Speechifying with Mr. Robot

I just had to reprint this monologue courtesy of Christian Slater on the season finale of Mr. Robot:

Is any of it real? Look at it. A world built on fantasy. Synthetic emotions in the form of pills. Psychological warfare in the form of advertising. Mind-altering chemicals in the form of food. Mind-washing seminars in the form of media. Control isolated bubbles in the form of social networks. You want to talk about reality? We haven’t lived in anything remotely close to it since the turn of the century. They turned it off, took off the batteries, snacked on a bag of GMOs while we tossed the remnants in the ever-expanding Dumpster of the human condition. Living in branded houses, trademarked by corporations. Built on bipolar numbers, jumping up and down on digital displays. Hypnotizes us into the biggest slumber mankind has ever seen. You have to dig pretty deep, kiddo, before you can find anything real.

Bipolar numbers! zeroes and ones.

The Ghost with the Really Big Ones: A short story

The Ghost with the Really Big Ones

This is a true story. I swear it on my grandmother’s tomb. At least I think it’s true, and I would swear it on my grandmother’s tomb if I had any idea where it was, or even if she has one. We never talked much, granny and me. I’ll take the blame for that. After all, when she died I was only two months old and not able to add much to any conversation, let alone a chat with a ninety-eight year old lady. Then no one ever told me much about her, like where she was buried or maybe she was cremated and they sprinkled her ashes somewhere special. All I ever had of granny was an old photograph of when she was young. She was a pretty girl.. A very pretty girl. The kind of girl who never has a chance to be anything else than that very pretty girl everybody was always saying she was, the same kind of girl this story is about.

This girl’s name was Gloria Gatusso and she died when she was only seventeen. Hit by a car, just like that. One day she was walking down the street, minding her own business, attracting all the usual attention she drew whenever she went anywhere or did anything. The next thing you know, this red pickup truck came careening across the lanes, right up on to the sidewalk, smashing her into the big glass window of Sam’s Coffee Shop. She died instantly, everybody said. Never felt a thing. And it was a damn shame, they all agreed, because she was such a pretty girl, a very pretty girl with really big boobs. Oh, and such a nice girl too. Everybody liked her. Everyone. She always had a smile and a kind word on her lips and it was said she was the same girl at seventeen as she’d been at seven, as she’d been at two months old – the most beautiful and the sweetest baby ever born. You could never get too far into a conversation about Gloria without her beauty taking over. It was her shadow and reflection, and it followed her everywhere, even after her death.

It was only a few weeks after “the accident” that the first reports began to circulate. She’d been seen. She was still there. At Sam’s Coffee Shop, in the window, and she was gorgeous and smiling and happy. The young man who first reported this vision had never known Gloria in life, or even heard of her. He’d been walking down the street when he saw this apparition and, startled, stopped and stood gaping at her. She was looking right at him and he turned around to see if there was someone else behind him she might have been looking at, but there wasn’t. He turned around again, and she was gone. Curious, he went inside and asked about the girl he’d just seen in the window. Sam, the crusty and greasy old bastard who ran the place, shook his head and grumbled he didn’t know what the guy was talking about. There was no pretty girl, no girl at all in the window, or in the diner itself for that matter. There were only a few old drunks nursing lukewarm coffees and stale breakfast rolls. The young man described the girl in great detail, not neglecting to mention her rather large breasts, of course, as well as her mane of very blond hair, those big blue eyes and bright red lips, the light blue sun dress that clung very nicely to her body and the white leather pumps on her feet.

Sounds like the girl that got crushed”, one of the drunks at the counter piped up.

She had big tits too”, another one added.

Aw, shut up,” Sam groused. He hated to be reminded of that as he still hadn’t collected any insurance money and was out a couple grand from his own pocket for the window replacement.

The other drunk was the late Gloria’s father and he didn’t take kindly to those comments. He stood up and mumbled something or other before crashing to the floor.

Go on,” Sam waved at the young man, “Get the hell out of here and don’t even say anything about this. Last thing I need is a stupid fucking ghost story. As if business isn’t bad enough already.”

The young man left, but didn’t honor Sam’s wishes. Instead, he went straight to that small town’s local newspaper office and asked to speak to someone about an accident involving a young woman and that coffee shop. I was that someone he spoke to.

His name was Willis P. Armstrong and he’d come out from Pasadena. He said he was some sort of agent (I was never clear what kind exactly) who was scouting (for what I never knew). He told me the exact story I have just related to you about him, and I told him what I knew about Gloria Gattuso and her unfortunate demise. I showed him the photo we’d posted of her on the front page that fateful afternoon, and he declared it was definitely the same girl he saw in the window.

You’ve got yourself a ghost, pal,” he told me as he left. “You ever need any help with that, you get in touch. I know some people who know some people,” he added, handing me his card. With that, Willis P. Armstrong left the building. I just chuckled, idiot that I was. Of course I didn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts are fairy tales, remnants of a primitive stage of human development, from back when no one really knew anything about science or the real world and how it actually works. That’s what I told myself, anyway.

But Willis P. Armstrong was not the last person to see the ghost of Gloria Gattuso. He was only the first. The next report came just a few days later, and after that the stories started flying faster and faster. It wasn’t only young men who saw her. Lots of men reported seeing her, men of all ages and conditions. Curiously, very few girls or women were ever eyewitnesses. Even when accompanying men and boys who claimed they were seeing Gloria right then and there, the girls and women with them saw nothing but the already rather dirty (though brand new) glass window fronting the formerly deserted Sam’s Coffee House. Now the business was booming, as all these men started coming to try and catch a glimpse of the ghost with the really big ones. So alluring was the apparition that they were willing to brave the swill Sam served, even ordering the “steakums and dishwater” that passed for the soup of the day in that place.

The men would sit on the counter stools or on the rickety chairs by the greasy tables, hoping to catch a glimpse of the specter, even if only her backside were visible from that angle. And it was indeed her backside that showed to the interior of the diner, for she kept her front to the street, facing the adoring audience on the sidewalk. The local beat cops had their hands full moving the people along and forcing them to either go into Sam’s or get lost. Visiting hours became a regular thing within weeks, as Gloria tended to appear around ten in the morning (when she’d been killed) or four in the afternoon (when the light shone in just such a way on the storefront). This is when unusual numbers of grown men began taking a break from their jobs and sauntering down to Main Street, just in case. Wives and girlfriends were not at all amused, and a number of relationships suffered because of the dead girl.

She was always the same, smiling, eyes twinkling, and seeming to look straight into the eyes of everyone who watched her, yet at the same time not really looking at anyone at all. It was the attention she seemed to love. Her face glowed with the sensation of one who is being adored. That twinkle in her eyes was from her soul soaking it all in, like a queen on her throne, like a princess at a ball in her honor. Traffic stopped. Crowds gathered. All eyes turned to Sam’s at those genuinely bewitching hours, as the girl in the window absorbed all their leers and stares and longings. Most curious of all was the silence. It was almost ceremonial how they stood around and gaped, as if they were seeing a vision of the Virgin Mary carved into a pancake. Their thoughts were unspoken, but were really, really vulgar for the most part. Those men were getting ideas.
Sam couldn’t take it any more. He hated all the attention and he hated all the so-called customers because he was used to loafing and living off his little nest egg and not giving a shit about the business. Then there was the fact that he couldn’t even see the girl. For some reason he, alone among all men, it seemed, was unable to see the hot dead babe in his own goddamn window! He resented it, and he hated it, and he was determined to see the end of it. One day when I just happened to be passing by, he threw himself at me and begged me for help.

You got to do something, Charlie,” he whined. “I got to get rid of this thing. What am I gonna do? What can I do? You know the world. You can help, am I right?”

I don’t know, Sam,” I counseled him. “Let me think about it.”

After a brief, personal viewing, I went back to my office and thought about what Sam had asked. It was true. I did know the world. I could help. I hadn’t forgotten what Willis P. Armstrong had told me, and I still had his card. The problem was, I didn’t want a solution. I liked seeing Gloria there. She really was super pretty, and those bazooms! Mother of God! But what if she was a soul in torment, as ghosts are supposed to be? What if she needed my help as much as Sam did, what then? I tried to convince myself I was doing the right thing. Besides, my wife was getting just a little bit suspicious of my lame-ass coffee break excuses. I had my own reasons too.

I called Willis P. Armstrong. At first he couldn’t stop laughing as I explained our dilemma.

So you want to lose the hottie,” he finally exclaimed. “All right. I know just the right person. I’ll have her get in touch with you.”

Oh no, I thought, not another woman! Weren’t they already the problem? But I didn’t say this. I simply agreed. I thanked him, and I held my breath. I didn’t have long to wait. Before an hour was up, the phone rang and it was someone who called herself Amelia Lightning Bug – apparently she was some kind of a Native American healer of some stripe.

I can help you,” Amelia let me know. “I’ll drive up to your town in the morning. This I got to see for myself!”

I don’t know if you’ll be able to,” I replied. “Most females can’t see her, I mean ‘it’”.

Oh, I won’t have any trouble,” she insisted. “I’m a certified professional, you know.”

I told her I had no idea you could get certifications in such matters, but she either didn’t hear me or decided to ignore me. In any case, she just hung up the phone.

Amelia arrived impossibly early the next morning, showing up at my apartment before six although I had never even given her the address. I had told her where I worked, not where I lived, but there she was, ringing the doorbell over and over until I finally had to get up and let her in just so the neighbors wouldn’t give me trouble. She was a short, stumpy lady of indeterminate age or origin. I could not have told you what corner of the planet she came from, only that it was likely a dark and dingy one. She was dressed in layers and layers of black lace, even her dirty black cowboy hat draped in the stuff, and she had a cluster of blue and green beads that jangled around her neck and made a sort of clattering sound whenever she took a step in those grungy black boots on her feet.

She came into the apartment sniffing very rudely, wrinkling her nose as if I was steeped in pig shit or something. She had tiny black spots where a normal person had eyes, and a crinkly sort of voice when she spoke that made you feel like spiders were dropping onto your head.

When’s the first showing,” she asked me point blank. I told her about the schedule, and she informed me that we’d better get going, there was no time to lose. She had a lot of preparatory work to get done. I wanted to shower and shave and go through my usual motions, but Amelia had no patience for this and insisted that I throw on some sneakers and jeans and get my ass down to the street where her pea-green VW van was waiting. She practically pushed me into the passenger seat of the thing, after first waving her arms around in a pretense of clearing off the used tissues and wrappers that were strewn all over the vehicle. Now I was the one sniffing loudly and rudely and holding my breath as she hopped onto the driver’s seat and somehow reaching the pedals managed to pull the death trap away from the curb and down into town.

Somehow she already knew where Sam’s Coffee Shop was. I figured she’d already scoped out the joint, but was later to learn she had a kind of virtual map in her head, a map that was instantly filled in with whatever she needed to know at any given moment. She informed me it was merely a matter of “inviting” the truth to enter your mind, while saving a place for it at the table, or something like that. Amelia was a talker, and a fast talker too. During the ten minute drive down to Sam’s she must have related at least a hundred five episodes, each of which had some direct and crucial bearing on the matter at hand, yet none of which I could recall by the time we arrived.

Sam’s was not open yet. It was barely six-thirty and he didn’t open until seven on a good day, eight when he’d afforded himself a nice bottle the previous night. Amelia wasn’t interested in Sam. She was focused on the sidewalk in front of the window. She paced back and forth, back and forth until she’d determined in her mind the exact route the red pickup truck had taken when it flew off the road, and the exact spot where Gloria had been standing when it struck her, and the path her body had taken from that place to the window to the fact of her death. Amelia marked all of these locations with some kind of stains that were taken from little brown bottles she pulled from some pockets inside of her layers. She made dots with these colors, and lines and occasional swirls. The she brought out some matches and, lighting each one in its turn, set the markings on fire and they burst into momentary rainbows of flame, each with its own special scent.

The whole thing was creepy, like witchcraft. I was worrying about the cops showing up and busting us for some kind of conduct or something, but Amelia wasn’t the least bit concerned. She went through this whole routine in a calm businesslike manner as if it were the most normal behavior in the world. It took her about thirty minutes to finish her “work”. Then she rested.

Where’s some decent espresso around here?” she wanted to know, so I took her a couple blocks down to the better cafe. She chatted for a whole other hour without me paying the slightest attention to what she was saying, and without her deigning to answer the questions I put to her, like what was she doing and why. After this session, in which she downed a lot of caffeine, she told me it was time to get back to the scene of the crime. She intended to stake out the best real estate and make sure we got the spot.

That was easy. Everyone knew that Gloria appeared around ten, so it was no use getting there much earlier. Most of the earliest guys started claiming their spots around nine-thirty, and Amelia and I were there a whole hour before then. During that time, she didn’t say much, just picked out a stance and stuck to it stubbornly while I shifted around uncomfortably looking around to see who was seeing me being there with her. I generally tried to come off all casual about my own Gloria ogling. I mean, she was good-looking and all, but still, at seventeen she was still considered legally a minor so you had to be conscious of that and not drool too heavily, and you didn’t want to give the impression that your hands could be anywhere they should never publicly be.

By a quarter of ten, the sidewalk was pretty much full, with at least thirty men of all ages gathered around, and Amelia in the very front square. A lot of the guys gave each other looks, muttered a bit and pointed at her. As the crowd grew it was easier for me to pretend I had no idea who the crazy-looking tiny woman was, and when Gloria appeared, everyone focused on her and forgot Amelia was even there. It was a warm sunny morning and Gloria looked absolutely radiant in her sun dress. Her hair was golden rays and her eyes were like sparkling dew. Okay. Never mind about that. She was there and as always both highly conscious and completely oblivious of all the attention her presence received.

The sun seemed to shine twice as bright as normal, causing the ghostly reflection to shimmer with a sort of magnification I had never noticed before, and then I realized why. I don’t know how I even noticed, so entranced was I with the face (and all right, I admit it, the chest) of the ghost, but somehow my attention was diverted to Amelia and I saw she was holding up something, a square piece of something with both of her hands, and aiming it directly at Gloria. Peeking around her shoulder I saw that it was a mirror, and as I looked up I saw that Gloria had turned her face towards it, and was now seeing her own reflection within it.

Amelia began to sing, at first softly and in some odd kind of language, then louder and more closely resembling words that I thought I might understand but didn’t. I have no idea what she was chanting. It was if she was speaking in our language but a version from far into the future or far from the past, familiar but utterly different. And then she stopped as abruptly as she had begun, and Gloria raised her gaze up to Amelia’s face, and instead of the old familiar twinkle there were new questions in her eyes, and Amelia spoke to her, softly, and this time in a language we could all hear and understand.

This is what THEY see,” Amelia told her, gesturing first towards the ghost and then towards the mirror, in a steady, patient flow.

This is what THEY see, and this is what they THINK they see. This is what THEY know, and this is what they THINK they know. But this is who YOU are, and this is who you THINK you are. This is what you WERE, and this is what they THOUGHT you were. This is what’s WITHIN you, and this is what THEY think there is.”

Gloria watched, her eyes shifting from Amelia’s face to the mirror as she spoke those words, and what Gloria saw in either place, no one will ever know, but we saw the expression on her face grow solemn, and puzzled, and more curious, perhaps, than it had ever been before either in her life or in her death.

Gloria’s mouth began to open, her lips parting as we’d never seen them do in all those appearances in all those days since the accident. She blinked. None of us could remember the ghost ever blinking before. Amelia continued to speak.

This is what I WAS, and this is what they THOUGHT I was. This is what I AM, and this is what they THINK I am. This is how I LOOKED, and this is how THEY saw me. This is how I look NOW, and this is how THEY see me now. This is what’s WITHIN me, and this is what THEY think I am. This is what’s within THEM and this is what they KNOW there is.”

Gloria gasped. Clearly she did, she gasped, and she looked startled and frightened and appalled. Amelia began to sing that song again, the song from all of time, and as she did so, she once again brought out her book of wooden matches and began to light them, one by one, and as she lit each one, she blew its flame gently towards the window and muttered some sort of incantation. She did this seven times, and then she looked directly into Gloria’s eyes, and Gloria looked directly into hers.

You are NOT your body,” Amelia said. “You never were. You are NOT your hair. You are NOT your face. You are NOT your legs. You are NOT your breasts. You are NOT the surface of your skin.”

I could have sworn I heard Gloria speak right then. In my head I heard her voice, or what I imagined it to be (for I had never known her when she was alive).

What AM I then?” she asked, and Amelia nodded, and replied.

You, like each of us, are one singular expression of an infinite complexity; one shade, one light, one moment, one truth. You are your SELF.”

Gloria formed a half a smile, a lovely smile, a smile with more joy than laughter, more happiness than pleasure, and then she faded from our view, never to be seen again.

De-Duped: A Short Story

This is a set of several stories. Like any set, duplicates have been removed, leaving only the unique values in each story. The unique values consist of names, places and events. Certain common elements have been removed for no good reason. One of the unique names is Richard. Richard loved tacos but he didn´t know anything about them. He thought they had originated in the south of Spain and were supposed to be called morditas. He also believed with all his heart that a mordita served with onions was not only egregious but had also been the true proximate cause of World War One. This was not entirely Richard´s fault. He had been misinformed. The person who had planted these seeds of ignorance in his brain was named Mylie. Mylie had given him the gift of taco history. They had grown up together in the Seaside district of Placenta, California, a town famous for its historical collection of idiots, which included one former President of the United States and no fewer than two State Senators. There was a public swimming pool in Placenta which over the years had excluded women and children as well as people of Asian, Latin and African descent. The pool was kept at a constant temperature of eighty two degrees and smelled like any other public swimming pool, an instantly recognizable mixture of acid, piss and rain.

Directly across the street from the swimming pool was a restaurant called La Mordida which was famous for its tacos. Richard used to go in and order chicken ¨morditas¨, which were not on the menu. He meant tacos but didn´t know he meant tacos and anyway, once he had caused a long line to form behind him while he argued until the cashier gave in and took his money and wrote tacos on the bill anyway and handed it back to the chef, the next bit of trouble occurred when the order arrived and it contained, naturally, onions. This is when Richard would start complaining in a loud voice about World War One and What The Hell.

Richard loved tacos but the person who stood patiently behind him in line was named Larrold and he hated tacos. He not only hated tacos, he despised burritos as well, and fajitas, and pretty much any kind of food except flautas. The chef at La Mordida happened to make excellent flautas, which was why Larrold (who could never be called Larry to his face without a fight breaking out) often went there for just that reason. Now a flauta is basically a taco that´s been rolled up and fried, but Richard did not know that. He was still arguing with the cashier about his order when he noticed Larrold´s flautas, and turned to ask him if it had onions in it.

Of course it has onions, Larrold told him. What are you, a freaking idiot?

Tacos are not supposed to have onions, Richard insisted.

Shut the front door, Larrold said (in other words), and stop arguing with Lolita and get your ass outta here, you freaking moron.

My name is not Lolita, said the cashier.

Was I talking to you, sweetheart? Larrold turned on her with his fat red face. In his trembling right hand the small plate holding the two delicate chicken and avocado flautas also trembled. Plates held by Larrold had met floors before, and walls, and even someone´s ear on one occasion. Larrold was not to be trifled with. He conceal-carried a firearm as was his God-given right in God´s own country of Placenta, California. It not only went to church with him on Sundays, but also to La Mordida on Tuesdays and everywhere else he went on any other day.

Her name is not Sweetheart, said the chef, who stepped forward now, the large butcher knife in his hand still dripping fresh chicken blood. Did I mention that La Mordida was famous for its fresh chickens? They lived (temporarily) in a coop out back, facing the ocean so they could at least smell the salt air and dream of a peaceful bobbing in the waves during those long nights of hatching eggs and preparing for death. The chef´s name was Tony and so was the cashier´s, though they were short for different longer ones.

Damn good flautas, Larrold murmured, backing away and beginning to munch on one. He didn´t give a damn about Richard but he did like his flautas, and for once he let his brain do a bit more thinking than his pistol.

As for you, said Tony, advancing on Richard with the bloody knife, if I ever hear another peep out of you about onions or World War One, I will cut your freaking balls off, do you hear me?

But Mylie said, Richard began. Tony interrupted him.

Leave my sister out of this, he snarled.

She told me, Richard said but quickly shut his trap as Tony (the chef) raised his knife in a synchronous ballet of threat and fear. Tony (the cashier) said


This story happened four Tuesdays in a row, word for word and scene for scene, but according to the rules of sets and Venn diagrams, this fact has been redacted from the official record. There is also no mention of a snickering Mylie, hiding behind the hot grill and near to bursting with glee. A future State Senator, she was cutting her teeth early on the gullibility of the public in Placenta.

Personality Insights

I went to the IBM Watson Personality Insights web site, and submitted the short story I wrote yesterday (out of my system) as the sample text for a personality insight.  Here is what Watson came up with:

You are unpretentious and social

You are intermittent: you have a hard time sticking with difficult tasks for a long period of time. You are unconcerned with art: you are less concerned with artistic or creative activities than most people who participated in our surveys. And you are laid-back: you appreciate a relaxed pace in life.

Your choices are driven by a desire for well-being.

You consider helping others to guide a large part of what you do: you think it is important to take care of the people around you. You are relatively unconcerned with tradition: you care more about making your own path than following what others have done.

Out of My System: A short story

(this story is a sequel of sorts, or an alternate telling, or a parallel universe encryption, of a story I posted here the other day called The System)

[soundtrack by SPC ECO]

It was the one locked door, the one question you could never ask, so naturally it drove them all crazy. Not me. I didn’t need to know. I was not on that basis. If you’re in The Resistance, you’re supposed to resist, am I right? But that particular itch was too much for most. You’d have to be a saint or brain damaged or both. Someone tells you not to think of the letter ‘A’. What are you thinking of, eh? Got you there, one way or another. You have to be mentally tough. You have to have a discipline, a creed, a practice. You have to have a black belt in self-mind control. Basically, you have to Be Your Own Fascist Dictator.

You’ve heard of Schrodinger’s Paradox, right? Of course you have. There’s a box and you cannot look inside but you know (because they told you) that inside the box is a cat and some poisoned cat food. You cannot look, you cannot know for certain what is going on inside that box. As far as your certain knowledge goes, that cat is both alive and dead. Alive, because it was a cat at some point and cats are living creatures. Dead, because living creatures get hungry and the food in there is poisoned. If you could open the box, you would be able to know for sure which state the cat was in, but you can’t, so you can’t.

That’s how it was with us. Out there, in the world, The System ruled. Inside The System, everything was data, everything was known, everything was rated and ranked, collated and collected, garbaged in and garbaged out. And I mean everything. People, of course. Products, for sure. Companies, places, historical events, whatever. The Declaration of Independence had a pretty steady ranking of 76 on The System’s universal scale of zero to one hundred, but most things didn’t hold that steady. They moved, and they moved in mysterious ways. Your mother was in there. Your sister was too. That coffee drink you just consumed? Rated and ranked. They all had their numbers, and you could find out anything’s number at any time, and most people did. It was how people lived.

You wouldn’t make any decision without knowing its worth. You wouldn’t go out to some restaurant if you didn’t know exactly how other people judged it most recently. You wouldn’t take a walk in the woods without knowing the value of the view and the landscape, the number of steps, the average ascent and descent, the climate, the history, the likelihood of encounters with snakes. You’re a civilized person. You can be well-informed. You can experience anything BEFORE you experience it personally. You can see what it’s going to look like. You can know how it’s going to feel. You can rest without having exerted an effort. This is all good. The world is not only your oyster, it’s a five star oyster, an oyster with an aggregate score of 95.7 or more.

There were those who resisted, who refused. We called ourselves The Resistance. We had learned about other people who had called themselves The Resistance and fancied ourselves as courageous and selfless as they, those who had fought, those who had hid, those who had protected the innocent, saving lives and being the bridge to freedom across their heroically cold dead bodies. We were not really brave, we just wanted to be “off the grid”. We wanted to be data-free. If anything, The System would have us scored at exactly and precisely zero, like companies that failed, like people who died, like products that couldn’t be bought anymore. We would disappear from the records, we would be lost forever to history, to lore. We wouldn’t exist, as far as The System could tell, but we would be there, there in the world, thriving in obscurity, glorious in the dark.

Let them sell other people’s personal proclivities to marketers and product designers, not ours. No one would ever target us specifically with ads. No one would be able to tell our little secrets, our dirty little thoughts would be closed to big business forever. How rich we would be in liberty, if destitute in every other way, because, let’s face it, if you want to be off the grid, you have to be nobody nowhere. We slept in the woods behind the big grocery store. We bought nothing from no one, ever. We scrambled and scraped, we got by on scraps, we were dirty and smelled but at least we were free. I stole some black lipstick and rubbed it all over my cheeks. I “borrowed” some boots from some beach-going bozo, and walked along the ocean at night.

Jose C_ was the first one to crack, because of that one locked door, that one nagging thought. What if we were not off the grid? How could we ever be sure? We couldn’t find out, like Schrodinger’s box. We believed we were outside The System, that The System knew nothing about us, but if one were to ask, only once, and even if it were somebody else who asked about us, there we would be, in The System for sure, just because of that act, that question.

“What about Jose C_ ?”

“Jose C_?” The System said to itself, and then it knew, it knew there was a thing that was called Jose C_. That right there would give it a One, and just like that, Jose C_ was back on the grid. Hellen Duane was next after him, then it was Carly, and then it was Shrimp Boy’s turn. Soon I was the only one left, the last one standing, the True Refugee, the Outcast, the Final Believer. I had faith, faith in myself. I could resist that dread taunting urge. Hadn’t I learned from the masters, from years of mindfulness trainings, from studious studyings of the impossible fakirs, the ones who could turn themselves inside out, the ones who could pass a thin wire throughout their entire intestinal tract? Yes, I had.

Since you asked.

I am scratching these notes on the walls of a cave, a cave near Pomponio Beach, about a hundred yards north of the parking lot entrance. I think I am pretty much done. This is the end of my journey. I barely have the strength to finish this scratching. History will never record it. No one will ever find out if I was rated or ranked, if The System ever knew me. I am even wiping my DNA off of this stick with my last, final breath. Goodbye, and good luck.

Yours Truly,

Jermaine P. Rincon


Ex Machina II: The Rant

Well, I finally got around to watching Ex Machina, a terrible movie with a good ending, part of which was just that it felt so good that it was ending. I get that it’s a Brogrammer Pygmalion and as such has something to say about what a Pygmalion would be if it were made today – sexist, mysoginist, grandiose, pseudo-intellectual bullshit – in other words, pretty much like any other movie made today.

It’s certainly possible that a billionaire genius brogrammer would do nothing more with his time and his money than create several closets full of sentient sex slaves of various physical and ethnic types, and it’s certainly possible that having done that he would become even more of a drunken asshole. It’s much more believable that a young douchebag brogrammer would fall head over heels with the physical incarnation of his own web-search porn profile, but both of them are only expressions of the guy who made the movie, and the robot is his own Artificial Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and the whole experience was like watching the film maker masturbate. Kind of gross.

The ending was okay, but seemed obvious from the very moment we first met the sexbot and saw her partially shattered glass cage (LEMME OUT!!), a bullshit movie thing because everywhere else the fancy home was flawless. I know it’s a pain to get construction workers out there to Greenland or wherever the fuck, but movies, even terrible ones, could be a little more subtle with their foreshadowings.

As for the AI itself, there was almost no content there. Do you like me? Do I like you? What is art? Why am I so shallow? In movies – which create the future – AI are either mass murderers or sex slaves. It’s getting tiresome, people. Please make better movies.

Now Playing: Magical Futurism

If only I were a trend setter, a cultural maven, a gate keeper, y’know, one of those people who decide what things are called and everybody goes “hey, we’ll call it that”, then I would declare that the genre-du-jour shall be called “Magical Futurism”. Or at least that’s what I’m calling my own genre. It’s not Magical Realism because of the Realism part. It’s not Science Fiction because of the Science part. It’s not Literary Fiction because of the Literary part, but it’s got magic and it’s got futurism, so there you go.

All this by way of re-introducing “Entropic Quest“, now serializing on Wattpad. I co-authored this story with my son, who was around 8 years old when we began writing it. We would talk every night at bedtime about the characters and the plot and the world we were building, and what was going to happen next, and whenever we had enough to move forward, I would sit down and write that chapter.

It was a wonderful adventure. He was full of crazy ideas and so was I, and they fit together in a crazy Escher-like patchwork of infinite recursion. There is a shit ton of originality in this story, as creative and wild as anything I’ve ever read. We followed up with a pair of sequels that are also really bizarre, but this one, the first one, also holds a depth in parts that remains remarkable.

What happens when people are different, when they are Other from the majority, is one of the Great Problems of the human world, and we did deal with that a bit, along with the sheer madness of the central tale of an epic anti-quest featuring anti-heroes in an anti-task that must by definition fail and fail in a most unexpected fashion.

It’s my own horn I’m tooting here, and also that of my son, and I’m not given to much horn-tooting, but I do believe this one is worth an occasional shout out.