Clare McCullough

Frankie and the Witch Fingers

Frankie and the Witch Fingers’ wiped the sweat out of their eyes. It was a hot summer night as they ducked into Milwaukee’s Cactus Club for sound check. Later that night, they would be an endless source of power between the anthem and the poetic. This headline show put on by Hear Here Presents gave the hot July night something to scream about.

They elevated their energy by starting with a bliss-ridden vibe mirroring King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Their guitars supported a singer who together achieved psychedelic perfection in their song, “Realization.” Their guitar is the main star. Its momentum is clearly felt by their drummer, Nick Aguilar, “When I see people moving, it’s my love language.” He told me, in between the background elation of his fans’ post-mosh revelry. 

But just beyond the curtain, two more bands tapped their feet. They all waited for their chance to take the stage.

At the end of their show, they thanked Hot Garbage, who opened for them. Hot Garbage, based out of Toronto, was dope dope dope. The bass and the drums existed almost independently from the guitar and keyboard, playing with extreme contrast. They incorporated an enticing tone that reminded me of Meatbodies. Alex Carlevaris, the lead on Hot Garbage, said he wrote “for no one and for nothing.” 

Fellow Kinsman is a Milwaukee band I have been meaning to see for years. Their music had clear influences of Miles Davis. Nate Kinsman, the lead singer, and guitarist told me they will release a new album in the Fall of 2022, which was “a long process but a good one.”

Quarterlife Crisis

INT. APARTMENT KITCHEN – 9AM

Alexis grabs her purse from the chair and puts it on. Alexis adjusts her hair in the mirror on the fridge. She grabs a diet coke, cracking it open and kicking it back with great satisfaction. We see her college diploma, framed on the wall reading 2019 graduation date. She grabs her keys. Her mismatched socked feet match themselves with a couple of patent black slip-on. As she grabs the door handle, she notices a pair of bright red high heels in the corner of the room. 

EXT. APARTMENT PAVILLION – 9AM

You hear her feet more than you see them. The click and open of the door and the slam as it closes are much louder than the blackbirds loitering. The pavilion is beautiful with tall overhands and short and tall but always skinny vines leading up to the sky. A small water fountain bubbled in the center.

TITLE QUARTER-LIFE CRISIS text follows Alexis as she crosses from the left side of the screen to the right. The bubbling of the main fountain and birds in the background.

EXT. OUTSIDE OF APARTMENT BUILDING – 9AM

Alexis’s phone rings and Alexis moves around her diet coke to get to the ringing and glowing thing in her purse, but as she has her entire left forearm bandaged, her movement is limited. She drops her keys in her left pocket and fishes out her phone. 

Hey what’s up… yep, yep, I’m driving, 5 min away. .. No, yeah I am not still at my apartment.. Is there parking at this thing? Oh Okay. I said OH OKAY. See yah.

Hearing a soft tinkle she looks down and sees that a quarter from her purse had landed perfectly on its side at her feet. 

She leans down to inspect closer.

It wobbles a bit, setting Alexis’s teeth forward, but it doesn’t lose its delicate one/sixteenth of a balance. Still, on its side, the quarter begins to roll away. 

Without hesitation. Alexis walks forward and follows it into the neighborhood, her friend she had just hung up on and the destination that she was going to be late to, completely forgotten. 

Dogs barking, a biker swerves to avoid hitting Alexis on the intersection of Park Street and Indiana Street. 

Alexis walks out into the traffic on Dunlavy Street and Indiana street, where a car stops short of hitting her. Just beyond the road and a little past the bend, The quarter rolls over the hill and into the gutter. 

Having caught up with it, she picks the quarter up, brushing off the dirt. She looks up from her quarter and sees a mural of a quarter on the wall of the convenience store.

She looks at her quarter, and then she looks at the mural, and the story has come full circle, she smiles.

The Book of Koli Review

As a work of science fiction, worldbuilding is the most significant element and the most enjoyable in The Book of Koli. M.R. Carey’s The Book of Koli is marvelous, one of those science fiction books which did not feel like there was an author, only the character. You are so completely immersed in the world, you become as a part of it as any of the characters which populate the book. You stand among them. The themes explored technology, power, and coming of age in a post-apocalyptic world where the tree is carnivorous.

But it’s not so much about the Trees as Koli’s life in his village or the Trees, it’s how society has formed and adapted around their knowledge. Ramparts are the military and police force of the village where you are ‘chosen’ by a piece of old technology.

Koli’s realization of the truth of his world and his place in it make you want to read more and more. After reading the first one, I cannot wait to get my hands on the second one of this trilogy.

See Clare McCullough’s short story, “The Treasure Notebook”

“In infinite dimensions, all things are possible”

Ava’s story begins like most of our lives begin, at a low-paying job. Finna by Nino Cipri joins the ranks of trailblazing gender representation in contemporary science fiction.

It addresses the mental illness and depression of an underpaid service employee. Ava and her fellow works are asked to do too much and out of their job description, asked for endless service to capitalism. It reviews the injuries caused by the relentless allowance of capitalism’s oppression of the worker.  The morphing and changing scenery around them is representative of the author’s fear of conformity and Ava’s realization of identity. Until she imagines the infinite possibilities available for her future, does the main character fully realize hope.

It has an almost anti-romantic arc in that the main characters have fallen out of love. They are trying to make their way into friendship. The most outstanding impression I got from this book was not from the main character, but of the love interest, Jules who is only referred to as they/them.

The biggest strength of this book is its razor sharp-wit and the pure fun it was to read. It was touching and had qualities of exuberance and righteousness.

It challenges us to rethink the traditional and patriarchal approaches toward science, capitalism, and gender. Examining attitudes that span across generations and multiverses. All knowledge is fundamentally gendered, being construction of possibility and more oftentimes than we’d like to admit, a self-fulling prophecy.

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks Review

My first thought after reading The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks was ‘What a fascinating muddied depraved book’. It is set on a Scottish island, bare save for Frank, their father, and the housekeeper. I am still not sure if this science fiction book that is definitely a science fiction book is even in fact science fiction at all. I suppose it is. I am forced to believe it, because Banks creates one of the most immersive settings – turning a dreary island into an alien planet, million miles away and Frank- it’s alien. It is definitely an absurd gore thriller. The Wasp Factory doesn’t follow any standard traditional way- bending genre. 

Frank, the psychotic serial killer doesn’t let you out of their sight or save you their brutality. All actions calculated and thought through. Although his brother, Eric, recently escaped from the insane asylum, always seems to call Frank’s house the few times when he is off guard and the absolute craziness that ensues is pure dark comedic gold.

When not resenting his father for being vegetarian and for smelling Frank’s farts and then for commenting on the fragrance; Frank spends his time building dams, maintaining a litany of arms including a flamethrower. Frank reveals the details of his killing with matter-of-factness. Though it is mostly animals that he murders (Banks spares no details) he also includes all of the children that he had killed. 

The Wasp Factory is not for the faint of heart. If you have loved ones, may you stay away from this book forever. That being said I am glad to have read it. I am interested in other works by Banks. As Banks dunks you into his misogynistic nightmare where wasps are used in divination rituals and gruesome violence is the currency; you are glad that you do not have to live in Iain Bank’s head.

Picture of Iain Banks
Picture of Iain Banks

Stuffed & Ready by Cherry Glazerr

Cherry Glazerr’s 2019 album Stuffed & Ready was an altogether turn into unintelligible with few diamonds. Throughout the songs in the album, the brooding guitar was strong and suited the singer’s voice and it’s effect.

Their song Stupid Fish is definitely the best on the album. Its rhythm was soothing. The guitar together with the drumming kept the sense that the music was moving around you as if you were in a warm aquarium. Listening to the music I felt compelled to raise my fists and wiggle like a stupid fish. The sense of melody was well being incarnate

Those facts in mind, I wish that I had gotten more of a sense of what the message of most of their songs were. At times the song got monotonous like in Daddi. I am a big fan of their song Ten Dollars but I fear that I am no longer their audience.

Overall, Stupid Fish is worth mentioning but Cherry Glazerr failed to deliver on their usual slick style on all the over tracks.

Accepting Madness

We are all submersed! The dueting one-liners peering down at us with a clown-like grin. Assuring us of our unity of the new empire of. (pause) people (look out at the crowd.) where many a memory will be made. A tower of dust in the storm of the interwebs That is we. The legion. Internet, constant connectivity, almost everyone’s engaged. The single most important invention of our age. 

They call some of us zoomers, and we, (ahem) the millennials. We have learned more about the world in a shorter time span Than every person before. Progress has never come without a cost. People are winding up, this tension is breaking like twigs and I just want to be on the right side when the storm hits. Us, All of us, all we have ever wanted was to be good. Paint ourselves in gold stars please put away the stormy clouds, dear. Don’t let yourself drown in fear. We fear fear fear fear for no reason. Just brush off the sinking feelings of fatigue. Acid seems to be wasting away, dripping out of my cochlea and pooling beneath my ear. Maintaining coherent thoughts is difficult when there is so much to process. Saggy mattress blues makes it hard to really get comfortable.

It’s a real trainwreck let me tell you. Makes me feel sleepy but I’m too sleepy to care that I’m not comfortable. I have motivation for nothing but poetry. And I only write poetry when I am sad and that thought makes me depressed.

We, the Mindless Masses

There has been a large increase in zombie-related media, video games, movies, TV shows; these reanimated corpses have made countless debuts on society’s stage. Such as the popular T.V show, The Walking Dead which portrays the post-apocalyptic world after the outbreak of zombies. In this world, you either become a zombie or you live in constant fear as a survivor. Zombies have become a giant in pop-culture. Pop-culture, because of it’s commonality and of course, popularity, reflects people’s everyday lives. Society unknowingly choses symbols in order to express its underlying thoughts and attitudes; everything in culture carries connotations that express our identity, unconscious or conscious. And this growth in zombie-based entertainment is a metaphor for the angst of contemporary society.

The definition of angst is according to dictionary.com, “A feeling of dread, anxiety, or anguish,” The uncertainties of the future would create this societal angst, our decay of our individualism  This growth in zombie-based entertainment shows that society is (metaphorically of course) embracing and morphing into what zombies are and everything that zombies represent.What most consumers don’t understand when they go to the stores and shop, is that everything they buy becomes an extension of the self. It becomes a part of our identity once we decide that we like it, that this thing, is ours. 

And this ties in with society’s fascination with zombies, it reveals our underlying psyche, because whatever we yearn for and connect with and therefore attach a part of our identity to, we buy. Zombies, being the unconscious, animate bag of death that it is, are the very embodiment of mindless consumption. They shuffle around, slowly heading toward things that they wish to consume, to become a part of themselves. Zombies are slave to their wants and needs, and in reality, they are like us, only they consume brain: we consume apple products. And society realizes that, either subconsciously or consciously.

Zombies also show how powerless we feel in face of the future. Zombies have no freedom,and they are subject only to their hunger, we see this and we subconsciously connect with them. We connect to zombies through our greed, hunger, and fear- we are hungry for all sorts of things and we consume products to fill the ever growing hole that exists inside all humans. Zombies portray our angst ridden fears, our fear of responsibility, of being alone, and our fear of freedom, by not being conscious, these zombies give us that out that we need. Whether we identify with the zombies or the people who survive them. Zombies, being mindless meat sacks, have no responsibilities but to consume, they are never ever alone, and they are no longer free to make their own choices like humans are. And surviving the zombie apocalypse frees us from the responsibilities that we have currently. If people in this society can’t make their own choices, than they can’t be held accountable for them. And they now have legitimate excuses for making the wrong choices and they don’t have to face the consequences.

Zombies play into the feeling of inauthenticity and loss of individuality that society feels today. Zombies are just mindless mobs, a face in the crowd, we never really hear about the individuals behind the rotting flesh- what they once were. This portrays the underlying thoughts that we are insignificant in the grand scheme of things, or even in the human scheme of things. We are just another number in the mass of a faceless mediocrity. But the fact is, we gravitate toward these games because we are so afraid of our individuality because that means we are alone in the world, we are born alone, and we live alone, and we die alone. But not as zombies, as zombies; we are a collective whole, we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. But really we are simply running away from who we actually are and our problems. 

Through Zombies we hide from existentialism, the basic idea from this philosophy is that the independent person is the only one that can determine the course of their own life. Sartre’s phrase  “Man is condemned to be free.” really sums up the existentialist philosophy. We did not choose to be born, the moment that we are, we are responsible for anything that we do. This is why we conscious beings want to identify with these zombies, we reject that we are conscious beings- capable of making our own decisions and then dealing the with the consequences of those decisions. We refuse to take responsibility for our actions, or rather inactions. And this undercurrent of thought shows in what we buy, in this case, zombie-related media.

The symbols in media show what in essence society’s hopes and thoughts are. Who we see ourselves as, because companies need to sell products and in order to do that they need to connect to their audience. And a big way to do that is to show them who they think they are and what they want. Our angst from our inauthenticity, insignificance, and fear of responsibility and future is shown through the zombie-related media surge.

Review of “Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?”

“Is it wrong to pick girls up in a dungeon” is a substandard anime. Grading it a D+ only seems fair by the virtue of the animation itself being almost okay and tending toward the simplistic. That being said, I see the main failure of this anime as failing in character development and plot. Any character development. Any plot. Why should I care?? I don’t know. There is no good vs. evil to compel us. Besides, of course, the evils of lazy writing. This anime relies on outdated tropes and is lacking totally in originality.

This is what I’ve gathered from the first two episodes. I had to force myself to watch the second one. (I wish I had my 20 minutes back) It is about a basic young man, who for some reason lives with Hestia, the Greek Goddess herself who is childlike both in reason and in temperament. Anyway, the boy decides that he wants to be an adventurer. When adventuring, he meets a girl in a dungeon. He is almost about to die; when who is to save his life than the beautiful girl. After these events unfolded, he walks away realizing that he has fallen in love. However, this girl is unattainable as she is apparently is a super badass elite fighter who is waaay out of basic boy’s league. During his quest to prove himself as an adventurer to a girl who is unattainable, and she is therefore not given many lines. All the rest of the women characters are given their roles. To be sexualized. Every single one of the supporting characters is a big-breasted individual who falls flat because their basic function and trait are fawning over the main character.

All in all, “Is it wrong to pick up girls in a dungeon?”. I would say that it is a waste of the viewer’s time because of lazy writing and disrespect toward feminine people. Plot-wise it’s not exciting. The reason for this is because when your plot relies on characters’ development, none of the women characters are allowed to develop and deepen.

I challenge the poser that wrote this anime/manga/whatever to write an original script for once.

United States’ Communications Competition with China

Our global economy is becoming increasingly connected. Society has seen massive changes in the past decade alone due to wireless technology. On an international scale, China’s unprecedented economic rise has been a major upset in the Liberal world order, couple that with the 2008 great recession and the global stagnation of the economy we see an increasingly bipolar world illustrated in a technology race.

See the case of Huawei, the largest telecommunications company in the entire world. According to the National Interest, Huawei is also the second-largest manufacturers of smartphones and has become a market leader across Asia, Europe, and beyond. This Chinese firm is a single example of China’s rise that has made the United State very nervous in terms of the security of our telecommunications in a time of much instability. Huawei has been eclipsing what used to be the center of technological research and development, the US.

Regime-type differences between the democratic United States and the totalitarian People’s Republic of China seems to be an exacerbating factor when considering national security issues. There have been many historic rifts between the relationship of the countries when approaching privacy and freedom of speech issues. Due to the Chinese Communist Party’s stringent control over the economic sector, Huawei does not operate as a privately-owned entity. The trade war is rising Sino-U.S. tensions in an increasingly bi-polar and globalized world economy. Huawei has a history of fraud. In winter 2018, according to the NY Times, Ms. Meng, an top executive and part of Huawei’s elite was seized in Canada and extradited to the US,  because “between 2009 and 2014, Huawei used a Hong Kong company, Skycom Tech, to make transactions in Iran and do business with telecom companies there, in violation of American sanctions.”

With the creation of 5G technology, comes promises of record-shattering internet speeds and with it, massive economic growth.  According to (National Interest) 5G “next generation of wireless networks that promises to be 100 times faster and more reliable than current technology. It is a market that will be worth hundreds of billions of dollars, as 5G will require compatible new phones and communications equipment. “That primary factor that has made Huawei be seen as a national security threat. Another reason that Huawei is seen as a national security threat is that intellectual property theft has revealed all of the strengths and weaknesses of our technology. This complete disassembly and reassembly gives the Chinese Communist Party an understanding as to how better get around or enforce firewalls.

China and United States are threatening each other and waging an economic war of attrition. The reason for that being that technology and access to information are key to the world economy. As China has been edging the West out of the telecommunications industry, the United States has tightened China’s access to chips, hardware that Chinese firms desperately need and one of the few footholds that the West still has a monopoly over. The bi-polar world economy in which America is losing it’s ironclad hold on the state of affairs that they have acquired since 1991. Today, the state of affairs happens on the internet. The sale of telecom networks and smartphones that have American software has allowed Chinese technology companies to mass reproduce and become the third-largest purchaser of chips. China has made massive strides in artificial intelligence, providing massive subsidies in that sector due to the promises that 5G provides, according to the Brookings Institute “[5G] will enable a vast array of applications, including driverless cars and machine-to-machine communications”

There are claims that if American companies continue to do business with Huawei, they will be at risk. According to the NY Times, “Huawei, which sells global telecom equipment that American officials fear will give Beijing new channels for control and surveillance. Huawei says that its networks are secure and that it does not spy for the Chinese government.” American democracy and technology are fragile constructions. United States citizens in the past year have watched as their democratic elections were meddled in by Russia. Our president has seen to it that an increasingly massive division within the country has resulted in President Trump calling the Freedom of the Press as the “enemy of the people.”. Americans have had their data leaked by Equifax and their personal beliefs exploited and fed misinformation through the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica disaster. The landscape of technology in our democracy is under threat from American companies and foreign firms. I do not believe that I am speaking out of term when I saw that the United States is slipping from the position of hegemonic power. The Trump administration’s trade war is a manifestation of a falling and increasingly nationalist power.

All in all, the trade war and the movement of ban Huawei stems from the very valid fear of intellectual property theft, the regime type differences, the domestic issues stemming from freedom of speech, and right to privacy. Technology has radically changed how we navigate the world, opening up new opportunities to hijack our computers and our phones.

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