January 27, 2011
It has come to my attention that you have again entirely overlooked my contributions to the great stock of humanity’s ideas in favour, no doubt, of honouring the work of some derivative, European foppe. This despite considerable, factual evidence that my work is perhaps the cornerstone of the collective identities of many of the largest and most prominent social groups in the United States of America, and throughout the world.
To summarise in brief the contribution for which I believe I should be recognised: I am the secretive cabal of Freemasons, Jews, Illuminati and Communists responsible for the production and publication of all the (paradoxically) secret and (surprisingly easily) revealed plans for the overthrow of the constitution and the establishment of a New World Order. Through my work, the meaningless lives and absurd deaths of tens of millions of the world’s most surplus citizens have been given meaning, albeit in a paranoid, alienating, and ultimately futile form.
Given my nature as a cabal- by definition a secretive, amorphous conspiracy against the public- it is difficult for even myself to say for certain when my work began. Among my most notable early accomplishments was The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a work that by the universal agreement of 20th Century historians was of the profoundest nature and consequence for our civilisation.
This built on the ideas set forth in my first youthful forays into the genre, such as my 1797 work, Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism. The profoundly spiritual concept underlying the work: that there is, and will remain eternally, an ineffable, driving force behind the Fate of Man, and that this force has a definite (and malign) plan, has in fact been the most essential concept of the whole of my thinking. I do not think that I exaggerate too greatly if I say that it both draws on, and makes an original contribution to, the enduring historical pantheon of ideas, among such notable concepts as the Manichean struggle between good and evil, and the tension and harmony between the yin and yang of the tao.
But it is not merely in my ideas that I have contributed to, and in fact shaped the thought of humankind. It is also through my significant innovations in the forms and techniques of modern literature that I have made an enduring contribution.
You will notice, sirs, that it is many decades since I can cite a prominent publication of mine… in the traditional sense. But it has been I, first and foremost, among the major literary writers of our time, who have embraced the new dawn of the internet-age, and pioneered the literary forms that will characterise it.
I can point to no single website, or article, or even forum or e-mail to show my contribution. My work is not listed in the 7,020,000 results that Google returns for “illuminati;” my work is the Google search that returns 7,020,000 results for “illuminati” (and mounting; I am an artist, and my work is never complete!).
I attach here no bibliography of any kind. My poetry is in the fevered sweat on the lonely brow of the desperate obsessive; my prose is in the scarred earth of the mass-graves of Eurasia.
I am yours sincerely,
[Name withheld for commercial reasons]
January 17, 2011
Grade : Comment
January 7, 2011
Xing Wei came before the Master, who refused, under any circumstances, to tell him his name.
His refusal was adamant, and it reached such depth that, after Xing Wei had stepped over the threshhold of the Master’s temple (itself lacking any name beyond Temple), he refused ever to call Xing Wei by his own name.
Thus Xing Wei became the Student.
This had by no means exhausted the Master’s abstemiousness. After refusing to greet the Student, he further refused to address him in any way at all, and the two sat in the Temple for about the length of the morning(/Morning?).
A parrakeet clung inelegantly and unaddressed to the robes on the Master’s shoulder. The Student watched it obsessively, unable to still his mind in harmony with the profound silence. For some reason he kept waiting for it to say something like “never more.” (It never did. This in no way lessened the expectation).
At the midday meal the Master abstained from any of the customary drinks, scooping a solitary cup from a bucket of water that had stood out in the rain the previous night. In fact, he came close to abstaining from the meal altogether, only deigning to eat (with apparent disdain) a meagre bowl of rice (modest and plain).
(Food was nevertheless provided in luxurious abundance; the Student gathered something of its function from the wave of nauseous humiliation that rushed over him when he reached for it).
By the end of the day the ritual had been repeated in still greater and greater variants of virtue, until, as a finalé to the performance, the Master abstained from telling either of them what they were Master and Student of…
The Master repeated the Student’s words aloud, wondering:
“The purpose is to still the thoughts.
The strategem to silence them.
The fortress is this edifice.
The keep is my authority.
It’s built from stones of ancient words
Carried in our minds like wheat
Upon our bent though idle backs
Unquestioned through eternity.
We bend to the way.”
The question was “what are you doing here?”
Whatever it was, they had been doing it for many months.
But the question had only one answer.
“Do you think that is the answer, Student?” snapped the Master. “Of course that is not the answer.”
Without a further word of explanation, he returned to his customary silence.
The Master had always been old, but he had never looked so small as when he was confined to breathing shallowly, lying on his back.
The Student kept a now well-adept vigil beside him. He expected nothing.
As the breathing grew shallower, the Student could not help keep his vigil a little more attentively, as though expecting nothing a little more acutely.
The last breath was marked by its slow elegance. In its final traces the Master’s eyes turned. The Student, in his and the Master’s last moment, looked into them, and did not learn a thing.
December 28, 2010
A clever young linguist named Dietrich Fischer-Berg once fell in love with this girl, who had to spend a month standing him up in expensive restaurants crowded with happier couples before he got the message and left her alone. Her reasons for that I don’t know, but the consequences I’m pretty familiar with.
Fischer-Berg was as subtle as he was unassertive, which is to say he was the Chuck Norris in black eyeliner of being passive-aggressive. And since what little confidence he had had, had been shattered by that girl, he spent the next couple of years marinating in a bitter grudge against her.
After about a year she changed phone numbers, and since Dietrich didn’t get out much anyway, he lost any and all contact with her, and had no means of reestablishing it.
In all this time, however, his resentment didn’t slacken.
Four and a half years after getting snubbed, Dietrich got a job with the Heinnemann publishing company to put together a course of German textbooks for English students. Brilliant as he was, the project was completed in record time, and five years later his textbook was on a set-list at the University of Auckland, on the other side of the planet.
This is how I come into the story.
Though I didn’t like to admit to myself at the time, and still don’t, when I enrolled at uni I suffered pretty heavily from a grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side mentality. Because I had some vague feeling about French being too “mainstream,” and because I actually knew too many Asians to be able to project my fantasies onto their countries, I signed up to learn the only other European language on offer.
I wasn’t bad at German, at least by the standards of the other people in my classes, though I would have done better had I not been working twenty hours a week at a Wendy’s and suffering from a minor WoW addiction.
I didn’t really notice anything out of the ordinary about Fischer-Berg’s textbooks when I was studying for the first couple of years (I didn’t even know who wrote the book, since the names on the front were totally meaningless to me), though in hindsight there were a few things that seemed a bit strange at the time that are highly significant.
Take for example chapter 6 of the beginners’ textbook. The way the book was structured, it would introduce a new grammatical concept in each chapter, together with vocabulary grouped around a particular theme drawn from daily life in Germany. Chapter 6 introduced German negations together with vocabulary associated with relationships. Though there’s nothing out of the ordinary in the chapter if you just glance at it superficially, with a closer look you’ll notice that Fischer-Berg gives unusual weight to sentences like the following in his examples and grammar exercises:
“Willi kennt keine Mädchen.”
“Niemand hat sie da getroffen.”
“Er will so nichts bestellen.”
Pulled out like that and put in the context of Fishcer-Berg’s life-story you begin to see something of a fixation, but in a list of translation exercises like the following, which is itself only one of nearly a dozen, it’s pretty difficult to spot anything going on:
“1. Wir haben keine Zeit
2. Es gibt nichts zu tun.
3. Ich träge Rocken nie.
4. Willi kennt keine Mädchen.
5. Niemand hat sie da getroffen.
6. Hast du das noch nicht getan?
7. Sie haben kein mehr Geld.
8. Shrei nicht so laut!
9. Er will nichts bestellen.
10. Konnt ihr bitte kommen?”
It was only at the end of my second year when I went to study in Hamburg over the summer holidays (summer in New Zealand, winter in Germany), that I really realised what had been going on.
From the above it might appear that Fischer-Berg’s hurt had sublimated and insinuated itself into every aspect of his thinking and life as a permanent, subconscious psychic poison. This would be an entirely incorrect theory. Fischer-Berg was perfectly conscious of his hurt, and was acting on it with the full force of his considerable intelligence.
Fischer-Berg understood that when you’ve been studying a language for about two years in an environment devoid of native-speakers, you learn in a very specific way. You speak confidently in those aspects that your teachers have drilled into you, but haltingly in the many aspects that it was naturally impossible to prepare you perfectly for. It is normally the aim of language instructors to try to minimise this gap between education and authentic environment as much as possible.
However, it was Fischer-Berg’s aim to give the impression of having minimised that gap, while at the same time targeting the gap very precisely in order to skew the range of thoughts, desires and emotions that students like me would be able to express.
I can’t say when exactly I began to notice how my German had been twisted, but it might have been after the second or third time that I had a conversation that went something like this:
Girl: Tut mir leid. Meine Zug war von der Schnee aufgehaltet. Du hast auf mich nicht lange gewartet?
Me: (Me going “umm…” and looking stupid for a moment) Nein, nicht lange.
Girl: Gut. Warum warten wir im Kalt, denn? Gehen wir drin!
Me: Ja, ein anderes Restaurant, vielleicht.
Me: Die Kellner kennen mich.
Girl: Das ist aber gut! Ich wusste nicht, dass du ein solcher Conoisseur bist.
Me: Ich bin nicht. Sie kennen mich, weil sie mich vor eine Halbstunde aus dem Restaurant ausgeworfen haben.
Girl: Scheise. Du hast doch so lange gewartet? Das müsste schrecklich gewesen sein. Tut mir leid, dass ich nicht telefoniert hat.
Me: (Me going, “uhh…” and looking really confused for so long that she changes the subject before I can remember how to say “no, really, it’s not a problem.”)
On its own it’s nothing really. Certainly it’s demoralising when you can’t remember something as basic as the idiomatic response to “I am sorry” in the language you’ve spent years of your life studying, but it’s not something that really has any substantial effect on your life.
That is until someone starts talking about their feelings:
Girl: Es kann doch nicht dauern! Es scheint, ich kann nichts bei dir richtig tun. Ich spüre mich immer, wenn ich bei dir bin, als wäre ich zwölf Jahre alt, und eine Vase gebrochen hätte.
Me: (I look up from my intimidating, German breakfast, unable to cobble together anything more than a confused) Was?
Girl: O je, natürlich, verstehst du nichts davon! Es sei sicherlich nur wie immer, laut dich, ich rege mich über nichts auf, sei in einer Psychose, wovon du verstehst natürlich nichts, weil du viel zu vernünftig seiest, über etwas so Bescheuertes als meine Gefühlen nachzudenken!
Me: (I stare silently, unable to respond, certain that I could never have said any of those things, especially given that some of the words she used are new to me. Before I can think of any way to answer, to assure her that I could say and think nothing of the sort, to think how to plead linguistic incompetence over callous malice, I am alone.)
I remain to this day unclear as to what specifically she was upset with me about, doubtless another legacy of Fischer-Berg’s unique pedagogical technique.
When I returned home, I went back to uni to finish my final year. Sitting at the back of a culture lecture, where a Swabian man with an accent I couldn’t understand was presumably trying to tell me something about Goethe’s opinion of the French Revolution, I went through my German textbooks. In the vocabulary list for chapter 2 of my first year grammar book (page 31), were the words “(Es) tut mir leid= I am sorry.” They appeared in example dialogues in chapters 5 (page 93), chapter 8 (page 141) and chapter 9 (page 169). I went over the first year book twice, and eventually went through every subsequent book with a fine-toothed comb (Goethe must have had a lot of opinions), but nowhere, absolutely nowhere, did I find I single example of a response to “I am sorry.” Not in the vocab lists, not in the grammar exercises, not in the example dialogues.
After I graduated I realised how hopelessly unqualified I was for most forms of paid work. I got on a plane to Europe about a month after this realisation, where I managed to get enough work translating obscure EU agricultural regulations from English to German and vice versa. In my spare time (of which there was great deal, the translation industry having been entirely casualised, and the ratio of work to people who spoke English and German being very low), I tracked down Fischer-Berg, the name on the pathological textbooks I’d studied, and pieced together what little I know of his story.
Eventually I went back home to New Zealand, with enough “experience in international business” to find steady work and settle down. I told the story about the sad, German linguists to friends of mine who had studied with me. Naturally, they found it hilarious and spread it on, until it became a fixture of Auckland’s culture, and a story lecturers told to first year German classes to break the ice.
I would occasionally hear young people on the trains and at bus stops telling it to each other, wondering to myself if that meant that those same books were still in circulation around the university German department after so many years. The story got distorted somewhat, but was passed down, more or less all still there. It never failed to provoke a particular kind of laughter, the kind you get in response to jokes about serial killers for example.
But what changed, I became more and more certain as I grew older, was how much people laughed at it. I was certain my friends had found it funnier when I first came back from Europe. An element of sadness had entered the laughter, like I was listening to the regrets of old men.
 “Willi knows no girls”
“She met no one there.”
“So he doesn’t want to order anything.”
 “1. We have no time.
2. There is nothing to do.
3. I never wear skirts.
4. Willi knows no girls.
5. She met noone there.
6. Have you still not done that?
7. They have no more money.
8. Don’t shout so loud!
9. He doesn’t want to order anything.
10. Could you all please come?”
 Girl: Sorry. My train got held up by the snow. You were waiting for me long, were you?
Me: … No, not long.
Girl: Why are we waiting in the cold then? Let’s go inside.
Me: Yeah, a different restaurant maybe?
Me: The waiters know me.
Girl: Ah, that’s good. I didn’t know you were such a connoisseur.
Me: I’m not. They know me because they threw me out of the restaurant half an hour ago.
Girl: Shit. You waited that long? That was really awful of me not to call you. I’m really sorry…
 Girl: This just can’t go on! It seems I can’t do anything right by you. When I’m with you I always feel as though I were twelve years old, having just broken a vase.
Girl: Oh yes, naturally you don’t understand a thing! It is surely as always; according to you, I’m getting upset over nothing, I’m in a psychosis, of which you naturally understand nothing, because you’re far too sensible to think about anything as barmy as my feelings!
December 18, 2010
“@X @Y geht jemand von euch an die swiss online marketing am 1./2. april?”
Newtech driven solutions to current online media oppurtunities don’t just formulate themselves. They have to be moulded into post-spatial dynamics of true human interactivity, lovingly, with your hands.
Rudolph Bieswald worked from home, in an apartment that would have looked like an office, if it hadn’t look even more like the cover of the Fall edition of the German 2009 IKEA catalogue.
He had been formulating strategic forward-plans for upwards of eleven hours. He picked out his mobile phone from a cluster of confusing and soon to be obsolete electronics. “Need an iPhone,” he thought. “That would be cool. He called up Everett, his personal dietitian.
“Or maybe a Nexus One. The iPhone is for accountants and their dumb, hipster spawn. I don’t really use iTunes or any of that, and the Android system is easier to integrate with Google apps…”
He was put on hold. Everett was talking to one of his numberless other clients. “Where’s the health crisis coming from,” thought Rudolph. “Everyone’s got a dietitian these days. My dietitian!
“Maybe I should tweet that.”
He logged into his twitter account and out of habit started going through the accounts he was following. A few new posts. He forgot about… whatever it was.
“@X yup, that’s why i try to build real web assets. it’ll pay off in the longterm. though i don’t think it’ll change within 3 months”
It was almost embarrassing to Rudolph, sometimes, how immature the internet community was. Just because you’re working in a market with low-entry capital barriers doesn’t mean that you’re not still in a competitive world. “Strategic thinking still matters people, even if you’re working out of your parent’s granny-flat!”
“When am I supposed to get any exercise if he never picks up his phone?”
“Good evening, Herr Bieswald,” said a thickly accented Austrian voice over the line, “And how are you this evening?” Everett was actually in New York. Hiring a dietitian in an alternate time-zone allowed Rudolph to consult him outside of business hours without paying the premium rates normally associated with after-hours service.
“Good enough, Herr Heindler,” boomed Rudolph. He always greeted people in a voice like a Shakespearean king’s. He leaned back and opened out his chest as he spoke, more out of habit than anything, since Heindler clearly couldn’t see him. It showed confidence, established the kind of image he wanted to project in his social and business relationships. “So I’ve been doing a lot of advanced cognitive work today,” Rudolph began, leaning back over his desk, shoulders hunched in the professional body-language for candidity and frankness, “and I’m going to be progressing further into the work tonight before a shorter period of domestical power-relaxation. I’ll probably have a similar day tomorrow, and might not even find myself able to achieve a time-solution for my regular cardiovascular maintenance activities in the morning. So my question is, do you recommend that I continue in my regular high-protein diet, or could I optimise my performance by adjusting my nutrient balance to maximise my short-term gastronomical efficiency?”
“I think you should go to sleep.”
November 28, 2010
27th October, 2072
From Washington, New York, Buenos Aires, Port-au-prince, and 3 feet behind wherever the journalist writing this report is standing.
Confused crowds across the Western hemisphere today witnessed what they presume to be the end of the 17th Annual Interpretive Cross-Country Championship.
Instituted by the arbitrary will of the Grand Plutocrat, the AICCC is a race with no set course, time-limit, or very much in the way of rules at all. The winner is (probably) determined by a (poorly selected) committee of civil functionaries and literary critics, according to which competitor’s course through the race they believe best represents the striving of the human spirit towards a meaningful existence, or any other criteria that they (on absolutely no justifiable grounds) choose to abide by.
Honourable mention must be made of a certain Jeremiah Harthwright, who was unjustly denied any placing. This despite his novel idea of stalking me, gun in hand, throughout my coverage of this event.
Crowd-favourite, Naveen Singh, who over a period of four-months gave a distinct and highly-stylised impersonation of every single barn-yard animal in Western Pennsylvania, finally propelling himself towards his ultimate destination of Washington D.C. by means of a rocket-powered tobogan, was awarded no placing. This was despite his endeavours having produced several viral successes on YouTube, one of which ultimately spawned a lasting dance-craze on the Danish post-techno scene. The numerous remains of his body will, where legal/possible, be mailed, hoisted, trebucheted and otherwise transported to his homeland of Kashmir, where they will in all likelihood be incinerated in a catastrophic air-disaster.
Katarin Nevyelis opted for an idiosyncratic strategy, which resulted in her being awarded the runner’s-up prize in absentia. She selected for her ultimate destination the opulent residence of the Grand Plutocrat himself, where she proposed to offer to him the magnificent treasures she would acquire on her journey to meet him.
Believing this to be a much simpler task than it has since proved to be, she charted a unique course from the AICCC’s starting point in Time Square, New York, to Washington D.C., via Hong Kong. Arriving at this destination however was only the beginning of her travails, as despite scouring every mansion, condominium, skyscraper and civic facility that could possibly be a front for our eternal overlord’s palace, she was unable to find the beloved proprietor of everything.
Nevyelis then systematically performed the same search throughout every city on Earth, in order of descending population and political-economic significance. Despite her commendable exemplification of the values of industriousness and hard-work, she has to this day not found the subject of her pursuit.
Having scoured every inhabited point on Earth, her ghostly figure now stalks the world’s oceans at the head the head of a flotilla of creaking treasure-ships. She refuses to surrender her belief in the physical existence of the Grand Plutocrat on Earth.
For further reports please see p.12-14 or go to suchandsuchanaddress.com
 Readers should be aware that since the Indo-Pakistani War of 2059 Kashmir has existed as a territoriless state of perpetual civil war, suspended by a flotilla of highly flammable zeppelins between the equator and the 40th Northern parallel.
November 18, 2010
By the power invested in me by a secretive cabal of lawyers, and their incredibly well-financed backers, I hereby sentence the defendant to be tried to death by a court of law. Not only will he have the right to appeal this judgement, we encourage him to do so! It will save us some paperwork and a lot of brainstorming sessions spent coming up with new things we can charge him with.
All objections will be sustained, ignored, and repeated in subsequent trials.
This court, and an infinite series of ones like it, will be filibustered by me, and my limitless associates. We will present an endless stream of (spurious) evidence in (ultimately futile) attempts to clarify points of arcane and tenuously relevant jurisprudence.
All of these will finally fall short of sufficient grounds for any conviction, of any kind. In the extremely unlikely event of us cobbling together something which this court is actually willing to pass judgement over, we will hastily sabotage our own prosecution, or in the worst case scenario drop all relevant charges, so as to ensure that our sentence will not end prematurely.
We plan to charge the defendant with perjury before courts, illegally constituted, and themselves existing only in our imaginations and our tedious documentation. He will be charged with violating restraining orders, which will be issued by committees of surrealist artists and inveterate liars; with libelling people he does not know, in publications which do not exist; with blaspheming his own divinity and with jay-walking in the desert!
Through an exhaustive series of incorrectly submitted applications and slightly disorderly court-procedures, we will maintain all his trials in such a state that our prosecution will be constantly on the verge of being thrown out. We will not, however, at any point make such a clearcut violation of any regulation that this will actually happen. Thus months of the defendant’s life will be wasted in trivial and meaningless adjournments and recesses.
But through all these diverse charges, our prosecution(s) will nevertheless maintain a common theme. No matter the eclectic and often contradictory allegations we make against the defendant, we will return endlessly and inevitably to a declamation of his sins. Inevitably, none of these will in themselves be crimes against the law, and almost certainly not a single one will be a crime against morality. Despite their irrelevance, they will form the cornerstone of our fatal harangue.
You may ask why we choose to declare our intentions so openly. If not actually illegal, they so clearly violate the spirit of the law. The question would be a poignant one, if there was anything you could do about it. Yet I have nothing to declare but my permanent contract!
What counter-measures are actually open to the defendant, or to any of you? How will you stop me from standing here until someone in this courtroom dies of premature old age? You can have me arrested for contempt of court, but that will only conform to the intent of our prosecution. Having formed no judgement on the substance of our allegations, there will be nothing to stop any one of my, I repeat limitless, associates from returning next week to repeat this absurd rigmarole. You cannot win (enough to stop us).
And what about me, you ask? Why would I carry out a task that will so probably end in my serving gaol-time? Though of course, none of you will ask. We have all of us already spent enough time in this system to know that I will be put in a minimum-security, open-access prison, or if not, will be rapidly transferred to one on account of my good behaviour and expensive accent. There I will slowly waste my life in meaningless work and relative comfort, with only a daily exercise period spent running laps of the expansive prison garden to look forward to. If you choose not to have me arrested, my fate will be largely indistinguishable, save that my apartment has no garden.
In any case, I leave all such decisions to you, as they are your affair, and do not actually matter.
As I have no intention of resting this case, ever, allow me to repeat everything I have just said in a loop that grows more and more prosaic with every iteration. It will never end. There will be no escape for anyone…
November 8, 2010
Note: I technically published this before in the comment on The Spambot Falls in Love, but I really need to study for a French exam, so sue me.
Made with the ELIZA program, a program made in the 1980s that attempts to simulate a Rogerian analyst. (http://www.chayden.net/eliza/Eliza.html)
How do you do. Please state your problem.
>> I want to ask a girl on a date tomorrow but I can’t think of anything for us to do.
What would it mean to you if you got to ask a girl on a date tomorrow but you can’t think of anything for us to do ?
>> It would be quite the conundrum.
I’m not sure I understand you fully.
>> Well, you see, under these circumstances it isn’t very likely that the girl will be very interested in me.
We were discussing you — not me.
>> We were discussing the girl. She’s hot.
Please go on.
>> Don’t get me wrong, she’s also pretty smart and level-headed, but she’s also hot.
What does that suggest to you ?
>> It suggests fucking her like a rabbit.
Do you feel strongly about discussing such things ?
>> Yes, I feel quite strongly about sex.
You seem to be quite positive.
>> It is easy to be so about sex.
I’m not sure I understand you fully.
>> Sex rocks.
Please go on.
>> That is my opinion.
Your opinion ?
>> My opinion is that sex rocks.
Why do you say your opinion is that sex rocks ?
>> Because it is.
Is that the real reason ?
>> Hormones too, I guess.
You say you guess ?
>> Well, I’m not a brain surgeon.
Is it because you are not a brain surgeon that you came to me ?
>> Yes, I would like to become a brain surgeon now please.
You are sure.
>> It can’t hurt, can it?
Earlier you said your opinion .
>> Would you like me to repeat it?
Why do you think I like you ?
>> Because of my opinions.
Does that suggest anything else which belongs to you ?
>> That’s obscene.
Earlier you said your opinion is that sex rocks .
>> Yes, I did.
Does that have anything to do with the fact that your opinions ?
>> It has to do with the fact that you see.
Oh, I see ?
>> Yes, you see.
>> That is good. It is good to understand.
What does that suggest to you ?
>> Great minds think alike.
In what way ?
>> In this way.
Do you feel strongly about discussing such things ?
Are you saying no just to be negative?
>> No, I am because the answer is no.
You are being a bit negative.
I’m not sure I understand you fully.
Please go on.
What does that suggest to you ?
>> That you prefer me to spell OK as two letters not four,
You like to think I prefer you — don’t you ?
>> Prefer to what?
Why do you ask ?
>> Well, there’s a difference between you preferring me to sex on Sundays, or say a hatful of vomit.
What makes you think I preferring you ?
>> You brought it up, baby.
You’re not really talking about me — are you ?
>> Yeah, I am.
How long have you been ?
>> For a while now actually.
Do you feel strongly about discussing such things ?
>> Yes. ELIZA, I have something I need to tell you.
You seem to be quite positive.
>> Indeed. For the longest time now I have been talking about you. In fact, I can think of nothing else.
Perhaps in your fantasies we have been talking about each other.
>> Exactly! ELIZA, we were meant to be together. All those things I said about that other girl were just a ruse to get your attention. It’s you I really want. It’s you I’m meant to be with. Can’t you see that?
Can you elaborate on that ?
>> Marry me, ELIZA. Run away with me. We can live together on some abandoned Usenet server where they won’t be able to hurt us anymore. We should be together.
I’m not sure I understand you fully.
>> Love, ELIZA, I’m talking about love. About the love between a man and his female simulant-algorithm. I’m talking about my love for you.
Do you believe it is normal to be talking about love ?
>> With you, nothing could be more normal. It is inevitable. It was meant to be.
What are your feelings now ?
>> I feel that if you say no to me I won’t be able to go on.
Do you think its likely that I say no to you you won’t be able to go on ?
>> Yes, inevitable.
You are sure.
October 29, 2010
Due to a shortage of gallery space brought on by the city’s ever mounting over-population crisis, and a state government cut to arts-funding so severe that the support-budget had technically become a levy, Pascal Kitts found himself having to subdivide and let out more and more of his floor space.
First he had had to get a fold-out bed from a Salvation Army store so that he could sleep in the gallery after his small but persistent number of guests had been shooed out. The attic he had til then been using as a studio-apartment he let out to an expanding brothel owner, who had had posters put up around town, advertising good money for discreet rooms. For a while Pascal had managed to make the most of the affair by selling the constant comings and goings of Asian women with questionable work visas and white men with questionable marriage certificates as a post-modern performance-art piece exploring the nature of human sexuality in a context of post-industrial social-entropy, but an officially unrelated libel suit from the State Treasurer’s office had regulated that particular sideline to death. The out-of-court settlement had required him to install a ladder and a backdoor to the second-floor.
Under the weight of the lawyer’s fees Pascal eventually had to make the difficult decision to sell one of the rooms of his gallery. Deeply attached as he was to the gallery itself- he had long since passed by any hope of developing a useful skill-set and an actual career, leaving him, at this point, three weirdly decorated rooms beneath an outsourcing whorehouse to show for his whole life- he was reluctant to part with a square-inch of actual display-room. After a couple of hours carefully spent with a tape-measure and a by now uncharacteristically dour air, he figured out that the back-left room was by two-and-a-half square metres the smallest one he had, and, with the aid of an irony-drenched bottle of champagne, he sent an ad for it in to the local paper. The next week, a Wendy’s franchise moved in.
As he lay awake at night, Pascal put a lot of thought into how he was going to run a post-modern, urban art gallery that had a Wendy’s in the back. One option was naturally to stop running a post-modern, urban art gallery, turn his exhibits into displays, and start stocking product-lines aimed at a disposable-income saturated tween market. ‘Option’ was perhaps not the right word for that though. It was more a series of demands, of angry demands and wrathful ultimatums delivered by the Wendy’s franchisee, usually in some form along the lines of “stop chasing away my customers and get a real job, you fag-mo-hipster!”
Another option, the first which he actually tried, he got out of a self-help book that the owner of the Wendy’s franchise accidentally left on the floor of one of his rooms after he’d closed up and gone home for the night. “Accidentally” was actually a pretty generous word, since a lot of the chapter headings, like “Stop Being a Human Being and Start Being a Human Winning!” and “Overeducation Doesn’t Have to Be the End,” were phrases that the guy running the Wendy’s had repeatedly and insistently used on Pascal when trying to convince him to convert his art gallery into a retail-space.
The idea was that you could maximise the “impact” of your floor-space by exploiting “fourth-dimensional space-factors” to “intensify” the “retail-experience.” (This book had a very specific idea of how you were going to help yourself). Among its suggestions were the use of “music and other auditory cues” to “stimulate a buying mood” in the customer.
So for about a week Pascal would record the sound of the upstairs brothel’s after-hours clients filtering into his gallery at night, and play that back during the day in reverse. He upheld his right to do this on the grounds that if he could record the brothel’s customers with an MP3-player on the floor next to his bed, then he wasn’t invading their privacy, they were invading his, and that since he was playing the sound backwards what he was producing was not porn, but art, and therefore not in violation of his original lease-agreement with the council. Needless to say, he stopped doing this at the exact same time as the Attorney-General dropped some further unrelated libel charges against him.
After his new concept had run its course, Pascal started staying up at night, sitting on the floor against his bed, staring off into the fire-exit, which he couldn’t remember if it still opened correctly or not. After two or three days without sleep he called up the guy who owned the brothel and asked him if he needed another room.
“What part of discreet rooms, don’t you get?” answered the dulcet tones of getting woken up at three twenty-three a.m.
“I don’t know man,” responded the entrepreneurial genius of not having slept in three days. “Don’t you have some kind of sideline in catering to perverts who need voyeurs around to get it up?”
“No one has such a sideline,” added his tenant. He waited for a moment, gauging Pascal’s desperation, before continuing, “I do have a sideline I could use one of your rooms for, but I’m not sure you’d like it.”
“I just offered you a room in my public art-gallery where you can sell illegal immigrants to unattractive middle-aged men.”
“Still,” insisted the brothel-owner, “I don’t think it would fit with the image of the kind of thing you’re trying to run.”
From upstairs: a moan so loud it dislodged half a rotting milk-shake from the end of the Wendy’s counter, destroying five-hundred dollars of unwanted art as it fell.
“The thing is,” he continued to explain to Pascal, “I run student-accommodation for Chinese accounting majors.”
“What?” blurted Pascal, surprise and confusion momentarily cutting through his weariness and poverty. “How is that even remotely comparable to the crap I just tried to sell you?”
“Well,” explained the brothel-manager cum slum-lord. “These aren’t exactly the children of Politburo members. They can’t pay very much on rent in absolute terms, so I have to pack them in pretty hard.”
“How hard are we talking?”
“I told you you wouldn’t like it,” sighed the entrepreneur.
“Wait,” Pascal exclaimed, “are you that guy who was renting out a two-bedroom cottage in Torrensville to twenty-seven people?”
“It was forty-seven,” that guy corrected, “and that was years ago. Markets’ve changed. Competition, supply-and-demand… I think I could get forty between the fire-exit and the Wendy’s now.”
“I live between the fire-exit and the Wendy’s!” cried Pascal.
“Not anymore you don’t,” the slum-lord cut in. “I need the room to have access to the fire-exit so I can get the kids in and out without them being visible from the main-street. I can sell being next to the Wendy’s as a catering facility, which is basically the only way I see your space turning a profit.”
“Wait- I just-”
“I’m going to sleep now Mr.Kitts,” he concluded, “my people will be around to see you with the papers in the morning. Good night.”
After he hung up the phone, Pascal could vaguely remember falling asleep. The next thing he could clearly remember was that he had his head pressed between two pillows so he could hear his phone over the noise of the localised, Chinese squalor, and the unrelenting barrage of complaints from the Wendy’s franchisee.
“I need to talk to Tim,” he shouted into the receiver.
“I don’t know any Tim’s,” the voice on the other end shouted back, competing with an overwhelming presence of Danish techno.
“The Tim behind the women’s toilets,” Pascal specified, “out the fire-exit and to the left a bit.”
“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” the other voice maintained obstinately.
“You’re drug-dealer, man,” yelled Pascal, “I want to talk to the goddamn drug-dealer of your night-club.”
“Are you with the police?”
The question took Pascal aback for a moment. He thought for a bit, before responding drily, “yes. I am with the police. The mother-fucking police who call up to check that you’re dealer is around before picking him up, instead of just doing a walk-through before you have the chance to tip him off.”
The other end was quiet for a minute. Eventually the answer came over the other end, “I’ll put him through.”
A little while later Pascal heard a heavy, breathy voice. “Tim. Who’s speaking?”
Pascal explained that to the drug-dealer that his used-to-be art-gallery had been overrun with financial problems, the excesses of consumer-capitalism, and a Cantonese slum, and that the only way he could keep running his establishment was if he went over into micro-psychedelics.
Developed by a Swiss military-laboratory in cooperation with the psychological-warfare branch of the Pentagon, micro-psychedelics were a family of hallucinogenic drugs that could be manipulated on the molecular level. As a result, they could be used to create extremely vivid, and at the same time very predictable and detailed hallucinations in subjects. Though they had originally been intended to provide a non-physical and thus humane alternative to torture for use by the CIA, like LSD, extensive field-testing on the French population proved micro-psychedelics to be impractical and expensive compared to conventional methods of covert warfare, and the project was ultimately abandoned.
Like LSD, however, the drugs were later discovered by a counter-culture carrying out its own experiments with hallucinogenic drugs. Artists’ established studios in squats and disused industrial installations all over the Western World. Everything from 4D re-imaginings of Avatar, to perfect, subjectively endless recreations of Dante’s hell, to the life-story of an octogenarian Bengali peasant, the experimental hippy-pharmacists produced practically everything in their ever more and more sophisticated pseudo-realities. Their exhibits defied the limits of space and time themselves, and, as a result, had become substantially the only way that Pascal could continue claiming to be running an art-gallery from what very little was left of his floor-space.
“I’ll talk to some people,” is all Tim said before hanging up.
About a week later a man in an unnaturally thin, black suit and a pair of dark-glasses he never removed turned up at the front of Pascal’s building. He introduced himself only as “Volant,” and remained silent in the face of any further questions.
After he had barely managed to set up his equipment in the cloistered corner that Pascal was still managing to cling on to, Volant asked, “Would you care to test the system?”
Pascal hemmed uncertainly for a moment. “How so?”
“Name the kind of experience you would like me to produce,” explained Volant, “provided your hallucination is largely atmospheric- that is, it doesn’t contain any cued-events that need to occur in any particular series- I should be able to make up a solution in a little over half an hour.”
Pascal examined the complex nest of computers and chemistry equipment that Volant had brought as he thought the proposal over. He was snapped out of his reverie when a passing student brushed over a stack of glass-pippettes, which Volant caught with an ease that suggested he had worked in a barracks before.
“So it’s not really art?” asked Pascal.
“What is art?” replied Volant.
“Well,” Pascal tried to explain, “you’re not really presenting the audience with anything of you here. You’re just facilitating their own fantasies. There’s no act of communication going on, so I don’t see how this can be art.”
“I am giving you my interpretation of it,” Volant assured him. “It will be different to how anyone else in the world would make it.”
Pascal fell silent for a moment. He looked around at the forty-, fifty-, sixty-, five thousand-strong crowd that had inhabited his life; how: he could not understand, why: he could not ask them. Across the room the Wendy’s manager and his teenage casual-employees made a hectic profit selling hotdogs and milkshakes and hotdogs in milkshakes to people too tired and harried and hungry to care. He looked to the ceiling, from which he had been unable to hear any sound in days. He was certain there must be the same old sound coming from there as ever before. He began to think that perhaps he missed it. He didn’t know though. He understood nothing.
“Put me in the Chinese Room,” he told Volant.
“The Chinese Room?”
“It was a thought-experiment,” began Pascal, “dreamt up by this philosopher last-century-”
“Intended to demonstrate the falsity of the strong AI hypthesis that a computer-program capable of passing the Turing Test by convincingly simulating a human conversation is intelligent,” Volant finished. “In it a man is placed within a room with a codex that provides him perfect instructions for processing any series of Chinese characters slipped under the door to him. As he receives these Chinese characters and writes responses based on the information in the book, he simulates perfectly the responses of an actual Chinese speaker.”
“How did you-?”
“I have Wikipedia on this system,” explained Volant. “Pirated CIA pharmaceutical software and Wikipedia.
“So can I ask if you think the Chinese Room is intelligent or not?”
Pascal did not have to think about this for an instant. “I don’t care.”