Going Away for a Few Days

I’m getting on a plane tomorrow and going away for 4-5 days. I won’t be checking email while I am gone. If it can’t wait till after Christmas, you can try to call me.
Until then, Have a Happy war on Christmas and see you next year.


Moloch

In the City of (name blotted out), so it is said, the people worship the bronze bull god, Moloch the King. Moloch apparently demands heavy sacrifices and particularly likes children when petitioners come to him asking for big favors (although he will accept adults in a pinch). The usual method of offering to Moloch is to take the child to the temple and place it in the bronze hands of the furnace-like idol.  The priests intone their prayers and pull on hidden chains, and, with a creak and a snap of iron gears and the clanging of brass gongs, the mechanical idol will open it’s mouth and the child will be tossed alive into the roaring furnace within. A large orchestra of brass and percussion instruments plays at ear-shattering volume during this performance in order to drown out the screams of the sacrificed (most older priests of Moloch are usually quite deaf; the loud volume of the orchestra is widely believed to be the cause). When the supply of sacrificeable children runs low or the cause to be addressed by the Bull King is less urgent or important, the still beating hearts of humans or animals removed with surgical expertise by priests can be substituted, although Moloch apparently gets quite petulant over these menu substitutions.

For less important requests, various animals, artworks, plants, food, or even gold or silver or jewels may be offered. Some valuables are not tossed into the fire directly but instead accepted by the priesthood and then (we promise) sacrificed in ceremonies open only to members of the priesthood. Somehow, the temples and rectories of Moloch are magnifently opulent places that rival even the palace of the King of M even though the tithes are quite reasonable — another Moloch miracle. There is some speculation that not every item offered in sacrifice makes it into the flames, but somehow Moloch seems to understand.  Perhaps the Bull King feels that his priests should live like lords.

The children for sacrifice are usually selected by lottery… a lottery to which no family in the city other than the current royal family is immune. However, even in the City of (name blotted out), wealth has it’s priveledges.  The wealthy and powerful are rumored to purchase ‘substitute’ children on the black market in order to protect their own progeny from Moloch’s sacrifice.  Since Moloch usually demands the youngest member of a household, the ‘substitute’ is then sacrificed in his place and the child who has been spared will be provided with a new name and a forged certificate of birth.  Rather than risk having to scurry about procuring sacrifice substitutions at the 11th hour (a stressful and difficult activity), the most powerful and wealthy routinely simply have a substitute child ‘on deck’ in case their house is chosen in Moloch’s lottery. The kidnapping of infants for sale on the black market and forgery are booming industries in (name blotted out) and it is suggested that if visitors plan on spending any time there, one should be sure not to be the youngest person in any family group.

Theologically speaking, there is no express prohibition in Moloch’s church from providing a substitute, although openly speaking of the fraud in public is considered impolite. The poor deal with this inequality the way that the poor deal with inequality everywhere: they moan and cry and shed impotent tears.

It is thought that the city of (name blotted out) is crazy for lotteries, since the succeeding ‘royal family’ is chosen at random from a dozen noble families upon each king’s death. When the king dies, ivory plaques bearing the seal of all twelve royal families are placed in a sacred bag made from bull’s hide. The high priest chooses one plaque at random and that family becomes the new ruling family, with the eldest male becoming king, the eldest female becoming queen, etc. Other positions are filled by members of the family as the new king sees fit. Unfortunately, this means there is very little continuity in the governance of the city except in the unlikely occurance that the same family is picked twice in a row (in which case the throne goes to the next eldest surviving male member of the family and other positions are usually retained from the previous administration). Some claim that all families once took part in the lottery but a cabal of the wealthy and powerful passed a series of laws limiting the drawing to the smaller number of families of means and station. Even speaking aloud the possibility that this might indeed be the case is considered a capital crime, and the speaker is likely to find himself tied down on the altar and his still beating heart dissapearing into the fiery god’s idol before he can say, “Ba’al Hammon.”


Sometimes they tell the truth by accident…

I work for a company that I will refer to as ‘Levy Pants Company’ (a very clever reference on my part to Peter O’Toole’s ‘Confederacy of Dunces’).  We have a relationship with a vendor of communications services that I will call ‘Acme Communications.’  Acme’s billing is so notoriously full of errors and overcharges that ‘Levy Pants’ employs a ‘billing negotiation company’ I shall call ‘Clawback Enterprises’ to negotiate our bills for us.  As far as I understand the process, in Acme’s billing agreements, Acme specifies that it is dependent upon the customer (Levy Pants) to determine whether or not the bill is accurate… which is where ‘Clawback’ comes in.  ‘Clawback’ uses billing specialists (most are former employees of companies like Acme) to look through the bills and dispute errors unfavorable to Levy Pants.  Every over-charge that is successfully dismissed nets Clawback about a third of what Levy Pants would have otherwise overpaid.  Acme’s usual strategy to fight Clawback is to simply ignore requests for disputes and to continually send incorrect invoices in hopes that Levy Pants pays them… where they land on my desk and I immediately forward them to my associate at Clawback whom I will call ‘Laura.’

I’m just a paper handler in this transaction. Most of the charges on these bills are for items I don’t understand that are supposedly used in places that I have never visited.  It’s like some massive and uninteresting conceptual art project or corporate avant garde performance piece.

Put another way, Acme Communication’s bills are so notoriously filled with overcharges that companies like Clawback exist just to dispute them.  This is insanity worthy of Twain or Swift… but overbilling may well be a growth source of revenue for Acme ‘cause they just keep doing it. 

Periodically, I find myself in a three way conference call with representatives from Acme and Clawback. During these conference calls, I’m usually just trying to puzzle my way through the massive spreadsheets that Laura from Clawback has emailed to me about how fucked up the bills from Acme are that week and while they talk I try to figure out what the shizzle the Acme and Clawback people are arguing about.

In our last conference call, a manager from Acme (whom I will call ‘Risky Business’ because he gives the impression of having the personality and moral compass of a drunken teenager) said something so jaw droppingly honest that I had to stop and pinch myself. First, he announced that our usual account representative (whom I will call ‘Denise’) had recently and unexpectedly left Acme.  You could practically hear a pin drop in the meaningful pause that followed, and the reason for her hasty departure from Acme was not offered (my impression is that an Acme account representative serves as a human firewall between angry customers and people like Risky Business, so Denise may not have enjoyed a high level of job satisfaction while at Acme — just a guess.).  Mr. Risky Business sounded hurt and confused that Denise would leave him in the lurch like this… but most shitty bosses seem to feel hurt and confused when their browbeaten, tired, underpaid and suddenly liberated employees shout, “FUUUUUUUCK YOUUUUUUUU!” as they sprint out the door into the sunshine with the glee of a condemned man given a last minute pardon. But then came the shockingly honest part.  Risky Business told us that his higher ups wanted him (Risky Business) to take over managing the account for Levy Pants and negotiating with Clawback, but he wasn’t going to do it because, in his words, “Your account is just too screwed up, and it would really mess up my numbers for the year.” Yes. He admitted that Acme had served Levy Pants Company so poorly that he didn’t want to take responsibility for the mess that he had a role in creating. He was also confessing that the current meeting was meaningless since it was supposed to be between company representatives and he was specifying that he was NOT our company representative… which is the business equivalent of saying, “Did I mention that I have herpes?” right after you have finished fucking someone.  Laura, our billing expert from Clawback, finally broke the silence by snuffling into a Kleenex (she was nursing a cold), and asking who would be handling the Levy Pants account.
At this point, Risky Business seemed relieved that no one had screamed, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?” at his accidental candor. Instead, Risky Business assured us that Acme would be assigning a new representative to the account as soon as possible, blah blah, blah and then went back to spouting the Acme company line that the tens of thousands of dollars in overcharges were really nothing to worry about and would soon be resolved while I listened with half an ear and thought about lunch.

Blitzenspitz

Blitzenspitz is an unusual location in Northern Losel and the name may refer to either the village (The Village of Blitzenspitz) or the mountain (Blitzenspitz).  The more poetically minded who dislike sibilant syllables call the mountain by its fancier name, “Thunderspire.”

Blitzenspitz (the mountain) is a tall, conical rock rising several thousand feet above the floor of a grassy plain.  The village stands at the base of this mountain.  The top of the mountain is always shrouded in thunderclouds and frequent claps of thunder are heard around the mountain at all times. The primary industry in the Village of Blitzenspitz is the harvesting of lightning, a fascinating and unique process.
Several shafts have been dug into the sides of Blitzenspitz.  Here, miners seek the rare blitzen crystals.  These crystals can be used to store the energy from a bolt of lightning and Blitzenspitz is the only known source of these crystals, so the villagers and their lord guard the mines carefully.  Once gathered from beneath the earth, the crystals are mounted into cunningly made silver and copper sockets that are stored inside of clear glass jars with a pair of short copper rods protruding from the lid. These ‘lightning jars’ are then carried to the top of the mountain by lightning harvesters who employ long poles with copper tips connected by wires to the jar to ‘capture’ a blast of lightning and ‘imprison’ it in the jar.  These lightning harvesters wear heavy suits of leather without any metal buckles or fasteners of any kind; despite these precautions, hundreds are killed by unpredictable bolts of lightning every year. The jars are carefully packed in straw padded bags or pouches and transported back to the village for eventual sale. Unlicensed lightning collectors, if caught, are hung with iron chains and tied onto tall poles on the top of the mountain where the lightning serves as their painful and messy method of execution. Some claim that if one can insert a crystal under the skin of a condemned man and stitch up the wound, the crystal will be charged in a particularly potent manner when retrieved.

The crystals, when filled with energy, glow with a white light. There are many uses for the energy; apparently many mages purchase the jars to power spells or charge magical devices.  Some healers claim that the energy can be used to heal as well as harm (although I would be reluctant to undergo any of these experimental therapies).  Persistent but unconfirmed rumors mention ancient devices that can be powered by the energy in the crystals; these are strange and dangerous devices that can give the user the power to cast thunderbolt spells like the most powerful of wizards… but this author is certain that those stories are just bullshit.

Not every crystal can be successfully charged.  A few simply shatter or melt when any attempt is made to charge them. Others can be charged and recharged multiple times without a problem.  The mine bosses of Blitzenspitz are usually pretty successful in grading the crystals and differentiating those which are not suitable for a single charge from those which can be used multiple times, although mistakes are often made and good crystals are declared to be flawed junk (and thrown on the scrap heap) while bad crystals are sometimes mistaken for crystals of the first water and sold for inflated prices. The best practice is to buy a crystal that is already charged (which will prove it is of at least adequate quality) and then attempt to have it recharged or trade it in after use.

Blitzenspitz has, traditionally, been ruled by the VanDurn family. Everyone who wants to buy powered crystals must pay a high tax to the VanDurns.  The VanDurns, in turn, license the harvesters and the dealers and guard the village and the mines.  The current ruler, Octavo VanDurn XIV, is a virtual recluse in his ancient and crumbling castle. He hasn’t been seen outside the castle in years, but rumors persist that he (or his agents) obtain a large number of jars of the glowing crystal every week; what they do with the power in the jars is unknown.

Lightning harvesters are well paid for their dangerous work, but spending so much time on the peak of Blitzenspitz is not without disadvantages. The few harvesters who are not blasted to bits or burned to a cinder often become a bit peculiar in their habits as the years go on, frequently becoming subject to bouts of paranoia or depression.  In addition, most who have spent a large amount of time collecting lightning will gradually find it harder and harder to touch metal without painful (and, in some cases, dangerous) bursts of static energy.  Utensils, buttons, buckles and other common items are made wood, bone, horn, clay, etc., whenever possible. Some common objects, like brass door knobs or pewter tankards, are actually illegal in the village. Most lightning harvesters use carved ivory plaques instead of coins of gold or silver or will have a trusted family member handle the money for them.  Lightning harvesters can usually be easily identified by the way in which their hair stands straight out from their heads, like the puff-ball of a dandelion, and the faint whiff of ozone that seems to linger in their vicinity.


What are they teaching kids these days?

Nothing personal; it’s just business.

A teacher at a school for girls in London apparently wanted to teach her students about economics, business, history and the slave trade all in one lesson, so she asked the students to put their thinking caps on to create a business plan for importing slaves from Africa in the most profitable manner possible. As far as the assignment goes, everything was on the table… fucking over your suppliers by using violence, bribes or alcohol was OK, torture was on the menu (and they got down to specifics — whips, manacles, thumbscrews, etc., and here I though all those English Girl’s School stories were a product of the pornographer’s whimsy), and, best of all, one of the benefits was fucking your merchandise (yes, having sex with slaves) in order to breed ‘mixed race’ slave business employees who would handle the human flesh business overseas while your white offspring enjoyed snuff, claret and harpsichord music back on the estate in jolly old England.

The head of the school issued an apology: “On behalf of the school, I apologise unreservedly for the distress and anguish caused to [the student] and to her mother, as well as to you and others in your community who this material may have been shared with. Now I have had the opportunity to view the Powerpoint in its’ entirety, I share your concerns“.

WTF, England? The perfect bookend for this little tale would be for some teacher in Germany to casually suggest to the students that they come up with a ‘business plan’ for the occupation of Poland.


Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out…

Tea Party congressman Jim DeMint (R-SC) has apparently bailed on serving the people of the great state of South Carolina in order to take over as president of “The Heritage Foundation.” DeMint served only 2 years as a congress member before accepting what is apparently a very cushy gig as a non-elected member of a political ‘think’ tank.
As a principled opponent of “big guvvernment” and leading light of the Tea Party, I wonder if Jim ‘The Freshmaker’ DeMint will refuse the lifetime healthcare that members of congress have elected to give themselves?  Or, like most congress members, is he only against funded government healthcare when it is for anyone other than members of congress?



“These hands have never done an honest days work… my palms are as soft and supple as a baby’s bottom!”

Monster Drawing Rally at MOCAD

The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit is hosting a ‘Monster Drawing Rally’ on December 7th. Go to MOCAD, listen to some music, buy a drawing of a monster made right them and there by one of 90+ local artists for $40.00… sounds like a great night. I’m going to have to see if Annie wants to go, and, if not, maybe I’ll go stag.

From their website:

LIVE DRAWING EVENT AND FUNDRAISER
MOCAD New Wave presents Monster Drawing Rally
Friday December 7, 8PM to 12 Midnight
Admission: $10

Monster Drawing Rally is a live drawing event and fundraiser featuring more than 90 artists. Part performance, part laboratory, part art bazaar, the Monster Drawing Rally is an incredible opportunity to watch your favorite local artists create original drawings. The event begins promptly at 8 pm and consists of three one-hour shifts that each feature approximately 30 artists drawing simultaneously. As the drawings are completed, they’re hung on the walls and made available for purchase for $40 each. Proceeds from the event provide direct support for MOCAD’s programs.

A live DJ will be spinning music to draw and dance to all night long, while our staff, interns and volunteers assist the artists and serve refreshments. This event is sponsored by Utrecht, French Paper and Hour Detroit Magazine.

The event concept, Monster Drawing Rally, was originally developed by Southern Exposure in San Francisco.

 
The above abominations have nothing to do with the Mocad event, but are by an artist named Dieter VDO that I happened to see just after witing this post.