And I looked, and behold a pale horse:
and his name that sat on him was Death.
I was lucky enough to see with my own eyes the recent stock-market
crash, where they lost several million dollars, a rabble of dead
money that went sliding off into the sea. Never as then, amid
suicides, hysteria, and groups of fainting people, have I felt the
sensation of real death, death without hope, death that is nothing
but rottenness.... I felt something like a divine urge to bombard
that whole canyon of shadow....
Life does not cease to be funny when people die
DeathTwenty months ago we started writing EGR, and nearly twice that many issues later, we've decided to try to find a publisher for all this crap. There are over 70,000 wordsworth here already, enough to constitute a physical tome of creditable atomic heft. A little cover art, a few testimonials from people we've paid off, and voila!: we'd get our shot at a much larger audience offline -- since this one's been such a miserable bust.
So we started spamming agents. Not intelligent agents, mind you; we're talking publishing agents here. One of these recently replied: "My thought is that you'd be better off coming up with an idea for a new book rather than repackaging your web content."
While we thanked this gentleman for his speedy response and seemingly innocuous advice, we've done a slow burn in the couple days since. It reminded us why half the team that coredumps this twisted stream of consciousness goes by the name of RageBoy®. He'd almost forgotten he was angry. He'd almost begun to believe he'd found his calling as a net-centric stand-up comic, another contributor to the Niagara flood of irony, satire, parody and overall amusement that's needed today to keep us from thinking about the more important things. Like death for instance.
The other thing that triggered this sudden memento mori flashfest was that RB actually died last week. He was on his way down to the local hardware store to pick up some molly bolts (who knows why), and the Boulder traffic was particularly bad, as it has been all through this latest holiday season. He'd been slamming the horn non-stop and yelling out the window at the brainless sheep who pass for motorists in this part of the world, veins standing out in his neck, eyes wild and constantly darting to the side mirror for a possible opening in the passing lane, berserk, run amok behind far too much caffeine, ready for vehicular homicide. A normal day, in other words, like any other.
On getting out of the truck however -- he'd picked it up for a song at a Monster Wheels rally -- he felt this weird pain, first in his arm then radiating to his chest. Oh no, hadn't he read about this somewhere on the Internet? Those fucking Boulder drivers! They'd be the death of him yet, he thought, just before keeling over into one of those cute little median strip parking lot dividers they like to plant with all sorts of flowers and shit to make you think you're not really in a parking lot in some godforsaken strip mall in some random ratsass bedroom community for the idle rich.
Now the weather here has been particularly fine of late, like spring almost, which is why, when RageBoy went down clutching his heart, his head landed only inches from some sort of shrubbery that had been fooled by this latest evidence of global warming into prematurely flowering. "Well, will you look at that," RB thought to himself, dying there on the pavement and noticing how the colors of the petals blended delicately into one another at the margins. The sun was golden, the air was clear, the sky was bluer than usual with only wispy clouds up very, very high. A plane was going over at the moment, his last he figured, heading west. On second thought, it could be east. Who knew? Voices drifted across the lot in fragments, something about a year-end white sale.
Then a fugue from early childhood unfurled itself across his inner vision. He was standing on an overpass, idly dropping dirt clods onto the windshields of passing cars, and wondering where they were all headed off to in such an awful hurry. When I grow up, he thought, I'll have somewhere to go too. He tried to guess what he'd be and where he might be going then. Maybe a fireman, or a cowboy, or an advertising executive. Maybe to Bangladesh or Arizona. Then the scene shifted to somewhere in a deep wood, with birds calling to each other as the light faded and night came on. Where is everybody, he wondered, and why is it getting dark so soon? He tried to remember whether Daylight Savings was still in effect.
That was pretty much all the onboard recorder picked up. The rest was just static with the occasional odd image of various roadside billboards he must have seen at one time or another, plus at one point, the face of some girl looking at him oddly from a car speeding past in the opposite direction...
Later, at the hospital, they said he'd been legally dead for 13 minutes when all of a sudden he sat bolt upright and asked if he'd gotten any new email. A moment later, noticing the medical environment for the first time, he stopped mid-sentence and looked around, confused. "OK, where are my molly bolts, you fuckers!" he demanded.
When I got there I learned he'd been accusing everyone on the hospital staff of ripping him off ever since his nothing-less-than-miraculous revival. Finally, after soaking up two liters of a heavily morphinated IV drip, he calmed down a little, but still seemed out of it, distracted. Well, shit, no wonder.
"I had this weird dream," he said at length. "It was like I was in this huge white room and everyone I knew was there, but one guy was clearly in charge and everybody was looking at him with this kind of awe-struck wonderment. It was really creepy."
"Who was the guy?" I asked.
"That was the creepy part," he said, looking down at his hands and then back up at me. "It was Lou Gerstner."
RageBoy was lucky. This time. And the experience has clearly changed him. He's more reflective now -- introspective and withdrawn. We've all noticed he's spending a lot more time in the office these days, catching up on the work he used to denigrate so vocally. Also, he's much calmer in rush-hour traffic.
A few days ago he stopped me in the hallway and said, "Listen, I think we'd better come up with an idea for a new book rather than just repackage the web content."
"Well, sure, OK I guess" I stammered. "But what makes you say that now?"
He got this faraway look for several minutes. I thought I'd lost him again into one of those comatose reveries he's been given to slipping into ever since the incident in the parking lot. But just as I was about to walk away he said, "I think we need to focus on the larger issues."
"Oh, I dunno, religion, art, education, politics. Something like that."
"World Geography for 10?" I asked. It was just a suggestion, but from the way he looked at me, I could tell right away that wasn't what he had in mind.
"No," he said pointedly, getting right up nose-to-nose and looking straight into my eyes. "No, that's not the ticket at all." I suddenly felt dirty. Guilty. As if I'd just been called somehow on a life that hadn't measured up to its God-given potential.
"Hey, back up a bit there pal. Jesus H. Christ on a Crutch! Just because you had some near-death thing doesn't give you the right to go around laying trips on people!" I was livid. How dare he? The ungrateful little turd.
It was as if he looked right through me, though -- clearly he hadn't heard a single word I said. And then he was off down the hall again, stopping staffers here and there to ask if they'd ever read any Barbara Tuchman.
Deeply disturbing. But it's gotten me thinking. We originally started EGR to test a sort of working hypothesis. The Internet was relatively new and it looked to us back then as if it was a fundamentally different kind of medium from, say, television and the major metropolitan newspapers. One thing we liked about it in those days was that the only people who seemed to know how it worked were mainly using it to fuck off. However, we read something much deeper into that simple observation. We thought it was important to fuck off.
Maybe we'd been wrong though. I had to admit it was possible. With the prospect of the Internet attracting a mass audience, the marketing boys had been rubbing their hands in anticipation of the rank-and-file sheep that would soon be here, fat first for the shearing, then the slaughter. But hold the phone, we said, not everyone's as stupid as you'd like to think, and the options inherent in the medium will bear us out on this. Given the choice of alternative voices, The People will not choose your bread-and-circus lies, your blatherous blandishments, your empty entertainments. But what they'd do instead, we weren't quite sure. We'd wait and see. Whatever it was, it surely would not be More Of The Same. The magic was way too strong this time around to ever be co-opted.
That was before the banner ads, of course. And Pointcast and the Major News Sites. And Shockwave and Flashdance and the endless clever plug-ins and the browser wars. And the websites of the great technical magazines from Ziff-Davis and CMP and Mecklermedia. Not to mention Forbes and Fortune, Business Week, The New York Times, Warner Brothers, Sony, Fed-Ex, UPS, Smith Barney, Hostess Twinkies, Dell, Gateway, Orville Redenbacher, NASDAQ, NutraSweet, Harvard, Century 21, HarperCollins, TCI, Heinz 57 Varieties and Carter's Little Fucking Pills. Hey, kids, welcome to the revolution!
Resistance is still strong in the mountain regions, though, in the cultural backwaters, wastelands, along the fringes of empire. You can tell by the intelligence demonstrated in message board postings and chat room repartee, by the penetrating insight that's passed back and forth via online mailing lists, and the high humor of innumerable not-for-profit websites. Yeah sure.
Never has mechanism managed to pass so successfully for subject matter. If word processing made us into unwilling typesetters, the World Wide Web and all its multifarious attachments have transformed us into some high-tech analog of the traveling vacuum cleaner salesperson. We are all selling to each other, constantly. Encouraging our mutually pointless traffic back and forth across a digital landscape more frightening than those that cradle Dali's melting watches, cluttered with flotsam-and-jetsam pitches, late breaking scoops on matters we could give a shit about, superfluous weather reports for people who no longer go outside, and ads for articles of increasingly unnecessary clothing.
But so what? We still love the web. Where else could we rail away like this without rhyme or reason, point or apparent destination, and ever hope to get a halfway decent hearing? As to why we might want to... well, there's that nagging question about publishing once again, and that nastily insistent issue of a theme worthy of putting down in a disciplined and thematic manner upon Real Paper.
Look at it this way. When people write actual books, it's because they feel they have discovered something of value to share with the world at large, or at least a world larger than their local Mary Kay Cosmetics circle. This could take the form of practical advice, like Ellen Banks Elwell's The Christian Mom's Idea Book: Hundreds of Ideas, Tips, and Activities to Help You Be a Great Mom. Or history, like Michael Pollard's The Lightbulb and How It Changed the World. Or it could be a work of utterly contrafactual imagination, like a sweeping family drama that examines eight generations of okra farmers scraping a living out of the Australian Outback -- their passions, their occasional despair, their proclivity for inbreeding, their substantial poker winnings.
These are but a small handful of the serious literary genres that warrant bona fide publication on acid-free pages worthy of the shelf space in such select emporia as Waldenbooks, Borders, Barnes & Noble. Not for these established outlets nor the publishing houses that serve their mass-market requirements are the tawdry ramblings of congenital retards who relegate their hastily scribbled musings to the back pages of the World Wide Web where they let just anybody write whatever they fucking feel like writing and where, moreover, any bloody rabble can already read it free! Publish EGR as a book? My God, what were we ever thinking?
And so, as the sun sets slowly on the West, we find our hero, back from the edge of Death Itself, pondering a theme important enough to merit the kind of Sustained Treatment that would lead to immortalization in the form of a Genuine Volume with height, width, depth, weight and its very own ISBN.
"What do you think about 'Internet for Sewage Plants: The Big Money Finally Gets Connected'?" RageBoy asks me, donning that serious mien he's lately taken on. You can tell he's really thinking about this.
"Or maybe an anthology," I suggest. "Those are big. I notice nobody's done anything yet with food-related poetry by anorexic transgendered differently-abled animal rights activists of color..."
RageBoy gives me the look that says "You are being frivolous again and I do not approve."
I give him the look back that says "You are a flaming asshole!"
And so, Valued Readers, we once again find ourselves at something of an impasse here at EGR World HQ. Should we continue to post these vapid meanderings to the World Wide Web, filled to bursting as it is with morons and degenerates like yourselves, or should we perhaps aim higher and attempt to produce a novel, say one that interweaves a contemplative thread on the economic ramifications of rainforest biodiversity with the sexually explosive adventures of a privileged young career woman from Darien Connecticut who trades off the easy money of Wall Street to devote her life to the thankless task of introducing a hopelessly backward leper colony in the darkest reaches of the Amazon basin to the wonders of modern information technology and discovers God in the process?
...uh, well, anyway, we figured if you had any thoughts about all this you could maybe help us out over here. Incidentally, we realize that, despite the title, this issue hasn't really been about death -- not about real death anyway -- and that this is likely to piss a couple of you off. But look, if you tilt your head and squint your eyes at the graphic below j-u-u-u-u-s-t right, you can make out the Star of Bethlehem.
"He tries death. And death rejects him also."
(Don't miss the rest of this exciting review by Frank P. Corso.)
Entropy Gradient Reversals
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Entropy Gradient Reversals CopyLeft Christopher Locke email@example.com http://www.rageboy.com
"reality leaves a lot to the imagination..." John Lennon
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