Vert brigade, jacked germs, and Florida folklore.
Vert brigade, jacked germs, and Florida folklore.
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pop culture tourette's

Toward the tail end of my grandfather’s long life, we were all sitting around a table at Applebee’s one Sunday noon for lunch when out of left field he started talking about an event that took place during his service in World War II. This was somewhat jarring and unusual considering I had never once heard him speak about that time period in any great detail throughout the entire 40 odd years of life we’d overlapped on. But here he was now, recounting a particularly traumatic experience from the Pacific Theater as we all waited for our assorted entrees to arrive while sipping on sodas and lemonades.

I want to say his story took place during the latter stages of the Japanese invasion of Oceania… like I said, the memory came out of the deep, dark blue, an iceberg of a non sequitur that effectively sank all other conversation. In a silent mix of wonder and horror, we listened as he spoke about the ship he was stationed on that was trying to pull up anchor at a port in New Guinea while all these native women were frantically thrusting babies at the U.S. soldiers for them to take away—the unwanted biological reminders of being raped by Japanese soldiers who had occupied the territory. Tears welled up at the corners of his eyes, but never fell, and the recollection dissipated just as fast as it had furiously sprung up, a sudden squall on his generally placid Great Plains.

What triggered this specific memory then and there, I haven’t a clue. I mean this was the serene figurehead of our family gatherings. The one who always delivered a solemn grace before mealtimes and would sit for entire afternoons with a contented smile on his face while quietly gazing at the varied lifeforms descended from him—even his only grandson who started dressing like a clown and flailing about on a toy skateboard at the precipice of adulthood. So I had to wonder: This remarkably calm demeanor of his… was that the stoic sentry who stood guard while the psyche within fervently maintained a wall to keep the horrors of war at bay? Because never in a million-billion years could I have ever expected to hear such a tale come from him, let alone it be an actual event endured in his lifetime.

Since then, however, I’ve heard such remembrances in one’s twilight years aren’t all that uncommon. While short term memory becomes increasingly erratic, like a deck of perpetually shuffled playing cards, the long buried and repressed tend to erupt in saturated bursts of startling detail and clarity. And, frankly, that terrifies the shit out of me. Whereas my grandfather’s memories were horrifically and legitimately sad, mine will just be pathetic and dumb and likely spew forth in geysers of pop culture diarrhea—the existential end game of a sinfully gluttonous subsistence on inanely trivial pap from this shallow American life. Fuck. I’m already mortified for myself and anyone else who has to sit and listen as I babble on about the drug-fueled storylines to random episodes of Sid & Marty Krofft’s H.R. Pufnstuf, or recite the TV Guide listings for the night of November 13, 1976, when Farrah Fawcett participated in the golf competition on ABC’s Battle of the Network Stars. 

Popeye tried to teach me to eat spinach, but this is what I digested as a kid in the '70s.

Or… who knows. Maybe a sealed off memory or two from the last truly lawless and unruly days of World Industries will be summoned up from the depths of my hippocampal vault in an explosive spray of verbal vomit. Well, better to set those dirty bombs off at an innocuous Sunday brunch then, I suppose, rather than an awkward and regrettable appearance on The Nine Club now.

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Believe it or not, the above copy was printed in an actual ad of ours placed in the latest issue of Jaime Owens’ skateboard mag Closer. That’s right, just a big ol' wall of text with the tagline: “Ads with words… what the fuck.” What follows, however, is an aftermath of addled afterthoughts, or, to be more precise, a belated blast of diarrhea from my prolapsed fingertips [1].

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Unless you’ve been living off the grid in what I consider to be admirable Ted Kaczynski style, I’m sure you’ve heard all the rumblings and grumblings about the WGA “Writers' Strike” currently going on in Hollywood. Many reasons exist for this last resort course of action, but one of the main points of contention between the WGA and AMPTP pertains to the inevitable (ab)usage of AI. I’ll be honest, I haven’t exactly been following all the hullaballoo about this latest and potentially greatest agent of chaos [2], but my eye did spy an intriguing link on Twitter that lead me to a rather lengthy and informative—if not downright depressing—article about the dangerous allure of courting AI to “optimize” the budgetary bottom line when it comes to creative services.

All Skynet quips aside, the article went on to prognosticate some all too conceivable scenarios that would have societal repercussions well beyond the current battleground taking place in the entertainment industry, but by that gloomy point my attention span had been sufficiently waylaid by an awkward realization that I myself have been a functioning AI for quite some time now. How so? Well, I guess it’s like this: My lot in this so-called artistic life is where most of my dumb ideas begin as “prompts” that come from the idle scraping of pop culture crap off my cerebral cortices—a creative act none too dissimilar from the way AI is tasked to amalgamate some ridiculous image culled from the gazillion bytes of visual information amassed on the internet. And, as much as I’d like to say I still have an upper hand in the artistic matter when it comes to the rendering of actual hands, I can’t. I once turned in a Hook-Ups graphic to Jeremy Klein where I’d accidentally drawn six toes on a girl’s foot. Good job, me.

Wait, what's this?! Yes, it's a double fisted feature of all-new Chris Reed work coming to the site (and stores) this weekend, one of which being a new slick bottom board for Max Murphy (who does indeed like skating these slicks). If you have no idea what a slick bottom is but now desperately want to know more, please read this.

Anyway, there’s a whole hornets’ nest of psychological issues here that I’d rather not kick (nor ever contend with for that matter), but for now I can't help but to look back at this wild hair of a graphic collision I did with Chris Reed and see it as the end AI result of my being prompted by Gozer the Gozerian to choose the form of The Destructor. Again, good job, me. —Sean Cliver

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1. This makes absolutely no sense, because to do so would require tiny little blown out anal orifices on each of my fingertips.

2. I’ve been joking about my becoming obsolete ever since the rise of machines and demise of rubylith two decades ago, so by this point in life I think I'm just over the worrying aspect and have finally learned to love whatever bomb fate presents me with.


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  • Mally on

    Get some Strangelove in your life



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