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Can you see The Man in the Moon? (another extract from The Symbiosis of Life & Death)

Posted 5 September 2003, 9.40 am by Green Mamba

In this world of pain and suffering one thing still prevails above all else.

Looking up at the soft glow of the full moon balancing on the edge of a fading cloud, the girl turns to her lover and whispers.
Tell me, can you see The Man in the Moon?

The Man in the Moon stares down at them and then turns away from the window to cast another log onto the fire.
Tell me Semjaza … what is the purpose of it all? Why do these human beings cling so desperately to this thing called life?
Semjaza places the tray with tea gently on the table. They’ve had this conversation before, a hundred times over and he plays his part without failure or enthusiasm in his typically disconnected servant manner, without the slightest variation in his tone of voice.
I honestly do not know master, tell me?
It’s all about love, my servant friend. They stare up at the moon and look for me in its shiny surface, but whether they see me or not is completely irrelevant. All they care about at that moment in time is the warmth of each other’s bodies, the sound of each other’s voices and the beating of each other’s hearts. Regardless of how far humanity have gone up the evolutionary ladder … regardless of how much they think they have achieved socially and technologically there is but one thing that governs their lives, one insatiable desire and that is to find a soul mate, a companion with whom they could travel down the path of life … and procreate.
Semjaza had finished pouring the tea and hands it to his master. As he takes the cup carefully from his hand, he looks at him absentmindedly.
Then tell me, master … why is it that they complicate things so much?
The Man in the Moon’s face lights up as if that is the question that he has been waiting for all along.
Ah, therein lies the riddle.
The Man in the Moon moves over to the window, takes a careful sip of his tea and stares down at The World a moment longer before he continues.
Yes, my servant friend … therein lies their downfall … this complication of things … this interconnectedness of everything. They weave a fancy web, but the more they try to perfect it, the more confusing it becomes … so much so that they have become entangled in it while the flies just buzz all around them … out of reach. Tell me, Semjaza … why does the spider spin a web?
Semjaza was getting tired of this game, but continued to entertain his master nonetheless. Besides, it was not his place to argue, so he uttered the next line in perfect monotone.
In order to catch flies, master.
The Man in the Moon finished his tea, turned away from the window and handed his servant the cup.
That’s right my servant friend … to catch flies. It has nothing to do with beauty … or boredom … or creative energy. It is not a diversion to steer it away from the pointlessness of its existence, but rather a tool to assist it in its survival … and as long as it continues to perform this function without failure, then there is no need for the spider to try and improve on its design.
Semjaza let out a long sigh as he took the cup, placed it carefully in the tray and then for the first time there was a hint of emotion in his voice.
Just like me.

The Man in the Moon looks up and follows his servant with his eyes as he leaves the room. He’s been a good servant … all these years he’s never complained, never once failed to do his duty without instruction or fear of prosecution and yet the sadness in his voice was unmistakable.
Semjaza … could you come here for a minute, please?
Without question or hesitation Semjaza comes rushing back and puts down the tray, waiting with his hands respectfully behind his back … ready to do whatever is asked of him. For the first time in his afterlife, Semjaza is unable to read the expression on his masters face … he looks uneasy, disturbed almost and it frightens him a little.
Are you happy Semjaza?
The magnitude of the question takes a while to settle in. Semjaza rolls it around in his head while The Man in the Moon looks at him expectantly and then after carefully evaluating all the possible answers, Semjaza calmly replies with what he believes to be the right answer.
You have been very good to me master and in gratitude I do my best to serve you well. In that I am perfectly content.
The Man in the Moon shakes his head, places his hand on his servant friend’s shoulder and looks deep into his eyes.
Yes … but are you happy?
Only now does Semjaza realise the full magnitude of the question … only now does he understand that his master is not asking him to confirm something that he already had an answer to, but rather that for the first time he is asking him a question that he couldn’t answer for himself. Semjaza looks at his master, the smooth silver surface of his eyes … impenetrable … reflecting only your own obscured face back at you in its curved surface. For a moment Semjaza dwells on the possible consequences of what he is about to say, but then he says it anyway.
No master … I am not. I have been your servant for a very long time now and every day you stand at that window and judge everyone and everything you see. You talk about love … about the purpose of life and humanities failures, but in all the time that I have known you … not once did you bother to go down there to spend even a single day in The World. I have … I spent an entire lifetime there … laughing, crying, fighting to survive the onslaughts of both man and nature and finding joy in overcoming all its hardships. Not only that, but I have loved … I have slept in the comfort of my mother’s arms and I have bathed in the sweat of my lover. I have raised children … seen them grow and made every effort to prepare them for the worst and the best that The World has to offer. No, it may not be a perfect world and yes, maybe the human race fucked up, but I wouldn’t think twice about trading the last two thousand years of my afterlife in The Great Beyond for a single day back in The World.
The Man in the Moon pulls his hand away and turns his back on his servant. For a moment Semjaza thinks that this is it …his master is about to punish him for speaking out against him, but when he speaks … it becomes obvious that he is crying.
Why, Semjaza … why have you never told me this before?
Semjaza lays a hand on his master’s shoulder to tries and comfort him.
Because it is not my place to question.
With tear-filled eyes The Man in the Moon turns around to face his servant.
Then why now … why tell me all this now after all this time?
Because The World as I have known it is coming to an end … all the signs are there. I can see them reflected in your eyes and I don’t know if there’ll be anybody left to tell you this after it’s gone. Besides, if there is a remote chance for you to experience life as I have then my duty as a member of the human race demands that I tell you this before it is too late.
Semjaza leaves his master standing by the window, picks up the tray and walks towards the kitchen. Before he leaves the room he turns around and in his typical servant manner asks.
More tea, master?
The Man in the Moon continues to stare out the window at The World down below, wondering what it would be like to walk amongst these human beings and experience this thing called life.
Yes please … and pour yourself a cup while you’re at it.

The boy looks up at the silver glowing disk in the sky, stares at it for a brief moment and smiles at his lover.
No, I honestly have to say that I cant.
She smiles back at him and rests her head on his shoulder.
Neither can I.

Surviving Matt.

Posted 2 September 2003, 5.59 am by VanGogh

If you believe what they tell you on TV, then living in a small town is the next best thing to paradise on earth. Everybody knows everybody, neighbors trade recipes over the white picket fences, and the children are always happy and well behaved.

I grew up in a prototypical small town (Population 1,300), and from my experience, small town life is a tad different. Specifically, everybody knows everybody, and usually dislikes them for one reason or another. If the neighbors gather to talk over a fence, it’s usually chain link, and the topic of conversation tends to focus more on vicious gossip than casserole recipes. The children, who are undoubtedly bored to tears since there isn’t a damn thing to do in a small town, usually spend their time riding bikes through freshly planted flower gardens and screaming at each other. And you can be assured that if they aren’t doing that, it’s only because they’re out back egging your car.

Knowing this, it probably comes as little surprise to you that when I graduated from high school in 1995, my primary goal in life was to get as far away from my hometown as my financial aid could take me. As it turned out, that place was the University of Akron, in Akron, Ohio.

UA appealed to me for a variety of reasons. They had a good Fine Arts program, which was what I wanted to major in. They were a large campus, which I liked. And they were offering me a substantial theatre scholarship if I attended, which was definitely a plus. But I must confess, all of these things came in a distant second to the most important reason of all: Akron was a four hour drive from my hometown.

In technical terms, this was ‘fucking perfect’.

So I became an Akron Zip. For reasons that are so off topic I won’t bother explaining, the University of Akron mascot is a kangaroo. Collectively, teams and students from UA are known as the ‘Zips’, a name borrowed from a formerly popular brand of rain boot. As I was to find out, the abnormal thought process that led to the mascot and nickname was fairly standard at UA. In the year and a half that I spent there, I don’t think a month went by that I didn’t hear about some new rule or project on campus that made me question the sanity of the governing body. They seemed to approach their jobs with the same intentions and understanding that a troop of monkeys has when frolicking with a bowling ball. (Here’s a tip from your Uncle Jaime: If the college you’re attending chooses a marsupial as a mascot, and then names it in honor of footwear, consider transferring.)

It goes without saying that in a year and a half of attendance at Akron I built up quite a repository of stories worth telling. One of them involves my first roommate at Akron, an especially interesting fellow named Matt.

When you choose to live on campus at UA, the housing office sends you a lengthy survey to fill out. It asks you all sorts of things about your cleaning habits, smoking habit, study habits and so on. The purported use for this survey is to match you up with a suitable roommate who shares a lot of compatible habits. In actuality, it acts as a campus-sponsored game of screw the new guy. I say that because only someone brand new to the college experience would ever fill that survey out truthfully. Upperclassmen and savvy newcomers know to lie on it.

For instance, lets say you’re a slob stuck living in a college dorm. Not content to wallow in the mire of your slovenly ways, you have a few choices for how to improve your living conditions. You could hire a maid, a real stretch on the average collegiate budget. Or, if you’re a resourceful type, you could fill out a housing survey and tell them that you’re a neat freak. The housing office will do their thing and assign you a roommate that is also a neat freak. Then when your new neat freak roommate shows up, you can count on them to compulsively clean up after you. It’s a beautiful thing, and a hell of a lot cheaper than the maid.

Of course, I point all of this out to you with the benefit of hindsight and hard-earned experience. When I first enrolled at UA, I had neither, so I filled the survey out honestly. And that is how I, a person who had specifically requested a non-smoking roommate, ended up living with Matt, the human chimney.

Matt was a disability case. He suffered from Multiple Sclerosis, and thus received a lot of preferential treatment on campus. This included, amongst other things, the right to skip whatever classes he didn’t feel like attending. In the year that I knew him, I can only remember him going to class twice. Yet his grades were always fine. He pulled off this miracle of academic absenteeism by playing the guilt card. He’d call up a professor, whose class he hadn’t attended in a month, and ask for credit on work he hadn’t even considered doing. When they inevitably started reading him the riot act, he’d casually mention the discrimination that MS sufferers face in life, and how sad it was that he had to deal with it in this institution of higher learning. Quicker than you can say ‘American’s with Disabilities Act’, he’d have his passing grade. It was amazing to watch.

Not that I got to see any of that right away. In fact, I had been living in our dorm room for almost a week before I even met Matt. When I arrived at the dorm with baggage and parents in tow, Matt had already come and gone. Apparently a man of action, he had saved me the hassle of choosing a bed or a desk by claiming the better of each for himself. I wasn’t thrilled with the bed situation. We had bunk beds, and he’d stuck me with the top bunk. Still, I understood. First come, first serve. So I unpacked, bid the parents a fond farewell, and wandered off into the haze that is college life.

Five days later, I still hadn’t seen him. By this time class had been in session for three days. But Matt, whose name I only knew because it was posted on the door, was still a no show. On the morning of my sixth day in the room, I awoke to the sound of snoring. My first thought was that there was an intruder in the room. Then I remembered my phantom roommate and swung my head over the edge to take a look below me. What I found was a thin, grizzled guy half-hanging off the lower bed, sound asleep and dead to the world. His head was almost touching the floor, and there was a river of drool flowing from the corner of his mouth, past his nose and eyes, and into his hair. On the floor, beside his outstretched hand, was the burnt remains of the cigarette he’d been smoking when he passed out. His shirt appeared to be vomit stained, and he reeked like a Turkish sewer.

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you my roommate, Matt.

When I went to class later that morning, Matt was still asleep. When I got home from class that afternoon, Matt was gone. His bed had been made and his backpack was missing. Apparently he had decided to see what classes were like. When I sat down at my desk to work on some homework, I found a neatly written note:

“I borrowed some socks. - Matt”

We had never spoken a word to each other and already he was borrowing socks. Not a good sign. Over the weeks that followed, Matt and I managed to make contact when we were both conscious. He was an alright guy to talk to, especially when he was stoned. As luck would have it, that was pretty much all the time with Matt. This was due in no small part to the fact that Matt was the third largest drug dealer on campus. He only dealt weed, which kept him out of the running for the top dealer spots. But for a weed-only man, he didn’t do too bad.

Living with the third biggest drug dealer on campus has some advantages. Matt always paid for pizza, and we had the biggest TV in our dorm. We also had a fine stereo system, and all the CD’s that money could buy. And Matt taught me all sorts entertaining life skills, like how to break a brick of product down into dime and nickel bags, a task we used to do while watching the Simpsons on TV.

The downside of being a dealer's roommate is that people often show up at your door at three in the morning looking to score. And occasionally these people are knocking on the door with the butt of their gun. That sort of thing gets old fast, especially when Matt has decided to disappear for awhile.

I could care less about dope. I don’t smoke it because I can have just as much fun without it. But for those who choose to, I say have fun. However, when you live with a drug dealer, the lifestyle tends to drag on you.

After four months of living with Matt, I was ready to move out, if only to get some sense of normalcy back into my life. I had already applied to transfer rooms, but the housing office was giving me the run around. They wanted Matt and I to attend counseling sessions. How in the hell was I supposed to talk him into that? As fate would have it, Matt solved the problem for me.

He had been MIA for two days. This wasn’t unusual. He’d go off to a party, crash there for the night, then leave the next afternoon to go to another party. When the parties were flowing and his mood was right, he’d carry on in that manner for up to a week.

It was a little after four in the morning when he started trying to get his key in the door. After consuming a fifth of Jack Daniels and smoking enough grass to keep him tripping in style for a week, most of his basic motor skills had abandoned him. Those that were left had fallen prey to the MS, and so poor Matt was having a hell of a time walking, let alone guiding his key into the lock.

At some point, his slurred yelling and repeated banging on the door woke me up. I listened to him struggle with the lock, trying to convince myself to get up and let him in. Before I could muster up the energy to climb down, he finally succeeded in opening the door. I feigned sleep in order to avoid a drunken conversation, and watched him stumble into the room. Out of consideration for me, or possibly just because he didn't think he could manage it, Matt didn’t turn on the light. This meant that I could lay on my side and watch him as he shuffled around the room muttering.

After a few missteps, his shuffling led him over to his desk. He grabbed his chair and began to drag it out into the middle of the room. This already monumental feat of basic coordination was made even more challenging because Matt’s backpack and several of his textbooks were resting on the seat of the chair. After several false starts, and one near tip over, Matt was satisfied with the position of the chair in the middle of the room.

By this time my curiosity had eliminated any pretense of sleep. I propped myself up on my elbows to attain a better view of the events unfolding before me. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why Matt’s chemically altered mind wanted the chair in the middle of the floor. I didn’t have to wait long for the answer.

Matt stood facing the chair, swaying in a wind that only he could feel. Then he unbuckled his belt and dropped his pants. As they were pooling around his ankles, he shoved his underwear down and pulled out Mr. Happy. Before I could even begin to comprehend what was going on, he was pissing all over his chair. He started low, giving the legs a good once over. Then he whipped it high, over spraying and hitting the curtains before correcting his aim to hit the back of the seat. Finally, he lowered it to his backpack and books.

Now to read that took you only seconds. But the seeing of it lasted much longer. Old Matt was deep into beer piss territory, and the bath that he gave his chair and belongings easily lasted for 40 or 45 seconds. When he was done, the chair was soaked, the books and backpack were sopping, and a huge puddle had streamed onto the floor. The smell was overwhelming. I managed to sit all the way up in bed, but couldn’t get out any words. Instead, I watched gaped mouth as Matt shuffled out of shoes, pants and underwear and collapsed into bed nude from the waist down. He left his clothing soaking in the newly formed lake.

I don’t know how long I sat there in bed trying to process what I’d just watched. What I do know is that by the time I snapped out of it, Matt was snoring loudly. I leaned over the edge to say something to him. I don’t know what exactly, but something. However one look at his corpse-like presence told me he was out for the count. I was on my own.

After some careful study of the growing puddle on the floor, I managed to climb down and get out of the room without stepping into it. I stood out in the hallway for a moment, trying to figure out what my next move was. I had attended Freshman Orientation, but strangely enough, they hadn’t covered practical steps to dealing with roommates who confuse desk chairs for urinals. I made a mental note to suggest it to the housing office the next time I was in there. In the meantime, I decided to go wake up my RA.

Resident Advisors, or RA’s, are upperclassmen who are put in charge of keeping order in dorms. Generally there are one or two RA’s per floor. They are paid to handle normal everyday hassles, and to notify higher ups when necessary. Our RA was named Mike. Mike was good guy. He handled toilette paper shortages like a pro, and had developed an immunity to our juvenile humor. I wasn’t sure he was prepared for an in-house outhouse issue, but frankly, I didn’t care. I needed to pass the buck on this one, and he was paid to take it.

I walked down to his door and knocked. Then I knocked again. From inside I heard a groggy voice mutter something. I knocked again. Mike, being the well trained and responsible person that he was, told me to fuck off. I just kept knocking. Eventually, having gotten the idea that I wasn’t going away, Mike cracked the door open.

“Jaime, what in the hell do you want? Do you know what time it is?”

“Hi Mike. Matt pissed on the floor.”

“You fucking woke me up for this? We’ll have a janitor get it in the morning. Just use the other bathroom.”

“Uh, no Mike. He pissed on OUR floor. In the room.”

Mike just stared at me. “Say what?”

“He’s drunk. He pissed on our floor. Actually, he pissed on his chair and his backpack, and it ran onto the floor.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“No.”

Mike closed the door in my face. I stood there staring, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do now. Before I could summon up another plan, Mike opened the door again, this time wearing shower shoes. He motioned for me to follow him back to the room. When we got down there, he used his pass key to unlock the door and swept it open. The smell that rushed out to meet us made my eyes water. Mike stood there, looking from the floor, to the chair, to Matt, and then back to the floor again.

“He pissed on the floor.”

“Yeah, that’s what I told you.”

“Yeah… but I mean… He pissed on the floor.”

I never could get anything by Mike.

“So, what do I do?”

“Well, if I were you, I’d move out.”

I repressed the urge to scream.

“No shit. I filed the paperwork a week ago. They say Matt and I have to do counseling. What am I supposed to say? Matt, it really bothers me when you decide to give the room your own personal rinse?”

“Fuck that counseling shit. We’ve got an open room at the end of the hall. It’s yours.”

“I’m not cleaning that up.”

“Nah, leave it for him.”

And that is how it came to be that at 4:45 AM on a Thursday morning, I moved from room 303 to room 310. By the time the early risers were up, I was completely relocated.

Throughout the day, the story of Matt’s innovative use of dorm furniture made the rounds. By the time Matt woke up at five in the evening, everyone on the floor and most people in the building knew about it. I was just walking out of my new room when Matt finally emerged from his.

“Hey man, somebody stole your stuff. And the room smells like shit.”

“I moved, and the smell is piss, not shit.”

Matt, still hung over and desperately trying to grasp my words, turned around looked back into the room. Then he looked back at me. “You pissed in the room?”

“No dipshit, YOU did. You pissed all over the place last night.”

“The fuck you say! Where?”

I was beyond exasperated. I walked down to the door to point his handy work out to him. When I looked in, I stopped dead. The piss was gone. Not a sign of it anywhere. The chair was still in the middle of the floor, but there was no urine to be seen.

For one panicky moment I wondered if I had dreamed the whole thing. Then I remembered showing Mike. If it was a dream, we had experienced it together.

“Man, I don’t know what to tell you. Last night you came in drunk as hell and pulled out your chair, then you pissed all over it. Soaked down your backpack, your books, everything.”

“Then where’s the piss?”

“Evaporated?”

Even as I said it, I knew it had to be true. I nearly gagged at the idea that I was now breathing his piss. Would this nightmare ever end?

“Look, if you don’t believe me, go check your backpack. You doused it last night. It must still smell.”

He shuffled over to the chair and picked up his backpack by the handle. As he did, piss came running out from the bottom.

“Oh fuck!”

“Yeah, my thoughts exactly.”

He looked at it for a minute, then set it back down. Then he looked around the room and back at me.

“So you moved out?”

“Yeah man. I’m down the hall now.”

With complete sincerity, he asked, “Why?”

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you my ex-roommate, Matt.

Are YOU worth it?

Posted 2 September 2003, 4.25 am by Jake

We've all been really busy lately. Too busy, in fact. We don't even think about what we're preoccupied with, we just dive into it like a pre-pubescent drunk teen virgin on our first date with that girl. You know, the one that lives a few houses down, wears a lot of make-up, no panties? Yeah, her. She kisses funny.

Anyways, what was I saying? Oh, yeah. We're busy. I don't know where I was going with that, but I've decided not to waste my ramblings on you people. Yes, you little peons, you who were born through an unsuccessful (or successful, depending on how you look at it) act of copulation. You people who eat, breathe, shit, and sweat just like every other human being on this earth (save for a select few) are just not worthy of hearing my scathing witticisms regarding everyday life. In fact, I'm going to go have a beer while you guys wait, in suspense, for me to fucking do something.

...

Okay, I'm back. I can see the eager looks on your faces. I can taste your desires...your desires to feast your eyes upon my golden words of wisdom as they grace the god-forsaken HTML-formatted page that I'm spurting my savior-seed of genius upon, your desires to embrace my thoughts, to caress my mind and become one with my overly cynical and brash attitude. Why? Because, in my superior opinion, you people are just too boring. You're too run-of-the-mill, you're still in the motherfucking era of the Goatse man while I embrace the Star Wars kid. We're cavorting our fat asses off in the moon-light, baby, while you masturbate to Aria Giovanni. You see, I get all of the new stuff. I've got videos you wouldn't believe. The Mexican Donkey Show is nothing compared to what I have. You want bukkake-bestio-grandpa-interracial-butt-sex? Seen it. How about a pregnant chick in latex lactating while fellating a mime? I was the mime. I've got Flash vids that will make your eyes bleed, bitch-boy. They're so fricking cool, they'd make you pee yourself like a young girl amidst a pack of ravenous wolves. But I haven't posted them yet. You're not worth it. I'm 3l337, you see. I made this virus, and it's going to wipe you all out as I sit on my 320-lb ass and pick my nose, and leave my name about in an inconspicuous manner so that I can be accredited like I so deserve. I'll show you motherfuckers, man. I'll rush up on all your asses in my sleek black Lamborghini Diablo and dispatch you like a ninja master.

Really, I will. Did I mention that I'm eleven years old?

THESE CITY WALLS (PART II of II)

Posted 26 August 2003, 7.56 am by Green Mamba

She followed The Road up to a city, perched like a giant boil in the middle of a large clearing, where The Road abruptly turned left and around it. How strange, she thought and then she simply stood there staring at the immense wall that surrounded the city. There were people on top of The Wall and in response to her own curiosity; they stared back at her wide-eyed while they whispered nervously to each other.
To add to her confusion, there was no gateway into the city, just The Wall, seamless and insurmountable all around it and the growing crowd staring down at her from above. The day was almost over, so she decided to stay overnight and started gathering wood for a small fire on which she could cook the rabbit that she had killed earlier. Still the crowd grew and by now the muffled whispers had turned into a low rumble.
After cooking and eating the rabbit, she decided to try and rid her body of all the dirt and grime that she had accumulated from the days travel, removed her armour and bathed in the nearby river. The water was cool, pure and unpolluted … unlike The River of Dreams from which she drank earlier in the day and she took her time, allowing the gently flow of the water to caress her body. By now, The Wall was lined from end to end with curious onlookers some of whom showed expressions of disgust while others merely gawked at her nakedness. She didn’t mind … in The World water like this was a rare commodity and such a prized possession that nobody would even have noticed whether she was naked or not.
Back at the fire, she wondered what could possibly persuade anybody to build a wall around themselves without making an entrance. Dwelling on the possibility that maybe the whole city was a prison of some sort, she soon surrendered her senses to the sweet oblivion of sleep. She was awoken in the early pre-dawn morning hours by a nagging call coming from above.
Hey you down there! Wake up!
She looked for the source of the voice and found that it came from a grey-haired man who appeared to be the spokesperson for a small group of elderly people that had gathered on top of The Wall. The rest of the crowd were gone, not surprisingly since they must have gotten bored watching her sleep, so without delay she got up, approached The Wall and looked up.
What?!
The old man cringed a little, obviously fearful that she might try to harm them, although given the height and the size of The Wall that was very unlikely.
How long do you intend on staying down there?
She laughed softly to herself and then looked back up at the old man trying to conceal her amusement.
Are you inviting me in then? Sure took you long enough.
The old man was visibly shocked and pulled back, conferred with his friends and then stuck his head over the lip of The Wall again.
No no! On the contrary … you are disrupting the citizens of Jericho with your presence and we would appreciate it if you would leave as soon as possible.
She was a little taken back by the blatant rejection, but tried to keep her composure as best as she could under the circumstances.
Oh? In that case I’ll get going right away. Wouldn’t want to cause a riot or something now would I?
They were overjoyed, clapping their hands and cheering as she followed The Road around The City and out of sight. In the morning when the people ask what had happened to the blue-haired woman, they would tell them that she was killed by wild beasts and dragged off into The Forest … and that should be the end of that.

THESE CITY WALLS (PART I of II)

Posted 22 August 2003, 11.56 am by Green Mamba

She came from The Forest wearing less than what was socially acceptable … revealing more than what any man could look at and still stay true to his lover. She was the embodiment of everything that was outside the laws that the people of Jericho had fought so hard to uphold … they were civilised damn it … they had morals … they were better than the savages from The Forest. She had blue hair, wild and untamed like the beasts, but perverted, unnatural and she carried herself with confidence unlike any of the people inside the city had ever seen.
The Wall went all the way around Jericho, built from the inside out … no gates … no secret passages … no way in or out. It was the ultimate achievement in modern technology, a haven for civilisation and an impenetrable barrier of steel and concrete against the barbarism of The Forest … until she came.
At first, she didn’t do anything, just walked up to The City and stood there looking at The Wall. She didn’t have to do anything … her presence and her appearance was enough to infect the guards on top of The Wall with her twisted values and her perverted sense of right and wrong as they stared at her half-naked body while she made herself comfortable.
She made a fire and in its seductive glow she started breaking down The Wall. First by feasting on the remains of a small animal, one that had not been bred in a properly maintained environment, de-toxicated, painlessly slaughtered, graded and distributed according to title. Then she washed her naked body in the river that flowed past the city … demoralising the water supply that ran from the river through a series of highly polished copper pipes, through the Church of Purification where it was blessed twenty four hours a day by the gods of antiseptics and ammonia.
Even in her sleep the guards could not keep their eyes off her and as the news spread others too joined them on top of The Wall … watching while unwittingly their minds were being infected one by one.
By morning she was gone, but her presence remained in the minds of those who had seen her and everybody that they talked to, until it had spread throughout the entire city … the woman with the pale white skin and the wild blue hair who defied everything that they had been taught about the world outside Jericho … beyond The Wall.
Some of The Elders, The Keepers of the Knowledge of Good and Evil told the people that wild animals had killed her in the early morning hours and dragged her body into The Forest. They even bribed the guards that were on duty during the night to collaborate their story, but The People didn’t care whether she was alive or dead. In their minds the image of the woman who contradicted everything that they had been told about the world outside The Wall had already been immortalised, forever burned into their psyche.
The Wall was crumbling, so The Elders gathered in haste to try and devise a means to save The City … to reinforce The Wall before it came tumbling down around them. After much debate a plan was devised and laid down before The People.
At first The Keepers of the Knowledge of Good and Evil tried to convince The People that The Wall was necessary by highlighting all its strengths and all the insecurities of life without it, but The People were not so easily fooled. Eventually The Elders gave them a choice … for or against The Wall. It only took one voice from a single member of the crowd.
Break it down!
And within minutes The People were in uproar. Seeing that things weren’t going as planned, The Elders held another emergency meeting and after much debate another plan was devised and laid down before The People.
We have decided that we will do what you asked and break down The Wall, but before we can do that, we need to study The Forest to make sure that it is safe for you to live in. To do this, we have assembled a team of experts who will gather all the information that we require to decide when the time is right to break down The Wall. The People approved of this … after all, their demands were being adhered to … soon The Wall would be no more.
Thus The Experts were sent into The Forest where they gathered information. Every week they sent a report about their findings to The Elders, who in turn studied the results, deleted what they believed was not in the best interest of The People and broadcasted it to them through picture boxes that they had installed in every home. At first The People were very exited, the memory of the blue haired woman still fresh in their minds even though The Elders made sure to only show the most frightening images of life beyond The Wall.
One day The Experts started to argue among each other. One of them thought that the time was right to tell The Elders to break down The Wall, but the others disagreed. A fight broke out and whether by accident or intent, the one who had believed that The Wall should be broken down, was killed. Fearing prosecution under the laws of Jericho, the remaining Experts reported to The Keepers of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that wild beasts had killed him.
At first The Elders were shocked, but then they realised that this was exactly what they had been waiting for and used it to strike more fear about life in The Forest into The People’s hearts. As time went by, the image of the blue haired woman became diluted until eventually all that remained of her was a fairytale told to children just before bedtime with over-exaggerated emphasis on how she was killed by wild beasts.
Fearing that history might repeat itself, The Elders decided that every year they would ask The People to vote for or against The Wall and regardless of whether they decided to keep it or not, they would simply continue to send out The Experts and continue to corrupt the results before they broadcast it into the picture boxes in every home.
Thus The Wall remained intact or more importantly … it became higher and higher until finally The People could see The Forest no more.

Confessions of an Ex-Phone Psychic (Part 2 of 2)

Posted 20 August 2003, 5.50 am by VanGogh

Note: This is the second half of a story I started telling on August 9th, 2003. If you haven't already, you really should read part one first. Scroll down to find it.

I can still remember my very first call. A soft voiced lady with a southern accent. She quietly answered the mandatory questions about name, address and e-mail address, and obediently wrote down the 1-900 number and my personal extension. With tarot deck in hand, I asked her what she wanted to talk about. Without hesitation, she asked me to look into the cards and see what her husband's reaction would be if she shared her secret with him. Not quite settled into the whole “I’m a magical psychic” role yet, I asked her what her secret was. She answered, “I used to be a man.”

Yeah, this job was going to be special.

On average, I’d work the lines for four or five hours a day. Even so, I wasn’t always making money. Fact is, unless I was actually on the line talking to someone, I didn’t make a cent. When I was on, I’d make anywhere between 20 and 23 cents a minute, depending on when I was signed on, and how heavy traffic was. For the mathematically challenged, that means I was making between $12 and $14 for every hour I spent talking. Not bad money really, especially when you take into consideration that I was often sitting around in my pajamas while doing it. On the other hand, if you consider what the network was making on that same hour of talk time, what they paid me was something of a minor crime. After all, an hour of call time grossed them $299.40 . I assume operating costs ate into that figure a bit, but somehow I don’t think Ms. Cleo or her gang were ever in fear of living the poor life.

Still, I was paid to wheel and deal the tarot cards, and that is what I did. In the beginning I relied on the cards a lot. I don’t know who wrote the text for the cards, but they should be crowned ‘King of Hot Air’. Never has so much been written without actually stating anything. I’ve always been a smooth talker, what they call a ‘Closer’ in sales circles. But bullshitting gets a bit trickier when the caller wants an answer without telling you what the question is. Instead of wasting time making up things to say to the caller, and then hoping I was close, I just delivered the information on the cards, and focused my energies on reading the persons voice to see if I was hot or cold. Reading the voice was the real trick of it all. I learned that on the first day.

More times than not, people will tell you everything you need to know about their lives with nothing more than the sound of their voice. Don’t believe me? Think about a time when you’ve been out in public, maybe at a restaurant. You heard the couple behind you fighting. You couldn’t hear what they were saying, and they weren’t yelling or anything so obvious, but all the same you knew they were fighting. How’d you know? The stress of their voice. The way they breathed. Pregnant pauses in the conversation. A thousand little clues that come together to deliver an instant and fairly accurate forecast of the emotional weather over at Table 9. Being on the phone is no different. Sometimes it’s even easier.

In the course of taking calls I soon learned that there were three basic types of callers: The bored, the curious, and the desperate.

The bored rarely stay on past the first three free minutes. They spend their time trying to prove that you aren’t REALLY a psychic. They ask typically impossible questions just so they can feel the thrill of proving what a scam it all is. The most typical type of question from the bored set is to ask you what they are wearing. But when you skip the obvious answer, which is that you don’t know, and instead reply, “clothes”, it seems to throw them off of their game. They usually hang up sounding more confused than victorious. Of course, that was little comfort to me when I knew that they just made my goal of a 19 minute average call time that much harder to reach.

The curious are a tossup. Some I would lose before I could even get their name, some I lost as soon as charged time kicked in. But a small percentage of them are willing to be flipped. (To ‘flip’ someone is to turn them into a believer.) These are people who know the horoscope in the paper is junk, but still find themselves reading it everyday, just in case. If you can get a curious to call late at night, when the world is dark and their troubles are weighing heavy, you can sometimes take them to a place where they believe, if only for the evening, that you really are psychic. I had several callers who started out as curious, and then flipped to full on desperate. You can hear it when it happens. The ominous sound of skepticism melts from their voice, and then nothing but awe and hope remain. When that happens, you own them.

The last type are what I call the desperate, because that is exactly what they are. Though the specifics of what they are desperate for tend to vary. Some want answers, other want advice. Most just want a friendly ear. They are the reason that the psychic lines exist. They are true believers who are at the mercy of the psychic. In the manual, it says a talented psychic can keep a caller of this type on the phone for up to an hour. I call that underachieving. It was nothing for me to keep a desperate on for 3 or more hours. My record stands at 6 and a half hours, a call that we will get to in a moment. Needless to say, these were the moneymakers for both me and the company.

The calls themselves ranged from the mundane to the extraordinary, from the cute to the truly bizarre. One common question I received was what the caller should name their newborn child. At first, this question stumped me. Aside from the fact that relying on a psychic to name your child struck me as incredibly stupid, I simply didn’t have a clue as to what to tell them. I flipped through the tarot cards looking for some ideas, but unless the caller thought that “Eight of Wands” was a great baby name, the cards held no answers. Then inspiration hit, and I was never at a loss again.

I told them to name the child ‘Jaime’. I figured if it was good enough for me, then it was good enough for their kid. I always made sure to tell them to use my spelling of it as well, since the way I spell it is a tad unusual, at least in Ohio. In my time working as a psychic, I was probably asked to name a child 3 or 4 dozen times. Whenever I need a smile, I just think of the small army of Jaime’s I set loose upon the world.

Another common request was to pick lucky numbers. There is a way to do this using tarot cards, but I soon tired of using them, and instead developed my own process. I’d pickup the nearest thing I could find with a barcode and start reading numbers off of it. Once a guy called me back and thanked me, said he hit the pick three for $500 using my numbers. Go figure.

By far my favorite calls were from people having money problems. They never ceased to amaze me. They’d call and ask questions about how they could get out of debt for an hour or more, all the while running up a huge phone bill with me. It was always on the tip of my tongue to say, “Well, the cards tell me that if you grew a brain and stopped paying $4.99 a minute for my bullshit, you’d be well on your way to positive income.”

By far the easiest part of the job was when I got a lonely caller. I just clapped my hands and prepared for some easy money. I had several lonely women call who would just talk and talk. At first, I tried to provide advice, but soon I learned that they didn’t want it. Didn’t want me to talk at all actually. They just wanted someone to listen. And so that is exactly what I did. I’d hear about new grandkids, new neighbors, new recipes. I’d hear about it all, and all of it at $4.99 a minute, simply because I was willing to listen.

My most amusing calls were always from the desperate. And sometimes the desperate were also idiots. For example, take my personal best call time of 6 and a half hours. During this call, the women did all of the following:

Had me give her psychic reading.
Had me give her reading again, so she could tape record it for later study.
Had me give her a full reading for her cat.
Had me give her another reading for her mom’s dog.
Try to make contact with her dead uncle.
Put me on hold for over 20 minutes so she could Finish watching the movie Titanic. She owned it, but really wanted to finish it, since it was her favorite part and all. ON HOLD. FOR OVER 20 MINUTES.
Put me on hold seven other times, for a grand total of 40 minutes, so she could answer her call waiting.
Walked outside, handed the phone to a neighbor, and had me do a reading for her. Just so she could see I was, and I quote, “The real deal.”
Had me tell her what numbers she should use for her locker combination at work.
Had me look into the cards to see whether a gentlemen she slept with was HIV positive.
Had me look into the cards again to see if her husband of 20 years knew about the other guy.
Asked me to advise her on what kind of car she should buy. This conversation lasted over an hour. I know nothing about cars. I ended up telling her to buy the same model car I own. She was thrilled. No really, she was.
Asked me, and I swear this was a serious question, what she should have for dinner. She seemed concerned that the hamburgers might me bad. She wanted me to check for her. I told her to opt for pizza.
Put me on hold, called her mother, and three-wayed her into the call so she could introduce me to her as “the new friend she met”. I was invited over for dinner.
The last hour of the call was spent with me staring at a wall, listening to her yell at her kids and tell me what she was watching on TV, and how Jerry Springer was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

The call only ended because the battery on my headset phone was dying. She was disappointed when I said I had to go, and promised to call back in. And call back she did, every week for as long as I worked.

For those of you keeping score at home, that call cost her somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000. I’ll allow you a moment to get your chins back into their upright positions.

Of course, not all of the calls were fun. I got calls from women who wanted to know what they could do to get their boyfriend or husband to stop hitting them, who really believed it was all their fault. I got calls from moms who wanted to know if their new boyfriend was sleeping with their child. Calls from scared teens who were pregnant, and needed to know if they should get the abortion. Calls from people who were looking for someone to stop them from killing themselves. Those calls take all the air out of your lungs. They remind you that it isn’t a fucking game. These are real people, with real problems. And what I may think of as nothing more than a witty answer to a borking question, they take as serious instructions for how to live. In short, it’s real easy to fuck up peoples lives when they believe the gift you have is psychic ability when all it really is is a natural talent for bullshitting.

When those calls came in, I stopped the bullshit and tried my best to just be their friend. I gave them the same advice they were probably getting from everyone in their lives who loved or cared for them. Sometimes they even listened. I think maybe that's because they chose to call me, chose to ask me for help. Those were the calls that scared me to death. Those were the calls that burned me out. But they weren’t the calls that made me quit.

That call came from a soft voiced lady with a southern accent. For all I know, she might have been the same lady whom I spoke to on my very first call. She quietly answered the mandatory questions about name, address and e-mail address, and obediently wrote down the 1-900 number and my personal extension. When I asked her what she wanted to talk about, she told me that her husband had committed suicide less than two weeks before. All she wanted to know was whether or not he had made it to Heaven.

For reasons that I’ll never be able to explain, I didn’t just fake the reading and give her the answer she was looking for. Instead, I got out my tarot cards. It was the first time I had used the deck in over two months. I had abandoned it as soon as I memorized most of the text on the cards. Since that was all I needed them for, actually dealing out cards become a pointless exercise. But now I took them in hand and shuffled, then dealt out the top three cards face up.

Death
The Hanged Man
The Devil

I just sat and stared.

Each card has meaning beyond that implied in the name, but as the old manual states, sometimes the cards mean just what they say. Knowing that this was NOT what I wanted to be telling this woman, nor what she needed to hear, I shoved the cards back into the deck and shuffled. I told her that the first reading had been fuzzy, so I was doing a second. I shuffled for what must have been a minute or more, all the while giving her a smooth patter of soothing words that I wasn’t feeling at all. Then I dealt out another three.

The Devil
The Hanged Man
Death

Same three cards, reverse order. I put the deck down and explained to the woman that I wasn’t getting a clear reading, and asked her to call back in to talk to someone else. I hung up without waiting for a response, and put the deck away. I signed off the network and never took another call again.

If you’ve read through this article, then you can speak with some authority on that which you've always suspected, that psychic lines are scams. Psychics are nothing more than talented cons who merge the arts of conversation, entertainment and psychotherapy into some sort of wondrous brew that the general public just can’t get enough of. I agree with all of that. I’ve experienced it from both sides, and I know how the show works. I know it.

I also know that I’ll never be able to explain my last call. I’ll never be able to rationalize it. I know that everything that I experienced in the business was fake, except for those three cards. And in the end, I think that’s as much explanation as anyone needs for why the psychic industry just keeps on rolling along. Because even when you know it all, you still have those three cards. And then you don’t know a thing.

N/A

Posted 18 August 2003, 4.08 am by Villager

I feel I am at something of an impasse. I have always had goals and aspirations, however vague or trivial. I have always felt that there was plenty of room for personal improvement, both in the way that I viewed myself and the criteria that I should set for myself. Now, whether through a subconscious triumph of vanity or a solemn realisation that there is no such thing as a path to enlightenment or even real worth in striving, I no longer feel these things. I no longer desire to improve myself. This past year I have vastly accelerated my thirst for knowledge and have given much care to giving time to learn about such things that occur to me now and then, some typical and obvious, others less so. I have also endeavoured to improve myself physically, and am now in the best shape I have ever been. I am physically as healthy as I could wish and I want for nothing. Intellectually, you could say I have the world at my feet. I have the time and freedom to learn and develop myself psychologically in a fashion that the great majority of human beings have never enjoyed. Perhaps I am merely inherently ungrateful, and am registering a kind of spoilt boredom with the life I lead. I feel disinclined to label it mere apathy; I've been there before and decided it to be a far simpler emotion. The strangest thing is that I'm not entirely unhappy about all this.

You see, it all started off with a kind of contemptuous backlash at the materialistic and superficial nature of seemingly all that surround me (something I know to be an unfair generalisation, but that seems not to be of great import). If I'm honest - which seems to be an unduly difficult task when it come to myself - I thought that a desire to become learned, coupled with my lack of enthusiasm for consumerism, meant that I was somehow better than those I looked down upon. But of course, though I exist in a comparatively simple way to some, I love and rely upon my modern comforts just like everyone else. Now, as I find myself rather similar to when I embarked, my task seems to lead nowhere. I have a fit and healthy body, but nothing to do with it. My mind is more open and welcoming of new ideas than ever before, yet I no longer feel compelled to seek them out. I am not really unhappy, and at times even allow myself to feel content, just existing. I am drifting along in a gentle current of comfort, indulgence and repressed confusion. While broader questions of existence and purpose of course remain unresolved, they seem rather less urgent than they once did.

Perhaps I am just tired. Perhaps I will feel very different in a few months' time. Or perhaps I'm not so different as once I liked to think.

Round and Round

Posted 15 August 2003, 11.37 pm by Green Mamba

Sometimes we follow the light … sometimes the darkness ... sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

With the sun on my back I followed my shadow … into the sea of Tranquility … and as the day grew older … my shadow longer … my steps became urgent. Until suddenly my shadow escaped and I was left in the depths of a vast empty ocean of darkness … afraid and alone. So I sat down in the soft gray sand and built a castle with many rooms … servant’s quarters … stables and a fishpond in the courtyard…

The darkness passed and the sun waved at me from the distant shore … so I looked at my castle and I looked at my shadow behind me … wondering why he had left me alone in the dark. All through the day I followed my shadow … and all through the night I built my castle until one day I realized that the shadow I followed was following me …

So, with my shadow behind me I followed the sun … into the sea of Tranquility … and as the day grew older … my shadow closer … my steps became labored. Until suddenly my shadow caught up and I was left in the depth of a vast ocean full of light … afraid and alone. So I sat down in the soft gray sand and built a castle with many rooms … servant’s quarters … stables and a fishpond in the courtyard.

Midday passed and my shadow crept towards the distant shore … I looked at my castle and I looked at the sun behind me … wondering why he had left me drowning in this ocean of light. So all through the rest of the day I followed the sun … and all through the night I dreamt of my castle until one day I realized that the sun I followed was following me…

So I looked at my shadow and I looked at the sun … and I realized that I was right back where I started … So with my shadow behind me I followed the sun … and when my shadow caught up I rested a moment and followed my shadow … and all through the night I built my castle … with many rooms … servant’s quarters … stables and a fishpond in the courtyard…

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They were done for an exhibition a couple of years ago . They asked for something to so with the summer. They are mixed media and oil paint on metal advertising boards - for ice cream.


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Hmph

80s candy bars were pretty good

only because i traded it for a candy bar in the 80's.

lol we all know you don't have a soul ghoti

my soul for some carbs...

But of course!

Yo ! Does this work ?

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