Thursday, August 21, 2014

YA Goes Meta (God Help Us All...)

Two weeks ago, I attended the launch of Lev Grossman's latest book in Green Point. The third and final in a trilogy about magical kids, with pretensions of metafiction and being a proper bildungsroman, so I was expecting a congenial literary affair. Instead, it was a defiantly Fans Only event, with Grossman and a few "stars" of YA up on the stage and all us filthy nobodies relegated to folding chairs. That shoulda tipped me off...

I left in the middle of Q&A, while the fans - a smattering of twenty-something white girls, a few with scraggly boyfriends - were trading in-jokes with Grossman and his crew. It had the gross air of desperate flirting or a job interview. However, I did shell out for Grossman's first novel and spent the time since reading it so you don't have to. And you don't want to because The Magicians, celebrated as a new Harry Potter, is nothing more than an overlong angst-wank for the dweebs in Park Slope.

The Chosen One of this latest campbellian knock-off is one Quentin Coldwater, an overachieving coastalite like the majority of Americans never encounter in person. These people do exist, they're just a much slimmer majority than even they know, owing to a Manhattan literati that wants to read the same story over and over again, as exemplified in the works of Jonathan Franzen. Grossman is on record as a fan and he's learned his master's lesson because The Magicians has a central schtick to differentiate it from every other magical academy of whimsy: Quentin is a fan of a Narnia-knockoff series about these Anglo children adventuring in the magical land of Fillory. This allows Quentin to constantly compare his own muddling non-adventures to the heroic excitement of these kids' books.

This serves two stated purposes - and Grossman really did state this at his egopalooza. First, it presents Quentin as someone who already "knows" how these sorts of stories playout when he's invited to the Brakesbills post-secondary magickal learnatorium (accreditation not recognized in Trinidad).Which than leads into number two - "This is real life!" in which even this magical land he escapes to is just as dull and cruel as his regular life. It's not as exciting as it sounds...

Grossman is trying to deconstruct the Harry Potter formula into a much darker coming of age tale, complete with drinking and curse words. Problem is, this was already done years ago in Peter Straub's magnificent Shadowloand. Further, Grossman can't divorce himself from his characters long enough to do a proper psychological novel. A Brooklyn native himself, it's hard not to read Quentin as thinly veiled autobiography, mixed with wish fulfillment. Grossman is either too honest or just lacking in imagination to make Quentin into the all-conquering champion he wants... but he won't stop pointing out just how special Quentin is either. He's unique because he still believes in magic, even though all his classmates are turning fashionably cynical and the headmaster doesn't really give a damn. This sort of solipsism kills the broader metafictional point Grossman is trying to make, but it's exactly the sort of nonsense that drives the YA market so he's getting a SyFy series.

Let's hope they re-work the characters because the ones on display here are damned atrocious. Quentin and his childhood friends, Julia and that other one, are the sort of overachieving knobs you never met if you went to a real high school. New York City has this deal where kids test into certain advanced placement schools and New Yorkers are annoyingly oblivious to the fact that this is not the norm in American eduction. Rowling's approach of making Harry some suburban nobody was one of the few things she did right because that makes him relatable to the reader; Quentin already has fantastical and alien life, illustrated in dozens of little details you only pick up if you live in Brooklyn. His friends, first in the muggle world and then at Brakesbills, are equally from the same overachieving coastal enclave background, making them about as relatable as Donald Trump Fuckface von Clownstick.

Then there's Elliot, the sort of interesting non-New Yorker that New Yorkers of limited imagination always imagine. A romantic archetype of the gifted but cast out farm boy, resentful of his hayseed family who assume he's at some hoity toity art school for homosexuals. There's so much wrong with this characterization - for instance, a real rural America dirthead would say "fags" or "queers" - and it turns out Elliot really is homosexual. But it can't be the boring, "I just like cock," sort of homosexuality that, y'know actually exists. Grossman has to give this poor kid an elaborate domination and submission fetish.

Julia shows up as a hedge witch during one of the occasional Back in the World interludes, usually devoted to Quentin feeling ever more alienated from his parents because they just don't understand. Julia is rather competent at her hedge witchery, even though she had to go all goth to get it - though this further indicates Grossman's gross ignorance of contemporary trends as she's a fellow Park Slope overachiever and the goth thing was too old for such kids in Charlottesville, Virginia circa 2007. Further, her pursuit of witchery, while just as successful as Quentin's advanced sulking studies, is nontheless looked down on by the folks at Brakesbills, illustrating a class distinction which Grossman naturally doesn't bother to explore.

And then there's Alice. Child of a magical family, the highly-capable natural to Quentin's muddling everyman - at least I think that was Grossman's intention. And because this story is supposed to be for grown-ups as well as tweens, we get to read about 'em fuckin'. A lot. Sometimes they drink before or after, along with the rest of their social circle named Janet and Josh and there may have been others but I stopped paying attention somewhere in Book II. At least when little Frankie McCourt got into the champagne and sherry, it was low and funny enough to be interesting. Grossman, like so many typical New York writers, insists on making a big deal out of twenty-year-olds having a few drinks and shooting the shit.

It's a juvenile approach to sex and really juvenile sex is what this is all about. Some reality bending Beast makes an appearance to give the illusion of something threatening or interesting, but only after a hundred pages of Quentin's quest to fuck Alice. Which he does, and in keeping with this unconscious representation of a spoiled yuppie, he finds no joy in the long-awaited rutting. It all soon becomes just one more thing which Quentin finds to be so empty and wah wah Evanescence lyrics.

There's this forced refrain through the book of how Quentin isn't really such a two dimensional crybaby. How he's the only one who really finds magic to still be magical and it has to do with his fixation on the Fillory books, but Grossman would much rather tell than show. Even at four hundred pages, this reads like a rushed job. I swear a whole year passed between chapters at one point, with nary a comment or an episode of interest. As much as I scorn the marketing gimmick, Rowling still had the right idea of dedicated one book to one school year. Grossman glosses over anything that Quentin can't sulk over or that doesn't involve him and his rowdy friends saying "fuck" enough.

Of course, Grossman has to spell out this conflict: how Quentin's personal fairy land has heroic conflict, unlike the ugly fight with The Beast which is gruesome and disastrous. That sort of revelation happens long before the college years for anyone living in Gaza or Ferguson. Hell, anyone who's ever been in a playground fight.

And of course the Not-Narnia books turn out to be deeply relevant, with Fillory being a real magical land where those fussy Anglo kids have gone mad and mutated like Artorias the Abysswalker. Shit's not allowed to be random and meaningless in YA fiction, despite the past hree-hundred and some pages saying otherwise. Though Grossman does try to keep it real in the climax - Alice dies so Quentin can angst.

There. I saved you two weeks and four hundred pages. Watch the Syfy series if you really want or, better yet, just read Shadowland. It does the coming of age via studying magic with a dash of horror bit ten thousand times better than this overwritten wank.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ferguson: Activism beats Slacktivism

It's appropriate that last week while Wired was publishing glamor shots of Eddie Snowden, the people of Ferguson were reminding America what real resistance looks like. Outraged at the local police and their cavalier attitude towards killing yet another young and unarmed black man, this community went quickly from somber candlelight vigils to raging insurrection in less than a week, scaring the local police into exposing themselves as the heavily armed and terrified crackers they are.

"Meine Ehre heißt Treue?"

And there's still nary a libertarian to be seen. Which if you know what animates them deep down, you expected - Jacobin has an excellent summation of the economic factors driving this rebellion, how the capitalist system extracts wealth from minorities whether through ticketing and bail money or through the very same businesses the protesters burned down. That's what really scares the privileged in this country, not the murder of an unarmed man by government employees but people rejecting the hierarchy of wealth that places minorities in the free fire zone of people too dumb or racist to make it into the infantry.

Since that night, the Ferguson PD has doubled down on the sort of police state malarkey you usually see in tin pot dictatorships: tear gas, mass arrests, and one desperate smear campaign against Michael Brown after another. It's gotten so bad the governor called in the state cops and even President Oreo is finally suggesting a federal investigation into the shooting, rather than just echoing the tone trolling of the rest of the ruling class. Because  these protesters, even when looting a local McDonald's recuperating from indiscriminate police tear gas, remained a disciplined and organized force to be reckoned with. They scare the ruling class.

Coastal liberals and internet libertarians do not scare the ruling class. The latter buy into the capitalist system, sanctioning any affront to liberty as long as it's committed by your boss rather than the state, and the latter are too busy with their fucking puppets. The massive and massively ineffective protests of the Bush years should have driven this point home, that the ruling class knows the economically comfortable have no stomach for the long fight. That people bitching about civil liberties online are just letting off steam and, no matter how many likes or upvotes, remain utterly inconsequential.

The slacktivism of the internet age doesn't threaten the ruling class. At all. Because it reveals the disgruntled citizens as too atomized to properly organize. Libertarians, perfect marks that they are, support this sort of solo activism because they've not only internalized the supposed individuality of capitalism but also the power fantasies of a million bad sci-fi and fantasy stories. They imagine themselves the stars of Ender's Game while confronting a Jack Vance world. So they fixate on the conveniences of their own lives as the full extent of human liberty, seeing freedom from government bureaucrats reading their boring emails as the ultimate freedom, and thus spending more time dithering over police state products like Tor and other means to sneakily say "Fight the power!" to equally isolated inconsequential milquetoasts.

You don't fight the ruling class with encryption, you fight it with a megaphone and hundreds of your friends and neighbors at your side. Like the people of Ferguson are doing. And they're winning.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Down and Out in Youngstown

Noah Cicero is the best goddamn thing to happen to American literature since speed. And now you can see it all - or most of it - in two slim volumes from Lazy Fascist Press.

I came to know Cicero, like I came to know most of my favorites, in the book reviews John Dolan wrote for the now defunct eXile newspaper in Moscow. It's appropriate because Cicero's work brings to mind what Dolan said of another great author - "it's so true and so long overdue that you inhale it, reread it a half dozen times... so hungry are you for a little truth." Cicero chronicles life as it is lived for millions of Americans in nowhere towns with nothing lives, a demographic rising faster and faster as income inequality becomes more culturally normal.

For instance, there's the opener to Volume 1 titled "I Clean in Silence." A few pages inside the head of some white trash girl just smart enough to understand her desperate state. She's got no prospects beyond her body - which, like many Americans', is fatter than the emaciated ideal - and she knows she doesn't know enough to hold on to her college-bound boyfriend with her mind. So, despite being a neurotic neat freak, she let's him fuck her in the ass.

The alpha version of this desperate girl shows up later in "The Condemned." Kathy, a pregnant stripper full of piss and vinegar, makes a big show of being the one in control of her own life while being perpetually strapped for cash and making all the same horrible mistakes with her children as her own mother did with her. Though a terrible person in every conceivable way, Cicero nonetheless makes her sympathetic in her very familiar struggle to assert some kind of autonomy within the disinterested, post-industrial capitalism of rust-belt Ohio.

Cicero is very much focused on sex, though not to titillate but illuminate. There's nothing you can do but cringe as Kathy remembers getting french-kissed by her own mother as a child. It's a violation in every conceivable way. An Oprah book club would insist on this driving Kathy towards some sort of redemption but Cicero does not write for the Oprah's of the world - thank Christ - but for the miserable nobodies who populate places like Youngstown. There's nothing redemptive in Kathy's suffering, though it manages that rare balancing act of sympathy without sentiment seen previously in the works of Celine and DH Lawrence.

A lesser author - like, say, Palahniuk - would use these shocking scenes simply for the gross-out factor. Cicero has bigger fish to fry, wallowing in the grotesque not for shock value so much as shocking the reader into seeing the pain of normal American existence.

And that's just Volume 1. Volume 2 functions almost as a single novel, being dominated by the novella The Insurgent and followed by shorter pieces revolving around the same miserable narrator. Cicero chooses a Russian-American for this extended examination of failure and depression, seeing as Russians are such gloomy fucks in general, and uses his flat life to illustrate the flatness that is life in that vast swath of America outside the hyperachieving coastal enclaves. The same America explored in the books of Charles Portis and even in Cicero's own earlier novella The Human War (handily included in Volume 1).

The Insurgent really covers a lot of the same ground as The Human War but, like a good punk band, this repetition still works. The Human War covers a single night on the eve of the Iraq War and stirs in musings on Life, the Universe, and Everything; The Insurgent covers a good few months of a single loser's life, starting in Youngstown and ending out West. How Vassily and his neurotic friend Chang get there isn't some grand epic tale and that's the whole point. Even when stumbling upon a huge stash of oxy, these two don't so much live up the glamorous life of drug dealers as try to sell it off wholesale as fats as they can to finance their escape from Middle America. In the last pages, now far away from the familiar miseries of Youngstown, Vassily starts to find something like peace though one can't escape the concern that it will be fleeting. He's disconnected from all the people who stirred up his misery and resentment but just wait for him to meet some new people. They're Hell, to paraphrase Sartre and possibly Cicero.

Indeed, it's appropriate to compare Noah to those early to mid-century maniacs because he's absorbed their lessons so much better than fools like DeLilo who just write for the seminars. He's captured perfectly that feeling of the thwarted nobody and delivers it in a clipped, flat style that reflects the inner lives - or lack thereof - of his own characters. However this is always focused, purposeful - making Cicero a little like Beckett, but not up his own ass. He cuts straight to the awful horror of the everyday without ever getting lost in his own style.

So go buy his books. Now.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Best Games for Free!

American politics is a more dismal science than economics. You're talking about an entrenched, technocratic oligarchy that still gets the peasants to argue over which scumsucker deserves to sit in the big house, when they're not just celebrating the forced sodomy of others all in the name of security. Makes you root for the meteors or at the very least feel some burgeoning Texas Tower Syndrome...

So today we're gonna talk about video games! Where if someone is being an irredeemable asshole, you can shoot 'em in the face without consequence! Yeah!

And since despite the recent "job growth" in the economy everyone is still strapped for cash, these games are utterly and completely free! Just go install Steam and have at it!

Cry of Fear
A total conversion mod of the original Half-Life and the best of the new survival horror generation outside the Amnesia IP. Dropping you into an abandoned Scandinavian city, you have to survive twitchy monsters while piecing together the mystery of your own shattered mind.

Läderface? Herrejävlar!

And it really emphasizes the survival aspect. You get a limited inventory and must manage both your health and stamina to keep from getting pecked to death by undead toddlers. The store page boasts a dual-wield mechanic but they're really messing with you - you can hold a pistol in hand and your light in the other, but it makes your aim less accurate. Drop the light and you can shoot straighter, if you can see anything at all. Mixed with the best atmospheric horror this side of PS2 era Silent Hill, and you've got the best horror gaming experience not produced by Frictional.

Only the first Act is out now but it's two or three hours well spent. Part survival horror, part old timey adventure game, it drops you on the dock of some mysterious island where the few people who haven't gone all gold-eyed with the rage virus are still a few marbles short.

"I just want to ask you some questions. With my my hammer."

Though you won't encounter either for a good ten to twenty minutes. Like Cry of Fear, this is mostly an exercise in atmosphere and how the constructed game world - bereft of life but likely with a monster about to pop out at any moment - can have you on edge and carrying around any random object the Source engine will let you pick up as a crude improvised weapon. And once into the game proper, you find a mystery involving corporate conspiracy and malfeasance that may have consumed this island community and just may consume you too...

Hawken
Why pay sixty bucks for a MechWarrior clone when the same thing is available for free? Hawken gives you all the giant robot combat you want without first making you scamper around in yet another Modern Military Shooter!

DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA!!!

Though not stated anywhere in the official documentation, this is pretty clearly a throwback to MechWarrior. You pilot a walking murder machine through an industrial dystopia, ever on the lookout for enemy robots to blow apart or the mission objective if you're lame. There's a variety of chassis to choose from, depending on whether you prefer armor to speed, and just as many weapons to clip on. And in that best MechWarrior tradition, you get jump jets! Who needs to stumble around the battlefield like an angry turtle when you can go hurtling over terrain like Baron Munchhausen on a cannonball?


Back in college, I played way too much Diablo II with my friends. I know I'm not the only one to do so, nor am I the only one with such fond memories as the time someone messaged "I M TEH L33T HAX0RZ!1" just before getting annihilated by a boss monster. Path of Exile was made for people with such memories, being a shameless Diablo clone in every way it's possible without getting sued.

"Haduken!"

A simple point and click interface, isometric view, respawning monsters, a few simple ingredients that make for a surprisingly addictive experience. There's a story - you're an exile, come to this cursed land to finagle the mystical pants of Hildebrandt or something - but if you've been playing computer games long enough, you know it don't matter. This is just an epic quest for awesome loot, complete with gem sockets in said loot and a skill tree inspired by a baobab to ensure you will never ever run out things to steal and monsters to kill.

You can find me and all my rowdy friends every Monday night. My handle is "Klown_Hammer."

No More Room in Hell
Oh look, another co-op zombie shooter. Haven't we had enough of these yet? Clearly not and No More Room in Hell is one of the proper ones, eschewing any sense of "realism"in favor of ridiculous fun. Sure, it's got the sublime Source physics engine and a collection of real life firearms, but it also features player skins of Disco Stu and John Goodman.

"I will show you the life of the mind!"

You can still die real easy, but so can everyone else. So you won't spend too long waiting to do it all again, like that overrated douche-magnet Counter-Strike. And if you can get a good group going and survive long enough - since, in the grand tradition of co-op Source games, you really do need to work together to get anywhere - you can get a hold of AKMs, ArmaLites, sledgehammers, and the ever necessary chainsaw!

The shortest game you'll ever play but worth every second. More an exercise in visual and sound design than a game, it involves nothing more than directing a fly ever upward, through the soggy and fecund natural world into the choking industrial soot of modern urban civilization, then further and further into the infinite.

...

There is an end, though. And I'll leave it up to you whether it's the culmination of a surprisingly sublime experience or just a cheap joke. Personally, I accept that it's both.

Team Fortress 2

Do I even need to say anything? If you have the sense to PC game rather than burn money on a console, you already know about this finest of all online multiplayer shooters. Why do I need to go on about how it balances classes across varied and creative maps and game types?

...It still doesn't make sense in context.

Instead, a personal story: I was about to pack it in for the night but figured I'd do one more round. Clicking on a server named "Mario Kart," I found myself on a user generated map born of legos, old school Nintendo games, and crystal meth. People were driving boxy go-carts with even boxier cannons, exploring the castle of mirrors in the sky, and the gravity was turned down so my Scout's double-jump took me clear across the map and smack into a billboard full of dancing Japanese cartoons. A more delightfully surreal experience cannot be had anywhere outside Salvador Dali's home movies.

*          *          *          *

Honorable Mention
I would have like to put MINERVA: Metastasis in this list but it just didn't cut it. Despite it's excellent action and pretty good story, it's held back by some puzzles so obtuse as to earn the developer a dick punching party.

This can't end well...

Essentially Half-Life 2 fanfiction, it's well done enough to stand alongside Lost Coast as an apocryphal chapter of the game proper. The story is delivered in text from the titular Minerva, who might be an artificial intelligence from the same production line as GlaDOS or might just be an asshole. These messages are the most uneven part, swinging from juvenile vulgarity to understated sincerity and pathos. And as it doesn't distract you with amateur voice acting, you can just ignore it while blasting through Combine mooks.

So while not the best, definitely recommended.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Threnody Thursday: The Absolute End of The World

 In honor of the latest temporary peace in the Middle East, here's an official VectorPress novella combining real tragedy with myths that don't exist!

"Allahu Akbar!" shouted Yusuf as he depressed the plunger to his explosive vest -

And nothing happened.

All around him in the crowded Tel Aviv market, terrified shoppers and tourists stared in blank astonishment – some scattered to the pavement, some standing stock still, all processing how close they'd come to death. All noise, even the rumble of cars and buses, had ceased at Yusuf's exclamation and no one seemed capable of restarting the buzz of everyday activity.

Yusuf himself couldn't quite believe it - Samir had promised he'd wired the vest properly! Yusuf had even watched him just that morning, both of them slick with sweat which they insisted to each other was from the hundred and five degree summer heat. Just like now - and the long bus ride over - Yusuf assured himself the heavy sweat slowly ruining his one and only suit didn't have anything to do with nerves -

A big, heavy handbag caught him across the back of the head and he went crashing into a rack bootleg DVDs. The five foot old woman loomed over him, swinging again and again with her handbag while snarling in Hebrew. Yusuf had gained only a passing familiarity with the language - one of the reasons he'd been forced out of University - but even he could recognize the expletives.

The rest of the people just continued to stare. A few started laughing - as much from shock as from the sight of the old Mizrahi wailing on the skinny Pal. A young police officer managed to push his way through the crowd to see what all the commotion was about - and quickly shoved his way back the other way at the sight of Yusuf's explosive vest. Most of those present who weren’t laughing or whipping out smartphones to snap pictures of the would-be bomber now getting thrashed followed his lead.

The old Mizrahi didn’t let up. By the time the lone officer returned with backup – including a bomb squad, one officer already in that protective spacesuit - she wheezed with every down-swing of her bag.

"Ma'am," the young officer said, hesitantly laying a hand on her shoulder. "Ma'am please, if you could -"

"Grraugh!" she bellowed with another swing, delivering a satisfying crack to Yusuf's nose.

It took three more officers to haul her away.

Once a safe distance had been cleared around Yusuf, the bomb squad member in the suit lumbered up, muttering about having drawn the short straw that morning. Yusuf looked up into the plexiglas face shield, feeling impotent and childish as the officer went to work, deftly disassembling Samir's now obviously crude job. Yusuf almost felt the need to apologize to this gentleman - he certainly had better things to do today.

As the officer unbuckled the vest - and Yusuf shifted slightly to assist - he, or rather she, called to the other officers, "All clear!"

A woman! Yusuf's stomach tightened and he became intimately aware that through this entire ordeal he'd had a full bladder. That little issue hadn't seemed worth addressing in light of how he'd expected the day to go...

Now the other officers closed in - looming over Yusuf and casting him into shadow. "Right, you have anything else on you?" one of them snapped – conveniently speaking in English. "Give it up now and things might go easy for you."

Yusuf shook his head. No, nothing else. Nothing at all.

Yusuf didn't resist as the officers lifted him to his feet - hands gently lifting at his armpits, as if he were a little boy. They didn't even bother with the flexcuffs. Why should they? He was mostly harmless now.

The assembled officers lead him to a waiting police car. The crowd - still thick, despite the bomb squad – “With a woman!” Yusuf kept thinking - only jeered a little. Only a few, "Hey, something go wrong?" "Having technical difficulties?" "Where are all the virgins, huh?"

The officers waved for people to shut it. Yusuf just hunched up his shoulders, hoping no one he knew might be in the crowd. Today had proved to be enough of a disgrace already. Damn Samir. Just God-fucking-damn Samir! - and Yusuf winced at the blasphemy. And his achingly full bladder...

"What's your name?" one of the officers asked as they drove him to the nearest station - no sirens of course, they had the decency not to draw any more attention than necessary. "Hmm? You have a name, don't you?"

Yusuf didn't answer.

"Right then," the officer didn't seem all that put out. "You'll talk soon enough..."

"Did you rig the vest yourself?" asked the officer driving. "Hannah said the wires looked crossed every wrong way. Did you do it on your own or did you have help?"

Fucking Samir...

"I don't think he's talking yet."

"Fine, no skin off my balls."

"But maybe his!" Both officers had a good laugh at that.

With the sirens off they didn't draw much attention - but the drive took much too long. They spent close to twenty minutes behind a bus that couldn't decide whether it had too many stops or was on the verge of breaking down. Yusuf idly hoped for someone else - maybe even Samir - to martyr themselves and take him along in the process! Exploded is exploded and he'd already tried to do it himself - that had to count for something with God. Maybe not the highest level of Paradise but certainly better than he would've had if he'd spent the rest of his life flunking out of University.

The radio of the police car whistled to life. Lots of frantic, "We've had a bombing in the mall!" and "Some guy lit up on the highway! There's burning cars everywhere!"

The others had kept their scheduled appointments with Paradise but not Yusuf. And judging by the vicious look one of the officers cast back at him briefly, he'd be the one paying for all the others...

"Aw fuck!" the officer driving said as they pulled into the station - a news crew right at the front door!

"How'd they get here so fast?" asked the other officer. "We haven't announced anything, have we?"

"Wait, they're Americans!” He said over his shoulder to Yusuf, “I don't think they're here for you."

Peering out the car window, Yusuf could see four people - a man impeccably dressed for a casual look and three less impressive men toting cameras and microphones - milling about the front door of the police station. The well-dressed man, clearly the one in charge, waved his hands around with a woman's exaggerated gestures to direct the others.

"Fuck it, we'll take him in through the back."

"We can't. Remember the renovations?"

"Shit..."

The police car slid into an empty space in the lot. "We'll have to walk him in." Both officers turned to look at Yusuf - not so much with menace but with a tired superiority he remembered his aunts displaying when he was a child - "You promise to behave yourself? We don't particularly want to taze you in front of the cameras."

Just like his aunts. "Yes, yes..." Yusuf mumbled.

"Bon!" said the driver with false cheeriness. He climbed out of the car first - quickly going round to his partner’s side so they could both manhandle Yusuf out.

The three of them approached the station, Yusuf between the two officers but still unrestrained. Hopefully they wouldn't draw much attention...

The boss of the news crew - clearly a reporter, judging by his professionally sculpted hair - chattered rapidly. " - over there in shadows and shit! Do not compromise my fucking light, how many times do I have to tell you cocksuckers!? Fifteen years in this business a - the hell are you gawking at?"

One abused cameraman - a much browner hue than his boss, Yusuf noticed - gestured submissively to the procession.

The reporter rapidly composed himself - his back straightened, his chin raised, he stopped spitting when he talked - "Get the two kikes and the sand-monkey over my right. Okay? In five, four, three..."

He mouthed "two" and "one" and - "Israeli security forces struck another blow against terrorism today, capturing ten in a complex operation that may have saved thousands." Turning at precisely the moment Yusuf and the officers came within interview distance. "Gentlemen - "

"Get stuffed!"

"Goy cunt!"

The cameraman snickered at that. As Yusuf was rushed through the front door of the station, he could hear the reporter laying into his crew with words Yusuf didn't entirely understand but sounded offensive...

They hustled him into a poorly lit closet of a room - nothing but a table and two chairs under the solitary lightbulb. They left Yusuf without a word, bolting the door from outside.

Yusuf walked around the table and sat down - then immediately sprang back up to walk some more, a painful sloshing in his bladder. He paced once, twice, three times around the little room - God-fucking-damned Samir! Had he done it on purpose? Get Yusuf safely out of the picture to go after his sister? Samir liked thinking he was clever, that Yusuf didn't pick up on the little cues and longing glances - just because she was older and a doctor didn't mean Yusuf didn't have a brotherly duty to punch any lustful men in the balls!

Then why not let him explode? That would certainly free things up - but no, then Samir would never get any. "I helped your brother blow himself up!" was a lousy pick-up line. Better to say, "I stopped your brother from martyring himself and now he's safely being tortured by Mossad!"

Yusuf looked at the door - hands balled into fists, bladder all but pulsing inside - Torture! He hadn't counted on that. Hadn't counted on a lot of things really...

He hadn't counted on failing his exams for one - well, his hopes weren't exactly high for Statistics but the rest... He knew his history and literature as well as anyone else. Better in fact! Why, he'd even tried his own hand at some literary pursuits and even been published - or was going to be, the editors kept promising him. For the past seven months.

What would his mother think of him now? That's what lead to this in the first place - what would his mother have to say about all these failing grades. "Oh Yusuf, you are such a gift to me! You are such a good, studious boy!" she'd gushed when he'd been accepted into University - two years and a lifetime ago. She'd rushed to tell everyone in the neighborhood that Yusuf - her Yusuf! - was going to be educated and make something of himself.

And then she'd see his most recent grades and likely throw herself from the roof.

Better to be a martyr - at least she could still have pride in her son. Better to make something of himself the old fashioned way - the way all the old men playing dominoes described - "Striking a blow at the Zionist oppressors!" Not a doctor or a lawyer but much more dignified than a drop-out.

That's what Samir promised. "You're my friend, of course I'll help you - and I'll take care of Alia when you're gone." Of course, someone - an honorable man - had to watch after Alia back home. Even if she was already applying for fellowships  at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins, she was still just a girl. Samir would take good care of her, the cunt-sniffing asshole!

Yusuf bent over, desperately clamping down his muscles so as not to piss himself...

A deep, baritone laugh rumbled all through the surrounding walls. The drab cement seemed to swell and pulse with each throaty, "Haw! Haw! Haw!" - down into the floors, spreading right into the soles of Yusuf's feet, quivering up his legs and stabbing into his poor distended bladder, the sudden stab of pain and humiliation as he began to drip -

The door swung open. A young officer ducked in just long enough to let a bucket clatter to the floor.

Yusuf dragged the bucket into a corner and let loose a torrent of piss - only briefly worrying about whether or not this might be what just the Zionists wanted.

Read the rest of Yusuf's adventure here!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Know Nothing Nation

While everyone is busy lamenting the lack of democracy in America, it's instructive to compare the crimes of this technocratic empire to the genuine desires of the electorate. And when you do, you see that this is indeed a terribly democratic country...

Like torture. Or "enhanced interrogation" in the politically correct parlance of American conservatives. There's been another leak about all the sick shit that went on in the name of fighting terrorism and even the career spooks are admitting that yeah, it's awful. Immoral, indefensible, a big black stain on national honor.

But then you scroll down to the comments and see this:

"I am not ashamed of waterboarding Taliban and Al Quaeda terrorists." ~IndyToddrick

"Give the CIA a pair of pliers and a blowtorch. The truth is this program of enhanced interrogation was used very little, and yielded results all 6 times it was used." ~The Troll

"I dont think they went far enough , Water boarding just didn't cut it , they should have used Hog Blood instead of water" ~radical1a

"The White House quit 'speaking for me' on January 21, 2009. Oh and by the way, who gives a fuk if terrorist experienced "profound pain, suffering and humiliation"." ~Bill Board

"I, for one American, am quite proud of our CIA doing whatever it took just after the 9/11 attacks to get vital info from the Terrorists to protect our USA. The CIA saw its duty, and did it.....on behalf of keeping you and I, and our families safe. Hats off to the CIA...and their interrogations that netted valuable results!" ~Logic Driven Conservative

"AS the mother of an injured Afghanistan vet I not only support what our CIA did, I beg them to continue. More of our kids would have come home safely had they kept up these interrogations." ~tyscks
America!


Lots of Good Germans there, celebrating their government torturing other human beings. Partly because they're terrible people but mostly because the whole torture issue has been sanitized in the media, focusing on simulated drowning rather than all the other techniques practiced from Gitmo to Bagram. It's easy to defend "a squirt of water up the nose" as one rotten bastard describes it, but a whole different endeavor to argue that sodomy keeps us safe. Which isn't conjecture from what little two administrations have publicly admitted, but rigorously documented fact:

"Several Iraqi participants recalled incidents of sexual assault, most of them occurring in Abu Ghraib. One Iraqi former detainee reported that during one abusive episode in Baghdad airport he was beaten severely and the soldiers pulled his penis and testicles, causing severe pain. Another Iraqi man described an attempted rape while he was in Abu Ghraib prison. Late one night, a soldier approached him in a threatening manner with the intent of sexually assaulting him, according to the former detainee.

"Two detainees described being sodomized at Abu Ghraib. One reported that guards took him to a small, foul-smelling room, where they forced him to lay down in urine and feces, while shouting into his ear through a loudspeaker. They then forcibly inserted a broomstick into his anus while he was hit and kicked in his back and on his side repeatedly. He recalled that he was bleeding from his feet and shoulders, and the urine on the floor with which he came in contact exacerbated the pain from these wounds. During this time he recounted being pulled by a leather dog leash and being forced to howl like a dog. He explained that if he did not respond, the soldiers would kick him. He recalled that he felt a hot liquid on his back and believed that someone was urinating on him. He was kicked again, this time in his left side and in the groin, and one of the Americans stepped on his genitals, including his testicles and penis, which caused him to lose consciousness.

"The other detainee recalled an episode at Abu Ghraib where he was chained, kicked repeatedly as he went up a staircase, and when he reached the top of the stairs, 'The party began…They started to put the [muzzle] of the rifle [and] the wood from the broom into [my anus]. They entered my privates from behind.' This individual estimated being sodomized five to six times during this abusive incident and saw blood all over his feet.

"Another Iraqi former detainee described being threatened with sodomy on several occasions but said he was not sodomized, although the evaluators suspected that he actually had been(71). In one instance at Abu Ghraib, a soldier that 'had a stick in his hand [that he] was trying [hard] to insert in my [anus]…but I was saying that I will kill myself if you do these things' and screaming loudly 'like crazy people,' which in the detainee’s view may have prevented him from being raped."
71: Although this individual denied anal penetration, the evaluators found scars highly consistent with anal trauma. The medical experts concluded that these scars raise the possibility that, despite his denial of anal penetration, it may have actually have taken place

~Broken Laws, Broken Lives

Feces!

I almost titled this post "Big Government Buttrape" just to drive the point home. The defenders of this heinous shit are invariably the same loyal Bushies who did a complete 180 to small government libertarianism once a black guy was in the White House. Try reading those cheerful defenses I quoted earlier in the context of a rifle barrel shoved up a weeping man's rectum. Marvel at the mindless, moronic evil of ordinary Americans.

Or better yet, confront them with the reality and watch as their inner fascist boil to the surface:

"Terrorist have NO HUMAN RIGHTS! Neither do 'rabid dogs', same species!" ~kfromaz
They refuse to engage, brushing it off as either a lie to denigrate those selfless heroes in the CIA or they double-down, insisting that buttrape is a terrorist's just deserts. Whether or not these were actually terrorists, but they don't care to know that either.

That's the key here, they do not care to know. The details of America's War on Terror are simply too gross and are thus conveniently ignored, so everyone can get back to the much more important business of screaming over which half of the ruling class gets to pick up more seats in the national peanut gallery. Accepting the reality of torture - and all the grotesque sexual assault it entails - means a final and definitive answer to that popular question, "Why do they hate us?"

Because we literally fuck them in the ass.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Unsung Classics: Fitz James O'Brien

One of the interesting things about Irish literature is it's informed by a folk tradition full of magical thinking. This goes back to when the first Celtic tribes showed up on the islands and found the ruins of the neolithic Beaker People civilization - who may also be the reason behind the Germanic Substrate Hypothesis but that's for another time. Seeing all those ruins developed an idea in the early Irish of the Otherworld, a parallel land of spirits and fairies existing alongside but invisible to the everyday. It's a common belief in primitive cultures, being much closer to the feral realities of this world which civilized peoples try really hard to forget, but it's persisted in the Irish consciousness for generations.

Which brings us to Fitz James O'Brien, the progenitor of all American science fiction.

"Yo."

You've probably never heard of him, even if you went to college, because he died early in the Civil War. A volunteer from New York, he would just be one of the many Americans who died to end the horror of slavery if not for his enormous output of poetry and short stories, all marrying the feral folk beliefs of his boyhood with the optimistic scientism of the 19th century. The former providing a critique of the latter.

If you want - and you really do - you can see this in one of his more well known stories, "The Diamond Lens." It's a confessional piece, like many of his stories, relating how an inquisitive narrator delved deeper and deeper into the hidden world of microscopy - a new and exciting discipline at the time - until he discovered a subatomic fairyalnd. The story not only marries occultism with science, forming a proto-sci-fi-horror genre in its own, but also predicted the reality of subatomic particles by a generation!

Or there's his other stories, "The Golden Ingot" and "The Bohemian," all about resorting to the dark arts for material gain. Like "The Diamond Lens" and the later work of both Lovecraft and Alastair Reynolds, these stories lay out in visceral detail the tragedy that occurs when finite humans attempt to seize control of the infinite, shape it to their will. Similarly, "What Was It?" presents a world easily quantified by science but haunted by nightmarish, invisible creatures - "shaped like a man, - distorted, uncouth, and horrible, but still a man... Its face surpassed in hideousness anything I had ever seen. Gustave Doré, or Callot, or Tony Johannot, never conceived anything so horrible... It looked as if it were capable of feeding on human flesh."

And it all carries through because O'Brien was a master storyteller. In the hysterically racist "The Wondersmith," he describes a cunning gypsy testing his new army of little murderous puppets on a store full of birds in such a way as to make you weep. The doomed last stand of a mynah bird, in O'Brien's hands, resonates with all the glory of Cuchulain. His stories weave in details and build up characters so vivid that you'll never forget the decrepit Blakelock or the fascinating and menacing Philip Brann.

O'Brien himself was just as much of a character. Born Michael O'Brien, he changed his name to the much more Irish Fitz James upon emigrating to America. At a time when anti-Irish sentiment was at its height. And like all the best American authors he wrote widely and vigorously, producing a lifetime of work in the amount of time it takes modern "literary" writers to squirt out their first overwritten manuscript.

Then the Confederacy killed him. As if there weren't enough reasons to hate those wretched bastards...