An ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death…

Forgive me bloggers, for I have sinned. It’s been a month and a half since my last blog post.

I quit smoking. It’s been 28 hours since my last cigarette, and cancer has never looked more delicious. Plus, the world has also gone to shit… making my efforts seem more futile than usual.

I’m not afraid of too many things. But nuclear weapons are high on the list. I fear dying in one. I fear growths all over my body from the possible fall out of one. Most importantly, I fear the rich, wrinkled old fart that will decide that it’s time to get his rock’s off and use one of these bad boys to show the world how tough he is.

On a comparatively minor note, nazis, klansmen and other white supremacists protested in Virginia and it predictably became violent. I never thought we’d back slide on race relations in my lifetime… but here we go. I remember being a child and thinking the worst thing that was happening were days-of-the-week underwear and getting our cassette tapes tangled in our walkman.

On the bright side, we live in good times for dystopian writers, analysts, historians, journalists (the good ones, not the click bait-y ones) but it’s a fairly shitty time for almost any other sane human being.

There’s something creatively productive about how close we are to the brink. Never before have I felt that there were more ways for me to die under the incompetence of other people; one awful tweet from a top executive, one idiotic sneeze by some D-level dictator, one vest-strapped bomb screaming in a language I don’t understand, or some disgruntled white man with a chip on his shoulder and a hard-on for the good old days where he was allowed to whip black people…

When you take all that into account, smoking a pack a day doesn’t sound so bad after all.

Excerpt: GoreView (Reptil)

Another excerpt from the GoreView series, from the Prequel. Critiques welcome.

There are two kinds of consumers in the world. One has a dainty constitution and sigh cute phrases like “oh my!” and “isn’t that awful”. The other is wickedly perverse; they opened the flood gates to hell early in life and constantly need more disgusting things to stimulate their jaded senses.

Gibon Fen served the latter. They were his masses, his viewers, his flock.

The word to describe Gibon Fen was… sufficient. He was sufficiently handsome, sufficiently competent, and sufficiently moral. His hair was a medium brown; he was of medium build, his eyes a non-committed hazel. He was so adept at sufficiency that any attempt at excellence often ended in catastrophe. So when he inherited a Pulitzer-winning newspaper from his uncle, he ran it into bankruptcy. He fired his best writers and editors, or they threw their resignations at his face.

War correspondent Philip Kent folded his resignation letter into a paper airplane and threw it through the double doors of Gibon’s office, and then turned on his heel with his middle finger in the air screaming, “You snatched failure from the jaws of success, frat boy! Go fuck yourself.”

Determined to prove Philip Kent wrong – Philip was a particular thorn on his side, who treated Gibon like shit from the day the newspaper was signed into his ownership – the paper’s assets were reinvested into a new venture.

Cellus were a new type of sunglasses that merged cellphones, computers, television and social media. Worn on the eyes, the lenses could be screens or partially transparent when using map views. Within a year, people could ping any person they met on the street and discretely see their public profiles pop up on their screens. No more trying to wrack your brain to remember someone’s name! Afterwards, you could rate every person you interacted with – one to five stars – so employers could now determine someone’s amiability, which was particularly helpful for those who worked in service industries.

Gibon jumped on the bandwagon and offered the one thing people wanted and needed… but no one wanted to muddy their hands with. It was something people looked for on their lenses, but couldn’t find. Not on the new Cellu networks, at least. It was an arena that Gibon was more than happy to inhabit. Shamelessly, he named his endeavor GoreView.

It had one singular purpose – to post the raw footage of sex, of gore, of blood and all the dark spaces of humanity.

“It’s reality,” Gibon once said at a cocktail party, “It’s the first amendment, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. It’s humanity, uncensored. It’s not packaged, and glossed over like some Hollywood thriller. The world needs this.”

Then he sipped his champagne, took Reptil from his pocket, squeezed the droplet over each eye and enjoyed the sensation of this drug as it took him on his journey. The drug made you feel like you were drifting on the melody of Pink Floyd. You could see sound and smell color. It was like pissing yourself when you lay naked in the snow – the warmth it sent through the body far outweighed the shame and stink of its reality. The slightest touch turned into a rough caress, and the most benign and boring orgasm could turn into a seismic, life altering experience.

He knew everyone and no one at these cocktail parties which took place in the top floor suites of grand hotels. These parties were Gatsby-esque in their decadence, and to be the host was to show off incredible amounts of wealth. The attendants were too rich to tax and everyone was a friend of a friend from boarding school or the child of his father’s colleague. The entrepreneur in the corner came up with invention after invention that were barely profitable and often bled their trust funds dry. There were also the writers whose mundane prose about how they weren’t loved enough as children, choking on their silver spoons. One could network at these parties, or they could simply take part in the deviance that only the rich could afford.

George Orwell was a militant, radical extremist!

If George Orwell had lived after Nineteen Eighty-Four, he would have been unacceptable to Facebook. In big, bold letters, the greatest newspapers, the purveyors of “truth” and “objectivity” would write “Radical extremist, and militant author pens book about authoritarianism!”

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WIP: Blood on the Seine (Part II)

A continuation of what I posted before. The book has been finished, now undergoing the rigors of editing… not to mention, titling. Please sign up for the mailing list to get the books first.

I flunked out of business school. My parents weren’t pleased when I went to live with my cousin and his wife in Montparnasse. But they had made me his guardian since I was a little boy. It was only natural that I follow on with him later in life as a second fiddle.

I gave up a prestigious university education to mop toilets and serve overpriced drinks to tourists. It was not the future they had wished for me, but they lived in an old France. It was a France where an education could guarantee a nice government job with a set salary, periodic union strikes, and hours of stamping papers. It was something well-respected, if not even a little enviable. But that’s not the France I grew up in. Government jobs required a stamp on a paper for the privilege to sit on a waiting list. But to make it past that required the grace of a patron in power. A little nepotism to grease the squeaking wheels.

I’d feel castrated in this life if I didn’t take girls back to their overpriced hotels and raid their mini-bars. Being a bar tender was a thoroughly underrated profession.

As far as social standing went, it was always very, very high. My Cellu-glasses—known colloquially as Cellus—with an average rating of 4.6 stars, rang with approvals. I served women their favorite pink cocktails, and with a quick click on their earpiece, they would rate me five stars, raising my social standing on the web. Sure, their boyfriends sometimes gave me a one-star rating, but that was no matter. For a discount, a free drink, or a better ration of booze to flavoring, the ladies would be willing to elevate me to a standing that their professions as lawyers, accountants or homemakers would never see. The more they drank, the higher they rated me. The drunker they were, the more they wanted me. I learned early on to love intoxicated girls.

After my nightly service to these willing clients, I’d go back home at the break of dawn. I wouldn’t stay in bed a second longer, because it was the only time Paris was ever beautiful. It wa­s the moment before our Cellus darkened to block out the harmful rays of the sun. You saw the world as though you weren’t wearing them at all. Since no one else was awake, a flash on the glass wouldn’t interrupt me as it listed the passerby’s name, and his or her social rating.

At that time of day, it wasn’t bright enough to see that the bridges were covered in graffiti that ranged from profoundly political, to the prolifically pornographic. Billboard signs with flashing, florescent lights advertising pharmaceuticals, fashion, and a “France of the Future” that would lead the world in social networking technology would light up during the day, singing jingles and selling slogans. In the darkness, they were dimmed to let the residents sleep.

Several years ago, a man driving at night crashed, and they concluded that the blaring lights caused him a seizure until he drove headlong into the pylons. The irony was that his he smashed below a sign that advertised an epilepsy treatment.

The cold air covered the scent of the homeless who shit like dogs under every tree, or the smell of alcohol-laden urine at every corner. During those holy minutes of daybreak, even the cops seemed reasonable. Paris cops, after all, had their priorities—protect tourists, beat down demonstrators and harass anyone who wore political slogans.

“Unrest,” as our President Tila Maneau liked to say, “was a matter of security.”

As if the political slogans caused the unrest, not the other way around.

Sunrise was a glorious moment. My moment. This bliss that only lasted a minute or two. I would pick a song on my Cellu, tapping the empty space in front of me at the holographic list of my favorite songs, and the ones they recommend for me, would scroll on the glass. In another dimension, where people don’t know what Cellus are, we must look like cats batting at invisible dirt that only we can see. I liked the oldies. Their melodies lasted longer – sometimes up to four or even five minutes. Some guy called Leonard Cohen had one called Hallelujah, that lasted seven minutes! Some people don’t think songs should last more than two, but I don’t agree.

If I ever decided to commit suicide, it would be at that second, looking at the world as a pure human with no screens and no advertisements coming from the walls. I’d throw away the glasses, I’d unhook the earpiece from my ear, and strip down naked so that I could feel like a human. I would cry a broken Hallelujah, then jump into the water. They would fish me out of the river like L’inconnue de la Seine.

Thoughts of suicide were common among the French. Everyone knew how they would do it. Some opted for dramatic fantasies of burning themselves in front of the tourists at the Eiffel Tower. Others wanted to go peacefully in their bed. More common among my age, was a coke-filled orgy, dying in a final gesture of hedonism.

The government wanted us to feel bad about these thoughts. They told us that we were so entitled that we didn’t even know what real suffering was. They were right. We didn’t know suffering. We didn’t know happiness either. But our Cellus gave us pictures of it in their flashing advertisements. Even sex was becoming less common, especially since you could lie in bed and have tits cover the screens and beat off in a vibrating flesh bag. No seduction, no awkward conversations or possible rejections. If only they were all waiters – they wouldn’t have such problems.

How could we French not be unhappy? We traded Matisse, Renoir, Manet for modern bourgeois-bohemian artists in baggy pants, smearing walls with their fecal matter to protest fascism. These talentless finger painters with half-shaved heads owned the Cellu broadcasts, newspapers, and universities. The shit-smearers hung their art in the Musée d’Orsay, next to Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin and Pio Kegaard.

As I watched the skies turn from pink to light blue, I knew that the artificial lights would buzz on, and the morning announcements would flash in front of my eyes.

With a crack, the current returned to the cables running beneath the pavement. Light climbed the walls and filled them with the neon colors selling sneakers, jackets, and happiness just a Cellu-payment away. My poverty was more depressing when the image of affluence was all around us.

That is why France was unbearable. It was also why these foreign sluts were worth it. They lived in a world that believed in a Paris that hadn’t existed in the last century. If I could still smell them on my fingers, then the honor of the country was not dead.

Vive La France! After a conquest I could walk triumphantly back to my cousin’s two-bedroom apartment and fall asleep in the kid’s room. The kid slept in it at night, and I could inhabit his Spiderman sheets during the day.

When the hum of these advertisements were in full swing, the daily alerts came to my vision and in the corner of my eye, I saw the headlines as it was read to me by Sally, the generic feminine voice of the Web: General strike on the railways. All metro travel is suspended until further notice. USA President Barron Trow takes office. The trillionaire made his fortune in his pornography production company, which he has officially signed over to the care of his daughter, Meryl Trow. General mockery in the USA has gone viral internationally, to the chagrin of the Yanks who still claim to be the beacon of Human Rights…

Ha! As hard as it is to be French, at least it is less embarrassing than being American. What a long-standing, failed experiment in democracy that was.

All citizens are reminded that public displays of divisive politics are now sanctioned…

By the time Sally’s voice left my ear, I had climbed the seven steps to my door. I didn’t remember how I got there, or what I had seen along the way. I was in a Cellu-Trance, guided by the arrows in my glasses which led my steps back home. I put in the key, turned the latch, and opened the door. I entered into the kitchen, which was so small that we couldn’t eat in it. By the sink, I could span out my arms and touch from wall to wall. The tiny window looking out into the street stared at a brick deemed too inconsequential for adverts. The ceiling was water stained, and hopefully wouldn’t develop mold. There was also a perpetual feel of humidity caused by the weather and the cooking. The air stagnated in that kitchen, and the oil that burned into the air seemed to stay there, seeping into my skin.

My cousin’s wife, Tonje, was making coffee and handed me a cup as I squeezed passed her, between the kitchen counters, “Good morning, François. Did you have a good night at work?”

“I had to wade in the waters of England.” She hated that I spent the night with these women.

I walked on to the living room, my occasional bedroom. A double sized bed was on a platform held six feet over the ground. The mezzanine hovered over a small couch. When I slept up there, I couldn’t sneeze without smacking my forehead on the ceiling. The kid was still in bed, so I was sleeping on the mezzanine today.

The groggy four-year old came out of his room, wearing little sweatpants with the drawstring tugged tight to fit his slender body. His mother handed him the heel of a baguette, and he came to sit with me on the living room sofa. If school was open, I’d take his bedroom for the day, and save myself the discomfort of the squeaky mezzanine.

Take your Utopia, and look at where it will fail. Dystopia is in the details.

How to find write own Dystopia.

All of us have some idea of what Utopia will be. For some, it is ultimate equality. For others, free access to information, the elimination of censorship, and for the doe-eyed bikinis who strut down a state that pretends it gives a shit about what happens between your ears, it’s “world peace”. John Lennon’s rainbow flavored hit “Imagine” can give you any grocery list of these feel-good, open hearted thoughts.

BigBrother 2

Cover Image: By Борис У. (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.

Now, with your unicorn world in your head, think of what it would take to make it come about. Think of what work it would take to make your personal warm-fuzzy world a reality.

Ultimate equality means people with alternative talents would need to be brought down to the lowest common denominator (hence, Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron). Free access to information means the elimination of privacy – so everyone could find out if you cheated on your last girlfriend, had a misdemeanor as an adolescent, had an alcoholic for a father, or curiously looked up “furries” and “My Little Pony porn” during a raucous night with friends (you pervert).

Ah, and my favorite, world-mother fucking-peace. We can do that be eliminating oil, technology, economies. Let’s face it, most wars aren’t motivated by hatred, diplomats, or even racism. It’s economics. So, what would your solution be? Designating all regions of the globe to grow a single crop, and create a single product and to limit the development of their industry? For the sake of the peace, eliminating innovation and competition, poverty, wealth. Installing full-blown Sovietic economic regions and a uniform wages regardless of work or contribution? Of course, the propaganda necessary to keep up people’s false sense of happiness in having zero choices in their life would also take quite a bit of effort and conspiracy, but I digress…

If you have such ideas, then think of what that world would really be. Consider human nature, desires, and genetics. But impose your perfect world uniformly, regardless. In there, you’ll find your dystopia.

And it’ll be more likely, and at least more interesting, than world peace.

Featured Image: Cover Image: By Борис У. (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Road Veteran

The war that defined my youth was over in the snap of a finger. It was 2014, and I have left Afghanistan for the last time.

I had seen the unraveling of the General Patreus after an affair with his biographer. I watched General McChrystal brought down by a journalist from the Rolling Stones.

I am one of thousands that will come back home, two duffel bags over each shoulder, looking around at the bustling world that moved on without us while also standing still, waiting for our return. I do not know what music is trending. I am barely conscious that the word “trending” was still in use. We are, all at once, within and without.

I am just one of thousands that found a taste for a more exciting world, then found it’s call too alluring to ignore, and the pay off too high to not come back again and again. When there is no Afghanistan to go to, I didn’t know what to do.

I wonder if every war generation takes to the road.

The First World War gave us Fitzgerald, Hemingway and the roaring Paris 20’s. The lost Beat Generation in the shadow of the World Wars gave us Kerouac then their resurgence as a Beatnik during the cold war, then us… the Millennials. The Gen-Yers who grew up knowing the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq as a way of life. The 1990’s of peace and economic stability, the internet boom and the electronic era were a far off memory. Dead along with our fairy tales.

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So I, unoriginal, shall take to the road as well. Kerouac went from New York to San Francisco, then to the southern lands. Many of my peers found solace on a road trip across the country for a time as well. Others, yet, went overseas.

Was it any surprise that when the student loans were gone, the bills disappeared and military obligations absolved, I longed for adventure? I am restless. I was in need of something more than a normal, calm, sedentary life. A life without excitement is a life in catatonic purgatory.

Restless, discontent and wandering in search of something. We wayfarers all have the same story; the illusionary conveyor belt life of school-job-retirement as the badge of honor was ripped from us early. We went to school, got our college degrees and there were no jobs for us. There were no jobs for the over-educated or the young.

I lost one job because of budget cuts, though I knew I did a decent job for a really good team. I miss that office too, but I can’t say that I was ever happy there. The work was fulfilling and important. Yet the suit, the beers afterwork, cooking dinner at the house and date nights in the gentrified center of town were perfectly fine, but ultimately covering up a hole. I was last hired, first fired.

“Pay your dues” they told us. Well, paying our dues doesn’t pay the bills. Paying our dues take time – time that we didn’t have because many of us were getting laid off. Now, that government that most of my countrymen voted for will make it harder to pay off the loans we were coached to take as underage shmucks.

Corporations failed us. Government failed us. Conventional wisdom failed us.

The shining yuppy life became a joke. A symbol of consumerist detritus that did nothing but take our from us, push us into debt and give us the symbols of wealth without any actual wealth.What is the point, when the most expensive part of an article of clothing is the one-inch label in the back?

“Shop your way out of debt”, “Reaganomics”, and “Pay your dues” were sold as the way to the American dream. Reason be damned! Reality be damned! This is what you’re supposed to do. It’s what’s expected.

And I grew up watching people lose everything. Their homes, their families, their practices under the same people who preached the American conveyor belt. I watched people go into mid-life crises and bucket lists because they had spent a life chasing an ideal that left them unsatisfied, unhappy and unfulfilled. I had tacitly accepted the ideal role the way a frog stays water that boils slowly, or how a dog allows a leash to be placed around his neck while he’s distracted by a bacon treat.

And my generation, entitled and spoiled though we may be, are not idiots.

It is better to carve out your own life, in your own way than to allow someone else to do it for you. It is better to fail on your own terms, than to succeed under someone’s wing. It is better to have a chance of being with the stars than to stand with your feet on the ground.

This is my segment of the Generation – the outcasts, the bohemians, the millennial beats that live on the outskirts of the world we grew up in. We are the nomads, backpackers, wayfarers. We roam, we run, we travel, we are waltzing Matilda.

WIP: Blood of the Seine

An excerpt from a Work in Progress.

Sally’s Report: Rail workers on strike demand a 30% increase in wages, giving them 150% of the living wage. Negotiations will soon resolve.

“Paris is always a good idea,” she said, a cigarette between her middle and ring finger. She had blonde, cropped hair with short bangs. Her lips were wine-stained. Her glasses were yellow-rimmed, thick and artsy, though she couldn’t tell me the difference between Manet or Monet. She considered herself a cultural minx, but it was all an act.

“Paris is never a good idea,” I said.

She smiled. It’s the smile little foreigners have. It reeks of “Oh, aren’t you such a darling little French man…”

As if they knew more of France than those of us who were born here. They thought that we failed to see Parisian charm because we took it for granted, and only their tourist reflections could help us pull the wool from our cynical eyes to see la vie en rose.

These bitches came here with expectations—to gorge themselves on good wine, good food, and good romances with a brooding local man. We, the French men, were on their bucket list, like the Louvre or Versailles, or that selfie holding the Eiffel Tower in the palm of their hand. They felt themselves more worldly if they screwed a Frenchman of a particular breed.

I was here to oblige, but the tiresome conversations made me want to stick a fork in my leg. I’d serve these traveling girls their drinks, and take their tips. We don’t tip in France, but the foreigners can give me their money if they want. That’s what they’re here for anyway—to be pried away from the money that burned a hole in their silk-lined pockets.

Fortunately, the more bored I was, the more interested they were. Please, monsieur French man, act more nihilistic, sophisticated, beatnik and poetic. Tell me how life is shit… save me from the dreariness of my first world life. I would be their Jean-Paul Sartre, but screwably better looking.

It fed into their little girl fantasy of having that particular brand of sophistication. It was a little dream they had—discussing philosophy inside the café-bars in the shadow of the phallic monstrosity called the Eiffel Tower. I wish someone would blow up that eyesore so that it could stop being the symbol of my putrid city. The city of lights was really the city of bums, but tourists believed in this dream so much that they were blind to the reality of what this shit hole had become in the last century. Tourists have a great sense of denial. They paid a lot to come here and were going to get their money’s worth! Reality wasn’t allowed to get in the way. This determination is what Parisian tourism is built on.

They put on their blinders to the traffic, the crowds, the garbage that floated like tumbleweeds in our concrete desert.

The blonde quoting “Sabrina” knew every word of “La Vie en Rose”, but didn’t know that some of the bridges across the river Seine were made from the dismantled bricks of the Bastille.

“Consider it revolutionary recycling,” I told her.

“Bastille?” she said wide eyed, “Like the band?”

I kissed her before she could say something so stupid screwing her would make me feel like I was taking advantage of the mentally handicapped. I pulled off her Cellu-glasses, and hung them by the earpiece on the neckline of her shirt. It rested snugly between her breasts. I took my own glasses off and placed them in my pocket. I grabbed her hand and walked her home, to her hotel room, which I would share until the sated little lady would stretch in her Egyptian cotton sheets and fall asleep. Then I’d write a note, a fondly written farewell left on the night stand, before I let myself out into the morning light.