Ask General Kang: I’d like to increase the number of surveillance cameras in my city, but I’m having trouble getting my council to agree. Any advice for a mayor with ambitions?

Ask General KangSurveillance cameras are a must for any would-be intergalactic overlord, which I assume is your ultimate goal. (Just as an aside, mayor is not the best platform to launch such a career, but you can manage it, particularly if you are bloodthirsty enough and have really good psychokinesis — the insidious lord Darth Wedgie started as a mayor.)

Here are a few suggestions for getting your own big brother operation up-and-running:

1) Stage a series of abhorrent crimes

Start small with these, and work your way up into some really nasty ultra-violence. (Think the first half-hour of A Clockwork Orange, as a good template.) This will create your climate of fear.

2) Install cameras in high crime areas

3) Pay your goons to commit crimes in places where there are no cameras

4) Install cameras there

5) Continue to allow crime to flourish

6) Install speakers with cameras, to stop “unsocial” acts in progress. Look to Middlesbrough, England for a template on how to do this.

Now the conditions are in place for you to take the next logical step. Cameras in people’s houses. Look, you can argue, you’ve stopped violent crime and unsocial acts in the streets — imagine what you could do if you put cameras in people’s homes? No more spouse abuse, no more child molestation. Who could be against that?

Suggest that anyone who doesn’t like this plan has something to hide.

Now all you need to do is start building your army of über-chimps. I recommend arming them with plasma weapons and kazoos. Nothing renders an enemy force more helpless (with laughter) than a phalanx of chimps blowing kazoos. (Then the plasma weapons up the wazoo!)

Next time: How does one get rid of a house guest that won’t leave? I mean without feeding them to the Great Slorg Beast in your backyard?

Alltop is the great slorg beast of humor aggregators. Originally published in October 2006.

An Outraged Diner Emails the In-Vitro Café

Beaker meat with face of Marcel DuChampsFrom: wally42@yaboo.com
To: owner@invitrocafe.com
Subject: Suing your restaurant

Dear Proprietor,

My wife and I managed to get a table at the grand opening of your establishment last night, and we regret our effort.

We are both conscientious eaters, so the idea of dining on in-vitro meat that was grown in a lab appealed to us. We believe that no creature should be slaughtered for our own pleasure, so we have not eaten meat for years. In short, we were thrilled to hear about your new enterprise and we wanted to support it. Even the high price tag and “mysterious” nature of your menu could not put us off.

We were not even dissuaded by having to sign a non-disclosure agreement before dining.

The menu — which I will get back to in a minute — was quite delightful.

Initially.

The celebrity-named dishes were whimsical and amusing. I was quite tickled by your dish called Six Cream Cheese of Kevin Bacon, ostensibly an entrée with lots of cream cheese and mock bacon, while my wife was charmed by Lady Gaga’s Crazy Legs — some kind of ersatz chicken drumstick recipe.

That was, until we learned these were not, in fact, Frankenpork and tank poultry we were eating, but the cloned meat of the actual celebrities themselves.

You seemed quick shocked when a number of your clientele regurgitated their Muscles from Brussels (I now understand that was not a typo), or their Jack Lemmon Meringue Pie, or whatever they had ordered from your ill-conceived and possibly illegal menu.

You should have expected it.

I will concede my Angel Hair Pasta, Con Angelina Jolie was delicious. I thought I was ordering a kitschy-sounding entrée, and I did not believe for a minute I would actually be consuming the meat from said actress. Yes, she was delicious, not only in the visual sense, but also to the taste. There was a lingering sweetness to the dish, and you did something quite remarkable with the sauce. But that is beside the point; I was tricked into eating another human being!

I’m sure there will be a certain segment of the population that will enjoy consuming their favorite celebrities, and not just in the metaphorical sense that we do now. In fact, given our culture’s obsession with fame, I predict your enterprise will be quite successful. And this is to say nothing of the deviant souls who will spice up their night out with the ultimate taboo, without the fear of legal repercussions.

You, however, can look forward to a prolonged entanglement in the courts.

Even though your menu does not serve actual human flesh, but rather, tissue grown in a lab, it is still, in the opinion of my wife, myself and my attorneys, cannibalism. How you ever managed to get the local health authority to allow anthropophagy in a licensed establishment, I will never know, but rest assured, this issue is one of the avenues my legal team will be pursuing.

And though he is infamous, I don’t know what you were thinking when you put the Hitler Fusion Stir Fry on your misguided bill of fare.

That, sir, is just offensive!

w.

P.S. We left before I had a chance to try the Marcel DuChamp Banana Flambé, but I am curious, how does one cook a Dadaist for dessert?

#

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Alltop loves a little frankenpork. Originally published by Defenestration Literary Magazine, 2010.

A romance for the ages

A romance for the agesIt began simply.

He was out on his morning rampage when he crashed through the front gates of SeaWorld.

She was doing the 10 am show, trying to keep her spirits up while simultaneously pleasing her human masters and keeping the male dolphins from gang raping her.

It was love at first sight; she was drawn to his chiseled good looks and stylish shoes, and he instinctively knew that she would not like fire.

As the crowd fled in abject terror, she knew he would free her from this horrific prison. She jumped into his arms as he approached the tank, and he smiled as he felt the coolness of her scales on his hands, the warmth of her hand on his face.

It all went so well until lunch.

Alltop loves fish too! Thanks to Foxtongue for the pic. Originally published March, 2009.

The Mash-Up Mentality

Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesWith derivative art invading our cultural spaces like never before, is this the start of a new artistic movement or the death of originality?

In 1951, the science-fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon said 90 per cent of everything is crap. Since then, the percentage hasn’t changed, but the volume sure has.

Digital culture serves up more derivative, unoriginal, and – let’s face it – bad art than we ever got in the old analog world. But why?

Sixty years have passed, and we’re still primates. That means we are hard-wired for acceptance and belonging to the group. Of course, being original and outstanding is hard to pull off if you’re going to run with the crowd. Call it the Thag Principle. And we don’t really outgrow it once we leave high school, where conformity is a survival issue. It gets subsumed and expressed in other ways, such as “liking” things on Facebook.

In one sense, our need for conformity runs so deep that we are not even aware of it. One of the things I loved about George Carlin was how well he could shake out our delusions of originality. He said, “People who say they don’t care what people think are usually desperate to have people think they don’t care what people think.”

So even if we spend most of our time trading links to the latest Hitler “Downfall” video or chuckling at the latest version of the “Sad Keanu” meme, it is culture. It’s derivative culture, but evidence of a kind of originality. The kind that advertising giant Leo Burnett said “made for good ads: the secret of all effective originality in advertising is not the creation of new and tricky words and pictures, but one of putting familiar words and pictures into new relationships.”

Sense and Sensibility and Sea MonstersThe mash-up mentality has invaded all of our cultural spaces too, even the literary. When I read about Seth Grahame-Smith’s book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I had two reactions. The first was, “Well, that’s derivative.” The second was, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Since then, we’ve had Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter, and I’m sure we’ll see Canadian knockoffs soon:John A. Macdonald’s Time Machine (filled with lots of Morlock fighting), and Anne of Green Gables Meets the Aliens (hey, why should the horror genre get all the fun?).

So is this the start of a new artistic movement, or the death of originality? Many will argue art has always had imitation, reinvention, and even plagiarism at its heart. Hell, T.S. Eliot said, “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” Real originality evokes many emotions when it’s first encountered, and love is rarely one of them. Usually, it’s outrage and anger. New things scare us – the Thag part of us, which likes the predictable and reassuring. How else can you explain the proliferation ofCSI spinoffs on television?

A mash-up culture is the perfect combination of those things – something that has the frisson of newness, but is, at its heart, familiar.

Digital media has opened up the means of production so that anyone can do it. Instead of leaving them in a desk drawer, now all those frustrated novelists can publish their novels themselves. And they do. And yes, a lot of it isn’t very good. But then again, look at the stuff produced by so-called professionals. A lot of that isn’t very good either.

If you accept Sturgeon’s assertion, then 10 per cent of everything is not crap. Does that make it original? Or good?

Not necessarily. The American philosopher Eric Hoffer once wrote, “When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate one another.” (Back to our primitive brains.) So, much of the culture we create is not original. This essay is a fine example (assuming you’ll allow that it makes the 10-per-cent cut ). I’ve quoted a science-fiction writer, a philosopher, a comedian, and a poet, and referenced numerous cultural products to make my argument.

Our only hope is the raw numbers. There are so many more people creating culture now that even if most of it is garbage, there will still be more worthwhile stuff made than at any time in history.

Of course, we may never know about it, because, hey, Thag likes his LOLCATS.

Hey, Alltop enjoys a good meme! Originally published on The Mark, February, 2011.