De Senium Britanniae

I eschewed my usual route to university on this day and so did not go to the usual metro station. That may have been the greatest displeasure of all, to consider losing the good graces of the Wraith of the Low Morning. Daily and as regular as the metro, and presumably some time between midnight and 6 AM, he, probably a young male with an IQ south of the 20th percentile, goes to that station and impresses his artistic genius upon the pristine laboratorial white of that one wall panel in every hue of the rainbow. The paint is often still wet to the touch as I stand admiring it at 9:25 AM. By the next day there is always a new inscription, the old hidden under a new coat of paint – the work of another person (again, probably a man) to whose annoyance the Wraith’s work is continually done. Not even God knows what is going on in the Wraith’s troubled head. Maybe his only taste of self-actualisation, whatever that means, is the testosterone high he gets as he imagines himself embroiled in some titanic battle of wits with the man who erases his work. Maybe he is a smoker and cannot stand the no-smoking warning. Maybe he fancies himself the next Banksy. Maybe he likes to see his work erased so he can do something new, but there seems little variation except changes in colour. Maybe he is an idiot savant, or perhaps a savant idiot. Now I try to envision his children. And then I stop.

Almost no normal person considers the metro carriage an appropriate place for social engagement apart from drunkards. It is a place where one, in effect, shuts oneself off from communication with the outside world for the twenty minutes or however long it takes to get to your stop. It is a place to stare into space dejectedly, read, pretend to read, plan essays, and scroll through faked shark-attack videos on your phone. Passengers thus tend to look on with horrified or puzzled expressions when someone starts to act out in a strange way.

On this particular afternoon the metro was just about empty, and there would have been little to comment on were it not for a tangerine-faced chav and her black friend, he with his trousers at half mast, stepping into the carriage about halfway into my journey, so I had the chance to observe them for the next few stops. It is more accurate, though, to say that I had no choice in the matter. At moments their voices seemed nearly indistinguishable in pitch and timbre despite his being male and a foot taller than she. It is generally the case that people who truly embody this archetype, the chav, have no self-awareness or indeed self-consciousness; this girl probably behaves like this in every situation that presents itself. They were having something that sounded vaguely like an argument at first. They threw themselves at each other in strange, stereotyped motions until eventually they just ran out of energy, as well as words, and started nondescriptly grunting in each other’s faces until they reached, and almost missed, their stop. Non-white chavs are a recently divergent subspecies who seem to have developed alongside the standard variety but were not nearly so common round these parts, I am sure, until this decade. Well, they have certainly integrated – just not into anything that is actually worth it.

The female embodied this archetype astonishingly well. All of the apparent default-setting fashion choices: the skin-tight leggings (and she will still be wearing those in her forties), the dyed tar-black hair, etc. Females, for obvious reasons, want to be physically appealing, but by the time the female chav has reached late adolescence she has often destroyed herself to the point where there is little to work with, and she may already have had two or three or twenty-three children. By her late twenties she could be a grandmother. Thus, by that time she usually settles into a pattern of bizarre peacock-like ostentation: brightly coloured trainers, preposterously large (plastic, typically) jewellery, etc, which is apparently not so much supposed to be attractive as it is – well, God knows.

Once off the metro there is much to see. On the way into school I damn near had a heart attack because I had forgotten to use my alcoholic hand sanitiser. I normally use it as soon as I am out of the station because the metro is a virtual pathologist’s lab, unguarded and constantly excreting new strains of the common cold virus among other things, especially in the cold months of the year. Winter here tends to render the sky a constant, thick, overcast grey interspersed with ten-hour (or longer) periods of black. Students from warmer climes seem fairly well adjusted here, though. I see them on my way in and out of the school; the Africans, the Han Chinese nouveau riche, and the beautiful dewy-eyed Koreans girls moving in packs about 20cm below my eye level and twittering incomprehensibly to one another. That sometimes puts me dimly in mind of an oddly psychologically distorting experience I had some months back, of the two Korean girls walking in front of me with their hands entwined at the Schoenbrunn Palace, both about my age. It is interesting to see Orientals as transfixed as they were by Occidental history. More than I was, frankly – since I take pleasure in almost no activities. They looked dazed, and, I thought, a little sad. It will be sadder yet to see the condition of Vienna and other European cities at the end of this century.

This is more than I can say for the Chinese students here. They were in British universities in great numbers, so I am told, as far back as the early 2000s, and their proficiency in English seems not to have improved any. Their mother country has a lot more to be hopeful about than we have at this point, but I do not think their parents are going to see much return on their investment when they go home.

Then there was my class. The classmates are a strange lot, which I like. Twelve persons in total; there used to be thirteen. All white, which is unsurprising given the subject matter. Eleven Britons and one non-Briton. Eight extraverts, three introverts, one schizoid personality. I determined that, crudely I admit, by checking who was and was not talking in the corridor before class. Of those not talking, only the foreign girl was not looking at her phone. I do not know which iteration of the iPhone everybody is on, but smartphone upgrades seem about the only tangible technological innovation in the Occident at this moment. Certainly it is the only innovation most people care about. Only two individuals with northern accents, which seems a recurring pattern, surprisingly. So far there have been none of the ubiquitous (and tedious) jousting matches people have about regional accents in England, such as hotly debating where to draw a line on a map dividing north from south. There were also two nose piercings, one exposed midriff (bearing in mind it was 5°C outside), a girl with teal hair, and a girl with rose-pink hair. Seven females and five males – all of the males seem to be in the lower two quartiles of height. I am 172cm tall (about 26th percentile for a male), but I was not the shortest among them. It is probably these people to whom I should feel the strongest cultural affinity; the SWPLs of Britain’s young middle class. Yet, you would not know it if you saw how I (do not) interact with them. Maybe I could deal with them as long as politics was off the table? This time someone was talking about trans awareness week in the corridor. Every week now seems to require a similar “awareness” from you. This is the girl who ended up in the basement at 6 PM one day because she could not find the exit of the building.

Not much to report about that class per se – at least nothing that I can remember.

Once it was over, I cogitated on some of these things as I made my way towards the library to wait for the second class of the day. By this time it was dark.

A small percentage of men and a smaller percentage of women engage with politics beyond trivia such as voting. Among these, reproductive concern is, as everywhere, in play. In general, women want to be protected and provided for and will cling to anything that offers that promise, such as feminism (or whatever else). Men want to climb the male reproductive success hierarchy and will gravitate towards that wherever they find it. Additionally, Jonathan Haidt’s neuropolitics is at work: neurological liberals and neurological conservatives. The extent to which reproductive concerns motivate a person is a matter of degree, I think; it depends on the individual’s temperament and, probably above all else, intelligence. But I am not quite sure where “trans awareness week” figures into all that. Maybe it should be obvious to me. Someone really ought to find a way to incorporate philosophical or mathematical concepts into the morphology of a language – something that would allow you to plug many explanatory factors into a cohesive multivariate structure (in the manner of a statistical analysis) without the endless repetitions, reframing, and blether that come when you attempt it in English. Ithkuil? We are the wrong species for such a project right now, however, and Mira est Lingua Latina sed mortua. I once joked about forcing everyone in the northern hemisphere to learn multiple European languages as well as Ithkuil, and perhaps I can make that my job if I someday ascend to posthuman godhood. But I doubt it.

Some appreciation for high culture is here. Not too far from the library I heard a Chopin nocturne being played a few weeks back. Stravinsky would have been more exciting, but it nevertheless felt noteworthy. It is a point of contrast to what many of my young compatriots have plugged into their ears as they sit in the library; the nu metal, and the indie, which ought to be called “post-indie” at this stage, every song being a pastiche of familiar indie clichés both lyrically and structurally, which seems rather self-defeating.

The old buildings here are so unkempt. Fungal spores cover the windowpanes. That makes a good half-arse of a metaphor for the landscape that surrounds me. What was once Britain’s industrial heartland, where valorous and beautiful men toiled sleeplessly in the mines, the shipyards, the fields, the factories, where the nation’s productive class reached its apogee, is now a shadow of a shadow of what it was. My brothers will leave for Australia at some point, I think. Although I do not blame them, I am not sure what solace they will find there either.

Back on the metro, and this time I made sure to scrub my hands with unusual vigour.

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Journey to Vapor Island

Having known artist Robert Stark for about two years (he is still the only person from the political edge-o-sphere that I have met in real life,) I was anxious to finally read his long awaited novel, Journey to Vapor Island. I was of course interested to see how he might creatively incorporate his many personal obsessions, social observations and utopian visions into the storyline. On these grounds, he certainly did not disappoint:

As they approach the Galleria, they drive under a giant pink neon archway which leads to a corridor lined with Roman columns and statues. Noam wonders what the location looks like at night and wants to further explore the architecture of the Galleria, but Harry explains that the entrance to the Erotic Emporium is VIP only.
Carlos jokes, “Noam, you’re still such a nerd. The only architecture I’ll be exploring is that of the male anatomy.”

Frequent listeners to his long running podcast will instantly recognize his favorite topics when they make cameo appearances in the book or manifest themselves as part of the underlying themes: architecture, city planning, neon, Alicia Silverstone, Pepe the frog, “Israeli-Aryanism,” blonde Jewish girls, aristocratic individualism, Leisure Suit Larry (I’m proud to say introduced him to this game,) Roger Blackstone, futurism, vaporwave, Sarah Michelle Gellar, new urbanism, etc.

Before I start this review, I just want to say that this book is not for anyone that is squeamish about sex, and that includes probably most people that make up the current crop of the “AltRight” (aka the SquareRight.) If you’re an uptight prude, NoFap weirdo, LARPy tradfag or just use the term “degeneracy” unironically, you will probably not enjoy this book. Then again, maybe you will pull a dark sense of humor out of your ass for a hot minute and enjoy it…but if you decide to read “Journey to Vapor Island” don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The sexual scenes in the book strike me as being akin to the “random battles” in old school Super Nintendo RPGs like Final Fantasy IV. It’s like when you’re walking across the overworld toward the next town, eager to see advance the story, and every few steps you take on the map, there is one of those annoying random battles. “Ugh, not another of these stupid Were-rats.” Even though the battles feel like tedious chores, they still serve a purpose as part of the journey, in terms of leveling up the characters and making you feel that much more accomplished when you finally reach the end of the game. So, though the sex scenes are sometimes graphic and painful to read through (they definitely don’t seem intended to be arousing,) at a certain point in the story you realize their significance as part of an overarching, satirical social commentary on contemporary society’s obsession with sex. Their presence is a reminder of how central sex is to people’s motivations, and the overall perception of status in society. Now, on to the review.

BIG SECRETS, HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD!

The story itself could probably best be described as a “not quite AltRight,” hypersexed and homoerotic (to put it mildly) adult variant of The Neverending Story. Journey to Vapor Island chronicles the misadventures of “Noam Metzembaum,” a precocious young Jewish man with a dirty mind and delusions of grandeur. Another central figure in the book (but one who never actually appears) is Roger Blackstone, a wealthy and controversial outsider political figure whose bold ideas and futuristic visions align with Noam’s. It would be easy to say that Blackstone represents a Trump-like figure, but it could just as easily be a Ross Perot or even Willy Wonka. Roger Blackstone is in the same vein as these types, but really his political theories and ideas bear very little to resemblance to Trump’s aside from the public’s hysterical perception of them being “fascist” and all the rest.

The “journey” begins with Noam as a socially inept yet intelligent student at a ghetto public school, where he is bullied and tormented by brutish minority students. He thinks so little of them, that he often refers to them in animalistic terms like “beasts.” When these minority thugs see Noam striking up a friendship with a nice black girl named Vanessa, they promptly beat him up.

Noam develops a crush on a wealthy blonde Jewish girl named Natalie Bloom while attending a bat mitzvah and convinces his mother to let him switch schools to attend the prestigious “Chadsworth Academy” (the book is peppered with these kinds of meme references) where Natalie is going to school. Noam’s mother is too poor to afford the tuition, but luckily he is able to obtain an academic scholarship. While at Chadsworth, Noam finds that the girls have no interest in him, and he once again finds himself being relentlessly humiliated and bullied, this time by the “Chads,” a group of handsome and stereotypical 80’s-style, Aryan looking jock assholes (although their dialogue often more closely resembles that of 90s wiggers.) Stark seems unaware (or doesn’t care) that this archetype is itself a bit of a Jewish film invention…stemming from ethnic insecurity and resentment. Revenge of the Nerds (by Jeff ((Buhai,)) The Legend of Billie Jean (produced by ((Rob Cohen,)) written by Mark ((Rosenthal)) and Lawrence ((Konner,)) Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless (both directed by Amy ((Heckerling,)) Just One of the Guys (written by Dennis Feldman and directed by Lisa Gottlieb) and The Karate Kid (written by Robert Mark ((Kamen)) are all quintessential examples of this. I still maintain a nostalgic fondness for these films, but understanding writers’ and artists’ subconscious motivations and insecurities allows one to view their work with a cold eye and minimizes their capacity for emotional manipulation.

Noam’s humiliation by the Chads seems limitless, and he comes off as such a pathetic figure he seems irredeemable. While reading the first third of the book I often just wished Noam would just put himself out of his misery and off himself. One of the highlights of the Chadsworth portion though is the scene where they conduct a mock debate in class. Several students roleplay as candidates from various political parties, with Noam assuming the role of Roger Blackstone. What’s remarkable about this scene is the way the characters authentically argue each side. There is no straw-manning here. The participants state their case almost exactly the way they would in real life. It is impressive the way Stark manages this level of objectivity in crafting this scene.

Noam’s conflict with the Chads comes to a head (literally) when they defile the girl he is in love with at a party. Enraged, Noam actually murders and beheads several of the Chads. He then burns down the entire house. For me, this is where the book begins to get more interesting.

After a bizarre trial and a sympathetic judge (Noam had noticed a Blackstone bumper sticker on the judge’s car,) Noam only ends up being sentenced to about 15 years. The book devotes very little to the time Noam actually spends locked up. It is treated as a dreamlike, abstract blur (this time utilizing the familiar “pill” memes.)

After Noam is released, he discovers the world has changed dramatically. Roger Blackstone is now in charge and has since implemented many of his visions for society. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say the US has become a lot more retro-futuristic and sexually open minded. Much to Noam’s surprise, Noam also discovers that he himself has become viewed as a folk hero, with many people having been inspired by his manifesto. This is another part of the social commentary. Ahead of his time, Andy Warhol once remarked that even people like Charles Manson were considered “up there” in terms of celebrity status and stardom despite their fame arising from the perpetration of gruesome and heinous crimes. We now live in a world where spree shooters like Elliot Rodger have a substantial posthumous following and live on in memes. Twenty years after Columbine, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold have their fans. Some of the fandom phenomenon is just teenagers being edgy, but the darker part is that on some level there are a great deal of people that sympathize and identify with their struggles (even if most people wouldn’t go as far as to throw a violent public temper tantrum and murder people.)

In Noam’s case, he had unquestionably genuine grievances, as he was the victim of not just basic bullying but sexual assaults and torture. Whether or not his level of retaliation was justified though is up for debate. Of course, it doesn’t take long for Noam to continue his violent acts once released. He brutally attacks an old bully he recognizes from his ghetto high school and castrates a well-known Israeli pick up artist that goes by the name of “Moosh” (hmmm I wonder who could have been the inspiration for that character.)

In any case, the story continues with Noam traveling to “Vapor Island,” where a movie is being made about his manifesto and life. Constructed by Blackstone’s company, Vapor Inc, the island is a futuristic, fantasy city with an eclectic mix of architectural styles, from Greco-Roman to Art Deco to 80’s neon. The movie about Noam’s life is being directed by Ari Meschel, a greedy and sleazy director/producer cast from the same mold of Harvey Weinstein (Stark also claims he actually did have Weinstein in mind while writing this, even before the allegations recently came out.)

As Noam explores, Noam begins to notice that everything on the island isn’t quite what it appears to be. It was at this point in the book that I began to appreciate what a work of genius “Journey to Vapor Island” is. A cohesive, overarching narrative begins to emerge in what I had initially written off as a chaotic product of Stark’s often juvenile and depraved imagination. Many of the attractions and destinations on the island turn out to be large scale business ventures, which are based upon the tragic events in Noam’s life and ideas from his journal. The shameless, opportunistic, economic exploitation and commodification of horrific crimes and personal tragedies may seem absurd in this context, but they are all too familiar. How
many films have been made and books been written about The Manson Family or the Zodiac Killer? You can buy Charles Manson coffee mugs and Elliot Rodger t-shirts. Journey to Vapor Island is stacked with plot developments that at first glance seem totally unrealistic and off the wall, yet upon closer inspection are just slightly exaggerated caricatures of genuine phenomena that can be observed all around us, in the world we live in today. This is what the book gets at, the commercialization of everything pure (or impure for that matter.) Noam is disgusted by the commercial exploitation of his journal entries and actions as a young man, which he felt came from a private and genuine place in his heart.

In a bizarre turn of events at The Erotic Emporium (my favorite scene) Noam receives a map, which he follows and eventually finds his way to meet a bizarre ancient civilization of frogmen that are secretly living beneath the island. Weird, huh?

Noam gets wind of the fact that Meschel’s plans to twist the meaning of Noam’s manifesto and completely misrepresent Noam’s actions in order to substitute Meschel’s own narrative. Noam determines that he must prevent Meschel from making the movie. After one lengthy final humiliating femdom ordeal at the hands of Meschel’s sadistic teenage daughter, everything culminates in a climactic (albeit brief) battle between the frogmen and Meschel’s security forces. The island is essentially destroyed.

I won’t give away the ending, but ultimately Noam has to decide whether to stay in a state of fantasy or return to the “real” world. Noam is told that the longer he stays in “Vapor” the more difficult it will be for him to return and function in the world. He has no idea whether his life will be as pathetic and humiliating as it was before if he returns, or whether his experiences will have improved/altered it in some way. He decides to return, and we can only speculate as to what is in store for him.

I did not expect much from Journey to Vapor Island when I began reading it, but I will say this, it is not a misleading title. I definitely felt like I had completed a journey when reading this thing, and like a classic SNES rpg game, when I finally got through it, I didn’t want the adventure to end. Journey to Vapor Island is one of the most creative, imaginative, and depraved books I’ve ever read. It is a true contemporary classic that is plugged in to all the ills and frills which make up the surreal world young people are trying (and usually failing) to navigate their way around.

Journey to Vapor Island
By Robert Stark
340 pages