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I haven't been doing much with this journal the past year.

(This is an understatement, really.)

So the idea occurred to me that I could use it as a space for reviews of various media samplings.

Okay, yeah, it's been a little less than a year...

Update follows:

1. Celebrated 2nd anniversary on Saturday. Wife has yet to attempt to murder me, shockingly enough. Either she's biding her time or has the patience of a saint.

2. Comic writing continues apace: P.K. Femur story has about half a dozen pages in, some of which are illustrated. Careers in Recycling should be up by year's end, links to follow.

3. Spent last eight months losing twenty pounds, then gaining back ten in muscle. Rawr.

4. Am considering naming this LiveJournal "Jason Voorhees Blog" -- on the grounds that just when it seems finally dead, there's another twitch of life in the old dog still.


So.

How's *your* 2006 been?


ZB

Personal Life Updates

This LiveJournal entry is simply an update of minutiae in my life, for those who are interested. To avoid cluttering up the pages of those who are bored with such things, I will now place the ugly details behind a cut.

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Attention, world:

So I miss two Fridays due to overwork and lack of net access at my new job. And what comments do I see asking where I've been when I get back here?

Yeah, right. Zero.





I'm feeling the love right now. So. Much. Love.

The Day I Tried To Live, part 0.3 -- Brought to you by Phast Phiction Phriday

Getting generation-gapped is never fun, but nowadays it's the top of the slope that slides into full-blown future shock. Before you can say "when I was your age..." you're already freaking out. Stay in the now; nostalgia kills.

I have someone I go to when I need answers about these things.

Everyone should, but since I do reporting in between jobs, it's vital for me to have a contact who can fill me in on the latest nano-trend before it's passe because a thirty-year-old like myself knows about it. Her name's Jenny, and she turned fifteen a few months ago.

I caught up with her at the schoolyard fence, passed her a coffee. She grimaced when she sipped at it.

"That one's gotta be yours." A few years ago, I started taking it black; Jenny drinks hers the way I did when I was fifteen: a hot milkshake of cream and sugar, with a little coffee in it. Fifteen was half my life ago, and I'm still coming to terms with that.

"Sorry." We exchanged cups and I wiped a smear of glossy black lipstick off mine.

She waved away the topic with spastic motions of her free hand, fingers splayed.  " I need to show you this."  She brought her face close to the fence, opened her eyes wide.  "Wait."  They looked like the same anime-heroine violet shade she'd had last month, when she got the dye injections for her irises.

Then blobs of hazel and grey floated up in the neon lavender of her eyes.  Like a lava lamp, each eye different, the colors flowing around each other, immiscible.

"Cool," I said.  "Very cool."  And she could tell I meant it.

"They make a cooler one that costs more than a Versace pod bag -- it has different buckyballs in the moving goop that can take media display programming?  You can billboard text across them or -- this is so cool -- if you've got the outplugs on your optic nerve you can turn the eyes into mirrors of what they're looking at right now, see..."

It took me about ten minutes to steer the conversation to the inhaler I found yesterday.

"So there were three hits in it."

"Yeah," she said, "and the first one was a cog.  It's a Vasopressin replacement, I've used it."  I had to remind myself that she'd done more cognitive enhancers and nootropics at fifteen than many PhD candidates I'd met at the University.  I wondered how many other honor students were in the same boat, and I wondered how many of them admitted it openly the way she did, like a linebacker casually discussing steroids and muscle graft replacements.

"That's for recall, right?"

"Yeah, a memory booster.  It goes nicely with the other two doses -- they were both Shiny Pretty M."

I gave her my usual stupid stare.

"Shiny Pretty?  Memnosynapraxadil, something like that?"  She wound a stray iridescent wire back into her braids.  "Big drug with the club kids?"

"Please tell me it's new and I'm not more clueless than usual."

"It's been out for about two years," she chirped.  Then: "but it used to be a cult favorite with stoners, the type who don't get out much.  Club kids got into it big time only about a month or two back -- they use a higher dosage with some other stuff blended in for the temporary amnesia effect."

"Amnesia.  You just lost me."

"It's for the terminally jaded.  You know the type?  Go clubbing every night so they can bitch about how 'there's nothing to do in this town?' They always get into these 'been-there-done-that' contests, one-upping each other about how something else is so much cooler than what they're doing now?"

"Ah.  Believe it or not, Jenny, they had those back when I was a teenager.  Cooler-than-thou assholes."

"Yeah.  So they take Shiny Pretty, and the way it works it disconnects the memories of what you concentrate on when you're getting the initial headache, which I hear is over in five minutes if you're not allergic."

"Wait, they brainwash themselves?"

"No, no, it's like..." she chewed her lower lip and scratched between her shoulder blades absent-mindedly.  "It unplugs the chain of memories of what you're thinking about, and coats them in something.  It wears off in about a day, and the memories reconnect themselves.  It's like, when you start reconnecting a few memories everything else connected to them plugs back in."

"I'm still missing it.  Why take it?"

"Well, duh.  You've been everywhere, done everything, need a new thrill?  Just do the same old ones for the first time, again.  Zap the memories of the club you're going to, and it's your first trip to the club.  Zap the memories of clubbing in general, and you're a squeaky thirteen-year-old going out for her first trip to the scene.  I hear couples take it --" she paused to contort her arms and scratch her back again.  "Couples, they're all lovey-dovey, and they take it together so they can lose their virginity to each other, again and again.  Not my thing, I'll stick with just having sex, thank you."

"That's why they call it Shiny Pretty, I guess.  What if you accidentally think about breathing or keeping your heart beating?"

"You always go for the ultimate bad trip angle, don'tcha?  I've never heard of that.  And when they go clubbing, they can walk and dance and stuff, so it probably just messes with other sorts of memories.  Like places you've been and all that."

Club kids with ennui undergoing voluntary temporary chemical brain damage.  Nothing like youth culture weirding you out to make you feel like a relic, no sirree.

Jenny was scratching her back again.  "I have to go back.  They turn on the lojack crap after lunch to stop truancy."

"They put one of those locater systems in you?  That sucks."

"Parents.  I got a C+ in math because I didn't do the homework, and they freaked and had them tie the damn lojack into my bone marrow to stop me from cutting class.  It hurts if I'm late from lunch."  She rolled her eyes.  "The minute I turn eighteen..."

"You'd better go.  Thanks again."

"Hey, I've got nothing else to do today, other than surf for porn in computer class.  And later today, I know a boy who says he can hack the lojack..."  We shared a conspiratorial smirk, and she walked back over the school grounds to the first of the checkpoints to the inner campus. 

Phast Phiction Phriday: Meta

 For those of you just tuning in: Phast Phiction Phriday is a series of stunts I’ve been pulling at the week’s end to do something useful with my LiveJournal, since I almost never update the damn thing and when I do it’s just more ceaseless bitching.  Following an avalanche of reader response – all one of him – I’m serializing a novel for the internet over here, like the aborted Listener project Warren Ellis was working on at mistersleepless .

 

     Since I’m still not sure what the novel’s about, the serialization hasn’t properly started yet.  What you’ll be getting for a few more weeks are little snippets taken randomly out of a larger work, and hopefully they’ll give a feel for the sort of writing it is/will be.  For now, I’m trying to get my fiction chops back and flesh out the characters and plot in my dwindling spare time.

     It’s set in a darkly comic near-future, like a number of Warren Ellis’ works.  This seems fitting, since his work inspired it.  Secondarily, it will also owe a heavy debt to Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.  Hopefully this will explain why there are people shagging statues and eating particleboard.  If people don’t buy the Sci-Fi angle, I’ll just say it’s “Expressionist,” or “Magical Realism.”  I am fully prepared to deny everything under oath.  Novel?  What novel? 

It just occurred to me: this may actually be a cry for help.  It all depends on how amused you are.

The title of the work in progress is “The Day I Tried To Live.”  I use this as a working title for anything I do, because I’m old and I remember Soundgarden with teary nostalgia for the youth I pissed away.  Plus, it sounds cooler than “Untitled Work-In-Progress Number 11”

Why I’m doing this: it looks like it might be fun.  And by putting it out in public I hope I can force myself to complete things and not abandon them.  The other reason for putting things out in public is to get instant feedback on them, which is invaluable for a learner like me.

Which brings us to the bargain: if you like it, mention what worked for you; if you don’t like something, tell me what I can do to improve, or at least identify what you didn’t like about things.  And if you laughed or got interested or whatever, link to it, tell people about it, IM someone who might enjoy reading it.  I want people to read this; otherwise I wouldn’t have put it out here in the first place.  The goal for this week is three unique commentors.

 

     Links to the first two bits:

0.1

0.2

 

I have to go for now, because I’m doing this on the sly at my day job and there’s a ton of faxing left to do.  But I promise I’ll post 0.3 before midnight local time.  I’m committed to amusing you people.

 

See you in a few hours.

Phast Phiction Phriday, Attempt #2

"Sweet Jesus," I said when I entered the restroom, "what the hell did that?"

The old-style toilet had been bifurcated through its middle into two roughly equal chunks, like a cleaved porcelain skull with a moist pile of weird-looking sewage for the gooey organic brainy bits.  A few bottleflies batted themselves against the washroom's corners, trying to put distance between themselves and the strange pile of gritty offal, roughly the same volume as a medium kitchen appliance, that had cracked the floor tiles.  The odor was a bad chemical approximation of the usual restroom odors, as if a computer had mixed assorted industrial waste to simulate human shit.

I mean, there's digestive troubles.  And then there's blowing the fucking toilet in half.

I was stupefied, my full bladder completely forgotten.  Trying to rationalize the surrealist tableau in the room was turning me into an H. P. Lovecraft narrator, simultaneously horrified and transfixed.  Had I stumbled into an art installation?  A nanotech student's project gone awry?  In the long seconds of silence and revulsion, a vertical slice of the pile split off like an ice shelf from a glacier of filth, revealing an even more perplexing interior.  Buffalo wings, whole with the bone still in.  Recognizable -- if compacted -- slices of meat-lover's pizza and four-inch segments of party-size submarine sandwiches, both unchewed.  Fragments of particle board.  Styro insulation.  Translucent silica kitty litter, like Aideen bought for her cat. 

The Art Installation Theory was gaining currency.  Clearly -- the doublethink I'd swallowed in countless classes at University asserted itself, warming up the bullshit generator for a term paper -- clearly the artist has intended some sort of commentary... overconsumption... modern consumerism and the end products of...

"'Scuse me, man."

The janitor who pushed by me had on a class B hazmat suit, one of the orange and yellow ones they use for body fluids and things that won't dissolve organic material in under an hour.  He had the hood up to suck down one long last drag on his Lucky Strike while he muscled a shop vacuum covered with lurid red biohazard trefoils into the stall.

I tried to form coherent sentences while he arranged his safety goggles.   "Is -- was there... malfunction... uh?"  We stared at each other for a second.  His face was deeply-seamed, enough to set his eyes in a permanent squint.

"Kids," he said, dropping his cig into a pool of runny brown liquid that had sluiced from the main pile.  It sizzled and sent up dark smoke.  "Asshole fraternity bastards load up on Salucept, go to an all-you-can-eat buffet, think it's funny..."  His boot prodded the fringes of the pile and I heard the "clink" of a glass bottle scraping on the tile.

And it all snapped into perspective.  This was waste produced from one of those high-end replacement digestive tracts.  A friend of Aideen's had one, had explained them over drinks a few weeks ago; it was better to get the genuine article from Mitsubishi than to save money on the Brazilian knock-offs, he'd said, because the Brazillian companies were famous for warranty hassles.  Mitsubishi's only problem was that they were always "updating" the EULA and the firmware. 

Maybe this was one of the reasons for the updates: I could see how an idiot frat rat would turn his appetite up to eleven with a few hundred milligrams of Salucept, then download some script-kiddie bypass for the overeating failsafe on his expensive synthetic intestines to win a bar bet.  But what was in front of me... I know that a hard object dropped from shoulder height will shatter porcelain, but was he hoisted up over the shitcan by confederates unknown, or was there a fratboy out there with a hack that turned his rectum into a projectile weapon?   I hoped that it hurt the little bastard like molten steel coming out, but the absence of much blood or a fatally-prolapsed twenty-year-old in a banal sports bar T-shirt was spoiling my feeble attempts at optimism.

People ask me why I'm a misanthrope.  Here was the reason in microcosm: give humanity a new piece of technology and they will, without fail, search out the most asinine abuses of it.  And then surpass them.

The shop vacuum rumbled to life, and then the janitor and I both jumped as a chunk of the pile walked off of its own volition, frightened by the noise.  He killed the power to the vacuum and I waited for my heart to start up again. 

From the kitty litter strata of the processed shitheap, a furry ball smaller than my fist had staggered out, crusted with garbage.  It coughed up yellow gunk, then gave one clear "meow" before it collapsed, justifiably exhausted.  The janitor ripped the goggles off in exasperation.  "Cocksmoking firey hell," he said as he scooped up the kitten, "not again."

I stormed out of the bathroom, my hatred for the rest of my species rising with the taste of bile in my throat.  Usually I don't want to destroy the universe so early in the morning, but the day was off to a bad start.

(Copyright 2005, etc. etc. These are preliminary stabs at something longer, trying to find the right voice for it. Rules are as follows: if you liked it, post an encouraging comment and tell somebody about it. If you didn't like it, tell me what I can do to improve. I'm hoping to double the number of unique readers this week, to TWO. Come on, dammit. Write something in the comments. I live to amuse you.

Update, part the second

This Friday, I will attempt another Phast Phiction stunt. Without a net.

As evinced by the preferences of 100% of the readers and commenters (*ahem* -- all ONE of them), the piece will be another slice from the world of the first. Think of it as a preview from a novel you haven't read that I haven't begun writing.

That last sentence sounded very Douglas Adams/Lewis Carroll, yes indeedy.

So, more black comedy in a somewhat disorienting and dystopian future. Can do. Be here in 48 hours for the new stuff.

Today's update (part the first)

I thought that it would be a while before Something Positive topped the latest Eva mishap strips, which (as noted a few posts ago) were jaw-droppingly good.

I thought wrong. The two strips uploaded for November 29th were like an extra scoop of awesome on top of everything else that I love about S*P.

The only analogy I can use to describe the exact flavor of my surprise is: it's like being at a concert with a great band, and then -- at the precise moment you least expect it -- they launch into one of your absolute favorite songs in the world, whereupon you rock out and throw up the horns and wish you had a cigarette lighter to wave around.

Yes, it is that good.

And I repeat what I wrote a week or two ago: if loving S*P is wrong, then I don't wanna be right

Today in Cthulhu Mythos news on the Internet

Via Boing Boing, the Ctulhu-Goatse Fast Fiction by Johannes G. over at monochrom:

 

Out of the black void of the bloated net I received a hideous JPEG attachment, a single glimpse of forbidden eons which chills me when I think of it and maddens me when I dream of it. That glimpse, like all dread glimpses of truth, flashed out from this godless email I received. If I live, I shall never knowingly supply a link in so hideous a thing.  [link]

 

Now, this may remind you of something else you've seen recently, possibly on this very journal.  But I swear I had no prior knowledge of this (arguably funnier) item above.  Just synchronicity.