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Fresh Hell

The best dispatches from our grim new reality

Two in the Bush

In a week that saw America seized by spy-balloon fever, a toxic chemical cloud escape from a train to bedevil the residents of suburban Ohio, and the pre-Psychic Network song catalog of Dionne Warwick blast from car stereos in remembrance of Burt Bacharach, gender reveal parties made a martyr of Flamingo, the confused and starveling pigeon dyed pink that we reported on last week after they perished of chemical inhalation. But hey, at least we know it’s a girl. Birds deserve better, but for every good-natured avian we defile in our lust for mirth, two dozen more are smuggled into our country from Guyana. Enter the kingpin of the songbird black market, Insaf Ali, who was captured by authorities after hiding a charm of finches in hair curlers strapped about his ankles in an attempt to skew New York songbird competitions in the direction of airborne turpitude. Viewing animals as merely a means to an end of mortal ambitions is obviously rank venality, but at least the feathered creatures of the planet have the sky to themselves and can boast of dinosaurs in the family tree, to say nothing of that surfin’ bird, of whom you may have heard tell.


Just Ask This Scientician

The latest trend among the foolhardy 1 percent let’s-hunt-the-poor-for-sport jet set is luxury vacations where the ultra-rich can pretend to be scientists and make “contributions” to “paleontology” in the “field.” Yes, for £28,485, you can attend a dig in Wyoming and get in the way of actual scientists pursuing their trained vocation as they flatter your vanity because you are paying a chunk of their grant before you retire to your condo to drink champagne and marvel at how exciting your life is. Nor is cosplaying as Alan Grant the extent of this new market for lackadaisical groundwork: competing vacation packages will send you to observe reef regeneration in the Maldives, where you can pretend to care about something besides your putting handicap; or take you to lower Saxony to observe wolf conservation, where with any luck you will be eaten and digested knowing that you technically contributed to the same biosphere your idle life of usury and rapine has despoiled.



As a fresh programming bloc of Super Bowl commercials promises to reanimate the corpses of our most beloved celebrities of yesteryear in order to sell us Snickers, and an AI-generated loop of Seinfeld has been pulled after going off-script, the New York Times reports that DeepFake technology has followed its natural drift toward authoritarianism. Now, phony flesh-puppet avatars are reading the news according to the whims of China (whose foray into digital propaganda has become known as “spamoflauge”) and Burkina Faso. Perhaps it is natural, here in the simulation known as real life, that we find ourselves inadvertently shilling for tech corps in exchange for the fantasy of social-media presentability, our heads filled with jingles and pop songs from an agreed-upon past that never was, lured into mindless support for far-right governments by studio-designed AI models named Carlo. Fake can be just as good and, when it comes to saying what’s real, what’s your basis for comparison anyway?


Canterbury Fails

Such are the regressive and worker-targeting policies of modernity, that for societal progress, we must needs turn to Medieval Times—not the historical Middle Ages known for the Black Death and its cesspit toiletry, but rather the dinner theater franchise where you can be served pricey mead by waitresses in wench regalia while noble vassals joust for your honor and entertainment. After successfully unionizing in New Jersey, the performers at Medieval Times are facing legal challenges by the viceroys and viscounts that run the corporation and have been subject to censorship on TikTok, where videos in which they plead for public support for their ongoing attempts to earn fare wage for their vassalage are being removed for alleged copyright infringement. Even in the annals of Camelot, there are models for an equitable society, Lady of the Lake or no. Nothing is to be gained by hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society. You can’t expect to wield supreme power just ‘cause some watery tart threw a sword at you.


I Think We’re A Clone Now

In one last spillage from the doomy clockworks of TikTok, a user rebuffed for wearing a medal of the Third Reich has come out with a perfectly reasonable explanation: he is the literal reincarnation of Hitler and is haunted by memories of his loathsome suicide in the Führerbunker, from which he retains a scar. That’s not how reincarnation works, and Felix Cipher is clearly playing by TheBoysFromBrazil rules, but why am I arguing with an Internet person with a tiny-mustache-motif septum ring? “You can call me crazy,” he says, “You can say, ‘Get on your meds again, you nutter.’” Very well, you nutter, you are indeed two beer halls short of a putsch. Your Kampf is secondhand and second-rate. And your Hitler hairdo is making me feel ill.