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Mom and Dad are arguing again.

Just like we all pretend that I can’t hear it, we all pretend it’s not another argument about me. And even though this has happened before, we all pretend that it hasn’t. We’re all acting like this is the first time. How many times did they have this argument before they found me? More than when I was still here? Less than after I came back?

This body still doesn’t feel right.

It wasn’t my body when they first had this argument, back when it was just hushed whispers after they thought I had gone to bed. It’s certainly not my body now, when they’re yelling at the top of their lungs in the kitchen.

I always thought the reason my memories were off was because of the hack job that cut rate doctor did forking me. A corruption of data that can only occur when it’s sent blasting millions of kilometers through the deep darkness of space. I never thought it was because I was trying to remember something that had happened to the wrong body. A version of me that could never be the real me.

And now, the memories of that other life, on that strange beautiful barren rock don’t quite mesh with my current reality.

I try to grab headphones off a nearby table, but my forearm knocks them over because it’s too long.

The perspective was always off in those old memories, a few inches too high. Now I keep my eyes closed as much as I can because the vertigo gets too overwhelming. I inevitably start to have a panic attack, and then I retreat back to my room while Mom and Dad start arguing again. It starts in a hushed whisper, like it did the first time, but it eventually becomes another screaming match.

I keep my eyes closed, so that I don’t start crying.

When I can’t see the world around me, in this strange warped perspective, I can almost remember what it was like to be me. The real me. The one whose hips weren’t so narrow and whose shoulders weren’t so broad. The me who didn’t constantly trip over themselves and feel like they were about to knock everything over with their ugly gnarled anvil-hands, just by turning around too quickly.

But all I can remember clearly is the look of surprise on that stupid merc’s face when they showed up to get me.

I didn’t know that a tin-can body could register surprise on its weird pseudo-features. That bare approximation of a mouth and eyes that was created for no other reason than to prevent the user from experiencing complete cognitive dissonance. I had never gone for a ride in one, but I don’t think I could handle it. I can’t handle my own stupid flesh-and-bone body when it’s like this, let alone what it would be like if I didn’t have a real face.

My whole hand is shaking as I lift it to my off-putting angular jawline, the rough stubble immediately causing my sausage fingers to flinch away. I had never liked stubble, and I always thought it was because it looked so unkempt, that it felt so raw against my own soft skin, but now I know the real reason.

Even to these callused things, it feels wrong.

I start to laugh, but the rough noise is so alien that it catches right in my too-thick throat.

Again, I lay still and try to pretend like I’m not here. Not listening to the birds outside and my parents arguing downstairs. I try to keep my eyes shut, even though they keep trying to flutter open, and I just try to remember what it was like to be me.

The thing is, it’s getting harder and harder.

Again, I see that tin-can face, the lime-green lights that stood for its eyes pushed up by the blocked off cheekbones and the two rectangular bits of chrome that served as eyebrows shooting up its forehead on visible tracks. The odd hole in its head that stood in for its mouth was open in surprise, revealing a small set of gears that worked the jaw, before a voice garbled out from the speakers in its chest, “Are you the Heller kid?”

I had nodded, and finally managed to speak, “Y-ye-yes… did my parents s-s-se-send you?” The meek words sounded so strange when my natural basso repeated them in the present.

The tin-can had never explained much, only that they were there to send me home.

“Home,” I let my new tongue mull over the word in the present, reminding myself that it was no different than my original tongue. The soft bed beneath me and the bright star in the sky didn’t feel like home, but the sound of a door slamming in the distance did.

I wasn’t sure which of them had stormed off until I could hear Dad sobbing. Soon he would start muttering, wondering where he went wrong.

I could still remember sitting down in the chair, the same kind of chair I had sat in when I had first made the journey across the depths of space. This time though, I wouldn’t be forking myself, leaving behind a not-me to torture itself.

I’d be going home.

The doctor and the tin-can had both promised that I wouldn’t even notice anything. I would simply cease to be in one place, and then be again in another. Of course, in reality, there was the period of downloading myself and then the long lag as I journeyed across the emptiness of space.

To me though, it was just a heartbeat.

One Mississippi, and you’re dead.

Two Mississippi, and you’re alive.

Only when I woke up, I wasn’t me.

When they saw me crying, my parents thought it was because I was happy. Overwhelmed to be back home. The tin-can had never told them how they had found me, what I had looked like when they had, the look of surprise that flashed across their face when they burst through that door to find me. The terrified me that had just wanted to go home so badly, to escape all the problems that I created because I had simply wanted to be the real me. The version of me that had just wanted so desperately to set back the clock, to not run away, to not be split in two.

The version of me that had never realized I had left behind that not-me to wither and die. That there could be just as many problems back home as there were on that barren rock I had run away to. The one who thought that all the awkward memories were just the result of data corruption. The one who had always thought their parents had known what their child really looked like.

Somewhere in the distance they’re whispering again, and I wonder if they know that they’re just pretending it won’t lead to another argument. Just like they had to have been pretending when they thought I would be happy to wake up in this deformed body, with its out-of-whack proportions and the wrongness emanating from its very core.

I scrunch up my face in an attempt to keep my eyes closed as I feel my throat tighten. I try to take a deep breath but it immediately becomes unsteady. A single sob escapes past my thin chapped lips while Mom and Dad start arguing again.

I found the designs earlier today. The crude attempts to shape my own body, carved out of this thing, and perfected by what I had always assumed was a cut-rate doc on the other side of the solar system. This time, I knew exactly how to describe what I wanted, and the odd disjointed memories to show him exactly what I was supposed to be. And this time, I wouldn’t be leaving behind some wrong version of myself to torture them when I’m gone.

The process wouldn’t take as long this time, because I wouldn’t be taking these memories back with me. I don’t need more memories like these, I have enough from the first time around.

To me, it would just be a heartbeat.

One Mississippi, and you’re-

Author’s Note: Decided to put this at the end rather than the beginning because I feel like this story is better without an introduction. Basically, was just thinking about transhumanism and forking and came up with this.  I hoped it would do better but what can you do.

Also, wow, it has been a while since I’ve posted anything here.  Mostly been trying to get work done, and most of it hasn’t been short form so that’s the answer to that question.


Blue Ribbon Bar: 1 Star

Blue Ribbon Bar: 1 Star

by Christi J.
Greenpoint, Brooklyn

This sort of bar isn’t my usual hang but it was my friend Michelle’s birthday and she’s apparently just in love with this place so I didn’t really have much choice. The décor is that faux-Southern thing that seems to be popular nowadays, ya know; crappy wood wainscoting, drab flaky paint on the wall, and a few old vaguely racist posters. I mean, I’m not against it, but it definitely doesn’t sell a place for me.

All the bar snacks were, of course, deep fried meats and cheeses. I can see the appeal of that to some people but anyone with a discerning palette doesn’t want their charcuterie plate breaded and boiled in peanut oil. They had specialty cocktails but I don’t know why because they were all disgusting. They were either overly sweet or overly bitter with no in between and cost like fifteen bucks each. Just please, if you’re going for the down-home feel don’t try to sell me on your mixology nonsense.

The thing is, I wouldn’t give this place such a bad review if not for the bartender. I’m sure the owners know who I’m talking about, since I figure people must be complaining about her all the time. She looks like the sort of girl who got made fun of in high school and never really got over it. Every time I tried to order a drink she stared back at me, unblinking, with these bulging black eyes.

I think she her name was like, Jennifer?

It was like doing her job was a complete and total hassle for her. Like, come on, you’re the one who chose to be a bartender, it’s not my fault if I can’t remember what the dumb names of your overpriced cocktails are. She was always slow, and treating other customers before me, and I got tired of it. Now, I’ll admit, I had a few of their sugary overly sweet concoctions in me at the time but I definitely don’t think it’s rude to whistle to get someone’s attention.

Well, this girl… this Jennifer or whatever, she, like, tore my head clean off.

Her jaw unhinged and her skin tore apart as chitinous mandibles extended from her throat and ripped clean through my neck, which is so rude I just can’t even. Then she has the gall to start vomiting these undulating egg sacs into my chest cavity before sealing my jagged neck wound up with some foul gunk she spewed from her pulsating thorax.

And all of this was going on in full view of other patrons who I can only imagine were mortified. I mean, does this girl realize how many health codes she probably broke? And right after it, she wiped down the bar with the same rust stained rag she used to clean up spills from the floor.

Worst of all, she didn’t even get me my drink!
I feel bad for my friend Michelle but I just wasn’t going to stay there after that, and there’s no polite way to say this but that b*tch was the reason I left. I was just so embarrassed and upset that I don’t even think I closed out my tab.

Also, I think whatever she did to me made me sick because the next morning I woke up with these glowing blue pustules all over my skin. They kept itching but no matter how much I scratched them it never stopped because the itching is coming from inside of my skin. So, I went to my doctor, Dr. Patel on 9th (who is just wonderful, 5/5 I would totally recommend him if you’re looking for a new GP), and he said something about my blood being green and all of my body chemistry being out of whack. I’m not sure I totally understood him, but he has such a great bedside manner that I knew I was going to be ok even when my blood oozed out of the plastic vial and started burning his hand.

Anyway, it’s been a few days and I normally don’t leave bad reviews but… oh wow, I think one of these hives on my arm is starting to move… I think something’s coming out of it?

The point is, that Blue Ribbon Bar just isn’t worth your time. Everything’s overpriced, the place is terribly dry (like would it kill them to pump up the humidity to make us all feel more comfortable?), and the music is so loud. Like, if they could turn down their bad Southern Jock Rock, I might have been able to hear the incessant clicking of mandibles that sing the song of the Brood Mother!

They should probably ask Jenny for suggestions, she’s such a great bartender and a real sweetheart! I’ll update this review if things change but until then one out five stars for you, Blue Ribbon Bar.

Author’s Note: Normally, I would put this near the top but I like this story enough that I felt like it should speak for itself.  I think it was a little too short and offbeat for most traditional markets but still a lot of fun.  Anyway, the genesis of this story is pretty funny; when a friend of mine got fired from a bar she was working at, the owners cited “disturbing Yelp reviews” as their cause but refused to provide any examples and so this story was the result of me trying to comprehend that phrase.

Almanac Tequila Barrel Aged Noir

I stumbled into the Almanac Beer Company a few months ago on a particularly warm autumn day, and while I’m not necessarily hip to their Northern California jive, I can say that they make an amazing beer. As I’ve said before, the company’s goal is to focus on seasonal beer that is made with local ingredients and aged in fantastic barrels. Remembering how much I loved the last beer I had from them, I knew I had to order the Tequila Barrel Aged Noir when I saw it.

Like the name suggests, the beer pours a deep dark black with the barest ring of a brown head clutching the side of the glass. The barrel aging comes through with amazing strength on the nose being almost entirely composed of tequila with a touch of roasted malt beneath. The body is thicker than average with a smooth silky mouthfeel that makes it a real pleasure to drink.

To my surprise and delight, the tequila flavor was not overwhelming at all. Instead, the beer opens with a strong chocolate and coffee combination that fans of roasted malt will love. Then came the sweet yeastiness on the end that has anyone who has had a ‘noir’ beer before will be familiar with. Finally, there was that brief touch of tequila flavor on the finish that wrapped everything up perfectly.

Once again, Almanac Beer has made something truly stellar that is definitely worth checking out. Even if you can’t, I’m sure whatever of theirs you can find is worth drinking.

Uinta Baba

Uinta is a brewery from Salt Lake City, Utah that I haven’t talked about in a long time. My first experiences with them impressed their dedication to quality on me and also made me aware of the fact that their brewery is a 100% wind powered. They’re an interesting group of guys and the other night when I saw the Baba on tap I decided to give it a go. I will say, because I made this mistake on a cold winter night, it is Baba as in Baba Black Sheep not Baba Yaga and this is a schwarzbier not a russian imperial.

As you are probably aware, I’m a big fan of schwarzbier and so was reasonably excited when the beer poured a characteristic black color with red hues and a light fluffy brown head. The nose though was the first thing that seemed off to me, as it smelled strongly of biscuity malt with none of the sweeter caramel or toffee scents mixed with hints of roasted malt. Then I took my first sip and found the beer to be exceedingly light bodied with a watery mouthfeel that was fairly off putting.

That biscuity malt flavor formed the core of the Baba, and while certainly not unpleasant it was so strikingly at odds with my expectations that it was hard to adjust to. Then came the barest hint of traditional roasted malt flavor with a strong burnt coffee taste that did not mingle well with the biscuitiness. Finally, a sharp hop bite threw the entire beer off kilter and pretty much ended my hopes of enjoying it.

Even as a generic ‘black lager’ I wouldn’t recommend the Baba if you want a taste of Uinta beer. They definitely produce far better brews that you might want to check out instead.

The Bruery Seven Swans-a-Swimming

The New Year is upon us, and after neglecting my self-inflicted beer reviewing duties during the holidays, I’m back in full force to tell you about the beers you could have been drinking during the holiday season! The Bruery, if you are somehow unaware, is a wonderful California brewery that focuses on simple but delicious beers. Perhaps their philosophy is best summed up by their name, they strive to be a brewery with some interesting twists while never straying into the demand for absurdity that plagues other beer brewing circles.

The Seven Swans-a-Swimming is the 7th beer in their annual “12 Days of Christmas Series” and was made in an attempt to capture the Belgian Quadruple rather than add anything unique to it. This commitment is made clear instantly when you see the dark brown body with a brown head sitting on top of it, scents of dark fruit and sweet bready malt drifting into your nose. The brew itself is thick and syrupy, the full body making it something you really feel on a cold winter’s night.

Sweet Belgian yeast is of course one of the first things that hits you, rolling directly into some of the beers darker flavors to give a sweet browned sugar flavor. The malt hits you like a piece of sweet dark bread fresh from the oven that’s filled with warm roasted nuts and sweet sticky dark fruits. That fruitiness is what carries the beer home to a sweet sticky finish that makes you smack your lips waiting for more.

This is the second beer from the 12 Days of Christmas series, and I now really regret not hunting down a Six Geese-a-Laying last year. Anyway, this winter I’d definitely suggest getting your hands on a bottle, or six for aging purposes, and pretend its Christmas for one more night. Except a good one, where you had delicious beer and no extended family arguing in the background.

The Interview

Christmas has come early to a certain subset of the population who enjoys their brows being tugged down from the high end political realm into the pits of dick and fart jokes. After a ludicrously over the top waffling by major corporations and threats of physical and cyber terrorism that got so absurd President Obama himself waded into the discussion, Sony (in partnership with our cybernetic overlords at Google) has finally released The Interview.

This is truly great news because it gives you something to talk about with your “conservative uncle” at Christmas dinner rather than the talking points I am certain the Democratic and Republican parties will respectively email to you this evening. Of course, that doesn’t mean that discussing the film will free you from off-the-wall conspiracy theories. The mundane thinkers will surely point to the film’s lukewarm critical reception and a Christmas release date for a decided not family friendly film, to bolster the idea that Sony has created a politically charged firestorm to get people to see a movie no one would care about otherwise. Those of you who are truly insane will claim that the Sony hack several weeks earlier, and the ensuing clusterfuck over The Interview, was a false flag operation perpetrated by the United States Air Force to slip a line budget item into the CRomnibus so that they could build new spy satellites. Read more…


I’ve touched on the subject of reboots before, mainly that I see no sense in them if you’re basically going to just do the same thing. When it comes to theater, some people hold this idea so close to their heart that they end up producing revivals that are so far removed from the original source material that we must seriously ask if they’re reviving anything at all. Annie, the Broadway musical based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip, has been revived twice on Broadway and once in the West End in addition to a film adaptation, and two television movies.

Needless to say, the story has long been in need of an update, and so we arrive at this year’s Annie. Casting aside the musical’s Great Depression setting, along with forgettable numbers such as “We’d Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover,” and “A New Deal For Christmas,” the story of Annie is retold in a modern setting. Daddy Warbucks goes from generic industrialist to William Stacks (Foxx), a modern telecommunications mogul who is running for mayor of New York City (against Harold Gray, one of many fun nods to the source material). Miss Hannigan (Diaz) is now a washed up singer who missed out on her one chance at fame and so drinks away her evenings and abuses her foster children. And finally there is Annie (Quvenzahne Wallis), the adorable and precocious child who gets wrapped up in Stacks’s life (and political campaign) after a chance meeting on the street. Read more…

Brooklyn Quadraceratops

I’ve mentioned on several different occasions that I love dinosaurs, and as should be obvious from the years worth of beer reviews I also love beer. So when breweries make beers whose names incorporate dinosaur themes, I’m practically obligated to buy them. Especially when said breweries are making that beer within a mile of my home.

The Quadraceratops pours a rich dark brown color with bright ruby hues and a fluffy brown head. The classic scent of Belgian yeast is present but subdued in comparison to an almost smoky malt scent and an amazing dose of brown sugar. With a thick body, the beer has a creamy smoothness to it that makes it perfect to drink on the colder evenings that are fast approaching.

The brown sugar rushes forward to dominate the opening of the Quadraceratops, making for a sweet but not overpowering flavor. While the beer has the trademark maltiness, it has a surprising biscuity flavor that you rarely get in quads but that I actually enjoyed quite a lot. Especially since the sweet yeast flavors were downplayed and the finish was a light touch of banana bread and warming booze. This beer is not the juggernaut its horned namesake implies, but a delightfully subtle variation on a style that can always use a little more love.

As always, Brooklyn specialty brews are worth seeking out, but I would definitely suggest you give the Quadraceratops a try.

Stone Master of Disguise

I have complicated feelings about Stone Brewing. And I think my complicated feelings on them can be summed up in my reaction to this beer’s website (the fact that this beer has its own website). I wanted to know what the phrase Stochasticity Project meant when I drank this beer and I met with this overproduced website that while filled with interesting facts about the science of brewing, it feels… just a little awkward to me. However, I don’t really care about any of that in the end because what matters to me is how does the beer taste, and the Master of Disguise tastes pretty damn awesome.

The beer, as can be expected from its “golden stout” status, pours a clear golden color with reddish hues mixed in and a bright white head that’s quick to disappear. The nose is made up of very strong roasted coffee and dark chocolate scents that make you feel like you just woke up inside a diner right before all the truckers pull in for their morning cup.

Its body is surprisingly middle of the road, and its mouthfeel is almost thin and insanely smooth. The strongest flavor is that of dark roasted, almost burnt, coffee and it dominates the beer throughout most of the time you drink it. The finish is a nice bitter chocolate punch that keeps you going back for more of that rich coffee flavor up top.

Like many of Stone’s beers this is a great brew in general, but will be most enjoyed by very particular people (in this case fans of coffee and stouts). From the Master of Disguise I look forward to more Stochasticity Project brews and the way they’re bending flavor and style to make unique beers. I just probably won’t visit the website again.

Top Five

It may or may not surprise people to learn that I have always been a fan of Chris Rock. His stand up has this wonderful range where he can go from mulling over an idea to shouting about it like he is the last sane man on earth in the span of a few sentences. There’s a simmering anger beneath the surface of his bits, and it fuels the great social commentary that is so key to what he does. When I first caught previews of Top Five, I was enthralled by the idea of him doing something so self-reflexive and the idea of a comedian struggling with no longer feeling funny is one with surprising depth. Needless to say, I was thrilled when the movie surpassed my expectations.

Top Five takes place over the course of a single day, and the overarching story of Andre Allen (Rock) is told through his interview with Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) of the New York Times. From the moment the film starts, it’s easy to be pulled into the chemistry between the two leads as they discuss progress and race in modern America, the conversation is serious but peppered with jokes and the feel of it is loose and comfortable. Then the film takes a step back, introducing us to Allen at the start of the press junket for his new movie Uprize, a serious film about the leader of a Haitian slave rebellion, as he is slammed with hack question after hack question and pestered with people wondering when he will return to his popular comedy film franchise Hammy the Bear.

Chelsea Brown immediately hits him with the same bullshit the moment they meet, and he challenges her to hit him with honest questions. The meat of the first act comes from the two of them actually earning each others trust, and opening up about parts of their lives that it’s clear neither of them are comfortable talking about. The stories they share end up taking on a life of their own, turning into these surreal moments of hilarious absurdity that the movie continues to build throughout its run time. Every time you think they’ve taken a joke or an idea as far as they can, it comes back with even greater force making you laugh all the harder.

Yet, it doesn’t feel strange when the movie backs away from these absurd sections and veers directly into big emotional moments. The longer the movie goes on, the more we get a better sense of why Andre Allen is so frustrated with himself, and why Chelsea Brown is such a complicated person. Most of the film isn’t laugh-out-loud comedy but dark gallows humor and meaty emotional scenes that all play so naturally into each other that it’s easy to become lost in it.

Top Five really does remind me of a Chris Rock set.

As I said above, his comedy has always had this over-the-top streak that rests on a foundation of serious thought and social critique. When he turns that lens inward, on questions of what it’s like to lose such a massive part of your identity like creative passion, it ends up creating a rich and rewarding experience.

Aside from a little janky camerawork in a few scenes, this is a fantastic film with very few flaws. The supporting cast is an endless parade of hilarious comedians who you’ll no doubt recognize, each breathing life into characters that are fully realized even when they only have a few lines. At times, it feels like there are entire scenes going on at the edges of the camera’s focus and that might be the best part of this film.

Top Five shows us a crucial moment in Andre Allen’s life, but there’s still an entire life if not an entire world going on around him that informs that crucial moment, that helps us understand why he does the things that he does. I can’t recommend this film to you enough, if you’re looking for a laugh or something to think about, check it out this weekend.