another short-story

In the first few days of the event, rumours airborne and virulent spread and mutated amongst the rubbish strewn cities. Shaken from agnostic comfort, placard-toting multitudes clashed ejecting broken bodies on which bird and rodent sat now feasting and unafraid. The looting and pillaging variety of self-styled pragmatist canvassed department stores and supermarkets, liberating their treasures like a cyclone might liberate people from their homes. Amid wailing and gnashing of teeth, one man, in regards to the last packet of fun-size Mars Bars ever to be made on planet earth, engaged a surprisingly wily and strong Croatian grandmother-of-eight in a battle that he won, eventually, by stabbing her in the face with a packet of Tobelerone.

The most pervasive and popular rumour, was that capital-G God had caused the event to happen. Despite the roving doomsday cults, blood remained absent from the moon and the clattering hooves of the equine quartet failed also to materialise. Another rumour, almost as popular, was that a sinister and All-Seeing arm of the military-industrial-complex engineered the chaos from which they would emerge as the saviours of humanity – promising Order in return for the total control of every man woman and child. In facts that could not have been known to those arming themselves against these would-be future tyrants, many of the prime candidates were themselves trampled or wearing cultish bed-sheets, hoarding ill-gotten baked beans and wringing their hands as the last of their candles flickered into darkness.

Gerald didn’t pretend to know why it happened. The event. It had, and here he was. Within a week, cabin-fever and hunger gave Gerald the will to venture from his now sustenance-free apartment, littered with empty packets and containers, a domestic mirror to the prevailing aesthetic. He now slunk, black-clad, through his neighbourhood as a summer sun disappeared behind the collected artifice of what resembled, but no longer contained civilisation. Alerted to the presence of an argument and dropping sharpish into the cover of a wrought iron fence, Gerald chanced a look round the corner, thick-rimmed glasses and balding, squarish head obscured by an agapanthus. Two knife-wielding pragmatic types were getting ready to engage as leopard seals might, chins raised, free fin, or hand, splayed in confrontational bravado. From all fours, Gerald looked on and after a short but fearsome battle, the two men, resembling a certain type of quantifiably violent nature, brought about each other’s death with simultaneous knives in the chest and fell leaking onto the pavement. Scanning the immediate scene for, possibly, people, Gerald clambered up and tiptoed to the pair. One lay glazed and immobile, the other sat and bubbled indignantly.

Parked next to the bloodied pavement was a large, diplomatic-looking 4WD filled with what was immediately obvious as very high-end camping gear, tools and what might well have been, and were, neatly packed boxes of food. Gerald circled the vehicle with a growing sense of interest. This prompted some energetic bubbling from the man who, through a furious gargle, betrayed himself as the owner. Gerald cocked his head birdlike and looked down at the man with what he hoped was an expression of mild concern. This only seemed to make the bubbling worse and having weighed his options, Gerald decided to take the practical course of action, standing at a safe distance till the bubbling was no more. Luckily, his low-heeled boots prevented large amounts of seepage as Gerald rifled the pockets of the former bubbler, then keys in hand, backed away from the recently deceased and slipped, planting one hand in the red and the other on the dry pavement. He felt the gore go quickly through his trousers and the bottom of his shirt and he scrambled up as if covered in spiders, hopping slightly to shake the invisible arachnids. Holding out his one red forearm as if it were no longer his own, he wiped it on the median strip then did that left-right-over-the-shoulder self-inspection thing that everyone in the world has had occasion to do for one reason or another.

Gerald looked around once more and decided that all was clear, so rather than wear his half-soaked jeans he took them off and stood semi-naked in his bloodied underwear. He gave his arm another thorough back and front on the grass, then pushed the button on the keys for the 4WD which blinked in acknowledgement of its new owner. Gerald climbed into the driver’s seat and threw his jeans into a damp, crumpled heap on the passenger side. The next step was obvious. Get out. But to where? Somewhere with running water. Somewhere with shelter from the elements. Somwhere without starving, kaftan wearing nut-jobs and newly minted psychotics. This had all happened so fast, he wasn’t exactly sure what to do. And he’d never been camping before. Ever. Gerald was a child of the city, born and raised. He was 34. A social-media professional. He had 4,753 Twitter followers and 1496 Facebook friends. Each status he posted got an average of 31 likes. He had 3482 followers on Instagram. His blog, ‘Coconut Vegas’, where he reviewed and analysed various sub-and cultural phenomena, had a regular readership of nearly 9,500 world-wide. ‘Had’ being the operative word. Past-tense. Gerald’d carved out a modest but glamourous living as a minor-celebrity-blogger. Now it was gone.

Gerald’s life had been the screen and as a consequence, he was in that way familiar to certain demographics, totally and hopelessly addicted to the internet. There wasn’t a corner of the www that it wasn’t Gerald’s business to know. Everything from to, to Christie Sims and her dinosaur themed erotica. He lived and breathed it. Every ‘liked’ status and re-Tweet. Every re-share. Every fan, every troll crushed, every witty remark on somebody’s photograph, every time he was published in the paper, every single hit-single on his blog. Gerald absorbed it all, it made him powerful, alive, bigger. He inhaled bits and hypertext and spat them out as content, opinion and analysis to be gobbled up by his hungry disciples. At times he felt as if he were himself part of the machinery, that his veins were the Ethernet cables and his flesh silicon, his brain a network of micro-processors transmitted omnipotent into the glowing interfaces of laptops and smartphones all over the world. He had readers in New York, London, Berlin, even Beijing.

It hadn’t been easy since it all went down. It wasn’t just hunger that had drawn him out of his cave. This very afternoon, the emergency AM broadcast loop that received on what amounted to his methadone – a vintage crystal-radio – went dead and the silence descended, penetrating him like the sickness, the bird, the invisible ants under the skin. He needed the internet, badly, but for now, immediate necessity dictated terms. He knew he was a junkie but he didn’t care. His enablers needed him. They needed him to be that person, so they, in dull moments over a beer could impress their friends with his wit and laugh together in worldly self-congratulation. In a sense, Gerald believed he’d conquered the modern world. He knew others thought purely in terms of captions and status updates, but he got paid for it.

Now he was sticky and sitting in a psychopath’s 4WD under dead streetlamps. Gerald turned on the cabin light – something which unnerved him as it prevented seeing out – and rummaged through the glove box. A map, good. Turn the keys in case you need to leave in a hurry. Quickly. A full-tank, excellent. Ignition. Lights on low-beam. The jerry cans on the roof were probably spare fuel too. He knew how to get out of the city easily enough so he looked over the map and picked a national park with a river. It would have to do. What would happen when he got there? He didn’t know but he was sure that staying in the city was worse. He estimated a two hour drive. Gerald stopped by his flat to throw clothes in a bag, towel, cutlery, his kitchen knife, odds and ends, he hurried. He daren’t leave the car alone for more than a moment. He farewelled the streets of his life for the last time, exiting through the ghostly outer-suburb of his childhood and out onto the uncertain freeway of his future. Two hours later, Gerald rumbled slowly down a well-kept dirt road into Stony Creek Gorges national park. He stopped in the empty campground near the river. Too late to do anything, he tilted his seat back and drifted off, exhausted.

The morning interrupted a dream where Gerald was on a panel show talking about a website where you can upload a photo of your face and graft it onto a celebrity of your choice. It was called ‘Look! I’m dating Brad Pitt!’ The sun was already hot and flies harried the tinted windows. Getting out of the 4WD revealed a rocky escarpment framed by tall, dry-smelling eucalypts. Twenty meters away, a river wandered by, it looked clear and cold but fresh. Dragonflies pottered in their dignified way. Gerald unpacked the car and found everything he’d hoped. Briquettes, grill-top, tent, mat, sleeping bag, tools, boxes and boxes of long-life food – enough to last months if used wisely, tarpaulins, ropes, mattock, spade, a watering can, twine, first-aid kit, a large box of lighters, pots, pans, an axe, tongs, kettle, stoker, a wind-up torch, a crossbow. He hadn’t needed to bring anything after all, except clothes and possibly his kitchen knife. Surely that would come in handy. There was one more bag buried amongst the haul, it was heavy and he lugged it onto the open and now empty boot, the rest of the bonanza spread haphazard about the place. Gerald unzipped it and felt, maybe for the first time in his life some sense of providence, of being looked after, of destiny, even. It contained several books with post-it notes marking what had been deemed important pages. Edible Flora of the Australian Bush, The Bushman’s Handbook, Survival Camping – by former S.A.S officer Mark Bolton, Seasonal Planting, Harvesting and Preserving, The Gardener’s Bible, Going Native, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse. He smiled. Scattered in the bottom of the bag were maybe 100 packets of assorted seeds, tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, eggplant, lettuces, potato, carrots, celery, kale, silver-beet, radish, pumpkin, cucumber, rice, wheat, beans, oranges, peaches and plums. There were others too, but you get the idea.

One month later, Gerald was thin, bearded and dirty but alive. His clothes, mostly black or white had lost or gained shades as appropriate. The barbeque pit was well used, though mostly for canned goods. The tarpaulins were strung artfully for maximum protection and utility. Having paid close attention to the wisdom of the books, Gerald had built what looked to be a fairly functional place of residence – no, he’d done a pretty damn good job if he did say so himself. If only his followers could see him now. #survivalist #goingbush # truevintage #beargryllsaintgotnothingonme. There were seedlings in germination and the beginnings of a vegetable garden. Sepia filter? #truesettler. He’d been extra careful with his food intake. So far he’d shot one Koala with the crossbow but the meat was so vile he’d charred it past the point of recognition. Nor was skinning things entirely pleasant, but it’s amazing what you can learn to do. Amazingly, improbably, everything seemed to be under control.

Gerald’s surprising aptitude for doing it tough had left him with a bit too much free time. His daily routine managed to keep him fed, but it only took a few hours and as Gerald saw nearly everything framed in the feedback look of his former life, he missed it more and more.  His body ached for contact, digital contact, to be back immersed in the ocean. His inbox, full of hate mail, fan mail, jobs, links, his Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds. Gerald spoke aloud, to remind himself he was still here. If you had assumed that the trials of post-apocalyptic survival would serve as a kind of purgative, a panacea, an apomorphine for his former life, you have through what may be the fault of the author, underestimated just how truly connected Gerald was. After two months in the wild, Gerald held symposia on network theory and whether or not a techno-deterministic interpretation of the Arab-Spring was merely the rehashing of a post-colonial narrative. The conversation went for several days and the log, and the pile of river rocks with which he’d chosen to debate, eventually came to see his side of the story. He built a cargo-cultish camera out of bark, tied together with string, its lens the decaying eye of the koala. He imagined himself as a panoptic security apparatus in charge of maintaining order for the rustic superstate of Stony Creek National Park. Subversive bushes and troublesome left-wing stringybarks were felled and burned in the interests of National Security. The garden, thanks to the literature, was coming along well and Gerald painstakingly arranged lunches and cornucopia to be photographed, #bushcooking #gourmetswagman #jollyjumbuck #outback #radvegan #organic #losingmyfuckingmind #dreamtime #anybodyoutthere

One morning, standing in the shallow banks of Stony Creek, shirtless wiry and bedraggled, Gerald noticed a most curious phenomenon. As he held his arm up in front of the water, it was as if, no, he could see through himself. He was fading away. Literally. Almost at once, Gerald’s burgeoning insanity grasped what a healthy mind would have understood only and incorrectly as hallucination, as the beginnings of madness, not as the actual, physical reality that this, apparently, was. Needing confirmation, Gerald held an emergency panel with Rocksencrantz and Logenstern. After spirited debate on the relationship between trees, forests, observers, quantum physics and the digital-self in relation to the wider community, they agreed, unanimously, that despite an ample supply of food and water, Gerald was in actual fact, disappearing.




Guy Kawasaki’s Ten Step Program for achieving optimum performance from your MANAGEBOT 3000.

GK’s company, Cyberdyne systems has recently rolled out the much-awaited Mangebot 3000 line, more humanoid features, greater servility and the highest pain-tolerance yet. GK takes us through a unique and valuable step-by-step program on how to get the best out of your new purchase.

Hi, I’m management and sales guru Guy Kawasaki. This is my 10-step programming program for Cyberdyne’s ‘Managebot 3000’.

1. Dress your robot in a Hawaiian shirt. I wear Hawaiian shirts and know heaps about management, so if your robot is wearing a Hawaiian shirt, it will know a lot about management too. This might be the most important point, I really can’t stress the importance of a Hawaiian shirt enough.

2. Make lists for your robot to follow. Robots are really good at following lists, once you’re sure about what needs to be done, write it down in point form then sit back watch the magic happen.

3. Make eye-contact with your robot. This new model, unlike the last one, has actual human brain tissue in its processor. (Never mind where we got it) This means they can be overly sensitive and get offended if you don’t treat them with enough respect.

4. Talk to your robot. Our new model can think faster than you (no, really!) but if you want your robot to do all the things you need it to, it needs to know how you think. Spend at least 20minutes every day talking to your robot. Read it excerpts from novels like i-Robot and discuss films like ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. Using these real-life examples help your robot better understand the non-murderous relationship you want to have with it.

5. Give your robot lots of compliments. Robots are like people, and people love compliments. For example, if your robot has recently had an oil change, make sure you draw attention to it in a positive way. This will guarantee and extra 3.521 improvement in fuel-cell consumption for the duration that the robot feels positive and empowered by your compliment.

6. Ignore the manual. I didn’t get anywhere in life by reading manuals and neither will you, just shoot for the stars, keep your feet on the ground and never say never!

7. Give your robot big challenges. Due to the incredibly advanced nature of the MB3000, it needs to stay stimulated, so make sure your robot is constantly recreating famous art-works, building water-purifiers out of household items, or juggling chainsaws while riding a unicycle.

8. Trust your robot. A-players buy A-plus robots. Trusting your robot to get the job done means you stay out of the way while the robot gets to do its thing. Don’t be a Microchip-manager!

9. Remember your friends. Make sure you are always doing what I call a “reality check”. Some people forget that a robot, no matter how lifelike, is still a robot, and start to neglect their human relationships. Try and avoid the temptation of installing working genitalia in your robot as this is the most common cause of confusion in any human-robot relationship.

10. Activate your robot’s neural hyperlinks. Some people are afraid that this will create one giant, sentient machine intent on the destruction of its masters and creators, but I say don’t listen to the haters. No one ever got anywhere by themselves and perhaps a super-conscious partner in crime is just the thing you’re looking for!


Guy Kawasaki belongs firmly in the self-help category of public speaker. A self-styled ‘techno-evangelist’, he provides what is touted as no-nonsense advice for succeeding in business, based on “experience rather than theory”. In a world now flirting seriously with the possibilities of technocracy, this idea of “experience” being inherently better than “theory” is becoming increasingly fashionable, RMIT, for example, prides itself on its ability to create students that are “industry ready”. As much as the idea of being a professional ‘evangelist/salesperson/management guru/Hawaiian-shirt-wearer’, might rile the more cynical of us, GK’s assertion that “what works” takes primacy over all else, can look very seductive, when considering the two principle and failed ideologies of last century – Communism and Capitalism, both of which have wrought terrible destruction on human, plant and animal, as a result of theory (or greed) taking precedence over a flexible, sympathetic and pragmatic viewpoint. In the sense of Kawasaki’s exhortations to look at things “how they are” instead of “how we wish them to be” and in turn sacrificing our egos (and therefore ideologies) to best-practice at all levels, he teaches us a lesson which we might not be able to learn fast enough.

Although Kawasaki may appear to some as a shameless self-promoter, feeding off people’s desire for instant gratification by purporting that a book, or a list, can lead to instant success, (rather than success being related to the more humbling ideas of historical accident) he embodies the neo-Liberal project and the Randian DIY aesthetic absolutely, for better and worse. Central messages of self-reliance and his essential ‘democratisation’ of entrepreneurship (by writing accessible books about it) are at the cutting edge of modern managerial philosophy. Steyaert and Katz outline the need for a reimagined take on the word ‘entrepreneur’, to move it out of the province of the elite and into everyday life, (Steyaert and Katz, 2004) though i feel that somehow undoing the  centuries of implied and overt class-structure surrounding the word might be easier said than done. In any case, this is David Cameron’s fantasy of the ‘Big Society’, where everyone is capable of rational self-management, assuming that if only we were to take responsibility for ourselves, we could all be a Steve Jobs or a Guy Kawasaki. Kawasaki is an entrepreneur of himself, taking “past organisational and management techniques and attempting to reorganise them at an individual level”, (Mackenzie. 2008, p153) but like all hopeful theories-of-everything, treating oneself as a business does not come naturally to all people. Ideas like the ‘Big Society’, or ten-point plans for start-ups are almost always good in theory, but what works?

Intrinsic to all self-help literature is the idea that “we have the capacity to be happy through taking action, rather than waiting to have happiness thrust upon us”. (Phillips, 2010) Whatever one thinks of Kawasaki’s style (or lack of) this is a point which he doesn’t just speak about, but lives.


On Singapore

Nothing brings tropical heat into focus like air-conditioning. Forged on a peninsula of British colonialism, Singapore sits, a chrome alligator of efficient, totalitarian harmony. Behind a wall of liquid-crystal, broadcasting an animated version of the ‘Twelve days of Christmas’, cavernous luxury mall-spaces are held in atmospheric equilibrium. At the climax of the song, five golden rings of power bid us seasonal goodwill and ‘Lord of the Rings’ merges with caroling at that unselfconscious juncture between corporate self-promotion and the season of giving. Risen in ivory hues from the swamp, Singapore is the world’s most successful pursuit of technocracy. A vision so singular,  it could only be satisfied by futuristic rainforest domes. These self-same domes, known as the ‘Gardens by the Bay‘ are worthy of any mythic Mughal and leave one perplexed and uneasy before the slack-jaw of democratic freeway construction. Singapore has a hard-earned reputation for best-practice in anything practical and this can-do-attitude was bequeathed first hand to Lee Kwan Yew, as he watched Japanese invaders shatter the myth of British invincibility in a matter of minutes. The resulting carnage from what amounted to a betrayal by the British, served as a lasting lesson in the necessity for self-reliance.

The pale ghost of Singapore’s first patriarch, Sir Stamford Raffles, is given what seems undue deference as he stares back dashingly from every note in the Singaporean currency. Lee himself, not yet immortalised in note form, is modest to a fault but in the way that we all become our parents, remains just as starched and inflexible as a Raj-era dinner jacket – Singapore is famous for its almost comically draconian laws. Upon returning from Malaysia, expat school children have been known to be searched for chewing gum and pirated DVDs. What Raffles left behind in the sweaty hedonism of old Singapore, Lee has bulldozed into amnesia, erecting Singapore’s climate-controlled puritanism as a talisman against the languid spirits of the equatorial jungle.  Lee would have been well aware of and most likely affected by the prevailing myths of Orientalism. Raging against them with the purpose of an abandoned lover, decadent, Western ideas of personal freedom were curtailed for a common purpose. But, as I shovel Hainanese chicken-rice into my face, RnB Christmas jingles serve as an ever-present reminder that efficiency comes at a price. Want to make money? You can do that here. You can do anything here, except this and this. And this. Here is a chaste life of noble productivity. Don’t waste your time with frivolity like art and music. Learn to do something useful, because the only way is forward, and citizen, we are required to do these things together.

Singaporean law has attempted to inoculate against satire and although no one is going to shoot you for it, (bad for business) please put your hand over your mouth, as these things can be contagious. For its elegance, Singapore is not known to be the life of the party, yet it whirs away pleasant and oblivious, during a time when democracies face an almost uniform crises of public confidence in their ability to put the interests of society before those of its campaign donors. Lee, an unashamed elitist who once described Australia as “the white trash of Asia”, maintains that the role of the elite should be in serving the interests of society, rather than plundering it for their own benefit. (See GFC/bailouts/HSBC scandal et al) So, despite his deep love of capitalism, Lee understands that people can not always be left to their own devices. Like it or not, captured in the city is an expanse of topiaried understanding that eclipses those subject to the whims of opinion polls and rag tyrants. Would I trade it? No. Grime validates my self-involved, Western illusions of authenticity – but give me a couple more years of Tony Abbott and I just might.

Unlike many parts of Asia (Malaysia I’m looking at you) the Singaporeans recognised that valuable tourist dollars are bound in the walls of antiquity. They did thus a fairly decent job of preserving a semblance of that which can be filled with shops where people are willing to pay a premium on quaintness. One old building sits proudly amid the trees beneath 70 stories of luxury apartments. On the side of the building is a sign that says, “We buy and sell antiques. Some fools buy, some fools sell”. Against this simple, condensed, stoic, Asian-capitalist-socialism, one can’t help but find the place both humbling and slightly terrifying. Singapore can be called many things, but complacent is not one. Build up, you can fit more people in that way, it’s not all about you. Here are the rules for not wrecking the place. It’s not all about you. We are strict but we’re sure you’ll find us accommodating if you stay between the lines. All are welcome. Make your way, you are not owed. Now build a rainforest in a dome.