The Killing Poke


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Keil has a killer idea for a horror movie. He also has a hilarious idea for a comedy. It’s called Trash Night. Keil has his finger on the pulse of environmental activism and Trash Night will help the lumpen wake the fuck up as we’re so inured to eating our Prole-e-O’s while our Prones vibrate and our LobotoVision Sets no longer ask us if we’re still watching things from decades ago, it’ll just play them because it knows how you, well, you. Our tightly woven world lets us forget that we aren’t making things better with our reusable bags, our “No Dumping” ocean drains, and whatever the hell else you think you’re doing to save the environment as you go on with your day because our normal day has always been structured around abnormal, abominable waste.

This is all covered by this idea Keil’s been carrying. For the sake of his sanity he needs to share this story because the message within is the essence of what H.P. Lovecraft called “Cosmic Horror.” Keil is the harbinger of our doom. He isn’t the first, but he’ll give it to you in a way you want to watch, and the effect will outlast other attempts of tree-hugging proselytizing because he connects the issue with all of us. His story isn’t his, it’s not ours, it just is. The story doesn’t care about us. Other attempts gloss it up, give it three acts and an after-school-special message, perpetuate the anthropic principle. But this story in and of itself has no self, its only message is obvious and dreadful. It’s the kind of story no one wants to bank on because it’ll make you pop opioids and antidepressants like the popcorn you spill during the latest Marvel flick (#hailThanos) and forget like the empty bucket you leave under the seat during the second act lull, which is all a second act is; the bathroom break (another term is “musical” #changemymind). Hollywood players don’t want their name attached to this movie because no audience will risk killing their #bestself or #blessedlife to witness something they already “know” but this time presented #IRL with #nofilter. Keil’s only savior is the horror fan. The horror fan will pay dearly to see this movie, to be entertained by doom and destruction, and thrill at being allowed to see exactly why this is their fate. I am also willing to bet the average American consumer will be curious enough to see this movie now. It’s time. We are all ready.

However, Keil’s story comes as a warning. He wants to ask us a question, he wants to know if we’re too late. It just might be because there is a system beyond the social structure monopolized by a few. It is not God, it is not conscious, it is merely something that does not need us exists outside our reality. It makes clear that what we consider reality is a contrived world that is always a work in progress. This isn’t a paper about living in a Matrix-type world or the universe as a computerized hologram or about us living in the last electrical impulses of brain death, or an attempt to scare you straight. This essay is a very unintelligent attempt at understanding what our world really is by utilizing Eugene Thacker’s three philosophical volumes: In the Dust of this Planet – Starry Speculative Corpse – Tentacles Longer than Night. Another reason I turn to Thacker’s work is because Keil’s story encompasses elements in Thacker’s work, and Thacker uses elements of the horror genre to state his thesis. Understanding Thacker’s thoughts means you will be scared for the rest of your life, but to understand his volumes you need to be well-versed in horror themes. This merging of thought and genre means you will be delighted by terror, which is the crux of all horror; value at the cost of comfort, joy at the cost of security. Horror gets you thinking more constructively than other story genre because it shows you a monster and gives you the tools to deal with it.

Pollution concept. Garbage pile in trash dump or landfill at sunset.

My monster at the moment is writing this paper for Keil. He thinks he’s getting a gloriously thought-out piece that’ll help get people interested in our movie. What he doesn’t know is that I have no outline, just Thacker’s volumes vandalized with my pencil highlights and sticky flags. Keil doesn’t know that I am in my underwear, typing away at a crude standing desk. I am flying blind like most protagonists in a horror film, learning as other characters die around them. Thacker would remind me that I can die at any time, I’m not in control, and that it’s possible I’ve already failed. Nietzsche and Schopenhauer were lighthearted compared to Thacker. So let’s dive into the pitch tides of Thacker’s mind. But first some ground rules:

1 – I make no promises of changing your ways. It isn’t that I’m not a decent salesman (I used to be a telemarketer – The horror! The horror!) it’s just that we may already be in the depths of failure regardless of what we understand and realize from here on out.

2 – Drink. Being sober while reading this will be a chore, I recommend a strong ale from Firestone Walker or Stone, or a Japanese whiskey such as Hibiki, or a fine rum such as Bumbu or Kirk and Sweeney’s 23. Please drink from the top shelf; paint thinners will just impede your happiness. Cocktails are fine, I just like to keep it simple with neat little fingers of the good stuff. If you don’t go for alcohol I applaud you. It’s important to stay hydrated, however, so please have water/juice/coffee handy. I originally pitched Keil my idea for this paper as a drinking game, but fuck that. Drink as you see fit. You’ll see it doesn’t matter how you play. It doesn’t even matter if you play at all. You don’t decide the rules or the game or your involvement. Just the act of drinking is a simple thing you can do to stay tethered to our world, much like some suicide survivors or former addicts pick up coffee and cigarettes to fill in the blanks left by departed fantasy, dysfunctional behavior, and delusion. Boy, won’t this be fun!

3 – I highly recommend Eugene Thacker’s three volumes on horror and philosophy. Deceptively skinny paperbacks, they are each packed with dense concepts that hit with the impact of an indifferent asteroid colliding with the indifferent earth, and you just happen to be standing their texting in the shadow of doom. If you really want to know what I’m talking about, then please, go to the source. This paper will certainly miss the mark if one is to be made at all.

The last thing I should do is tell you Keil’s pitch. It’s quick, clever, and if you blink you just might miss the point and end up reading this long treatise on something that’s too simple to need explanation.

“Your trash comes back to take you out.”

Awesome, right? I love it, too. But you still have questions. “I know this is important, I’ve heard the shriek of environmentalists before, but why can’t I just nod and agree that environmentalism is good and get on with my day?” Or,“I saw The Happeninga million years ago, it was meh.”For starters, fuck you, no we can’t let you get on with your day, that’s the reason we’re all in this mess together. For seconders, FUCK YOU, this is not nature taking its revenge, nor is it a lame experiment using weakly twisted endings, robotic movie stars, and insecure cities pleading for screen time. Garbage coming to life is strictly allegorical to help ease you into a very simple idea that is difficult to fathom because humans are not engineered to perceive the world in such a way. It’s also awesome to imagine garbage creatures shredding people, so there’s solid entertainment value in the premise if you’re not into the deeper pretentions.

As far as our “reality” is concerned, the Huns are already inside the Cathedral, so to speak. You know a healthy and stable environment is good, but you actually might not get the real why of it. Thacker is here to help. You’ve seen The Happening and you care not to see a rehash with a different monster. I sympathize, but GTFO. No, actually, please don’t go! I need the validation because I, too, am a sucker for “our world.” We will get to what I mean when I say “our world.” Thacker defined this in his three volumes, discussing the difference between “the world for us” and“the world in itself.” Thacker’s two sequels turn philosophy works into works of horror and then into gems of philosophy. I’m going to work backwards through these volumes and take his concepts as observations of actual reality. I think this chronology and context will be beneficial. First, using volume three, Tentacles Longer than Night, I will explore what we think about horror and fear, and how we deal with the unknown. Second, using Starry Speculative Corpse, we’re going to explore the physical body and how it fits into our perception of self and the world around us. Third, we’ll take a look at the world “for us”and “in itself” using In the Dust of This Planet. Through all three parts I will reflect on Trash Night and how each volume touches on the story that makes this horror film such a good idea, especially right now in our world. Don’t worry, I can’t spoil anything, I’m in charge of writing the damn thing and I haven’t even started!



Tentacles Longer Than Night is a fantastic title. All three volumes boast the best titles in all of literature. This third and final horror philosophy volume looks at classic works of horror as philosophical theses, as papers discussing the unknown. What this juxtaposition does is show us that there is more than fiction and fancy going on within these tales of terror. You’ve heard this before, true fear is when you encounter the unknown. That moment before you know, uncertainty and apprehension that will either end in your favor or not, and the scale seems to be tipping in an unexpected direction. That moment when“Either I do not know the world, or I do not know myself” (pg. 6). Thacker makes a clarifying point here, stating that “what is often at stake is the verification of something strange actually existing” (pg. 5). Like tentacles in black, watery depths, these thoughts have grasped us on multiple levels at some point in our lives, and hopefully only as we are consuming fiction. There are rules to the world as we sense it, scientific laws governing existence, and when something breaks these rules it resonates as horror until we understand it. But what if understanding does not come?

Trash Night fits into our real world—until the trash comes to get us. Suddenly all bets are off and the characters scramble to figure out the new rules to the world they thought they knew. “It’s all in your head. It really happened. These mutually exclusive statements mark out the terrain of the horror genre” (pg. 5). Even though Tentacles Longer Than Night is the last book in Thacker’s trilogy, thought is the first reaction of the characters in Trash Night. We see it in their eyes, an action paused, a piece of dialogue frozen as they witness the world behaving in an alien way. The mental gears turn and for a moment there’s nothing but fear. Panic spreads as new rules assert themselves via violent death borne from monstrous entities made from the waste of something as innocent as a discarded magazine or beer can. It’s silly, but also terrible because trash is everywhere and now it’s changing into cohesive beasts with one mind. This should be impossible, but your boo just got impaled and shredded by the innards of a waste bin, and you’re next as the rancid tendrils of whatever you threw out hours ago is now alive and thirsting for your blood. Trash Night finds its characters like others in the horror genre; frozen in thought, then debating the truth of a new reality. The phrase “think fast!” has never carried more weight than here. Imagine playing a game with one set of rules, then another set of rules is introduced when one of your teammates is murdered, and not just killed but pulverized by something that cannot be. At first you’re not sure if this is real or not, then you’re forced to figure out the new boundaries. “[…] Horror is not just the horror of fear or of a physical threat, but an indefinite horror. Language falters, as does thought.” (pg.? – my bad, I lost the location of this gem) An indefinite horror. The fear of a moment becomes your entire life. This alien moment expands, like tentacles in the dark, and while you’re caught up trying to puzzle out the reason for this wild trigger you don’t even realize your mind and body have failed. You don’t realize you cannot win against something you cannot fathom because it has never happened before and should be impossible. But… but… what if this fear is of the world you happen to live in? What if your brain, in the seconds before death, realizes that it was never your world? Trash Night isn’t just about humans fighting amorphous tentacular spider-squid-shadow trash beings, it’s also about the trash things attacking our human-centric world, which is how we think of all reality. Humans as groups think of our existence in various ways, and more so when considering individual thought. “But one commonality all these positions have is that they articulate a basic relationship between the human being and the limit of its capacity to adequately comprehend the world in which it finds itself.” (pg. 19) No matter what you believe, or what your core group believes, your thought cannot encompass everything this world holds. You realize what you hold is a mere sliver of what actually is.

The only reason any of us gets up in the morning is that we believe in a sequence of events for the day, in ritualized behavior to reinforce predictions, and specific patterns to guide us away from the unknown. For anyone who has had a mental breakdown you know how fragile these mechanisms are despite being so valuable to a comfortable existence. These elements are limited in their capacity to help us understand reality. We are unable to take in the big picture. We don’t have the software or the hardware.

We see this as the characters in Trash Night grapple with the impossible reality of murderous garbage. Our heroes cannot take it in and end up fighting as best they can using what they know of reality, which is no longer a crutch or even their reality, as this reality now allows trash to become sentient. We would not allow this, yet here it is, devouring our loved ones and forcing us to think of a way out of a real fantasy, forcing us to use what we know against what we cannot compute. The only way to win against trash monsters is a rapid and radical shift in perception, in prejudice and assumption. The worst fear is realizing your perception is all wrong, that your assumptions were not your reality taken for granted, but rather windows into the reality that has been in front of you your whole life. Once your mind goes, your body will follow.

artist: Jack Jerz @JackJerz


Instinct is your body reacting without the aid of complex thought. You act as seamlessly as breathing. This all depends on your brain perceiving a pattern or stimulus; but what if there’s a stimulus that has no mental registry? Thacker uses his second volume, Starry Speculative Corpse, to look at philosophy books as if they were works of horror. What I find interesting is the constant use of our presence in the world as examples to showcase these horrors. This second volume sees people acting on what they cannot fathom, how a body copes with the unattainable and inexplicable.

Misfortune is an event that threatens what you perceive as your life, its rules and boundaries. You take action to correct your trajectory, you deal with the problem. A solution is found when the problem is part of your world and you are able to rise above it using the tools you have, tools you were born with or ones you’ve honed over time. For instance, the problem of taking out the trash. You see the trash can is full, it’s an inconvenience but your mind sees this, knows a pattern to deal with it, and you take action. It’s simple, until the trash within the can moves, shoots out one or two exploratory antennae or fingers that stretch and seek your warmth. You knew how to deal with the trash before it came to life, and your plan was to tie up the bag and heft it out to the curb. Now, you’ve got nothing. Not only do you have the emergency of the thing that was not and cannot, but even after you slam the lid and run behind locked doors you still have to deal with this new entity and also figure out why the life you’ve enjoyed up to this point has allowed this to happen. “In Western tradition, nearly every philosophical position, every philosophical ‘decision,’ every assertion of being, identity, or oneness, relies on a minimal relation between thought and world, self and other, subject and object” (pg. 81). Everything we do every day is stake a claim on existence, our importance and physical presence feels necessary. Things that threaten our physicality are dealt with in two ways: one, the threat correlates with “our” reality and can be beaten through action, or two, the threat isn’t on our plane of understanding, so we run and hide or choose to ignore it if it’s not life-threatening (and sometimes even if it is). Some problems we perceive as annoying, like the buildup of dishes in the sink or the full trashcan you smell when you come home. Ignoring a problem is convenient when doing so reinforces your perception of reality. You don’t want to do the dishes or take out the trash because you have better things to do that are more important. You must be the center of your world if you are to be happy, and that is a severe flaw.

So, the trash is alive. What is alive can die, so maybe you can kill it, but you’re still frozen stiff in your hiding place. Your physical body suddenly has a reduced status in the world, if any place at all. Physics don’t change so radically, so you now get the uneasy feeling that this has always been the way of things. If this is real, then your importance, and resulting life expectancy, is meaningless. Everything you’ve done, everything you’ve been taught has been bolstered by only human perception of the world, by doing things with your body that build on human concepts, from playing sports to writing a paper about living trash, we can do anything as long as our actions reinforce our importance. Even negative actions, from murder to political corruption, make us believe we’re the only movers and shakers on Earth. “From a certain vantage point, the history of Western philosophy looks like a somewhat panicky, feverish attempt to cover up the suspicion that there may not be more.” (pg. 153) Trash Night isn’t about the meaninglessness of existence, it’s more urgent than that bullshit. It’s about how our lifestyles are based on fantasy, not reality. As we live we’re generating an equal and opposing reaction. There is more to our lives than we perceive, but it negates our lives. Starry Speculative Corpse lends the human psyche depression and pessimism as the body’s only source of solace in the face of such indifference. Life isn’t meaningless, it just isn’t about us. We make it about us as best we can, but it’s a lie. “[…] we forget that the world is not human.” (pg. 143)

By the way, the trash monster is still out there. If you’re in a room with trash, then that’s coming to life, too. You get the analogy, right? We make a lot of things, we do a lot of things, but the most we make and do is garbage. We do our best to avoid it for health reasons, but we also choose to forget about it. Our true legacy is trash. Pessimism, nihilism, these are perceptions of a human world, not the real world. “The tendency to take the worst view of things, or the tendency to always expect the worst, is about an interpretation of the world, not about the world itself.” (pg. 138) The world we live in doesn’t mind that we are suffocating in our wastes. It doesn’t need our life-support system to survive; we do.

Trash Night gets scary when you realize it’s not about vindictive monsters, it’s about our attempts to escape the consequence of life for the sake of lifestyle. The story revolves around monsters because that’s fun, but the monsters are actually here and they really don’t need to come to life to kill us. Just as the monsters are an allegory for real trash heaps, the characters are us. They take action by running away, by gathering weapons and more people to help, by attacking the monsters, and when all that fails the characters realize they must change their very foundations of thought and perception in order to combat what doesn’t care and yet will kill us if we continue being human. Will they survive? Sure, although why haven’t solutions for our global consumption problems worked yet? Is it because we are fixing human problems instead of the actual problems? We cart it off, send it away, flush it, bury it, recycle some, but none of that actually deals with it. It’s the equivalent of running away from the trash monster and trying to ignore it even as more spawn from other waste receptacles. You realize that biding your time in a world that isn’t yours doesn’t work. You’re surrounded by something that will kill you, but it’s not evil, it’s not like you are able to ignore the real world, it is of the world and you made it possible. It’s a weird paradox, but it’s true. As you back up into the corner of the room you thought was safe the trash monsters slither and squirm to get at you, breaking things in the way and making more trash to add to its shape-shifting body, you realize that this is your fault and that your place in the world is insignificant. The paradox is that this is a comfort, the only problem is that we waited too long to make simple changes in the way we live. We don’t need to save the planet; we only need to save ourselves from ourselves.

What the hell? What is he talking about? Growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s meant you saw ad campaigns designed to get kids active in saving the environment. Our hearts were in the right place, but the perception of reality is all wrong and no one talks about this because most people don’t think of reality being like what Thacker projects in his volumes, and even if you do then it’s just that much harder to take action until you change your mind to change how you move. If your mind can adjust, your body will follow and you can actually do something. This requires that you see the paradox that negates your own existence. Trash Night makes its point with unidentifiable monsters made from our refuse and reminds us through dark comedy and absurd death that “[…] we have never been one with the planet, nor does the planet require our cleverness and technical ingenuity to save it – from ourselves.” (pg. 9) So, the literal solution is to save ourselves by changing our lives to align with sustainable function rather than consumption. We don’t need to consider the planet; it doesn’t care one way or the other.

trash monster sighting


So, here we are. The last part of this journey. Part one explored frightening thoughts when alien stimuli make us witness the unknown, part two saw how our bodies, our muscles, and senses fail when faulty thoughts and selfish perception force us to deal with true horror using only human-world tools. It is clear we are inept when it comes to absorbing true reality, but my goodness, aren’t we good at absorbing high-grain alcohol? I’m not judging you here, this is a safe place. Whatever gets you through this paper, right? By the way, I joke about awful coping mechanisms, but I’m writing this thing on nothing more than coffee and snacks. If you are in a spiral of harmful coping, whether it’s addiction to substances or hapless behavior, there is help. Unfortunately, you will not find it here. Though, in a way I did help; you now know that your help isn’t here and you should go elsewhere. I’ve just narrowed your scope. It took several pages to get such solid advice. You’re welcome for that. This paper is feeling like a padded room, isn’t it? This is akin to my thesis, the world reveals itself in this inconvenient way, too, because we are too busy being human. “Tragically, we are most reminded of the world-in-itself when the world-in-itself is manifest in the form of natural disasters.” (pg.5) Inconvenient at best, deadly at worst, through natural disaster, climate change, and just plain physics the world reveals its true nature. It crushes, washes, shakes, burns, electrocutes, and blows away all of our glorified pretenses. Fasten your straightjackets, it’s going to be a batty ride!

Throughout all three volumes, Thacker pleads with his audience that in order to see things as they really are we need to forget that we are human. We need to drop all our beliefs, pretentions, attachments. He brings up nihilism and pessimism, the Western abrasive versions of these concepts and Eastern philosophies that embrace the void. All of which only reveal snippets of this “world in itself” as we live mostly in “a world for us.” Our perception of the world is limited, our ability to process the slick moments of truth are fleeting and fragile, and our ability to act according to the true physics of our world is pitiful. But why?

“[…] The problem is the very structure of belief, the very structure of meaning-making” (pg. 95, Speculative Corpse). Everything we do and think is human-centric. This is the best way for us to live and survive. We need to believe we are part of the world, we need to believe we control it and it shares in our successes and failures. That it supports our religions, governments, and societies. It’s hard to believe otherwise. It’s hard to believe that the pedestal we stand upon isn’t there for us to pontificate from, or that it’s not a pedestal at all. It’s also hard to believe that I’m discussing In the Dust of This Planet and I haven’t even used quotes from it yet. So, without further ado, allow me to draw your attention to The Kingdom of the Wicked by Anthony Burgess. This is the story about the clash between Roman Empire and Christianity. It’s a great novel, you’ve got the Apostles stirring up the people, Caligula in all his rancid glory, and a volcano that doesn’t take sides despite all the holy fervor of Paul et al. And the Roman Empire doesn’t hold a torch to Pompeii, either. The whole book has you witness atrocities committed both in the name of Emperor Little Boots (Caligula) and in the name of the new Christian god. Burgess builds so much meaning into the rise of Christianity you can’t help but root for those underdogs, such as the hilarious book-burning scene where “Silas and Luke, both bookish men, were uneasy about the incineration of some very fine volumes bound in leather with gold locks, but Paul said:

            ‘Look at that obscenity. And that. Dog predicating man. Man predicating dog.’

            ‘They could be sold.’

            ‘To other magical charlatans.’

            ‘But see the workmanship.’

            ‘On the fire with it, Luke.’ (Burgess, Wicked pg. 229)

Where some men see value others see the obscene. How can we see the true world when we can’t even agree on the value of things or ideas? It’s so ephemeral and shifting, yet from moment to moment it feels like that’s all there is, when really we only see an ozone of our creation that unintentionally hides the true nature of existence. This is the heart of everything Thacker exposes in his volumes, especially In the Dust of This Planet. At the end of The Kingdom of the Wicked, Pompeii erupts and casts molten lava and suffocating ash over an entire city and people who had spent their whole lives fighting for a just government and righteous beliefs. Both Christian and Roman loyalist meet the same fate. The world doesn’t care for us and is not against us. The world is indifferent to our wants and desires. The world does not recognize our pain. We exist here, but we are not part of the world.

And so can garbage. In multiple places in his volumes Thacker alludes to the dead as aligned with the real world, “the world in itself,” which we as living beings cannot see in total because of our sometimes overactive and sometimes underactive sensory perceptions and culturally/socially/religiously constructed biases. In a poem on page 150 of In the Dust of This Planet it states plainly, “A life form in dynamic, cosmic equilibrium/With its environment/Is dead.” Garbage is like a zombie, it once had “life” according to our perception of “things we use,” but at this point it is something cast aside and forgotten until it spills from its coffin of a waste bin, in which it inevitably is joined in force with other forgotten dregs of things deemed “useless,” spreading and making a mess in our lives as if it were sentient. Trash Night makes this apparent as it shrinks the time frame where garbage does its damage. Instead of taking geological time to see how garbage kills us, Keil’s story puts the damage on a human time scale, where the damage done is quick and violent. The garbage takes on life, and it literally would appear so if we were to see it from the real world’s perspective. In this way the garbage may appear evil as it rises from its grave in inhuman form and kills us, but it’s a simple statement of natural fact that we cannot live amongst garbage, so even in its indifferent dead form that is aligned with the real world it is perceived as evil because its indifference to our life is our death. The living cannot live in waste despite creating it on a regular basis. So, we throw it away hoping it never comes back, and if it does we call it some sort of “other” that gives it evil agency so we feel we need to fight it for our righteous existence instead of answering for our own mistakes.

We constantly see glimpses of this world-in-itself. It’s hard to define, but you get the concept, right? What Thacker dubs the world-in-itself is what he’s calling the actual world, the one we never see unless it’s killing us, the one that is the opposite of what he calls the “world for us.” It’s easier to explain the “world for us” and by contrast you’ll understand the difference and why Trash Night is profound. Thacker defines both concepts swiftly and with economy: “This is the world that we, as human beings, interpret and give meaning to, the world that we relate to or feel alienated from, the world that we are at once a part of and that is also separate from the human. But this world-for-us is not, of course, totally within the ambit of human wants and desires; the world often ‘bites back,’ resists, or ignores our attempts to mold it into the world-for-us. Let us call this the world-in-itself.” (pg.4-5)

Cute as a small-caliber bullet, Thacker’s words make a dainty hole in your forehead that appears to be a simple killshot but upon autopsy you see it’s done damage to your brain on a wholly supernatural level, ricocheting around inside your cranium, shredding and mutilating the gray matter within. The world we know and explore and study is merely the world-for-us. There’s another side to this planetary coin and its picture is bleak to us because it does not serve us. The sunrise you adore, the breeze that brings the smell of roses, the rain that tastes sweet, the cool surface of a water-washed stone. These are real sensations, but there is no meaning coming from the Earth with these sensations. The meaning comes from within ourselves, not Mother Nature. We feel happy with these sensations, terrified or disgusted by others. Some of these sensations are culturally modified and molded, others naturally dictate the essence of your survival and navigation of ourworld. The world-in-itself does not care one way or the other. It just is and will be so regardless of what you think of its physicality or how you interpret your sensory overload. Believing in its sanctity will not save you from a natural disaster or curry its favor. Remember Pompeii? Katrina? Going in the opposite direction, destroying the environment, will not incur the Earth’s wrath. Doing so will only make it harder for us to live because we need a healthy environment, the Earth doesn’t have will or agency of its own.

The Earth, by a series of cosmic events, somehow changed into an orb of life. It didn’t allow this to happen, it didn’t want this and (at the risk of the dreaded double negative), the Earth did not not want life to inhabit its surfaces. It seems we are trapped and terrorized by our own senses and our own perception of agency. We define the world in our terms and believe this is real. “The human is always relating either to itself or to the world. And these two types of relations overlap with each other: the human can only understand the human by transforming it into an object to relate to (psychology, sociology), while the human can only relate to the objective world itself by transforming the world into something familiar, accessible, or intuited in human terms (biology, geology, cosmology).” (pg.30)

This is why the world can get scary, and why we gravitate to horror even when we see the humor of affairs. Even when we define the world, and even while defining ourselves in the process, sometimes events or things around us do not play by the rules. We forget that “the rules” are not actually true, they are merely our rules for a game we play on a board we cannot sense entirely. Trash Night embraces the horror and humor of playing this “game.” The characters struggle to define and understand the rules the trash entities are killing by, hoping to find the loophole that will save them. The characters haven’t read Thacker. If they had, they would have embraced the void knowing their attempts were futile. The entities are monsters to us, their actions horrible to us, but to the “world-in-itself” these monsters are as much a nothing as we are. And even more difficult to grasp is both monster and human alike don’t even register to this world-in-itself, the truth of the matter is there is no registry, no scale. The world will not save us from our trash. Keil’s story is profound because while it is a scary and funny tale about teens battling creepy trash monsters (and boy they are gonna look cool, like H.P. Lovecraft slippery, slithery, spiky!) the story takes into account this “world-in-itself”and ends up being unlike any monster or disaster flick you’ve ever seen. Unlike those Hollywood blockbusters and even awesome B-movies, Trash Night takes into account the cold, hard fact that the world doesn’t care if Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is leading the way, or if Ed Wood is behind the camera. The world doesn’t care if Greenpeace endorses the film or if a vile corporation funds it for product placement that ends up subverting its hearty and terrible message.

artist: Jack Jerz @JackJerz

It’s scary to think about monsters that kill because it’s their behavior simply by being, rather than a will that can be changed with force or diplomacy. It’s also scary to get suckered into a horror-comedy film that confronts futility. However, this isn’t the case if you obey your beautiful, inevitable human biases and give the void meaning. This is how the characters in Trash Night piece together a solution to their battle. But is it too late? Guess we’ll find out once I stop writing this damn essay and get on with the first-draft rewrite. And don’t be fooled, even if showing the “world-in-itself” as trash monsters is a clever way to glimpse what our trash is doing to us, it’s still not a reveal of the secret world in which we dwell. But that’s ok, we don’t need that world, we have ours. Allow me a few more moments to draw this weird concept out.

“[…] the world is indifferent to us as human beings. Indeed, the core problematic in the climate change discourse is the extent to which human beings are at issue at all. On the one hand we as human beings are the problem; on the other hand at the planetary level of the Earth’s deep time, nothing could be more insignificant than the human.” (pg.158) I will argue that it does matter what we do with our world, the “world for us” because it’s the vessel that allows us and other species to live—including some who, given time, might become what we call sapient and write more philosophy-horror tomes). The more we damage it, the less likely it will sustain our lives. Duh! But what I am getting at is that we don’t need to worry about the world as the world, we need a radical change in our perception of it. We need to stop thinking of the Earth as something that needs saving; at worst it doesn’t care and at best it’s still too big an operation for us to take on. What needs to happen is that we need to include waste in the conversation. It can no longer be an unmentionable or an alien concept we hide from because our garbage isn’t alien, and it can’t be unmentionable when it’s just hidden inside something in your own clean home. Garbage needs to be addressed with humor and simplicity and efficiency because doing otherwise is scary and will continue to be just that if we don’t see that our waste is a part of our lives and doesn’t go away like past gods or outdated science. Garbage is the most solid example of the “world-in-itself” in our “world for us”—it is dead, no longer an extension of our will or agency, and it has no desire to continue your life or end it—but the accumulation of garbage inside our zone of “pretending it goes away” tips the balance in favor of extinction.

So, we need to end our ignorance and deal with our trash if we want to escape the equivalent of Trash Night’s monsters coming back for us as we go about our fractured lives of fantasy, living as if the world was truly made for us.

Our garbage is already destroying people in many parts of the world. They are feeling the killing strokes of waste. We are merely feeling the annoying pokes, an unsavory smell or unsightly litter, the loud crash of a dumpster being emptied in the morning—but this is only a preview of the coming world. It will feel like revenge, but this is just the weight of existence.

This is the new world ordure.


By the way, until Friday night (6/15/18), you can help bring about the Trashpocalypse by donating to Trash Night’s campaign:

Again, donating or not, making the film or not – the trash is still coming for you.



Burgess, A. (1985). The Kingdom of the Wicked.Franklin Center, Pennsylvania, USA: Arbor House Publishing Co.

Thacker, E. (2011). In the Dust of This Planet(Vol. 1). Alresford, United Kingdom: Zer0 Books.

Thacker, E. (2015). Starry Speculative Corpse(Vol. 2). Alresford, United Kingdom: Zer0 Books.

Thacker, E. (2015). Tentacles Longer Than Night(Vol. 3). Alresford, United Kingdom: Zer0 Books.

More writing!

If you enjoyed this piece and you've had your fill of the previous posts, then you can give me some motivation to sate your need for my particular brand of authorship.


A Window

Yesterday I noticed someone had tried to draw a window on the floor of the subway station.  Either this mysterious artist had to catch a train or run from the police for the vandal act, so it was left unfinished in what could only be misinterpreted as a swastika.  Unfortunately, I had to catch a train, too.  After work I saw that it was still there.  Here it is:img_2753

I thought maybe by tomorrow it would be gone, but I was wrong.  I did not bring a marker to help finish his/her work, so I couldn’t help the artist in what was clearly a secret collaborative performance art piece.  After another day of work I forgot to bring a marker back home and I saw that the window was still there and still could be mistaken for a symbol of hate.  I thought maybe I should hit the red emergency button and notify a subway employee, but I felt that this would rob myself and the unknown artist of the conclusion to the performance.  I got a marker and went back to the scene of the crime.  I finished the window:


But I’m not a very good artist, and I have been inundated by corporate logos all my life so the window looked more like Windows.  I didn’t want to make an illegible ironic comment on our times from what was clearly a piece not meant to be politicized, so I took a breath and resolved to be arrested.  After taking another few seconds to improve the work here is the final image:


I decided on a landscape image to contrast with the subway interior.  The surrealism of looking out a window (through the floor!) on a yard under sunshine, a horizon, a seemingly cliche nuclear family-styled house, and a cat/dog/bug thing frolicking in said sunshine I hoped would pull people out of their dreary subway ride.  I decided to go against my own wishes for a night scene in a graveyard because that’s what would make me smile and I understand that horror isn’t everyone’s “happy place.”  I chose to draw an ambiguous animal for similar reasons.  Some people prefer cats, others dogs, and a very few prefer bugs (sorry reptile lovers!  I did not forget you, the medium just did not translate!).  I chose to do broad strokes in black marker to match the original artist’s medium and style so there is consistency and the illusion of one idea instead of two opposing values.  I also chose simple detail and line structure because I was on borrowed time before the police arrived and because the simplicity allows for the viewer to immediately capture the emotion of the image without being burdened by realism.

My only hope is that no one sees the hate anymore, or at least they see how easy it can be changed.

Cats in the Belfry

I was offered $250 bucks to watch two cats.  At least, at the time I thought the guy had two cats.  The last time I had been to his place there were only two cats, a young string bean gray tabby and an older white fluff ball.  The owner’s an aging Latino soap opera hunk and he’s still cut from a slab of South American tan marble.  Let’s get rid of those budding questions, dear reader, nothing sexually weird happened, but then again… how do I know he’s still ripped?  Because he lived next door to my ex and since this is SoCal and he’s an actor he’s shirtless most of the time, outside whispering sides to himself for his next audition.  The cat owner is a nice guy, but you’ll learn that the crazy starts where the eccentricity ends.

For instance, who needs a cat sitter for two nights and a day?   No one, that’s who.  Unless your cat is on disability and if that’s the case why are you going out?  You should be with your cat!  I didn’t point out this glaring plot hole because I knew he was a little off and the money was easy.

One more thing to clear up before we jump into the madness; she wasn’t my ex the first time I saw his place and those two cats.  She was when I took the cat-sitting job.  I couldn’t say no.  I love cats, cats and I are instant buddies, cats break up my cold poker game exterior.  Meow.  $250 bucks to watch two cats for two nights while Soap was out on a shoot was a great deal for a guy like me.  And I needed the money.  Yeah, we’ll call him Soap.  He still gets industry work and he makes one-of-a-kind leather jackets that sell for thousands.

He also lives in a studio apartment with seven cats.  Is that a fucking typo?   It’s not.  Soap got five more cats between the time I first saw his place to the last time when I took the job.  My ex told me about the five extra fur balls the day of the job when I arrived to get Soap’s keys.  She lived next to him.  Awkward?  In retrospect not at all compared to the cat sitting.

Don’t worry, we’ll get there soon.  I gotta say I’m about three beers into this anecdote and I’m writing off the cuff.  I have no idea how to end this, anticlimactic and bitter is what I’m thinking, but that could just be the beer talking.  I also don’t own a cat myself.  Shocking, right?


I get the keys, she goes to work, and I get inside as quickly as I can without opening the door too wide because the string bean gray tabby and two black kittens bum rush me.  I don’t remember any of their names.  My relationship with animals, cats in particular, is very informal and crass.  Cats seem to respond better to “hey, fatso” or “dickhead” rather than their owner-given names.  It must be how I call them not what I call them.  Dumb dicks.

The studio apartment is nice, open, with plenty of light from large windows facing east and west.  Hardwood floors, a large queen sized bed next to the door with an enormous mirror on the wall over it.  In the mirror I see two more cats, but when I look they’re gone.  Instead of a headboard there’s a poster of Soap on the wall, a movie one-sheet starring him as a boxer.  Shirt off, gloves on, heroic expression, greased Latino lightning.  Soap doesn’t look like a cat guy.  He looks like the kind of guy who’d eat cats alive and say “this is one way to skin a cat, bitch!”  Very intense gaze that makes you wonder who’s going to die and you look around hoping you’re not the only person in the room.  Ok, I can deal with this, I think, knowing I’ll be sleeping in that bed with the poster of Soap hanging above me.  I just feel like I’m being watched, and of course I am.  Seven pairs of eyes are studying me from close up and afar.  I look at the skinny gray tabby, “you’re the troublemaker, aren’t you?”  I ask it and it responds with a whine and a head bump.

Cats are easy.  They are loners like myself, so I settle down to read a graphic novel adaptation of James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia.  It’s an incredible book and I’ve been excited to read this graphic novel adaptation for months.  I get a few pages in and the cats get used to my presence, soon they’re back to pestering one another and loafing as if I wasn’t there.  The two black kittens cuddle on my shins and lap.  That’s when I get an email from my ex.  She forwarded this email from Soap detailing my duties for today, tonight, tomorrow and the next night before he returns the following morning.   He’s using her as a buffer because he knows he’s being difficult.  Using her as a buffer as if to say it’s her fault he’s being particular in the care of these cats.  He wants me to shoot the messenger.  He thinks I will because she and I are no longer together, as if that implies hatred.  I’m too nice, he should know that because I’m taking care of his seven cats when they don’t need anyone.

His neediness is advertised through his cats and the apartment.  I pity him.  Also, $250 bucks.

I said before cats are easy.  If you set out food they’ll only eat when hungry if you’re not around.  They sleep most of the time, too.  They use a litter box sparingly when there isn’t a human to annoy with poop smells.  Soap believes his cats are different, he thinks they’re some sort of clockwork felines.  He believes they must be fed on a tight schedule using four bowls, two cats per bowl and one bowl for the big white fluff.  The food is a mix of dry and wet food and should only fill a quarter of the bowl.  He details how I should go about this because the cats will “go crazy” once they hear the wet food cans and the dry food bag.  He makes it sound like I’ll have to throw them off me as I dish out quarter bowl servings.  This isn’t the case.  There’s a calico who gets curious and sneaks onto the counter, I toss it off.  The gray tabby gets in my face, curious and sweet, what’s the rumpus, bro?  I pick Gray Tabs up and plop it on the floor.  I’m not sure about any of their genders.  The two black kittens mew from the floor, the counter is too high for them.  Soap wants me to serve them at the same time, yet their bowls go in specific locations and in the email he says the cats know which bowls are theirs.  3×5 index cards with two names on each mark the bowl locations, except for the one reserved for big white fluff.  The cards are placed in four areas of the studio apartment.  One on the kitchen floor, two on a dividing wall nook type thing above the stove that looks into the living area, one on top of the fridge because Calico gets a solitary order, too.  So, there are actually five bowls.  I was just as mixed up then as I am now.  The lapse in memory has nothing to do with the beer.

*hic* *glug glug glug*

The cats move with me, feasting from the moment the first bowl is set down.  They move around, feasting at one and then another.  Their eating patterns are dictated by which bowls have more wet food and which bowls are unoccupied.  The name tags and locations mean nothing.  A fight breaks out between Gray Tabs and Calico, “knock it off, fuckers!”  I say in a bro voice as if we’re best buds in an after hours club.  They look at me as if they’ve never been yelled at and I think that’s true.  I go back to reading, the two black kittens snuggle with me.  Gray Tabs and Calico take a break on different levels of a cat tree that reaches the ceiling.

The white fluff doesn’t eat.  White Fluff eyes me with suspicion, so I say hello and carry on a one-sided conversation until it hisses at me.  Very well, Whitey, just please don’t pull a hunger strike.

I pause to read what Soap has written on his walls.  Ex calls them affirmations.  They’re more akin to a serial killer’s scrawl in heavy handed black paint.  The phrases revolve around the entire apartment in a two-foot width from the ceiling.  Things like  I am the alpha and the omega and I am God, which is redundant to me.  More positive quips like I am energy and more convoluted things he tells himself like  I am the never ending [blah blah blah].  You get the idea.  Soap has graduated from eccentric to creepy.  I imagine he unwinds every night reading these words and phrases and thinking of adding more.  He’s affirming his worth and importance in the world.  It’s not a bad thing to do.  I constantly measure my unworthiness.  I thank Soap for the life lesson, but this extreme raises my hackles.  What he’s doing is creating a world where he is still king.  Like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, or mother fucking Angelyne and her pink sarcophagus (it looks like a Corvette, but if you open up the trunk you’ll find canopic jars).  What Soap’s affirmations help him ignore is that relevance is a fickle pop-culture phenomenon and trying to keep up with it is like herding cats.

I want to take a shower, but the bathroom is sparse and uninviting.  The toilet paper sits on top of the mirror over the sink so the cats can’t get it.  No matter how I sweep with the dust pan there are always invisible bits of litter on the floor.  The litter box is inside the bathtub.  There’s only one litter box for the seven cats.  Soap says in his email via Ex that when the cats are done eating they one by one use the litter box in a nice orderly fashion.  Like how he believes they eat like clockwork, this detail is utter bullshit.  He says I need to clean the litter box between each use.  I don’t do that because only two cats use the box half an hour apart.  I read.  I text Ex and wonder if I’ll ever find love again while understanding that I never will if I keep talking to Ex exclusively and continue to be this nice.  I look around the room.  I get why Soap is the way he is – this place is safe.  It’s a refuge from the chaos out there.  It is the fantasy of control and it feels good.  I sympathize and worry that sympathy can lead to assimilation.  This safety is not sustainable.

My skin crawls.  I decide not to shower.  I shut the windows and turn on the A/C.  It’s dark out, the cats are settling down.  Except for Gray Tabs who bullies the other cats.  “Hey, string bean piece of shit, you wanna fight?”  I say laughing and we chase each other around for a bit.  I roll a paper ball and flick it around, watching Gray Tabs get mauled by the kittens as they all go for it.  They get tired and I go to the fridge to see if there’s anything to eat.  The fridge is empty except for a filtered water pitcher and a large jar of raw bee pollen, as in pollen collected by bees.  Little yellow pellets the size of large ants.  I stare at it, wondering what the hell this stuff can do, and then I spy the medical vials and a syringe laid out all the way in the back corner.  I shut the fridge, blushing.  I feel like I’ve invaded his privacy.  I think steroids.  I look in the cabinets.  No food.  I need to see what the vials are, so I duck back into the fridge.  No, not steroids, antibiotics for cats.  Soap plays doctor with his cats.  Soap has no affirmation in black paint referring to a medical degree.

I prowl the apartment, trying to piece together Soap’s psyche.

There’re news clippings of his acting career legacy from Variety and other Los Angeles sources.  The dates are conveniently cut out of the clippings, but Soap looks the same and the only tell is that the articles have yellowed with age.

I won’t allude to the obvious Dorian Gray reference, but I just did *hic*

I grab Soap’s keys and head out for some food from the nearby grocery store.  I return, careful not to let any of the beasts slip out as I enter.  I eat, talking to myself and the cats.  I’m taking in more protein and carbs, more of everything really.  My metabolism is so high that I burn through everything.  I’m trying to build muscle on my tiny, skinny 5’5″ frame.  I strip down to my underwear and stretch my body out, a before bed ritual I have to help me unwind.  I admire my physique in the mirror, my diet and weight lifting is working, but a wave of depression hits me and leaves my lungs feeling like dried husks.  What’s the point, buddy?  Ex should’ve been home by now.  She must be on a date.  I’m hurt that she isn’t hurt, that she got back in the game so fast (later I’d find out her dating life was misery just as solitude was mine).  Our relationship was hot, affectionate, and fun, long conversations and searing romance, but our futures have diverged.  It was a mutual break-up and I made the mistake of placing my self worth on our future together.  Without her there is nothing and I am stricken with dread of freedom.  I used to think my social anxiety was pretentious, a symptom of being a writer, but it has gotten worse.  It’s full blown damaged nerves and depression and the break-up did not help.  Like being unpublished, these are symptoms of being a writer.  These are also symptoms of a mental condition that deserves respect and socializing with strong friends.

And I chose to be alone in a crazy man’s apartment taking care of his cats.

But at this point I don’t think he’s crazy, yet.  It’s a close call.  No food, the affirmations, the way he believes his cats are almost mechanical all points to a guy who lacks control out there in the real world, he lost something or someone and he’s just picking up the pieces.  His news clippings show a respect and pride for his acting career and the need to believe it hasn’t changed.

As I eat and think too much the black kittens join me on the couch.  One sprawls on my book.  The other one talks to me in loud mews that stutter.  “Hey, what’s up, little man?”  I pet it and it curls up at my side.  The one on my book is asleep.  I choose this moment to try out his weight and exercise equipment.  I bench press the barbell without weights, it’s heavy enough as is and I stop to see if the cats are judging me.  Calico and Gray Tabs cast heavy shade, who’s the string bean piece of shit, now?  There are a set of adjustable dumbells on either side of the bench and I can’t even lift them as they are set to the heaviest weight.  I won’t tell you just how heavy.  I know, I know, the man card was revoked a long time ago.  I laugh at myself and I hear my phone vibrate from the couch.  I lunge for it.

It’s her, I think.  My neediness is disgusting and it takes me a moment to realize it’s not her.  It’s him.  Soap is on the other end of the phone call.

“Hey, can you open the window?”  He says and my body reacts before my mind does, my stomach lurches, my muscles go numb.  I look out the window as if he’s there and he’s not.

“The window?”  I say.

“Yeah.  I just noticed it was closed when I checked my phone.  They like the fresh air.”

Yeah.  Plot twist.  You called it way back, didn’t you?  I look at myself in the mirror, the big floor to ceiling mirror half hidden behind the bed.  I look at myself and I see it in the reflection over my shoulder.  Not a nanny cam, a true security camera.  It’s got infrared bulbs ringing the lens for night vision.  It’s serious and aimed at the mirror so it can see every corner of the apartment except the bathroom.

“I can only view two minutes of pre-recorded video, it’s not live or anything.”  He says, sensing my hesitation and anger.  Mother fucking baloney.  I know how movie sets run and how cheap bandwidth is these days.  Actors sit around all day while the lighting department gets their shit together, and I can play a game on my phone with someone across the globe without a stutter in the action.  Soap has had nothing better to do than watch me watch his cats in real time.

This goes beyond caring and loving these animals.  He’s using the situation to control me in his controlled utopia.  He says the camera is there to stop people from breaking in, but if that were the case why isn’t the goddamn thing outside the apartment?

Soap then has the gall to ask if Ex will be spending the night here with me.

I don’t bother to dignify his perverse paranoia with an answer.  I open the window and leave the A/C running.  I pretend to believe him, smiling with casual dismissal, no harm done, buddy-o! but in the back of my head I wonder if he enjoys watching me in my underwear.  I could leave, I should leave.  The cats will be fine, but the money is still in limbo.  Also, Ex lives next door.  If I leave she’ll never hear the end of this betrayal, let alone never be safe from his next turn down his hairball spiral.

“Also, buddy, if you could not leave so much?  I get a text every time the door opens, makes me think my place is getting robbed, ya know?”  I wonder if he can see the murder in my eyes from the mirror’s reflection.  All my depression evaporates in a blaze of rage.  In this moment I’d kill him and it feels good to feel something so pure even when it’s so negative.

“And how are they?  Did you see how they know where to go when it’s time to eat?”

“Oh, yeah, it’s crazy!”  I say with every ounce of acting I’ve got.  He knows they did no such thing, watching me the whole time.  He’s fishing for validation and I don’t want to burst his fragile bubble.

“And the litter box?  Isn’t it something that they do that?”

“Yup.”  I take comfort in the fact that cats will eat their master without hesitation.  I look at Gray Tabs and nod, you got this, tough guy, man does not survive on bee pollen.

“You haven’t had any problems?”

“Well… the white one…”

He says White Fluff’s name here to correct me.

“Yeah, [name redacted to protect the innocent] doesn’t really like me.”

“Oh?  That’s odd… [redacted] loves everyone.  Although, my girlfriend of ten years never got along with [ok ok, I just don’t remember the cat’s name because it’s weird.  REDACTED.]

Ten years?  You don’t say.  I think to myself and add it to the evidence against Soap’s sanity.  I don’t dare mention that White Fluff didn’t eat.  Anything to not have to do something extreme, like pay a vet bill.   Or give it a shot of antibiotics myself.  Do not fuck this up for me, White Fluff!

“Well, I gotta get back to set.  Have a good night!  Glad everything’s ok…”  He says and I never noticed before, but now that I’m on DEFCON Five alert I can hear the ellipsis in his voice, like he wants to be nasty but can’t because doing so will snip the thin line that separates his lies from reality.  If he calls me out on my bullshit then it instantly spotlights his own.  I do my best not to laugh as I hang up.  Still, now I’m on guard and try not to look at the camera.  I try to pretend nothing’s changed.

I put on my pants.

I text her about the camera and the climbing creep-o-meter.  Holy shit, I didn’t think it was for real!  She texts back, relaying a time months ago when Soap had taped a passive aggressive note to the outside of his apartment saying CAUTION: Camera on premises, I will be notified of any intrusion.  The sign was taken down a few days later.  She didn’t see a camera so she thought he was bluffing to salve his paranoia.

The camera is on the inside!  I explain via text.  If your security is on the inside then there’s no deterrent to stop them from coming in, which is how he explained it all; burglar prevention.  Actually, this is how you design a trap.

The story teller in me extrapolates the next twist.  Soap isn’t on a shoot far away in the middle of nowhere, he’s close by, studying his prey before he closes in.   I take stock of any weapons on hand, there’re steak knives, the weights, and there are these cats.  I can throw them at him or at least they will get in the way, giving me a chance to pounce.  The problem is I’m exhausted.  The problem is I must maintain a civil manner in order to secure the money owed me and to prevent Ex from taking any collateral damage.  This part of L.A. contains a certain craziness I have never experienced anywhere else, that includes Philadelphia and East L.A., where both urban landscapes have their own brand of crazy, but it’s borne from the struggle to survive a flood of inequality and maintain a decent quality of life.  The West half of L.A. is crazy because entitlement reigns supreme here, and it is the patron saint of those terrified of obscurity.

I go to bed in my clothes.  The comforter is scratchy and stiff.  The pillows are too soft.  There is no scent of Soap and I think of Suskind’s Perfume where the main character has no scent of his own and goes on a killing spree as he tries to find acceptance in an indifferent world.  I’m falling asleep.  I feel the gentle weight of the black kittens sneaking on me, finding spots to sleep.  Gray Tabs leaps on my back and sits between my shoulders.  I calm down.

And I wake up to dishes falling on the floor.  I scramble from the bed, “you mother fuckers!”  I shout, because even with all the creepiness I know it’s the cats just being cats.  Sure enough, two food dishes on the floor, kibbles still rolling everywhere, and White Fluff is sitting on the stove with a look of shock and awe that’s either “Holy shit, I don’t know what happened!” or “Goodness, I didn’t think it’d be that loud!”

White Fluff licks his chops.  “You sneaky bastard.”  I mutter.

I pick up the unbroken dishes and look for something to sweep up the kibbles.  I don’t want to use the dust pan that seems reserved for the bathroom and kitty litter, but I do find a Swiffer-type broom.  It’s the only thing in a skinny closet in the kitchen.  It doesn’t even look like a closet.  But I pull at this panel in the wall during my search, and there’s the broom… AND a duplicate poster of Soap in his boxing outfit, but it’s not the full-sized poster, he cut this poster to fit inside the closet.  Cut it so it’s just the center strip of the poster, Soap looking muscular and regal.  It’s just his image and the broom in this closet.

And if he’s watching me in this moment then he’s seeing me staring into his kitchen closet at this minimalist shrine to himself.  I know it’s not just the door that triggers his phone notification, it can only be sound and/or light.  The door has no wired connection to the camera, I checked, so between the crashing dishes and me yelling and now playing with the cats, there’s a lot of volume and changes in the lighting as I turn on the lights and then turn them off.  I go back to bed and this time sleep peacefully surrounded by purring. I’m so blissed out that when I hear Ex get into her apartment next door I couldn’t care less.  My only hope is that this bullshit doesn’t enter her life.  No one deserves this level of entitled crazy control.  I pity the cats.

The next day I spend as motionless as I possibly can.  It’s easy for me to do.  I read.  I do play with the cats, I can’t help it, but they get bored with me.  Even  gray Tabs yawns after fetching paper balls and batting a feather toy around with me.  The kittens pass out in the middle of the floor.  I leave the apartment for lunch and dinner.  He texts me within seconds, everything ok?  I respond, yup.  Knowing that he knows that everything’s ok.  He’s only texting to make sure I know he’s watching and trying to guilt me into staying inside all day.  Fuck you, Soap, I won’t eat bee pollen and cat food.   Did he assume I’d be just like him?  That I would know to bring my meals packed, or order expensive delivery?

I get a text from Ex, he says I shouldn’t worry about the camera, he won’t watch us if I come over.  This guy… this fucking guy.  I tell her to stay away even though I want more than anything to talk to her face to face, to pretend things are the way they were.  She tells me not to give up on the $250, which at this point I’m thinking is a small price to pay to flip off the camera and waltz on outta here.  She reminds me I’m halfway through today and I can leave as planned in the morning tomorrow.  I do need the money.  I need to keep this powder keg contained.  I need to not indulge in fantasy the way Soap has been consumed by his own.

I read and get absorbed in Ellroy’s L.A., where men torture themselves over women and become haunted by their unattainable salvation thanks to bad decisions made for the right reasons.  The cliche is there’s always a woman.  Cherche la femme, it’s the driving force in The Black Dahlia.  Find love, find peace.  The woman is power, the woman will save you, your flaws or chivalry ruin everything.  Ten years.  I find myself thinking about Soap.  I’m staring at the graphic novel, the point where [redacted] shoots [redacted]  in the heart.  The frame that would be lovers looking into each other’s eyes if not for the gun smoke between them.

You should read The Black Dahlia.  Anyway, back to Soap right meow.

Ten years.  That’s a long time to only be boyfriend and girlfriend.  I wonder who she was, the woman who broke Soap.  I may be projecting my own affairs onto him, but it seems to me when you’re in a long term relationship you risk becoming the relationship, your self changes into the bond between you.  There is no more you.  There is only us.  And that’s bad news.  Judging by how he’s gotten worse he never saw the break-up coming.  The break-up broke him.  She got out because she was aware of her own needs, of herself, and saw that the us wasn’t cutting it anymore.  Or maybe it was the hoarding of seven cats in a studio apartment?  Occam’s Razor.  She noticed his eccentricities were no longer endearing and got out.

Out the window where the cats get their fresh air I can see the steps that lead down to [redacted] ave.  There’s a tree and the branches hush in a gentle breeze.  I hear footsteps and watch a gorgeous raven-haired model dressed in all black take the steps to the front door, which was propped open by a tenant on his way out.  In the one to two seconds I watch her rise up the steps I have her body, her clean face etched in my brain.  She’s looking down, her jaw is set.  She does not want to be here.  The cats watch her in sync.    Before I can even fantasize about her the cats tense up, and all seven of them appear and skid to a halt in front of the door.  White Fluff’s tail blows up.  Her boots stop walking just outside Soap’s door.  I see and hear the doorknob turn.

The door is locked.  It’s a habit of living in a city and of being anti-social.  I always lock up. I consider opening the door, but it strikes me that this is the woman who used to be with Soap for ten years.  I think this because who else would try to enter his apartment without knocking?  Soap would have told me she was coming over and for what reason if he knew.  There’s one photo of her tucked into the frame of a smaller mirror by the kitchen.  It’s an old 3×5 film print, but it’s her.  It’s the only pic that isn’t Soap in the whole apartment.  I saw her for mere seconds, I can’t imagine the pain of losing her after ten years.  Still, it doesn’t excuse Soap’s current behavior, merely helps explain it.  My own break-up hurt like hell, what’s my worth without her?  How do I start over?  My worth is my business and how I pick up the pieces won’t be like this.  Everything he’s done since that break-up has been a cry for help; his Cadillac with the Hemi under the hood, his custom Harley, his now shrunken but steady acting career, the leather jackets he designs all help veil a man scrambling and scrabbling for an anchor to reality when actually everything is fine.  The only thing wrong is that he can’t accept it.  Peace is worthless to those who wish to be great.  Peace is the horror of life because it seems banal.  We’re told stories in order to learn how to overcome problems, but what we’ve learned on accident is that there must be conflict in order to feel alive.  Anything less than chaos is a life not worth living is what we absorb and when there’s not enough drama we create it.  He’s found an unending source of conflict and validation in his cat collection.

I am in the eye of a mental hurricane.

I think he’s learned to play nice and Zen in order to magnify his problems and make the drama of his life seductive.  I stop playing my role in his story.  I don’t text or call him about the mysterious woman.  With any luck he wasn’t watching the camera feed.  With any luck she can live without whatever it was that brought her to his door.

I finish the graphic novel that night.  I feed the cats and clean the dishes.  I clean the litter box.  I shut the stupid window.  I hear Ex come home after work and it doesn’t hurt to know she’s living her life without me.  The problem was never her, or the break up, the problem has been my understanding that nothing is wrong, only that changes are taking place.  Stasis is the elephant in this apartment.  I need to move, be dynamic, adapt.  Soap has declared war on change and seeing how he lives was like being visited by my ghost of Christmas Future.

The next morning I say goodbye to the cats.  Gray Tabs bumps my fist with a soft forehead, the black kittens ring around my ankles and mew, Calico judges me from the top of the fridge.  White Fluff hisses at me and I feel sorry for all of them.  They have no choice but to remain here, captive to his wish for things to stay the same.

I leave that morning and wait for the eastbound bus on the corner outside the apartment building.  I hope Soap learned something about his life by watching it removed through technology.  I hope he gets his shit together.

He calls me.

“Hey, you left.”

“Yeah, I gotta go.”

“There’s no way you can stay until I get there?  It’ll be a little after noon, I think.”

“No.”  I say with no room for argument, a tone I use rarely.  A tone that is nothing but confidence and energy.  It feels good.

“Ok, that’s cool.  How about next weekend?  I’m going to be away–”

“I can’t do it.”

“You can’t call off or trade shifts?  I’m sure this pays more.”

“Look, it worked out this time.  I have my own life.”  I hang up on him.  I do have my own life.  It may not be glamorous or have enough conflict to grasp attention or fame, but it’s mine and I am happy.  The struggle was stopping a momentary lapse of sorrow and despair from becoming more than a moment.  It took seeing someone consumed by  self-medicated pity and doubt to end it.  It took seeing his Ex leave to know that he’s on his own.  So am I.  So are you.  And there’s nothing wrong with that unless you want it to be.

The Novel

After so much feedback on my scripts that my work is good, but too literary, I decided to write a novel.  I’m almost done with a second draft and it feels better than writing a script.  I must admit that I am a mild narcissist and writing a novel feeds that demon.

Two people very close to me read that first fragile draft and their criticism didn’t kill my confidence.  I think this is a good sign.  Another good sign as I close on the second draft is that I’m feeling much better about the story I want to tell, I feel more comfortable in these pages than I did in the last draft.  It’s like getting used to a new home.

What isn’t comfortable is trying to decide how to market the book.  I went to school for writing, not business, and now I realize I went about it all wrong.  I’ve always been a writer, so I should have studied banal market reach, consumer bases, and branding.  At the same time if I could do it all over again I would still go all in for that screenwriting degree.  To this day I still want to punch those business majors in the face.  I have nightmares that I will never get exposure because I have no idea how to seduce an audience.  Those business majors with copies of their resumes at the ready and smug attitude knew this was coming to every art student to cross their path.

Green Bananas

He buys green bananas.  That’s it.  Not yellow ones, not ones with spots.  His bananas must be green.  He doesn’t buy the coffee he takes from the free sample station.  He talks to the person handing out samples, exchanges pleasantries because he feels he must.  He feels he must do this because he knows he’s going to be a pain in the ass.  He’s a pain in the ass because after the third or fourth Dixie cup of free coffee he sneaks up to the door that leads to the EMPLOYEES ONLY back room and peers through porthole-sized window of one of the double doors.  He does this because he knows from experience not to open the doors and yell for help, or to walk inside and look through the bananas himself.

He watches for someone.  

He hopes he spots someone who doesn’t know him, someone who doesn’t know him like the sample station employees know him.  He doesn’t want someone who knows him because he doesn’t want a snarky attitude, he doesn’t want to draw any aggression or rancor.  All he wants are emerald green bananas.  The kind of green you find in Columbian banana tree fields.  The pure, organic, free-range green you cannot find in a supermarket thousands of miles away from its source.  The kind of green that only exists in a petty jerk’s imagination.

This is his day.  

One day out of his week, sometimes two, he spends it finding five to seven impossibly green bananas.  If there are green bananas on the sales floor he either does not notice them or, more plausibly, believes better ones are in the back of the store where shoppers are not allowed to go.  Except for him.

They call him “that fucking guy” or “that green banana perv mother fucker” or “for fuck’s sake he’s at the door, again.”  They call him these things because none of them want to know him personally.  He doesn’t offer anything more than anonymous small talk because he himself doesn’t want to humanize them.  They are robots, market place robots, and they must fetch him the greenest bananas – or even better – allow him to peruse a few unopened cases of bananas where he stands in their way looking for his weekly quota of under ripe fruit.

They don’t believe he eats anything else.  They think he should have died a long time ago, like koalas, because they only eat one fucking thing.  Koalas have eucalyptus.  Koalas will at least devour eucalyptus at any stage of its life because they are programmed by nature to only eat that plant.  Koalas have no choice.

This dude has a choice.  He can get back to his life, whatever that may be, or he can spend a day of his life getting up in the morning, getting dressed, looking at himself in the mirror and preparing for his trek to the grocery store for green bananas.  

He chooses green bananas.

They imagine he consults his reserves of patience by talking to himself in the mirror, pumping himself up for those green bananas, the secret ambrosia of life.  They wonder if he likes what he sees in the mirror (beyond the spittle and dust) but they’ve come to the conclusion that he doesn’t notice the pest he is to them.  He’s a pest because he blocks the doorway with a pitiful look, which is the equivalent of parking on the 405 (or heathen-car-madness for those who do not know) and gives this pathetic look to passing employees, requesting of all things, perfectly unripened bananas.

If he were asking for humans he’d be requesting fetuses.  This is the hard green banana he needs to survive.

Banana Perv is well-dressed, clean, and smells like he showers regularly and uses deodorant.  His sanity is not exactly in question.  But…

It’s all in his head, right?

Yes.  It is.  They do not entertain that bit of fancy, they don’t even voice it.  The vote is unanimous – Banana-Man is an asshole.  And yet… by being an asshole he makes them reflect upon their own lives.  What the hell am I hung up on?  What am I wasting my time with?  And, as sudden as his appearance and disappearance in and from the store, one day an employee sees the waste in their own life.  They are able to excise their “green bananas” from their own lives by watching this man waste his life for literal green bananas.  Through the magic of vicarious existence, the employees watch and learn what wasteful behavior looks like and how it kills a human soul.

Thank you, Banana-Man.  You are making a huge sacrifice for our well-being.  May your wisdom be as fresh and green as the moss that grows on Sisyphus’ boulder.

Our Mad Tea Party

I cope with the social world by reminding myself that billions of different perspectives of reality clash and combine in order to make our present, collective reality.  Action and reaction, change and stasis.  I’m not talking about nature, the world absent of human interaction.  I have no trouble being alone and absorbing nature and natural process.  I have immense trouble with manufactured social constraints and people’s coping mechanisms, their selfish reality bubbles.  It’s hard to explain.  Bear with me.  The following is my own selfish reality bubble and my own coping mechanism.

People’s political views, religions, stances on social interaction, routine, tradition – these things that make up “culture” are lies that certain groups of people agree upon in order to make sense of a world that has no trouble existing without such views.  The world continues despite people’s apocalyptic prophesy, or laws designed to better our society.

On the flip side, some views change nature dramatically because these views  are forced and change human behavior, which in turn affects nature because there are no other options of action without punishment.

This brings me to Alice from Alice in Wonderland.  She spends the entire book attempting to force her views on a world that has its own mechanics.  She enters a world with a natural order and tries to change it so she can be comfortable.  The more she tries to make a “mad” world “sane,” the more unhappy she gets.  It’s not understanding the world that gets her down, it’s the rejection of her morals and significance that makes her miserable and angry.  Alice attempts to control what she perceives as madness through her (our) world’s reason.  The Red Queen claims control by force.  It seems to me that The Red Queen even has domain over time.  Do you think the citizens of Wonderland would adhere to something so banal as standardized time if it weren’t for the Queen lopping off heads?

Despite The Queen’s violence and Alice’s administering real world reason both Alice and the Queen fail in administering their brand of sanity on others.  The things you believe may not be real even if a whole population believes in the same things by way of conformity or force.  It’s obvious why the Queen’s values are wrong, but Alice’s logic is sound only in the waking world, our world, and it has no application in Wonderland.  Both Alice and the Queen are manifestations of the real Alice, who has been dreaming of herself and the Red Queen for the whole book.  Alice can’t even tame her own mind and while she is in Wonderland she is exasperated, frustrated, and furious.  Once she wakes up, Alice is cool, calm, and collected.  On a side note, isn’t it a trip that Alice is giving herself life lessons subconsciously?

Sometimes you have to wake up from your personal delusions in order to be happy.  Unfortunately, it’s easier to keep dreaming and recruit others into your selfish reality bubble by way of convincing those more ignorant than you or by forcing those weaker than you.  The kind of happiness created through lies uses people as fuel, and there are two types.  Friends and enemies.  Friends support your lie.  Enemies destroy it.  It’s important to have enemies.  Enemies give you and your friends someone or thing to fight against, an entity that makes your lie take on solid proportions and gives your people a sense of power.  As long as you are fighting an enemy you feel happy and real.

Here’s a litmus test for happiness: pretend you won your war.  Look around.  Do you still have friends and loved ones?  Or are you alone and empty?

Wonderland is anarchy.  Wonderland is your brain attempting to make sense of nature and people’s lies at the same time.  This is why I have two prints of John Tenniel’s illustrations from Alice in Wonderland in my bathroom.  As I prepare for my day I see these two prints.  One is of the White Rabbit checking his pocket watch.  This print helps me adjust my sense of time so it is in line with “everyone else” so I can meet friends and get to work, despite knowing full well that time is a lie we agree upon in order to coordinate actions.

(BTW:  the philosophy and phrasing “a lie agreed upon” I stole from David Milch, creator of Deadwood and modern day mind-fucker.  These lies are cultural phenomena or locally shared values that help humans live together.  Time, religion, politics, base ten counting, the Metric system, words, etc.  When you get opposing lies in close proximity you get violence, but on rare occasions compromise can also be found.)

The second print is of Alice sitting at the head of the table with the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, and the Door Mouse.  Alice looks miserable.  She’s slouched down in her arm chair, sulking.  The Hatter and Hare are happy and active, shooting down all of Alice’s responses to their riddles.  They even make a disgrace of time by buttering their watches.  The more she tries to control The Mad Tea Party, the more happiness slips through her fingers.  Alice cannot enjoy the moment because she cannot accept the values of others.  She sits at the head of the table, but she has no power.  It’s not that the others don’t grant her power or they are fighting back, it’s that her views of the world make her insignificant in Wonderland.  Suddenly, Alice is the fool.

Imagine if Alice brought friends into Wonderland.  It would have been a far different story.  It would have been a bloodbath.  In fact, The Red Queen is Alice if she were to wage war on Wonderland.  Remember, Alice and The Red Queen are the same person because Alice is dreaming them both.

Alice would have been so much happier if she did what was best for her without trying to force her world on others.  In Wonderland she is capable of making friends, finding food and drink, and locating shelter.  She has all the tools for survival and socializing.  She is capable of happiness in this strange world, but her other world values get in the way.

The illustration of The Mad Tea Party stops me from forcing my reality on others by reminding me how ignorant and helpless I become when I do so.  It helps me keep an open mind.  It helps me ask questions and understand.  Most importantly, The Mad Tea Party reminds me that if I’m angry it means that I am holding on to something that probably isn’t real.


Korea Town, Los Angeles.  From Western to Vermont and Beverly to Olympic, the border lines containing one of L.A.’s most sacred lies.  You can live here alone and not end up eating Ramen and slurping tap water to make ends meet.  You can be alone and still afford a night out in more affluent areas you know you will live in one day.  You can afford this area and still believe it’s just temporary because your headshots will find their way to THE casting agent, or your script will be read by THAT producer.  You can live here and still afford to believe in your dreams.  Korea Town is in the middle of it all, the clearance shelving unit in the middle of the gauche department store.  You’re surrounded by wealth and every once in a while the wealth touches you.  After a time you realize this wasn’t the area you thought it would be.  Korea Town promised a “young and new night life” and “affordable luxury” for the influx of young film grads who don’t know any better.  Year after year they come for the cheap housing, arriving from places too far away to actually see this deteriorating landing strip for Hollywood Hopefuls.  K-Town looks good from afar, but it is far from good.

You look up this cube of zoning that the L.A. elite attempt to gentrify every so often and you discover through the L.A. Times Crime Map that there’s a lot of crime here.  And you never see it happen.  Even when crime hits your block of ancient hotels-turned-apartment buildings you never see anything.  You hear the sirens, but you never see justice.  You sit writing that script or planning your web series in an old, former hotel room that is sweltering in summer and the landlord reminds you there are no A/C units allowed because they’ll scratch the peeling paint on the window sill.  Your room is colder than the air outside during the crisp L.A. “winter,” which is really just a brisk spring for the freshly transferred East Coasters who still have their thick blood.  The room transforms into a dry sauna without any breeze through the open window when summer rages late August.  You live in L.A. long enough and you hear snippets of conversations between twenty-somethings at Starbucks “If I had known I would never have moved to K-Town” or “It’s affordable, but no one wants to come to my place.  I’m not gonna get laid for a year!”  Eight hundred bucks with utilities included didn’t look bad when you were planning your big move from your parents’ basement after saving for your coming career in showbiz.

But when you get here you see the Latinos selling street food on the corners, the homeless staggering around, the trash filling the gutters, and the discarded mattresses and furniture from those who got the fuck out.  The only clean things you notice are the new restaurants that will go out of business in six months and the blocky Korean storefront signs that are neon beacons in a zone of brown, gray, and pale red.

You move in anyway.  You move in knowing you gotta start somewhere and you’ve got high hopes.  Really, you just fucked up and there’s no backing out.  You left home, you crossed thousands of miles, you signed that lease.  You’re gonna do one year.  One year is all you need to make something of yourself within the four streets that may as well be the nicknames given to the invisible walls that make your prison.  They will be your compass from now on, clockwise: Beverly, Vermont, Olympic, Western.

In three months you’ll get used to falling asleep to Mariachi music, babies crying, and emergency sirens, in six months you’ll have tough skin for tuning haters out when you say where you’re living and the haters make passive aggressive comments, and when you’re drunk you’ll hear yourself defending your living situation.  In nine months you’ll be furious with how Korea Town is advertised (gentrified buildings, clean streets, night life) versus what you really get for shelling out for this bait and switch deal (squalor, filth, crime – the affordable K-Town).  In a year you’re more focused on getting out than on your still-budding showbiz career and your degree is collecting dust.  You have the days counted down to when you can get out, you call friends for tips on where to live and who you can room with, and those calls are not returned.  You realize you are in the middle of it all, the glitz, glam, but no one sees you anymore.  A year is almost up, your lease is about to switch to month-to-month, you can leave anytime after that date you have X’d in red.  You will leave.  You will get the hell out and make up for lost time and sleep.  You’re gonna be a star.

Forget it, Jack, this is K-Town.

I love K-Town, baby.  Most people give it a bad story and blame it for their stunted lives.  Let me tell you one true thing, these young white college boys and girls were stunted long before they got here.  The other ethnicities here have actually moved up in life when they get to K-Town.  They know what bad living situations are.  Regardless, any part of L.A. can get shitty real quick.  Just go into the Trader Joe’s on Hollywood and Vine, 1600 Vine for those of you getting a ride there, and odds are you can catch security using pepper spray on someone for shoplifting or just being a wasted piece of shit in public.  Security tries to pepper the perps outside the store, but most of the time things get out of hand too fast and they do it right there in the frozen foods aisle.  The way the wind rushes into the store due to the ventilation system the pepper spray disperses and for half an hour everyone is coughing and red-eyed right in the middle of family friendly Hollywood where the star walk gathers the most gawkers.  Any place in L.A. is ripe for chaos.  Don’t let the advertising fool you.

K-Town has the best bars and that’s good enough for me.  It’s a town you want to visit briefly – get drunk, eat good food, and then bail at high speed on a full stomach spiked with soju.  You don’t want to live here unless you’ve had worse, like MacArthur Park, but that’s another blog post lurking in my memory.

I came to L.A. full of wonder, innocence, and Hollywood dreams.  The only thing that remains now is the wonder.  I saw a body last week here in K-Town.  No news vans, no chaos, no crowds.  Slow Korea Town nights, just part of the natural cycle of a city caught in its own whirlpool of hype.

Coroners waved flashlights around the bloated body that sagged over the sidewalk and into the parking lot.  The homeless man’s possessions lay about.  A filthy sleeping bag lumped over strips of cardboard.  A pink hair brush.  Two garbage bags and a shopping cart.  I felt bad for him.  He probably wanted the same things I took for granted and he did the best he could on a sidewalk outside a place where people cleaned their clothes.  

I was the only one watching, everyone else close by was either getting paid to deal with the body or walking home to recharge for another day of what the world forgets happens in L.A.; normal life.  I love K-Town because it makes no apologies or distractions.  Stay ugly, K-Town, L.A. needs your aches and disorder to stay in touch with reality.

The Foundation

After you get so many rejection notices you decide you don’t need anyone’s permission to have your work read.  Worse than rejection is getting no feedback in return, the worst part about submitting is you more often than not are left with the echoes of your own doubts.  You begin to believe not sending out your material is the same as sending it.

I didn’t quit my day job.  I just needed a space of my own in the void.  For years I sent synopsis of screenplays and short stories.  Most of my query letters never got a response from the bottomless pit where they dropped.  Serious writers hate asking gatekeepers for permission, just as nature abhors a vacuum because what you send out there rarely returns.  Sometimes months, or even years later, you get a response.  These responses are often vague rejections, terse and disconnected, like garbled radio messages from deep space probes.  You can blame the millions of other writers trying to talk to the same probes.

An adequate analogy for reclusive artists is found in the end of Kafka’s The Trial, where K is told the allegory of a man sitting beside an open door guarded by a knight.  The man waits all his life for permission to enter, but it was his choice to go through the door on his own.

I’m going through my door, into a house I’ve built on a foundation of influence and obsessions.  It’s a dark place and I’m not alone.  It’s only half hollow here.  The first thing I do is turn on a light to mark my place and shout into the foyer, “Don’t leave, yet, I just got home!”