Paradise of Storm

Tag: Charles Baudelaire

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.

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The Swan

Of whoever has lost that which is never found
Again! Never! Of those who deeply drink of tears
And suckle Pain as they would suck the good she-wolf!
Of the puny orphans withering like flowers!

Charles Baudelaire

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Elisa opened her eyes to an overweight cleaning lady standing over her, nudging her, saying “Excuse me miss, very late now.” Elisa jolted immediately, as all people do when woken by a stranger, and then seeing that the middle-aged Guatemalan lady was of no obvious threat, Elisa leaned back with relief and glanced around the hotel room, still unsure of it all. The sixty-inch flatscreen was still on, an infomercial with a man screaming about a vacuum cleaner with ten free attachments. The windows were open, and the tops of perfectly manicured palm trees could be seen blowing gently just outside the window. A seagull flew by without flapping its wings, and the long white window curtains blew inward, in their stiff polyester sort of way. Elisa felt a pain in both feet, looked down and saw she was still wearing Louboutins, and then she grimaced, as if to confirm to herself that her feet actually did hurt, having worn them since the shoot the day before. It was a different pain than in her ballet years, when the pain was a distinct effort of height and poise, when it brought a modish pleasure to ache with one’s own athleticism. The overweight cleaning lady bent over to plug in the vacuum cleaner. Elisa grabbed her purse and sunglasses, thanked Juanita, and hurried out the door.

The throbbing dreamless heat of Los Angeles has not let up for over a month, and the drought is worse. In the hills, bobcats panted during the day, and they are not supposed to pant. Flowers died, or just never grew in the first place. Couples generally had less sex in the summer, not on purpose, but because people don’t like the sweating agglutinative automation of their humping, and so it just works out that way. But the singles slept around even more, almost in a confused frenzy, like trying to get one last fuck out before the end  .  .  .  strangers’ pudenda sticking together when they fell asleep, their dreams plodding along like ephemeral dehydrated farts, trying to pass the restless scenery of dreams.

Songbirds wished they could groan, but in the mornings they open their tired eyes and know they must sing. Heat does not come to a place to be enjoyed  .  .  .  it comes to repulse, to make everyone sweat, it’s a mode of lethargy, a starless drunkenness that hangs from all your body parts. People have different ways of dealing with the heat in Los Angeles: many stay indoors drinking blended margaritas, watching new episodes of The Price is Right on mute as a rotating fan no longer rotates but points directly at a man or woman’s bare chest; others stalk the cafes where there is air-conditioning and other people to sit next to, thus evoking a sense of commonality through association (most people don’t actually talk to the others sitting around them, but they would not typically sit comfortably alone in a largely vacant café either  .  .  .  it’s a declared but unspoken trade: sitting near to one another gives each other an attestation of one’s life, but to speak out of context would be uncouth); others snort cocaine in bathrooms and sweat and talk about future business ventures for hours; others watch Netflix as they munch on summer-themed cookies and milk and wait for the sun to go down, when they can finally come out, like hyenas of rage tempted at the fall of dusk. Elisa was different  .  .  .  she thrived in the heat. She grew up on a ranch in New South Wales, Australia, herding cattle from a young age, One summer when she was thirteen, she castrated several bulls, and could ride a horse better than any of the boys in town, and though her hands were firm and confident they were still slim and gentle. Tough work does not certainly turn one’s hands tough  .  .  .  there are those who cannot callus-over elegance, who cannot make one’s tendencies hard. By fourteen, she moved to New York to dance at Juilliard, and by seventeen she was discovered by a young fashion company in Venice Beach, California, while on a family vacation, while she was playing basketball on the outdoor courts near Muscle Beach, her long red hair tossed in the bright jovial rage of competition; and her fame as one of the prominent models in the world has risen ever since for the last one-and-a-half decades. Women from all over the world sought to have her figure  .  .  .  they drank coconut water and did yoga and rubbed themselves in facial creams, even though Elisa herself did not do any of these things, because men and women alike draw out huge proportions of their leaders  .  .  .  a large-breasted Dziwozona alluring in the fog, Anna Karina smoking cigarettes in Technicolor, Hillary Clinton wide-eyed and cackling about a newborn  .  .  .   it is the brittle tautological nature of the idol that makes it so. The rose-cheeked inamorata convulsing in heat, then lunging at a star. The very static nature of a picture of a man or woman in a magazine is the ontological pseudo-world that we lust and crave. Because the whole physical thing, beyond the representation, beyond the quixotic undergarments and the saturated dawn, is too much. The entirety of a human is too much to remain sane and sober.

Elisa canceled her Uber, and waved down a taxi. “Apollo Studios,” she said to the driver, “It’s down on Main. I’ll tip you well if you can make it quick.” And the driver hit the gas faster than she was expecting. She fell back into her seat, pulled out her phone and texted the photographer: “Traffic is terrible. I’ll be there in 10. Frustrated face emoji.” She looked up and saw one of her billboards: a black and white advertisement for a perfume  .  .  .  in it, she’s shifted most of her weight onto one leg, is wearing only panties and a faded white spaghetti strap, and her thumb hangs candidly from her panties, and with her other hand she lightly bites her index finger, touching the tip with her tongue, staring at the camera, and therefore at everyone who looks at the advertisement, as if to say, “What might be under these panties of mine  .  .  .  and, I thought this finger was food.” The spectacle of the desired is a positively active phenomena, an intenerate dynamism that is held in place for eternity. The picture of Elisa is not a picture, not a pixelated representation to be jaded by in the thrusts of stardom—the picture, or simulacrum, is the active being frozen for eternity. Like a single point on a multidimensional plane. The Knossosian remains are carried in the dust. The Beatles play in outer space. And man trembles to a photograph of a woman in her panties.

She looked to the cars and people shoving amongst each other on the streets of Los Angeles. A lady in pink spandex rode by on one of those bicycles you stand up on and ride like it was an elliptical. Her ass retracted and bulged with each motion, like a physiognomic pulse of weight, you could tell everything from its countenance, enough ass for King Zhou of Shang, a neon envy, a celebrated lodestar in the fog. A girl was sitting on her father’s shoulders, holding an ice-cream cone, staring with her mouth open at the lady ride by, the strawberry swirl melting all over her miniature fingers, the first drips plummeting onto her dad’s balding head. Tourists from Minnesota and Idaho and Japan, wearing large sunglasses, extending their smartphones onto selfie-sticks, posting their photos on the internet with #relaxingwithmygirls and #winning, brief forays from the beige tedium of regular life. Couples drank cocktails under yellow umbrellas, laughing, and smoking long cigarettes. They do this over and over, for months, years, making the nihility of idleness—of life itself—intoxicated just enough to make it bearable.

Elisa made it to the studio almost an hour late. “I’m so sorry,” she said, taking off her sunglasses, “Strange morning.” During the photo shoot, Guy (pronounced the French way of course) asks Elisa to stare into the camera, asks her to, as he puts it, “look sexy.” She shifts her weight, points her chin up in order to pull her jaw line back, and smiles flirtatiously. The camera shutter clicks rapidly. “Yeah. Oh. Yesss. More of that,” Guy says behind the camera. “Oh. Oh yeah. Uh-huh.” She turns around, sticking her ass out a little more than seemed natural, and looks back to Guy, her hair tossed from the large fan blowing in her direction, blowing her up and down. Her smiles straightens into a face of mysterious sophistication. Guy loves this: “Oh baby, you’re so good,” as he clicks away. André Breton ended his book with “Beauty will be CONVULSIVE or it will not be at all.”

It was almost a year later. Elisa tied her bootstraps and pushed open the barn door, and could begin to make out the darker silhouettes of fences and trees against the dim horizon, like a little flame was barely lit behind all that sky. Her fingers were cold, and every movement she made she could feel her joints rub in the stiff winter morning, and her own body heat had not rubbed against the inside of the jacket long enough yet to make it warm. She walked past the stall where two-hundred chicks huddled together under a heat lamp, a couple more of them dead, because, as Jim says, the cold pushes out the weak. Jim has farmed and ranched this same land all his life, but his back is old now, and he cannot do the amount of work he did just a couple years prior, and so Elisa has taken over much of the work, and they have dinner together a few nights during the week. Fyodor, the Queensland Heeler, the most compassionate of all the dogs Jim has had on the farm, came trotting up beside Elisa, as he does every morning. His light fur contrasted against the dark air, his tag lightly jingled against his collar, so Elisa always knew it was old Fyodor coming up behind her. He accompanied Elisa through her morning routine, and seated himself politely as she fed the goats and the turkeys and the chickens. The two of them walked to the next pasture in a gorgeous silence together, side by side, the sky still perfectly at rest, and she looked up as she often did and felt satisfied by seeing all the stars again. She could see her breath now, and made a point of exhaling deeply in order to see how much of her breath she could see at once. The many piglets heard their footsteps and came running up to her, snorting in unison, lining up against the other side of the electric fence, one of them getting shocked on its nose, and squealing sharply. Elisa stepped over the wire and set out several large plastic pans in the grass, the little pigs rubbing their wet noses against her legs, drawing a mess of glistening snail-trails on her rubber boots. She poured them their food, and they all fought over each other, as they always have, since they fought for a drop from a nipple, stepping on each other and shoving each other for more room. From the beginning, all animals, including man, must shove away the others and grab hold of the huge leaking tit, and never let go. If he does not follow this rule, the others will, and he will die alone in the cold.

The sun was just now coming over the furthest ridge, the bright love-maddened ribbons shooting across the sky, bringing with it the slightest edge of warmth to Elisa’s face and fingers  .  .  .  the grasses hanging heavily with frozen dew, like limpid coruscating lanterns, the grasshoppers hushing off their frigid bulk. The lethargy of the world was waking up again  .  .  .  no amount of nihilism can stop the grasshoppers from rubbing their legs. “Good Morning Ferdinand!” Elisa said cheerily to the dark sinewed thoroughbred as she entered the stable. Ferdinand looked up and nodded with a gentle excitement. He liked the sound of her voice, and she liked talking to him, and she sometimes thought it looked like Ferdinand knew what she was talking about. “Have you been waiting for me? Look at you.” And he cocked his head and blew air from out of his nostrils playfully. She brushed him down until his hair was smooth and glistened under the lights hissing overhead, and he stood there patiently, his big dark wet eyes watching her. She scraped under his shoes, put on his blanket and then his saddle, and tightened the belt under his belly, his long veins permanently bulging. She hoisted herself onto the saddle, and didn’t say anything because she didn’t need to say anything, and they walked out of the barn and into the pneumatic plain. The flirtish Australian desert gnawing with a million tiny antagonists, long shadows of the dawn stretched beyond the edge of the grasses  .  .  .  the gentle madness stirring from its slumber. They walked beyond the ranch land, where the birds were singing and beginning their flights out from the tall grasses, and they walked up the mountain along the narrow trail. A snake crossed the trail directly in front of them, but neither Elisa nor the horse were afraid. Ferdinand simply held back, watched the snake slither by in the sand, her large pixelated diamonds across her back, her cool loneliness breathing again, as she disappeared into the sagebrush.

The line of sun was a little further up the mountain. They were still in the shadow, but would be there soon. Elisa looked back, and the barn looked so small, and the cows and pastures like little toys, and she smiled.

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.

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