Reforming the Committee on Evil Literature

The Committee on Evil Literature isn’t an unholy alliance of Iago, Moriarty, and Dracula out to illiter-ate the Superfriends in a very special episode about reading. It was a real government body whose effects are still being felt today.

Ireland has a history of being fertile soil for new writers, and then disgusting them until they have to leave. Two ways that Ireland’s historical attitude to writers has been a barrel of shit. Standard practice is restricting writers until they’re too safely dead to affect the status quo, then celebrating their corpses for tourism money. It’s gotten so bad that a Samuel Beckett-class Irish Navy vessel is being named the James Joyce. Which would seem like a tone-deaf attempt to hijack their names, until you realize that a naval vessel’s function is to leave Irish shores as often possible. and that’s a mission both writers heartily endorsed.

Irish censorship thinks printing peaked early with the Gutenberg bible. Censorship is used like a television remote, getting rid of anything they don’t like the look of, or might not like, or simply think is too loud or can’t be bothered with. We gained our independence in 1916 and didn’t make it a decade before using our newfound freedom to get rid of all this dangerous freedom.

The Censorship of Publications Board was created by the Committee on Evil Literature. Which is about half a step from the Committee Of I’ll Get The Petrol And Matches. The Committee was formed to investigate whether there were problems with immoral publications, and was the most efficient government body in history. They’d made up their mind before getting to the “Name” section on the committee registration form.

The resulting Censorship of Publications Board started with a professor of English literature, two members of parliament, a protestant priest and a catholic priest i.e two priests with very slightly different accents. And it only took three votes to ban a book. Which meant even mentioning the church was effectively an immediate ban, and as we all know, making sure nobody could criticize the activities of the church has just worked out bloody fantastically for generations of Irish people.

The bans were instantaneous. You could only appeal after the fact, giving the board the tower to starve writers into submission, or rather prevent them from even trying by scaring publishers away from anything that might end up as an expensively wasted effort.

The other big “no-no” was sexual health. A while back the government proudly announced that there were no longer any books banned for obscenity, which is technically true — the worst kind of true — because in Irish eyes, “obscenity” and “obscenity and mentioning anything to do with abortion” are legally distinct categories. And there are still a sheaf of books banned under the latter.

Those bans are so Irish: we’ll ban love, sex, and happiness if they even mentions something we don’t like. These books are still banned even though it became legal to distribute printed matter relating to abortion in 1992, and bans are meant to expire after 12 years. They specifically changed the law to make these bans endless. That’s the Irish attitude: even when something’s already illegal, they’ll take the time to make double-illegal, extra-illegal, effectively infinitely illegal, so illegal that it’s still illegal even after the original laws no longer apply. But they won’t take the time to fix it, because leaving things permanently screwed up by past mistakes is the Irish way.

That’s why ours is a country with an active anti-blasphemy law. In 2009 the Oireachtas noticed that embarrassing old blasphemy laws were still on the books, so they updated them into embarrassing new blasphemy laws. You can be fined €25,000 for “publication or utterance of blasphemous matter”, to which the only possible response is: Jesus Christ that’s embarrassing. Jesus Christ, personally, I am addressing you here on our global communication system to tell you that you are either stupid for letting this happen or stupid for agreeing with it. Or you don’t exist. Those are the only logical options.

Some claimed that the ban was a constitutional necessity — as if that was less problematic — but if it’s only there to dot constitution’s i’s, why is there a five figure fine attached? Why isn’t a single cent? Unenforced laws aren’t the same as no laws. Unenforced laws are unused weapons, like a loaded gun hanging over the fireplace. It changes the tone of every discussion in that room. That bit of backwards voodoo is going to sit gathering dust until they want to shut a website down, and then they’re going to bundle it in with everything else they can think of expensively terrorize somebody into shutting up.

Ours is a country where the national broadcaster paid money to apologize to the legal-mercenary hate group. RTÉ shoveled taxpayer money to the Iona Institute — whose sole function is preventing people from gaining equal rights — in a groveling apology for someone else calling them homophobic. A national broadcaster versus a lobbying group should be a battle for civil rights, not an immediate surrender. RTÉ made it humiliatingly clear that they had to choose between cutting a story or offending anyone who even had a lawyer’s phone number, they’d cut that story with their own fingernails in case someone sued before they found scissors.

That’s how you end up with the UN reminding an entire country that we’re still in multiple violation international human rights law. In 2014. And that’s why we need to reform the Committee on Evil Literature! When sexual health is accidentally infinitely banned, when divine spirits have more legal rights than pregnant women, and when our national broadcaster funds hate groups instead of fighting them, we need our own agency. Distribute more information! Say more things! Print and write and talk and share all the things they’d rather we kept quiet about. If I was rich the Committee on Evil Literation would be a publishing house with the coolest business cards of all time. As it is, we’ve got an internet. And I address you as fellow committee members when I say: we need to use it.


Further discussion of what you’re allowed to see:

 

Lesser-known Ancient Prophecies

Hark! I prophesy a conqueror slaughtering his way across our lands to enslave the one who claims to see the future, and, wait, aha, just a story I heard once, never mind.

The crone who gazed into the future, returning with a vision that boiling water first would, like, totally save everyone so much hassle.

The augury predicting that the Shadow Lord’s magical amulet would have to be cast into his enchanted forge. Also predicting the two weeks when he’d be visiting the astral plane and heroes could stroll in quite easily.

The fabulously wealthy oracle, Lady Astania, who lived in a cave before making a fortune betting on jousting at the King’s Tourney. She immediately hired the alchemist Necrodarque who’d been cast out of the guild for unseemly experiments with the dead. But regular funding and comfortable lodging seemed to suit Necrodarque, or “Necci” as she started calling herself, and Astania introduced her to a nice farming lad, and she ended up curing the pox to save thousands of lives.

The divination revealing the “Chosen One” destined to save the land. It reveals them two generations in advance, giving her family plenty of time to train and equip her, with generous support from the kingdom and safe conduct guaranteed by all surrounding territories.

The dread prognostication revealing that the future is already set so nobody really has to bother doing anything. All the heroes quit to drink and carouse. It’s left to severely nonrandom Brownian motion of air particles to maintain causality by blowing the Emerald Blade through the dragon’s heart.

Cassandra realizes that none will ever believe her warnings, makes a fortune on defaulting short-term credit swaps.

A fit of automatic writing reveals the coming of a cruel warlord who will bathe the world in flame. It also specifies the exact time and place of his birth, and of his first capital crime as a prosecutable adult so that the noble king doesn’t feel bad about predestinated prosecution.

A medium is contacted by a future intelligence who has learned an Old Tongue to send a warn the past of impending doom. Unfortunately the medium’s goat-skin yurt doesn’t contain a modem. The desperate 56k signal just sounds like the screeching of the particularly damned.

The ancient and terrible prophecy of author realizing that convincing reasons for unlikely heroes to move towards the most dangerous things in their world are really hard, and just couldn’t be bothered, and decided to have a magic narrator tell the characters their own plot at the start of the damn book.


More fictional fun:

Google Glass is an Observation Gun

“Maybe I’m recording everything you say. Maybe I’ll upload it the internet. Maybe I’ll leave it in context or maybe I’ll reality-show your ass into any appalling arrangement I like. So I guess the question is, do ya feel lucky? Or rather, do you feel I’m worth the effort of carefully vetting every single thing you say to me?”

Google Glass isn’t cyber-spectacles, it’s a camera crown, turning the wearer into an electronic Queen: you have to watch your manners and anything you do near them might end up online anyway.

Wearing glass seems like a great way to be far too much trouble for anyone to ever talk to. It’s like talking with hi-beams on. We’ll need Google dimmers, a gentle green light which lets us know when we’re not being recorded as opposed to the old red light which let us know we are. Instead, Glass has a green light which lets you know that you’re being recorded and that it’s time to leave. And it’s still worthless. Because it might take as many as five whole minutes for someone to work out how to remove the light. Which turns the device into a Regnidörhcs experiment: you don’t know whether the contents of the box are observing you or not, and you won’t until they affect the rest of the world.

So you’ll have to ask the wearer to remove Glass instead. It’s an observation gun: the mere presence of the device says far more than the intent of the wielder. Ownership of a device doesn’t give anyone the automatic right to threaten other people with it.
People are going to be asked to take it off, and some of them are going to be assholes about it.

On the upside, it looks like a fantastic way to prevent anyone from ever bothering you again. I talked about how headphones can shield you from the rest of the species over at Cracked, but Glass could gift us elective untouchability.


Advance further into the future with

Man Bites Snake

Food is everything. The feeling of love, an instant of clarity, that moment of transcendent beauty while staring at a sunset, they’re all bits of recycled lamb shuffling ions energized by a mouthful of apple juice. And everything is food: if something is alive, by definition it’s made of the stuff something else needs to stay alive, and that puts it on the menu.

Some people would complain that there are animals which produce poison, but some people eat a kind of cheese which can be sprayed from aerosol cans. Nothing natural can come up with chemicals worse than we inflict on ourselves. We worked out how to eat poisonous puffer fish not because it’s nice, but to teach the natural world a lesson: don’t even try to escape our appetites. We’ll hunt you down, draw your poison, and turn you into a luxury just to make an edible example of you.

Worse, too many people subscribe to the self-defeating luxury that edible meat is only a small part of the animal. Supermarkets sell beef as if it was a precious portion carried around inside cows, like a pearl inside the world’s largest and most flatulent oyster. Then they sell a thousand hot dogs and everyone pretends not to know what they’re made of.

China is one of the greatest places to learn to eat everything. An immense population and genuine love of food combine in a culture which enjoys eating everything. And every time I visit, I enjoy eating even more.

One year we arrived at a snake restaurant, which looked exactly like the place the white male action hero ends up halfway through the movie to start learning about another culture. Building pressure squeezed the snake restaurant into the sky, a tiny tall tower of narrow stairs and squeezed seating. Our dining room was a round peg in a square hole, a large table in an only slightly larger room, with guests squeezed in like a layer of human insulation to protect the piles of snake meat from harm. But we did do the exact opposite. We tore them into strips, crushed them, pulped them, squeezed them into slurry and dissolved them in acid.

Snakes are a perfect food. (Perfect food is always an indefinite article, as there are too many ways for food to be perfect.) The snakes are skinned, hollowed, chopped into chunks and fried in spices. The result is meat-on-the-cob, perfectly positioned spinal columns for grabbing and holding each chunk as you strip the succulent flesh from the ribcage.

The snake’s sinuous motion in life makes it so much easier to tear their muscles in death. Take a fiber from one end and you can pull out a perfectly rectangular strip, leaving a trench so straight it could be piloted by tiny X-wings. Holding the edges of the ribcage like you’re about to read a scroll of deliciousness, eating along each row with your teeth like you’re typewriting the tastiest thing you’ve ever eaten, returning with a grin to eat each new line of lifegiving flesh.

D E L I C I O U S M E A T ding!
S U C C U L E N T S P I C Y ding!
P A S S M E A N O T H E R ding!
and you toss the flensed ribcage into the ever-increasing ex-snake mountain with one hand while grabbing another with the other.

Eating snake isn’t an odd treat, it’s an animal so perfectly prepared for frying I’m surprised its scales can’t be turned into Teflon. I dealt with more snakes than St. Patrick. If Adam and Eve had been meat eaters, they wouldn’t have had any problems, and the Garden of Eden would have been even more heavenly.

I also tried snake bile wine, because this restaurant was really committed to its theme. Snake bile wine tastes exactly how you’d imagine. Even if you have no flavor context for Serpentes secretions, the phrase “snake bile” conjures more poison than an angry witch, and the reality pours even more unappetizing flavors across your tongue. I suspect they’d successfully used every other part of the snake, and failed in every attempt to make gall bladder goo palatable, and decided to just pour it into alcohol out of a sense of completeness and the hope people would drink it anyway.

And I’d drink a bottle right now for another plate of fried snake.


Delect more deliciousness with

The Truth About Cats

Cats are an invasive species which will exterminate other living things for fun, or just out of habit, and will appropriate any space, object, or resource they find as their own. Of course humans love them. We practically are them. They found the highest branch of the evolutionary tree and leapt onto it.

Cats are a far better representation of human society than dogs. Dogs are a goal, a utopian ideal. I have never seen anyone or anything as happy in their work as a sheepdog. Dogs get to talk to their god every day, and their god gives them instructions. Clear, concise instructions. Things like “run!” and “lie down!” and definitely not “discriminate!” or “refuse to teach people about the most basic and inevitable sexual processes”.

Cats base their survival on comfort instead of obedience. Even without their plague-defense properties, they work as genetically engineered mobile pillows which can warm your soul as well as your body. And they have to work with us because we’ve reversed evolution in every other arena. We’ve created a world with more reality show contestants than tigers – although I have an idea which will solve both problems simultaneous with becoming the most popular reality show of all time. Also the last one.

"Returning again is last season's champion, Raja, who is also a small percentage of runners-up Chad, Dillon, and Stephani." (Source)

“Returning again is last season’s champion, Raja, who is also a small percentage of runners-up Chad, Dillon, and Stephani.” (Source)

Cats only have a few people they’re prepared to be near, and they’re prepared to comfortably cuddle against those people while they both sit and stare for hours. No wonder they’re popular online: they’re the perfect pet for internet users. Which is why some people feel the need to spoil it by banging on about how cats are supposedly “evil”, as if every single owner didn’t already know. Which is why I wrote a response in 6 Things You Can Stop Telling Cat Owners.


More feline fun in 

The Most Terrifying Television

The scariest television I ever watched wasn’t a horror movie. Horror movies tend to be technical exercises, evaluating the special effects like a gymnastics judge in the Gorelympics. “4.5 points from the Cenobite judge in the 100 meters catch fire and run screaming before decapitation; good greasy smoke, but botched the cut between actor and unconvincing mannequin”. The clichés are always more painful than the injuries.

The scariest television wasn’t even the news report on a measurable decrease in the air quality of the UK due to pollution. Nor the resonance of watching this in an airport bar. No, the scariest thing was how that report then brought in a specialist to explain how that would be bad for business.

That’s terrifying. We’ve reached a point where poisoning the air isn’t just a real problem, but a problem they feel the need to explain, and the explanation they chose was that it would cost businesses money. “Not being able to breathe” is the first and most urgent problem any person can have. The only physical lack which could kill us quicker is a lack of absence of antimatter. And that one works too quickly to terrify. Breathable air is the most important thing there is, and the news had filed under financial news.

Imagine how they present other stories:

  • The unstoppable flesh-melting plague is expected to impact bikini sales.
  • Global thermonuclear war and its impact on the real estate market.
  • The asteroid on collision course with Earth is having a cooling effect on hedge fund investments.

It turns out the entire country gradually asphyxiating could cost corporations money in lost labour. Oh no! That’s the sort of shit which would make a Blade Runner shake their head at the inhumanity of greed. That’s half a step from telling you to be careful not to break your leg, because they want to use your femurs as low-cost furniture struts to seat your replacement. And they’re expected to start next week, so if you could get outside and take a few deep lungfuls that would really help the schedule, thanks.


True horror fans will enjoy 10 More Hellraiser Sequels, or if you want to see Luke in horrible situations we have Irish Rail and the Toilets of the Future.

Much More Than Grey Goo

Grey goo is a common-or-garden science-fiction apocalypse, runaway nanomachines converting all available mass into more copies of themselves until there’s nothing less but a seething sea of nanotech, some waiting, and hyper-accelerated evolution as cosmic radiation and copying errors start the survival of the fittest all over again. But what about the other kinds of catastrophic goo?

  • Brown goo: nanomachines designed to turn everything into chocolate after a nanogineer has a particularly bad breakup.
  • Rainbow goo: a commercial grade decorating can of self-paint malfunctions, losing its limiters and attempting to celebrate the entire planet.
  • Green goo: rogue reforestation extremists program bots to turn everything into moss and seeds.
  • Marble creep: artistic terrorists attempt to restructure the world as a renaissance testament to capitalistic greed. Irony makes a special appearance to set it off in their own headquarters. Cauterizing the live artistic elements, the government publicly displays it as piece on hubris. Whether they’re aware of even more irony in doing so is the subject of several PhD theses.
  • Stu gu: a lonely nanogineer programs nanobots to replicate him from anything they can find. The resulting race of Stus could have been a serious socio-ethical problem, except they couldn’t stand each other, and spread out to get nanogineering contract positions based on the most effective viral brand expansion of all time.
  • New goo: nanobots specifically designed to vary their design with every iteration. Standard response to detection is a fusion warhead, hence their informal nickname, “instant glass”.
  • Antisinister: a nuisance bot designed to convert left socks into harmless vapour (they identify the sock chirality by analyzing sweat and stress patterns in the fibres). Von Neumann agencies are showing increased interest as the bot is believed to have infiltrated temporal research stations.

The Wisdom (Differential) of Age

A day in London always means experiencing more life in concrete than all the green I’ve ever seen, ending with delicious supplies from Chinese supermarkets. One market was so crowded that the queue now extended through a third of the store: as well as the usual crisps and candy, you shuffled past aisles of sesame sauce, chili extracts, and all kinds of noodle. If those were our usual impulse buys we’d all be much happier people.

The length of the queue meant making gaps for people pushing past the cross-aisles. One old woman took her basket to the junction, saw the length of the queue, and genuinely thought she had a cunning plan. It was amazing. She should have been old and intelligent enough to bluff dinosaurs, but her face advertised her intent like a six year old who’s spotted some chocolate closer to her hands than its owners. Age is meant to give the old wisdom, not make them think that everyone younger is blind and stupid.

With the next parting of the queue she tucked her head down, pretended to count things in her basket, and bounced off the invisible forcefield of English queue-fu. She didn’t realize that the English react to people trying to push into a queue like fellow boarding schoolers trying to push into an anus: clenching up but never mentioning it out loud.

It was hive behavior. Everyone identified the threat and acted in unison to protect the system with their own bodies without a word being said. If we could hook other shared social contracts into this level of co-operation we’d be living in a utopia. The failed queue-jumper looked up in what she may have imagined was confusion, unaware that the wrinkles in her face looked like denatured-protein circuitry of cunning. This was no infirm old lady deserving of assistance. This was someone who’s century of experience amounted to “I’m more important than other people, because they’re stupid”, and had just realized she was wrong about that. She sighed and strode off to the end of the queue. And in another unconscious moment of mass-mind, everyone was pleased to note it had gotten considerably longer in the time she’d spent scheming to skip it.

New Reality Show: Ice Cream Headaches

VOICEOVER: Stephanie’s first challenge will be serving a single scoop of vanilla. But the ice cream is kept in freezing temperatures. If she was somehow shrunk to the size of a few inches, fell into the tub, and was kept there, she could freeze to death.

Extended close-up of ice-cream. Dramatic music.

STEPHANIE: I know it’s cold, but I’ve got a job to do. Those kids are depending on me.

VO: The ice-cream scoop is made of metal. Metal is harder than human flesh and, properly shaped, can cut through it with ease. Terminators are made of metal. Most importantly of all, she must be careful not to accidentally scoop out both of her eyeballs.

Long shot of Stephanie leaning over to scoop out vanilla ice-cream. Music increases to 3 Emmerdale Episodes worth of drama. Is there a camera angle that puts the scoop and her eyes in the shot at the same time? Well, just cut back and forth between them repeatedly.

VO: Now Stephanie must place the ice-cream on the cone. But if gravity were to suddenly cease operating she would soon die in the painful vacuum of space.

Slow motion of the scoop pressing down on the cone. Music so dramatic the violin divorces the double bass and starts a torrid affair with the worrying piano notes. Transcendent music when scoop is removed, revealing that the ice-cream has not suddenly become immune to the universal force of gravitation.

 

The German World Cup Squad Attempts Other Sports

After a 7-1 annihilation of Brazil’s ability to ever even hear the words “World Cup” without wincing, the German football team went on to try their feet at other sports.

  • André Schürrle makes a stab at fencing, accidentally projecting his opponent him into low Earth orbit. The defeated fencer joins the Brazil football team-in-exile aboard the International Space Station.
  • Toni Kroos becomes the first person to circumnavigate the globe while hang-gliding.
  • Miroslav Klose scores a point in beach volleyball, spiking the ball so hard it penetrates the Earth’s crust and creates the Klose volcano. He wins by default.
  • Thomas Muller’s attempts to play squash are rebranded as a building demolition service.
  • Jérôme Boateng wins a baton twirling contest when the resulting cyclone sucks his competitors into the sky.
  • The brutal Impact Killer is found not guilty of multiple manslaughter when he’s revealed to be Philipp Lahm attempting dodgeball.
  • International geography is rocked when Mount Everest drops eight kilometers rather than face Benedikt Höwedes’s attempt at mountaineering.
  • Bastian Schweinsteiger accidentally causes a forty-eight hour day by unicycling.
  • Mesut Özil retires from professional competition to take up laser tag, only to accidentally make pulsed-beam contact with three alien civilizations.
  • Roman Weidenfeller accidentally wins the first three-way game of Ba against the entirety of Scotland, having simply gotten lost on his way to Edinburgh.
  • American football is finally renamed to American handball after Per Mertesacker shows them what football really is, finally, in the name of all that is spherical and kicked with feet.
  • Desperately seeking something they can lose at Sami Khedira volunteers for a Sumo match. He accidentally pushes entirely through his opponent, emerging victoriously sumo-flavored on the other side of the ring.

Driven by desperate modesty, the German football team pledge to seal away their powers where they can never threaten to excite the world again, and spend the rest of their lives playing cricket.


Behold more physical challenges with