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On Hiatus

Hello Space Fans!

Short message from your friendly author. I’ll be taking a break from posting new material here for about three months. That doesn’t mean I won’t be writing more, it just means it won’t be going directly here.

So, never you fear. There will be more when I get back. Let’s hope your oxygen supply holds out.

Yours in Chorizo,

Stephen Peters

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Technology!

Good news, everyone!

Just what you’ve always wanted: the freedom from having to make decisions! Now you can have the computer link you directly to a random episode of the bits that don’t need to be read in any order anyway. Give it a try!

Jump to a random episode of The Curiously Banal Adventures of Banana Man

Jump to a random episode of Burning Pork

…Sadly, you’ll still have to pick which page of The Last Tiki Bar on Mars that you want to read. Which you can do here.

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An interview with Jeffrey Busybees

And now we speak with Jeffrey Busybees, the founder of BusyBee, the world’s largest Internet retailer.

We’ve automated just about everything in our warehouses for years now. The delivery trucks are driven by computer. We do find it’s helpful to have an actual human jump out and hand the package to the customer. Put a human face on it, you know? Most things in China’s factories are being built by robots. Automation is Good.

Our next step? Well, that’s to automate consumption! We’ve already implemented that on the production side. When factories, warehouses or the delivery system need something, the robots just place an order with BusyBee. The next step, and I believe this is a natural leap, is to have robot consumers. Humans are fairly predictable, but not predictable enough. Humans are inefficient. If we are going to continue to have the kind of share value growth we want, we need to drive consumption on the curve we’re looking for by ourselves.

That’s why we’re introducing our new BusyBee Robotz. They will have their own bank accounts and apartments across the world. This will keep the humans busy building new apartments for Robotz, construction crews can order anything they need and get it delivered same-day from BusyBee. When we want more sales, we will simply have the Robotz buy stuff. Lots of stuff. We take our cut at every step of the way. When the Robotz apartments are completely stuffed with kitchen appliances, home electronics, wonderful toys of every description… That’s where the humans come in again.

You see it’s quite hard to automate recycling to reclaim as close to 100% of the raw materials as possible, and we need to feed those raw materials back to the factories. Humans are great at smashing things. Give them a hammer and they will smash stuff all day. Then they sort the bits into the correct bins, which we sell back to the factories. All the BusyBee products the Robotz buy, they get recycled. This is going to be great for shareholder value, the economy and the entire world!

Yes, you are right. There is still a yawning demand for fresh raw materials if we are going to continue to grow our consumer economy. That is why we are going to Mars and the Asteroid Belt. Endless supplies of the raw minerals to mine, absolutely zero environmental degradation. It’s a win / win!

Have you had a chance to interview any of our BusyBees on Mars? Talk to my people and we’ll get it set up. See you on Mars!

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Marigold

Marigold woke up on the floor behind the bar. As usual the Yucatan sun beat mercilessly into his bloodshot eyeholes. He raised a meaty hand to shade his face and brush back his bushy, dirty blonde hair.

Morning.

Seagulls called to each other on the Riviera Maya and the humid, cool morning sea breeze boiled over his limp body like a salt-water gazpacho.

Lying there, memories of the previous night, mixed with thoughts about the duties of the coming day arranged themselves in his mind, like so:


Sigh.

“Marigold, why are we here?” his brain asked. Why indeed. With a heave he flipped up to one knee and drew himself upright on the de-laminating vinyl of the bartop. Hazy morning sunlight filtered down through the palms. Due to the nature of being built on sand, the whole pallapa and related structures leaned a bit in the oddball directions usually only seen in the customers after they’d been there for a while. Sticky too.

To his surprise, he found a dwarf with a broken nose in a straw hat and bright hawaiian shirt perched on one of his stools. Looking at him, with that look that says, “I’m thirsty.”

The pair took each other in. The dwarf stuck a half-burned Cohiba in his mouth and causually re-lit it with a fine lighter, a vintage Davidoff, noted Marigold. Taking a solid draw, he exhaled and slowly gazed at the rumpled figure before him with the patience of a man who knew he came expecting to wait.

“Marigold is a funny name for a man.” Cigar stuck back in mouth.

“Yeah, ask my mom about that.” Swipe the bar. Towel, clean enough. This guy has money to spend. “What kin I getcha?” with an attempted note of morning friendliness.

Fact Finding Timmy tapped his gold ring against the empty glass to his right, which gave off a tinny ring. “Scotch on the rocks, still got ice? And some coffee.”

Marigold rattled a couple of battered coolers behind the bar – a few stray cubes swimming in meltwater, waiting for today’s delivery of the fresh stuff. He sniffed his hand and behind the bar pretending FFT couldn’t figure it out, used his fingers to fish out a few survivors into a fresh plastic cup. Scotch not being the drink of choice of the gringo surfer crowd of Tulum, the single bottle of Johnny Walker was nearly untouched.

Marigold’s sleeveless t-shirt, chest hair peeking out of every crevice, the right thing for most of the Carribean weather felt sticky and a bit cold with sweat and salt. Marigold took a moment to breathe, brushing his hair out of his face. Pulling all the professionalism a man could have under the circumstances he set the drink in front of Timmy. With something of a sorry glance he followed, “Coffee. All we have is instant Nescafe, and there’s no hot water until I get a fire going.”

“Of course.” FFT leaned back with his smoke and regarded the mustachio’d bartender, as Marigold tended to the overnight disorder behind the bar. “Things didn’t go so well in Texas, did they?” the dwarf asked, eyebrow cocked.

Texas. Headlights. Fists. Money, but not enough. A long, terrible dark ride to Mexico. Marigold reached out for a toothpick and stuck it in his mouth as a delaying action. Spinning that tiny tree around his pie-hole a bit and peering through his dirty locks he sniffed, “You’ve got cash?”

FFT looked away, smiling a bit. Tapped out a bit more ash. Leaning forward, looking deeper into Marigold’s eyes. Cock the eyebrows, cold stare. “Cash?” #DramaticPause. The camera pans back, framing both figures backlit by the sun just starting to assert itself through the verdant setting of the Gulf of Mexico, a bit of cigar smoke floating through the frame.

Cigar: Tap tap, a quick cigar stab towards Marigold’s slightly blood-shot eyes.

“I’ve got something better, Opportunity.

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A Misunderstanding

Right now…

“No trouble with the border?”

“No, no hay problema” rumbles Señor ToughGuy.

“Fuck that fuckin’ border wall, bro!”

Señor ToughGuy cracks his knuckles just for effect. He’s enjoying watching the skinny freak jump with each knuckle going off like a kernel of popcorn, the corners of his mustache twitching as he suppresses a smile.

“Dude, stop that” grumbles Tony. “You’re making me fucking nervous, dawg.”

“You’re already nervous.”

“Gonna show us the good stuff?” ask the short, greasy one. His face is covered with acne. Speed freak, thinks Señor ToughGuy to himself.

“Does the Pope lick his own balls?”

“What?”

“Yes, dammit! Mierda!” Señor ToughGuy rubs his face with his gnarled hands, the orange dawn seeping through his fingers. It’s been a long night. “Got the money ready?”

“Uh-huh, uh-huh” agrees the tall one, hopping from foot to foot. He riffles a stack of greenbacks in a white paper envelope. Señor ToughGuy grunts and with a quick motion unlocks the back of the truck and rolls up the door with a bang.

The tall freak and the short freak stop their jittering for a moment and their jaws drop. The truck is filled with shrink-wrapped cases of Pepsi, Hecho En Mexico.

“Pespi? You brought us fucking Pepsi?”


Arnold Ziffel


Earlier…

Arnold lights another smoke as the truck’s springs groan and jounce over the potholes. Only two left in the pack. Fuck! Again?

Es mas barato.” The kid in the center seat stinks of sweat and frijoles.

Señor ToughGuy sucks his teeth, cracks his knuckles but keeps his eyes on the dark road ahead.

“It’s fucking cheaper” coughs the pig.

Sí, sí. Mas barato. No tienes much dinero.

The pig is working up some serious hate, the bile collecting in the back of his throat like the effluent of some dark serpent. “This had better fucking work.”

No hay problema, Don Puerco. Muchos gente preferente este.

“Sure, cabrón, but they asked us for Mexican Coke!”

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Chad, On Mars

Chad… saves the Mars Colony!

A nicely done Saturday Night Live sketch. Enjoy!

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So, You’re Ready For Your Space Condo?

Why not move to space? All the cool kids will be doing it, right? Here’s a couple reference books for you:

The First City on Mars: An Urban Planner’s Guide to Settling the Red Planet, by Justin B. Hollander (Link to Amazon)

A City on Mars: Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought This Through?, by Kelly Weinersmith and Zach Weinersmith. (Link to Powell’s Books, Link to Amazon)

What’s the big deal, right? You’ve already bought a ticket to the Mars colony with a two-week stay through No-Air-bnb, all you have to do is pack!

Both of these books are an informative, interesting and often entertaining look at what it will take to put humans in an orbital space habitat, on our moon and/or Mars. In brief, the Weinersmiths like to point out that there’s much “happy talk” about how we’ll go to space and everything will be great, but not a lot of actual experience with turning moon dust into corn chips – let alone finding a way to mine something that will financially sustain the effort.

Mr. Hollander’s text gives a concise overview of the issues that will need to be addressed for a long-term settlement on Mars and a number of approaches to achieve a permanent and local source of french fries for a sizable population, and a pleasant place to sit and eat them.

I’d say I’m one of those many fans of the idea of exploration and settlement, while also being one of those who questions optimistic estimations of how easy it will be. As the Weinersmiths point out – we have very, very limited experience with how zero and low-gravity existence effects humans and thus… could a lower-gravity colony have a self-sustaining population of Space Babies? No one knows.

Hollander recounts plans of creating structures on Mars using just the rocks, candy wrappers and Bud Lite cans found lying about there – but you have to note: no one’s ever landed on Mars and made a brick. We can do all the pre-planning we can possibly do, but until someone actually does it, the challenges we’ll stumble upon remain unknown.

As we know, a recent mission to land a probe on Mars failed because some caveman on Earth used “yards” for calculations instead of the standard “cubits” used by everyone else. You get to Mars and discover that your 3D printer for printing larger 3D printers needs “D” batteries and you only packed “AA”. And you left the stove on, back on Earth. Oh, and oops – you landed on a spot on Mars that’s short of the mineral you need to make it work. Dang, now what?

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The Martian Chronicles – by Ray Bradbury

Above is a TV mini-series of The Martian Chronicles from 1980. It includes the worst date on Mars…

The original book by Ray Bradbury was published in 1950, written in the aftermath of WWII and thus directly in the shadow of the evidence of man’s ability to destroy, and long before it was well proven that there isn’t breathable oxygen, canals and ancient cities (on the surface at least) of Mars. Like much of enduring Science Fiction, the location of Mars is a fantasy set – a place to work through the aspirations and conflicts going through the conscious and unconscious minds of society that existed at the time of its writing.

If you were me, reading the original text in Jr. High obsessively between classes it becomes a dreamland, an etherial non-place existing in the minds of the Human and Martian protagonists more than any existing place, which is why it retains interest today.

Here’s where I tell you that Jr. High was the pit of my life and one of the things I remember most is diving into the enormous tome of Ray Bradbury’s collected short stories (forget rats, you could kill an alligator with that thick book) as a way to avoid my classmates. Sadly lacking social skills, those wouldn’t appear until much later.

Ray Bradbury’s work exists in the shadow space between waking and dreaming, between living and dying. It’s a metaphor that we can see ourselves in, which is why it’s still worth reading.

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Meanwhile, in the Oval Office

A meaty fist taps a donut on the Resolute Desk, scattering powdered sugar like a light dusting of snow. A very large TV is on, competing with the sun coming through the windows for brightness.

On the screen is a long shot of a man in a blue suit, red tie and one of those tiny black masks that only covers the eyes. He’s working on the doornob of a shop with a tiny set of tools. The surround sound barks the announcer’s voice through the room.

“Ladies and gentlemen at home! Can President Big Dingus pull this latest heist off? Can he hit Tiffany’s?”

On the TV the front door to the shop cracks open and the man lifts a fist in victory. He picks up a compact black bag and in a moment he’s in.

“He did it, Bob. Now he’s got 30 seconds to deactivate the security system.”

“Don’t be silly, Ed. He’s already turned it off from his phone. Sure is handy when you can call in favors with the CIA, NSA, FBI and Homeland Security!”

In the office the big man behind the desk chuckles. The camera angle switches to an interior view, in “night mode” as the lights inside are off. We can see the man quickly scurry past the empty display cases and through a door in the back.

“Oh! He’s going straight for the safe! Do you think he’s going to use the same technique he used on that bank on 5th and Main?”

“Maybe, but he’s definitely upped his game from that first pawn shop he hit, right after the Supreme Court made it legal for the President to do anything he wants legal or not.” The camera view shifts again. The man sets his bag on the floor in front of the safe and pulls out a stethoscope. “Holy baloney, Ed. He’s going to do it old school. Can he do it?” President Dingus is scrunching his face with concentration, listening intently to the stethoscope while twiddling the dials on the safe.

“I’ll never forget the night he was picking pockets at the White House Inaugural Ball. Dang, did he get some great watches that night or what?”

“Quick fingers on that man. Remember when Presidents had to be boring? Before we had one man in the country who can do whatever he wants?”

“Dark days indeed, Ed.” On the TV the President continues to fiddle with the dials. “Remember the night we got to watch him car-jack that limo with Julia Roberts in it?”

“Oh yeah, and we got to watch him drive it backwards down I-95 with his underwear on his head! Ha! Good times! Thank god he can’t be taken to court for anything.”

“And the joke show where he just ripped those tags off the mattress you’re not supposed to rip off? What’s he going to do next?” On the TV the President turns the handle on the safe and it opens! He turns towards the camera, lifts both fists in the air and with a big smile performs his trademark “Happy Dance.” Bounce-Bounce-Yow! Big Dingus reaches into the safe and sweeps fine jewelry into his bag with his arm. He reaches in with both hands and withdraws a large necklace sparkling with diamonds and turns to show it to the camera.

“Ho ho! Something nice for the wife! Good thinking, Dingus!” The President places the necklace carefully in the bag, closes it securely, gives the camera a thumbs-up and quick-walks to the front door. He peeks outside, both ways, to make sure the coast is clear, then slips outside closing the door quietly behind him. He adopts a conspicuously casual stroll away then stops.

“Wait, what’s he seeing over there in the alley?” It’s a bum with a crumpled hat and rumpled duds, seated and leaning back against the wall. President Dingus digs into one of his pants pockets, retrieves something and flips a large, round silver object towards the man who scrabbles to retrieve it before it rolls away.

“…and giving back to the little people! What a class act that man is.”

Back in the office, the President toggles off the TV and turns towards his advisors. “Check it out boys, Big Dingus, President and International Jewel Thief. The best show on TV! Yeee-hawwww! What’s next?”

A shrug from the Chief of Staff. “Mebby we hit the art museum, sir?”

Stay tuned for more adventures of President Big Dingus!
“Dingus! Dingus! He’s our man!
If he can’t steal it, nobody can!”

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The Return of Señor ToughGuy: Requiem for a Juggalo

Arnold Ziffel

Señor ToughGuy looks at his knuckles. The fresh bruises will heal, the memories won’t be important. If there are any.

He’s a man who’s mustache has its own mustache.

Outside the sun is setting over the plain, which is as usual, dusty. It doesn’t owe you anything, and it knows it.

Señor ToughGuy taps his ashes onto the “no smoking” placard on the cramped table by the window.

His pants don’t fit, which is why he took them off.

The pig is late.

That red 70’s pickup truck pulls into the parking spot outside. Headlights fade to black.

Someone opens the door to the motel room and stands aside.

Señor ToughGuy lights another unfiltered cigarette. “Pig, you’re late.”

Arnold trots in. The pig shifts his smoke around in his mouth and swallows it.

“Yeah asshole, I’m late but you’ll always be ugly.”

Señor ToughGuy tips his head towards the body of a fat man crumpled on the floor with an ice bucket obscuring his elaborate spray-painted makeup. “Whaddaya want me to do with that guy?”

“Isn’t that your job? Chump went out the way he came in. As a clown.”

“Ass clown is as ass clown does.” Sun’s going down, it’s going to be a long night.

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Stories of Friendship and Bravery

poolside

…1969…

“Eva, pass me the Evian please.”

“Yes, dahlink.” Replies Eva, in her delightfully uplifting accent. “Here you arh.”

A light breeze ripples the fronds of the palm trees lining the pool. It’s sunny at the Palm Springs Racquetball Club, but it’s always sunny at the Palm Springs Racquetball Club. Arnold’s eyes are focused in the middle distance over the pool and shaded by his Ray-Bans.

A man with a small blue swimsuit and a chin with a divot large enough to hide a golf ball strolls over, cigarette dangling in his fingers. “Howdy Arnold, how they hanging? Borrow your lighter?”

“Kirk, buddy. It’s all yours.” Arnold doesn’t take his eyes off the pool.

Eva leans over, “Mr. Douglas, how nice to see you. How was your latest movie?”

Kirk snaps the zippo closed and breathes in the healing smoke enjoying its contradictory stimulating and relaxing effect. “The Arrangement?” He taps his lit cig against his leg and grits his teeth. “Average, baby. Average.” He takes a long drag, flicks the dart into the ashtray on table next to Arnold and without a word turns and dives into the pool.

Audrey, resplendent in a simple one-piece black swimsuit reclines deeper into her lounge chair. “Well, he doesn’t seem too happy about that.”

“Pity.” Arnold worries his cig from one side of his mouth to the other. “Eva, I’m thinking Bombay Beach. What do you think about putting some of our TV money into property there?” He’s watching some birds going in lazy circles over the mountains. “I’m thinking it’s primed to go big.”

“Oh, Ahrnold, I just can’t think about that today.”

Arnold barely hears her. He is lost in a daydream of dollars driven by the craze for Salton Sea waterskiing and tourists fishing.

“They say love is the best investment; the more you give, the more you get in return.”

“Audrey, you are so romantick!” returns Eva with a smile.

Arnold lights another Regal. He starts to sing… “Money don’t get everything, it’s true. But what it don’t get, I can’t use…”

He continues to hum the song as the pool staff comes by with fresh gin and tonics.

Author’s note for younger readers:

Kirk Douglas, Audrey Hepburn and Eva Gabor were major stars in the time period of this episode. I will leave it as a Google/Wikipedia exercise for the reader to learn about Palm Springs, The Salton Sea and Bombay Beach.

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Banana Man Sighting

Your author was recently at an event that required creating some art on a poster, so Banana Man made an appearance. For Justice!

Wait, you don’t know who Banana Man is yet? Click here, pilgrim….

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