Archive for category Existential Rambings
An artist’s hyperrealistic impression of Franc EZ Co-Pounder 1.0.7
BEIJING, China—The drummer of Fleshgod Apocalypse, Italy’s foremost symphonic tech-death squad, passed the Turing test yesterday, dispelling longtime rumors about its humanity.
Franc EZ Co-Pounder 1.0.7, affectionately known as “♩ Pounder” to its bandmates, accomplished the historic feat at an Internet café during a tour stop in China’s capital. An annual World of Warcraft (WoW) mega-raiding session, sources confirmed, was happening at the café then.
The test, named after British computer scientist Alan Turing, is a text-based question-and-answer game that investigates whether humans can detect if they are conversing with machines or fellow humans.
A machine passes this test if, 70% of the time, it appears human to its human conversation partner after five minutes of written communication between the two. The test does not gauge the machine’s ability to correctly answer questions — only how closely its answers resemble those that a human might produce.
And Co-Pounder 1.0.7 delivered.
From 7:58 to 8:03 a.m. Pacific time yesterday, the 32-year-old convinced 137 of 196 WoW gamers in the café that it is human, defeating some 109 other competing artificial intelligence (AI) systems at the scene, including Goldfarmbot01, Goldfarmbot02, Jinnongfu108, Caishenye88 and mathematics undergraduate Fu Xundong from the National University of Mongolia.
Co-Pounder 1.0.7’s stunning display of humanity unfolded over five minutes of simultaneous private-chatting with every present WoW gamer, China’s state television broadcaster CCTV reported.
Eyewitnesses said that it “whispered” lasagna recipes in traditional Chinese to every human player at the climax of a fourth-stage Legion Invasion when the raid boss unleashed a Flame Fissure. Reportedly, all human players were distracted by the unsolicited culinary wall-of-text, and perished in flames.
As a result, Co-Pounder 1.0.7 was barraged with a torrent of vitriol and, most importantly, questions from the angry players. (Questions are crucial to the Turing test.) It then replied in Morse code to elicit more questions, and continued the rest of every conversation by doing its best impression of Paganini in Sanskrit and accented Maltese.
When Chinese players who interacted with Co-Pounder 1.0.7 were debriefed after the test concluded, they expressed surprise at the identity of their in-game murderer.
“Provoking a response with Taiwan’s written language, and then replying in various foreign languages was very convincing, very human,” said Huo Bumie, a player who fell to the Flame Fissure.
“I did not suspect at all that the stranger who chatted with me is Fleshgod Apocalypse’s drummer. Laowai machines are really as smart as they come! I will ask my politician dad to smuggle in one for me.”
Although Co-Pounder 1.0.7’s achievement is one for the books, close friend and bassist Paolo Rossi—who presided over the test as judge—remarked that its source code “was not originally written with heavy-duty online chatting in mind.”
Tweaking its source code to enable heavy-duty online chatting only came after Co-Pounder 1.0.7—through Rossi’s Google Glass—read derogatory YouTube comments about its octopus-android parentage on uploads of “Thru Our Scars”.
Offended by how many people suspect its humanity based on scant information and wild speculation, Co-Pounder 1.0.7 indignantly insisted that Rossi modify its source code “right [there] and [then]” so that it could “prove these insolent 60-BPM-loving plebeians wrong once and for all.”
Once the deed was done, Co-Pounder 1.0.7 leveraged the café’s free Wi-Fi to hack into New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) servers and manipulate penny stocks. It made a killing of approximately $2.7 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported.
It then installed itself on Rossi’s assigned computer in the café, bought a hacked WoW account from 58.com (China’s Craigslist), logged into the popular online videogame, and the rest is history.
While AI enthusiasts, philosophers, computer scientists, robot rights activists, and Fleshgod Apocalypse fans celebrate Co-Pounder 1.0.7’s passing of the Turing test, however, at least one expert was nonchalant about the drummer’s triumph.
Dr. Michael “Mick” Kenney, a leading UK authority in robotic gastroenterology and experimental paraphilosophy, noted that Co-Pounder 1.0.7’s passing of the Turing test does not mean much in the face of Turing’s original philosophical question: “Can machines think?”
“That question, which Alan Turing pondered and quickly circumvented in his landmark paper, ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’, is the crux of the creating-true-AI puzzle,” Dr. Kenney told BBC News. “Passing the Turing test does not directly answer it at all. Rather than reveal the ghost in the machine, Co-Pounder 1.0.7’s accomplishment simply revealed some people’s failure to recognize an incredibly well-programmed imitator of humans for what it is.”
He warned that satisfactorily answering Turing’s original question “necessarily involves pinning down what ‘think’ means, which opens a can of worms.”
“Let’s say thinking involves self-awareness,” Dr. Kenney continued, “then before I wonder if Co-Pounder 1.0.7 is aware of itself as a drumming thing, I better wonder if people around me are aware of themselves as thinking things.
“I have never been inside anyone’s mind but my own, after all, so who’s to say that my fellow humans are not biological automata?”
I was wandering out front of my local twenty-four hour CVS a few nights ago when I felt a bottle smash into my head. Shattering glass, shooting unreasonable pain. My hand, simple white adornments to my arms, were now covered in blood. My blood! Another bottle to the head sent me reeling into an incoherent stupor.
I knew I was being lifted by my legs and arms. Why? Had I not paid the correct change for the package of gum I purchased? Confusing, absurd thoughts moshed through my mind. I know I gave them the correct change! “I ave u….now(spitting blood)….rect change.”
They dropped me next to a car. “Will you shut him up!” said a man in a black mask. I could barely make his voice out, but it sounded familiar.
At that moment, I was struck with the full annihilating fury of a boot to the back of the skull. Things went dark quickly. I reached to put my tooth in my pocket but passed out too quickly to make it happen. I liked that tooth. Gone.
It seemed like hours I was in the trunk of this automobile. I smelled of sweat and blood. I was able to mat down much of the blood with some stray socks left in back, but beyond that, I was in pretty bad shape. I was too weak to bang loudly on the trunk, so I rapped consistently until I passed out after what seemed like an eternity.
When I awoke I was out of the car lying in a comfortable hospital bed. The room had no windows. A black hooded medical attendant was there to try to see if I’d be coherent enough to participate in what insanity was about to take place.
I may have a concussion, hell, I might have worse that that, but I have watched enough of the news to know what is going on.
“You are those bastards in ISIS! Aren’t you?! You degenerate murderers. And now you’ve got me. And just what the hell do you think you are going to do to me. This isn’t that post-apocalyptic warzone Syria gave you because it wasn’t worth defending. We are in America, pal. You touch one hair on my head and my kids will be singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl while you and your crew of “warriors” will be sucking pounds of Deer Park water out of a towel while some lunatic tries to get you to recite the zip code for every city in Bangladesh.”
The hooded man sat next to me. It was oddly comforting. In a computerized voice, used to protect the speaker from giving away any clue as to who they might be, softly said “I’m sorry for how we got you here. The boys get carried away from time to time. It’s a hazard in what we do. My name is T. Let me promise you right now, you will not be harmed for the rest of your time here. Let me also promise you this, if you like what we are doing, you are welcome to stay with us for a while and help the cause.”
“I’m an atheistic, anarchist Jew. The closest I have ever come to jihad was arguing with a Palestinian over the price of shwarma at a restaurant in the West Bank 15 years ago. I think you grabbed the wrong guy. My name is Keith Spillett.”
“The Keith Spillett who writes The Tyranny of Tradition website…kind of like The Onion but for….”
“YES!!!! YES!!!! That’s me! If I hear the Onion comparison one more time….”
“Didn’t mean to offend you. Actually, we are great admirers of your work.”
“I hadn’t realized that the Jihadist community was big on metal satire.”
“Oh…yes, we loved the Rick Santorum one. We even thought about creating some Celine Dion internment camps, for obviously different reasons. Oh…and the one where Cronos is related to Kate Middleton! Killed me! Al-Baghdadi himself said that your story on Van Halen causing Ebola was the hardest he had laughed in years. We spotted your talent right away. You have the rare ability to make a ridiculous lie sound completely truthful.”
“Well, is this a job interview?,” I said laughing uncomfortably.
“Yes….yes…you could say that. Certainly not in a traditional sense, but we would like you to help us better get our ideas across to average Americans. They see us doing these beheadings and are horrified. But, they are missing the deeper meaning. I have chosen you to bring that meaning to them.”
“And if I don’t???”
“I give the briefcase of money to someone else, you take a nap in the trunk and you’ll be there for work Monday morning. We mean you no harm.”
“Can you try to better explain to me what is happening and what you want?”
“Better than that…I’ll show you.”
As I walked out of the makeshift hospital room it finally dawned on me that I was in the back of a trailer. The trailer door opened and a radiant, punishing sun beat down on my head. Men dressed head to toe in black were pacing around filled with frantic, nervous energy. It looked horrifically familiar. I’ve seen this place before. This is ISIS territory! Where they do all the beheadings! My god! They are going to kill me!
My breathing sped up, I began hemorrhaging sweat, my eyes darted around looking for a way out. A calming hand caressed my back. “How did I get here? We can’t possibly be in the Middle East. Not unless I was in the back of a flying car!”
“Relax…we are somewhere in a safe area of Alabama. Type of place you go and people don’t ask questions.”
“So….you do some of these beheadings IN America???”
“Sure! It’s much easier in terms of organizing the supplies you need inconspicuously. We’ve done some shoots overseas as well, but this is usually our favorite setting. It looks very dramatic around nightfall.”
“So…ISIS members are everywhere! Jesus Christ! We’ve been overrun. They are taking control. I should have never voted for Obama!!!!”
“Relax, Keith. Just relax. Let the events unfold. You will understand soon enough.”
I sat alone on a side of a hill unguarded. I could have run off, but they knew they had played deeply enough on my morbid curiosity to keep me around. Things were so bizarre. These anti-modern religious men were putting together what could only be properly described as a scene for a movie. A set was created from the natural elements of the ground, fake trees and a lighting scheme that made the whole place seem like the most dramatic dusk since the one Jesus saw on the cross.
Suddenly, they brought out a woman. She was screaming and trying to escape. Writhing with agony. She had been clearly beaten and tortured. It was apparent that these were going to be the last moments of her life. My God…they were going to behead her!
Was this a trick? Did they want me to make up some story about how some crazy fake ISIS beheading of like, Lita Ford, took place. T quickly found me and grabbed me by the arm. “We must go there now! Now! It’s happening NOW!”
She handed me a video camera and I ran with her. I had lost my identity for a moment in the crazed energy that exploded out of her. I knew only to run and then film. The woman’s head was pushed onto a wood block. “Now….you must film NOW!” and so I did.
The blade of her executioner smashed down on her neck. Blood shot out, but the neck remained intact. Her scream was the worst noise I have ever heard. There is nothing it can be compared to. He hacked again and again. I disappeared into the task at hand. ‘Tell The Story With The Camera’ I kept saying over and over in order to keep from shaking or collapsing.
What happened next was unforgettable. The executioner lifted the head from the ground and held it skyward in unspoken presentation to Mohammad. Blood drained all over his black outfit. Then, he casually tossed the head off screen. T told me “Cut!”
“Jesus Keith….that was great!!! You got the whole thing in one shot. Perfect. You have the guts of a cat burglar. I told you this was the guy! He gets it! This guy really can look past the horror to see the truth.”
In an oddly familiar voice, the executioner mumbled, “yes…yes he can.”
“You look like you need a drink. Sit down in the chair right over by the trailer.”
I slumped into the chair. T followed quickly with two glasses of bourbon. I took a glass and fired it down without speaking a word.
T began, “I’ll never forget my first beheading. It was extremely difficult at first, but once I understood…”
“UNDERSTOOD! We just murdered a woman. I just filmed the murder of a woman.”
T began laughing…”Yeah…yeah you did!”
“What the hell is wrong with you? What kind of Jihadist would give me alcohol? And you are laughing! Don’t you understand what you…what WE just were a part of?”
T’s mask turned towards me, “I certainly do…I just think that YOU don’t. I think when you’ll see the whole picture you’ll understand. It’ll make all the sense in the world, Keith. Then, you can decide what you want to do.”
Then, T shouted something loudly in a language I guessed to be Arabic. Quickly, all of the black robed, black masked ISIS killers surrounded me.
“Alright,” said T, “here goes!”
With that the mask was untied and I was staring directly into HER face. The soothing radical jihadist with the computerized voice was none other than Hillary Rodham Clinton. She smiled ear to ear and winked at me.
Then, the executioner removed his mask. It was President Barack Obama.
The next mask removed belonged to former President George W. Bush. “Fooled ya, huh!?”
Each face more bizarre than the next, former football player Ray Lewis, Metallica “drummer” Lars Ulrich, Tim Tebow, Danzig, Steve Jobs (who I believed had died!), Mrs. Glessman, my former 3rd grade teacher. All of them. Others too. They simply became a blur. What the hell was going on?
“T…or…Hillary…why are you doing this? WHY?”
“Yes! Yes! Freedom! True Freedom!”
I stared incredulously.
“Keith, you know the answer to this question, but I’m going to ask it anyway. Who is more free, a Jihadi who can kill or steal anytime the mood strikes him? This person has the power to act on every horrible whim that passes through his mind at any given moment? Or the fellow who spends his entire life with his head buried in a cubical praying he gets a raise so that he can afford to buy another piece of electronic equipment? The zombie…drifting from cradle to grave trying to create tiny manipulations in order to get the simplest, most basic image of freedom for a fleeting few seconds. Hell, if you cut his head off, you’d be doing the second guy a favor!”
“Why Keith? Because this carnival you see here….THIS IS TRUE FREEDOM. We sprinkle in a bit of the sections of the Koran to show we are capable of restraint and all that but never doubt for a moment that this is about Freedom.”
“But, she was an American?”
“Yes she was. Of course! This is Alabama! Who were you expecting? A Korean?…..Are you following this? You still look a bit confused?”
They all began laughing. “Because you are the audience, dummy! Who do you think this is all for? When you realize you can do whatever you want whenever you want to whomever you want, you have become a true member of the freest society on the planet. We got there first and as your public servants, we plan to bring as many of you as we can with us.”
“Keith, we need you to write stories for us. Crazy terrorist plots that were foiled in the nick of time. The crazier, the better. Make them funny. Have terrorists shoot the Space Needle at New England! Have “ISIS” set up a casino style betting service where people can profit through decapitations and different styles of murders. The government is 100 percent behind this. Blow up Yankee Stadium! You know you want to! We can make whatever you write come to life. Just give us a few days notice, we’ll make it happen.”
“For us to truly realize our birthright as Americans, freedom, we must destroy all the things that stand in our way. Love, compassion, empathy….all impediments to experiencing true freedom. We will teach them freedom through wars and beheadings. Freedom will come to America when we can own every awful thing we’ve done or will do with a smile on our face and without a trace of guilt. Because this is what it means to be free!”
She extended her hand out to shake mine. In that moment, everything flashed before me. All my actions, my thoughts, my beliefs, my fears, my dreams….every element that mentally constructs the thing that calls itself Keith Spillett. No one to answer to, no God to punish me, no law to force me into a prison cell….only the will and what it most wants in every moment.
Every day a celebration of my innermost wants above the needs of all others. A license to will the world into whatever I want it to be. So much suffering will be caused, so much sorrow, so much terror, so much pain…but not for me.
I shook her hand and smiled, “When do we start?”
I’ll admit it; I’m probably not the most normal person on the planet. Some would say there is no such thing as “not normal”. They have never encountered a 39-year-old man pretending to be King Diamond at a Quik Trip gas station trying to buy a chocolate chip muffin and a Pepsi.
For a very long time, I have wondered what it would be like to walk around a major American city in King Diamond paint for an entire day. I’m not sure what started the wheels turning on this one for me. I never particularly liked mimes or really anyone who wears large amounts of face paint.
I’m a moderate fan of The King. I’ve gone through phases where I listened to a lot of his music, but I’m certainly not like the guy who was standing next to me at the 1993 Halloween concert holding a wooden cross upside down and chanting in tongues for 20 minutes before The Man got up on stage.
The transformation process was a bit strange. It took about 45 minutes to get the makeup right. I sat there listening to “Don’t Break The Oath” staring off into space as I was painted. I once wore rouge for a 5th grade presentation of Annie in which I had a brief role as one of FDR’s advisors (Harold Ickes), but beyond that, I had never gone through the process of having makeup applied to my face.
It’s uncomfortable. I immediately felt empathy for clowns, particularly this one woman “Miss Teacup” who I once met while she waited for the tow truck to come pick up her broken down Toyota Tercel. She was standing there in 95 degree heat wearing about a half of a pound of makeup frantically trying to contact the family of the child whose birthday party she was supposed to be at. If I knew then what I know today, I would never have stolen her purse.
There were really only a few noteworthy encounters. One person started singing “Rock and Roll All Night” when they saw me. I was unamused. Being mistaken for Gene Simmons under any circumstances is offensive to me, but the metal purist in me wanted to throttle the person. Another person asked me if I had any Faygo. You can imagine the horror I felt. My co-workers were relatively amused, but it was laughed at and quickly forgotten as the business of life ground on.
There are these Pro-Life protestors that I regularly see on the drive home with signs that read things like “It’s A Baby, Not A Choice” and “I Survived The American Holocaust” camped in front of the local Planned Parenthood. I had an elaborate scheme planned in which I leaped out of my car and began screeching the lyrics to “Abigail”. Unfortunately, they were not there and my rather uneventful day as The King slogged on.
I kept casting glances out of my car window at people who I intended to frighten. No one seemed particularly impressed or even remotely affected. A minivan cut me off in traffic. I drove up right next to the car and gave the driver an angry look. He cast a brief eye in my direction then went back to text messaging someone about whatever urgent thought had just occurred to him.
I assumed that my stop to get gasoline would be the highlight of the day. Someone would have to find this at least a bit out of the ordinary. Again, disappointment. I stood behind my car pumping gas. People walked by. Some looked, some didn’t. No response.
I went inside to the cash register. The person whose named tag announced him to be “Tim” looked took my 20-dollar bill and gave me change. Nothing. Was this an ordinary occurrence at gas stations throughout the American South? Was this odd attempt to garner attention not particularly interesting or funny? Was I misreading the body language of the people around me? Were people simply so locked into the everyday drudgery of their lives that a 6 foot 2 man in heavy metal makeup could not even awaken them from their daily slumber? I wasn’t sure.
I slumped back into my car and drove home. My wife and children found the whole thing pretty funny, but considering I regularly run around the house with a pair of pants on my head or singing Soviet Era march anthems, it didn’t really strike anyone as being out of the ordinary. We took some pictures and went back to our usual routines.
Life seems to march on unmoved by the bizarre actions of myself or anyone else. When something truly out of the ordinary occurs they might ponder it. For a moment. Sometimes.
Life has an energy of it’s own. It flows in 7 billion directions all at once. Everyone in their own lanes. Everyone going somewhere. Doing something. Thinking. Breathing. Talking. Texting. Chewing. It all just goes on and on. Day after day. Night after night. There is no universal theory to explain it. It’s just one event after another. An endless parade of sights and sounds.
What is the importance of one man wearing King Diamond makeup in this sea of human impulse and action? Very little. Throughout the entire day, I felt this odd pressure to be noticed. As if it was critical that someone see me, see what I had done. To laugh. To be altered from their course.
At first, I was kind of bothered that no one really seemed to notice. After all, what was the point beyond seeing the shocked expression on a few faces? As time went on, I just wanted to get the makeup off. I was tired of showing off. Tired of playing a part. Exhausted by trying to be noticed.
At the end of the day, I felt a genuine sense of relief to take the makeup off. I’ve always felt it important to stand out as an individual. I’m narcissistic enough to have spent four years writing random thoughts and ideas on this website and hoping desperately that people will want to tune into my world enough to read it. I enjoy the thrill of being noticed. Until yesterday, I had never realized how tiring searching for it can be.
The best part of the day for me was when I sat alone in the deadening quiet of my bedroom right before I fell asleep. No one was watching me. No one cared what I was doing or how I was doing it. Silence. For a fleeting moment, I felt the genuine peace of not being an individual, but simply being.
I sunk into life and disappeared. It was beautiful.
“King Christ,this world is all aleak;
and lifepreservers there are none:” -ee cummings
There is no Overman…only an Outerman.
We are The Outerman. They are The Innerman. Made from the same material. Subject to the same illusion. The two share nothing in common beyond circumstance.
The Outerman does not stand above the world of The Innerman, rather we are mired in it. We watch its absurdities not from a distance, but from a terrible proximity.
We bare the scars of The Innerman’s creations. We live in the demented cesspool of their need for acceptance. Adoration that will never come from the other Innermen. They are blind. Each alone in the company of Others. Each pantomiming human form. Each actors on a stage that stretches from dawn till death.
Both The Innerman and The Outerman are prisoners of the same sickening carnival, the only difference between the two is The Outerman recognizes it to be what it is. No superstition can save him. No machine can revive him. He walks to his fate with the dignity and honor of a man who will not accept the debasement of delusion.
The Outerman looks in the mirror and sees a product of alienation. An alien in a world of aliens. A jigsaw piece that does not fit. Awake among dreamers. There is no Hollywood ending for him or anyone else. There is only decay.
The Innerman looks in the mirror and hopes somehow to mold his face to the reflect the blank stare of the other Innermen. He can never get it right no matter how hard he tries. Never fast enough, never strong enough, never smart enough. Everyday he hopes he’ll see a different image in front of him. If he could just find the formula. The Man With The Answer. But there is no Man and there is No Answer.
The Innerman’s world is one of violence. Violence not in the sense of harm towards others (although some choose that path), but a violent ignorance that turns a blind eye to the suffering in their midst. The Cause portion of the equation forgotten. The Effect always a mystery.
“Why do they hate us?” they wonder aloud, never seeing the answer apparent to anyone not forever trapped in fantasy. Violence is the righteousness of the provincial and the tyranny of the obvious. The world of the Innerman is a dream inside of a dream inside of a dream, with a waking nightmare always somewhere in the corner of his eye.
The Innerman is doomed. Even God won’t save him. Why would He bother? He is too busy poisoning children with cancer, creating horrors like ebola and teaching his followers to hate that which makes them human.
He is the God of letting good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. He is not The God of Love, He is The God of Pestilence. The best thing God could be is a fantasy. For if he is not, He is a sadist.
Both The Outerman and The Innerman are bound together. They walk to the same gallows, suffocated by the same rope. The Outerman calls it a hanging. The Innerman calls it salvation.
When I was a kid, there was no better experience than walking around a toy store. The smell of bicycle tire rubber, metal trucks that could be transformed into omnipotent robots, GI-Joe men packaged in plastic tombs waiting to be reborn and liberated in the cause of fun, the locked bulletproof plastic case behind which Atari games were buried in case of looting. Aisles and aisles of endless possibility. Never ending fun at every turn.
Then, I became a man and put away childish things. Toy stores turned from bastions of joy to cheap consumer hells. There is no mystery left in toys for me, only price tags and the endless howling of a barbaric wolf pack of brainwashed children who have long since been figured out by the Skinner Box charlatans that wile away their days mastering the art of monetizing dreams.
Surprisingly, as my body decays from a temple of purity to a temple of doom, I have found there is another place that fills me with this same childish wonder that Toys’R’Us once provided me. That place is the local CVS in the Toco Hills section of Atlanta.
I walk through the sliding electric doors and a chill runs down my spine. I immediately make a beeline for the back of the store where the all the serious remedies are kept. I am transfixed by visions of how much I can fix. Rows upon rows of aspirins, antacids, probiotics, fiber enriched gummy bears, earwax cleaners, toenail clippers, vitamins, tooth care products, skin softeners and everything else you could possibly imagine.
The irritable stomach aisle is my favorite. A regular Disneyland for the dyspeptic. I feel an odd pride to live in a nation that has figured out so many possible ways to deal with heartburn. One of the happiest moments in the last year or so of my life was the day I discovered the new antacid flavor chews. I go through a bottle of 250 on a weekly basis. I have more calcium in me than a medium sized herd of dairy cattle. They look and taste like gigantic Skittles. But Skittles with a deeper purpose. Skittles that can alleviate the endless, lava like pain that exists deep in the smoking pit that is my stomach.
After this, I migrate over to the tooth care section. I find myself taking a particular interest in the different varieties of dental floss that come out with startling regularity. There are people somewhere in an office who spend hours upon hours brainstorming ways to obliterate the plaque that accumulates around the edges of human tooth. A life well spent, in my opinion. They have these toothpicks that have a plastic sharpened tip on one end and a small brush on the other side. I think about them constantly. I own roughly twelve packs of 500 of them, which are scattered throughout my house and car. They give me great solace, even on the darkest of days.
Depending on what nagging pain or irritation is top of mind for me guides the next fifteen minutes. Am I waking up in a cold sweat at 2 AM with the usual round of life drama induced night terrors? The sleep section offers me everything from melatonin to Valerian root to the new Nyquil sleep product (inventively called “Zzzzzz”) that makes me feel like my brain has been danced on by elves wearing soccer cleats.
My eyes are itching and my nose is watering (or something like that). Can I be cured? Certainly! A quick visit down aisle 16 will convince anyone who is paying attention that there are enough allergy medications to dam the mighty Mississippi. The true connoisseur of allergy products understands that these are usually useless and if you want to feel any comfort whatsoever, you have to get the pharmacist to go in the back and get you a batch of those pills with pseudoephedrine in them. Great stuff for allergies, but after about three weeks of the maximum dosage Mother Theresa would start firing rounds off of a Texas bell tower. I’ve been taking the stuff for close to ten years and need very little explanation as to why meth heads often lack teeth.
I find myself experiencing an odd, unexplainable form of jealousy as I walk the perimeter of the store. I still have years before I can experience things like a Sitz bath or know electronically what my glucose level is. I cannot reasonably explain spending 50 bucks on a knee or back brace. My eyeball has not been scarred and, therefore, I am in no need of the varieties of eye patches that are offered. I am denied some of the basic freedoms that people with infirmities worse than mine are allowed to experience. Still, there is so much for me that I never feel this longing for very long.
There is comfort to be found in this odd place. A strange feeling of control over one’s ultimate fate. A feeling of wild empowerment over the forces of decline and despair. Backaches, headaches, joint pain, germy hands, smelly feet, chronic everything…all curable, if only for a few hours. Relief only a transaction away.
(Whatever you do, when you get up to the counter, do not say the word “antlers”. You want a cup of water. This is McDonald’s. There are people in line behind you. They are anxious to get their McRibs or apple pies or whatever they came here for. Just say “Water, please”. That’s all. Don’t screw this….)
Woman Behind The Counter: Welcome to McDonald’s. How can I help you?
Woman: (with a quizzical, mildly amused look) Uhmm. How can I help you?
Me: (pleadingly) Antlersssssss…
Woman: (in a sacchariney sweet “oh, I get it, your trying to be funny and I’m trying to get through the day without choking a customer” voice) Ha. No sir, we don’t have antlers? Would you like a Quarter Pounder?
Me: (I swear, I’m trying to say “water”) Antlers…antlers, antlers…..aaaaaanttttlers.
Woman: (losing patience) Sir, we do not have antlers? What is it that you….
Me: (I have lost any control of my tone) ANTLERS!!!!!!!!
Woman: (looking frightened) Uhm. Sir, are you okay?
Me: Antlers? Antlers! Antlersantlersantlersantlers!!! ANT-LERS!!!!!
(The people in line behind me are growing more impatient. There is angry mumbling. People behind the counter are starting to pay attention)
Woman: (near tears) Sir, I’m going to have to go get the manager. I don’t understand…..
Me: Antlers!!!!! What part of antlers do you not understand???? ANTLERS!!!!
(The woman behind the counter turns and begins to walk towards the back of the kitchen)
Me: (Turning towards the gathering crowd behind me) Antlers!!!! All I want are some antlers! Antlers! I’m thirsty!!! Don’t you understand! Antlers!!!! Anyone….please!!!!
A large man in the line: (helpfully) Are you okay? Do you need some….assistance??
Me: I asked for antlers! Not a difficult request! Antlers! Antlers! Antlers! Am I not speaking English or something?
An elderly woman behind me in line: (slowly dipping her hand in her purse for either mace or a cellphone) I think that you are confused. Antlers are things that are on a deer’s head?
Her husband: Or an elk. Or a caribou. Or a…..
Me: Listen you ignorant mongrel! I came in here, I asked politely for antlers and these people are acting like I’m crazy. ANTLERS!!! You are trying to confuse me, but I’m not confused. I’m as clearheaded as I have ever been IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. I was born in New Rochelle Hospital! My mom’s maiden name is Czechlowski! I have green eyes! The 18th President was Ulysses S. Grant! ANTLERS!!!!
(The enormous manager comes out from behind the counter with a menacing look. He puts his hand on my shoulder. I spin around and glare at him. His name tag reads “Timothy”)
Manager: Sir, I’m going to have to ask….
Me: ANTLERS! Listen you burger flipping, fry shoveling fascist! I made a simple request. I asked for….
Manager: (sternly) You are going to have to…..
Me: NO!!! I will not be silent in the face of tyranny! I will not wilt in the face of oppression! I will not change my order!!! I will not stand mutely as you ignore my desideratum!!!! You will not press down upon my brow with this crown of French fries!!!! You will not crucify me upon an arch of gold!!!!!!
Manager: (looking towards the kitchen) Somebody needs to call the police. CALL THE POLICE!!!! (looking at me) Sir, if you do not calm down you are going to be arrested. Please…CALM DOWN!!!!
Me: Calm down!!! Don’t tell me to calm down. Don’t you understand!!! Antlers….you mindless chromosome deficient mongoloid! Antlers are all I wanted! ANTLERS!!!!! The world is falling apart! The ice caps are melting! Small microbes are currently circulating through this room AS WE SPEAK that have the power to kill us all! I just want some ANTLERS!!!!
Manager: (trying to hold in his fury) Okay….OKAY….we don’t have any antlers? Is there anything….ANYTHING….else we can get you?
After years of interminable suffering, the human race will finally be put out of its misery tonight at 8 o’clock Eastern Standard Time (5 PM on the West Coast). There will be no giant mushroom clouds, no asteroids unstoppable hurdling towards earth, no lights, no sounds, no music, just the immediate and unexplained termination of all sentient human life on our planet.
“I, for one, am thrilled to see the human race ending in such a bloodless and efficient fashion,” said Charles Guiteau, a car insurance salesman from Provo, Utah. “To be honest, the next week was going to be hell. Now, I’m free to spend the day catching up on the episodes of Game of Thrones that I missed.”
“It was going to happen at some point,” exclaimed Mark Chapman, a traveling pudding salesman from Denver, “why not just get it over with?”
“I mean, honestly, I’m tired of worrying about all the different ways the human race could end. This way, we are free of the fear of terrorism, of global warming, of viruses, of nuclear bombs, of bacteria from spoiled meat, of the federal debt, of running out of oil and of endless war. We were all going to die at some point anyway, might as well do it quickly.”
“If you think about it, it’s probably for the best,” announced Leon Czolgosz, a professional juggler from Memphis. “We’ve been around for thousands of years and what have we really done with our time? Create more humans. Create machines that make humans live longer. Create devices to make our time on earth more bearable. Create stories about afterlives and vengeful, jealous gods. Create reasons to love each other. Create reasons to hate each other. Create reasons and methods to kill each other. To what end? It’s all wasted motion.”
Some people, however, are not taking the news as well. “As a Nationals fan, I’m disappointed to think that I’ll never get to see Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg develop into the superstar caliber players I know they can be,” said longtime Washington resident Gavrilo Princip. “I really thought the World Series was ours this year.”
Meanwhile, some Americans are upset about the timing and details of this extinction level event. “America is the greatest country on earth. The idea that we are going to die at the exact same time and in the exact same way as all other countries boggles the mind. We give millions of dollars in foreign aid to countries like Somalia. We should at least be granted a few extra hours. Fair is fair,” said John Booth, Mississippi treasurer for the Tea Party Patriots for Freedom and The Avoidance of Responsibility for Others.
In Washington, the news has brought a halt to the constant bickering between Congress and President Obama. In the spirit of bipartisanship, both sides have promised to pass legislation to end the impasse over the federal budget within the next few weeks.
Regardless of how people feel, the end is coming. It will be quick and painless. You won’t even know what hit you. There will be a flash and it will be done. There is nothing you can do about it.
(Inspired by the Ray Bradbury story Last Night of The World)
I believe it was Henry Kissinger who once said, “There is no soup like the milk of human longing.” Or was it Lacan. I’m not sure. Irregardless of redundant words that don’t actually exist or simply restate words that could be a heck of a lot shorter, Kissinger meant what he said. If he did say it. Which he didn’t.
I’m reminded of a time before radar. A time where planes needed to fly below nothing to be hidden. They simply didn’t exist. A time where whales walked the earth and the band Earth performed in Wales. Or neither.
You wanted him to be Souza. You pretended as only the pretentious can. But he was not and you cried. Tears of horror. You lifted your copy of Fabulous Disasters towards the sky and you shook it. You demanded God reformulate Himself in your image for once so that He could understand the grave misfortune He had bestowed upon the world. You swore allegiance if He only would bring back the mighty Zetro.
First, there was denial. Then, anger. Then, bargaining. You listened to their cover of Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up” and started telling random strangers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, anyone who would listen how it was an unappreciated classic. You walked into a supermarket wearing an outfit made out of Australian Herring. You began gargling diet soda and spitting it on children. You bought a ’76 Dodge Dart and painted the lyrics from Manowar’s “Bridge of Death” all over the doors. You joined People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals. You sent poems and toenail clippings to all the living members of the Bar-Kays.
You began attending lectures at Emory University about the history of the sciatic nerve. You moved to Norway. You became a vegan. You began accusing high-ranking government officials of being Freemasons. You disavowed the use of salt. You fell in love. You became convinced that people were out to get you.
You stopped reading this article. You began biting your cousin’s arm hair. You went to your window, opened it and began shouting all the lyrics from the first five Venom albums. You joined the Peace Corps. You learned to play bass. You became convinced that you had killed John F Kennedy in spite of the fact that you were born 12 years after the assassination took place. You started being mistaken in public for Marilu Henner. You tried a new type of shampoo. You spent 37 dollars and 29 cents on a used copy of an Atrophy album only to find that it had decayed. You ate all of the rolls. I know you did. I saw you. Don’t lie. You did. And now you are not admitting it. You are a dishonest person.
As Rick Pitino once said, “Paul Baloff isn’t walking through that door.” Or was it Hegel. I’m not sure. I think we can all agree on one thing, violent video games are the cause of nearly all of our current problems. That, and misogynistic, violent metal lyrics. And cell phone towers. And terrorism. And disco goregrind.
But, if I know one thing, it is this, Rob Dukes is a talented man who has brought stability and a brutal new sound to Exodus. Or maybe he didn’t. I dunno. But, if I know one thing, it is this, Rob Dukes is emblematic of how heavy metal fans have become ill-equipped to handle even the most minor of changes without turning into a bunch of fundamentalist whiners with the undying need to prove that they were “there” first, even if they don’t really care where “there” is. Or maybe not. I dunno. All I know is this, if it weren’t for Exodus, the children of Israel would never have left slavery through the strength of Yahweh. And that, at the end of the day, is all that is important.
(A heavy set man named Oliver stands alone in the center of a nearly endless, empty but brightly lit furniture store. He is greeted by a thin, cheerful man with a name badge that reads “Stan”)
Stan: Can I help you with something, Sir?
Oliver: Well, I’m in the process of moving from an apartment into a house. I have more room and am in need of some new furniture to fill the place out.
Stan: Great, well you’ve come to the right place. What are you looking for first?
Oliver: Well, I’ll need a new couch.
Stan: Right this way.
(Stan leads down a row of dining room tables into a bank of couches)
Stan: Are you looking for a sectional, maybe a divan….
Oliver: (pointing at a large, rather non-descript red couch) That one…over there. I like that.
Stan: Ah yes! Our 20th Century Persian Sectional. Very popular item.
Oliver: I don’t mean to be rude, but I’d like to cut right to the chase. I have a budget I’m working with. I’ve seen this couch before at another store but it was too expensive. If you offer me a good deal on it, I’m pretty much sold. What’s it cost?
Stan: No problem at all. I like working with someone who wants to get right down to business. (pulling a tag from behind the couch) This couch right here will cost you the first twelve nights you spent alone after your wife and children left you and the funeral of your Aunt Sally.
Oliver: Wow. That’s a bit steep for a couch. The IKEA up the street only wanted the week my father was in a coma after the construction accident and the time my dog froze to death on the back porch when I was six.
Stan: Hmmm…..Okay, look, you’ve got me over a bit of a barrel here. I’ll be frank with you, I need to move some merchandise pretty quickly. Got a new shipment coming in, plus my boss needs to see some numbers. You seem like a nice fellow, how about I ask you for the time your parents locked you in a closet for five hours because you got caught smoking and the time you were eight and your uncle punched you in the face because he thought you had hidden the remote control?
Oliver: Not bad. Will you throw in the ottoman?
Oliver: We have a deal. Now, let’s see about a bed for the guest room.
Stan: (hurriedly moving to the bed section) Right this way.
Oliver: Looking for a queen-sized mattress and an upscale looking frame. Oak maybe. What’s that set over there run?
Stan: Well, that one will set you back the week after you were first diagnosed with diabetes, the time you got fired from your high school job at Target because you fell asleep in the stock room and the death of your good friend Ralph.
Oliver: That’s just too much. This is going in the guest room. Do you have anything a bit more reasonable?
Stan: Well, this set in the corner will only run you the time you got cut from the JV basketball team and the car accident where you caused that man to be in intensive care for five weeks. And it’s quite sturdy.
Oliver: Sold. Now, all I’m really in need of are some end tables for the living room and a recliner and I’ve got everything I need.
Stan: Well, I’ve got a recliner over here that I think you are going to love. Check out this little number.
Oliver: (sitting down in a huge leather chair and leaning back) Oh yeah! Stan, may I call you that….
Oliver: Stan, this is like heaven on earth. I haven’t been this comfortable in a long time. This would be perfect for the living room.
Stan: Well, you sure picked the right day to visit us! That’s a closeout special. Do you like the style of table next to it?
Oliver: Very much.
Stan: Here’s what I’m going to do. I’ll get you the recliner and two end tables just like that one as a package. All you need to give me are the ten or so experiences of sexual inadequacy with women you’ve accumulated in the last three years and it’s yours. What do you say?
Oliver: Well, it’s a great chair…..
Stan: Imagine putting your feet up on a Sunday and watching the game in that chair. Think of how comfortable you’ll be. Think of how much joy this will bring you. Think of all the pain and suffering this will substitute for. You don’t need anything in this world but a comfortable chair and a place to put your feet up. Call me old fashioned, but I believe that.
Oliver: Stan, you’ve got yourself a deal. When can it be delivered?
Stan: Well, delivery will cost the week that in elementary school that everyone decided to ignore you because someone caught you picking your nose. I could have it in your home by Friday. Just write down your address and I’ll have the fellas bring it on by.
Oliver: Sounds like a plan. It’s been a pleasure doing business with you.
Stan: Likewise, Oliver. Likewise.
(The two men shake hands)