Paradise of Storm

Category: Satire and Cynicism

50 Shades Darker: the Banality of Fetishism

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by Guy Walker

The sun finally rose enough to push through the beige lace curtains, the first rays of light shining into the visible effluvium of the bedroom, shining on the huge heaving butt cheek of a fat woman sleeping. Her breasts weighing down the bed, her blue veins beating like knotted spurts through a garden hose. A fan in the corner oscillating over and over, blowing the long draping fern, then moving towards the sleeping woman, blowing her mass of starless sordid hair like she were resting under a coastal breeze. A kitten is sitting by its empty bowl, as it had sat there for most of the night, just waiting patiently for the woman to stir, then wake, then feed him. But she didn’t stir—she just groaned like a dying antelope, scaring away the many little robins outside.

Many hours pass. The room is now full of steaming light, and the woman rolls over onto her back, naked, a million individual beads of sweat pushing from their pores. She opens her eyes finally, her eyelids encrusted with sticky yellow globs, and she stares up at a huge and absurd papier-mâché Chinese dragon hanging from the ceiling—completely lifeless, the fan not even making it stir, like it were some recoiled memory of life, an illusory modish object just hanging there in the middle of the room. The woman shoves that whole body of hers onto her feet, picks up a pair of soiled panties, and slips her legs into them one by one—they are, naturally, baggy around the bottom of the ass, seeming to always flutter loosely in that warm gap between the buttcheeks. Then her breasts—she packs them into a bra, cinching it tight around the front. She stands up and walks towards her desk, making the antique floorboards creak. She doesn’t eat, doesn’t wash her face, doesn’t piss, and doesn’t feed the little kitten. She just sits into her tufted leather chair, opens her laptop, and begins writing instantly, her fingers burning furiously, finishing page after page like a flip book. Outside, the wet temporal countryside buzzes with excitement, the satyric affairs of bugs more rupturous than all other predatory fauna; but the woman never once looks out the window. Words and love and the scenic delirium of fantasy devour her. Her heart beats with more nerve and adventure than she has felt from all the real wanton intrigue she’s had in the bedroom. She writes her next sentence: Holy crap! He’s wearing a white shirt, open at the collar, and tray flannel pants that hang from his hips. She feels the illustrious paean flood over her. It’s all too much.

She is Erika James, EL James, and she is halfway through her life epic, 50 Shades of Grey. No one knows it yet, but Erika will excite and satisfy tens of millions of desirous frenzied women seeking something far beyond their domestic passivities. In other words, Erika is going to sell books.

In its primitive stage, it started as a Twilight fan fiction series, originally titled Master of the Universe. Her pen name was, fittingly, Snowqueen Icedragon. But the story was always the same: Ana, an average-looking woman gets fucked properly by a billionaire, Christian Grey. He is young, handsome, a stalwart type who satisfies himself by tying up women, fucking them, and spanking them until their buttcheeks pulse cherry red. When performed on Ana, she at first admonishes these advances, but when he pulls off his belt and begins whipping her, she hesitates and pulls away from him. Classic boy-meets-girl-boy-whips-girl love story. But in the midst of her libidinous appetite for abuse, we are graced with Erika’s natural talent for words, something we as readers are forever in debt: I pull him deeper into my mouth so I can feel him at the back of my throat and then to the front again. My tongue swirls around the end. He’s my very own Christian Grey-flavored popsicle. I suck harder and harder … Hmm … My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves. As a fellow writer, I am completely aroused. My fully erect penis throbs for the next page. I read on, almost as fast as when Erika wrote the thing.

50 Shades of Grey has sold over 100 million copies, in 52 languages. At its peak, it was being sold every second somewhere in the world. They were mostly to women of course. But the sorts of women who buy and read this type of shit are an especially malnourished breed—none of them have ever been in love, and certainly none of them have ever even had great sex, but they do all fantasize about being spanked over and over, their orgasms bellowing across town like a Call to Prayer. After the first of the 50 Shades trilogy premiered in theaters on Valentines of 2015, stories began to arise of soiled cucumbers and sex toys being found in the back rows. This is clearly more than a distant fantasy, but rather a very real fetish. It seems more like a sex-deprived epidemic—women numbering the size of a large nation are paralyzed by their domestic sexual inhibitions, in which the only conceivable outlet is a terribly written novel and its equally terrible film adaptation.

With all our customized dating apps and easily accessible drugs, my generation is having less sex than men and women were 60 years ago. Our grandparents, with their prudish raisined lips and crooked genitals, fucked more than us. And the 50 Shades phenomenon is testament to that. Yes, the genders have their preferences—men are more brutish, humping and snorting like a warthog until they ejaculate all over her glossy buttocks and immediately roll over asleep. Women, it seems, read books. They join book clubs, and discuss over tea and biscuits the allure of being whipped with a belt—it’s akin to men watching hours of hazy porn as their retinas burn red, their penises sweaty and tired, still hanging flaccidly in their clammy grip. We humans are repressed animals, with too much religion, porn, and anti-depressants to manifest our fantasies. Rather than having great sex with a great partner, the women who spend $15 on a book like this—or $15 on the movie—prefer to shuffle around in sweatpants, their unruffled panties filling with the stink of resentment.

50 Shades Darker, the film sequel to the original, opened Valentines, which was perfect timing if you and your date like watching sadomasochism but not actually taking part in it. You can voyeuristically watch a girl being tied up and beaten, and eat more popcorn while holding your girl’s hand. It’s something French philosopher Gilles Deleuze argued didn’t exist as a real term. Sadomasochism is of course the combination of one’s desire to be bear pain through sexual acts, and another’s desire to inflict the pain. But in Deleuze’s essay Coldness and Cruelty, he confers that the sadist attempts to destroy the ego in order to unify the id and the super-ego, while masochism alone is the desire that intensifies because of a delay of sexual gratification; its sexual frustration is ‘rewarded’ as ‘unwavering coldness.’ This is The Contract, the process of controlling another, and turning them into a cold and callous prey. In other words, because a man is sexually insecure or unsatisfied, he will be more prone to tying up girls and whipping them in order to feel closer to an illusory alpha dominance.

We all have our perversions, and there is nothing better than carrying them out with a willing partner or partners—and if ball gags and hot wax are involved, all the better—but this 100-million-person fetishism for abuse is a strangely gruesome one. It’s not who is conducting the abuse that’s important, but rather the abuse itself—because Christian Grey happens to be handsome in this case, his abuse is desirable. If he were fat and pig-snouted, the same actions would be condemned as violent and rapish. If the novel itself were written by a man, it would of course be viewed as misogynistic, as hostile against women, and possibly protested against with pussy hats and vitriolic chants. It’s the fetish itself—the sadomasochism—that every sex-driven serial killer has in common with Christian Grey—they all need to assert their dominance over their chosen inferiors. Gary Ridgeway—the Green River Killer—for example, had an insatiable sexual appetite; he would lure women (mostly prostitutes) with a picture of his son. After raping them, he strangled and killed them (totaling seventy-one in all) and then dumped their bodies in the river. Or David Berkowitz—Son of Sam—the New York serial killer who in the late seventies shot and killed several couples. Whether they were kissing in their car or having a picnic in the park, Berkowitz sought to end the romantic affection of others.

The quintessential modern-day failed masochist is Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who couldn’t get laid so he killed six people—mostly young women—near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus in May of 2014. Rodger was Christian Grey’s hallmark predecessor: wealthy, the son of a movie director, good looking, and sexually frustrated. Before carrying out his killing spree, he posted a 141-page autobiographical manifesto titled My Twisted World on the internet, a scrambled barely literate diatribe of his young adult trauma of still being a virgin. He also posted videos, the last one of which he justifies his cause: I’m 22-years-old and I’m still a virgin. I’ve never even kissed a girl. I’ve been through college for two and a half years, more than that actually, and I’m still a virgin. It has been very torturous. College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. Within those years, I’ve had to rot in loneliness. It’s not fair. You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice, a crime, because  .  .  .  I don’t know what you don’t see in me. I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman.

Rodger was as much of a gentleman as Christian Grey—the only problem was that Rodger didn’t have anybody to turn cold and callous, so he just killed them instead. His misogynistic narcissism is tragic and predictable, comparable to the schoolboy reverie of Donald Trump, the title of his manifesto in ironic similarity to Mein Kampf. He wrote in his journal that he would wait outside a Dominos Pizza for hours on end waiting for a girl to walk by and smile at him so they could start talking and eventually fuck in a glorious fashion. Clearly, Dominos is mostly delivery.

Elliot Rodger was a product of American Pie derangement—the mania of some tepid conquest overpowering him. If he ever did lose his virginity, he would have been utterly disappointed, the full-steamed climax immediately evaporating into the room. Christian Grey was tirelessly charging against this same vacuous despair. He was one lonely fantasy of one lonely woman. Erika James had to keep writing about him because he kept disappearing into the same evaporation of ecstasy—without her words he would be a cloud of smoke, a fading symptom of sexual dissatisfaction, opening up space on book shelves for better writing.

Across the road from where Erika is writing her epic, there is a cherry blossom where a nest is shaking and a mother bird is tending to her chicks. Beyond that there is a garden, full of lilacs and grasses hanging heavy with dew. And beyond that there is another tall house. Inside, a bushy porcine man in a stained wife-beater is sitting back in his  couch—the foam cushions bulging out the torn ends—his hand wrapped around his sweaty penis, tugging on it like a madman as another man on the television gets whipped again, naked, screaming for more. The porcine man is so close to climax, his face contorts and then freezes in place. Everything is silent for a moment—the man, the porno on the television, the grasses and birds outside, they are all frozen in place. Erika too pauses for the first time in hours, thinking of her next word. She looks out the window with a look of devoted contemplation. Suddenly, a group of pheasants erupt from the tall grasses; the porcine man leans forward in the dim opaque room, ejaculating all over his coffee table; Erika smiles, and then writes, Why is anyone the way they are? That’s kind of hard to answer. Why do some people like cheese and other people hate it? Do you like cheese?

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The End of Normalcy

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by Guy Walker

So it begins. Trump’s four years of stammering pageantry, his hideous donut-mouth grinning at you, through your television and into your living room, the bombastic shrill of ego making all the children cry. January 20th marks the beginning of the Trump era. Or as Trump supporters call it, MAGA time. MAGA time consists of American values that make us truly great: family-sized cheesy puffs, 36-pack Natty Ice, camo for the newborn, dead raccoons strewn across the floor, and an orgiastic tailgate party that lasts until the sun explodes. Armies of pudgy frat boys emerge on the horizon, chanting, “books are for queers! drink more beer!” The oceans turn into a massive scummy cauldron, the froth of misery getting whipped up in another record-breaking cyclone. Roaches swim with flippers. Adults brush their teeth with rocks. Sex is banned and replaced with the game ¡Uno! Because the leader of the free world is reality television star Donald J. Trump.

Trumpers didn’t actually want to win. What will Alex Jones do now that he is the voice of the establishment?—he is more shell-shocked than we are. No, the Trumpers only wanted to squat in the desert with their fists raised, punching the charred birdless sky, chanting “Lock her up.” And even though they’re only repeating a cheerleading slogan that Trump started for reasons he got wrong, in a way they’re right. As Noam Chomsky has explained ad nauseam, if the Nuremberg laws were applied, every post-World War II American president would be indictable. Hillary Clinton is no better. She’s been a military hawk since her unelectable position as First Lady. She supported arming the Contras in the 80’s. She voted for Iraq, which led to the power vacuum that eventually led to the creation of ISIS. She led us to invade Libya. The most nefarious hell-encrusted individual, Henry Kissinger, praised her for running the State Department “in the most effective way” he’s ever seen. At the end of her tenure as Secretary of State, a Win/Gallup poll declared the United States as the greatest threat to peace in the world. So yes, lock her up. But lock many others along with her.

Mainstream Democratic pundits are all repeating their expected rebuttals. Rachel Maddow said if only Jill Stein voters and half of Gary Johnson voters in Florida voted for Clinton instead, she would have won Florida. The cretinous lizard-creature, Paul Krugman, also blamed Florida on Stein. Instead, establishment Democrats should examine the attenuating functions of the DNC, how it manipulates leverage for one candidate, for a candidate so soiled by scandal, warmongering, and money grubbing, that she lost to a reality television star who was officially endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.

In Michael Moore’s list of “Things To Do Now,” he advises us to command to everyone we meet—and in all capital letters, of course—‘HILLARY CLINTON WON THE POPULAR VOTE!’ Yes, she won by three-hundred thousand votes, and yes, perhaps it’s possible to end the electoral college, but there is little consolation when 59 million people paraded for a fascist, one who wants to consume the world with his grubby pig-hoofs-for-hands. There’s little consolation when you realize half the country voted for torture, misogyny, and white supremacy. He wants to coat the old growth forests and the tall grass prairies and the last budding corners of ocean reef with a gold aerosol can, and 59 million people are behind him, chanting, “Paint the pandas gold! Paint the night sky gold! Give my testicles some glitter!”

I’ve read dozens of my peers’ requests strewn across social media, and they are all something to the degree of, “this is the time for love, for uniting together.” Or the nauseating meme of “birthplace: earth; race: human; politics: freedom; religion: love.” Even President Obama said “we are all rooting for Trump’s success.” He compared our national politics to intramural scrimmage. No, he said it is intramural scrimmage—it’s merely a fun game of little or no consequence. Or the ungodly acquiescent slogan of “Love Trumps Hate” pasted on t-shirts, posters, buttons, any dreary merchandise that lets you feel like your voice is being heard. Or Michelle Obama’s endlessly reiterated slogan: “When they go low, we go high.” The truth is, when they go low, we cower on scabby knees, like a boy in the schoolyard with cracker bones who’ll do anything not to be picked on. Rooting for Trump’s success is exactly what we leftists have to avoid. His success means punishing women who have abortions, deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants, repealing national healthcare, ending all efforts to combat climate change, building a wall, creating a religious database of all Muslims, executing whistleblowers like Edward Snowden. His success means spreading unbridled fascism across our brittle ground until songbirds screech hellish insults and roses rot under the morning sun.

Professors at many universities canceled classes in order to allow students to cope with the emotional trauma of the presidential results. I listened to NPR most of the morning after the election, and there were at least two political pundits who began to cry on the air. I was at an anti-Trump rally the night of November 9th, and at one point the herd of young optimists began singing “Give Peace A Chance.” This is what haunts the left. Clearly love did not trump hate. Clearly the radical right has mobilized enough energy and momentum to elect their prophet of death. Clearly the Clintonian neoliberals could not engage the enthusiasm needed to charm the overwhelming majority.

Bernie Sanders had the enthusiasm behind him. He would have mopped the floor with Trump until the orange man’s scintillating neon hair smeared a residue across the bathroom floor. But the DNC conspired to paint Bernie as an atheist amongst other things, anything to discredit him as a viable candidate. They said she’s the only electable candidate, her success is inevitable. Every time Hillary walked onto a stage, it was with an air of divine righteousness, that this was her turn and nobody had the right to challenge her. And now the clan of vampire children shall lurk the hallways of the White House, their tubercular ecchymosis cursing the world forever.

There is much talk of achieving “normalcy” after this perverse election season, as if anything about this is normal or could ever become normal. After all, we can blame Anthony Weiner’s dick for fucking us and giving us Trump. The last thing the left needs is continuing on its normal route of neoliberal elitism. We need a radical left. We need to restore youthfulness, fire, and jouissance from the squabbling turkey necks of old.


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Father John Misty and the Death of Cool

“Very evil people cannot really be imagined dying.”

Theodor Adorno

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by Guy Walker

It’s always been the same. Musicians are those veiled effigies we look to for momentary reprieve from being alive. We demand to be entertained, like sticky-fingered children gripping onto lollipops, yelling at the monkey to be funny again. We go to concerts and music festivals with the same gluttonous exigency, herding ourselves around towering stages, gleaming up with glossed-over eyes at the chugging fog machines soaked in red light, anticipating the silhouette of our hero for the evening.

“Distract us from this catastrophe!” we cheer. “Take us on a journey, and make it rhyme!” as we clap our hands and shake our sweaty buttocks to the main chorus. But our love of amusement is nothing new. We’ve always said it. Plato scribed the hedonistic torments of our survival, that we’ve always needed human marionettes, dancing shadows against the light. In the medieval and Renaissance periods, jesters weren’t only used to amuse noblemen. At fairs and markets, they sung songs for the common folk, pulled never-ending ribbons out of hats, told jokes, eased the restless tension of being poor and having little prospects. They made the crushing hysteria of living under a monarch that much more tolerable. Today, we’ve brought Netflix in the bedroom, Youtube channels in our back pocket, and regularly attend concerts with the same intent of escape, soaking ourselves in Red Bull vodkas and MDMA. A blast of serotonin and idol worship—today we are free!

The machinery of entertainment smothers us. The cornfed paradise spreads on. Remember Franz Liszt and the hysterical fan frenzy that ensued when the Hungarian composer and pianist took the stage, now known as Lisztomania. In the mid-19th century, crazed fans would treat Liszt as a greased-up celebrity, making bracelets out of his broken piano strings, fighting over his handkerchiefs, gloves, even locks of his hair, collecting his coffee dregs into little glass vials. One lady resurrected his old cigar butt from the gutter and encased it in a locket surrounded by diamonds. We hoist musicians up on stages so they tower over us. We blind them with coruscating measure, leaving us all in the anonymous pathetic dark. God is dead, so we needed to manufacture new gods.

A century and a half later, the mania has only worsened. For the breed of ghoulish beard-entangled apathy, there is Josh Tillman, or as he is popularly know, Father John Misty. He’s one of the leading figures of the indie rock scene; or the indie folk scene; or folk rock. With songs such as “Bored In The USA,” “I’m Writing A Novel,” “I Went To The Store One Day,” he leads us along the meandering ennui of celebrity libertinage. He exerts great effort to come across as a pessimist, a son to Hermes, to seem deep in thought, tortured, enigmatic, all the usual attributes given to artists and contemplatives. But Tillman is more. He is the direct reincarnation of two classical figures: Julie Andrews twirling between wild dandelions, unable to suppress the libidinal volcano inside her; and Nero playing the fiddle as America falls into an entropic spiral of spectacle and misery, the parody of indifference swelling inside him. Tillman is ravished by the orgiastic features of life, but needs to wear a more putrid pixelated glaze in order to exist. It’s high-definition theater, and he’s caught in his own madness.

Josh Tillman is tall, lean, his face covered in a bushel of perfumed pubic hair. Yes, he may be hideous to look at, but he fashions himself as a mirror to Jim Morrison’s last drunken days in Paris, when he was the most self-indulgent, right before he died in the bathtub with chunks of half-digested Cheerios stuck to his chest hair. His look is a biological mishap—an extended phenotype of hipsterdom—what a nest is to a bird, Josh Tillman is to hipsterdom. His entire personage is a performance, as an aloof misanthrope, like a Dostoyevskian antihero who’s won our pity because he has one or two squabbling virtues left, because we want to see him go mad in front of all of us. His charisma is synthesized glee, like he’s dancing and making jokes so he doesn’t collapse in a puddle of his own drool and beg for forgiveness under a cloud of fireflies. All in all, he is the ideal figure of a cult leader (this is of course what musicians are). Jim Jones, David Koresh, Charles Manson—they were all able to command over their disciples, their screaming fans begging to drink Kool-Aid, piss, buckets of semen, anything to say they were by their leader’s side.

When Josh Tillman dictates over the mud-soaked peasantry from high on his stage, he’s weary of his own power. It’s not that he’s pretentious; it’s more that he’s exhausted from trying to seem pretentious. Under the guise of pubescent narcissism, with his spongey tendrils waving in a burning desert, Tillman makes an appeal to the hysterical crowd of disciples: “Fuck you! I hate entertaining you, and everything it involves. Also, I’m conflicted about my manbun!!” The crowd goes wild. Kids in skinny jeans yell “Hell yeah! I’m cynical too. I haven’t washed my socks for a whole week!” A twenty-something year old with rainbow colored John Lennon glasses turns to his friend, and comments simply, “Rad. He gets it … Here, hit this.” Tillman scowls at the crowd. They’re not getting it. I actually hate all of them, he thinks to himself. At that, young women lose strength in their legs, and faint one by one like dominos, like the gaggles who collapsed during the early Beatles concerts, their 1950’s chastity bursting into wanton cherry-nippled flames, pheromones of spring and dawn collecting into visible clouds above the stage.

In the end, Tillman will go mad. With cardboard cutouts of the Snapchat doggy ears and nose glued to his face, he exclaims to a crowd of invisibles, “I’ve read Norman Mailer! I can quote Nietzsche!! I think about serious matters!!” At the impenetrable silence, he looks out across the wilting cherry blossoms, pulls out his acoustic guitar, and sings a song about canvas shelters. And all the wild animals run far far away.


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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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Squirt Guns and the Death Throes of Emojis

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by Guy Walker

When Apple released that they were going to replace their real-life looking pistol emoji with a squirt gun, there were a few hours of nervous unsteady control amongst the avenues of Downtown LA. The dreary overgrown intersections between Chicago gang outfits stopped as well, not because it was the Parade of Nations at the Olympics and it’d be the appropriate gesture of solidarity to do here in Chicago, but because their mutual communicative devices had changed, their metonymically pixelated hieroglyphs had been translated into something else, something either mockingly childish or terribly magniloquent, and it was done so overnight. For a moment, the mutes, the schizophrenics, the retards, the gun enthusiasts, and the gun control advocates were all the same, all floundering in the tepid shit-ridden swamps of language, unsure whether they would sing the poems of Whitman or belch a bit of hell.

The Walmarts and mega shopping malls uniformly hushed, everyone frozen in place as to not disturb any temperamental idiot with a gun and the wrong set of emojis who could be pushed over the edge. A man with a round hunched neck and soiled polo shirt froze with his hand shoved in the discount bra bin at Sears, his eyes nervously and silently scanning the rows of empty clothing racks. A six-hundred pound woman with a Trump-Pence nightgown used as a t-shirt who was once galloping through the soda aisles on her scooter-made-for-handicapped-people, stopped and tried to camouflage herself amongst the American themed sugar cookies. A stock-boy who was stacking cans of Campbell soup, wondering what is the difference between him and Andy Warhol, stopped and waited expectantly with everyone else for the effects of replacing the pistol emoji with a squirt gun.

To confirm their worst, most exigent fears, it was the children who stormed and terrorized the public. Great herds of kindergarteners simultaneously broke out of their classrooms and flooded their playgrounds, shooting their super-soakers into the air, all just to celebrate the warrantless expansion of their prepubescent lexicon. A five-year-old with half-inch thick reading glasses was trampled in the sandbox, water balloons that looked like hand grenades splashing all around him. Boys drew six-pacs on their stomachs and Hitler mustaches with markers, and spoke only in quotes from Napoleon in Animal Farm. A young teacher assistant fell to her knees in agony, but was completely silent in doing so, and began frantically pressing the crying emoji on her smartphone, not sending messages to anyone, just haphazardly scrolling multi-page compositions of tears. Two of the kids began swinging on the monkey bars at the same time, cackling under a torrent of rain bullets, and one of the teachers tried to communicate that two at a time was not allowed. She pressed the two finger emoji, then the monkey face emoji, then the red circle with a line through it, then held the iPhone screen up to the boys. “Peace, Monkey. No Way!” they read. “Yeah! That’s Right, No More Peace! No More Glossy Apples! Just Penis! Poop! Butts! And More Bad Words!” they screamed with rotten humor, firing their water pistols into the teacher’s face. She responded expectantly, with an Instagram selfie ending in a series of hashtags: #tgif #newemojiday #boysareweird #iminlovewithkanyewest.

But the hazy tautology of our spectrum of possible communicative symbols did have some positive net effect. Action movies suddenly turned into animated sandbox dramas, and young inept children and politically correct adult virgins went to see them, stuffing sugar-free cotton candy into their smacking esurient mouths. God turned out to be a naked comedian who only made jokes about Teletubbies, Jarool, and Princess Diana, as he chewed tobacco and spit casually onto the glistening bald heads in the audience. Down on skid row, a skinhead touched his own chest with a sentimental caress, and where there was once a massive opaque swastika was now a tattoo of a unicorn rubbing himself with a bushel of orchids. The skinhead smiled to himself, cupped his mug with both hands and sipped his steaming chamomile tea. All women became men. All men became women. White people stained their skin with floor stain in order to look black, and they took to the streets, chanting “Black Lives Matter! It’s Pretty to be Fatter!” for 72-hour shifts, before finally collapsing onto waterbeds filled with distilled fluoride-free water. Caitlyn Jenner transitioned into a human fetus, then a Venus Flytrap, because, in her words, “fetuses are like amorphous sexless heroes, but flytraps are enigmas of bloody heavens.” She petitioned the public that she shouldn’t be forced to eat flies, and went on a hunger strike and eventually died. Hippies bought suits from Saks Fifth Avenue and began hating gays because they didn’t know what to do with themselves. Overnight, the whole emoji-speaking world flipped—peace became war, and war became peace—and everything stayed the same.

Words have always evolved and transformed their meaning into strange agglutinative forms. “Nice” to used mean silly and foolish. “Awful” used to mean “worthy of awe.” “Naughty” meant being poor or needy. In the story of Jesus’ conception, the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew “almah,” or young woman, translated it into the Greek “parthenos,” meaning virgin. This single mistranslation led to countless generations of zealous followers to synch up their private tingly areas, to deny themselves untold libidinal splendor. It is expected to have a few embellishments along the tortuous banal profession of storytelling and translations—a bit of exaggeration here and there, a few less loaves and fishes, a few more people in the crowd, year by year, until miracles are made.

When Plato defined humans as “featherless bipeds,” Diogenes brought a plucked chicken into his classroom, retorting “Behold! I’ve brought you a man!” Plato then expanded his definition to be a “featherless biped with broad flat nails.” To Einstein, “god” meant the sum total of the laws of physics. But to an Islamic extremist it means the disperser of martyrdom, the ghostly gallant king that will grant you 72 virgins. But 72 isn’t 72. It means “a lot,” “a bunch,” “a fuck ton,” whatever your most lyrical paeanic way is to put it. And the Quran never said it would grant a martyr many virgins. The original word that the Quran used means “raisins.” You’ll get a sack of raisins if you honor god’s word and kill a gang of French people drinking champagne. It’s because the ephemeral capricious nature of our words and their definitions are too easily manipulated to our desired meanings, to meanings that could serve us very well to believe. It’s easy to believe the virgin definitions, both in the story of the birth of Jesus and the gift of martyrdom, because they grant us an advantage, they grant us the awe and wonder that we so desperately crave on this ransacked polluted desert, to liven up these dreary hungover routines that leave us hunched over night after night wondering when all this hapless confusion will end. Someone was the first to grunt the word for ‘food’, ‘rock’, ‘sky’, ‘god’, ‘fart’’, egodystonicity’, ‘symparanekromenoi’, and the rest of us agree that these are the words and their respective meanings, from chimps plucking and eating the lice from each other’s heads to hairless pink men hurling themselves in a metal tube towards other planets, we croaked and coughed our way towards collective progress.

And emojis will unwittingly shove us towards the next glorious frontier.

Last year, Oxford Dictionaries named the laughing-crying emoji, or the ‘Face with Tears of Joy,’ the word of the year. And naturally, parents and prudish types will wince at the seemingly accelerated degeneration of human language, and point to the Yeats and the Eliots and the natural prose on the common man from the past, but their sordid complaints are wrong and have no strength against the impenetrable momentum of the human lexicon. These assorted hieroglyphs are the cute articulate paeans of modern man, something Hegel and Wittgenstein would have envied, because of the economy of language is dealt in a single image. Ever since Webster’s Second Edition Dictionary, words have been defined according to how they are being used on the street, in the cafés, amongst the silly gaggles of girls and their daily banter. There is no fixed meaning to anything anymore.

According to the Global Language Monitor, there are over a million words in the English language. Teenagers today speak an average of 800 words a day. But, if we are lucky, emojis can potentially reduce this even further, to just a handful of muted voguish symbols, to a squirt gun and a smiley face, to praying hands and an eggplant, to an alien head and a thumbs up, and together we can rid the world of violence, misery, color, and all meaning. We can finally return to where we came from, and point to things and grunt, and throw our feces from up high in trees. Together we can be free.

The Depraved Fiasco at the RNC: We Choose Death

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by Guy Walker

Amid the squalid cornfed landscape of middle America, the Republican National Convention took place over the course of four miserable days, concluding that Donald J. Trump will in fact be their leader, marching them into vague Edens of gold, mosaics of orange wrinkled flesh, everyone strutting in unison to their choreographed modish chicken dances, everyone putting on 3-D glasses and staring blankly at the stage. It was held in Cleveland, Ohio, a swamp settled in the late 18th century, home to the Cuyahoga River which caught on fire in the late 1960’s, at the Quicken Loans Arena which stands like a silvery plateau of troglodytic fuckery, where church pastors, soccer moms and other livestock huddle around the booming stage, everyone waiting for their instruction to applaud or sneer or laugh or cry. Cleveland was a weird choice, because, simply, it’s a weird place. As everyone knows, ‘Cleveland’ derives from the Middle English cleove, or cliff. But there are no cliffs in the the Land of Cliffs. There’s only the dreary sastruga of nostalgia for the Wild West; there’s only the porcine peasantry of modern day conservatism that is packed neatly into this carnival of hell.

The first thing to shrivel about is the group attire. The Republican Convention is supposed to be about confirming their nominee, to prep him into going into battle with the Democratic nominee, the rallying cries of all the supporting delegates ensuing confidence for the home team. And that’s typically what it has been in the past. But 2016 didn’t seem that way. It was about hats, costumes, glitter. It was a scintillating hell of lavish ghouls doing whatever they could to forget that their political party has finally devolved into a crusade of paranoid religious fanatics.

So, naturally, everyone dresses up.

Whatever your politics, one must be necessarily suspicious about a stadium full of adults who dress up in full ornate feathered costumes for a weekend to scream about guns, brown people, freedom, god. Everyone counted their pieces of flair, embellished in glitter and neon blue and red eye makeup, long ribbons streaming from their hats like tendrils-of-patriotism.

Men in cowboy hats, huge gilded belt buckles that trick you into looking at their dick. There’s a man with an elephant hat. There’s a man in a diaper. A woman who’s been drunk for 35 years. There’s a man with a red helicopter hat who physically can’t pull his finger from his nose. Most of the men wear push-up bras and expensive plaid dress socks, only because their wives don’t let them do so at home. Two men—one with a bowl haircut and an enormous man-fupa, the other with alabaster gelatin arms and cut-off cargo shorts so the pockets are just open holes—decide to duel. But there are no guns allowed into the Convention Hall, so they stand at each end of the aisle and run at each other. Their arms waving back as they run, huge amorphous mounds, like congealed buckets of kindergarten paste, cellulite and stink surging towards each other, the slow motion of their heaving bodies moan like sadness on a humid afternoon. Fog machines are lit with blue neon light, caught and captured from blue supergiant stars. The two men crash and there is an explosion, and Donald Trump steps cooly from his twinkling gates.

I could’t help but posit the necessary interactions between delegates and attendees. It was obvious at this point that everyone carried little velvet satchels of chocolate gold coins strapped to their right hip, but in keeping with theme, they’re white chocolate, engraved with quaint passages about virgins, football, and light beer. The Texas caucus read their coins aloud to each other like normal families do with fortune cookies. “Read yours, Hank! Read yours!” a woman with white-blonde hair ironed to a frizz, says to a man with a handlebar mustache that runs straight down to his nipples, everything else shaven. Hank squints, the mounds of fat around his eyes tighten as they focus on the wisdom offered from his gold coin. “Our team is Red. Whole milk is better than skim. Wifebeaters are not just undershirts, they are a way of life.” At this, the Texas caucus erupted into a chorus of hoorays and hallelujahs, everyone passing around an American flag to rub on the private parts, everyone sniffing the flag like a teenager huffs a hankie saturated with Crisco from a spray can.

“Make America Great Again” is the theme of everything now. Like preteen bff’s singing along to a song by One Direction, the genius of easily repeatable sayings is that they don’t require any thinking. Kids repeating the Pledge of Allegiance. Muslim extremists croaking Allahu Akbars before shooting a bunch of people drinking their lattes. Seemingly grown adults doing brutish sing-alongs about the betrayed Greatness of their country. Others plaster Coexist bumper stickers on their cars because it is a short gruesome virtue of the new-age hell. Others tattoo tattered feathers or incoherent Japanese writing onto their easily visible inner forearms because they are universally vague and inane. The allure is that we don’t understand them. Conceptual art. Slobbering drunkenness. Religion. Dancing aimlessly all night on ecstasy. We necessarily love indulging in things that don’t follow any intelligible goal. “Make America Great Again” is a perfect Sesame Street rhyme, cowing to the weeping and rabid animals of modern age.

So what about the speeches at the convention? Is it all a piece of surrealist performance art? Is it Mozart’s Requiem played out in high definition spectacle? Is it a mescaline trip gone awry? The convention itself was a drunken shit show without any of the comedy. Melania Trump plagiarized her speech. A speech writer eventually came out admitting responsibility even though Melania said she wrote the speech herself. Ted Cruz got booed off the stage. Joanie Loves Chachi superstar confirmed that Donald Trump actually isn’t Jesus. Expert Duck Commander Willie Robertson said that one of the things him and Trump have in common is that they are both ugly. Former underwear model Antonio Sabàto Junior groped his own crotch as he fell to all fours, squealing and oinking about how all Muslims wear their underwear backwards. Rudy Giuliani screamed until an artery broke, and he collapsed to the floor, convulsing, muttering something unintelligible, but most likely about crime. Benny Hinn, the televangelist and “Miracle Crusader” famous for scandal and fraud, came out twirling his white jacket over his head like a lasso. He knocked out Ivanka Trump with a healing blow to the head. Then he shot a beam of coruscating neon smoke from his hands that threw UFC president Dana White off his feet, the ground rumbling in a dramaturgy of conservatism ridden with dank perversity. At this point, for obvious reason, the crowd went wild. Everyone collapsed to the floor, their eyes rolled all the way back, and they began shaking violently.

After four gruesome days, Trump gave his acceptance speech. He waddled out, grabbed Ivanka’s ass with a promise of victory, and opened his mouth, the smutty paste on his lips sticking with each syllable. He sang a ghastly anthem of pride and nationalism that lasted over an hour, and relished on the fears of the people, demonizing Black Lives Matter, Mexicans, Muslims, adding that he would protect the LGBTQ community from “foreign” threat, though not necessarily domestic. He stared into our sobbing earnest eyes, and said he would make everything great again, like it used to be, before it wasn’t great, to an indefnite past, an eternal nostalgia for horse carriages and misogyny. At this, the deafening crack of thunder released a million balloons like fat American raindrops, wetting the faces and foreheads of the delegation like the healing aromas of petrichor on an autumn day. After all were healed, standing in their soggy dresses, before exiting, Donald Trump pretended he had cerebral palsy one last time, and the crowd nodded their head and politely clapped as if to say, Yes, indeed, that is an accurate portrayal of that silly journalist.

At this, the stars shined a little brighter, the night a little cleaner. The heavens looked down on its children in Cleveland, Ohio, and smiled one last smile.

“Famous”: The Passion of Kanye West

“Self-attachment is the first sign of madness, but it is because man is attached to himself that he accepts error as truth, lies as reality, violence and ugliness as beauty and justice.” Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization

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by Guy Walker

Kanye West’s new music video for “Famous” was a non-event. Actually, it was an awful 8 minute episode of pubescent vagary. The soporific post-coitus scenery of famous people with their clothes off, the illusory novelty of seeing a politician’s naked wrinkly body, or Taylor Swift’s elusive belly button, lacks the shock value that it so desperately craves. He’s mimicking what every young boy does when they’re first stepping into the shallows of internet porn, as they look up pictures of Britney Spears with photoshopped bare tits, as they jerk off into a dirty sock, looking behind their shoulder to make sure mom isn’t walking in to check what all the padded smacking is in the middle of the night. Kanye uses the banal and dreary antics of sex, celebrity, and scandal to cobble up some hermetic perversion, like the chubby kid in film school who decided to make amateur soft-porn instead.

But I’m not saying anything new. Nobody liked it. The narcissism is obvious. The lack of artistry is obvious. The plagiarism is obvious. Kanye said he was directly inspired by Vincent Desiderio’s painting “Sleep.” This is incorrect. Being directly inspired to this extent is nothing more than stealing an artist’s original idea and posturing it as your own interpretation of it, as something more deep and enigmatic. He directly lifted the composition and concept from Desiderio and glued in the bodies of people we recognize. Art has this weird brutish tendency that says it’s okay to plagiarize as long as you say you plagiarized it. It praises this, in fact. Because it allows other oleaginous Calabasas illiterates to repeat to their doleful friends, “Oh, it was inspired by Desiderio’s painting ‘Sleep,’” and sound like they know what the fuck they’re talking about. “Desiderio” rolls off the tongue like butter on a horse dick in the scalding summer heat. You can hear Javier Bardem whisper “Desiderio, mi amor” into your ear, the moist titillation of rosebud and jasmine filling up your underwear. You can see Kanye in a moss-laden forest somewhere, screaming “Desiderio! I like art! Desiderio! Now I’m smart! Desiderio! Smell my fart!” and then scamper off to steal some bird eggs and tell his friends that Kim just laid them.

Of course it’s a pity that all the fuss and attention is directed at Kanye, because “Sleep” is a phenomenal original work of art, and “Famous” is cornfed tabloid fuckery. Comparing “Famous” to “Sleep” is like claiming “Babe” is a film adaptation of Orwell’s Animal Farm—we are all sadder and more cynical for seeing the former.

But as an artist, what did Kanye actually create? He obviously didn’t sculpt the waxen effigies of all the celebrities. He didn’t do the filming with a shitty camcorder. He didn’t come up with the original concept. We can give him the benefit of the doubt and say he wrote the lyrics, with all his grand Rimbaudian paean:

Bam bam, bam bam

Bam bam dilla, bam bam

Let me see you act up in this motherfucker

‘Ey what a bam bam

Bam bam dilla, bam bam

How you feelin’, how you feelin’, how you feelin’ in this motherfucker, god damn…

And on and on until you want to kill squirrels, eat pinecones, dress in those silver heatsheets, anything to take your mind off his scabrous hell of dick and meatloaf.

So what actually makes this Kanye’s video? He did after all admit it was merely a “comment on fame,” a lonely grunt in the whirlwind of theater, a shrug of troglodytic humor amongst the 7 billion handicapped tribe dragging themselves up the moor of mortality. Or is he playing a practical joke? After all, when Marcel Duchamp bought a urinal from a New York plumbing supplier and turned it upside down and signed it “R. MUTT 1917,” he was playing a Dadaist prank on the entire art world, exposing it for its appetence for sham. And every non-artist bought the bullshit, and began the conceptual revolution in the art world: Damien Hirst glued diamonds onto a human skull, Tracey Emin displayed her messy bed, Joseph Kosuth set a chair next to a photograph of a chair next to a dictionary’s definition of a chair, Piero Manzoni canned 90 tins of his own shit (and sold them for the price of gold). And Kanye West created the film to his song “Famous.”

In Either/Or, Kierkegaard says the original sin of everything is boredom. God was bored of empty space so he created the world. He was bored of algae and flies so he created Adam. He was bored with Adam so he created Eve, then the apple, then tits and lust and hunger and war. We were bored with Africa so we went to Europe, then the New World, then the moon, and now Mars. We’re bored of sobriety. Bored of whiskey. Bored of coke and strippers and love. Pop stars are known to have about three years of fame before we all get bored of them. Fortunately for Kanye, he’s not a pop star; he’s Pablo. He’s Andy Warhol. He called the wax artist for the video his Jesus, which makes him God.

For these few years of ephemeral misery, there is Kanye to show us the way forward. From the bright empyrean gates, the massive gold clouds continue to swell, overwhelming the heavens. The cloistered cum-encrusted bedsheets mummifying Bill Cosby, who giggles rudely as he humps Rihanna’s leg. Donald Trump is of course on all fours, Kanye tossing his salad, his glossy face covered in damp Cheeto dust, the moist triumph dripping down his neck. Everyone wheezes in the heavy air, Kim’s ass continuing to swell, larger than the clouds—finally, she is just one enormous ass, chomping on everything around her, smacking on the food of other bodies, all that hunger for the world. The celebrities disappear one by one, down the hatch. Taylor Swift croaks “What did I do?” as Kim’s ass gobbles her up. Soon, her ass has eaten everything. No clouds, no forests, no whales or fish or mountains. There are no more planets, no more stars. Just one stagnant black hole, her greased-up buttocks waiting in the infinity of empty space.

From Barcelona to Mars: Gentrification of the Universe

“The hierarchy of the world of created things, which has its apex in the righteous man, reaches down into the abyss of the inanimate by many gradations. In this connection one particular has to be noted. This whole created world speaks not so much with the human voice as with what could be called ‘the voice of Nature.’” -Walter Benjamin (Illuminations)

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by Guy Walker

Up along the bright cloistered avenues, where the dull pleadings of shopkeepers echo down the piss-drenched alleyways, where packs of British men dressed in uniformed khaki shorts roam like lost fat dogs, where the steaming farts of thousands of tourists choke the sparrows and limping pigeons, there is yet another enormous stained-glass church, another bar of florescent yellow blaring a song by The Offspring, and another hundred festering scabby boutiques selling jewelry and pink skirts, Hello Kitty lunch boxes, floor cleaner, toy trucks, and bottles of rum. I shove my way between a German family arguing over a dropped ice-cream cone—the dad figure wearing a paper crown from Burger King, the mother figure sobbing into a lace hankie, and the toddler squatting low and slapping the amorphous glob of vanilla with his open palm over and over again. Past the fruit vendors crammed in their narrow stores, dozens of crates of petrified fruits glaring up at me, the onions and glossy aubergines wriggling in their plastic cubbies—choose me, choose me! Past the Irish-themed pub, the right-o proper bloaks tripping over themselves. Past Tapas & Tikki. Past Subway. Starbucks. Rainbow Munchies. Porcupine Kebab. Corpse Cuisine. Soon the endless road of deli-striped canopies and air misters leave me soaked and anesthetized. I’ve walked for days, then months, and my legs are stiffening into leather-stitched tree trunks, my whole sense-experience melting into the flat eternal monotony of a cosmopolitan conveyor belt. For a moment I don’t know if I have to it takes to continue, but then I remember there still are so many more shops to see, so I lean forward and push on.

The sweating cretinous herds of tourists and vendors are multiplying by the minute, like the horrifying images of binary fission of bacterial growth, the asexual reproduction of human bodies, everyone packing in tighter and tighter, everyone shoving each other to buy paintings of sailboats, traditional döners wrapped in foil, fake Ray Bans—really, anything they can get their hands on. I’m in Barcelona. Or is it Madrid? Rome. Athens. Copenhagen. Chicago. I can’t remember. And the frank reality is that it doesn’t matter. There are no pungent visible signs that suggest where I actually am. Just one swelling body of humans, everyone white, everyone shopping, everyone so desperately content. This is Life. This is the apex of modernity, the post-Utopian shift of the culture industry. The entire world, wrapped all the way around from pole to pole is one tremendous glittering outdoor shopping mall, people extending their selfie-sticks in front of the swirling pillars of Gaudi, or the glass pyramid of the Louvre, or with Spiderman on Sunset Boulevard. Groups of young women jump up in the air, kicking their legs back as their friend takes the photo. And then they giggle. We dropped the A-bomb for endless rows of boutiques and Apple stores, to drink our foamy café crèmes under patio umbrellas. We are finally alive, finally happy, finally well-fed.

It didn’t used to be this way. Barcelona used to be very much Catalonian. Just ten years ago you could play football in every town square, drink from wine bottles in the parks, play guitar and skateboard and pick-pocket the handful of tourists with your longtime childhood friends with nose rings and black mullets. Today it’s a collection of gift shops where you can buy key chains with your name on it. Because tourism is essentially the same thing as gentrification. New York: prior to the 90’s, Manhattan was hookers, thieves, drug addicts, poverty-encrusted artists and poets, and the hunched flâneur with crooked fingers. You could pull back a door curtain while standing on the sidewalk and pay a dollar to touch a woman’s baby-gnawed tit. But Mayor Giuliani pushed everyone interesting out, and the wealthy and super wealthy decided it was cool to live where the poor people used to live and now there’s just rows of stammering neon signs and storefronts for mega-corporations, and now a 600 square foot flat is $4,000 a month. Venice Beach is self-explanatory. But everyone who grumbles about gentrification, day-dreaming and eulogizing about the glory days when you could get robbed by a heroin addict and it was somehow romantic, are your standard young upper-middle-class types. It’s why Venice Beach is so awfully boring these days—the kids who live there are good looking, but just extremely flat and uncomplicated. It’s why the art produced there consists of faces of Kurt Cobain and Janis Joplin painted green—there’s an empty acheronian nostalgia for the glory days, a celibate-lust for the wandering eidolons of yesterday. I too am just another smug millennial leftist who will find an excuse to reference Kubrick films, The Brothers Karamazov, or discuss Kant’s transcendental normativity as I sip my Pinot Noir at an art opening of some linen canvases splattered in ink. We all know we’re part of the weeping cyst of our own banality. My poverty is not a real poverty, not the kind that creates anything wondrous and burning and necessary. It’s comfortable and amusing, and still somehow lets me fly to various centers of the world and get drunk over and over again, like some stammering lost version of Groundhog Day. The ever-expanding fog of global capitalism now blankets everything, and the systematized copulation of the bourgeois has conquered everything that was once naked, tragic, and beautiful.

The phenomenon of self-herding tourists is of course the result of warenfetischismus, which, as everyone knows, is German for ‘commodity fetishism,’ the theory Karl Marx proposed in Capital: Critique of Political Economy, describing the relationships of production not between people—between worker and capitalist and consumer—but rather between the money and the commodities exchanged in the market transaction. “[T]he commodity-form, and the value-relation of the products of labour within which it appears, have absolutely no connection with the physical nature of the commodity and the material relations arising out of this.” Marx was, in part, responding to Karl Heinrich Hermes’ religious justification of the Prussian state. Hermes (as with Hegel) argued that religion raises man “above sensuous appetites.” Wearing chainmail mittens will make you not want to masturbate, for example. Chastity belts will purify your crotch. But Marx contested that it was in fact fetishism itself—economic, political, industrial—that was “the religion of sensuous appetites.” In the same way that we stare at a screen all glazey-eyed, fantasizing that the humping naked woman is actually moaning for us, we view the inanimate object of commodity that is endlessly churning out from the capitalist machinery will somehow come to life, will somehow bring us life. It’s why shopping malls are so horrifying and manic—everyone is caught in the coma of commodity fetishism, their screamings on mute, trying to break free.

In A Companion to Marx’s Capital, David Harvey details the concept of fetishism entirely dictating the norm of our desires, fantasies, wit, emotions, and so on: “we foreclose on revolutionary possibilities if we blindly follow that norm and replicate commodity fetishism.” To withdraw from all ‘revolutionary possibilities’ is to submit from independence entirely, especially that of thinking. It’s why there is always soma available in Brave New World, for every occasion, every holiday and weekend and momentary lull of sobriety, soma allows us to quickly return to the gorgeous bloom of glee.

Of course there are many who are taking opiates and soma-like substances to numb the state of all this incredible madness, but it’s the culture industry itself that allows the entire world to quiet the naked roaring animality of real-life.

Theodor Adorno’s and Max Horkheimer’s theory of the culture industry is the present culmination of commodity fetishism, the ever-present zombie of stimulation that counterfeits our desires and fantasies to adapt to its own. Samo Tomšič says the same thing in The Capitalist Unconscious: Marx and Lacan, in that Lacan’s unconscious is not the realm of the private and the irrational, but rather a place where our political and social systems are most perfectly mirrored and reproduced. The capitalist construct is not a response to our inner private desires for more stuff; instead, our relentless libidinal appetites are a result of capitalism. We never wanted the shitty sailboat painting in the first place. We never wanted the Hello Kitty lunchbox. You may enjoy that açai berry smoothie, but you’re the same ugly thing as before. The culture industry is Life now. It is the first light after winter, the forever-flowing tit of humanity. It is the sun itself, the dreamy constellations we stare up at with gaping mouths. It is the first gurgling of microbes, the spark of cell growth, the whirlwind of neutrons creating matter from virtually completely empty space.

The first U.S. cruise ship has just docked into Cuba for the first time in fifty years. Buck-toothed children with runny noses ask their mothers with heaving muffin-tops what these strange brown people are doing on the island, or why everyone only drives old cars. There is no public advertising allowed in Cuba, but ships and planes full of white people are essentially the same waddling billboard for the fetishistic ideologies. I’m interested in what Cuba will look like in 5, 10, 30 years from now. Historically, when a ship full of white people arrives to a new virginal enigmatic landmass populated by exotic brown-skinned islanders, the events that follow are less than handsome. I don’t know what’s worse: the Santa Maria landing on your shores with conquistadors who want gold and slaves and wants to convert everybody to Christianity, or a cruise ship full of Americans in plaid polo shirts sucking on lollipops wanting to experience the so-called ‘preserved authenticity’ of your culture. I once hiked to Mount Everest Base Camp, and there is an inauthentic Starbucks on the way, in a quaint little village tucked away in the Himalayas. Neon clad mountain fanatics checking their wifi connections, ordering cappuccinos with extra foam.

But today is the age of space exploration, and now, finally, space colonization. Elon Musk has continued to repeat SpaceX’s plans to colonize Mars. Mars One, an organization based in the Netherlands, plans to begin colonizing Mars by 2027. We’re torpedoing our tepid flailing bodies into the empty cold blackness, the excrescent metal tube of humanity hurling to cover the universe. And don’t get me wrong, I am enthusiastically in support of colonizing other planets, and the indelible wealth of innovation that comes with it. Our curiosity for brighter horizons and frontiers is unrelenting. But this isn’t the same as before. Our prior horizons were drearily shoved along with priests and Puritanism and their death cults of banality, forcing tribes to swear off their practices that had worked for so long before. The United States government has long supported dictators all across the world, but at the same time attempted to force its neoliberal principles everywhere. But on Mars, there is no one to conquer, no one to convert. As far as we know, we are the only ones out here, the lonely dying match in the infinity of darkness. There is no one to overcome but ourselves. Where do we go from here?

Is Ryan Seacrest the Erection of God?

I think of my great swan with his crazy motions,

Ridiculous, sublime, like a man in exile,

Relentlessly gnawed by longing! and then of you.”

-Charles Baudelaire

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You wake up squinting under the blinding effluvium, the jasmine-scented hand lotions overwhelming your dream state, the ocean breeze of Malibu shoving its way into the white marble living room, the long alabaster silk curtains blowing in and gently caressing your glossy buttocks. The couch is, of course, made from endangered hippopotamus leather, dyed bright orange. A bowl of plastic peaches and bananas are arranged in stellifariously kinky positions. A six-foot portrait of pop radio host turned reality tv producer, Ryan Seacrest, looms above the fireplace, and Don’t Stop Believin’ is playin’ softly somewhere—in the surround sound perhaps. You look around, still half-awake, not entirely sure what all this is about. Then a meaty little Guatemalan maid dressed up as a Sugar Plum Fairy walks into the room, her huge feathered wings knocking over a vase of pearl-plated dildos, smashing them to the ground; she ignores the mess completely and greets you with a crystalline bowl of M&M’s, except instead of the colored chocolates they are a blazing assortment of muscle-relaxers, anti-depressants, opioids, and sleeping pills. She smiles, and then opens her lipless mouth. “A tribal offering from our leader, mister Ryan Seacrest himself,” she says. You take a handful and pop them into your mouth, and spend the next 30 minutes thoughtlessly scrolling through photos of your ex-girlfriends, when the maid returns. “Mister Ryan Seacrest will see you now. You must wear this when in his presence.” She hands you a pair of leather pants and suspenders, with the dozens of miniature faces of the entire cast of Keeping up with the Kardashians (a show Seacrest created and produces, as well as the spin-offs Khloe and Lamar, Kourtney and Kim Take New York, and of course Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami) printed all over them, every one of Bruce’s face crossed out with a red marker and Caitlyn’s printed even larger next to it. You walk across the living room and push open the white marble door, and there is a roundtable of the entire cast. Caitlyn is sitting with her legs spread, her cryogenized shriveling raisin face barely held together with Elmer’s glue and Onabotulinumtoxin, her neck skin hanging loosely like a chicken’s gizzard. She drums the tips of her long red fingernails against the glass covering of the walnut table, staring at you blankly. Kim Kardashian has disappeared completely into her own ass; she is just one huge glistening ass sitting in the leather chair, an amorphous sphere, she is used more as a steatopygous scrying stone for Kanye and company to peer into. You look up at the wall, and Ryan Seacrest is a flickering hologram, a static two-dimensional image talking to everybody—yet nobody—about cooking utensils, then nail polish, then dead cats. Then he turns his gaze and stares directly at you, his eyes piercingly familiar. “I want to make a television series of you,” he booms over the loud speakers. “You will become a black woman who’s only desire is to be spanked by Donald Trump. We’ll call the show Margaret gets the Donald. You will be famous. You will be wretched and hideous, but you’ll be incredibly famous.” You turn and flex in the mirror, and you smile.

The question remains: Exactly who is Ryan Seacrest? Of course, he’s the radio and television personality, but who is he beyond the coruscating blush of personality? In Adorno’s Minima Moralia, he writes, “The self, its guiding idea and its a priori object, has always, under its scrutiny, been rendered at the same time non-existent.” The ego, the superego, and the id, are dressed in the womb and then shoved into the florescent screaming world, growing unwittingly into a child, then an adult, then a drooling automaton, all with varying degrees of morality, decency, and libidinal dandyism, until death finally sweeps us into the curdled pile of wet ash. But Ryan Seacrest is not actually human. He is perhaps something closer to Baudrillard’s “hyperreality of God,” a turgid simulation of a man, or beast, pretending to be a god. He is not even a thing, but rather a personality. He’s an abstract filament of the psyche itself that has manifested into a man on your television screen, asking movie stars what it’s like to be human. It’s obvious that Ryan Seacrest was the voice inside Nietzsche’s head, forcing him to toss himself onto the horse in Turin. He is the complete and final annihilation of the Self. Adorno continues “…that which posits itself as ‘I’ is indeed mere prejudice, an ideological hypostasization of the abstract centres of domination, criticism of which demands the removal of the ideology of ‘personality.’” But the ‘personality’ is the necessary lie that holds all the chaos and drama of our lives together. The award-winning actor, for example, is a chameleon of personality, beautifully blending into the charismas of crime lords and superheroes through his mastery of method-acting. But wild-eyed fans don’t want the man or woman behind the mask—they only want the personality. When Hunter S. Thompson was interviewed on his property in Colorado, he confessed he never knew if people wanted Hunter or the caricature of himself that he portrayed in his books—because they were drastically different persons, one a man of desires and despairs, the other strictly an ‘ideology of personality.’ This rationalization “confirms man’s non-being,” as Adorno later put it, for personality is everything, and it is itself fraudulent. This is why man can never be in love without a bit of mystery. We are drawn more by fantasy, more by the picture of a gorgeous woman or man that we say we would ‘love to know,’ when in fact we must never really know. Because once the facade fades, we are merely another hairless ape trying to dampen our private parts. The divorce of intimacy naturally ensues when the alpha and the cowboy and the ballerina are dragged out into the open, and the shattering despair of reality is all that’s left. We live for eternal desiring, eternal longing for beauty, for something that will make us ache for life. Slavoj Žižek said in A Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, “there is nothing spontaneous, nothing natural, about human desires. Our desires are artificial. We have to be taught to desire […] Cinema is the ultimate pervert art—it doesn’t give you what you desire, it tells you how to desire.” It’s obvious that Ryan Seacrest studied Adorno and Žižek when constructing the psychoanalytic format for American Idol and Keeping up with the Kardashians—these shows gently stroke our incessant desire for personality more than anything else. The culture industry is a great machine of glistening asses, led only partially by Ryan Seacrest. If he wasn’t there, somebody else would be, tirelessly grinding away at the stone of desire. Soon there will be nothing left. Just an orgy of holograms, rubbing against the immense black emptiness all around, a white burning comet hurling by.

What Is It Like to Be Kim Davis?

by Guy Walker

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“Most of the neobehaviorism of recent philosophical psychology results from the effort to substitute an objective concept of mind or the real thing, in order to have nothing left over which cannot be reduced.” Kim Davis, equal rights advocate

When Kim Davis woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, she found herself changed in her bed into a monstrous woman. A coruscating morning beam shown through the far window, like a signal from God, into the humid grey cloud that swelled through her house. A dank effluvium filled her room, a heaven of stink in which she prayed and cooked and fucked—if what that was could be called fucking. There were many half-emptied glasses of sour milk, pizza crusts, a library only of Regency Romance novels, no plants whatsoever, and a tub of K.Y. sat open on the kitchen counter, gross little pubic hairs caught in the vaseline-like substance. A fly was caught behind the faded window curtain, trying to get out, flying into the windowpane again and again, the stale air too awful even for the fly. Did the fly lack the cognitive capacity to ever learn this was not the way out? Or was this blatant suicide? Kim opened her eyes in a cold jolt, a sudden contempt for everything alive and florid and beautiful. Her current husband—or was this the third husband? or her future husband? she couldn’t remember—laid next to her, above the sheets, in soiled overalls and a straw hat, his wrists and ankles shackled to the bed. He pretended to sleep, peaking out between his eyelashes, as her huge amorphous body pushed itself to her feet. The floor creaked. A flock of white king pigeons outside her house erupted from their tree, flying away in a mad ivory dramaturgy. An oak tree made a sudden deafening crack, falling across the road. A car crashes. All in the same moment, a cop kills a black 6-year-old for playing hopscotch without a permit. Donald Trump booms in a speech, “I love Mexicans. [he squints down at his podium] I love Mexican, the Mexican language I mean. I mean, in addition to loving Mexicans. I love women. [he turns the page] And they love me.”

Kim Davis barely eats. She doesn’t spend time in the sun. She only reads from the Bible. She opens to Ezekiel 23:20, one of her daily favorites, and reads aloud. “She lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.” She glances out the window like a daydreamer in love, into a Wal-Mart parking lot across from where she lives. “Ahhhh,” she sighs, smiling, as an obese family shuffles across the lot, the youngest of the children strapped in a vest and a leash, chasing a butterfly with both of his little arms reaching towards the sky. Kim plays with her hair, curling it between her fingers, and says to herself, “It never ceases to amaze me, the poetry of this text. Such sinners in this world, God. Why do they not all see you as I see you.” She turns to another. Deuteronomy 25:11-12. “When men fight with one another, and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand.” At this utterance, she came a little, just a quick pretty orgasm. “O God!!” She read it again, this time faster and louder. “O Jesus Christ!!!!” Her libidinal scarlet thrusts grew almost to full convulsion. She bent over, closing her eyes, reached for the empty air, and knocked a glass of milk off the counter, smashing it to the ground. Once she collected herself, breathing deeply, she returned to the Holy Book, opening it to her all-time favorite. Exodus 23:19. “Thou shalt not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” Kim’s face contorted, her eyes squinted like someone waking up to a bright summer sun on the beach. Her mouth opened and made violent inaudible chokings, until her cheeks flushed bright red, her blooming complexion then gasping for air. “O FUCK!!!! O GOD!! O GOD, FUCK ME!!!!! JESUS CHRIST, FUCK MY TITS!!!!”

She fell to the ground, and fell asleep immediately.

When she awoke, she was still laying on her side on the cold kitchen floor. She saw a terrible dark vermin scurry across the floor. It stopped and looked at her, blinked rapidly, Kim thought, almost with human eyes. The monstrous bug, with all its grotesque features, its hundred threadlike legs, tried to signal something to Kim, with its front legs. It wiggled them frantically in mid-air, then tapped the floor, then back again. “Git away from here you terrible monster!! I don’t want anymore of your kind!” she yelled, spitting at every syllable, the vermin taking a few steps back, but still holding its ground. “Git! Git!! This be God’s country!!” And she heaved towards it on her belly, like a walrus trying to lurch itself across the awkward land. The bug then scurried away as fast as it could, back to the room it spent most of its time, and died alone, quietly, actually feeling free for the first time as everything faded away.

Kim’s heart was beating furiously, rubbing her arms as her formications crept all over. Still on the floor, she looked up and saw the clumped white silk of a cocoon just beginning to open up under the kitchen table. She had never seen the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly, but in the pneumatic threads of her more ecstatic buoyant dreams, she always wanted one. No, she always wanted to be one. What was it like to be a butterfly? Not as a woman projecting herself into the body of a butterfly, not merely to fly and love flowers, but actually to have the subjective experience, away from the human mind. She laid on her back, breathing heavily from her nose, like a fat girl with a cold who still tries to breathe from her nose. The butterfly pushed its antennas through the seal, the first true beams of light shining through into its cramped world. It emerged slowly at first, getting only part of its wings out, and then suddenly in one final swoop, it opened its wings for the first time. Huge, bright, iridescent blue wings, countless microscopic blue scales on the backs of its wings, reflecting the scintillating orchestral hues even in such a dingy home. The Blue Morpho Butterfly, not at all native to Kentucky, emerging from its mystery. It opened and closed its wings, the learning curve for flight was immediate—no one taught it anything, and it couldn’t allow to fuck up. Kim Davis grunted, and tried to roll closer. The husband, still shackled in his bed, looked up in amazement, like a blind man seeing the world for the first time. The butterfly then lifted off as if in slow motion, its great blue wings lifting it higher and higher. Kim reached for it to pull it down, but only just missed it. It flew directly for the side entryway, the door cracked open, and it disappeared forever into the wide open sky.

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