Beauty Doublethink

So, now that hunting season has come around (as if deer season is the only season, ever) I have been reminded of the various anti-hunting viewpoints that have come around.

One that I have taken particular note of is usually in some form of rebuttal to the conservation aspect of hunting. Namely, the argument that it is impossible for one to have an interest in conserving nature and an appreciation of nature’s beauty while at the same time blowing it away with a shotgun or severing it with a broadhead.

forsport
This young buck (not over 13 months of age, surely) was ended on November 16, 2013.

In particular I’m looking more closely at the idea of killing and destroying things we find beautiful. Note, things we find beautiful. Many hunters do, indeed find nature beautiful. That buck was beautiful, those geese were beautiful. Some might find some animals more beautiful than others, but you get the idea. I would like to think that most serious hunters feel this way, although one must be careful to avoid the True Scotsman fallacy here. You can usually note these hunters by the pride they take in their kills. How they decorate their homes, and how they treat the products of their kills. Obviously, there’s a difference between someone who beads crows because they annoy him and someone who is hunting coyote for pelts or some such.

If you hear hunters talk, and fishers for that matter, you’ll hear them talk in awe of many impressive animals they’ve seen and hunted over the years.

So it seems like some kind of strange doublethink, right? How can you think something is beautiful and kill it? How can you spend hours chatting about how smart coyotes and turkeys are and then blow them away? Impossible right?

Well… when was the last time you picked a flower?

But, you say, a flower doesn’t feel.

Whether or not an organism merely possesses a nervous system and a brain, isn’t really an issue for some of us. Leaving a turkey or deer to live, isn’t preserving its life or preventing its suffering. I can’t speak for everyone, but that is how I see it. Taking advantage of human nature, using hunting to provide funds and hunter interest to motivate hunter interest in conservation and environmental issues is crucial and smart. And I would prefer the animals be wild, abundant, and hunted than caged, scarce, and poached. Or worse, domesticated like cattle.

Where I live, pretty much every water source is polluted. Our State’s fishing manual gives instructions on which waterways you can safely fish and how many fish you can eat from which one. When I see someone saying that environmental issues are “boogeymen” or “overplayed” or “it’s all been cleaned up, what’s the fuss”? I bet they aren’t a hunter or fisher, or I bet they can afford to hunt in less polluted areas. Engage them from this angle. Imagine how much better off the environment would have to be if people could hunt and fish close to home, just about wherever they were… and if a huge variety of species were available to hunt, and if they weren’t full of poison. Think of the implications of that. What the prerequisite environmental conditions would have to be.

No time like…?

Why do people say there is no time like the present? Isn’t all time like the present?

In fact, could it not be said that the present is an ever repeating infinitesimal slice of time happening over and over and over and over and over and over…

Accuracy in Storylines

I would like to say that Reality TV has come a long way since my first experience with it in my tiny dorm room in Japan oh so many years ago… But I suppose it would be more accurate to say that it has become so perfected and so diversified over all the years without much basic change. The basic formula: get people together, provide a theme, and then do everything you can to make the human interest and drama angle explode. Reality TV has been the subject of numerous articles disappointed in mankind. Is anything sacred, we wonder? Will people really do anything, suffer any humiliation, just to be on TV? Do producers and TV networks have any shame?

Let me introduce the comic book series, 7 Days to Fame written by Buddy Scalera, art by Nick Diaz, Dennis Budd, John Statema, and Joe Caramagna, colors by Wilson Ramos, and letting by Chris Eliopoulos (comic are lengthy to attribute properly!). To summarize briefly, the story is about people who are so desperate that they agree to star in a reality show which leads up to their suicide in seven days and the creators who stumble on the idea. The show is a hit, despite the expected protests.

It is a good solid story, does not fall victim (as many comics do) to dithering on too long or being too brief and has some strong imagery.

NYCC-day-2-18
(Picture taken by Buddy Scalera at NYCC2013. Art by Dennis Budd.)
Try as I might, I could not quite capture the emotion of the image of the desperate woman surrounded by a television production at the climax of her appearance on the reality show. I suppose I will have to shelve acting as a possible future career.

The artwork in the image above I obtained at Buddy Scalera’s booth in Artist Alley at NYCC2013. I do have to say that it is powerful imagery, and the best part is carrying it around while shopping at other booths. For inevitably, people will ask to see what you have concealed under your arms or against your chest.

And rotating that particular piece of artwork turned many grins into… well, whatever it is you call it when someone’s grin becomes frozen in awkwardness and confusion. They do not know what to say, what to think. Are they supposed to say it is awesome or cool, what I have? Or is that wrong? They know not.

One woman was completely enthused and intrigued by the story and was unafraid to say it. She all but forced me to direct her to Buddy’s booth.

However, the best part, the true madness and point of this story is what happens later. What happens when I leave the context of the comic book convention. When I travel far and away by train…

I’m walking in the suburbs to where I am staying for the week. It is night time, and I am exhausted from a long day’s conventioning. I pass by a parking garage which is currently inhabited by many young college students who are just killing time on the weekend. As I pass, one of the students notices what I’m carrying and asks me about it. I soon have a small audience of young men and women asking about the shocking illustration.

I do my best to explain the plot, but I am tired and I miss a vital part of my explanation. Two of the young women gasp, one covers her mouth. The other eagerly asks me when the “show” is airing on TV.

Yes.

It’s true.

They thought it was part of merchandising for a real reality show.

And even the girl who gasped was somewhat disappointed when I explained it was fictional show in a comic book, not a real show.

…but one wonders. If society was just slightly different… in some alternate reality where life and death are just a smidge less sacred… is such a show playing right now?

The Red Men

It was the slowest wave she had ever seen. It was so slow, she wasn’t even certain when it actually began. She first noticed it when she stumbled over the red lump in the grass during her morning jog in the park.

On her hands and knees, she inspected the strange sudden protuberance that had thrust itself into her daily routine. The smooth ochre stone seemed to strain against the soil around it. Touching it, it feel hot and wet, but nothing came off on her fingers. Strange, she thought.

Dismissing it, she continued on her way.

It wasn’t until several days later that she noticed the lump was growing. She had diligently avoided the spot since then, either by going around or being sure to step over it. It wasn’t quite as smooth looking as she had first assumed. It was creased a bit at the edges. She reluctantly put aside her thought that the lump was a bowling ball that had gotten buried somehow.

As the weeks passed, her horror mounted. At first, she did not put together what she was seeing each day, but as the eyes erupted she was dismayed. It was beyond belief that a statue was not only buried, but heaving its way silently upward out of the soil.

And even more incredible is that no one else seemed to notice. Each day she watched other joggers, pedestrians and the like simply pass the ochre anomaly without notice. They never stumbled or tripped over it like she did, but yet they were also unaware. Aware and unaware.

She knew she should have stopped coming to the park. But she was drawn. She was witness. She didn’t know what she was seeing.

More weeks passed, and the statue was fully revealed. An ochre man in ochre clothes, with tears smeared like birdshit down his face.

Why are you weeping? She wanted to ask, but could only remain silent. What is happening?

The first was followed by more underneath, which raised the first on their shoulders. In turn, they were followed by more behind and below. And still, people did not see even when their numbers were in the hundreds, and then thousands. They rose in an eternity of months and eternity of years, a stair of crying ochre men stretching to the sun. Reaching upwards. A bloody, straining, grievous stairway to Hell.

 

The Pits

“Fuuuuuuuuck…” Johnny sighed, exhaling a long stream of tobacco smoke. He leaned back, placing his boots on the splintered counter in front of him. The light coming from the ballast above his head seemed to writhe and twist with as much impatience as he felt to leave.

And fuck, tonight’s event hadn’t even started yet. There was one more…

Thud.

Thud. Thud.

Thud.

Johnny straightened in his chair.

Finally, the late fuck is here, he thought.

Eventually the bootsteps reached the bottom of the stairs and a skinny rat-faced man with a covered crate, the kind you’d carry a small dog in, slipped through the doorway and took a seat at the stool in front of the counter. The sounds of the crowd milling about in the back room swelled in anticipation, as if they new the newcomer had just arrived even though no one but Johnny was minding the door.

“Name?” Johnny asked. He knew, of course, but the formalities were a necessity and a precaution.

The man opened his mouth to speak, but his eyes suddenly darted to the left of Johnny at the same time Johnny heard a crinkling sound behind him. Johnny whirled around in his chair.

A doll was rifling through the small cupboard by the minifridge. It paused, sensing it was discovered and turned to Johnny. Its dress was rumpled lace which may have been white, once.

“Please Mister, can I just have one cookie…?” It begged, gazing at him with empty eye sockets which had had their beads torn out some time ago. It twitched on cracked and broken joints.

“GET BACK IN YOUR CRATE!” Johnny roared. The doll shrieked and ran deeper into the building, in the direction of the dollhouses.

The violence in his voice silenced and protest the rat-faced man may have had about the treatment of the doll. Of course, if he had been the kind of person to complain about something like that, he wouldn’t have been there at all.

“Sorry about that,” Johnny muttered sheepishly. “Damn things are always finding new ways to get out. I prefer dogs, myself. Good thing they don’t seem to have much will to go far, eh? Now, about getting your info down…”

Johnny finished taking down the challenger’s information, inspected the doll he brought, locked the entrance, and led the man with his crate to the pits.

Legend of the Lambs

Listen closely little ones, for this tale is the core of our history and lore.

Long long ago in a time before the Tall Ones, our people lived in the hills and fields at the edges of the Earth. We were a content people. The grass was enough, the sun was enough and our females were plenty. But there was a price to pay for Paradise, the price of Desolation. For soon there were many of our kind upon the Earth and soon all the grass and sun were not enough.

The wolves saw the Despair of the sheep, and an opportunity for themselves.

“Sheep,” the Lord of Wolves said, “we are both destroyed by the price of fecundity. For as you starve, my kind starves as well. Let me offer a treaty for our survival. Let us take our chance to hunt you each night.”

At first our ancestors could only reply with Dismay. But in the throes of their decline they came to see the wisdom of the wolves. Each night, they offered one of their own until the grasses returned.

The bargain has held since then, even through the Reign of the Tall Ones, and even when wolves became dogs and forgot their way.

But the Tall Ones are gone now, buried in fire and ash and in lush grasses.

And now, we are too many again.

And now, we begin the sacrifices of the night once more.

Inside

The dream started normally enough.

She was at work, at one of the large retail pet store chains. Her arm was soaked to the elbow as she scraped and scrubbed the algae of the blue backing and front acrylic of hundreds of tanks.

It was soothing, normal.

The customer was normal, too. He had a box in his arms. He examined the aviary for a few moments then approached. He held up a battered cardboard pet carrier like an accusation.

“My parakeet died.” He stated, wielding the words like a weapon. The man seemed to think that no other words were necessary. His eyes gave away the confrontation he was prepared to engage in.  This was normal, too.

“Did you notice anything unusual?” She asked. A lot of people were surprisingly unconcerned about animal death, but the details could nearly always be teased out. She lifted the bird from the box. She had sold this one only a few days ago.

“No, but I’m sure there is some kind of disease in your birds and I want a refund! I don’t want another one of your sick, mass produced birds!”

She sighed, internally. This was normal, too. The bird was light in her hands.
“How was he eating before he died?”

“Well, I bought those pellets but he didn’t seem to like them much.”

“Any seeds, fruits or veggies?” She already knew the answer. It was just normal ritual at this point.

“No.”

“Sir,” she began carefully, “parakeets and most other birds don’t switch well to pellets. You have to transition them carefully. A parakeet or a cockatiel has a high metabolism. They literally will starve themselves. The instructions are given on your care sheet and on the bag of pellets.”

As she was talking she walked to the shelf with the bird feed, grabbed the bag the man had probably bought, the bag she didn’t see him leave the store with. She turned the bag over, smoothed the crumbled plastic and showed him the instructions. The belligerence went out of the customer’s eyes as it always did.
Mumbling confusion, he took his bird back and left the store. She still would have honored his request for a refund, corporate policy dictated she do so but she had no interest in clearing the man’s confusion. Payback for his careless death and mindless accusation. For the way he had stared into the aviary looking for more dead or ill birds to justify his position.

She stood there for a while, thinking.
She had the answer. She knew what to do.

Unnoticed by customers and coworkers, she poisoned the fishtank system with an overdose of Melafix. She crushed the rodents and reptiles with her feed, snaring them in fish nets to hold them in place.

It wasn’t until she had started in on the aviary that she was caught by a manager with a parakeet in her left hand, its head twisted around in another.

That was the exact moment awareness and sanity returned to her. A moment later, she woke terrified of the realization that she had no free will.

When she got up and looked at her baby sleeping the next morning in its crib, also normal, she realized it wasn’t a matter of choice. She couldn’t choose to not love him, she couldn’t choose to suffocate him. She stumbled out into the living room.

It would only take one small quirk in her brain, one small moment of nightmare to change her perceptions, alter her choices.

She pressed her head against the glass coffee table and laughed.

It Dwells

It came only after her breath had steadied into the long deep rhythm of sleep. Dark fingers crept along her jaw, ebony limbs slid over her torso. A blank, empty visage nestled itself between my face and hers.

“She doesn’t love you, you know.”

I didn’t say anything in reply. Please, please let me sleep.

“She only feels sorry for you.”

I turned away, carefully, trying not to wake her. The low whisper continued.

“If you died, she wouldn’t have to feel guilty about leaving you.”

Go away. Let me sleep!

I felt its fetid breath on my cheek. I felt it’s tongue slithering against my ear. I tried to ignore it, but the whispers cut through my resistance. They were undeniable. I threw back the blankets and went out to apartment balcony. I sat on the wooden bench swing. The florescent light overhead was calm and did not crackle or waver. The stable glow soothed me, stabled me.

After a few moments, my loathing slithered up beside me.

“She never loved me anyway.”

Her Flesh

The womb of the universe had always been cold and dark, prickling with distant lights. Erde was born near the flickering candle flame of her Source. In the beginning, she wobbled uncertainly.

She had been born of that candle. She was born of dead brothers and sisters, and familiar strangers. The remaining siblings began to coalesce. One, flung himself upon her, tearing at her flesh and rending himself in his passion. Soon, a child of her own was born, the Moon.

Ages passed, and the Deep Sky showered her with his seed soon Life crept upon her. Brown sludge, then green tendrils crept across her clean pure flesh, corrupted it. Red seas faded to blue. Poisoning itself with it’s growth, it adapted and exploded.

Dismayed, Erde grew an icy shell to hide her shame from her siblings. But her warmth did not permit the ice to last. And Life renewed its ravagement upon her skin.

She tried to burn the insult off.

But in the end… it won.