Monday, August 31, 2009

Forecast 42

Forecast (Shy Scanlon)

Forecast is being serialized semiweekly across 42 web sites. For a full list of participants and links to live chapters, visit


Chapter 14

Of course, there have always been those among us for whom emotion is an end in itself; the rub of love, for instance, being somehow more important for some then the object of that love’s abrasion. There have been these, and then those that, on top of this, proclaim the fact loudly, failing to hide it under a current of romantic effluvia, rather pressing it to the fore, as if they could thereby be protected from the eventual wane and scatter of characteristics which, when composed and controlled, described something lovable. And yet this is not always a deficit. Poets, musicians, painters and priests, great cultural leaders, are linked in this way. Still, the expression, but more native even than that – the experience itself: of love, of hate, of grief, all these inner goings-on distract some from the ultimate source, or perhaps goal, of the ability to feel in the first place.

It becomes something of an addiction. But it is not, as it may first appear, the narcissistic brand of self-interest, of vanity, that might otherwise be thought a first order threat to true connection. Because this is not a retreat into the self so much as an escape from the self. An emotion’s internal bloom does not reflect one’s own face, but distracts exactly from it. It is a nameless, universal equivocation of the self. These experiences transcend the finite, fleshy vehicle and open one up to some vast encounter with the anonymous nature of life. It is a release. A passage. A leap of faith. And it should not be undertaken lightly.

At least this is what the guidebook says.

The advent of REMO, or Re-experienced EMOtion, and its subsequent abuse, could probably have been foretold had people been interested as much in mapping out the consequences of our new technology as they were in using it. But when is this ever the case. Once the connection had been made that, by ingesting the by-product of emotional transfer, one could achieve some sort of heightened, or at least altered, emotional state, certain among us, people who might otherwise (in my opinion) have been called to greater things, spiraled down into the abyss within themselves, preferring to become part of the cosmos rather than part of one another’s lives.
Fortunately, other than the un-quantifiable loss suffered by a society whose potentially great contributors sacrifice social interaction for exploration into more remote regions of the self, REMO doesn’t cause too much trouble. Its addicts, despite a relatively lackluster bent toward prosthelytization, aren’t exactly a menace, and since they produce their own drug, in most cases the whole REMO culture has been safely nestled in between our preoccupation with issues we find more imminently worrisome and the benefit we reap by functionally ignoring such trifles, or at least denying we care. Still, REMO is considered a dirty indulgence in most circles, and the majority of people, it’s speculated, either use the drug rarely, or not at all. Helen is an example of the former category.

More accurately, Helen has only tried it once. But Zara’s night of experimentation is another count against her. In neither case, to her benefit, has it been her idea, nor, for obvious reasons, her REMO. Because she’d never been able to produce her own Buzz to begin with, the thought that REMO would have any noticeable effect on her was far from her mind. Besides, her parents had so fervently encouraged Zara to experiment with other drugs that her appetite for altered states had already, when REMO made its appearance, long since vanished.

But of all the ways Helen distinguished herself from Zara, one thing that remained consistent was their romantic resolve. Neither the intrepid Zarabarbarian, nor the fiercely domestic Helen, held anything more dear than the intimate bond they’d chosen to foster between themselves and their respective men. It was Asseem who’d suggested REMO the first time, and Jack who, in a drunken haze, slipped some into her drink the second, wanting Helen, as he put it later, to “have a little fun.”

“I don’t need drugs to have fun, Jack,” she’d said the next morning, squinting to see him from under her enormous REMOver.

“How do you know,” was, after a long pause, all he’d come up with, “what you need?”
But Helen knew, contrary to what she’d expected, that REMO did, in fact, have an effect on her. Quite an enormous one. And unpleasant. Simply put, it plunged her so far inside herself that she lost all ability to communicate. She was stripped bare of all social conventions – something she’d always already had difficulty with – and made mute by the sheer force of feeling that congested the internal corridors of her personality, bottlenecking her ability to translate intention into action, impression to expression, and will to power. For someone whose entire self-image was based on her knack for saying what she thought, when she thought it, this was more than merely awkward. It was terrifying. Fortunately, Zara’s experience with Asseem took place in his apartment, alone, and he took care of her, sensitive to the struggles inherent in articulation. They’d stayed together for the duration, Zara in a fetal position with her lover slowly stroking her forehead, playing soothing music, and doing all the talking.

With Jack things were different. They’d gone to a Forecast party – known for their extravagance and extra-curricular activities – and wound up in a room where people were tongue-tied to a pulsing ETM, the others taking turns standing in the conduction spot, giving the getter a full range of other people’s insides. After Helen had demurred two or three times, Jack made the decision for her, gathering a mouthful of the stuff and kissing his wife, spitting REMO down her throat. She’d known better than to “raise the issue” at the time, knowing Jack was just in it for fun, and Helen had taken her troubles to the coat closet, curled into its darkest corner, and stayed there until being called by the familiar voice of a certain forecaster whose acuity did not extend to the tumultuous weather of his own wife’s heart.

When Rocket licked the ETM, Helen’s first response had been a mixture of alarm and pity she might normally have reserved for people, and upon further consideration, having no reason to assume that, even if other animals could be affected by human REMO, the experience would be for Rocket what it was for her, she felt sheepish. After following Busy out of the ETM chamber and into the office, she noticed that he didn’t seem the least bit worried about the dog, doing nothing to follow up on the episode. She scaled back. She expressed a cool disinterest. She let him be. She tried instead to focus again on what Busy was speaking about, to resume the pose she’d used in the car to convince him of their affinity.

The room Busy had brought them to was small, square, and wore nothing on its walls. After shaking Helen’s hand, the man walked behind a simple desk and sat, motioning for her to sit in the room’s only other chair. There was nothing mechanical anywhere, and the only monitor on the desktop appeared to be off. She looked at Busy and attempted a confident grin. They exchanged some simple statements, he what a pleasure it was to be sitting there with someone other than Blain, she what an interesting place they were sitting in, that she was glad to be trusted with an insider’s perspective. The contrast of this near-naked room to everything else she’d seen of the baroque, metal-made pit-mine was slightly unnerving, and with the sound insulation, Helen found she had to intentionally keep her voice raised or it would drip out of her mouth like a leaky faucet rather than project across the uncluttered space between them.

Their attention turned to the dogs. Rocket was sitting, almost stolid, with Busy’s dog circling him, sniffing here and there, nudging, generally making a good-faith effort, it seemed, to engage the unfamiliar animal.

“Any guy off the street would either bark or bend over backwards to be nice,” said Busy. Helen looked at him and noticed that for the first time since she’d met him, Busy’s face betrayed something other than suspicion or appreciation. His eyebrows were bent upward on the inside, and though the corners of his mouth were squeezing out a smile, his lips pressed against one another for support.

“Dogs are just so damn…” he seemed lost in thought.

“I know exactly what you mean,” Helen tried, hoping to maintain their rapport.

Busy broke out of his state and slapped his hand on the desk. “And that’s what I like about you, Helen. You just seem to get it.” Helen watched as his face returned to an old stand-by expression. He relaxed, and pulled himself closer to the desk. As Busy launched into a rather long-winded explanation of the chop-shop cum drug production facility, she was reminded of her many hours sitting with her high school counselor, Mrs. Green, whose gym coach slash reformed hippy approach to Zara had always induced a measure of comfort coated with a pinch of pity. Far from the initial, rather imposing pose he’d struck in the parking lot along I-5, the man before her shrank even as his bombastic gesticulations took up more and more space. He was harmless. He was good natured and spirited and his once intimidating dog was a happy-go-lucky hound waiting for Rocket to give an inch.

“The truth is,” Busy continued, “that I’ve put a lot of time into making this facility the smooth operation you saw out there.” He sighed. “When I was hired there were maybe a few vehicles brought in on any given day. And now look.”
Helen nodded.

“And the REMO resale? My idea. But see – and this was just plain lack of foresight on my part – the drug production really changed the whole atmosphere of the place. Everyone’s so bent on being a big part of the REMO scheme, getting the most Buzz for their buck, that nobody shows much interest in just how damn amazing this facility is. People look away. They come in here and pretend they’ve just walked off the street for a pack of smokes and look at me with these big vacuous eyes when I hand them their change, like, Hey, man, good thing these don’t cause cancer…” He trailed off again. Helen was beginning to realize Busy didn’t have many people to talk to. Which was okay, she thought. She wasn’t quite sure what her next move should be, and she decided to go along with this peculiar man for the time being, feeling a little nostalgic as she was, and wanting to savor the sensation. She hadn’t felt nostalgia in years.

“But if they weren’t so determined to play into the system,” she noted, “it wouldn’t work so well, right?”

Busy’s eyes bore into her, but he smiled. “You’re absolutely right, Helen. It wouldn’t work very well at all.”

They sat, having reached this minor consensus, and looked back to the dogs. Rocket was finally showing some interest in his fellow four-legger, and a tidbit of tail-wagging earned him an increasingly eager playmate. Busy took this as his cue, and walked to the door, opening it to let the creatures tumble out, tossing each other around like dogs. Helen watched with disinterest left over from her REMO masquerade, but wondered, despite herself, if they wouldn’t get lost in those labyrinthine hallways.

She looked at her host and smiled. “Rocket is normally quite affable,” she assured him.



“Right.” He didn’t seem put-off in the least by his ignorance. “Well this is a pretty strange place. I’m sure he’s just-”

“Yeah,” Helen finished.

Then silence.

“The wife,” he finally continued, having resumed his position behind the broad, bare desk, “didn’t like the idea of me taking Fred to work.” He looked at her, as if for assurance. “At first, you know.”

“You mean because of the noise?”

“Well, the noise, yeah…”


“Well he makes for some Buzz production around the house, I guess, and—”

Helen thought of her neighbor.

“Well couldn’t she figure out a way of turning his absence into Buzz?”

Busy’s face found some critical pose, then let go and lit up. “Helen that’s a great idea. Maybe we should put out some-”

“Lost dog signs.”

“Exactly!” He marveled. “Damn, Helen, you know I could use someone like you around here.” It was a flippant remark, but Helen realized that it wasn’t often she heard such open praise. It felt good. She traced the sensation as it wound around her relaxed intellect and danced along the border between thought and feeling. She was beginning to like this funny man.

“So you’re married,” she said.

He withheld his dismay with remarkable grace. “Grace. Seventeen years now.”

“Congratulations,” was all she could think to say. She couldn’t imagine.

“Right, well, I’m a busy man.”

“I see.”

Busy looked around the room as if it had been populated, at some point, by things to see.

“You know, Helen, I’ve been saying that for over a decade, and I still never intend the pun.”

“I don’t buy that for a minute,” she lied.

“You’re too kind, kid.”

Helen wondered if it was true. Busy leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the desk. He was obviously at ease, and she felt both delighted and disgruntled by the idea that she didn’t seem to pose a threat.

“You’d be surprised how hard it gets to keep your chin down, around here.”

“Well things are good, it seems.”

“Yeah but the wife, she gets a little tired of having to put in overtime on Buzz production for the household. I just get home from work and, well, you know, I usually have to admit that I had a good day.”


“Grace shouldn’t have to deny the dog in order to cook the roast all the way through. I should be able to come home and vent about a shitty day when I need to, give her a chance to relax.”

Helen heaved a deep sigh she thought might be appropriate, then surprised herself by feeling it. The parallel was an obvious one, but she didn’t expect it to matter, the standards one holds for oneself so distinct, in her mind, from those imposed on others.

“I know how you feel,” she said. “I can’t produce Buzz, myself.”

Busy frowned and cocked his eyes. This did not compute. “What do you mean?”

“I mean I can’t make ETMs work.”

Busy looked off at the room’s ghost appointments, and Helen was left with her own words repeating inside her head as if they’d upset their source and found another mouth to come from. This wasn’t something she told many people. She thought back as Busy’s face cycled through histories of itself, looking for something to match his mood, and couldn’t, she realized, remember the last person she’d told. Could it have been Jack? Actually, she’d told her neighbor more than once, but only in order to give Joan a chance to make a little extra on forgetting it. Helping people toward their errant goals was Helen’s most direct route to actually producing the stuff, and as she’d told her parents before, if there was a way to capture those emotions it would be another thing altogether.

Busy settled on perplexed, and gave it his best shot. “So you mean you don’t have…”
“Negative emotions? Hardly. Honestly, Busy, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s just never worked for me.”

“Hmmm, I didn’t even know there was trick to it, you know? I’d always just put myself in the conduction field and-”

“Right. So it goes. Believe me, I’ve tried. It’s not like I don’t have dirt to draw from.”

“Who doesn’t?”


Busy paused, considering. “Well I gotta tell ya, kid, it’s pretty strange, but between you and me,” he leaned forward, “I think that makes you pretty special.”

Before Helen could respond to this the door broke open, letting three dogs tumble into the room and behind them Busy’s partner, Blain, who walked to a far corner and beckoned to Helen’s host. She grew tense. Busy stood, smiled, and shrugged before joining his partner, but he returned to her directly and held out his open hand. On it sat a pair of earplugs. She rolled her eyes but took the offering, an apology, and settled in to watch the dogs. Now fully animated, Rocket rolled around with the two new animals, which, though bigger than him, took care, it seemed, not to overwhelm the suburban mutt, instead spending as much time under as on top. Helen glanced now and then at the men in the corner, and tracked Busy’s typically loose expressions as they grew more steady, then stopped changing altogether, frozen into a hybrid of stern observance and what she could read only as sadness, a wistful look for which she had trouble imagining a source. They stood for a while without speaking, until Busy began on what seemed like a longer monologue, and the winces and wide eyes of his partner made it apparent that, whatever he was saying, it wasn’t something mutual.

Just as Rocket and the rest were winding down, Busy came up to Helen and motioned for her to take out the plugs. She hesitated slightly, but the man’s demeanor suggested more concern than anything else, and she pulled out the instruments, letting the panting and ambient hum of the office pour into her empty ears. She looked up at Busy, whose head, she noticed, was backlit by the ceiling light, awarding him with a halo of sorts, and she smiled to herself until she heard him say “You have any idea why there might be an APB out on you?”


Onward to chapter 15 (Redivider).

Back to chapter 13 (Matt Briggs)

Monday, August 24, 2009



Now available from Gene Morgan's Twitter Feed Press is "What 'Twas Done Us In, See" by me. Free to download. Enjoy.


New Bright Stupid Confetti post is up. Christopher always manages to find something—or two somethings, or three somethings, or many somethings—that drop my jaw.

He featured my brother recently, too.


I like me some trees sometimes. I wrote about a Moon tree a while ago.

a tree dancing from happycobrabooks on Vimeo.

Sometimes I'm just outside and I'm looking around, and it's the evening, and I see that a tree has started dancing. I'm not sure what music a tree listens to when it is dancing. I'm not sure if trees produce their own music, or if they have some sort of source that they tap in to. Like, with their roots? Is there music under the grass? Is that why grass exists, as a sort of baffling, so the music doesn't overwhelm all of us above the earth? Is that it?

Is that the point of grass?

I've always wondered what was the point of grass. And now I think I know.

Anyway, trees and the music that exists beneath the grass. Are the moles making it? Are the ants making it? Are the worms making it? Is that why the music is there?

I'm just not sure.

I'll think about it. And then maybe blog.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


It's Amelia's birthday. Or was. It was. But it is, in a way. It's nearby. Her birthday is nearby. That's a thing.

That's a thing that can be. It can be nearby Amelia's birthday, and we can all say: Hey, Happy Birthday.

And then when she says, It's not my birthday. It was my birthday, we can then all reply like: Hey, hey, it's nearby, right? We're near it, aren't we? A Happy Birthday salutation is like a improvised explosive on a roadside, we can say. It hits all sort of things that are merely nearby.

Like you, Amelia, and your birthday! It blows that totally up! It blows you totally up with wishes for a happy day even if that day isn't any longer the day that is your birthday.

Hey, how about we make a cake or something for Amelia? I have an apple tree in my backyard. In my basement, black mold grows on the little windows that look out over the lawn. In the attic, I think there is probably a squirrel that has died.

Let's put them all together and make a joyous birthday cake for the one and only Amelia:

shred newspaper and put it in a bowl
scrape mold from the windows with the edge of a paint scraper and sprinkle it into the bowl
add water

make wheat paste:

one cup of hot water
three table spoons of flour with enough cold water to make it liquify
pour them together and bring to a boil
when it thickens, allow it to cool

fold wheat paste into moldy newspaper

remove dead squirrel's heart
place at the center of a cake pan
cover with wheat paste/newspaper mixture
place into freezer

while waiting for cake to freeze, eat apple

Isn't that easy? Let's take the frozen cake to Amelia's and leave it on her doorstep. Let's ring the doorbell and run away. Let's watch from behind a bush. Let's admire the way Amelia roots through the frozen cake with a pair of scissors. Let's see if Amelia can find the heart.

Happy nearby Birthday, Amelia!


My book A Jello Horse will be around again soon. Since Publishing Genius Press is being enthusiastic enough about the book to reprint it, I feel I should work hard to promote it so they can make back their printing costs.

Would you help? Maybe? I could maybe answer your questions if you want to interview me. I could maybe guest blog on your blog. I could see that you get a review copy if you want to review.

I could do those things.


A brief Open Letter to Mark Doty (who will likely never read it):

View Larger Map

Last Thursday, I was walking to a used camera store to see about finding an old Polaroid SX-70, and I was listening to a Radiolab podcast where Robert Krulwich read a little piece from one of your books, and the piece was about someone very close to you dying, and at the corner of Brooklyn and Campus Parkway there I got a little shaky and felt my eyes get wet and I really felt like crying. Right there where that person is standing, talking on a cell phone. Kind of was overcome.



That's me at 17. Kind of like that kid.

Anyway, so I really liked Dead Kennedys when I was young—younger than that photo kid up there. And where I lived, people were sort of unfamiliar with punk. "What kind of music you like?" they'd say and I'd say I like punk and they'd ask what that was.

And I'd try to explain, but it wasn't easy.

Then one day I had a Dead Kennedys tape with me at school. Plastic Surgery Disasters. And during a break, some people were standing around a boom box in the corner of the room, and they were listening to Judas Priest. I had my tape, right, and someone said, maybe we should let him put in his tape and we can hear what its all about.

If you know Plastic Surgery Disasters, you know that side two opens with a song called "Riot." That's this song:

The song with the long, talky intro. The long with the tense opening.

Well, for fuck's sake, the song didn't really even start before someone pulled it out and said it sucked.

And I was never popular.

I blame Jello and his talky opening. Jello ruined high school for me by not just getting to the rocking fast enough.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I went to this movie and I noticed in this movie that throughout this movie the boom mic kept slipping down into the shot. You know what that looks like? Like this:

This is considered a mistake, this sudden appearance of a boom mic in a shot. But it happened so often in the movie, I thought maybe it wasn't a mistake.

So I decided to call Hollywood. (It was, you see, a Hollywood movie.) I called Hollywood and I talked to a very nice person, and told her I had seen this movie and in this movie the boom mic kept slipping down into the shot and I asked if maybe I could speak to the person who was responsible. She said sure and she transferred my call to the boom mic operator.

Here is a transcript of our conversation.

Hi. I saw your Hollywood movie, and I noticed that the boom mic kept slipping into the shot. Were you the boom mic operator for this movie?

Yes, I was.

What's your name?

I would rather not reveal that. Call me Boom Mic X, please.

Oh. Kay. Hi, Boom Mic X.


Was the boom mic slipping into the shot some sort of accident?

No. Absolutely not.

Don't movie directors generally NOT want the boom mic to show up in a shot?

Yes. They generally object to the sudden appearance of a boom mic. I would say that that is an accurate statement.

So, doesn't this make the appearance of the boom mic in your Hollywood film an accident?

In this case, no. The director of the movie most likely thinks it was an accident. But, for the record, I did it intentionally.

You did?

Yes. You see, I am an activist.

An activist?

Yes. I am a reality activist. I work with an organization that objects to the willing suspension of disbelief. We believe that all fictional projects should be morally bound to reveal to their audiences that they are fictional projects. They must never be ambiguous about it. So we infiltrate the creation of works of fiction and we make certain to show in the consumers of fictional media to the fictional nature of the thing being consumed. We call it "cueing."

By lowering the boom mic into a movie?

That's one technique, yes. It's one of our most common ways of cueing in film or television. We also show up as extras in films sometimes, and break the fourth wall. We look into the camera. It's subtle, but people notice and it reminds them that they are not watching reality unfold. They are watching a movie.

You said "fictional media." So you do this for more than simply film and television?

Oh, yes. Music, for example. Now, you may not think of music as a "fictional medium," but it is. Any form of storytelling creates fiction. Music was always very tricky, but a few years ago, we managed to solve music in the hip-hop genre, at least. One of our operatives managed to popularize the use of the word "real" in hip-hop. He did it virally, of course. Language is viral. He started it, and then, soon, hip-hop artists were talking about "keeping" things "real."

The brilliance of this cueing technique is that while the artists use the term in order to mask the fiction they are creating, because it is antinomous to fiction to call it "real," they undercut their own project. They produce fiction and try to insist on how "real" it is, but because the term "real" is a primary category, it is more powerful than their attempt to appropriate it to qualify their fiction. They explode their own project from within.


Yeah. Stunningly simple, isn't it? The guy who came up with that one was rewarded with his very own private island.

Novels can be tough. You know, a bookstore has this place where it shelves its fiction, so at point-of-sale, one is already made aware of the un-reality of the work. This, of course is true of film and television, but a good novel is one that immerses the reader in its fictional world. The problem for us is never point-of-sale. It's that moment when one gets "lost" in one's fiction. When the brain is suddenly transported. When one forgets the nature of the work one is consuming.

There are multiple people involved in film and television. We can sneak our cues into that.

So what are you doing to cue readers?

Well, first, we are a very powerful group of people. I'm not bragging. I'm just saying it. We have a lot of money. So we have put that money behind popularizing really lousy novels. Novels that NEVER immerse the reader. If you think the quality of popular fiction is deplorable, now you know why.

Second, we have editors filling books with subliminal messages. Acrostics. THIS IS FICTION. THIS IS NOT REAL. Spend some time with a book and a highlighter. You'll find messages all over.

Third, in that stronghold of readers who refuse to allow themselves to read inferior works of fiction that by virtue of their lack of virtue are constantly ejecting readers from story and making it impossible for them to forget that what they are reading IS fiction, we have popularized post-modern, meta-fictional techniques and frames by taking over academia.

Should I be happy that you have done this?

Thank us for your grasp on reality, yes.


Justin Sirois reads from MLKNG SCKLS here.

Monday, August 03, 2009


This week, I would like to direct you to check out an essay I wrote on Diff'rent Strokes and Knight Rider on HTML Giant.

Here's an excerpt:

"Fictional KITT (DS) is, like fictional KITT (KR), is a super-intelligent, wise-cracking computerized car. But fictional David Hasselhoff (DS) is the actor who plays a character named Michael Knight in Knight Rider."

For the rest of the week, I will post something small here every day.


Tomorrow night, you can go to Neptune Coffee and see Amelia Gray, Evelyn Hampton, and Lotte Kestner. I will be hosting. It will be great.


A couple of days ago, I read Justin Sirois's book MLKNG SCKLS. It's a remarkable little book—a series of excerpts, in fact—from a novel he's working on about an Iraqi escaping Fallujah.

The language is not dense, but it has a deep and impressive lyricism. Sirois has a gift for lyrical writing that in no way seems forced. The alliteration and internal rhymes that occur in the well-constructed sentences work in ways they don't in a lot of prose lyricism. He is restrained, picking the right spots to deploy a rhetorical figure to advantage.

The books two main characters are walking through the Iraqi desert, journeying from Fallujah to Ramadi, one recording it all on a laptop with a slowly draining battery. It has its Beckett precedents, but instead of Beckett's surreal, placeless place settings, MLKNG SCKLS is played out on the great contemporary American misadventure of our war in Iraq. Absurdity and tragedy collide every day in that Middle Eastern country, and Sirios recognizes and reveals it all well.

A favorite scene of mine features a man uncooking a meal, a task as seemingly impossible as, say, unringing a bell; or uninvading a country because of faulty, cooked intelligence. The characters manages his task. America, though, won't.

Looking forward to the novel, Justin. It's a great honor to share a publisher.