Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Last Supper

The entrée was a simple salad of rocket and dandelion leaves, tossed with a light dressing of raspberry vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, topped with slivers of parmesan and fresh truffle shavings. He raised a forkful to his mouth and savoured the subtle combination of flavours.

He was eating alone. The Institute had offered to serve the meal for any guests he wanted to have as well, but there was no one he felt close enough to that he would have elected to share this moment with him. He was a loner, but that was nothing unusual for those who had come this far in the selection process. He ate the salad quickly, concentrating on the taste and texture of the food, trying to put the rest of his world aside.

As soon as the salad was finished, the silent waiter quickly whisked the empty plate away. While he waited for the next course, he drank from the glass of good Riesling, which had been his choice to begin the meal. Without the distraction of the food, his thoughts moved to his situation; the irrevocability of the step he would take on the morrow.

For human space exploration, the transformation offered only advantages. The more mass had to be accelerated to near-light speeds, the greater the amount of energy needed. Providing enough food for a human to consume over months and years was a major problem; and the efficiency of the human body in winning energy from food was laughable anyway – particularly when there was an alternative.

The next course came; fettuccini with small slices of freshly grilled wild salmon, covered with a lemon-cream sauce, lightly set off with dill. He chewed and swallowed, reflecting on the fact that this evening was the last time he would chew. From tomorrow onwards, chewing would become superfluous.

He would still drink, of course – his body would still need the same amount of water, even some more than in his present physiological state – but water was easily recycled, even in a small ship hurtling through the immense distances between the stars. But the biological process of producing energy through the basic chemical reaction between oxygen and sugar – burning carbohydrates – would no longer be necessary.

Tomorrow morning they would sedate him, insert a central venous catheter, and pour the nannites into his body. They would begin their busy work all through his organism on the cellular level and four weeks later he would awaken from his artificial cocoon state, the transformation complete.

The main course arrived; slices of roast duck, previously marinated in red wine, with ginger and garlic, couscous dumplings, and quickly stir-fried peppers, onions, courgettes and thinly-sliced water chestnuts. There was a gravy of the roasting duck juices, enhanced with the marinating theme of wine, ginger and garlic. The wine was a rich Haut-Brion Bordeaux.

As he savoured the duck and the wine, he thought of the changes which would take place in his body. He would grow much thinner and lighter, his skin taking on a green colour as it produced the specially designed chlorophyll-analogue which his system could now use to gain energy directly from light, any source of light. Some of his internal organs, like all those metres of intestines would practically disappear, others, above all the liver, modify themselves to take on adapted functions. How much more efficient, how wonderfully elegant, he thought. All he needed apart from light was water and minerals and trace elements (only a couple of grams daily), which could be dissolved in the water. The transformation would make it vastly easier for him to spend long periods in space and give him almost complete autonomy in his exploration of new planets. It would increase his life expectancy and the new, largely plant-based cellular structure of his body would be much more robust; better able to withstand long periods of high acceleration, radiation and hostile environments,

He was eating more slowly now, relishing the excellently cooked meal. His last meal. It was the sacrifice of feeding which had gripped the public imagination most about transformation and the reason why this ritual of the final meal, The Last Supper, had been initiated. Indeed, although it had never for a moment rocked his determination to take this step, the renunciation had seemed great. He had consoled himself with the thought that it was somehow fitting; that such major advantages, such fundamental metamorphoses, must, in some fashion, be appropriately paid for. Until his conversation this afternoon with Helga, his mentor. He watched her green eyes (gleaming in an even greener face) incredulously as she explained.

“… some kind of side-effect. We still don’t really understand how it works; despite all the progress we’ve made, there are still many functions of the brain we only imperfectly understand. At any rate, after transformation, you will discover that you won’t only obtain your energy from light, you will also … taste it.

“We keep this information confidential until immediately before transformation. We don’t want it to have an influence on our applicants or their screening process. But you have to be told before it happens – otherwise you will be very confused when you awake after transformation has been completed. It is a phenomenon which takes some getting used to.”

The waiter removed the remains of his dessert – a creation of mousses of various varieties of chocolate – and brought coffee and Armagnac. Replete, he sipped the liquor. A smile played over his face.

To taste light, in all its wavelengths, all its combinations! An unexpected galaxy of gourmet pleasure opened itself before him, he who had been prepared to become an ultimate ascetic for the sake of knowledge and adventure.

The chocolate taste of Aldebaran.

The frothy roast chicken savour of the Orion Nebula.

The sweet lemon succulence of Sirius.

All the myriad flavours of the universe …

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Opting Out

originally posted at, 14.11.2011

I really don’t think there’s much point in writing this, but it seems somehow wrong to disappear from life – such as it is – without leaving some kind of message. Message to whom? Hah! Nobody in this fucked-up world that I can think off anyway; those who would care have taken the same way as I plan to. Maybe I’ll meet some of them again. It’s one of my major hopes.

A message then to a person or persons unknown. Maybe archaeologists from some unimaginable future … in the unlikely event that humanity manages to survive the mess it seems to have screwed itself into. Or alien explorers, landing on a planet showing signs of an extinct civilisation. Or even humans from an alternate reality; the plethora of virtual alternatives we have been creating makes everything possible, in digital imagination anyway – for all that that’s worth.

So then, I suppose I should try to explain what this is all about. I have finally given up on RL, as they call it, real life and have opted instead to join the growing horde of those escaping to VL, virtual life.

It’s a one-way ticket, you see, for all intents and purposes. Oh yes, if you’ve got enough money you can buy the special withdraw-after-thirty-days option, but it you take it, it involves rather nasty withdrawal symptoms and extensive neurological reconstruction surgery. Even among those who buy it, only about one in ten thousand actually makes use of it – and many of them ultimately return to RL if they have the money or suicide it they don’t. That kind of news spreads so most people don’t bother with the opt-out – it’s a better bet to invest every cent you can in your VL package.

The biggest recruiter for VL is RL anyway. What with the low level radioactive poisoning from the brief but murderous Middle East Holocaust a few years ago, the increasing spate of natural disasters from a wheeling climate which can’t seem to decide between global warming and nuclear winter, the lawless chaos in many areas of the major cities worldwide, the ongoing recession because of declining growth, the press of illegal immigrants from the poor into the rich world, etc., etc. … do I really need to go on? A growing number of those who can afford it are opting out into VL every year; many of them the people RL would need to put things back together again, or at least keep them on an even keel. Most have lost any hope that the transnational corporations and financial institutions, who have the real control over the world, have the slightest clue as to what they are doing, apart from using complex questionable algorithms to continually maximise short-term profits. And the crux of the whole thing is that a continually growing amount of the capital they are working with comes from funds set up to finance the VLers who have abandoned RL and are only interested in obtaining the best possible returns to pay for their adventures in dream worlds.

You see, you get what you pay for and the VL packages aren’t cheap. Your unconscious dreaming body has to be cared for – on a basic level, with lots of automation to be sure – but it still needs to be kept alive. There are no guarantees, of course, and there’s no money back if you die but Microgoogle™ claim that 78% of all 65 year olds who enter one of their worlds are still alive at the end of their contract. Amazapple™ has a much better figure (93%) but their packages are much more expensive.

When you have decided to go for VL, you have to make some basic decisions, the most fundamental one being what you can afford. The corporations offer all sorts of packages and you really need to compare them and read the small print – in fact, a whole new service area has grown up to advise clients about the best package for their particular desires and means. The choices are complex and not always clear, so that most people feel that the fee they take for this service is well invested. They’ll also help you to liquidate all your assets, taking care of the paperwork needed to negotiate with pension funds and life-insurance companies about lump-sum payments or models for regular payments, etc.

In my case, Virtual Bliss Consultants™ recommended a short-list of four packages. It didn’t take me long to exclude the Amazapple™ deal included; it would have given me a very high-quality experience and first-class care for my body, but the price meant that I would only have two and a half years in Virtuality before my contract was ended, I was disconnected and my unconscious body let die. The Microgoogle™ package I have chosen gives me nearly nine years, partly because they’ll also pay me for a kidney and my eyes (one kidney is plenty for a resting body and I won’t need my eyes any more – there’s the added advantage that their removal makes an easy brain-hardware interface over the optic nerve possible).

My package also has some other interesting features. I get a guaranteed eight years, 334 days but, depending on the performance of the investment of my payment, it can be extended. There’s no way, of course, that I’ll be able to find out about this when I’ve moved to VL but that means that I won’t know the moment of my death there; when the money runs out I’ll simply wink out of existence – no warning, no pain.

Though, of course, it may happen before that; if my adventures in VL bring me into a situation in which I’m killed then that’s it. It’s a feature which “enhances the verisimilitude” of the experience, as Microgoogle™ puts it. Apparently, a guarantee of practical invulnerable immortality (even if limited for the minimum contract period) introduces such a high chaos factor that the algorithms controlling the VL world you have chosen have problems dealing with it. Amazapple™ have just offered a new package with a (limited) invulnerability option but the price means that you have to be very rich to even consider taking it.

There’s also a teaser. My package contains connections between the world I have chosen and many others. There’s no guarantee you will find them and less as to where they will lead you but Microgoogle™ is playing up this feature in their advertising with phrases such as “endless adventure in exciting quests for new worlds.”

I know it’s a tiny chance, but it opens the possibility that I might even find my son there. It’s been five years since he went virtual, after his wife and daughter had been killed in the terrorist thermonuclear incident in Paris. The life-insurance payment for his wife, plus his considerable assets, meant he was able to buy a twenty five year contract. So, as far as I know, he’s still in there somewhere.

As far as I know … The gulf between RL and VL is absolute. When the enabling legislation was being hammered out between lawyers, lobbyists and lawmakers in the US Congress and the European Parliament, this was an aspect on which both sides agreed very quickly. The idea of regular contact between VL and Real Life was anathema to both sides; an avalanche of complaints and people changing their minds, the constant destabilisation of the “real” world through news from thousands of virtual ones, lawsuits and questions of liability, pressure for RL regulation of all sorts of specific issues in the myriad RL worlds. So the decision for VL is an irrevocable one (apart from the optional thirty-day-withdrawal clause I mentioned earlier, something pushed through by the consumer-rights lobby during the legal negotiations) – a one way ticket to … wherever you want and whatever you can afford basically.

So next Tuesday I will be entering Microgoogle™’s GrandeurWorld® (3.2.01763). It’s a comfortable, fairly secure one, designed around 18th Century motives, and my role is that of a modestly wealthy, handsome young dandy with pre-programmed expertise with the rapier. Two thousand other participants will also enter with me (Amazapple™ make a play for exclusivity by trumpeting the fact that the maximum number of participants in their worlds is three hundred, but my counsellor at Virtual Bliss assures me that GrandeurWorld is big and complex enough to easily accommodate us all and that a larger number of participants can actually make the experience richer and more interesting). While I feel a little nervous, I have no regrets about leaving Real Life – as I mentioned at the beginning of this, I regard it as being irrevocably fucked-up anyway. The only worry I really have is that things here will go downhill so quickly that the whole infrastructure supporting the VLers (often called the “undead” in popular culture) will collapse, but both Microgoogle™ and Amazapple™ claim that they are prepared for every foreseeable eventuality for at least the next fifteen years (including a state-guaranteed option for them to employ private armies if they judge this necessary).

The only certain thing is death anyway, and I’d rather have mine somewhere else. I must finish this now, it’s time for me to catch my flight to British Colombia, where MicroGoogle™ have the facility where my body will be stored – along with around eight million others. They have ten others worldwide and Amazapple™ has its own as well. Cynics call it the Necropolis. What do I care? This world is dying anyway.

Dancing in the Moonlight

originally published at, 11.09.2011

“Good night, then.”

She pressed her lips one last time to his, then broke away and walked quickly up the short garden path to her front door. As she opened the door she waved to him, her silhouette clear in the yellow hall light. He waved back. She blew him a kiss, then the door closed and Sean turned to begin the long walk home.

“Yes!” he hissed to himself. The music echoed in his head, as it had all evening. He sang to himself. “Dancin’ in the moonlight, it’s got me in its spotlight, it’s all right. Dancin’ in the moonlight …” He took a jump into the air, clicking his heels together. “Yeah!”

Even the heel-click worked. It didn’t always. But tonight everything worked, everything. He was nearly sixteen years old and it was summer, and the holidays were just beginning, and he’d just walked Teresa home. They’d been to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind in the local cinema. Their first date. It was a film he’d wanted to see but – he thought, grinning to himself – as it turned out, he hadn’t got to see much of it …

The lights went down for the start of the film and she was in his arms and he was in her arms and her mouth was open and sweet, her tongue questing and he was running his hand through her hair and down her back, to her waist and under her blouse and then moving up her silky smooth back …

Bra strap. The first frustrating hurdle for generations of teenage boys. Teresa wriggled out of his grasp.

“Wait a minute.”

He looked at her, slightly confused, as she twisted in her cinema seat, pushing her hands quickly behind her back, pulling them back down and then turning to him, once more taking him in her arms and kissing him again. When his hand slid up her back again, the bra was open.

His hand moved slowly, almost reverently forward, cupping for the first time in his life the full firm curve of a woman’s breast, his fingers seeking and finding the nipple, feeling it stiffen slightly under his touch. Teresa gave a little moan, deep in her throat.

On the screen Richard Dreyfuss was modelling the cone of Devil’s Tower out of mashed potato. Sean didn’t notice.

“Now we go steady to the pictures
I always get chocolate stains on my pants …
But I’m dancin’ in the moonlight …”

Chocolate stains, thought Sean, grinning, it’s not chocolate stains you get on your pants in situations like that! He’d had an erection all the time and it had become pretty uncomfortable, straining against his jeans. But there would be time. With Teresa he would go all the way, they would go all the way together. Ah, Teresa, Teresa, what a girl!

It had taken him a long time to walk her home after the film, the two of them with arms slung around each other, stopping frequently to kiss. When the way began, the sky in the north west was still light, the remains of the long late sunsets of a northern midsummer. In the east, the full moon was rising, orange and gigantic through the magnifying lens of the atmosphere.

Between the kisses they talked; she telling of her family and how her younger brother got on her nerves, he talking about the other great passion in his life (apart from her), rock music and his bass guitar.

“The bass is something special and it’s not easy. Most people just see it as another electric guitar, but it’s much more than that because it’s also part of the rhythm section of a band, along with the drums. It’s the anchor that holds the whole group together. And the notes you’re playing are usually completely different to the melody of the song, which means you really have to concentrate if you’re singing as well …”

Teresa nodded, hanging on his every word. He told her of his hero, Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy, one of the few bass players who was also the lead singer and front-man of a band.

“… and we’re practicing Dancin’ in the Moonlight at the moment. It’s a marvellous song, completely driven and carried by the bass line …”

Teresa said that she’d like to come sometime and hear himself and the band practising. They decided that she’d come next Tuesday evening but arranged to meet the next afternoon as well. Oh, he told himself, I think this is love and it’s got me and it’s wonderful, simply wonderful.

“And I’m walkin’ home
The last bus has long gone …”

It was late now, past midnight. The moon had risen, becoming somewhat smaller but whiter and brighter, clearly visible even through the sodium orange glare of the street lights. It was still a long way home, over two miles, but Sean wasn’t tired; his heart was too full and his joy too great. The evening replayed itself over and over again in his mind, the strains of the Thin Lizzy song providing a continual accompaniment. He was humming the bass riff again and again, da da da da DUM dum, da da DUM dum, occasionally skipping for sheer overflowing exuberance. The light summer breeze was warm, despite the lateness of the hour, and he was young and in love and the summer holidays were just beginning. Life is perfect, he thought. Dancin’ in the moonlight, it’s got me in its spotlight …

* * *

Gerry Hanlon was one of the last to leave the pub. There was nothing unusual in that, it was a regular occurrence. The fact that he climbed into his old Ford Escort after having downed seven pints of Guinness in less than three hours was also nothing unusual. Gerry always drove home, insisting (when this was occasionally questioned) that he could drive no matter how much drink he’d taken. It seemed to be the case too; on all the hundreds of nights he had driven with his blood alcohol level well above the legal limit he had never had an accident and, amazingly, never run into a police control.

Tonight he was in somewhat of a hurry. Shortly after driving away from the pub, he realised that he had forgotten to visit the toilet before leaving. Jesus, he needed to piss! Well, all he could do was see that he got home as quickly as possible.

He decided to have a smoke to try to take his mind off the pressure in his bladder. He crammed in his pocket for cigarettes and lighter. He got the cigarette packet all right but the lighter slipped from his hand onto the floor of the car in front of the passenger seat.

“Fuck,” he exclaimed. Holding onto the steering wheel with his right hand he bent to the left to scrabble on the floor of the car for the fallen lighter.

The street curved gradually right. Gerry’s Escort didn’t; on the contrary, it pulled more to the left as the weight of his bent body pulled his hand on the wheel slowly behind it.

* * *

Lost in joy, Sean never even hears the approaching car until it mounts the pavement, still travelling at more than fifty miles an hour. By then it is far too late. Less than a second later the vehicle strikes him squarely from behind.

His pelvis is crushed as the impact flips him high into the air, somersaulting back over the car. Mercifully, the shock is so great that there is no pain.
Time stretches like hot cheese at the side of a pizza slice …

Da da da da DUM dum, da da DUM dum …
The music is there, mixing with the moon spinning in the sky
Dancin’ in the moonlight …
The moon, shining in Teresa’s eyes, the feel of her breast (curved like the moon) under his fingers
It’s got me …
The memory of the sound of that quiet moan of passion in the back of her throat, the sweetness of her mouth kissing him
In its spotlight …
The inexpressible feeling of joy, of completeness, of summer opening itself before him, filled with endless possibilities
It’s all right …
The road rushes up to meet him.

Time breaks.

He hits the asphalt head first, his skull crushing, cracking like a soft-boiled egg.
Blood spreads, shiny black in the sodium orange street light.
Gerry is hunched beside his car, which has crashed into a lamppost thirty yards down the street, looking back in horror at the scene. He has pissed himself.

Sean’s eyes are wide open, staring sightlessly at the sky.
At the moon.

Happy Birthday, Marshall McLuhan

originally published at, 21.07.2011

Marshall McLuhan is a hundred years old today (July 21). Happy birthday, dude.

Or he would be, if he were alive; they say he died in 1980. Don’t you believe it; if the ghost in the machine has any meaning at all, this guy is still alive virtually – his soul surfing endlessly in all the myriad byways of the World Wide Web, whose advent and consciousness-transforming qualities he prophesied back in the sixties when everything was cool and whatever wasn’t cool was hot.

In the global village, the medium is the message. And, man, that medium is digital code – from DNA and ATCG to HTML and HTTP; reality broken down to switching on and off, combining and recombining, dreams and reality, deconstructing structuralism, a virtual reality becoming real virtuality in a brave new world in which everything is networked with everything else and I can learn in real time (limited only by the speed of optical fibres, server overloads and available 3G band-width) of the bowel-movement of a totally-wired social-network fanatic in Indonesia via Twitter on my smartphone (maybe even watch the whole event on YouTube if he’s been obsessive enough to upload it). Or ordinary people in oppressed countries in North Africa can organise revolutions.

That’s progress. Of course, we tend to automatically assume that progress means better. McLuhan never said that; he emphasised that technological developments are not moral categories but that the changes they bring to the world/society/culture have fundamental effects on the way we perceive things – on the whole shape of our individual and collective consciousnesses. New ways of seeing things, new ways of defining and understanding ourselves give rise to new moral questions and formulations, or new ways of asking old questions. It happened in the wake of the invention of the printing press and it’s happening again right now – on an exploded, time-accelerated, cracked-up, raised to the power of x scale.

There are times when McLuhan’s prophetic visions are eerily accurate. In 1962 (when Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, was seven years old), he wrote

Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library the world has become a computer, an electronic brain, exactly as an infantile piece of science fiction. And as our senses have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside. So, unless aware of this dynamic, we shall at once move into a phase of panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total interdependence, and superimposed co-existence. [...] Terror is the normal state of any oral society, for in it everything affects everything all the time. [...] In our long striving to recover for the Western world a unity of sensibility and of thought and feeling we have no more been prepared to accept the tribal consequences of such unity than we were ready for the fragmentation of the human psyche by print culture. (The Gutenberg Galaxy, p. 32)

An excellent description of why this post-9/11, finance-market driven, networked world of Fox News, Mad Men, Facebook, Global Warming, Tea Party, Lady Gaga chaotic complexity often seems to be basically composed of tribes of lemmings. Big Brother is already inside – but we can watch him on TV too, voting candidates in or out in modern versions of the Roman amphtheatre.

McLuhan inspired people like Tom Wolfe and Andy Warhol and gave Timothy Leary the phrase, “tune in, turn on and drop out.” He was also a convert to intellectual Catholicism and, they say, an admirer of the thinking of the Jesuit scientific mystic philosopher, Teilhard de Chardin.

In that case, there’s only one more question I want to ask: Is Google+ just another stage in the development of the noosphere or is it the beginning of the digital rapture, the Omega Point?

Frankie's First Church of Obnoxious

originally published at, 10.06.2011

Dear Mr. Obnoxious,

You’re such a hot-shot computer software type, I thought I’d make you a proposal. You know, like in that Pet Shop Boys song, “I’ve got the brains, you’ve got the looks, let’s make lots of money.” Knowing that you’re a man who’s always trying to earn a living with his skills in the virtual world, I figure this is an offer you can’t refuse.

I want to start an on-line church. I thought we could call it Frankie’s First Church of Obnoxious (Digital), though I’m open to other suggestions if you think they might be SEO-friendlier. I mean, I don’t want to be dogmatic about all this; it’s strictly a business thing. But I have lots of ideas of what FFCOD could offer which I’m convinced would make us all so filthy rich, we’d all have to move our residencies to the Cayman Islands (though, if we could get our religious status confirmed, we might even be able to live in the USA; hell, if the Scientologists can get away with it, so can we!).

When I started thinking about all this, it quickly became clear to me that the best model to follow is definitely the Catholic one. I mean, let’s face it, they’ve been around for nearly two thousand years now, which means that their product and business model must have a lot going for them. And they’ve got a couple of features which are just begging for on-line development.

My suggestion is that we launch the whole thing around one of the most successful concepts the Catholics have been pushing since God was a boy – the idea of Absolution. You know, the whole Confession thing. In my model, we’d basically take over the whole Catholic idea here one for one. You confess your sins on-line, there’s a priest somewhere who issues an absolution and, bingo, all your sins are forgiven.

I see great possibilities for this as a mobile app. It’s not even a scam, you can really certify this as being the genuine Catholic article. All you have to do is find some Catholic ex-priest who needs the money. You see, the Catholic Church teaches once a priest, always a priest. Even if a priest quits, even if the Church formally defrocks him (that’s a lovely expression, isn’t it, something really kinky about it J?), he’s still formally a priest and the actual god-given power to do the old whammy can’t be taken away from him. Honest to God, that is the genuine Catholic teaching on the subject – it’s about the sacrament of ordination making an indelible mark of his soul, or something like that.

So, all you have to do is download the absolution app onto your iphone or android device and you’re basically ready to go. This is where we start to earn money. For the simple app, the user pays $ 4.99. For this you get the basic packet: A list of sins you just click on to confess (you can also enter the number of times you sinned and there’s a graded scale of severity you input), press the Send button and you’re done. The basic packet includes three free absolutions but you may have to wait a while for it and the individual penance necessary for it to become effective, because the server collects and collates the sins and sends them to the priest three or four times a day, who then formally gives the absolution. The severity of the penance can be automatically programmed into the software so that the priest doesn’t have to work this out individually – minor transgressions like little lies or shoplifting get one Hail Mary, for more major things like murder, marital infidelity, or sexual abuse of minors a couple of Rosaries would be imposed.

But this is only the beginning. We could offer all sorts of premium services (with extra costs, of course). Like the Instant Absolution extra – a secure contact is installed immediately to the priest, who gives the penance and absolution straight away. For those whose time is limited you can also buy the extra Indulgence option, which frees you of the obligation to do the penance before the absolution becomes effective. I see great possibilities for this option in airport departure lounges – we might need to think about doing some kind of advertising in such areas. Or we could also offer various comfort options; the worry-free monthly flat rate ($19.95) with unlimited absolutions or the comfort-option plus, which includes five (!) instant absolutions – world-wide, any time – for just $39.95 per month extra.

This is all only the first step, of course. When the thing is up and running and generating enough income, we move on to the next stage. Automatic Holy Communion. We get our pet priest to consecrate thousands of hosts and then do some kind of deal with Coca Cola or Pepsi so that they can be made available in soft-drinks dispensing machines. When you see a machine with the Holy Communion option, you just whip out your mobile phone, choose the Communion option on your app and you get a one-time code which you then enter into the machine. The costs (we can call them “Contributions”) are deducted directly from the user’s credit card. For an extra charge, you can also get a thimble-full of consecrated wine (one thimble per user per day, so that we can’t be accused of impiety by opening up possibilities of abuse).

The more I think about it, the more I’m sure it can’t fail. Given the shortage of Catholic priests, once the thing is up and running we might even be able to an official deal with the Church; after all, this concept would go a long way towards easing their manpower problems. I can also see possibilities for offering different apps for other religions. You could do diet checks for Jews and Muslims (hell, their dietary restrictions are so similar, you’d only have to write the software once). You use your smartphone to read the bar code on a product in a supermarket and the app tells you whether it’s kosher or halal or not. The Muslim Comfort option finds your location automatically per GPS, calculates sunrise and sunset for your position, reminds you when it’s time to pray and even shows you the precise direction of Mecca. For males who want to convert to Judaism or Islam, I also see possibilities for instant circumcision extensions – they’re based on potato peelers, you just plug them into your phone, stick your dick in, the software measures circumference, thickness of foreskin, etc. and zing, whirr, you’re done (package includes local anaesthetic, disinfection solution, compresses and bandages).

The Buddhist, Hindu and Jain apps would offer karma risk calculation tables, for the Hindus there could be all kinds of extras like God of the Day, the Buddhists can call up appropriate sayings of the Dalai Lama … the possibilities are endless!

Get in touch with me, Mr. Obnoxious, we’ve got to start working on this idea straight away. Otherwise Steve Jobs will pick up on it and Apple will tie the whole market up …

Yours sincerely,


Frankie Writes to Barack Obama

originally posted at, 20.05.2011

The editor of sent me a message on Facebook a few days ago, in which he expressed the hope that Frankie would soon produce another rant. I’m afraid it’s not quite that easy, Chris.

Let me try to explain something about Frankie. He lives in my head – or, as he prefers to put it, he is forced to share my head with me. He doesn’t like this situation but, over the years, I’ve learned to keep him quiet and well under control and my life has been a lot more peaceful and harmonious as a result. But if he gets the feeling that I want something from him then he becomes impossible, for one of his many nasty characteristics is the pleasure he takes in making things difficult for me.

Our deal was that I would let him out occasionally on if he agreed to leave me in peace otherwise. However, the approval he has experienced for his cloacal regurgitations here has given him a feeling of some power, and that is always dangerous. Asked about a new rant, he suddenly started to play the prima donna – he didn’t really feel like it, he was too relaxed and at peace with the world after the recent holiday I had, he’d have to consult with his agent (!), etc., etc. It’s all rubbish, of course – all he’s doing is his usual number of being plain ornery. After much cajoling from me, he expressed a wish to write a letter to the US president, welcoming him to Ireland on the occasion of his visit there next week. After a lot of soul-searching, I reluctantly agreed because it’s the only way I’m going to get some peace; Frankie sensed I didn’t like the idea and so became progressively more enthusiastic about it.

So here you have it, such as it is. I’m afraid it shows another aspect of his character; an opportunistic obsequious self-serving sliminess, which is so obviously insincere that it is sickening – at least to me. But that’s Frankie; you only have to read him – I have to live with the bastard …

Barry K. O’Bama
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Dear Mr. President,

I’d really rather address you as Barry, for aren’t you one of our own after all? ‘Tis very glad indeed we will be to be meeting you next Monday, when you drop in for a day to visit us here in the Emerald Isle and check out your Mammy’s roots in the traditional American manner. Sure, isn’t that something that all American presidents (with the exception of the Bushes) in recent times have done as an example for their countrymen to come and leave a few welcome dollars in poor auld Ireland? And ‘tis sorely they’re needed, me boy, sorely they’re needed!

Well do I remember those days in 1984 when your great predecessor, Ronnie Reagan, visited the ‘aul sod. Yer man [that’s the awful gobshite whose head I’m cursed to have to share – locked in he keeps me and only lets me out at the computer from time to time!], of course, was out protesting against him, shouting about the rights of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and other such bullshit, but then he’s always been a bleeding heart leftie pinko liberal. Me, I felt it was highly disrespectful of him to be treating the president of the greatest country on earth in such a disrespectful manner but I’ve little control over his thoughts and actions, more’s the pity.

Mind you, Barry, I don’t know if I’d have told you that three years ago, as you seemed to be a bit of a pinko liberal yourself during your election campaign. You cute hoor, you! You fooled them all didn’t you, making everyone forget that, when you get right down to it, you’re really a good old Chicago Democrat? Talk big at the elections and then do the deals in the back rooms. Ah, but the blood will out!

And speaking of blood, I’ve me own theory about your Irish origins. I’ve a strong suspicion about Irish ancestry on your father’s side too. You might want to ask around in Kenya about whether there were any Irish missionary priests around when your granny was a young one. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if that’s where you got your gift of the gab.

Well, anyway, ‘tis just grand that you’re coming over to visit us and all, and don’t bother listening to any of the begrudgers who say that you’re only courting the Irish-American vote in the next election. Sure and didn’t they say the same about the sainted Ronnie, bless his senile demented memory?

We’re a very welcoming people, you know. Didn’t we welcome Lizzy Windsor this week and her being the Queen of England and all? And haven’t we welcomed all those American companies like Citicorp and Microsoft and Google and given them a lovely place to make all their profits with our nice low corporation taxes? (Though I have to complain about ungrateful gits like Intel and Dell who moved on elsewhere when things got a bit rough here and they found they could get cheaper deals elsewhere.)

Ah, Barry, we’re in a bad way now, to tell the truth. Sure, didn’t our asinine politicians go and give blanket unlimited guarantees to the Irish banks when the crisis started? Which meant that the poor aul Irish taxpayers are now left with a bill of $ 100 billion. And where did the Irish banks get the money and who is it owed to? Why, the big international banks, that’s who. And where are most of them? In Germany, that’s where.

And that’s where you could do us a favour – as a patriotic honorary Irishman. You could tell that German bitch, Merkel, to go a bit easier on us; she’d listen to you. Otherwise, you could suggest that Ireland might leave the euro zone and join the dollar zone. All we’d be doing really would be swapping Frankfurt for Wall Street, after all.

Now how’s that for an idea – Ireland as the 51st state of the Union? It would kind of balance off Hawaii on the other side. We have an airport in Shannon which we hardly use at all these days which would make a lovely base for US forces on this side of the Atlantic. Sure and don’t we even speak the same language? And all those young Irish people looking for jobs wouldn’t need Green Cards to go to America any more!

The more I think of it, the more I’m sure it would be of great benefit to you. Wouldn’t the Irish all vote Democrat – all you’d have to do would be remind them of the Kennedys. I’ll tell you this, Barry, the only kind of tea parties we have in this country are those where we drink the stuff – and if you’re partial to it, we could always put a sup of whiskey into it too. Your re-election would be assured!

And then, in your second term you could make Bono Secretary of State …

Yours sincerely,

Friday, 9 March 2012

Frankie: Digging up the Pope

originally posted at, 02.05.2011

As I mentioned over on Attempted Essays, I’m on holidays at the moment and I hadn’t really been planning to post anything during this time. But Frankie was watching the news yesterday evening – before the reports of Bin Laden’s death broke – and he started to rattle the bars of his cage. So I’ve decided to let him out again in the hope that he’ll give me a bit of peace for the next fortnight. I’ve got to warn you, this is in very bad taste. What can you say, it’s Frankie …

Frankie So Ratzo finally went and did it yesterday. He proclaimed formally to the whole world that John Paul II is in heaven. As such, Catholics are now allowed to pray to him; though because he’s only “Blessed” JP and not yet “Saint” JP they’re only allowed to do it in Rome and in Poland. He’s now playing in the Polish and Italian national leagues and if he does well in the qualification stakes, he’ll finally make it to the Intercession World Cup at some stage in the future. Being a blessed is a kind of apprentice sainthood; you get to practice and polish up your interceding techniques with God on a local audience, you get time to plan another miracle and then, if you’ve done your job well, the pope promotes you to saint and you get to intercede for everyone world-wide.

This is some bizarre fucking business. I’m very open-minded myself but there was stuff going on here that’s in the seriously kinky area. I mean, the first thing they did was to dig the body up. Shades of Dawn of the Living Dead. They do it to check the odour of sanctity or something. Apparently, blesseds and saints don’t stink. So the corpse was present for the whole ceremony and now they’re going to entomb him in a better place in St. Peter’s so that more pilgrims can drop by and say hello. Gives him more practice in interceding, maybe a better choice of candidates for healing miracles.

Come to think of it, maybe the Catholic Church could use this to move with the times, set up a reality TV show and get some good publicity. Vatican’s Next Top Miracle. You get a group of incurably ill people, they all get to pray at the tomb of Blessed JP and then a jury of priests examines their stories and illnesses before giving the candidates for the next round a holy picture of JP II. The candidate to be eliminated doesn’t get a picture and dies. The winner of the series gets cured.

One of the high points of the ceremony was where the nun he had allegedly cured of Parkinson’s got to carry a phial of his blood to the altar. This made me wonder if the whole thing hadn’t been planned for a long time, even before he died. April 1 2005, JP is busy dying. A phone-call from Ratzo to the doctor:

“Ja, you haff to make sure you get some of ze blood … Ja, ve are going to need it … Was? It is voll mit bacteria? … Ja, ja, I understand, he has sepsis … Ok, vell, sterilise it or something – it has to keep for a few years anyway …”

In Poland they’ve been cutting up his cassocks for a couple of years now and passing the bits around as relics. It’s probably only going to be a matter of time before we see his underwear being offered for sale on EBay. With certificates of authenticity, signed by his laundry lady.

The man responsible for running the whole beatification business – it’s an official job in the Catholic Church and he’s got the title of postulator – has confirmed that JP wasn’t averse to a bit of S&M; apparently he was into flagellation. Like I said, seriously kinky business – first necrophilia, then whipping.

But then, one of his best friends was Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the extreme right-wing Legionaries of Christ, who has recently been outed as a serial child-abuser and father of six children, some of whom he also abused. JP thought Maciel was hot shit because he was conservative and good at raising money for the church. Of course, he also thought Opus Dei was the greatest thing to happen to Catholicism since the Spanish Inquisition.

Robert Mugabe attended the ceremony in Rome yesterday. Vatican diplomatic protocol ensured that he was allowed to come, even if the EU bans him from travelling into its member states. But then, the Vatican is welcoming and forgiving to everyone – unless you’re gay, or a remarried divorced Catholic, or a woman using the pill, or a liberation theologian. Mugabe is a big fan of JP II. That makes sense.

Blessed John Paul II? If Jesus was alive, he’d be turning in his grave …