging one another. Our nipples would brush, if not for this flimsy material. Sometimes I think this and whisper it aloud. That is usually the end of the innocent and platonic hugs for that person.

Likewise, if I actually am naked with someone else, I like to put my head on their stomach and think: you’re full of guts, squishy, squishy guts and they’re all talking to each other. It’s like a magical kingdom of soft gooey friends!

If you actually eat you pet, email me and let me know how that goes. Please do not include any attachments.

Your Name
An interesting idea, approaching sense, and yet clearly not qualifying.

Dog’s Name
This is an almost sensible suggestion, were there anything acceptable about the premise of tattooing a dog in the first place and if it didn’t beg the whole “naming picture of language” to begin with.

Your Friend’s Name
Friends and friendship are truly some of the great boons in life, and yet their celebration seems strangely and wholly out of place here. If your friend is your dog, see above. If your friend is not your dog, but they share the same name, read “Your Friend’s Name” (ibid).

Jail Tattoos
This immediately begs the question: what is your dog in jail for? Though one may immediately think of the pound as some sort of canine penal incarceration, the dog pound and jail share important distinctions: even in the worst and most unfair jail the inmates are detained for a specific crime, which they are entitled to know, as is the public, which is further entitled to know the name of those detained; the inmate also still has certain inalienable human rights. Finally, inmates in a jail are kept in minimally tolerable cells; dogs are kept in kennels. How then, do we tell the difference between dogs in a pound and detainees at Guantánamo? Simple: detainees are allowed to wear orange jumpsuits some of the time.

It is unwise to attempt to tattoo a cat. It is marginally unwise to even try and give them a bath. It is best just to let your cat do what it wants. If they were slightly smarter, you could just give them fifty dollars now and again and be done with it.

First of all, is it possible to tattoo a snake? We might ask if it is desirable, but somehow it has come to this anyway. The answer is, I don’t know, and I’m asleep, so I can’t look it up in Wikipedia. Sure, I could look it up in my dream Wikipedia, but suffice it to say when you start basing your decisions on the Wikipedia you consult in your dreams you are living in a fool’s paradise of user generated content.

My advice to you is pass on the obvious: avoid racing stripes and other designs that will blend in with the snake's original design. Tattooing a poisonous snake to look like a non-poisonous is all very sophomoric and degrading to the poisonous snake, who has evolved over millions of years to look cool and threatening. Tattooing non-poisonous snake to look like a poisonous snake is just pathetic and the nail in the coffin for the pitiable cry for attention that having a snake was in the first place.

Given their overall body type and your passion for freaking people out, snakes are suited to long sentences, such as quotations from the Bible, or Leaves of Grass. If the latter, be sure to dress up as Walt Whitman and go downtown to the park; speak in a kindly grandfatherly voice, like the Civil War’s Santa Claus; your eyes are luminous, loving and sad. Ask the gathered kids and old people if they’d like to hear parts of your famous poem Leaves of Grass. When they say yes, let the snake slither out of your bosom and start reading it. This will be the best Thanksgiving ever.

Some of the same questions that apply to snakes apply to fish, only you’re more of lunatic because they live underwater. Considering the inherent difficulty and perversity of tattooing a live fish, it is probably something the Japanese do all the time quite proficiently*.

One immediate pedagogical application that comes to mind is to tattoo the names of the kind of fish you have on the fish itself, realizing the dream of many a distracted ichthyologist at an aquarium. You will also realize the dream of living in a children’s book. However, this is an amazingly stupid thing to do if all you have are goldfish. Once you have tattooed the names of your fish onto your fish (heaven help you), when you finally have someone over and you see them admiring your fish, you can lean over and say: “Pretty fish, isn’t it? Do you know what it’s called?”

You could also tattoo random parts of speech onto your fish in the hopes they will occasionally parse into intelligible random sentences. This is especially helpful if you have to write something random every week.

What? Are you an idiot?

P.S. Close.

next in this series of dream columns: How to Study for the Naked SATs

TURN #89: WEEK 75; WORDS: 84,261

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Unfinished Notes Towards Laziness

Casual Remarks on the Practice and Philosophy of Real Leisure by a Gentleman of Leisure and Self-Discovery

for Pam Marwede

INDOLENCE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE, and this is not a matter of means, but ends. One can be entirely profligate in pauperage, or parsimonious in prosperity; one has to have an aptitude and a talent for it. Our time on earth is limited and so to spend it lavishly and wastefully doing nothing takes a magnanimity of spirit that only the greatest in sloth can truly achieve.

Indolence, like obesity and alcoholism, is really a form of athleticism that requires a conscious commitment and conditioning. Humans have a natural tendency to “wake up” in the morning after a full night’s rest when the sunlight strikes them. It requires an act of will and inspiration to pull the covers over one’s head.

First of all, what is “sleeping in”? Busy, active people have through their nefarious activities have abused this term beyond all meaning. They will be heard to make such paradoxical and erroneous remarks such as “Oh, I slept in until seven o’clock this morning, and then really napped through my morning jog.” Let me speak with absolute authority: it is not possible to “sleep in” until seven or even seven thirty in the morning in the same sense that it is impossible to be spoiled rotten eating carrots (rabbits excepted). “Sleeping in” is a well defined term, clearly delineated as remaining in bed until they stop making Egg Mc Muffins. If your feet touch the floor before breakfast is no longer served, except at places where they never stop serving it, you have not slept in. The truly immortal lazybones of this world don’t even know that this meal exists and know of the sun as only an inhabitant of the western hemisphere of the sky.

Ontotheological Justification: Fiat Luxury

The entire act of creation (light, sky, water, land, trees, animals, naked people) was an act of superfluous luxury, since God, being infinite in all things, and lacking nothing certainly didn’t need to do to it. It was also an act of indolence, since having infinite time and power it really can’t be said to have put him out any. But God, being God, goes one step further and actually creates a day of rest even though he hasn’t really done anything. God does not need to rest because he has infinite power; his deciding to rest, despite not really needing it is a greater act of omnipotence (in Scholastic terms, it has more perfection) than creating the universe in the first place.

When we decide to sleep in, when we take time off (especially if we are not doing anything) we are most like God and closest to him. God created the universe, not out of necessity, but love -but created rest out of pure luxury and a sense of style.

As for the kind of love, since (following Spinoza) God is all things, it was really a matter of self-love, of narcissism, which is, after all, the origin of all style.


Remembering one’s dreams

Trying to finish or change the ending to one’s dreams

This is self-explanatory. This, along with one’s dreams and revenge, are the great graces that make human life and experience at all tolerable and remotely satisfying.

Reflecting that, whatever the day may hold, homeostatically speaking, it cannot get better or less stressful than this. It can only get more stressful and more of a hassle, starting with the toothbrush, proceeding through the coffee maker, becoming entirely a lost cause with the sound of the first human voice you hear. If you have to do anything with your hair, you are pretty much doomed.

Reading the news: if this does not compel one to immediately abandon the whole project of waking life, you are either insensible or illiterate.

Radio is generally contrary to the purpose in view and most morning programming may convince one to do away with oneself entirely and flee to that other shore where silence has its lease, but the “morning zoo crew” does not.

It is a good idea to have a comfortable and familiar cast of stuffed animals. They will keep you company, since you have no occupation and only the most worthless friends. They will accompany and watch over you on your quest for sloth like the animals of the saints.

Pillows and sheets should be like oneself, not too fresh, but comfortable and (like oneself), ideally quite limp, shapeless and strewn about. Truly lethargic people create nests, which are ideal sandbagged like berms against the rising tides of daytime.

Staying in bed, after all, is a siege: the phone may ring. Birds make sounds. Neighbors and society in general begins a diabolical din of activity and purposive action.

For beginners, earplugs and eye shades may help. The intermediate do not require them and the great masters never take them out or off.


For some, occupation may be the surest guarantee of inertia and inactivity, superior indeed, even to major disability, narcolepsy, or even an actual coma. Bordeom, droning mother of sleep, is most easily summoned when our attention is required, but not at all engaged. For a true career in indolence, you must pursue and indolent career where you do nothing, nothing is expected of you and somehow you are paid all the same. There is only one caveat: this is nearly everyone's goal.

Only Worthless Company
It is very important that you have only the most worthless of friends that only function after dark, become only tolerable after a few hours at bar and only really get going once the bars are closed when no firm plan emerges. Good, healthy bosom friends invariably have children or obligations and want to do things in the day time like go to the park or help people. Their altruism and involvement will invariably lay ruin to any systematic course of naps and lollygagging that you may have outlined for yourself.

Books are the ultimate placeholders. Think of them as convenient bricks for motaring up the windows of one’s life so no sound or sunlight gets in. Books and reading are the great soil in which the healthy weed of sloth can grow. It is very important you never finish one. While this would not be an actual accomplishment, it comes embarrassingly close to coming off as one.

Notice we have spoken of books and not periodicals. Though periodicals are substantially less substantial than books, and, indeed, barely qualify as reading, they are for that reason poor absorbers of the surfeit of time that you aim to organize your life around. The comparison to sandbags is quite apt: you will require many, many periodicals to equal the time-retarding, stultifying volume of one book. Though this has worked well for many shut-ins and soap opera devotees, there is always the problem of someone bringing you the magazine and the hazards posed by a large pile of slick, glossy superannuated issues Cosmo or anedated People sliding like an ice shelf and crushing you. If you have followed the path of sloth with any diligence, you will be in no condition to dig yourself out. Consider then, the unenviable fate of spending your last moments on earth waiting for tardy death and reading about Matthew Perry.

Self-Love, not Self-Knowledge
We know what we love by the fact that it is never satisfied: this is why we never turn to our loved one and say:"My love for you is entirely adequate." Likewise, the things we discover about ourselves in our lifetime of leisure and self discovery are at best trivial things, such as: I look good in hats.

This is whole point of being a gentleman of leisure and self-discovery, that you do not actually succeed in discovering anything substantive, which, if you actually did, would no doubt be disturbing. It might actually upset you or otherwise provoke you to “stop wasting your life” or “get one’s act together” or other such distractions. Self-discovery is, after all, just the flirty aspect of one’s narcissism, and should be really matter of intrigue and not interrogation, as, like all love affairs, it is largely a matter of illusions. Ideally, even one’s self love should not be sincere.

TURN #88: WEEK 74; WORDS: 82,948

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


1. Instant-runoff voting (IRV) (also known as the Alternative Vote (AV) and by several other names) is an electoral system used for single winner elections in which voters rank candidates in order of preference.


-Hello, would you like to help us out today?

-People, people a moment of your time...

-Can I interest you in voter reform?

-We have a petition here...

-Thanks for coming out today, we’re trying to get something on the ballot...

-Mom, mom!


-Hey, do you want to sign something?

2. In an IRV election, if no candidate receives an overall majority of first preferences the candidates with fewest votes are eliminated one by one, and their votes transferred according to their second and third preferences (and so on), until one candidate achieves a majority.

-Dinosaurs, bring back the dinosaurs.

-What are you talking about?

-Dinosaurs, we have a petition to put an initiative to bring back the dinosaurs on the ballot.

-I don’t understand

-Bring the dinosaurs back to life, you know, like in Jurassic Park.

-Can we do that?

-Well, we need signatures

-No, I mean do we know how to do that, like cloning and stuff?

-This isn’t about cloning. It’s about dinosaurs. You know, tyrannosaurus, brontosaurus, mechasaurus...


-The question is not why, but when -and the answer is, a long, long time ago. And that’s the wrong answer. The right answer is today, yesterday and tomorrow. Possibly forever. We want to bring them back.

-Yeah, but you’re going to like, clone them, right?

-This isn’t about cloning. I said that already.

-Well, where are we going to get the dinosaurs?

-I’m glad you asked that question. There are no easy answers when it comes to bringing back the dinosaurs. But that does not mean we should be afraid to vote our consciences and bring back the dinosaurs.

-That doesn’t answer my question.

-Well, they could be living on an island somewhere. Or a lake. Some say that Loch Ness....

-Yes, but in what sense would we be bringing them back?

-Well, yes, but I’m getting to that, see because this is not really about clones, islands or time machines -no wait, -it is about time machines...


-We’re bringing the dinosaurs back, right? From where? Answer: the past. Not clones, or fake dinosaurs, but real historical dinosaurs from actual history...

-So, like, with a time machine?

-So, right, so this is also a time machine initiative, but that’s really complicated. So we focus on dinosaurs which everyone likes and can relate to.


-Well, I thought the movie was cool. I mean, it was the biggest grossing movie of all time and I think the book did pretty good...

-What, The Time Machine?

-No, Jurassic Park. I mean, that’s like a mandate if there ever was one.

-That was a movie.

-Well, first it was a book.

-A book of fiction.

-Right, so if people are lining up around the corner to see dinosaurs that aren’t even real -or are like fake clones or something, how do you think they’ll react to actual historical dinosaurs that are part of our nation’s history?

-So real American dinosaurs?

-Yes, exactly. I’ve tried to communicate this in this poster, which I drew to the best of my ability and this hat I am wearing with the dinosaur on it and my shirt with the American flag.

-Oh, right.

-I also have a hat with an American flag and a shirt with a dinosaur, but I felt that this being election day ...We want to emphasize that these are American dinosaurs and so, like, we have both dinosaurs and time travel, so they can, like, travel through American history.

-The dinosaurs?

-Right, right, I mean there’s a lot in this bill, for everybody, big business, little business, working families, firemen, dinosaurs, dinosaur hunters, cavemen...


-Well, as we all know, dinosaurs and cavemen never met.


-But wouldn’t it be cool if they did? Or, like, Moses, or any other significant American figure.

-Wait, so the dinosaurs stop off at different places in time?

-I don’t see why not. I mean it’s a long way... I mean imagine if like, the South won the Civil War -with dinosaurs. Like an army of dinosaurs tearing into the White House and, like, biting Lincoln in half.

-That would be horrible.

-Or like World War II -with dinosaurs. Nazisaurs. Commiesaurs. Bit-In-Half-Lincoln Brigade-a-saurs.

-So dinosaurs would be everywhere.

-Basically. American History becomes Dino-land U.S.A. History and a hell of a lot more interesting. And they’ve always been there. So like a lot of people worry, like, “What if the dinosaurs get out?” and we’re like saying, if our initiative is successful, you won’t even ask that question.

-Are they many of you?

-There could be. There could be millions: time machine, you follow me?

-Are you threatening me?

-I’m saying, there are going to be a lot of signatures and dinosaurs and you’re either for or against us. You sign this now, we never have this conversation and maybe you’re like a rich dinosaur rancher or a famous dino-hunter with a cool scar and a sexy savage cave-girl girlfriend. Or maybe you don’t sign...


-Well, let’s face it, if we bring back the dinosaurs and the Confederacy and Hitler a lot of people are going to die. I don’t have any illusions about that. Neither should you.

-Can I think about it?

-You don’t have a lot of time to decide, in a sense, I mean that’s the thing about time travel. One minute you’re here talking to me, next thing you’re naked in a Colosseum running away from a triceratops. It’s not a pretty picture and there’s nothing I can do about it.

-Can I take this thing home and read about it?

-You’re not gonna sign it.

3. The term 'instant-runoff voting' is used because this process resembles a series of run-off elections.

-Thanks for taking the time to sign and fill out this petition.

-It's a good cause.

-Great, so we have your phone number -so if there’s any problem with your form, I could like call you.

-Is there a problem with the petition I signed?

-Oh, no, no. I’m just saying if there was, we could like, meet, like over coffee or something, and like talk about it.

-Talk about...

-You know, the form, instant runoff voting, you... movies, you like movies?

-I guess...

-Do you live far from here? My feet are killing me...

-I’m going to work, actually

-Or a shower, I mean I’ve been standing the rain with this petition and I could really use hot shower...

-Actually, I’m going to the gym first...

-You see, I knew that, I knew you worked out. I mean you look great. I’ve so been really wanting to go lately. But I've been so busy. With things I've been doing.

-Well can you do that? I mean don’t they need you?

-Oh hell no, I mean like it’s a totally lost cause, I mean I’ve got this thing for losers, you know?

-Well, okay. I’m over here...

-Yeah great, let me just find a place to throw these away...

TURN #87: WEEK 73; WORDS: 81,558

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Your New Gravedigger: A Checklist

Drinks (check all that apply)
[ ] Schnapps, Whiskey or other easily sippable and concealable
heartwarming cordial
[ ] Before working
[ ] While working
[ ] Constantly

[ ] Top
[ ] Bugle
[ ] Kite
[ ] Things found on ground

Humming (at least two)
[ ] Tuneless
[ ] Vague
[ ] Eerie
[ ] No Top 40
[ ] Droning in and out
[ ] About time, women, or luck, but something that is lost

Hands (check all that apply)
[ ] Gnarled
[ ] Knobby
[ ] Gnarly
[ ] Calloused
[ ] Scratched
[ ] Chapped
[ ] Chaffed
[ ] Dirty
[ ] Bleeding
[ ] Holding Shovel

[ ] Cold
[ ] Frozen
[ ] Gelid
[ ] Blue
[ ] Surprisingly attractive

[ ] "morbid" sense of humor
[ ] "morbid" sense of "humor"
[ ] "morbid" "sense of" "humor"
[ ] De'th's no laughin' matter, laddie

[ ] Pithy
[ ] Bitchy
[ ] Weather Related
[ ] Scriptual
[ ] Moody Blues Lyrics
[ ] Portentous
[ ] Omenous
[ ] Foreboding
[ ] Talks to dog, owl or shovel
[ ] Salty
[ ] Vengeful
[ ] Hard to follow

Calls dog
[ ] Rufus
[ ] Ol' Spooner
[ ] Beelzebub
[ ] Mother

Character (one or more)
[ ] Bad
[ ] Queere
[ ] Stotic
[ ] Indifferent
[ ] Dry
[ ] Shot
[ ] Morbid
[ ] Moribund
[ ] Clownish
[ ] Diabolical
[ ] All Nerves
[ ] No Nerves
[ ] Salt of the Earth
[ ] Hope to Return to School
[ ] Hope to Avoid Jail
[ ] Sleeping

Wakes Up
[ ] muttering
[ ] screaming
[ ] swinging
[ ] drinking

Taste in Pornography (one or more)
[ ] Empty Juggs Magazine
[ ] Apparently Legal
[ ] More Woman Than Women
[ ] Civil War Historian
[ ] Doll Collector Monthly

[ ] Irish
[ ] Own juices
[ ] In same thermos as bourbon


Education Level

Schooled by

[ ] Ma
[ ] Pa
[ ] Brother/Sister, later identied as actual parent
[ ] The Streets
[ ] The Road
[ ] The Evil That Men Do

Degree Attained

[ ] Some reform school, released
[ ] Some reform school, burned down
[ ] Merchant Marine, jumped ship
[ ] Some college, neglected to write thesis

[ ] Foriegn
[ ] Civil
[ ] Own Personal

Shot a Man in Reno
[ ] To watch him die
[ ] So wife or sweetheart of man could watch man die
[ ] Because needed shooting
[ ] Accidentally
[ ] "Accidentally"
[ ] Felt bad for shooting man's wife

Has dug
[ ] Pet's grave
[ ] Some graves
[ ] Many a grave
[ ] Best friend's grave
[ ] Own grave
[ ] Your grave

[ ] None
[ ] To dig more graves
[ ] y'don't mind the mud none
[ ] To get out of the rain

Happy Hallowe'en

TURN #86: WEEK 72; WORDS: 80,0385

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Getting in Shape for Halloween II

People think of the whole Goth thing as passive, which is true, but it’s not just passive: it’s passive aggressive.

That’s where the Halloween workout comes in.

To review: most exercise equipment is black anyway. Get yourself a black Nalgene, scent it with lavender and ashes.

Cinema gives us many fine examples of the appropriate workout:

Ideally you strip down in the moonlight. If there’s no moonlight, you can light some candles.

You workout alone.


Across your workout mirror. Realize that you are the gate through which you must pass and the hinge upon which it turns. Advanced students may wish to smash the mirror.

A workout is about transformation. This is where you realize you are the Dragon. You are beautiful. You are a great becoming. You cannot be hurt by bullets.

Finally, play “Bela Lugosi is Dead”.

It is actually the perfect workout song. Forget about “Jump” or “Rock You Like A Hurricane.” This song is really long. By the end of it, it’s like you’re endlessly rowing to some distant ghostly shore where you finally arrive all pumped and covered with a cold, cold dewy sweat.

Most importantly. Listen to the Count. The Count will make you strong.

TURN #85: WEEK 71; WORDS: 79,9906

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Life Among the Mannequins

Unable and powerless to circumvent my miseries, daunted, discouraged and unable to face reality, I felt myself to be unworthy of human company and so took to exile. I had no skills and no achievements. Of abilities, I had only my habits, which was to stand around all day doing nothing, this and that I was in fairly good physical shape. These being my sole attributes, I resigned myself to cross over to the other side of humanity’s double, on the opposite side of the glass, to a land where everything is cool and clear, perfect and pleasing to the eye: I went to live among the mannequins.

Life among the mannequins is ever fashionable. We live in your future: sweaters stretch across our perfect bosoms while you still swelter, and our matchless bellybuttons pucker above brave swimsuits while you shiver.

We are a sensibly evolved race, only those who need heads and arms have them. But each is a perfect exemplar of what it is. None of us have eyes, but, being perfect, like numbers, we have nothing to see, nothing to admire and nothing of which to be jealous. We are gracious in accepting your gazes. We are your royalty: you dress us in your finest, you carry us, you display us to represent you.

Sexless and perfect, immune to decay and age, born fully formed, we are more like angels than men. Indeed, in the story of creation told by mannequins, God, who like us, is perfect and immortal, made us in his own image, but first, wanting to get his creation right, experimented with clay studies and figures. After many, many trials, he was at last ready and created us, the mannequins and was pleased. Then he realized he had many, many leftover clay figures. Loving all his creations, however unequal, he decided to keep them, only to discover that the unfired clay was prone to rot and lose shape over time. The mud was getting everywhere. He thought that the clay figures might last longer if they were kept somewhere moist with lots of mud to fix them with: so he placed his flawed creations near the mud hole he had scooped out. This was your Garden of Eden. Despite all the moisture and the mud, the poor things kept falling apart, so perhaps he gave you procreation. In any case, so the story goes, he gave us to you, so that you might have something to look up to and to know what to wear.

Perfect in proportion and lack of detail, we are your ideals, your greatest of impossible hopes for yourself: in what sense can it not be said that we created you?

TURN #84: WEEK 70; WORDS: 79,648

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Small, Yet Stimulating Guide to Erotic Punctuation

As the notorious inventor of the erotic chess story, people often ask me “what is it that makes your erotic stories so absolutely devastating, so painfully lascivious, terrifying and carnal, so hot and wet that I felt I must rip myself to shreds and committed incest with my brother in the parking lot of that car wash?” The answer is, of course, that I care. Not only that: I care. As a humble student in the world of the erotic arts it is a pleasure to relate my simple, unadorned experiences in incredibly filthy narratives that will soil your imagination forever like a masturbating bat. See what I mean? (Those that are disturbed by the idea of masturbating bats should probably stop here and perhaps jump to here: this is what I do when I can’t take anymore masturbating bats, what with all the screeching, the squeaking, the dizzying weak bobbing beam of the head lamps, the female bats tangling in your hair and the male bats ejaculating in it and the sudden stunning blow to the head that signals a collision with a stalactite).

Other than that, however, there are simple procedural things, the knowledge of which, however cursory and vague, like the location of the clitoris, improve one’s style immensely, the most neglected of which is: punctuation.