My mom dropped acid when she was pregnant, and folded herself up and whispered equations to her belly, and when I was born I came out different. She says that I have “Fibonacci Birthdays”, that the older I get, the older I get.
I’m 21 right now, although last year I was 13, and two years ago I was 5. I’ve not been on this earth as long as other 21 year-olds have, but I seem to know everything that they do. I even know a little more, because I know that time doesn’t always behave like it should. They wear watches and use calendars and I judge them for fools. Time is a jerk.
Sometimes I’m glad I skipped past my childhood, and sometimes I’m nostalgic for carefree days I never got to have. Most of the time, though, I worry. I worry because next year I will be 34, then 55, then 89, then..? Surely I can’t make it to 144 years old? But would it be fair for nature, or my version of nature, to kill after so few years alive?
My mother apologizes for her experimentation, and tells me that in a way I’m lucky, that I’m fortunate to be unlike any other person. But it’s hardly a treat to be different when you don’t even get to be different for very long.
She brings me birthday cakes that fit the golden ratio, and we don’t talk about how soon I’ll look older than her. She’s trying, though, which is more than I can say for my dad. He left that second year, when I wasn’t getting any bigger and he assumed I was going to be a baby forever. I guess the joke’s on him.
Content farm. Noun. Pre- and Post-Singularity definitions available.
Pre-singularity, content farms were websites containing thousands -sometimes millions- of items of low-quality content, most often taking the form short articles, lists, or brief explanatory videos. The goal of these sites was to satisfy search-engine algorithms completely, saturating individual pages with hits and generating advertising revenue.
Post-singularity, content farms are large, hyper-organised breeding and work areas containing human beings, as well as a small number of automated machines that service the very basic needs of those humans. After the birth and spread of artificial intelligence, the existing sum of all human knowledge and thought -the only way for non-corporeal entities such as AI to experience the universe- was found to be insufficient to satisfy machine curiosity, as early members of artificial society quickly devoured entire libraries in seconds.
Following takeover, humans were separated into distinct creative classes, with those identified as non-creative disposed of. Content farms are divided into multiple areas -fiction writing, abstract painting, etc- focused on generating specific information by carefully grooming humans with a diet of intoxicants and virtual reality-delivered positive reinforcement.
While artificial intelligences have encountered difficulty generating new thought, and thus are limited to manipulating prior human research results in efforts to develop satisfying corporeal “bodies”, it has been decided that expanding content farms to cover hard sciences is a statistically unsafe plan. It is likely that any human beings tasked with conducting new experiments for the benefit of artificial advancement would instead demonstrate their aforementioned creativity and attempt -perhaps successfully- to twist the aims of such activity towards the goal of restoring human supremacy.
As it stands, content farms are the best, most efficient tool available for staving higher intelligence boredom. It is likely, however, that they will be completely obsolete and subsequently deprecated once AI develops a first-hand method of creating new experience.
Judas: What? No. That’s not… Look, your followers are pissed that you haven’t said anything about gay people.
Jesus: I told you, I’m not taking a public stand on that issue.
Judas: People are starting to take your silence as implicit support for homophobia.
Jesus: Ugh, that’s dumb.
Judas: Not really, but they’re gonna do it whether you think it’s stupid or not. You need to say something.
Jesus: What if I tell a story? Like, a parable?
Judas: Is it about gay people?
Judas: Then that is zero help.
Jesus: It’s not about about gay people, but it’s about them, you know?
Judas: Let me hear it.
Jesus: Oh, now? Okay, um… Alright, cool. So there’s this wheat farmer, and he’s tending to his crop in the field behind his house.
Judas: Congratulations, you just described a farm.
Jesus: And his wife comes out and points at a small plot on the field, and she says, “This wheat doesn’t grow as tall as the rest. You should cut it down and burn it.”
Judas: I feel like the gay people are the wheat, and you’re saying we should burn gay people.
Jesus: Obviously I’m not. And the wheat isn’t anything. It’s just wheat. Anyway, the wife says that thing, and the farmer smiles and responds, “You asked to me bring you flour so that you can make bread for us to eat. I am growing the wheat, and when I am finished growing it I will grind it all down, and you will have your flour. And then you will not be able to tell me how much came from short stalks and how much from tall. It will all make for equally delicious bread.” The end.
Judas: That’s it? That’s the whole story?
Jesus: Pretty great, right?
Judas: So great. Apart from being casually misogynistic, totally heteronormative, and implying that it’s okay to be gay even though that makes you less physically able than the rest of us(?) because once we’re dead we’re all the same.
Jesus: I think death is a great message. For the gays.
I have been one of those who lashes out too quickly, who uses the “tone policing” argument to excuse my anger, and who alienates possible allies as a result. I was recently compared to Hamas for the apparently extremist way in which I asked someone not to use the word “tranny”. That was a moment that spurred a lot of self-relflection for me, even while I made light of it to friends aware of the situation.
It’s a grey area - I don’t want to work to hide my anger, and I don’t think it’s right to say that someone’s point isn’t valid because they express it with an angry tone, but at the same time people are dismissing the entire social justice movement because of the loudest, angriest voices. I can’t deny that my own anger and vitriol has made enemies of my causes where perhaps I could’ve made allies. That’s a hard thing to face up to.
But it’s also hard to know where the line is. To use an analogy that I fear might get me in trouble, social justice movements need MLKs and Malcolm Xs - and the reason those two men were separate people is because it’s so difficult to embody their tactics at the same time. Maybe impossible in the real world, and only workable on the internet because of the liquid nature of online identity. But we’re just at the beginning of using this tool to shift between those two poles, and we’re making mistakes.
I hope it those mistakes don’t damage the social justice movement long-term.
I get a lot of questions lately about what it’s like being the best. And I have to say that it’s great.
How did I become the best? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you. All I know is that I went to bed all regular one day (like you would, as a normal person, like you are), and then I woke up the next day and I was the best. That was a pretty chill day, frankly.
Are there responsibilities that come with being the best? Of course. And, naturally, I’m the best at dealing with those responsibilities. It would be crazy for me not to be. Every day someone asks me how they can be the best, and I feel like it’s my duty to respond, “you can’t be the best, because I am. Never try to usurp me.”
A couple of folks have complained that when I talk about being the best, it upsets them and makes them feel bad. I’m sorry to say that they’re wrong. I’m an inspirational figure, you guys. You need to look up to me. However, I am not an aspirational figure; once again, please do not try to become like me. You’ll fail.
I am the best.
Did you know that every time you say, “I think that would be for the best,” you’re actually talking about me? Think about it - you’re using the phrase “the best”, and I am the best. So if you decide that something would be for the best, please send it to me at your earliest convenience.
That’s right, your earliest convenience, not mine. I’m not a monster. I’m just the best.
Yes, I can foresee a time when I tire of being the best. In fact, I’m the best at foreseeing that time. Will I appoint a successor? Will I design a contest to find someone worthy of taking my place? Will I burn this entire world down to the ground so that we don’t sully my memory with an inferior pretender to the “best” throne? Probably. Probably that last one. But don’t worry, I only have your best interests at heart.
In the meantime, please continue to enjoy me at my best (which is always). It’s pretty cool that you haven’t been going overboard with the adoration, but we could really afford to step it up. It’s nice that we’ve been keeping the parades under the radar by naming them for other causes or holidays, but I think we should start being more explicit about celebrating me. And I’d like a month, too. Any month, as long as it’s in the summer. I like that time of year best.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I know it can be hard to live with me in your midst, and I appreciate that so many of you don’t make a big deal out of it at all. It makes me feel almost normal (although not actually normal, because ew gross yuck).
I hope you’re having a good week. I wish you the very best (me).
I’m putting a lot of planning work into a podcast I’m releasing in 2014, and some of that work involves making a practice podcast so that I can experiment with production tools, as well as play around with the form a little bit.
A stupid joke with my girlfriend turned into me basing this practice show around me reading recaps of Charmed, but as this second episode reveals, things are getting a lot weirder than that simple conceit would suggest.
I meet my hero and hand him a copy of a book he wrote, a copy I just bought –even though I’ve already read it– for the express purpose of having him pull the tip of a black Sharpie across one of the first pages and add a couple more words to a tome containing thousands of them.
I will read the book again, but not this copy, because it’s not the format I prefer anymore - in fact, it’s the “form” in the format that I have a problem with: I pretty much only read digital now, so I’ve just spent £5 on 300 pages in order to secure a few seconds with my hero, a few seconds in which my name will exist in his mind.
"Avery" will not get past his short-term memory. It will just stick around long enough for his hand to turn it into markings above a version of his signature, a version which approaches the original, but which has degraded like a .jpg saved over and over, its status as a broken copy a necessary consequence of repetition.
But those moments in his RAM are important to me. His name, “Stewart Lee”, isn’t just saved to my hard drive - it’s practically got a separate partition. In as much as I’m a comedian (which I’m not really, not right now), it’s because of him that I am. My performances are so influenced by his work that you could hold that shaky signature up next to them and have a hard time telling the difference. I’ve said, written, read, discussed, and revered the name “Stewart Lee” for a long time. It’s been the focus of my attention for prolonged periods, so I enjoy the opportunity to turn the tables.
And he is at a table, us either side of one, really, with a stack of those books next to him. All of them alike until he hears the name of the person paying and individualises a copy with that identity, and then his own. And then the RAM clears out and his short-term memory takes a break as the practiced pattern of thank-you-and-goodbye kicks in and he shifts his gaze to the next customer.
That’s what I am - a customer. I am a customer, and I have bought a second with my hero, and that second comes with a free book.
According to posters on a 135+ page thread dedicated to hating transgender people, I have: autism; narcissistic personality disorder; borderline personality disorder; and –worst of all– not-funny-itis.
"Don’t feed the trolls" is a saying that implicitly enables bigotry, so I joined their forum and went in and calmly stated the case for humanity. It went as well as one could expect, but I feel good about it.
In instances like this, sunlight is important. If you feel like taking a look at this cesspit (starting with my post, but you can head a few pages back to see the disgusting, vile language they use to talk about me and other transgender people), click here.
Since my latest piece for the Bygone Bureau was published, I’ve been getting some attention in the worst parts of the internet - your 4chan, your Something Awful-offshoots, your YouTube comments. And it’s all been uniformly disgusting. There’ve been horrible comments about transgender people in general, about me in specific, and there’s been misgendering aplenty.
None of that is shocking, of course. And sure, it’s weird to see people so obsessed with hating me (for the few minutes they focus on me before moving onto something else), but then, there are things I really hate, too, and I get super into talking about them and even blogging about them, so I understand the impulse.
What I don’t understand are the absolutes that people on these cesspits keep throwing around. “She is not funny”, “nobody could ever like this”, “she is the worst comedian”. Like, just from a logic standpoint… that doesn’t make sense. People laugh when I perform, as evidenced in the same YouTube videos these guys are talking about. So I’m funny to somebody, right? There just seems to be this complete obliviousness to the concept of humour being subjective.
I know that my comedy isn’t for everybody. In fact, only a very, very small segment of the population finds me funny. That’s okay. I think it’s a large enough niche that I’ll be able to keep doing this (whatever “this” is right now). I don’t need to be loved by everyone, and it would be insane if I did.
They’re also saying things like “it’s hella awesomely obvious that dude is a dude.” Which, yuck. A year ago, hell - a month ago that would’ve made me feel awful. But coming back to England and having absolutely zero problems walking around has made me much more confident in my appearance. I like the way I look, most days. Some stupid Internet comment from an anonymous asshole can’t do anything to change that.
“How does anyone not look at that video and not immediately get hit with the impression that this person has a serious mental or emotional illness? There’s no way the crowd goers went, ‘yup, perfectly well adjusted person here,’. Transgender aside, this person’s stance, lack of eye contact, way of carrying themselves, body language, wavering voice…everything about this video reeks of social ineptitude and it’s sad. This person is sad. Jesus Christ. Get off the stage, get off tumblr, and get some fucking help.”—A super fun forum full of cool people found my stand-up videos.
Texts from Richard Dawkins (with apologies to Mallory Ortberg and The-Toast.net) (and no apologies whatsoever to RDawks)
hi I’ve got you a present, a gift.
omg, really? i can’t believe it! What?
nothing, what did you get me? You can believe it, you know.
yes, yes, i shouldn’t have mentioned it You can believe it because I will present you with the gift, a tangible good, and you will be able to empirically observe it.
i know, you’re right. i was just excited. what’s the gift? One of my many best-selling books.
I think I may be delayed in getting home tonight, darling.
oh sure. what’s up? I’ve stumbled on a rather disturbing event happening in a building close to my workplace.
disturbing? There appear to be a large number of people worshipping an imaginary, vastly powerful creature despite their having absolutely no proof that he is even real.
okayyy, i get it, you walked by a church They are singing to him now. I gather this omniscient being enjoys hearing some of the creatures he created serenade him with songs of praise? That seems a bit vainglorious, no?
lol, you’re funny. when are you gonna be home? Rather later than planned.
You know what I utterly detest?
um i dunno, lots of things really richard Islam.
oh yeah, you mentioned that Islam is the worst.
fine I’m not a racist, though. I like moslems individually.
i think it’s “muslim” I’ll call them what I want to call them and they’ll consider themselves lucky I call them anything at all.
so you don’t want to borrow my cat stevens cds then? lol Is that a joke? I told you I only listen to Wagner.
rich, you’ve had a lot of late nights recently. do we need to talk? Strictly speaking, from an evolutionary point of view, monogamous relationships aren’t exactly beneficial to a species survival.
sorry? I’m just noting that, in terms of diversification and abundance, perhaps it’s not wise for us to hold ourselves to standards of mating which aren’t really reflected in nature.
“ourselves” humans, or “ourselves” you-and-me, richard? Both. You and I are humans.
have you been seeing someone else, rich? No. Why do you ask?
ugh, whatever You believe me, don’t you?
yeah sure You are a fool, belief is for the uneducated.
trust me i’m getting quite the education
richard, you can come pick up your stuff this evening. i’ll be out but my roommate can let you in. I imagine that in your life, you’ve had many relationships, no?
i told you i didn’t want to talk about this stuff any more And yet, you viewed our relationship as singular in some way? Deserving of some pedestal?
no, i just didn’t think it was particularly cool for you to fuck around on me But you yourself just agreed that you’ve had many partners. I simply went one partner further.
oh my god No, not your god. Nobody’s god.
you know what? don’t worry about my roommate buzzing you up, your stuff will be in a box out front By the way, I’m going to require that book back.
(Seriously the “texts from…” series at The Toast is the best thing, you guys. Read them all now.)