Z-anon-sensei Speaks #68
“Writers need disability or madness they can overcome in order to write.” Kathy Acker
Z-anon-sensei says even the livestreams aren’t really live. They must flow through open air to cell towers and relay sites. Then through thousands of miles of fiber optic and copper cabling before being reassembled bit by bit inside massive servers and then passed along again through sometimes the very same cables and processed through more servers of multiple service providers along the way before ever reaching a viewer’s screen. The streams are, naturally, subject to the same protocols of intercept, scan, and store that NSS applies to every electronic signal in the dataverse. As such, livestreams are susceptible to interference, noise, and even intrusion from many possible sources before they are ever displayed on an end user’s display. Nonetheless, these video feeds remain the best window into the war taking place on the streets of America.
Tonight on Radio’s computer screen are 9 livestream feeds in separate windows. Three views of Washington, D.C. Two from Portland. And streams from Kenosha, WI, Raleigh, NC, Oberlin, OH, and even one from Longbottom, Louisiana, where BLM demonstrators were marching (or more realistically sloshing) through a foot of floodwater from hurricane Laura that still covered the streets.
Even in the midst of all the smoke and tear gas, there are moments of comic relief. A dude wearing nothing but an apron and boxer shorts is sweeping tear gas canisters up into a pile. He is working in between the line of chanting protesters and the line of riot-clad, shield-holding police, who are getting ready to charge. His broom catches fire from the hot, smoking canisters, but he continues sweeping with the flaming broom, sparks flying up at every stroke, as the combatants on both sides just sort of watch him with amused amazement, cops and protesters alike fixed on the surreal image. Finally, he drops the burning broom, leaves it flaming and smoking in the street, and wanders off into the crowd of protesters. Then, as if they were waiting for him to finish, the rubber bullets and canisters of gas begin to fly again, and the line of police charges forward.
And on another feed, the battery on a big military style police vehicle mounted with LRAD loudspeakers dies. The voice on the loudspeaker fades to static. The engine sputters but won’t fire when they try to start it back up. While a couple of city trash-collection trucks burn in the intersection beside the courthouse, a military grade HumVee pulls up next to the LRAD vehicle, and with the clumsiness of a couple of teenagers, officers in riot gear work to connect jumper cables between the two armored trucks to jump-start the dead vehicle, their butts hanging out from beneath the raised hoods, showing off a little plumber’s crack to the livestreaming media.
But the humor breaks abruptly when Radio notices some action on one of the Portland feeds and pulls it up full-screen. Sound on. Jesus! Someone has just been shot on the street. Looks like one of the ^prowdboiz, lying in a pool of blood spreading across the Portland pavement, not two miles from the apartment where Radio is watching. This war is getting too real, and it suddenly isn’t funny at all.
Z-anon-sensei says history, like the coastline of a continent, is endlessly fractal. The closer in one zooms the longer and more complex it becomes. Each level of observation reveals a miniature version of the one above and below it. An epic narrative might follow one lone person through one single day and yet embody the historic sweep of centuries. The fall of an empire might exactly parallel the arc of a failing marriage. Each individual event is like a single wave in the whole ocean of time, carving one more small crescent into the infinite shoreline of history. Each wave is unique, though similar in pattern to every other wave. Even the smallest waves rise and fall, curl and break, leaving behind their traces, just the same way that the biggest tsunami does.
So far, she’d been to Shannon, Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, Sligo, and now all the fookin’ way down the endless, twisting Irish coastline to Dingle. Shelaegh’s path, which was just a re-tracing of Robert Priest’s frantic trail, read like a deranged Rick Steve’s tour, zig-zagging back and forth across the country with no thought of efficiency. My god, what was the man up to? Shelaegh was camped at the bar in O’Sullivan’s Courthouse Pub in front of a black mug of Guinness stout. A singer and guitar player practiced together in the corner, just warming up for the evening livestream show. Shelaegh was the only customer in the place, since it was still officially closed because of the Covid. But Shelaegh was friends with Tommy and Saundra, so she sat alone and drank and scanned her phone while sad Irish ballads echoed in minor key triplets off the low ceilings, broken up by jarring laughter whenever the rehearsing musicians made a mistake. They were laughing almost as much as they were playing.
Shelaegh was catching up with him. Robert Priest had been in Dingle just the day before, according to some fellows at the Distillery. But he was gone, at least from the bed and breakfast where he had been staying, and Shelaegh had no idea where he was now. She gazed at a map of Ireland on her phone, tracing out his route in her mind. His path formed the rough shape of five-pointed star, superimposed over the Irish island. And at the very center of that island, and of the star Priest’s connect-the-dots wanderings had formed, was the town of Athlone. That must be it.
A long-practiced prescience told Shelaegh her hunch was right. Priest’s Irish journey had so far been some sort of preparation, a preamble to his real destination, which must be there, at the center, the very heart of the Irish nation. Well, maybe. It was as good a guess as any, and Shelaegh had still never had a drink at Sean’s, the oldest known continuously operating pub in the world. With sudden decision she drained the last of her Guinness and stood up, bumping her head against the overhanging beam above Tommy’s bar. Damn, she always did that. Waving so long to Saundra and to Tommy, who just nodded at her from above his guitar, she strode out into a misty rain blowing in from the sea. Next stop, Athlone.