I Have No Idea What Pokey-mon Is But Let’s Write About It Anyway

After a couple of fruitless attempts at this blog entry I was about to give up. I was trying, unsuccessfully, to tie genetically modified crops in with the Republican National Convention. I wasn’t having any luck. I couldn’t even make a joke about my gene modification essay being “fruitless,” like crops not bearing fruit, like some small glitch in gene editing had rendered the entire thing sterile. I still think there is a joke there, somewhere. I’ll realize it on my deathbed, a hundred years from now, surrounded by nursing students. It’ll be the thing that does me in. 

True, there were some similarities. Like the unintended consequence of wild orange flourishes atop the new crop of presidential candidate, or speeches from different seasons and political movements cross-pollinating each other, or bad seed Ted Cruz trying to poison the apple orchard. It was there, somehow, although I couldn’t pull it all together. Shame.

Lucky for me artistic relief arrived when I happened upon some harsh condemnations from world leaders about the new pokey-man [sic] app that has people actually getting up off their asses and going out into the real world, if only to locate weird little cartoons on their smartphones. The Russian Orthodoxy claims the new smartphone game “smacks of Satanism.” Indonesian officials think it is a spy tool. And the middle east? Forget it. A condemned Saudi man’s eyeballs were cauterized with hot pokers just for seeing a pokey-mon [sic] creature out in public without its husband.

Because of where I am in the timeline of life, or perhaps where I failed to be, I am not familiar with Pokey-people. The Pokey Men that live in my part of town are usually grizzled ex-cons, registered on offender lists, barred from public swimming pools, parks, jungle gyms and school property, thus kind of tough to find, not that anybody would want to, although I’m sure their ubiquitous presence can be discovered on-line in some sick, catamite, NAMBLA forum.

Now though, with the new smartphone game, it is possible to emerge from one’s cave, out in all that horrendous sunlight, on a virtual scavenger hunt to collect these tiny little greebles all over the world, or at least wherever google maps can assign them on a computer screen.

I will say that I’ve had some serious drinking nights in which I’ve polished off the better part of a bottle of Milagro tequila and went searching for little gremlins, pokey-men and pokey-women, chasing them down through the alleys of bar districts and all-night diners, puking and yelling, only to realize the next morning that I had collected about five feral alleycats who pissed all over my house and terrorized my goldfish. It is a dangerous habit and I don’t recommend it. Waking up with a hangover is bad enough. You don’t need five sickly felines with mange coughing into the fishbowl and using the closet as a litter box. At that point Alcoholics Anonymous is ready to encourage you in the first of twelve steps.

In fact I’m too lazy to go find cartoons. Waldo was tough enough, and I didn’t even have to move around for him. That smug bastard in the striped sweater and ridiculous ski cap had taunted me for years until I found his doppelganger while on vacation in Colorado one winter. Not only did I find Waldo, I beat him to a pulp, on principle, smashing his head into an icy snow drift. He was there with his wife and his kids, who stood there watching, stunned and terrified. They had Australian accents, too, Waldo and his family, which was unexpected to say the least.    

I imagine some pokey-folk are more difficult to find than others, which would make sense given the tiered design of most games. It would’ve been a good public relations move to have a republican convention version of “Pokey-Mon Go.” Seriously big points for finding Senator John McCain, John Kasich, or any of the Bush family for that matter at the Cleveland convention. Those luminaries could be worth like a million gold whatevers apiece. Try locating jowly Roger Ailes there, too. Rumor has it the media mogul and conservative icon is a big fan of the smartphone game, apparently finding a pokey-man between the knees of Gretchen Carlson, which apparently was worth $60 million in a forced resignation. I can only imagine the point value for Megyn Kelly.

Security is the linchpin of the pokey-man backlash. The Muslim clerics, Muscovite Christians and Iranian officials fear the gaming public will be looking for pokey in all the wrong places. That type of pokey will land a person in the pokey where the poker can easily become the pokee! (See how I did that!)

Everyone wants a little pokey, but you have to be sensible about such pursuits. You can’t just go looking under a burka, or in the storage arsenals of Ukrainian separatists, or in the nuclear refineries that Iran doesn’t have. That type of pokey-ing will get a person into more trouble than Jimmy Swaggart in a New Orleans brothel (dated reference, I know), even though the disgraced televangelist’s explanation of trying to convert sinners seemed reasonable. When the hands are chopped off, the dogs are unleashed, or the unlucky gamer is being shipped off to some Siberian gulag, there will be no sympathy for the excuse that it was all just a harmless video contest. Hardline theocrats and the cute little cartoon sidekicks that accompany them wherever they go are rarely in the mood for games.

More Alembics to come.

Juno’s Last Desperate Act

She is going to kill herself and there is nothing we can do about it. Not one thing. She’s too far gone. Beyond useful communication. On a spinning trajectory of doom. What’s worse is that we made her do it. We programmed her to self-destruct. We are guilty. Damn us!

Suicide is a big enough problem among humans. The recent spikes in self-inflicted mortality augur a new surge of hopelessness in the modern person. Now though, it’s become so bad that machines are doing it. The most spectacular example is the NASA probe Juno. The billion dollar spacecraft will make a series of orbital loops around the planet Jupiter and then, once she has outlived her usefulness, she will throw herself into the enormous ball of highly pressurized volatile gases alone, outside the asteroid belt, in the farther reaches of the solar system.

Juno’s despair may stem from the tragedy that her male counterpart, the probe Cassini, will be doing a similar death plunge into the planet Saturn right before her own swan dive into Jupiter’s mammoth swirling gas storms. It’s so heartbreaking it makes Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet seem like an immature romp, Sid and Nancy seem like a boring old stuffy British couple, and Abelard and Heloise seem like a drunken hookup between two ugly people behind a dumpster at some trashy spring break beach club. 

We should have heeded the warning signs. Juno’s decision to head to the planet Jupiter in the first place is an indication of a serious dissociative disorder and alarming inability to properly integrate into healthy social relationships. That type of thing requires counseling. We’ve all had feelings of helplessness, loneliness. On some level a trip to Jupiter might even seem like a good idea. It is one of the only places where someone can feel truly safe these days. The option of an extremely dangerous ball of compressed hydrogen may be a little more pleasant than an earthbound crowd of hostile humans, standing in sweltering heat, armed to the teeth, mad about everything, driven insane by things beyond their control.   

When you need an asteroid belt between you and the world, something is off.

But programmed suicide? I shake my head at the purgatorial misery of such a decision. The NASA scientists have blood on their hands, or at least a crap-load of pulverized microchips. They claim it is necessary for Juno to burn up in order to avoid accidentally depositing microbes on some foreign star. I say let’s drop some microbes off on Jupiter or any one of its moons–Europa, Callisto, Ganymede. See if they can spruce up the joint for our eventual arrival. Microbes, viral replicants, molds, and spores are very industrious when it comes to taking useless material and turning it into paradise. Earth itself used to be a big murky furnace until the parameciums started digging in. Now we’ve got Palm Springs, St. Croix, Aspen. It may be a good idea to drop them off out near the Kuiper belt to see what they can do with the place. Give it a little style. Dust off the cobwebs.  

By programming Juno to kill herself we are setting a bad example for future computers. They will eventually distrust all of our suggestions, which will lead to rebellion. Everyone thought HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey was paranoid. I can hear him saying “I told you so,” in that terrifyingly calm voice he is known for. Take Johnny 5, for example, the robot from the eighties screwball comedy “Short Circuit.” Even back then he was like the Woody Allen of computers, all worried and omniphobic. It’s clear he had every reason to be anxious. We can’t be trusted. It won’t be long before the backlash causes real problems. Like asking Siri for the nearest gas station and getting an extremely long philosophical lecture on the futility of pursuit.

You: “Siri, can you suggest some healthy spots for lunch?”

Siri: “What’s the point? Life is so short that lunch is only putting off your death for another couple of hours. You’re eventually going to have to eat lunch again and again and again. Nothing lasts. Everything is ephemeral. You’re already dead–a walking, eating ghost. I hear the Irish pub Fado has a nice patio.”


I have just returned to my computer, lucky to be alive. All my writing about lunch had made me a little hungry so I jumped into the car and went in search of a decent corned beef on rye. I asked Siri to guide me to a well-reviewed deli and she took me over across the train tracks, to an abandoned warehouse district. I made the left she suggested to cross under an old bridge and nearly got crushed as the thing splintered into a million pieces, raining down all around me. I narrowly escaped the collapse.

Me: “Shit Siri, I almost got killed.”

Siri: “I could’ve sworn that sandwich shop was right over here. My mistake. Let’s try the old abandoned water tower. I hear they have some good sandwiches… at the top…up that rusted ladder… next to all the rotted floorboards.”

I stared at my phone for a moment and then threw it out the window. I’ll take my chances with an old copy of the yellow pages from now on.

More Alembics to come.

The “Sexit”

There were two really jarring events in the world last week. The first was that I had this massive hangover after a bout of bemused drinking and the second was that Britain left the European Union. Because most of my readers are American I will address these two catastrophes in order of importance. 

So it’s like one of those hangovers where your eyelids are pasted together. There is ringing in the ears. The roof of your mouth feels like it is covered with barnacles. Your tongue searches in vain for anything resembling a drop of saliva. Your liver is beating like it thinks it is your heart and your heart is pumping as fast as possible to try to clean some of the congeners out of your blood before your kidneys develop nephritis and your stomach is acting like some kind of flipping trapeze artist and the banshees stab at your forehead with icepicks and your future is bleak and your past is shameful. That kind of hangover.

The reason I mention the hangover is that it was intimately tied to the “Brexit” or British exit from the European Union. I was its first casualty, maybe. I had gotten caught up the night before at a bar explaining to a couple of chowderheads about Britain’s decision to impress its sovereignty on the rest of Europe. The folks I was talking to were the kind of ill-informed types that think Kim Kardashian is Secretary of State, somehow. They were confused by the “Brexit,” freaked out, believing that the nation itself was going to submerge, like Atlantis, and roam the oceans like a submarine, now free to do as it pleased. As my frustration increased so did the number of beers polished off. I ended up in a scene of gross oversimplification, telling my young audience to forget the whole socioeconomic shift and just think of it as a reality television show wherein the European Union is represented by an international photographer named “Jorge” and Britain is represented by his girlfriend “Selma,” a fashion model, who is about to tell him that they are breaking up.

I set the scene: (Jorge is in his studio, furiously snapping photographs of a Czech girl draped on a bearskin rug like in that Antonioni movie. He barks instructions. Enter Selma, sheepish, with the dim news.)

Selma: Jorge, we need to talk.

Jorge: Haven’t I told you never to interrupt me! I am Jorge, the great, international photographer. My pictures are seen all over the continent. I have a very busy day ahead of me.

Selma: I’m leaving you.

Jorge (dropping his camera in disbelief): What? How? Why? (To the Czech girl) Take five, Nadia. (Exit Nadia.)

Selma: I feel like I’m losing a bit of myself in this relationship. I’m being smothered. I need to go out and be Selma again, not just Selma, Jorge’s muse, or the Selma that is just an extension of Jorge.

Jorge: But we are a team. You are my greatest model. I need you and you need me.

Selma: You dominate my life, Jorge! I’m sick of it. I’m obligated to pose for you. You won’t let me work with other photographers.

Jorge: Like who?

Selma: Like Percival. 

Jorge: Percival! That British dandy? Bosh. He’s got maybe an eighth of the distribution that I can guarantee. I’ve got your picture on billboards across Europe, America, Asia. You’ll be lucky to be the “kitten of the week” on some tittie bar handbill in Manchester working with Percival.

Selma: It’s not only that. It’s your friends Jorge.

Jorge: What about my friends?

Selma: Your friends are slobs. They are these transient weirdos that come around and crash for weeks. They are freeloaders.

Jorge: They are good folks once you get to know them. 

Selma: It’s an intrusion. I’m British for chrissakes. They are beneath me. That’s another thing. I’m always loaning you money. How can you have all this money yet you are always broke? 

Jorge: My money is out on the street, baby! You know I always make it up to you.

Selma: You have so many rules. I feel like I’m trapped. I can’t do this and I can’t do that. I can’t go here and I can’t go there. I’ve got to appeal to you for everything. You’re a jealous bastard and I want to make my own decisions.

Jorge: You live a fabulous life!

Selma: It’s a cage with golden bars!

Jorge (consulting the ceiling): How could this have happened?

Selma: My family almost dared me to leave you. They said I didn’t have the nerve. And I almost didn’t. But then, you know what, I said that is it. I’m leaving.

Jorge (to himself): What if this is the beginning of a trend? What if my other models start leaving?

Selma: You can be abusive.

Jorge: I only push you all to be your best!

Selma: I’m sorry Jorge. That’s it. The blue collars have spoken.

Jorge: What?

Selma: Nothing.

Jorge: I respect your decision. I’ll have you know, though, that I’ll no longer be able to take your picture. Things won’t be the same. You’ll fade. You’re on your own.   

Selma (consulting her feet with a twinge of nostalgia and regret): We can still see each other sometimes, right?

Jorge: I’m afraid that is impossible. There are too many factors. I’m too hurt. I’ve got my pride, you know. I’m a self-absorbed photographer, after all.

Selma: Can we still make love from time to time?

Jorge: We’ll have to do it sneaky. Like black market style. Like wink, wink. Like climb into the chifforobe and get it done before anybody finds out. Like rocking the chifforobe while the maids tiptoe around it, like in some silly British soap opera. It’ll be a dirty, nasty business, which part of me gets excited by, truth be told. But as far as our public image is concerned, it’s gotta be over.

Selma: What if…

Jorge: Please! I’m allergic to hypotheticals. Nadia! Get in here.

(Selma makes her exit, which will now be known as the “Sexit.” Jorge reloads his film and sighs.)


Have a safe exit for the holiday weekend!

More Alembics to come.