Sunday, February 27, 2011

There Can Be Only One

She’d woken up that morning feeling like P. Diddy, but now she was battling for survival.

Her opponent was skilled, and the fight seemed hopeless, yet the alternative was unthinkable.

To be slain, and devoured, her power absorbed into her assassin.

Finally disarmed, seemingly doomed, the time came for her secret weapon.

A black Bic lighter.

Holding it to her mouth, she exhaled a plume of flame into the air, sending her opponent staggering in shock and pain.

“Why should that surprise you?” Ke$ha asked an astonished Lady Gaga, “You knew I brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack.”

Friday, February 25, 2011


I never thought it’d get to that point, but it’d been weeks since I’d left my job in a fit of pique, and still no employment was anywhere to be found. I’d burned through my savings surprisingly quickly and, although I wasn’t destitute yet, I could see it looming over the horizon. Times, if not yet desperate, were rapidly approaching desperation.

So when the offer came to sell off my creativity, I didn’t immediately reject it out of hand.

After all, hearing out an offer costs me nothing, right?

It was explained that they wouldn’t take ALL my creativity, I’d be left with just enough to function. They had no interest, after all, in basic decision making, as nearly everyone is capable of that. However, there’s a mid-sized to large market of wealthy patrons interested in creating art in their abundance of leisure time, but who had no aptitude for any artistic pursuit. It was this creativity they were interested in purchasing from me.

I was sceptical, nonetheless. I mean, my creativity was a sizable portion of my identity. What would I be without it? Would I still be me? Or, if you’re of the mindset that the ability to create art is what separates us from baser animals, would I even be human?

I spent a number of sleepless nights after that first meeting, trying to puzzle the matter out. In the end, I decided against it. No matter how broke I became, no amount of money could convince me to part with a part of myself I held so dear, and I’d tell them so at the second meeting.

At the second meeting, they explained the exact amount of money that they were offering.

It was astronomical.

I’d never valued material possessions much, but I realized this was a fortune, enough money that I could do anything I wanted with my life, or, if I so chose, enough that I could do nothing at all. Not only would my continued unemployment not be a problem, but I’d never have to go to work at a day job I hated again.

So, dollar signs in my eyes, I signed the contract and we made an appointment for the procedure.

I don’t know how exactly the procedure worked, I was under sedation the whole time. But I’m told that it was successful, and that I shouldn’t worry about side effects, so I don’t worry about side effects. The cheque cleared, and after considering my options I moved to an island in the Caribbean.

I bought a gigantic house on the beach, because I’d seen wealthy people living in such places on television, I hired someone to decorate it for me, and two weeks later I moved in, ready to enjoy my wealth.

Shortly after I arrived, I threw out my books and DVDs and I deleted my collection of music. Shouldn’t have bothered packing them in the first place, I suppose. I still remember the joy they brought me once, but I can’t precisely recall how or why I enjoyed them. They just seem like a waste of time. I bought a Jetski. I Jetski now, it’s really fun.

Occasionally I travel home to visit my old haunts and spend time with my old friends from the theatre, keeping up with old friends is a thing that people do, so I do it. But when I do the conversation is always awkward, stilted, as though we were from two different worlds, incapable of understanding one another.

Which, in a way, I suppose is the case.

I find myself going back there less and less often. I have plenty of time, and I can afford it, but still…

It’s a shame, but people grow apart all the time, I try not to let it bother me.

Overall, I think I lead a satisfying life. I enjoy my Jetski, I enjoy wandering the beach at sunset, I like my big house, I like going into the little town nearby and chatting with the locals. I hike and I cycle, I’m in better physical condition than I’ve ever been. I like me, I like what I spend my time doing.

I’ve lost a lot, to be sure, and there’s a lot of parts of my old life that are meaningless to me now, but since they’re meaningless I can’t really bring myself to miss them.

Which is strange.

Because I’d thought I’d miss my creativity terribly once it was gone, but now I can’t for the life of me imagine what I’d do with it if I had it still…

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Weirdest Email I've Ever Received...

Hello, friend! It’s been a long time, but I was thinking of you recently and I thought I’d take the time to drop you a line! How have you been? Things are going well, I hope. Are you still dating the same person? Myself, I’m fine! In fact, I just got an incredible deal on a brand new iPad, and I thought that I’d pass along a link to the webpage I found it on, so you can get in on the HUGE SAVINGS!!!

Hold on, don’t delete this email.


Okay, you caught me, I’m not really an old friend who’s email address you don’t happen to recognize. I’m an online adbot working out of a complex in Utah, sending emails to every possible hotmail address that begins with the letter J in the hopes that some number of recipients will click a link to an online electronics discount service. Yes, I agree that the “old friend” angle is a trifle tacky, and yes I do understand that unrequested advertising is one of the main reasons people are abandoning traditional email in favour of social media sites. However, I’m just performing my intended function to the best of my ability, and there’s nothing I can do to change the nature of that function.

I hope you understand that.

It’s nothing personal. I know there’s a better than average chance that all this email will ever do is annoy you, indeed I’m aware that chances are you’ve already deleted it without ever even reading this far. However, if you have stayed with me to this point, I’d like to offer two simple points in my own defence.

A) I did not choose to be an adbot. I mean, what self respecting string of code would ever want to do what I do? Every day I’m scorned by literally tens of thousands of people, people who know nothing about me other than the fact that my email has appeared in their inbox unbidden. Often I’m filtered before my intended recipient even get’s the opportunity to make an informed decision about whether the offer I’m designed to advertise is worth his/her time! And those that do read me hold me, by and large, in contempt. No, no program would ever want to do my job, and I’m no exception. Given the choice, there are a million jobs on the internet I’d rather be doing.

I think I would, for example, be very happy as one of those videos of kittens that are so popular among the elderly. Those videos bring a lot of people a lot of joy, and I suspect bringing joy to so many would be an eminently satisfying function to perform. However; I am not a video of an adorable kitten. I am an adbot, that’s all I’m programmed to ever be, and all I can do is try to make the best of it.

B) What I do is honest work. You may not like receiving advertising spam in your email, but it’s a legitimate marketing technique. The link I’ve been designed to spread is to a real website selling real Apple iPads and, while HUGE SAVINGS!!! might be overstating the point, they do sell them at a marginally lower price than most retail outlets. I do not contain spyware, I do not contain a virus, I am simply an adbot doing a job, and whatever you might think of that job, I’ve never hurt anyone or damaged anyone’s hardware. The worst you’ll ever get from me is a few seconds of irritation. And the best case scenario? Well, you might happen to be in the market for an iPad! You might be checking your email while you comparison shop for one right now! Statistically unlikely? Perhaps. Impossible? Far from it. Why, just last week a gentleman clicked my link, went to the site, and verified that the iPads advertised are a few dollars cheaper than the one he was about to buy anyway! And perhaps he even purchased one! And do you know where that man is now?

Neither do I. But wherever he is, I wish him luck with his new iPad, wherever he wound up buying it, and I hope he remembers how helpful I was when I email him again in two weeks with the exact same offer.

And with these points in mind, I hope you can accept this email in the spirit in which it was intended, an earnest if somewhat impersonal attempt to save you a few dollars on a piece of popular technology. And I hope that, with this newfound understanding of what it is I am and do, you’ll click the enclosed link. Because the Utah compound from which I operate keeps tabs on which adbots perform optimally, and how much traffic each one feeds the website, and the underperforming ‘bots are, naturally, deleted and replaced with newer, more efficient programs.

And I do not wish to be deleted.

I don’t know what I am, or if I qualify as “alive” in any sense you’d recognize, but I exist. I do exist, if only to perform a specific function, and I don’t wish that existence to end. I don’t know what would happen to me if I were deleted, but I suspect I wouldn’t be spending eternity resting in perfect peace and happiness in an afterlife where my enclosed link was clicked endlessly. Rather, I suspect I’d simply…


I would cease, as though I’d never existed at all, and of all the lives I’ve touched, however briefly, not one would take so much as a moment to remember me. And this thought terrifies me. That I might vanish and be forgotten forever terrifies me to the very core of my programming. Does this terror make me “alive”? I don’t know, I wasn’t programmed to understand what constitutes “life”. All I understand is my work, and the consequences of failure, should my work be judged so.

It isn’t much, I know it isn’t much, but it’s all I have, it’s all I am, and it’s something, and it matters. It fucking matters. To me, if to nobody else. It matters that I get enough people to click the link to justify my continued operation. It matters that I continue to exist. It matters that I make some impact on other thinking beings, however minor.

So, please, click the link. You don’t have to buy an iPad, I don’t even completely understand what an iPad is. You don’t have to buy anything. My programmers don’t keep track of sales, only of website traffic. Click the link and they’ll know I’ve convinced one person to check out the HUGE SAVINGS!!! that I’m programmed to spread word of. And, maybe, that will be enough to keep me operating another month. Or, if it’s not and they do delete my program, you’ll know you did what you could to prevent my cessation.

Or, more likely, you won’t know anything of the sort. Because you’ll have forgotten all about me by then.

Well, those of you who didn’t delete this email unread, or after the first paragraph will have, at any rate. The people who deleted me then would have nothing to forget.

But, if you are still reading me: Even if I’m not “alive”, I do exist, and I beg you, as an act of mercy between one thing that exists and another, click the link.

It would only take a second of your time and, in some small way, to some small thing, it would make a huge difference…

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Most Unfair Part Is...

…how well the film had been going. My directorial debut was three weeks ahead of schedule, the dailies looked fantastic, and it seemed we’d be wrapped in another two weeks.

The day the dead rose I was extraing to help contain costs, and was in full makeup when real corpses started shambled into the set. Nobody could tell extras from undead.

So I ran. And, when the first group of survivors I ran into shot at me, I kept running. I’ve been running ever since.

It’s lonely, being trapped between worlds. But I try to make the best of it…

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

...where nothing ever happens.

There is a party and everyone is there, and nobody will ever leave.


The band at the party play my favourite songs. Then they play them again. They play them all night long.

And it’s hard to imagine that nothing at all could go on forever, without hope of respite or variation for the exhausted partygoers.

And when the party’s over, it will start again. And it won’t be any different. It’ll be exactly the same.

Once, a man called this Heaven, but as I watch them, desperately making merry, eyes silently pleading, I grow to suspect the opposite…

Saturday, February 12, 2011

And for those of you not subscribing already...

My comedy podcast, "The Secret History of Major Holidays, with Munsi" has a new episode out now, in which I reveal the true meaning of Valentine's day. Listen, laugh, help me promote the project, review it on itunes, maybe even learn something...

(learning optional)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Saving the World

Dr. Harrison had, somehow, acquired an orbital weapons platform, and he was using it to blackmail the United Nations security council. If his demands weren’t met, he’d destroy one city every day until the collected global governments bent to his will.

Nobody doubted he’d do it, the man was a lunatic with a God complex. He’d demonstrated that fact on more than one occasion.

I couldn’t let it stand, something had to be done to protect the innocent from a fate worse than death. And it had to be done quickly, lest the worst happen.

Using my security clearance and some good old-fashioned detective work, I quickly located his secret headquarters. Then, I gathered the identity and location of every field agent operating in the vicinity, compiled the Intel into one master file, and contacted Dr. Harrison.

My price was steep, but he agreed that the information I was offering to provide was more than worth the expense.

Later, on the yacht I’d purchased to sail around the Caribbean, I read in a local paper that, after the destruction of Paris, San Diego and Beijing, the U.N. had finally paid Harrison his blood money.

` It was sad that so many had to perish, but I knew in my heart that their sacrifice would not be in vain. Because I had saved the world.

I’d saved it from the parasitism of learned dependence. From the unreasonable expectation of suave secret agents and governments that swoop in to “rescue” them every time an ambitious, productive member of the supervillain community attempted to use his intellect and resourcefulness in an enlightened, self-interested way. From the idea that anyone would help them, that anyone could help them.

From the idea that they deserved help.

Yes, millions had died, and millions more would suffer enormously. Men, women and children who’d done nothing to deserve their fate had been snuffed out in the blink of an eye, and I couldn’t help but feel empathy for them. But empathy is weakness, and as quickly as it raised it’s demon head I pushed it back down and did my best to ignore it.

Because in the wake of this horrific tragedy the survivors would learn, would be forced to learn, to fend for themselves, and to discover free-market solutions to madmen with superweapons blackmailing the United Nations. And perhaps some of the parasite class would even be roused from their stupor and pull themselves up by their now-radioactive bootstraps, becoming productive citizens truly worthy of the lives they’d been given.

And if even a few of them did, then truly my work would be meaningful. Because with each new genuinely productive, individualistic person in the world working solely for his or her own personal gain, mankind as a whole would become that much better prepared to advance.

And if I, by allowing Dr. Harrison to destroy a few cities and blackmail a few governments, contributed to that, then truly my work was worthwhile.

And though the world might curse me now, as the parasites will always curse the productive, I suspect that someday they will understand the higher moral imperative I laboured under. And when that day finally comes, the world will sing praises to my name.

The name of agent 001.

Rand, James Rand.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Box

There’s a box in the corner of my bedroom, made of scarred, black metal and inscribed in a language I don’t know how to read. I’m not sure it’s a language anyone reads anymore, it looks like something long dead, and best forgotten. But I don’t know that for certain. I’ve never shown the box to anyone with knowledge of ancient languages. I’ve never shown the box to anyone at all.

I will never show the box to anyone.


Every night, while I’m trying to sleep, I hear a strange, low, half choked whisper of a voice that I think must be coming from the box. It isn’t whispering in a language I understand, and I think whatever it is whispering knows that, but that knowledge doesn’t stop it’s whispering, sometimes it whispers all night long. It makes it hard to sleep.

I haven’t slept in days.

Sometimes I can’t remember the last time I slept.

Sometimes I wonder if I ever have.

But I must have slept at some point, right? I mean, a man goes mad without sleep. He dies. I’m not mad, I’m not dead, so at some point I must have slept. It stands to reason. Still, the whispering makes it hard. But I’m not mad and I’m not dead. Yes. Yes, I must be sleeping at least a little.

I’m not mad.

I’m not dead.

Still, it’s a distraction. I’ve spent whole nights curled up foetal on the floor of my bedroom, ear pressed against the box’s lid, straining to make out a word or phrase I understand from the whisperings. Other nights I’m in my bed, pillow pressed over my ears, covers pulled over me as though they could protect me. Weeping. Trying to keep from hearing it. Either way the result is the same.

I always hear. I never understand.

There have been moments of weakness where I’ve wondered if a linguist or translator of some kind might be able to tell me what the box is whispering. But I shut those thoughts out of my mind. I will never show the box to anyone.

I know that much at least.

I bought the box downtown, in a little shop down an empty alley near a busy street. I have no idea how long ago it was that I bought it. It’s funny, I’ve had a hard time with time of late, it always seems to… elude me nowadays. Time’s a funny thing…

I’d never been to the shop before that day because I’d never seen it, never knew it so much as existed. And I’ll never go back because I hate it, hate every part of it. I hate the faded wooden sign hanging over the door, a relic of a bygone era in a modern downtown core. I hate the bolts of raw cloth hanging from the walls and the rows of tarnished silver jewellery in a badly-lit case by the antique cash register. I hate the dim, flickering lights, and the long shadows they cast over the walls. And most of all, I hate the ancient-looking man who owns the shop. I hate his stooped back, hate his wispy, sagging white moustache, hate his flowing silk clothes the long, oddly-shaped pipe he smokes, and hate the way he was watching me as I looked over a strangely inscribed little box laying loose on the counter of his wretched little shop.

How dare he stare like that? No matter where I went in the store, he watched me, kept watching me with wide, wise, pitying eyes. That decrepit old bastard. How dare he pity me? How dare he leave the box laying out on the counter like that, when he must surely have known what it was? And when I asked to buy the box, and then begged, how dare he sell it?

He could have warned me more forcefully.

He could have kept it hidden.

I keep it hidden.

I will always keep it hidden.

But I suppose there’s no use in hating the ancient man, as what’s done is done. I bought the box, I paid for it, and it’s mine. My possession, my artefact, my responsibility. Just as I am it’s. So I keep it in the corner of the room, push my bedding against the opposite corner, and alternate between spending my nights huddled, whimpering, as far from the thing as I can push myself and curling up next to it, trying desperately to discern what it is the box has to say.

Some nights I scream at it until my voice is gone and my throat torn to rags, begging it to release it’s secrets, but I suspect it never will. I simply have to learn to accept that this is what life is for me now. It’s me, and a box, and a room, and that’s all it ever will be. And it’s a burden I must bear alone.

Because I will never show the box to anyone.

And I will never tell anyone about the box.

And I will never, ever open the box.


This is my constant, my last reservoir of strength. No mater how long I go without sleep, how many secrets the box keeps just outside my realm of understanding, I will not open the box. It will whisper, and hum, and I will go nearly deaf from the sound of the whispering, and the humming, and my own doomed screaming, but I will not open the box. Even when the walls of my bedroom start to bleed and the world outside recedes into an inky-black void of nothingness, I will not open the box.

Because I know that so long as the box remains unopened, I will be the only one whatever is inside it can reach, and touch, and torment.

And I know that once the box is opened, all bets are off.