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Stray Thoughts #4
The Eff-It Zone; G.I. Dough!
The Eff-It Zone
A few weeks back I was sitting beside a river, contemplating its strange currents. At some point a young man passed in front of me, doing the following:
Walking a dog;
Riding a motorized unicycle;
Typing into his smartphone with both thumbs.
The guy never looked up from his phone as he scooted by. But if he was attending to important business, his body language betrayed no hint of that. His dog, which looked like a miniature malamute, jogged several yards in the lead, its deadly extend-o-matic leash wrapped loosely around his wrist. His hair, clothes and general presentation were as bland and casual as the look on his face. Although what he was doing was patently ridiculous, he wasn’t what you’d typically call a “clown.” Everything about him oozed apathy.
He had entered what Dame Bisone recently coined “The Fuck-It Zone.”
This traveling circus act got me thinking about other weird currents that seem to permeate our world at the moment. I don’t mean the performers themselves, but rather those energetic winds and subtle tides that might ease the way forth into catastrophe.
I’ve seen many others like the Fuck-It Zone denizen above. Usually their acts in some way involve a phone. Dazed pedestrians who wander zombie-style into traffic, hands-free cyclists who bolt across intersections, Segway bros leaning headfirst into the abyss. Hypnotized by their wireless headphones and black mirrors, they become blind and deaf to all danger — and perhaps to the physical world, period.
Case in point:
A few nights after my encounter with the cyber-dogsledder, I almost became a pavement stain myself. I was walking alone at night in a part of town where cyclists were neither allowed nor expected.
As I was making a blind turn around the corner of a building, my Spidey-senses kicked in. It wasn’t because of anything I heard: the bike was one of those electric models that was quieter than a mouse fart. I had to avert the collision all by myself, because the rider was (of course) staring into his magical device at the time. He cruised blithely by, totally unaware of our narrowly avoided tragedy.
These Fuck-It Zoners are nothing new. But I’ve noticed their numbers have shot up in recent years, and have grown to include species who seem to want to break free of their digital chains and actually connect with the physical world. Who are even desperate to do that, it seems.
That’s not a bad thing, superficially. At first glance, you might even say they’re a refreshing upgrade from the mask-wearing, social-distancing, safety-first cultists scrolling TikTok as they wander blindly off the nearest available ledge.
But what happens when we try to connect with a reality that’s been warped beyond recognition by its virtual reflections?
Short answer: “Surf’s up, dude!”
Way up, apparently.
BUSHWICK, Brooklyn (PIX11) — A teenager was killed and another was injured while subway surfing in Brooklyn on Thursday, authorities said.
Police were called to the scene at the Bushwick Avenue-Aberdeen Street station around 2 p.m., according to the NYPD. Bryan Crespo and Widinson Garcia, both 14, jumped on top of the L train at the Broadway Junction stop, which is elevated, and rode one stop, police said. Crespo was killed when he hit the tunnel going down into the Bushwick Avenue station and Garcia suffered severe trauma, according to officials...
Subway surfing rose 366% over one year, from 2021 to 2022. Adams said social media companies like TikTok need to take action and stop promoting dangerous stunt videos on their platforms.
The NYPD’s transit chief said as part of the department’s outreach, they identified about 70 teens who were caught subway surfing or posted videos on social media, and officers spoke with them and their parents. These two 14-year-olds were not part of the group and there’s no record of them having done it before, according to the chief.
And, like the subway trains themselves, the phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down.
I’m sure much of that has to with the aftermath of COVID-mania. Having spent years cooped up by a bunch of paranoiacs, nosophobes, Chicken Little media critters and psychopathic bureaucrats, an explosion of heedless YOLO-ism was sure to follow. Some might even write it off as the standard “boys will be boys” machismo. After all, the young male who yearns for physical adventure and daredevil risk-taking long precedes the Doom Flu and its attendant tyrannies. But this otherwise normal instinct seems different under the strobing blacklights of the Fuck-It Zone, mutating into something that feels almost otherworldly. Something like a magic spell.
The risks most Zoners take seem utterly unromantic, almost perfunctory in hindsight. If the dogsledder had face-planted on the curbside, or been bulldozed by a similarly distracted driver at the corner of Why-Bother and Who-Gives-a-Shit, the audience wouldn’t applaud his wacky antics or bemoan the cruel twist of fate. At best they’d hand him a Darwin Award — and probably a minor one, at that. A Darwin “participation trophy” maybe. As far as circus acts go, he was just phoning it in.
But as I mentioned, other Zone residents seem less mindless than starved for physical connection. Our hydra-like arterial network of high speed travel and digital communications isn’t just depersonalizing us. In a sense it is also dematerializing the world of meaningful risks. They want to connect, yes. But unfortunately, even that desire for physical connection seems to be tainted by the surreality of social media, video games and other virtual chaff.
The result is a kind of casual dismissiveness of effective effort. Traditional acrobats, fire-jugglers, sword-swallowers and tightrope walkers develop their skills because they must — not only to better entertain us, but to avoid accidentally converting their bodies into broken, bloody, flaming goo.
But the unpaid clowns of our darkly funny circus don’t seem to appreciate skill or danger whatsoever. It’s less like this…
…and more like this:
The dark side of Wile E. Coyote’s misadventures in Euclidean space is that, unlike him, we truly do “only live once.”
And so the young surfers — mere seconds before their hideous injuries or deaths — perhaps experience a moment of reckoning with their mistake. The sensory organs measure a ton of information implicitly, and at blazing speeds. Even the eyeblink realization that they’re just not going to make it, that the tunnel’s ceiling is simply too low for their skulls to fit, must be terrifying beyond words. I hope their families don’t ponder this moment too deeply, and come to the conclusion that such “final” moments aren’t necessarily the ones that echo the loudest through eternity.
But I think they do echo somewhat, especially in the material plane. Which is why we must take care in all the things we do.
Speaking of reality-warping cartoons, I watched one the other evening.
This one gets weird quick.
When I opened YouTube to browse for a particular clip, something on my home page caught my eye. It was a channel for the toy brand Hasbro, which was running a 24/7 livestream of the old Sunbow-produced “G.I. Joe” cartoons of the 1980’s. Its appearance was remarkable for a number of reasons.
For instance, the channel recommendation was algorithmically generated. This means that the software had somehow connected the dots of my viewing habits to produce this result. But I simply couldn’t imagine any logical pathway that might lead it there. I don’t watch videos about toys, cartoons or even the military, and have never watched a 24/7 livestream in my life. In fact, the other recommendations on the page seemed to agree with my assessment: “G.I. Joe” stuck out like a sore
trigger finger thumb.
So — of course — I had to click it.
As luck would have it, I tuned in at the precise moment a new episode was starting to play. And when I say “precise,” I mean that the opening credit sequence faded in from black, before my very eyes. It was as if the rest of my life up to that moment had been one long toy commercial leading up to the start of this particular show.
He'll fight for freedom!
Wherever there's trouble
G.I. Joe is there!
G.I. Joe (A Real American Hero)
G.I. Joe is there!
It's G.I. Joe against Cobra the enemy
Fighting to save the day!
He never gives up!
He's always there!
Fighting for freedom over land and air!
The episode that somehow located me in cyberspace was named “Money to Burn”, written by Roger Slifer. As you read its synopsis below, I want to remind you that this show was made for toy-age children, for the purpose of selling them plastic landfill junk.
(copied from the website gijoe.fandom.com)
Cobra Commander works with Xamot and Tomax to orchestrate a conspiracy to ruin the American economy. Cobra has invented a ray that causes Federal Reserve Notes to vaporize, making all American money disappear as well as preventing the U.S. Mint from printing more. The United States immediately becomes an impoverished nation and Cobra Commander transmits a broadcast that it has been punishment from Heaven for America's sins. Cobra says the new currency of the United States are gold coins with cobras engraved on them, and that Americans are to go to the nearest Extensive Enterprise building to trade valuables or agree to a term of slave labor for Cobra in order to earn some of the new money.
G.I. Joe investigates the cause of this through a wealthy heiress named Madeline Henderhaunch, who is looking to invest in Extensive Enterprises. She is greeted warmly by Tomax and Xamot, only to realize she is actually Lady Jaye, who has found the source of their scam while the real Henderhaunch is protected by G.I. Joe. The Joes storm Cobra's minting plant, causing the Baroness to sound the retreat. However, the Cobra troops ignore her as they are too busy looting Cobra coins, despite the Baroness' pleas they are worthless. The U.S. Treasury is now free to resume minting currency as always.
Back at Joe headquarters, Ripcord loses money in a poker game. Roadblock jokes that Ripcord did a better job at Cobra in making money vanish!
This brief synopsis doesn’t even begin to cover the strangeness of it all. What greeted me from the ether was twenty-two minutes of pure, glorious unhinged insanity.
A non-exhaustive list of the marvels on display:
Tomax and Xamot are pair of identical twins and corporate executives, who apparently like to cosplay as Las Vegas lion-tamers and finance a worldwide terrorist organization’s latest wacky schemes.
The immediate response when everybody’s bank notes go up in smoke is to loot and riot like BLM on PCP. When they’re not busy with that, they gather in massive crowds outside the Department of the Treasury chanting, “We want money! We want money!”
Following a televised speech by a lisping, faceless weirdo, the citizenry’s next move is to amass in front of a corporate skyscraper, where they brawl each other for a spot on the new “Cobracoin” welfare line.
When the Joes show up, the crowd quickly turns on them. During the ensuing melee, a stereotypical Bubba Redneck type notices that a squad of heavily-armed, flamboyantly-dressed paramilitary goons are molesting his fellow countrymen, and quickly moves to intercept them.
Via some convenient domino effect, this causes his driverless truck to start careening down the street with his young daughter inside. The girl is rescued by a particular Joe of a particular background (I think his codename was “Diversity Hire”). Bubba promptly crowns him Rodeo King and calls off the attack dogs.
The bullet points listed above constitute roughly two minutes of showtime. There’s more.
Much, much more.
We haven’t even touched on the “wealthy heiress” subplot, for example. Or the money-minting factory on a snowy mountainside. Or the freaky final battle and its hilarious conclusion.
And that’s not even to mention all the eminently quotable dialogue, which seesaws between psychedelic propaganda and half-blind prophecy. When a certain villain uttered the phrase “failed economic recovery program,” I almost sprayed gin and tonic all over my screen. You’ll laugh until you cry, then laugh again, then wonder what the hell was in those cookies you ate.
In fact, at times the madness on display was so intense that I wondered afterwards if I hallucinated it all.
Take your meds, Mark!
But it happened, man. It was real.
And although I was left wondering whether the Joes were truly “American heroes” as advertised or just another band of hypnotized globalist stooges… it turned out to be quite the ride.
One parting note of interest:
Out of curiosity, I looked up the writer’s bio to see what other weird shit might be lurking in his oeuvre. In addition to bouncing around the rainbow playground of 80’s/90’s afternoon cartoon lineups, Silfer is the co-creator of the DC comic book character Lobo: an alcoholic alien hitman from a Utopian world, who committed an act of planet-wide genocide against his people for the sheer fun of it.
As for “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero”, Silfer only penned one other episode entitled “The Germ.” While no detailed synopsis had been recorded at the fan-site listed above, it did include this short capsule summary:
A Crimson Guard steals a bacteria vial, but the vial eventually breaks and combines with an experimental growth serum, creating a monstrous blob-like germ that eats everything in its path.
By some curious coincidence, I’ve heard that “blob-like germ” was Larry Fink’s nickname back in college.
I’ll see myself out.
Note: This article a re-post. Apparently the naughty F-word isn’t allowed in Substack subtitles (at least not on the inbox pages), so I had to delete the original article and try again. Sorry for any confusion.
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