Paradise of Storm

Category: Middle East

On the Stupidity of Reza Aslan

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by Guy Walker

When Reza Aslan wakes in the morning, he laughs one cold slithering laugh. The dull profanity of the morning sun spills through the soiled linen curtains and across his eyes, and he opens them to a shaven clawless cat licking his earlobe. He pets the thing with only his fingertips, in short painful strokes that cause the old imbecilic feline to erect his backside and wheeze a muted cry. “Good boy, Mohammed, my bald little prophet,” he sneers prudishly. Aslan heaves himself up from his cot, white padding spilling from a tear in the corner, and pours a bowl of curdled milk, and kneels to all fours, lapping up the bits of fermented solids as the cat stares patiently on. “Did you know I’m a professor? A scholar!” he stammers in between selfish gulps. “I’ve been on CNN!!” He slams his fist on the corner of the bowl, sending the watery cottage cheese through the air, and begins sobbing, little ponds of tears and drool pooling on the checkered floor. The cat turns away indifferently, Aslan’s incoherent exclamations fading into the distance, into soft brittle anthems of self-pity as the cat curls into a ball in a dim sun spot on the red hirsute rug.

There are only three books on his only book shelf: The No Cussing Club, by McKay Hatch, A Shore Thing, by Snooki, and the Quran, the latter of which is embroidered in gold leaf and plastic gems, with a small fan blowing on it at all times. He holds the book up close to his face, and flips through its entirety with the edge of his thumb like it were a flip book. “Ahhh, the prose and subtle paean of God’s last revelation. This book gets me every time,” he says gazing wonderingly at the peeling linoleum wall, as a gang of ants drag a dead cockroach across the floor.

As Aslan saunters off to the rusting ivy-ridden gates of UC Riverside, where he teaches creative writing to a decaying group of toothless meth addicts, a tattered white king pigeon defecates on a passing wagon pulled by hyenas below. Reza’s lips tighten into a churlish aristocratic pose of disgust, and he repositions his spectacles as he notes in his notepad about the eminent whiteness of the pigeon. Clearly, it’s not just the dark colored pigeons who shit on things. Down the crumbling avenues of swollen rubble, the braided petrified trees all lay fallen across their horrible patches of ashen grey earth, all usable soil blown off in the storms a decade ago. A gaunt hairless dog with violet skin limps across the road, and Aslan swings around light poles, skipping in a haphazard menacing sort of way. He obsesses never to step on a crack on the sidewalk, because as a child, he heard from someone who heard from someone that if he did it would break his mother’s back, and he never grew out of the belief. Hopping from cement parcel to cement parcel, his professor-edition leather satchel embroidered with “Yes, I actually AM a professor,” swings aimlessly around his neck, as he sings, “Cracks on the sidewalk! Cracks on the asphalt! Crack in the ghettos, crack in my butt! Violence is here, and violence is there! But if a Muslim kills you, it’s not Islam’s fault!” He wipes the frothing saliva off his chin with a baby blue bib, and stops next to a tumbleweed to take a shit.

At this point, a Smerdyakov-looking mujahideen runs by wielding an AK-47, his beige and heavily soiled shalwar kameez fluttering in the coruscating morning air, but his chronic steatopygia slows his fanatic religious momentum to a gross and lonely stagger. There’s not many people left to kill in the world, but still, the man is chased by a gang of bailiffs, their scintillating armor blinding the few people around. Aslan moves quickly and intersects the gun-gilded officers, and like Moses parting the Red Sea, he throws both hands into the air, erect as a giraffe dick, and declares “BEHOLD!! FEAR NOT! THIS MAN IS NOT DOING IT IN THE NAME OF ISLAM! Also, Christians do the same.” But the mujahideen stops, turns around, and replies, “No, I’m definitely doing this in the name of Islam. It says right here, ‘And he who fights in the cause of Allah and is killed or achieves victory—We will bestow upon him a great reward.’ Or here: ‘And fight them until there is no fitnah and the religious, all of it, is for Allah. And if they cease—then indeed, Allah is seeing of what they do.’ Or here: ‘If they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper.’” Aslan responds sharply, “I don’t think you know this yet, but I’m a professor of religions. I know things other people don’t. You’re not doing this in the name of Islam.”

The truth is, Reza Aslan is a passive-aggressive apologist who manipulates the truth through his own denial. In a 2007 debate with neuroscientist Sam Harris, Harris postured that it is the role of Aslan and other moderate Muslims in the public eye to steer Islam more towards being a religion of peace, rather than the predominant opinion at the time to prosecute those who draw cartoons of Mohammed, or hacking off the genitalia of their girls en masse. Aslan responded by turning away from this offer, and repeating his qualifications as a public figure. “[T]here’s a reason I don’t write books on neuroscience. I write books about what’s going on in the Muslim world because I have an expertise about what’s going on in the Muslim world.” It’s a pubescent puerile argument to try to win a debate by declaring how smart and qualified you are. It doesn’t argue anything substantial or meaningful; it’s a crude fuliginous declaration of “Trust me, I’m an expert,” which, fittingly, is actually the name of a book that Aslan has essays published in. “Trust me, I’m an expert.” It’s such a pandering offensive idiom, something akin to Trump’s pasted together lexicon of entropic elitism. It admits that the person didn’t get a degree for the supposed purpose of a degree—to think critically and argue constructively—but rather for the sole and shallow purpose of saying they have a degree.

In a viral Youtube video titled “The Stupidest Interview Ever,” when a Fox News anchor tried to argue that Aslan didn’t have the right to write a book about Jesus because Aslan himself is a Muslim, Aslan kept repeating over and over, “I am an expert with a PhD in the history of religions.” “I am a historian.” “I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament.” The truth is, not a single one of these claims is true. He only has one PhD, which is in sociology. He is not a professor of religion, but rather of creative writing, at the University of California, Riverside, that barren wasteland of meth addicts, tract houses, bros, and dust storms. Yet he continues to posture himself as a scholar and historian of religions.

While on CNN, he argued that female genital mutilation (FGM) is not a Muslim problem but a central African problem. But David Pakman from The David Pakman Show refuted this vague claim with specific global numbers: seven of the top eight countries listed by UNICEF with the highest rates of FGM in Africa were predominately Muslim countries. Egypt has a 91% FGM rate, Sudan 88%, Somalia 96%, Guinea 96%, Sierra Leone 88%, Mali 89%. And beyond Africa, Pakman shows, Kurdish Iraq has a 72% FGM rate, Indian Shia Bohras have a 90% rate.

Aslan went on to say in the CNN interview that countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Turkey are free and open societies. But in Malaysia, 93% of Muslim women had their clitorises hacked off. In Indonesia, 98% of women. These astounding rates of barbarism are not some fringe ineffectual minority as Aslan tries to argue by using Saudi Arabia as the most extreme example because they don’t let their women drive cars. Numbers as high as these require serious reevaluation of our tolerance for certain aspects of certain ideologies. In a Vice article publish in 2015 about female genital mutilation being on the rise in Malaysia, a 19-year-old Muslim girl openly shares that she is “circumcised because it is required by Islam.” In the Quran, circumcision is described as a tradition for men, but a duty for women. The delights of uncontrollable pleasure, of our only refuge from this desert twirling hell, has been hacked away in the name of an invisible deity. This mass violent insanity should be reason enough to disprove the existence of any benevolent higher power.

According to a 2013 Pew poll, 68% of the world’s Muslims believe governments should abide by Sharia law (chopping off the hands of thieves, death to apostates, beating of wives, death to homosexuals, the stoning of adulterers, and an assortment of other savory tenants of obedience).

Aslan has many times proclaimed that “a Muslim is whoever says he’s a Muslim,” which leaves us to doubt those who say Islamic terrorists are not Muslim. If a Muslim is whomever he or she declares themselves to be, then, by Aslan’s own definition, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra Front, and other such terrorist groups are very much Muslim. Extremely fringe populations admittedly, yet nonetheless Muslim. And to Aslan’s credit, in a speech he gave at the University of Toledo in 2015, he admits that if ISIS says they are Muslim then they are Muslim. But then he continues: “If you want to blame religion for all of the bad things that religion does, fine. As long as you are willing to credit religion for all the good things religion does.” He credits the thousands of Muslims fighting ISIS as one of the notable virtues of Islam, as coruscating evidence that Islam is also a force for peace. The flaw he makes here is ISIS is killing in the name of Islam, while the thousands of people who also happen to be Muslim are simply resisting against these insane goat-fucking men who are ransacking their homeland and raping mothers and daughters. These resisters are doing so not in the name of Islam, but by necessity, by a survivalist’s instinct to protect where one lives.

At the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in April 2016, Aslan made the baseless claim that “right-wing terrorists have killed far, far more Americans since the attacks of 9/11 than Islamic terrorists have. You are more likely in this country to be shot by a toddler than you are to be killed by an Islamic terrorist […] So yes, we are under threat of terrorism in this country, it’s just not Islamic terrorism.” But according to the International Security Program, in the United States 94 people have been killed by Islamic terrorists since 9/11, and 48 people have been killed by far right wing attacks. The toddler fact is seemingly true, which, if a gun advocate gets killed by his own toothless newborn whilst shitting in his diaper, then Darwinism has worked again and nature has necessarily thinned its herd.

In all his prudish passive aggression, Aslan declares he writes books about the Muslim world because he has “an expertise in the Muslim world.” But he doesn’t. He hurls himself into his classroom at UC Riverside, constructed with glued chunks of plaster and horse hair, and opens his three-ringed binder, pushing his glasses up to the top of his nose with one finger. He clears his throat of all its phlegm, and begins a lecture on punctuation. Because after all, he has an expertise in creative writing.


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The Orlando Shooting: Religion, Gays, and the Ejaculation of Death

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by Guy Walker

Immediately following news of the shooting at the Orlando gay nightclub, Texas lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, tweeted a passage from Galatians: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” After the obvious retaliating vitriol from the Twitter people, Patrick removed the quote, apologizing for his “unfortunate timing.”

The Westboro Baptist Church tweeted another: “We thank/praise God, who in His infinite wisdom sent the shooter to: 1) execute wrath, 2) mercifully chasten.” Members of the church have turned up to protest the funerals of some of the victims. At this point, this is expected from the religious right; 46 percent of Americans think the world was created 6,000 years ago, so nearly half of us are insane and will say some pretty ignorant shit. But these types of statements are not just ignorant, but also incredibly violent and dangerous in their own way. And our backlash is merely a fainéant snort, a meager little puff of outrage that quickly fades into the scorching haze of all the other bad news.

The shooter’s father, an Afghan immigrant named Seddique Mir Mateen, said he had no idea what caused his son to gun down the gays, that it had nothing to do with religion, adding that “God himself will punish those involved in homosexuality—this is not for the servants of God.” Meaning, Omar Mateen’s own forbidden homosexuality and violent repression within his cult of intolerance had absolutely nothing to do with the attack.

Omar just wanted to hold a huge palpitating dick with both hands, to stroke tenderly the promising baton, to softly kiss the tip of beauty. But it was religion—and religion alone—that corralled him into the stifling paddock of denial, brewing all that stink of perversity, that drove him to carry out the worst mass shooting in American history.

James Wesley Howell, the man from Indiana who was stopped and arrested for driving to the Pride Parade in West Hollywood with a car full of guns and potential explosives, was a pedophile back in Indiana. Something tells us he likely wasn’t a secular humanist in pursuit of scientific literacy. Something tells us he wasn’t a Quaker.

There is a growing necessity for our own intolerance of all oppressive faiths, the need for scabrous mockery of irrational tradition and blind belief. The mainstream left, and its quiet stink of politeness for people who believe in stupid perilous things, is what will impede any meaningful progress in a society’s pursuit of scientific literacy. And the truth is we are not tolerant of some faiths, as we shouldn’t be tolerant of many more. Take for example the case of Warren Steed Jeffs, the former leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FDLS). He married more than 60 women and girls, molested his own daughters and nieces and nephews, and was finally convicted by a Texas jury in 2011 on two counts of sexual assault against children, and sentenced to life in prison. Or there are the Roma gypsies, who have arranged marriages soon after the girl reaches puberty. Whenever a girl escapes a Roma community and notifies the authorities, we, as seemingly sane judicial citizens grant the girl her individual human rights above the schizophrenic claims of religion or tradition. In instances of true oppression, American society does not tolerate the freedom of a so-called religious act. The same should be true when religion tries to oppress women or homosexuals or transgender or persons of other faiths.

So, why does religion hate gays so much? As a general rule, religion hates the body and the sexual act, most likely because these cults of puerility were founded by mothball ecchymosis men who were stuck on a mountain and couldn’t get laid, so they forbade it for everyone else. And homosexuality is a complete rejection of the conservative stoicism at the heart of religion itself.

The United States may have its Dan Patricks and its Westboro Baptists, but Islam has its ubiquitous quest for death and flogging if you even get near a dick.

In 2013, the Pew Research Center published the results of a survey on gay tolerance in 39 countries around the world. When asked, “Should society accept homosexuality?” Western Europe, Australia, and the Americas, to no one’s surprise, had a generally positive response. The Middle East wasn’t quite so enthusiastic. There were no crowds of heavily-oiled men unraveling their rainbow-colored hijabs and waving them in the air above all that the scalding sand. Pakistan, most notably, had only 2 percent of its respondents affirm that its society should accept homosexuality. Gay sex is illegal in Pakistan, best articulated by the Muslim cleric, Qari Hifzur Rehamn, who said “Homosexuals must be killed—it’s the only way to stop them spreading. It should be by beheading or stoning, which the general public can do.”

However, in direct correlation with their ideological repression of sexual preference, Pakistan loves its gay porn. They are the world leader in Google searches for the most gay shit possible, leading the way with the search terms “shemale sex,” “teen anal sex,” “man fucking man,” and a close second place behind the Kenyans for “gay sex pics.”

The correlation between the religious repression of sex and sexuality, and the violent perversity that follows, is obvious: hacking off the clitorises of girls, the systematic rape of boys in the Catholic Church, the “Kill the Gays Bill” in Uganda. Denying the gorgeous carnal pleasures leave you mad and wild eyed, anxious to moisten up your nasty bits. The pleasures of the body is the only redeemable thing a god or creator gave us on this ransacked plateau of existence, and denying them leave you with absolutely nothing fun to do.

If anyone honestly critiques Islam, they are called an Islamophobe or a bigot. When Sam Harris cited a poll that said 78 percent of British Muslims said the Danish cartoonist should have been prosecuted, Ben Affleck squirms and calls him a racist. With the gays, we’re in a bit of a quandary of rhetoric: the Muslim community is predominately homophobic, but saying that makes us Islamophobic.

Jacques Lacan’s famous statement that a husband’s suspicion that his wife is cheating on him is pathological even if that suspicion is found correct. Before the attack, Omar Mateen walked into a gun store in Florida and tried to buy high-grade body armor and a large quantity of ammunition, and spoke Arabic while on the telephone, and the store owners deemed Mr. Mateen suspicious, consequently rejecting his business and immediately notifying the FBI. Is this pathological of the gun store owners? What if he was not a terrorist, but just an innocent brown man who liked to dress up in full body armor and shoot shit in the desert? Would the gun store owners’ suspicions then been deemed bigoted and racist? Probably. But their suspicions would have potentially saved 49 lives if the FBI did anything about it.

There are anti-Muslim gun stores across the United States, and one could well-argue that this kind of discrimination is proto-psychotic paranoia, that far more young white men carry out mass shootings across the country than Muslims do. Our own societal pathology and paranoia is reaching a critical breaking point. When a professor on an airplane was solving math problems with a pen and paper, and a woman, terrified that maybe the hypothetical cosine parabolas were the arcs of terrorist missile strikes, erupted in fear and the plane made an emergency landing and the man was escorted off the plane. Clearly this is pathological, clearly a symptom of our increasing fear of Islam. But what is there left to do? Because the political spectrum is so polarized in the United States today, if you criticize Islam especially, you are cast alongside the supporters of Trump and all his porcine patriots.

Following the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack, major television networks and newspapers refused to publish the cartoons of Muhammad, in fear that they would put them and their staff at risk of violent retaliation. This is precisely the problem. Our mockery of archaic belief in the stupid should popularize en masse. A fake respectfulness towards the belief that an illiterate businessman transcribed the final revelation of God, or that the Earth is 6,000 years old, is a suppression in itself, and allows violent dangerous belief to propagate and spread across the world. Every newspaper and television network should have projected the cartoons for the world to see.

Christopher Hitchens postured it best. In public debates with senior Rabbis, Bishops, Muslim intellectuals, he has repeated the challenge to them all: name a moral act or thought that you can have as a religious person that I can’t as a non-believer. There is nothing. Now, reverse it, and name a crime or sinister act that you can carry out only because of your belief. And you’ve already thought of one. And now another. And yet another.

To Respond to Massacre

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by Guy Walker

Following the most recent Paris attacks, with at least 129 dead, how do we respond to something so tragic? We weren’t there, and most of us won’t be so directly affected. But the streets are aged by massacre, a senescence of speechless sorrow, everything hardened ever so gradually. How to we respond privately, or in collective masses, or in international political theaters? To wholly offer our hearts without coming across as trite and insincere. As gobs of columnists and bloggers clamor to offer their analysis, to sit hunched behind their glowing screens, describing the events with calm succinct reason, to offer answers of blame or justice or patriotism, we feel something missing. As writers, we give an air of egotism, as if yelling in the storm, “Listen to me! I have an alternative point of view!” In the very least, a response mustn’t ever make it about ourselves.

But within hours after the attacks, politicians and pundits used the dead to leverage it to their own squalid advantage of a boorishly flaccid authority. Ann Coulter—more of an aging lurching ghoul than anything else, as she strokes her blonde hair continuously through every interview she’s ever given—called for an end of Muslim immigration into the U.S. entirely. She immediately tweeted about gun control: “too bad there were no concealed carry permits.” Newt Gingrich tweeted similarly. This type of political cynicism is the worst of the lot, turning the deaths of the innocent into puppets of various gross agendas. Even so, in the United States alone, there’s an average 36 gun-related deaths every day, a Paris attack every four days. There’s been 142 school shootings since the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012. One of the true breakdowns in journalism—if you can call it journalism—was when Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera began crying on television because his daughter happened to be at the soccer game when the suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the stadium. Not that the bomb wasn’t significant. But Rivera made the attack about him. The Fox headline was “Rivera’s Daughter Among Paris Attack’s Survivors.” In a stadium of 80,000 people, when not a single person inside the stadium was hurt, when President Hollande himself was in the stadium, this headline is all spectacle, casting a net of egotism among the wounds of massacre.

A day before Paris, there was Beirut: two suicide bombers killed 43 innocent civilians in the suburb of Bourj el-Barajneh. There is no option for a Lebanon flag for your Facebook profile. There is no #PrayforLebanon circling the newsfeed. Before that there was a suicide bombing at a funeral inside the Al-Ashara al-Mubashareen mosque in Baghdad, killing 19. When the U.S. bombed the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan, killing 19, there were no mass prayer vigils, no patriotic empathies. At least none that were televised. Is 19 not enough to pray for? What’s the threshold for justified heartbreak? 25? 100? Of course not. The terrorist attacks at the Charlie Hebdo offices last January, killing 12, sent shockwaves around the world, uniting Western leaders in a demonstration of linking arms together. This is not to diminish the horror that the Parisians faced and continue to face, that the heartbreak that the families will likely never overcome, but there is a discrepancy in the attention paid to violence, and especially for the responsibility for that violence. We are a tribal bunch, mourning only for our neighbors with skin or gods similar to ours, in this Sophoclean age of war and political-speak. And people have always excelled at leveraging their pious superiority in a desperate attempt to justify their cruel animality.

When my boss texted me, simply with “You see the news in Paris?” I knew immediately, and with all certainty that it was a terrorist attack. This is the modern age. Before 9/11, ‘news in Paris’ could mean anything from student demonstrations to a sporting event to nudity on the streets. Today, the predictability of terror is itself monstrous. Terrorist attacks, school shootings, cops killing black kids—the new-age ecchymosis of hysteria is clearly far too normal, blending into the fabric of dehumanized misery, like Adorno’s ‘identity thinking,’ no single person is real anymore. It just becomes ’19 dead’, ’43 dead’, ‘125 dead’, like scales of death, weighing out how much we as distant witnesses should feel.

As friends discuss their own analysis of the situation, simply as ‘sick bastards’ and ‘obviously Muslim’ and other barely literal grunts of shock and tribalism, we feel unable to truly feel the madness of it all. For now, there is too much noise. As storms of tweets and retweets fill every last corner of clean air, as only the most thoughtful and humane of your Facebook friends give their profile picture a blue, white, and red filter, (if duck face selfies through French symbolism is human enough) offering empty prayers, counting virtual likes as if they were nods of approval, as we graffiti #PrayforParis across the Internet in a sort of robotic clicktivism, we know deep down this doesn’t actually help. Maybe a little needed communion, but what more of a response can we give on this brittle stage of grief?

Immediately following 9/11, American flags flew from every edifice, every child’s little hands, in an understandable effort to collectively stand strong. But the actual response to 9/11—the military and political response—is what is most worrying. It’s because of our military response that ‘news in Paris’ is expected to be terrorism. It is old news that ISIS would not exist today were it not for the U.S. response, illegally invading Iraq, catastrophically outweighing the death toll and misery seen on September 11th. While initially invading Iraq, Paul Bremer—head diplomat in Iraq—issued Order Number 2, effectively putting 400,000 former Iraqi soldiers out of work, dissolving Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. The U.S. finances Saudi Arabia, oppressing its own and neighboring populations. Saudi Arabia has beheaded more people this year than ISIS has. President Hollande called the attacks an ‘Act of War’, but he also admitted arming the Syrian Sunni rebels. This is no longer news. The scaling up of violence by the State is predictable, monstrous, and grotesque in its ease. Pointing only to religion as the culprit—and religion certainly is a culprit—is merely an excuse for us to not look at our own actions, our government’s own oblique responsibility. As actors of beauty and freedom and war, we have only our own leaders to press upon, to not breed into dogmatisms and systematic violence. As one Charlie Hebdo cartoonist wrote, “Our faith goes to music! Kissing! Life! Champagne and joy!”

The Fire in the Night

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“Or else I’d try to force myself to fall in love; in fact, I did it twice. And I suffered, gentlemen, I assure you I did. Deep down in your heart you don’t believe in your suffering, there is a stirring of mockery, and yet you suffer—in the most genuine, honest-to-goodness way.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The girl with the long red hair and the amber woolen dress looked up just in time. She was riding up the escalator from the underground train platform as I was riding down, and she looked directly at me and maybe smiled a little. It was only two or three seconds, but that is enough to flood the mind with ornate frenzies of love and laughter and all the bright candid idealism. At least there’s a recognition of it, and you know that she knows, and that she feels the same. Because the primary animal sense is always at work, our peripheral vision is always scanning for a fragment of beauty, pleading for a bit of decency. For all our purposeless brutish humping, all our desperate gaping orgasms, all our drunken theater, all our regret and tremendous heartbreak, we keep panting through the hallways, seeking one more moment of validation.

The girl and I passed each other and never saw each other again. She, into the brisk gold autumn in Stockholm, into the buoyant avenues, the routine loveliness that pretty women know so well. So many Holly Golightly’s, so pristine in their warm laissez-faire. I, into the fuss of the underground railways, the clamoring bodies pushing like rodents into their various compartments and holes.

Train platforms have no season, no variety or color or gaiety  .  .  .  there is only the constant stink of suffering, only the gross antipathy of machinery and neglect. It is all so stupid, the frantic banality of finding your right seat and shuffling passed all the men and women crowding the narrow hallways inside the train cars. An especially fat one was coming my way—he turned and pressed up against the wall, allowing still only a few inches for me to pass. I turned to my side, side-stepping passed him, my penis rubbing across his huge ass, the whole flaccid arrangement barely successful.

It was six in the evening, and this first train ride was headed eighteen hours north, so we packed ourselves like a thousand swollen sausages in our cars and cabins and beds, six people to a cabin, everyone’s shoes and socks airing out in their cramped chambers, everyone breathing heavily against the night, the moon no longer full but it looked like it could have been. I sold a number of surfboards in Stockholm, and had a best friend on a faint island in Norway who I hadn’t seen in two years.

I was the last one to reach my cabin, with two remaining vacancies. The other three men were merely boys, dark-skinned teenagers, or at most, in their early twenties.

“Yo! Man!” one of the boys lying on the top bunk called out, “you join us, there is room.” Subways are typically pageants of cynicism, everyone glaring down at their glowing rectangles, but these kids were warm and welcoming for some reason.

They were all from Afghanistan—all friends from home, traveling together as one. There were two sets of three bunk beds, the middle of each pulled down to turn the bottom beds into couches. The kid on the top bunk slid down immediately and I sat down next to him. He had a thin mustache, probably the only facial hair he could grow, and knew by far the most English of the three of them.

“Where you guys headed?” I asked.

“Finland. We are going to freeze ourselves, I already know this. The more north we go, the smaller my dick gets. This is not good for me,” he laughed, slapping me on the leg. The other boys laughed, but didn’t say anything. “Yeah, they understand some,” Saed continued, “He is the funniest,” pointing to the youngest looking one. “I wish you two could talk. It’s because of his jokes that we ever made it this far. Went through Iran, Turkey, Macedonia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, and maybe others, and now we have to go straight to the cold. As far away as we can get.”

“Looks like most this train is Syrian though. The cap just blew off down there.”

“The Syrians follow us though. This one big thing, and all Syrians are accepted. We from Afghanistan and it took us so long to leave. The Syrians, all over, on this train, they are everywhere. And they smell so bad, worse than my mother.”

“How do you know English so well?” I asked.

“I know seven languages. English is not my best though. I know English from American movies, I love movies, I watch them for eight years now. I just teach myself, I know nothing before. Let me ask you, why everyone in America always say ‘fuck,’” he smiled, “this is a good word, but everyone says it all the time.”

The other boys laughed, talking and joking to each other and Saed in Dari. Saed ate another chocolate, his ultra-thin mustache almost laughing, his hair styled with the precision of childlike vanity, trimmed short on the sides, then his long hair on top was flipped upwards and back, held perfect in the slickness of modernity that you knew you mustn’t touch it. “It’s your most descriptive word,” he continued. “If you are happy, sad, angry, ‘fuck’ is what you can say for everything. ‘I fucking love you.’ ‘What the fuck.’ ‘Get the fuck outa my house.’ What a great fucking language you have, American. Ha! ha! ha! ha!”

“Ha! ha! I guess it is,” I said. “We have over a million words in the English language, but we prefer such beauties as ‘fuck’ ‘stuff’ ‘man’ and a few other solid details of the world. How has the road been? Fucked in it’s own way, I’m sure.”

“Yeah, of course it’s fucked up. They shoot at us. They chase us ’til we hide all night. But we not pussies, American? We are the fastest in the country. Everyone knows Afghanistan only for being at war. My whole life they shoot at me. They hate us because we are going to be beautiful. Because I’m the most handsome, because he’s faster than all us, and because he is sleeping with all their women, that is why they shoot at us.”

“Ha! ha! let’s race then at the next stop.”

“Race me across eight countries. Race me through all that war.” He threw his arm around my shoulder, and smiled big and bright. “How many Syrians on this train are still virgins, you think? I know he is,” pointing to the quiet overweight kid. “He went to the hookers every night in Istanbul that I never saw him,” pointing to the youngest one. “But the Syrians, I bet they’re all virgins.” he said to me. “I lost mine a month ago, in Istanbul when he took me to see a hooker, and ever since I been a lion.”

We joked a while longer about women and war and men, in that order for another hour or so as the others drifted off to sleep. I pulled up the middle bunk and crawled into bed, and read from Dostoyevsky before falling asleep. Raskolnikov murdered the old pawn-broker and then Lizaveta, her half-sister, with an axe, a meticulously orchestrated murder, then barely escaped the police. The whole thing he almost couldn’t believe, then to be haunted only by his own mind. Because man is a marvelous sufferer—he chooses his suffering as an escape from Reason and Beauty and all the adroit restlessness in man. This breed of sabotage itself is a mockery, an able-bodied nightmare. Because suffering is meant merely to provoke the mania of love and color in between.

I started to drift away, when Saed poked his head up from below. “Let’s walk around the train together and try to pick up girls,” he whispered, not wanting to wake the others.

“Nah Saed,” I said with my eyes closed. “I’m too tired for women. They’re all sleeping anyways.”

In the morning, we came to my stop, somewhere in the sweeping desolation of northern Sweden, where I would switch to a train that was headed over to Norway. I walked out of the cabin, and turned to see if anyone had their eyes open. Saed was rolled up in a huge blanket, the other two also sleeping soundly, headed somewhere in Finland, somewhere in the naked homeless autumn, the tremendous expanse of birch trees and their golden hymns of leaves and a thin frost covering all the mosses. The sun pushed up over the horizon and through the trees, gently warming the faces of the millions of modest sleeping things. A morning bird flew across and landed on the bench on the train platform, pushing out his little breast, then hopping down to eat a crumb. There were only two train cars. I boarded and sat down at a small table, across from another dark-skinned man, this time not a boy.

“No. They don’t let you walk, because you can make the police know the place  .  .  .  the men have guns, so they make you get on the boat from Turkey, from Baharam to Greece.” We were drinking coffees, talking about the highly-publicized smuggling of refugees passing through Turkey, of which Ahmid, a Syrian refugee himself, was forced through just a couple weeks earlier. “We stay together as a group, the boat has sixty-five people, children and families, way too much people for this boat. We tell the men, they can keep the money but we don’t want on the boat. They tell us, ‘if you don’t want to get on boat, we kill all you, all the group.’ So we don’t have choice.”

“And you don’t have a choice because you now you know the place, and could maybe tell the police?” I repeated what he just said, wanting him to continue.

“Yes, this is exactly so.” He stopped there.

I just wanted to lightly probe this hell. “I’ve heard this again and again, almost exactly. The other day I heard of a smuggler bringing forty people onto a boat much too small for them all, and about a hundred meter out he jumps off the boat, and tells them to keep the motor on and head in the same direction, but he knows it’s not gonna make it the whole way  .  .  .  he tells them to handle it themselves, and he swims back. Have you been through Hungary?” I finally asked.

“Mmm, yes, yes I have. But the way is not so easy. It is up and down, up and down. From Matanini, we go to Athenia. Matanini is not a nice place, there is fighting everywhere, so you have to go with a big group, so no one attacks you. There is safety in a group.”

“And your family, where are they?”

“My father is in Australia, not my mother, she stay in Syria, she must stay months, then she go to meet my father. But in Syria, this is not good. Very difficult.”

“Why is no other country in the Middle East opening their borders?” I felt guilty for asking so many vapidly political questions, so many dead-ends and redundancies. There would never be enough time on this train to get beyond any of this, to share a smoke and a drink, and laugh about something plain.

“They don’t want anyone from Syria. They have no good relationship—Sunni and Shia relationship. Saudi and Qatar are terrorist countries. They want you killed and go far away, and want your oil, they will kill everyone of us if they could. So we go through all the countries. We have to sell everything before. Your car, your house, leave everything, all into cash. So you have to cross the sea, or they kill you. But when the boat sinks, we lose everything we have.”

I stood up to buy chocolate and another coffee, and asked Ahmid if he wanted anything. He shook his head, saying he just ate before getting on the train. Three people in front of me in line  .  .  .  even the Scandinavians are getting fat, their huge asses waiting for some cookies. I sat back down and asked him if he’d ever been married.

“Not married, no. Have you?”

“No. You been in love though.” This was obvious  .  .  .  no one phrases it “not married, no” without nudging the edge a little, without confessing to a bit of benevolent insanity. But more importantly, he looked amused and sad at the same time—the permanent look of those who have been in love and heartbroken. I suppose it’s more of a jovial skepticism, a tit of melancholy that makes us crave the suffering of heartbreak.

“Yes, in love. True love, you know this. We were together three years but her family doesn’t like me because I am Sunni, and so we are no longer together. We were ready to marry. She has no problem with me being Sunni, and my family has no problem with her being Shia, but her family has problem. So she married another man.”

“Son of a bitch.”

“But when she is married, she does not love this man as much, so she wrote me before and wants to see me, but I know this is a bad idea so I block her from all. This is the most difficult thing to do. I love this woman very much. I turn into a little boy with this woman. But this is no good to thing, because she is not mine, so I make myself not love her. She lives just four or five streets beside me, with her husband is very rich.” He laughed to himself, in a sad beautiful way. “So you want to marry in the future?” he asked me.

“Ah, maybe maybe not. I don’t know. I never want to be heartbroken again, so maybe not.”

“I know what you feel. I know this exactly.”

“You?” I asked

“We will see. If I meet the right woman, then of course. But we will see. It is difficult to love someone too much.”

“Yes of course. And this is the most difficult thing, to not love anyone too much. I liked my woman too much. No, I showed her that I liked her too much. When you show anyone too much affection, they draw away, instinctually, it is the law of the land, I don’t know exactly why, but this is always how it is. The trick is to not show too much. This is crude and in a way dishonest, but if she loves you too much, you do not love her as much. The trick is to present yourself as more complicated and interesting than loving one woman, than loving just her. Because we know ourselves the most. And if a woman loves me more than all else, but I know that I am merely a simple man of hunger and loneliness, then I do not think much of her for liking me. The same is true of her. A rockstar is desirable only on the stage. A dancer is perfect only while performing. All other times they are all too human, too regular for the great facade of beauty. We want to deny normalcy, but that is all there is.”

“Ha! ha! Yes. Exactly. Relationship is a bond, and that is it. You cannot let her see how much you love her. If she knows she will leave you. The girl loves the difficult man, because he is always searching his inside, what he feels and so on. She likes a complicated man. An easy man is a man she can easily leave. Yes, my friend loves this girl so much. He tell her one day how much he loves her, and next day she leave him.” He looked only at his hands and at me when he spoke. When he finished, he looked out to the pretentious haunted autumn, to the fat birch trees growing in their packs. Every now and then we traveled past an enormous lake with one or two cabins at its edge, someone’s quiet home, like a strange love affair with loneliness. The images of such places are universally romantic, clichéd postcard material, but the reality of their romance is so phenomenally rare, so completely desolate that no one dare try them. Romance itself is a storm behind the painting. It is a brutal peasantry of doubts, tears, and private infidelities.

“It happened twice on separate occasions,” I said, “in which I told her too much. I ate a bunch of MDMA and told her I would have married her. We are all so stupid. We show too much. So I can never show this, and maybe it means that I will never feel this. Maybe one causes the other, it’s hard to know which is which.”

He looked at me as if questioning me. “All women, if you tell her you want to marry her, she gets scared. Why this is? Because if you tell Arab woman you want marry her, she will not let you go, you can never get away. You must die for her to let you go.” He paused a moment. “You have gift from the woman?”

“No gift. Gifts, yes, but nothing like that to keep with you.”

“I have. This necklace from her. I give her as well, but it is gold. This is silver. You need to throw away that photograph of her, it only makes it more difficult. Give me your phone, I’ll do it for you.”

We sat there a while together, in silence, staring out the window at the endless scenery of  go by, and he started laughing to himself, at first trying to hide his laughter under his hand, then just laughing uncontrollably. “I remember you say to me before when a girl asks you if you love her, and she is laying on your bed almost naked, you say yes, of course you do. But you don’t really love her at all, you only say this to get her clothes off. You only want to see her naked. Ha! ha! That is the truest thing ever hear.”

We carried on a while, in our laughters and our silences, agreeing on the vice of love. Because love is never the complete freedom that they say it is. There is always a squeamish suffering, always a brutish strain of slavery within its body. Either it burns off in a gorgeous mania, into smoke and ash, or it fades out into gross antipathy. One is beautiful in its suffering, and all the more terrible.

It was still four hours by car until the islands. I bundled into the corner of a bus stop, thinking I’d wait here ’til morning, and rolled a cigarette that went crooked on me, and smoked half of it hoping the night would pass in one great swoop, that it would be halfway through by the end of this smoke. But I was cold and dizzy from eating only chocolate and coffee all day. I heard footsteps draw nearer—this is the worst sound in these places because you know you’re going to frighten whoever it is. It was a young woman with long magnetic legs in tight black jeans  .  .  .  she walked by and saw me hunched over on the ground waving at her, and she began walking faster. I let her think what she wanted, and when she was far enough away, I got up and began walking through the flickering night, out of the town to the other side, the houses trembling like speckled flames, slowly fading away behind all that night. A band of northern lights cut into the sky like a mad green poem, a sudden rage of violins, my little stub of cigarette burning nicely in the breeze. I would have loved to sleep here, in a nice patch of dry grass, in a sleeping bag with my shirt off, feeling the cool air creep in. But I had no such sleeping bag, and it was far too cold to sleep anywhere outside.

It took me at least an hour to hitch my first ride. A woman with a child in a carseat took me to the next town thirty miles away, through the sometimes-single-lane road winding in and out along the coastline. The second ride was fairly quick—the man drove me the rest of the way, blasting through the straightaways and five-mile-long tunnels that go under the ocean, talking about his times in prison. He dropped me at my old home, a lonely antique fishing village in the Lofoten Islands, where I met Paavo, my long time best friend from Finland who works as a fisherman in these parts, and reads more Chekov than anyone I know. I hadn’t seen him in two years, and it was only a little passed midnight, so we got drunk together and talked about our conquests, and Russian writers, and places we could climb in the mountains in the following days. I went to bed with an overweight girl with long shining red hair and an almost beautiful face, and we fucked on a narrow cot, its creaking springs straining under all that gravity, her overweight pussy swelling in the cramped room.

The morning was bright and clear, but my head was swollen. The little space heater was on all night, the thick airless room so stifled in the heat. I flicked it off, pushed open the window, and the cool morning flooded into the room, waking the skin like bathing in a cold spring. I left immediately, dressing in the living room, packing a fishing pole and lures and an extra jacket, and making a sandwich mostly of bread, and a thermos of coffee, and went bicycling out of town, up a path around the lakes. Occasionally there is a red house seen between the trees, and once or twice even the chimney is smoking in its usual warm loneliness.

The walking path began at the far end of the second lake, where I hid the bicycle behind some trees, and began hiking up the steep mountains, through the thick packs of birch trees, where the massive show of color and autumn haunts the sky in hunger, where the mushrooms and the lichens and the wild berries grow in their indulgent theatre, like highbrow wilderness, smug with its beauty and morning dew. There was another lake behind the first range of peaks a few hundred meters high. I would fish and camp here on my way back down, but the early afternoon had time to meander, so I continued up along the steepening ridge, eventually into the thickening snowpack, another few hundred meters high, the view always reaching further beyond the fjords, slipping on the icy faces of rocks, my fingers losing most of their feeling. Nine-hundred meters high, but the last peak was too steep. There was absolutely no way.

It didn’t really matter. None of it did  .  .  .  this was high enough. In every direction there was ocean or fjord or mountain. A raven the size of a hawk flew directly over me, I could hear his wings lifting in the wind  .  .  .  he screamed at me as he flew by, calling out once more but never looking back at me, finally disappearing in the distance behind a ridge of snow and rock.

The Solar Anus

desease

And here’s the final touch, for Mary’s sake:

By mixing love with cruelty I’ll make

A penitent inquisitor whose words

Turn Seven Deadly Sins to seven Swords!

Then, heartlessly, for pure perverse delight

I’ll plunge them, one and all, with all my might

Deep in your merciful, still-beating Heart,

Your throbbing, sobbing, sweetly bleeding Heart!

-Charles Baudelaire

There is too much dust to keep our eyes open any longer. There is too much heartbreak to run any further. This is it. The desert swells into one huge praetorian barrenness. A starving hyena squats near a dried up creek, his gaunt balding legs quivering in the moonlight  .  .  .  he makes an unpleasant face, pushes once more, and a little dehydrated turd falls from between his legs. In the vampish human encampments, words such as love and rain and beauty are forbidden, and exchanged with butt, stuff, fart, and steatopygous.

On the other side of the world is New York. All that’s left is a gross phallic ruin that was once our Statue of Liberty, the garland matriarch that was once our symbol of hope against the storm, something akin to Gatsby’s green lantern, except this time it’s for the Atlantic migrants dreaming of something better than peasantry and old beer. But Mrs. Liberty has since crumbled into something more resembling of Stonehenge. Now, the streets of Times Square are empty, filled only with a vile flashback of a great party. And the smell is horrifying. City-wide sirens that were meant to alarm the people in the event of something catastrophic, instead play the discordant echoes of Justin Bieber, singing “Baby, baby,” again and again until it slows down into the moanings of lost innocence.

But it wasn’t the bankers, or the drones, or Israel. It wasn’t even Kanye who ruined the earth. It was our own abject nihilism, quitting on life before we were old enough to start it. Take the assorted facts you learn on any given day. For example, these are the things I learned today: Olive Garden served 700 million bread sticks this year, two gay twins just made a porno called Twincest, One Direction has 21.5 million followers on Twitter, planet Earth is amidst its sixth greatest extinction of all time, and I’m still drunk after trying to recover after three months of heartbreak. Once you have made your list, climb to the top of the highest structure around, rip your shirt off, and scream as loud as you can, “Does anybody really feel anything!!”

Because it’s easier to complain about the servile Persesian misandry within our current political structure than it is to run for Congress yourself. It’s easier to sign another online petition that calls on Obama to end any one of his Peace Prize-winning wars than it is to blockade and stand alone in front of the deploying tanks. It’s easier to feel smug about deleting your Facebook account in search of real-life human interaction, only to realize we’re all wallowing in the same cursory dream, searching somewhere for splendor and beauty, swiping frantically through our phones, stalking cafes and pool halls and libraries and parks and pristine wet pastures, trying to hang on to a better memory of Beauty, to the august suffering of romance, to all that tragic light that once made us human. It’s like trying to hang onto the memory of the first person you loved, all the while choking in its madness. I don’t know the answer; it could be hidden in Baudelaire’s poetry: “And, drunk with my own madness, I shouted at him furiously, ‘Make life beautiful! Make life beautiful!’” It’s the reason any of us pretend to do more than sleep and eat and fuck. It’s the reason you can find a guy on the internet play the clarinet with a carrot he hollowed out himself, or why you can get an organic spray tan down the street for only thirty-five dollars. We’re standing on the edge of life, screaming “Make life beautiful!”

Southern Iraq was once a land covered so thick with cedar forests that light couldn’t touch the ground. The Sumerians cut down all the trees. But their excuse is the tragic tale of Gilgamesh disobeying the gods by cutting down the forest, and the gods plaguing the land with drought and fire. The once verdant terraqueous globe now defiled and betrayed, by 2100 B.C. the soil had eroded and depositories of salt had ruined all future agriculture. We are not the infant species we wish ourselves to be: the Mayans collapsed due to overpopulation and over-farming; the Minoans cut down all the trees; so did the Nazca of Peru; so did the Rapa Nui of Easter Island; many of the cultures from the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras did the same; the Anasazi overpopulated and died of thirst; the girning nomads of the last ice-age killed off all the megafauna of North America; the first migrants of Australia 50,000 years ago did the same.

In our tragic pursuit of Beauty, we kill the heavens. “A kiss is the beginning of cannibalism,” is what George Bataille said, and he’s never wrong. We turn the verdant aching thrones of life itself into a bleeding nihilistic cough. All love turns to heartbreak, that’s a fact. And if not heartbreak, it turns to lame routines and the stinking decay of ennui, which is worse than all the blinding enthusiasm of heartbreak. But we can deal with heartbreak—we write books or songs, we create art, we sleep with a bunch more women, we drink heavy amounts of alcohol. And it passes somehow  .  .  .  I guess. But it is in Bataille’s concept of base materialism where we find the rather banal origin of our hatred for the beautiful—why we kill the oceans and the forests and the animals and each other en masse—for in base materialism is the origin of the beautiful and the bad and everything else. Not unlike Spinoza’s neutral monism, base materialism describes the fabric of all existence as neither physical nor mental, but rather a vital base matter that underlies everything. It lies entirely in experience, immune to all rational conquest, making base materialism not material at all. It’s stupid in its obvious generality: everything is what it is, deal with it. I was in an alleyway the other day, minding my own business, and an old man with horrible teeth came up to me and went on an incoherent polemic about graffiti and insanity. “Shit is shit! Deal with it,” he said up close to my face. I tried to argue with him but he had a gun in his backpack, so I didn’t.

In Bataille’s L’Anus Solaire (The Solar Anus), he references the sun as the provider of all life that can also cause unimaginable death and suffering through its unbounded energies. And the anus itself is the symbol of the inevitable waste and tragedy that dominates much of the landscape. By mass there is seven times more plastic in the ocean than plankton. There is the Pacific Gyre Garbage Patch. One of the largest human-made structures on earth is the Fresh Kills Landfill of New York, covering over 2,200 acres. The Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill. The Three Mile Island nuclear explosion. The Kuwait oil fires of 1991, burning off six million barrels of crude oil into the atmosphere and surrounding environments. The eccocide in Vietnam through the large-scale spraying of Agent Orange and other chemicals. The Sidoarjo mud flow, caused by gas blowout wells. The Gulf of Mexico dead zone, the hypoxic zone from the nitrogen and phosphorus agriculture runoffs from the Mississippi River. The dioxin contamination of the Love Canal of the 1940’s. Minamata disease of Japan, from Chisso Corporation’s severe mercury poisoning of its wastewater. The electronic graveyard in Guiyu, China. The Baia Mare cyanide spill. The shrinking of the Aral Sea. The Chernobyl Nuclear Explosion. The Bhopal Disaster. The Great Smog of 1952. The massive asbestos contamination from vermiculite mines in Libby, Montana. The list is endless. But as the old man with bad teeth said, “Shit is shit! Deal with it.”

It’s all so sad, when the pure yearning child asks his parents why bad things happen, why evil rages wild in the night. Why does Boko Haram (not to be confused with the 1960’s rock group Procol Harum) abduct 300 school girls in the night? Why has the self-proclaimed Islamic State kidnapped up to 7,000 women and girls? This last December they released a formal guide that outlines the capture, punishment, and rape of female non-believers. These days, if one mentions ‘catholic priest,’ we think immediately of pedophiles. William Kellogg, founder of Kellogg’s cereal, created Corn Flakes with the hope that such a boring food would kill all sexual appetite. I’m not kidding. He advocated for the circumcision of boys and girls alike. These instances are to good sex and true love what environmental pollution is to human industry. It’s the Solar Anus we need to destroy, and the heavens to restore.

I don’t even like Bataille, his prose and life were shit. I want the Sun and not the Anus. I just want to make life beautiful again. I really don’t know, I’m going surfing.

A Hero of Our Time

by Guy Walker

Thumb Wrestling the Colonel and Terp Al Fallujah

“Some were dreadfully insulted, and quite seriously, to have held up as a model such an immoral character as A Hero of Our Time; others shrewdly noticed that the author had portrayed himself and his acquaintances.  .  .  .  A Hero of Our Time, gentlemen, is in fact a portrait, but not of an individual; it is the aggregate of the vices of our whole generation in the fullest expression.” -Mikhail Lermontov 

It was the winter of 2012 when I met Chris Kyle, the “most lethal sniper in U.S. military history.” It was a southern Californian winter, which means the drunks still wore only their stained wifebeaters in the neon bars, and the Santa Ana winds howled and made the palm trees lean. Chris was here in California beginning his book tour for American Sniper, the braggish sophomoric tale about one man’s journey through the most puerile horrendous war in U.S. history. I coughed loudly from all the dowdy feculent steam of a hundred American bodies waddling around the bar without any serious worry or threat as to what we were all doing here still exhaling our drunk stale air, everyone raising their voices about some various traumatic unconscious degree of our existence. I was hunched over the bar table, staring at an overweight lady with bleached fried hair bending over to aim her pool stick. “Step One,” the jukebox sung, “you find a girl to love, Step Two, she falls in lo-ove with you, Step Three, you kiss and ho-old her tight.” The lady whipped the pool stick and missed the cue ball entirely, and then she laughed because it was so silly, and touched the fat bearded man on the chest, as if to say, “I can’t believe I missed, now let me touch you on the chest.” A hundred despondent beer guts, men and women alike—they all gave me a headache, or maybe I was just drunk.

And then there was Chris Kyle. Handsome, if you are attracted to ugly. Intelligent, if you are stimulated and embellished by reading a book that consistently refers to the reader as “ya’ll,” with so many broken incoherent sentences it makes you want to punch a songbird in the chest. I had already read his book, and although he totally convinced he was a good shot and a cowboy at heart, he never once explained exactly why the entire Iraq War itself was a preemptive war based on a series of lies and manipulations. He was the product of phenomenological insanity who sniffed the patriotic farts of Team America, who couldn’t act out of any reason for the true sensibility of heroism, but merely because the very Eigenschaft of War was built around the vague fustian dialogue of ‘duty’ ‘freedom’ ‘honor’ and ‘liberty’. These are the types of words that re-represent death and misery, a methodic Orwellian doublespeak that is the heart of all war propaganda. Because ‘death’ and ‘body parts’ don’t have the ring that ‘honor’ and ‘duty’ do. The moment you walk into a Navy recruiting office, it begins—you can play war-based video games and be surrounded by racially sensitive posters of Latino guys, white guys, and an overweight black girl all looking sharp as hell, under their various designated words of heroic allusion.

I was sitting at the bar table, and turned and saw Chris Kyle walking towards me—he was coming from the bathroom and was wiping his mouth, and he looked like he was up to no good. Like I said, I had already read his book before. Which is why I came here to the bar, to find the motherfucker who wrote the thing. I wanted my eight hours back. Here’s a summary of his book: “I had been in some pretty bad-ass situations…I only wish I had killed more…I shot beach ball number two. It was kind of fun.” I was an aspiring writer at the time (but now I have a blog) so I knew what I was up against. The photos that leaked from Abu Ghraib are child’s play compared to this book—not because of the advanced levels of warcrimes that Chris Kyle committed, but because of the utter horridness of the writing itself. He wasn’t just bad, he was the worst.

“Hey Chris!” I yelled in a drunken slur, “You suck!”

He froze in place, unable to conceive what he just heard, and stared at me fearfully. “What did you say?” His eyes widened into a night-maddened fury of contempt, as if I was the last savage that stood in the way of him and a legitimate democracy.

“You heard me. You…suck. And your writing is shit and infantile.” I rose my fist above my head and punched him in the face, and he fell backwards and crashed over a table, glasses of half-empty beer smashing all over the floor. He stumbled further back and knocked against the fat blonde lady, her huge pale stomach hanging out of her shirt, bouncing him off of her, her stomach waving and echoing in its deep fleshy canyons, her bellybutton as dark and useful as a black hole.

“Now give me back my eight hours!” I did 245 push-ups earlier that day, and had sex twice in the last week, and nobody was going to fuck with me.

“Alright! Alright!” he started to whimper, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry! Just take them.”

So I took my eight hours back and walked out of there.

Chris Kyle killed up to two hundred and fifty-five people, served four tours in Iraq, was involved in six roadside bomb attacks, and had a six figure bounty on his head by Iraqi insurgents. His first kill was a woman with a grenade in her hand who walked into the street as the Marines attacked her town. Nobody knows what the circumstances really were. It’s possible the woman who was also carrying her child had innocently found the grenade on the floor of her kitchen and was returning it to the Americans. But his description of the incident is disturbingly similar to a cowboy’s slaughter of the Indians: “I hated the damn savages I’d been fighting. Savage, despicable, evil—that what we were fighting in Iraq. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy savages. There was really no other way to describe what we encountered there.” Chris Kyle boasted that he killed thirty armed looters in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It was investigated and proven a lie. He claimed he killed two Mexican carjackers in Texas. That too was a lie. His family claimed he donated nearly all of the proceeds of his book sales to veterans’ charities. The reality is he donated about two percent of his winnings and pocketed the other three million dollars. He killed up to two hundred and fifty-five, but he also wrote in his book, “If you see anyone from about 16 to 65, and they’re male, shoot ‘em. Kill every male you see.” If these are the rules to a fetid orgiastic heroism, if all I have to do is kill anything with a twig and berries, then I want a shot at the record.

Chris Kyle is dead now. He had the chary foresight to bring an Iraq War veteran suffering from PTSD to a shooting range and surround him with rapid gunfire. Eddie Ray Routh purportedly snapped at some point, tormented from the death and scattered body parts he had seen in Iraq, and shot and killed Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield. Lying dead in the expensive dirt of Rough Creek Lodge and Resort near Fort Worth, Texas, Chris Kyle had no more duty or honor to gain. There’s no point to savagery when you’re already dead. There’s no point to lying and boasting and killing when you’re already dead. But there is reason to praise the dead when they’re dead. Like others before him, his death finalized his immortality. Like the Islamic martyrs who reach their paradise, like Marilyn Monroe who will always be beautiful, Chris Kyle will always be an American war hero. Jesse Ventura recently won a lawsuit against Chris Kyle’s estate, rewarded $1.8 million for defamation damages and unjust enrichment for a story Kyle made up about punching Ventura in a bar in Coronado. I can’t get sued. Not because Kyle is dead and dead people can’t sue, but because my story is true, in all its crude alluvial vividness.

But I didn’t make the movie. Clint Eastwood did and American Sniper is now nominated for six Academy Awards. It’s an American hero movie, a figure of severe courage and honor standing against the face of evil and savagery, a family man who pets his dog and drinks more beer than you, someone we can all believe in. Opening weekend grossed over $105 million, the largest in history for an R-rated movie. And Chris Kyle’s only regret was that he didn’t kill more. Selma on the other hand, about a black minority who stood peacefully in the face of hate and violence, grossed one-tenth of what American Sniper opened with. In the weeks prior, after the terrorist attacks of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices in Paris, a parochial nationalistic outcry erupted over the murder of thirteen innocents. At the very least, 500,000 Iraqis were killed in the American occupation and invasion of Iraq. In an interview on CNN, a former Navy SEAL defended Chris Kyle’s legacy, stating that if every soldier was a good as Chris the war would have been over in less than a year. But the war itself was never questioned. In the book, as well as the movie, a direct connection is drawn between the September 11th attacks and the Iraq War. The barrenness of reason has made the desert stink. But Clint Eastwood has made it clear that you can’t question the ogreish curse of unreason. In 2005, while accepting an award at a National Board of Review dinner, Eastwood directed a comment at Michael Moore, stating, “Michael, if you ever show up at my front door with a camera—I’ll kill you. I mean it.” In other words, Don’t question me and don’t discuss with me. Just eat my shit and swallow it.

Chris Kyle’s fatal biopic had the ingredients of a masterpiece—a Sophoclean tragedy of an avant-garde misanthrope who finally dies by the sword he sharpens. The pullulating stray triumphs between Lordship and Bondage. But Eastwood took a different approach. He didn’t include any of the tasty bits of the cosmetic psychopathy that eventually killed Kyle—it’s no longer heroic when it’s absurd, when the wolf wears sheep’s clothing. You know, Kim’s ass don’t look good when you see her shit.

Newsweek’s Jeff Stein, a former US intelligence officer recalled a visit he made to a lewd reeking hangout for American snipers, where, in his words, “the barroom walls featured white-on-black Nazi SS insignia, and other Wehrmacht regalia. The Marine shooters clearly identified with the marksmen of the world’s most infamous killing machine, rather than regular troops.” Chris Kyle perfected the despondent amorality of Nature, the Hegelian stratum of the immediate being for oneself—for, according to Hegel, all being in general, all “pure immediacy [is] purified by absolute negativity,” Kyle only wanted to kill more, to rid the world of savagery, to wipe out all the stray fanatic negativity, and create Absolute Negativity. Only then would the fields be beautiful. Because the whole world could end in a year if we were all as good as Chris Kyle.

War is Peace and Kim Kardashian is Hot

by Guy Walker

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But, truly, I have wept too much! The Dawns are heartbreaking.
Every moon is atrocious and every sun bitter:
Sharp love has swollen me up with heady langours.
O let my keel split! O let me sink to the bottom! -Arthur Rimbaud

After the entropic fad of humanity has turned everything into chambers of ash and misery and something resembling Beyonce, I crawl out from the rubble, alone and slowly freezing into place, like a horrible and toothless David picking up his stone and sling  .  .  .  And the sky is so damn red I could almost throw up  .  .  .  “It won’t be long now,” I think to myself. I feel the lonely hubristic end  .  .  .  too bad, too bad, too bad. But wait! A rat limps by me, one last step, then quits. I grab him, his gaunt scarlet body clasped in my quivering hand. Thank god, I’ll last another day. But before I eat it, tail and teeth and all, I take a selfie with it, and then tag it #warispeace and #thankgoditsfriday.

No one is alive to realize it, but peace is what brought us to this torrential orgy of cockroaches, twinkies, dead bodies not wearing their clothes, B-rated horror complexes, and the other realities of nuclear winter. It’s because of peace that we love war, and it’s because of peace that we’re all going to die.

The Swedish armaments manufacturer Alfred Nobel created the five Nobel Prizes: one for achievements in Chemistry, one for Physics, one for Physiology or Medicine, one for Literature, and finally one for Peace—for those who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” Cordell Hull won the prize in 1945 as the father of the United Nations—but he also voiced “strong opposition” to a ship of 950 Jewish refugees docking on U.S. soil, pressuring Roosevelt to turn the ship around, which he did. Many of those passengers became victims of the Holocaust before Mr. Hull took his laurels. Henry Kissinger won in 1973 for the Paris Peace Accords—but as Nixon’s Secretary of State, he was greatly involved in the secret bombing campaign of North Vietnamese troops and Khmer Rouge from 1969 to 1975, as well as arming South American dictators carry out Operation Condor, kidnapping and murdering thousands, as well as supporting the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus, still considered by the international community to this day as the Republic of Cyprus occupied illegally by the Turkish forces. Mother Teresa won in 1979—but she believed suffering was a gift from God, and opposed the empowerment of women, calling abortion, “the greatest destroyer of peace.” Yasser Arafat won in 1994—he was involved in three decades of terrorism with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, as well as amassed over $1.3 billion while the economic conditions of the Palestinians continued to degrade. We’ve already reached the five year anniversary of Barack Obama’s 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, in which he won for his promotion of nuclear nonproliferation and for his “new climate” of global affairs, including mending U.S. relations with the Muslim world. To be exact, this “new climate” involves at least seven predominately Muslim countries in which President Obama has bombed during his presidency, as well as being the fourth consecutive U.S. President to bomb Iraq. After last week’s midterm election, Obama announced he would seek an Authorization for Use of Military Force from the new and cherubic Congress, which would authorize his killing campaign in Iraq and Syria. The Republican dominated Congress will find themselves in a difficult dialectic: they love killing Muslims, but they also love opposing anything President Obama offers. Which is more important? Yes, it may be a worn-out hoary pastime to blame Obama for the promotion of death and misery across the globe  .  .  .  but there is some evidence that suggests such a claim may be true—after all, he hired Jay Z and Beyonce to sing at his second-term inauguration, and he threatened the Jonas Brothers with predator drones in a piece of incredible nuanced slapstick. Because ultimately, Barack Obama is in pursuit of peace. And ultimately, he will achieve it.

In Oslo, where a spring rain can heal old people of ugliness, where the homeless have dental plans and beauticians, where an Audemars Piguet watch is an alright birthday present for a three-year old, and alcoholism is as good as happiness, the Nobel Committee has also determined that War IS Peace, and that you too can win an award for it. In his award speech, Barack Obama granted that “to say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism—it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.” But the “limits of reason” are only brief episodic limits, something akin to the self-correcting building blocks of science, in which reason alone may not resolve many torrential inquests today, but certainly through reason meaning will eventually emerge, even if it takes decades or centuries of the acquiring of knowledge to do so. The limits of reason, in the case of nuclear warfare, do not exist. In 1955, in midst of the Cold War, our most esteemed intellectuals gathered together to agree that creating weapons that could kill every human on the face of the planet was probably a bad idea. The Russell-Einstein Manifesto, written by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, both of whom won Nobel Prizes, in Literature and Physics respectively, and signed by eleven other preeminent intellectuals and scientists, essentially made the claim that nuclear annihilation was not good and we should avoid it if at all possible. The limits of reason then do not threaten our greatest intellectuals, nor do they threaten any three-year-old born with a normal capacity of common sense. But a third of Americans still reject evolution as a viable theory for the creation of life. There isn’t a single openly admitted atheist in Congress, but there have been hundreds of American federal politicians convicted of crimes throughout the course of American history, meaning it’s easier to obtain substantial degrees of power as a proven bag of shit than it is as a cogent secularist. The limits of reason then exist predominantly in normal adults—as torpid fleshy hominids sprawl across the once-pristine havens of the earth, declaring War IS Peace and Kim Kardashian is actually hot.

But President Obama is right about cynicism. Even very recent history suggests that cynicism does not in fact restore aberration to health. “Absurdity is Natural,” is America’s rallying cry. George Zimmerman, for example, the cheerless oleaginous bovine who was a failed insurance salesman and a neighborhood watch guy who killed a black kid for walking home, has started exercising his creative faculties. He painted an American flag that he copied from a stock photo, and printed the words “God, One Nation, with Liberty and Justice for All,” and sold it on eBay for over $100,000. #AlexfromTarget has 743,000 followers on Twitter for having a peach face while bagging China-made toys, while Jeremy Scahill has a mere 163,000 followers for working incessantly to expose American-made war crimes. Kim Kardashian sucked a dick. In other words, the call to cynicism bellows from our fleshy cesspools to heal all the senile delirium across the globe. It’s like the homeless guy I shared a cigarette with last night in the alley who screamed his autoschediastic terrors of “TITS ON RATTLESNAKES!” Because tits on rattlesnakes is a terrifying image. So is Kim Kardashian shaving her unibrow and then trying to be human. So is a Nobel Peace Prize winner orchestrating drone strikes on innocent Yemeni villages, or covering up fouled night raids in Afghanistan, or not prosecuting the bankers responsible for the economic collapse, or expanding the largest domestic spying program in the history of the United States, or making plans to spend an estimated $1 trillion on renewing America’s nuclear weapon program.

What Obama has done is popularize death and misery. Drone warfare has become a Harry & David fruit basket. And his newly proposed nuclear weapons program is very much the warning Dennis Kucinich gave: “Once we are committed to war’s instrumentality in pursuit of peace, we begin the Orwellian journey to the semantic netherworld where war is peace.” Nuclear disarmament is the only way to achieve nuclear disarmament. Even Reagan, amidst all his colloquial sanguinary lechery, once proposed a good idea: START I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), the largest nuclear disarmament treaty in history. It was the bilateral treaty between the United States and the USSR, resulting in the removal of about eighty percent of strategic nuclear weapons in existence at the time. Obama did renew START I, but he also didn’t. He adopted the Cold War mentality proposed first by Eisenhower, in that “we should do what was necessary even if the result was to change the American way of life. We could lick the whole world  .  .  .  if we were willing to adopt the system of Adolph Hitler.” A trillion dollars to lick the whole world. Enough to feed all the starving babies. Enough to send all our kids through university. Enough to completely transform our energy sector to renewable clean energy. And yes, even enough to buy every person on the planet fifteen hits of ecstasy, paid for at street value.

Hegel was right, in that the fear of the lord is indeed the beginning of wisdom. And it’s only the beginning of wisdom. True wisdom is assumingly achieved when obedience and submission to the lord takes place. It’s something that a trillion dollars of nuclear weapons technology helps to ensure. It’s a fervency for lordship and bondage, something that every falling empire hopelessly grabs at to again take hold of. If Napoleon were around today, he too would scream “tits on rattlesnakes.” It’s the only thing that makes sense anymore. It’s the final limitation of Reason, when war is indeed peace and absurdity natural.

The Return of Nietzsche: God is Alive and Well

by Guy Walker

(Originally published on http://www.paradiseofstorm.tumblr.com on October 16, 2014)

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The spider hung from the elm tree from one thread of silk, about to cast its web as the buff cornfed scenes of the middleclass passed by, humming along in their Priuses, squinting into the setting sun, or staring intently into their own private glowing rectangles. The sky could only sigh with fabulous ennui as the cloudless weight of another torrid sapless evening rolled in. It hadn’t rained for months, and before that it was just a distressed cough of moisture that fell rather than rained. The pigeons still limped as usual—that didn’t change with the drought—and the humans were still achieving their various tasks of import, like driving around getting ‘Thank You’ cards, or picking up soy milk, or buying Halloween preparations, or attaching a 1977 filter to an image of their 2014 life. Various scenes of normality ticked throughout the biscuit-colored towns: a cat tossed the headless body of a mouse around on the sidewalk; a boy wearing a huge helmet bicycled towards Main Street, then stopped to pick his nose; a man sneezed as he collected the mail in his bathrobe. The setting sun warmed all the west-facing stucco walls of all the track houses throughout all those endless miles of suburban bourgeois happiness, and the sprinklers were soaking another lawn, their expensive drops flying and pummeling the little ants as they tried to run for safety from their exhausted flood. The banausic hum of humanity was wrapping up another day.

A blonde lady wearing her favorite leopard-print fedora—she had several—pulled into her driveway in her red convertible mustang, and reached down to reposition her panties between her short skirt. She took off her sunglasses, looked at herself in her rearview mirror, and sighed. She didn’t know it, but the Universe really didn’t care for her. But she had a half-emptied baggie of Prozac in which all the pills were crushed into a fine mephitic powder, into which she scooped a sizeable bump with the long red fingernail on her pinky finger. After sucking in all that ashen voodooed happiness, she pinched her nose, wincing, feeling the sting. Her fingers dripped with blood, and she mumbled a bad word, and wiped her nose with her hand and looked in the mirror again, and her whole upper lip was smeared with blood, and she heard voices and footsteps and rustled around to find a tissue that was still clean.

Good evening Mrs. Freeman, a female voice said sweetly.

Mrs. Freeman looked up, her leopard-print fedora crooked on her head, her big Jackie Kennedy sunglasses hiding her tears, blood dripping sweetly from her nose. O hello Aaeesha, she smiled. Aaeesha means Life and Vivaciousness in Arabic, but Mrs. Freeman had always thought it a queer nondescriptive word, like Shampoo or Scissors. Aaeesha stood there, looking sweet but concerned, her eye still healing, her thin mauve burka tickled in the evening breeze, her two young children hiding behind her dress, and she offered Mrs. Freeman a tissue.

The spider paused to watch the two women interact. He didn’t know anything about race relations, or the recent clamor to be the most politically correct, or the recent televised debates about the intrinsic misanthropy within Islamic religious belief; he didn’t know which pew poll was most accurate in describing Indonesia’s support for Sharia Law (some estimates are in the upward range of 70 percent); he only considered Nietzsche’s fifth book in The Gay Science: We do not by any means think it desirable that the kingdom of righteousness and peace should be established on earth (because under any circumstances it would be the kingdom of the profoundest mediocrity and Chinaism); we rejoice in all men, who like ourselves love danger, war and adventure, who do not make compromises, nor let themselves be captured, conciliated and stunted; we count ourselves among the conquerors; we ponder over the need of a new order of things, even of a new slavery for every strengthening and elevation of the type “man” also involves a new form of slavery. The spider considered for a while as he strung his gossamer thread from end to end, as the patient Darwinian clock ticked away, pausing, watching as Mrs. Freeman accepted the tissue, excusing herself for yet another unsightly occasion, wiping her nose and trying again to smile to the children.

Mrs. Freeman and Aaeesha are part of that very rare breed of animals who don’t fight the setting sun to stay alive, who don’t still lurk the sodden currents for a drink of water, or dig away in caves with their squatting ape-man tribe. They fuck once a week, water their grass three times a week, watch Youtube videos of cats befriending owls, and search for the best parking spots at the gym—in other words, they’re just two regular ‘ol ladies trying to kill time before time kills them. Because once food and water and shelter and sex are won, Misery leads you to the shrieking grave. Wars are the obvious choice—they’re the easiest burdening romance to fix any boredom. Ferdinand Celine described it as “the minions of King Misery,” as he slopped in the shit-ridden trenches with his other Frenchmen, throwing bullets towards the Germans, screaming obscenities through the night. ISIS isn’t raping women by the thousands, or burying children alive, or beheading American journalists for any reason different than the US is bombing innocent villages in Yemen, or outsourcing their kill lists to Somalian warlords, or funding the Israeli occupation at an average rate of $6.6 million a week for the last 66 years, or funding and training deathsquads in Latin America, or establishing worldwide regimes of torture—they are violently bored nihilists who already wish they were dead themselves. Nietzsche pinpointed this over a century ago, arguing that our love for “danger, war and adventure,” didn’t arise out of intrinsic barbarism within the human animal, or within religion itself, but rather out of our need to never be captured. War is the collective scream to rid the Self of boredom, to assure that the Self will never be captured. It’s one last attempt to fuck the arid landscape before the sun goes down.

Last week’s debate on Real Time with Bill Maher, including Ben Affleck and Sam Harris, in which each other passed blows on whether or not some humans enjoy death and pillagery more than others, resulted in a long maelstrom of intellectual bitchfights, including Glenn Greenwald, Reza Aslan, some guy named @dan_verg_ and many others, all trying to yell who and what is more violent. As the impish grunting ape-men who so patiently evolved into high-fashioned bristled intellectuals of late night HBO talk shows argue about if Islam is intrinsically violent, they are all doing the same thing: merely trying to kill before being captured, trying to wear wings on the delusions of animals. Aspiring intellectuals still debate whether or not Hitler or Stalin’s epochal venom had anything to do with being anti-religion. But Hitler was also a vegetarian, making a dangerously good case that vegetarians are potentially evil centaurs at heart. He also enjoyed petting his German Shepherd, Blondi, posing the threat that dog owners are annoying life-killing Archfiends. But within religion itself, after “the crusades, the multiple blessings of wars, warrior popes, support for capital punishment, corporal punishment under the guise of ‘spare the rod and spoil the child,’ justifications of slavery, world-wide colonialism in the name of conversion to Christianity, the systemic violence of women subjected to men” (Violence in Christian Theology), and after Haun’s Mill massacre and the Mountain’s Meadow massacre, after countless kidnappings, suicide bombing, mass murders, assassinations, airline hijackings, in which only Communism as an ideology is responsible for more deaths and violence than Islam, after Israel really fucked everything up for everyone, turning to Deuteronomy 7:1-2 or Deuteronomy 20:16-18 or several others to follow explicit instructions from God to the Israelites to search and destroy other tribes, after countless tribes conducting human sacrifice and religious self-flagellation, one might begin to wonder if religion just maybe have the possibility of somehow or someway be related to violence across the world. There was the Constantinian shift, embroiling Christianity with government. There was the Christian persecution of paganism under Theodosius I. There was the Roman Inquisition. There was the Muhammad cartoon crisis, resulting in mass violent protests, including the burning of European embassies, death threats, even an attack with an axe on the cartoonist himself. During the siege of Beziers in 1209, a Crusader asked Papal Legate Arnaud Amalric how to tell the Cathars from the Catholics, to which Amalric replied, “Kill them all; God will recognize his.”

As for ISIS’s relation to the core teachings of Islam, Ben Affleck and Sam Harris are saints of reason, probing us to look ever deeper into the dark glory hole of religion: pew polls suggest a 99% support for Sharia Law in Afghanistan, 74% support in Egypt, 91% in Iraq, which would involve death to apostates, stoning of adulterers, and chopping off the hands of thieves. On the other hand, many leaders of ISIS have been held captive at one point in U.S. military prisons, something that the photos that leaked from Abu Ghraib don’t suggest helped U.S. relations with radical Islam. Reza Aslan, a Muslim himself, assures the world that Islam preaches neither peace nor violence, (even though the ISIS leaders have repeatedly turned to the pages of the Quran to justify their actions). Sam Harris wishes to believe that if religion ceased to exist altogether, there would be peace. Glenn Greenwald is just stoked he’s selling books now. And Ben Affleck already slept with J. Lo, so he really doesn’t give a fuck. What they’re really debating though, has nothing to do with radical or normal Islam at its core, but rather why man will never fill his lust for “danger, war and adventure.” By Lacanian theory, the whole point of this desire is to never reach it. A kingdom of righteousness and peace was never meant to be reached in the first place (which is why Muslims must die rightly in order to reach their paradise of virgins) . . . Lacan argued that wants and needs can be achieved with a rather urgent ease, but desire is the eternal elusive lust that we must always pursue but never catch. By pursuing his kingdom of righteousness and peace, man will create his wars, his little swelling torments of belief, his tragic flatulence of salvation. It’s the ape who throws the most feces wins.

Man loves his war in troops. He loves his slavery in droves of bleeding Prozac trolls, everyday another heartbreak as the sun sets and the sleepers fall asleep. Too bad, too bad, too bad.

As Aaeesha and Mrs. Freeman part ways, and head to their happy private lives, a fly catches in the spider’s web. All eight legs move him across to the writhing desperate fly, and he begins wrapping him in a spool of silk, tickled in the evening air.

Joan Rivers, Death Stalker in the Moonless Night

(Originally published on http://www.paradiseofstorm.tumblr.com on September 2, 2014)

by Guy Walker

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You, who like a dagger ploughed 
Into my heart with deadly thrill:
You who, stronger than a crowd
Of demons, mad, and dressed to kill.

Baudelaire, The Vampire

The year is 2034, and it’s another thick sudoric Sunday morning in Griffith Park. The sun hasn’t even risen above all those frantic cheerless steel erections; instead, it parts into several different begging golden rays of light, each of them shining onto the remains of the park, onto a limping pigeon or a patch of tall dead grass or a bald and frozen oak tree standing alone. There are so many seagulls, thousands of them, crazed and screaming and flying between the shadows from the buildings and the pouring stuffed morning light. They’re flying in every direction and then back to do it again; it’s like watching the old ones in the asylums run their circles. One gull with a spasm in its neck lands on a stoplight that’s all blacked out in front of Capitol Records. The seagull looks down the long soundless streets; no movement in sight except for an occasional rabid dog running across. The seagull stands there, twitching his neck, trying to remember: what the fuck is wrong with Los Angeles?He remembers there was something, and it wasn’t just the enormous buildings and the long waiting streets and the ubiquitous scent of piss. There was some sort of commotion, some big deal that went on here. He scans his memory for a second as the sun rises enough to crest the top of his head.

Birds typically have remarkable memories, many of them return to where they stored seeds months prior. Even pigeons are congratulated with modest degrees of intelligence—psychologist B.F. Skinner, along with R.P. Epstein and Robert Lanza argued in 1981 that the pigeon shows levels of self-awareness, as demonstrated in a series of mirror tests. But the seagull; the seagull has survived this Last Collapse, this human orgy of death that turned the sky all red  .  .  .  and it doesn’t even know it; it’s always been destined to survive on other’s misery, like a Dostoyevskian hero as it parades in the dying morning sky. Gulls exhibit highly complex communication systems; they are one of the only species of bird to drink salt water; they are monogamous as well as faithful; and they are single-minded kleptomaniacs, making them more human than all other winged warm-blooded vertebrates.

The gull then saw the entry of a now-abandoned convenience store it had stolen from many times before. It all came back, the memories. All the thick entropic mass of human flesh and their cars and horns and stinking teenage farts. In a flash, he saw his last nineteen years of unadulterated vapidness. All the desperate neon light buzzing in the night, all the garbage and soiled panties he’d picked through, all the women with their Botox lips shooing him away. He looked down the miles of empty hot asphalt with a sickening nostalgia for humans. How could it all have ended like this? he thought. How could they have all died so fast?

Then he glanced across the road into Griffith Park, into the deserted anhydrous landscape. He thought about all the dog owners who used to come here to walk their dogs, and bring their little doggie bags, and talk to each other about each other’s dogs and how handsome or pretty they looked. The gull knew he would miss the dog people the most—they were so rational and levelheaded.

Suddenly the gull saw a movement where the chess players used to play. A shadow leaning over one of the tables. There were two figures in total. The last two humans, the only one’s he’d seen in years, and they were playing chess in the 110 degree morning. He flew closer, careful not to be seen. There was a little boy in a chair, his feet not even reaching the ground, and he was crying. The chess game was going awful for him, it was over with for the most part, just a tragic finale was left. Across the table from him was nothing less than a female villain, a volcanic perverted form of Anahita, her nostrils flaring orange napalm, her face completely embalmed by a hundred plastic surgeons who she later killed by chopping off their penises fluttering in the silver moonlight, saving them in a mason jar to perform magic tricks with. She was skinnier than the rotting corpse of Heidi Fleiss—every time she shifted in her chair she broke another bone, but it never caused her pain, it only made her more evil, more awful and smelly. The seagull felt the inhuman chill even from this far away, but he still couldn’t tell whothe woman was, her face was down in shadow, her white acicular eyes gleaming from the dark. Then she sat up, smiling a deathless smile, the baking sun shining on her cheeks, almost melting her plastic cheeks away. And the gull finally saw who she was. It was Joan Rivers, immortal and evil as ever.

“Holy shit,” the gull said to himself. “The legend is true after all: Joan Rivers still prowls, and she must kill to stay alive.” The gull had heard about Ms. Rivers many times before, as he flew among those high chariots of madness, the other seagulls screaming that they had seen her squatting on all fours, her face plunged in the open ribcage of an old celebrity, as once was Demi Moore screaming for her mercy. Joan was never actually funny! one of the seagulls yelled as the golden light poured under his wings. She hated everything! Once she screamed that my feathers were not white enough! she threw rocks at me, her legs spread in that stained fur coat of hers!

Joan Rivers still writhes for fragments of attention, like a star-nosed mole groping blindly in the tunnels of China, trying to claim some biological purpose. Ugly creatures who roam the earth are typically pardoned because of their unwitting importance to sustain life itself. They may not be the prettiest things in the world, a reasoned biologist purports, but the rainforest couldn’t survive without it. The helmeted hornbill, the blobfish, the aye-aye, the monkfish—they may all suffer under curses of hate and deformity, but at least they plead humbly for a better more fertile world. But no one knows why Joan Rivers was created. Why? a young lascivious Pan asks himself, Why the fuck did I create this contorting monster? Not only is she uglier than the worst I made on my drunken diabolical parades of madness, she is spewing commands about yellow-speckled dresses and bombing the Gaza Strip.

Every time a Jewish woman wears an unflattering dress, Joan Rivers has night tremors. She moans in her sleep, alone, a damp wind blowing in her long white curtains, a cockroach turns and scurries the other way. “NO!” she screams as she claws her wrinkled tits, “Wear the purple one, you bitch! How! How could you do this to us!” Then she whimpers away quietly, “It’s all Mohammed’s fault. Kill them, kill them all.” Every time a barefoot Palestinian boy is blown to bits while playing on the beach, Joan Rivers gets another nose job. Every time Israel makes an advance, Joan writes a holy scripture on the bathroom mirror with her lipstick. But Joan doesn’t just hate the Palestinians, she’s after Beauty itself. She pulls down a vampire bat hanging from the shower ceiling, and bites its neck, sucking out all the blood, her bloody portal of lips and porcelain fangs gasping for more. She limps down the creaking stairs to the basement, her bulging swelling knees quivering each step she takes, her varicose veins frigid and painful and fabulous; she flips on the light, the blue florescent lights buzzing and crackling. There are hundreds of them, maybe more, younger more beautiful women than her sitting there chained together, naked, with red ball gags pulled halfway down their throats, their mascara running down their smooth bright cheeks. “Hello ladies,” she smiles and rubs her nose feverishly. “I need a new nose.” All the girls’ eyes open wide, their muffled screams try to articulate that they disagree with her. “You have all been very bad girls,” she says as she limps nearer, “Your shoes have not been matching your underwear.” Then she rips the ball gag off a shivering Jennifer Lawrence. She begs, “Ohhh! Mommy dearest! Forgive us! We did not know what you know so well! We will all be better! O please! O please don’t. Not the nose!”

What Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t know is that it’s all an illusion. None of this is actually happening to her. If she had only read a little more Descartes, she could have slept in peace. Rene Descartes wasn’t actually right about anything. His adolescent inquiries into the Cartesian cogs and springs of interstellar dust even offended the Protestants. As his students were cutting open the stomachs of live dogs, the dogs mysteriously howling in pain, Descartes told his students to “ignore their screams, it’s merely the creakings of the machine.” But Descartes was still right about one thing: his dieu trompeur, his evil demon who is “as clever and deceitful as he is powerful, who has directed his entire effort to misleading me.” It’s the evil demon who has orchestrated all this lusting waking reality, all our dreams and romances and penetrative scripture. All the fond religions, all the drunken nights, all the Einsteinian measures of intellectual progress—they all pay their debts to thedieu trompeur, the Mephistopheles of intellectualism, for it was She who made us think this life was real. She came to Descartes in a dream, a horrible Caucasian batlike woman, and she whispered in his ear, “I am Joan Rivers, therefore you are.” And Descartes woke, trembling, and began writing, scribing his famous scripture, “I think, therefore I am.” All those who think freely, she hates. Freewill is simply a demonic puppeteer with the face of a clown. It’s easier to give up now.

Back in the dusty shriveling park, the little boy has been locked in checkmate. Joan Rivers stands and metamorphoses into a human-sized bat. She spreads her wings and wraps the boy into them. The seagull knows he must fly away as fast as he can. He flies madly, nearing the golden light, the other seagulls looking at him, screaming. Suddenly, he feels a jerk, his feet are caught. Suddenly, his world turns black forever again.

Israel Hates Fireworks

(Originally published on http://www.paradiseofstorm.tumblr.com on July 16, 2014)

by Guy Walker

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The little boy was running down the narrow alleyway, past all that torn sad rubble, past the fresh market with the thousand shouting vendors and their thousand scents, and the call to prayer summoned all the holy merchants to their knees, and the evening pushed its better light upon the walls of all the buildings. The boy knew he would be late for supper if he didn’t run, and he had promised his mother he wouldn’t be late. But it was just a little further now.

At the same time, an Israeli warplane was lifting off from the tortured dusty grounds of a military base. It headed towards Gaza. The sky between Israel and Gaza just a thick traffic of clouds from planes and rockets.

Minutes passed. The boy arrived home just on time, just as the evening sun warmed his family’s blue front door. Then the stray sad dogs looked up and started barking madly, yelling at the sky. A flock of pigeons burst from their perch. Then everything was bright and horrific and deafening. The building to the family had been blown to bits. The streets were filled with running screaming mothers, children everywhere, a cathedral of rubble and agony behind them emerging from the ashen air.

Another attack aimed at the Islamic militant group Hamas struck a Palestinian family instead. The Islamic militants have so far fired more than 1,200 rockets towards Israel, fueled by a several-decade feud over land occupation. Israel’s Iron Dome defense system has intercepted at least 150 of the missiles fired, resulting in its first Israeli death. As of July 15, after eight days of Israeli retaliation, at least 220 Palestinians have been killed. No major reports could be immediately confirmed about exactly who was killed, but the Los Angeles Times offered that about half of those deaths were women and children. The reports couldn’t be confirmed because the attacks were on civilians, not the Islamic militants themselves. In other words, a bunch of praying families in their homes. Israeli supporters call the innocents that have been killed ‘collateral damage,” meaning a mother or child or shopkeeper that may have been killed was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. But collateral damage doesn’t exist in the storm of war. On July 16, an Israeli naval ship bombed and killed four Palestinian children playing on the beach in the Gaza harbor. When the remaining surviving children ran for cover, a second shell was reportedly aimed at them.

The rockets being fired from Gaza are more like very banal forms of firework shows. Kids with sparklers could hurt more Israelis than Hamas militants. A 2012 analysis revealed that roughly 12,000 rockets fired over twelve years resulted in twenty-two Jewish deaths. That is, a kill rate of 0.175%. In 2013, of all the proud sparkling skies in the United States, an estimated 11,400 injuries were reported from fireworks. That is, when it comes to rockets, a drunken howling patriotism is possibly more threatening than the Hamas militants.

President Obama has offered to moderate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, calling for a peaceful resolution. Secretary of State John Kerry called Israel’s Prime Minister Netanayhu directly by phone, telling the Prime Minister he thought it was a good idea if everyone stopped killing each other, and that the United States could actually broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. But Netanyahu said before a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, “We don’t know when the operation will end. It could take much longer.” He assured that Israel would only continue to act “in a patient and levelheaded manner,” as it always has, in places like the Gaza harbor, restoring peace and security to its country. Egypt also proposed a ceasefire plan. Israel accepted, while Hamas said the proposal, “was not worth the ink it was written with.”

As President Obama imposes new sanctions on Russia for their attacks on Ukraine, he ignores the significant threat of enduring war in the Middle East—US money and weapons. Since the Israeli state was formed in 1948, the United States has contributed more than $234 billion towards the stability and security of the state. Moshe Arens, former foreign minister and ambassador to Washington, puts it another way: “As a democratic country, the U.S. has good relations with other democratic countries, which have economic and military importance. In the past, during the Cold War period, Israel sided with the United States and today Israel is the best partner America has in the war on terror.” The best partner in the war on terror doesn’t just mean killing children playing on the beach, or killing eighteen members from the same family—it also means the Israeli children longing to “return to their ancient homeland,” something that the few remaining Native Americans surely empathize with the Israeli-dependent defense system. That is, $234 billion dollars to kill Palestinian families, to further divide the Middle East into a lawless arenaceous dystopia of broken gods in misery. That’s close to $6.5 million a week, every week, for six and a half decades. But the United States is not foolish with its money—it has already made some of that money back. In 2001 alone, the U.S. sold a hundred F16s to Israel for close to $3 billion. In 2013, it sold $10 billion worth of arms to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, “provid[ing] missiles, warplanes and troop transports to help them counter any future threat from Iran,” says the New York Times. In other words, the U.S. is giving Israel huge amounts of money so they can spend a little bit of that money buying an American military arsenal. The “threat from Iran” means the threat from some volatile Arab nuclear state. Nobody wants a nuclear war, except maybe Ann Coulter, who wants to corral all the Arabs and all the soccer balls together, and kill them or turn them Christian. But Israel might actually be worse than Ann Coulter. In May of 2010, the Guardian reported, “Secret South African documents reveal that Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime, providing the first official documentary evidence of the state’s possession of nuclear weapons.” Pretty much everyone wants the escalation of misery—it makes people happy.

Israel is the American military’s ‘A’ student, as its sordid escalation of death is almost as good as death itself. Israel’s reaction against Hamas-dominated Gaza is something strikingly similar to the U.S. military’s Battle of Fallujah in March of 2004. Iraqi insurgents had ambushed a convoy of Blackwater USA, the private mercenary company now known as Academi, under the umbrella company Contellis Holdings, killing four American private mercenaries. The U.S. military responded by invading the city of Fallujah, under the name Operation Vigilant Resolve. It didn’t resolve much. It killed at least 600 Fallujahns, at least half of which of non-combatants. In violation of the Geneva Convention, the Marines closed both of the city’s main hospitals, positioning U.S. snipers atop one of the hospital’s water tower. It was a very patriotic moment for the military and for its taxpayers, as Sgt. Maj. William Skiles described it, “may the dogs of Fallujah eat hardy off our dead enemy.” And a few days later, when Paul Bremer announced a ceasefire, wanting to facilitate negotiations itself. And the stray dogs roamed the streets and chewed on all that enduring fatless misery.

Israel is modern romance compared to Iraq. No American troops deployed. No bad press. A potentially endless war, requiring an endless arsenal of death, bought from the United States itself. But even the Iraq war was mature and thoughtful in its own right. By attacking a country preemptively, and wrongly predicting they had weapons of mass destruction pointed at the Americans, the United States would have made Niccolo Machiavelli like a proud young father staring down at his firstborn. Still bloody and screaming and blind, our umbilical cord has finally been cut. Now we can scream freely into all that florescent light above. After 500 years of our gallant heights of Western misery, the United States has turned Machiavelli’s prime written wisdom into the real thing. No matter how immoral, Machiavelli argued, the ends always justified the means for preserving and restoring political authority. By this philosophy, the four children playing on the beach really were collateral damage—they were in the way of the machine. And the family of eighteen really was not a decent enough substance against U.S.-made and sold F16s.

Just as nobody knows why we really went to Iraq, and killed an estimated 500,000 of their men, women, and children, nobody really knows why the United States gives Israel so much money and so many weapons. “As for Israel,” says Obama, “our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values.” This kind of vague sardonic torment of the human capacity for clear communication is something only Machiavelli could teach. Never reveal your true intentions, he wrote, and “act against mercy, against faith, against humanity, against frankness, against religion, in order to preserve the state.” And so another missile strikes. And the mothers scream.

When New York Times, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond was asked what book he would require President Obama to read, Diamond answered with Machiavelli’s The Prince, because it illustrates that “we are not helpless in the hands of bad luck.” No we are not. The children playing on the beach are. The family of eighteen is. As are the rest of the 220 Palestinians killed so far.

But across the desert there is a river running smooth and slow. And a little boy has run all the way from school to sit and watch the fish roam and sometimes look up at him. And he drops little pebbles in to see the fish turn their heads again. And the sun goes down near the horizon and turns the trees many colors, and the boy thinks to himself that he is very lucky to see all these pretty things. And then the sky turns completely white.

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