Abortion, Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Blogging, Botendaddy, Drink, Edinburgh, Fascist, Google, Humor, Nationalism, Opinion, Paul Kavanagh, Politics, Pub, Russian Revolution Centenary, Satire, Scottish Independence, Scottish Nationalism, The Botendaddy, Twin Peaks, Twitter, Wee Ginger Dug, Writing
[SCENE: The Caley Picture House. James, Tychy, Pablo, and Tori are drinking in one of those stylish wooden alcoves.]
Tychy [sternly]: It’s been three years since we’ve had one of these editorial meetings…
James: Which is admirable. It’s as though we are all out on an enjoyable drive, with no squabbling at junctions or bickering at roundabouts, no road bumps or…
Tychy: There’s nobody in the car! We don’t have any readers!
James: Our vehicle is not overloaded with so much excess weight…
Tori: It’s like that story about the phantom hitchhiker. Except that we’ve picked up hundreds of passengers and suddenly turned around in our seats to see that they’ve all mysteriously vanished.
James: We continue to have many, many readers…
Tychy: Even I don’t read the website any more. And it’s named after me!
Tori: I’ve stopped too.
Pablo: I ask my girlfriend to click on it sometimes – just to pretend to you that there is some person visiting.
James: Listen, we are not a website like, say, the Huffington Post, which you visit every day…
Tychy: See! This is it in one! He thinks that the Huffington Post is actually a site that somebody would read every…
James: We are instead a luxury product. A site that our readers only visit when they have tired of the proliferating trivia across the rest of the media. A site that they visit on truly exceptional occasions, when they want to read something especially profound.
Tori: A site that they would visit… like… once per year? Like a church?
James: Hang on! No!
Tori: Then we would be, according to you, a product of the supremest luxury. It sounds from your own description like the better a website is, the fewer occasions people will visit it.
James: You don’t seem to realise that the readership of blogs is on a natural downward curve. I’ve heard the feminist Camille Paglia despair that, “the real visionary thinkers of my generation destroyed their brains on drugs… LSD levelled all the truly talented people of my generation.” I feel that Twitter has done much the same with our own. So many promising bloggers – Andrew Tickell, Jane Carnall, the Flying Rodent – have mostly given up on writing serious prose and they are now set up on Twitter as mini aphorism factories or industrial producers of one-liners.
Pablo: They make the more money from this?
James: No, it’s all about ego. You can understand the appeal though. Each day they basically break down what would have been a solid article into a list of bullet points, which they can then string out in pursuit of constant, instantaneous gratification. Rather than getting a single article liked and commented on all at once, they can have every good line in the article individually liked and retweeted and commented on across the whole day. Rather than, say, taking a hit of heroin, they are plugged into a drip. But what about depth? What about subtlety and grandiloquence and well-crafted prose?
Tori: What do you think of Twitter doubling the word count? To 280 characters?
James: It’s a positive sign if even the people who had invented Twitter are bored with their own product and taking steps to counter its banality. The reform is so momentous that you are reminded of Deng Xiaoping trying to reverse Maoism.
Tori: Speaking of Mao, I think that Twitter is making more practical reforms because some languages, such as Mandarin and Japanese, already have an unfair degree of concision. 140 characters is essentially a blog post in Mandarin.
James [dreamily]: So I could write a novel on the back of a postcard? Think of the hike in productivity if we published in Mandarin!
Tychy: This isn’t to do with productivity! I’ll tell you what’s happened. James had spent months boring everybody to bits about Brexit – until we were left with a bigoted demographic of elderly readers who nobody else wanted. Next, he swerved radically to spending months writing purely about the new Twin Peaks. This bewildered the few forlorn pensioners who were still subscribing and so they died off. Meanwhile, all of these trendy people who watch Twin Peaks: The Return are hardly going to come to read about it in Captain Mainwaring’s Brexit garden shed.
James: We were hit hard by Twin Peaks. There was such an ocean of indistinguishable commentary about it that no writer could ever hope to stand out. It seemed that everybody with an opinion on the series had posted comments on a forum or blogged about it or devoted a two-hour vlog to each episode. The crisis of overproduction within TwinPeaksology was nightmarish – the available readers were few and far between – the surpluses were prodigious. It was like a banquet being dumped on some ants. We were still the best of course. Nobody got on top of the series in quite the same way as we did. Yet who could tell – how were the ants able to locate our glacé cherry?
Pablo: This Twin Peaks was the thing that change my whole life. When I was a boy with the rosy apple cheeks, I like only the girls with the tight arses and the perfect tits. Now, when I watch the new Twin Peaks, I realise that I in fact now like the old women, the fat women, the miserable women… the… how you say… good old boots? These are the women who know what they are doing, like Franco! The pretty girls are like the Cataluña, the clowns, the crazies, who do everything desastrosamente.
Tychy: James, this is not good enough. The only reason that I tolerate your interminable writing about Brexit and Twin Peaks is because readers, once they are on our site, are meant to stray to my fiction, which is our unique selling point – the only original thing that we do. My stories “In the Banshee Labyrinth” and “The Big Black Man” appear to me to be unexampled anywhere. Yet they are pearls thrown to… well, they would be normally thrown to swine. Now there is not even the whiff of a piglet.
James: Well happily Twin Peaks is finished. At last we can move on to the big subject that will attract millions of readers: the sudden continental decline in numbers of pollinating insects. This could spell apocalypse for humanity. And I have a theory that what we need are new gene-edited bees that will live for hundreds of years and reproduce at a rate of…
Tori: Actually, this is quite interesting…
Tychy: Warped bees are not even the last straw. The last straw was me going on to the website yesterday and seeing an article commemorating the Russian Revolution!
Pablo: ¡Joder! If the Cataluña crazies are the girls with the big tits, the Russian Lenins are like the little girls aged two who pull the cat’s tail and draw on the wall with the pen!
James: You spoke of original content – well, this is original!
Tychy: Yes, the Bolsheviks were original! So was Harold Shipman!
James: No mainstream media outlet so much as mentioned the centenary of Bolshevism.
Tychy: No mainstream media outlet celebrates the birthday of Harold Shipman!
James: Did you even read the article?
Tori: To be fair, it started out rejoicing in the revolution but made a judicious, partial U-turn at the end.
Tychy: A J-turn?
James: Take Google! Their Google Doodle for November 7 was a cartoon about Pad Thai. This is, one gathers, a type of noodle dish. How outrageous! An unprecedented victory for the working-class gleefully eclipsed by noodles! And Google’s cartoon used the same imagery as the storming of the Winter Palace, except that their little cartoon people were storming a gigantic wok…
Tori: They were possibly being sarcastic? You know, contrasting the plenty in the wok to the scarcity and famine in Russia?
James: It was infuriating!
Tychy: It was sane! Don’t you realise that noodles interest people? Millions of people! If you had written an article about Pad Thai a day before Google’s cartoon, then our website would have been inundated with visitors. And a handful of them might have clicked around out of curiosity and read one of my stories!
Tori: He can’t write an article about Pad Thai. He can admittedly write an article about how to mistime creating a meal so that the potatoes are ready twenty minutes before the chicken. At his last dinner party, we had to sit there looking at the food in front of us for ages because he had forgotten to steam the mangetout. He can write an article about setting all the fire alarms off. At the same dinner party, we had to evacuate the tenement. And then we saw that his tomato soup was simply ketchup with water stirred into it. Finally, all the vegans stampeded when a fish’s head floated up in the middle of his vegetable casserole.
Tychy: He can still write an article about this. I’ve seen… are they called Listicles? “Ten Ways To Avoid Wrecking A Dinner Party.”
James: It was only two or three!
Tychy [wrathfully]: Silence! James, we are holding this meeting today because we want to appoint a new editor.
Tori: Oh this is so emotional. Look – I’m already weeping. I knew we should have fired him by text.
James: You can’t fire me! I’m irreplaceable!
Tychy: Your services will be retained but you will no longer be editor.
Tori: Yes, instead of driving the car you will be more like the peppermints in the glove compartment. Still interesting and entertaining.
Tychy: And here, just on time, is our candidate to be interviewed. This way sir!
[Enter Hutu the Clown, a gaunt, stooping man in a clown costume, with his hand inserted inside the rectum of a small ginger dug. The dug is dazed and glassy-eyed; its fur is mangy.]
Hutu the Clown [waving the dug and speaking in a falsetto voice]: Good evening boys and girls!
Tychy: Good evening sir. Can we dispense with the ventriloquism and talk to you directly?
Hutu the Clown [gruffly]: I suppose so…
James [appalled]: This is meant to be a better editor than me!
Tychy: Actually he is. He too has a WordPress website but unlike with us, James, it is an extraordinary success. He has a column in the National and he is hired out for children’s parties all around Scotland.
[Tori volunteers to go to the bar to get a beer for Hutu the Clown.]
Pablo [suspiciously]: I know this guy. He is a supporter of these crazies in Cataluña. If it were not for Franco, and for his wise United Spain First, then everybody in Spain would today look like this!
Hutu the Clown: Why don’t you hop the fuck off, you deranged froth merchant? I’m not going to waste precious milliseconds conversing with a vile fascist and a mouth-breathing zoomer!
Pablo: Eh, what he say? My English not so good.
Tychy: He was saying that there might be another side to the situation in Catalonia.
Pablo: Well maybe. I hear him use the word “fascist” so this is a compliment for me.
Tychy: Mr Clown, what ambitions do you have for increasing the readership of the Tychy website?
Hutu the Clown: First, we have to set up a programme to block all tweets and unwanted communications from abusive froth-flecked trolls and their British nationalist hirelings!
Tychy: Er, we wish to increase our readership, sir, not thin it.
Hutu the Clown: This is exactly how I do it. You can look at the figures – the more I block people, the more readers I get. It is an iron rule of Scottish economics.
Tori [returning]: Here is your beer, sir… whoops!
[The pint is jolted and beer slops across the table. Unthinkingly, Hutu the Clown wipes the beer off the table with his dug. Next, he unthinkingly wrings the dug’s fur out into his pint glass and takes a satisfied swig. Tori looks sick.]
Tychy: What is the idea for your next article, Mr Clown?
Hutu the Clown: My next article will say that our time is drawing near, that Westminster is on the brink of total collapse, that our grassroots need to mobilise, that independence is just around the corner!
Tori: Doesn’t this sound vaguely familiar?
Hutu the Clown: Yes, I’ve written the same article over 1300 times. You just have to mix up the words a little each time you write it again.
James: Isn’t it true, Mr Clown, that your last article contained so many clichés that it ripped open a black hole in the space-time continuum that plunged all of Scotland back into 1987? A world where the Tories were evil capitalists and the SNP caring, socialistic…
Tychy: Ignore this man. He will not play any role in the selection process.
Tori: He is a mere peppermint.
Tychy: It is true though that we would like articles that sound rather fresher than anything about the SNP. We don’t want to get left behind.
Tori: You could write about Jeremy Corbyn. He’s supposed to be fashionable.
Hutu the Clown: Who?
Tori: I don’t understand, you’ve never heard of Jeremy Corbyn?
Hutu the Clown: Nope, it doesn’t ring a bell.
Tori: Why, he’s a socialist and he offers the same sort of policies previously offered only by the SNP across the whole of the Union, so that voters in England…
Hutu the Clown: That’s it my dear, you’ve had your final warning! You’re blocked! Are you calling me an ethnic nationalist? That’s the last vile, abusive comment that I will ever have the displeasure of listening to! Enjoy being blocked, sweetie!
Tori: I’m sorry, I’ve lost you…
Hutu the Clown [taking out a china Victorian chamber pot and squashing it on to his head] Nah nah nah nah nah, I can’t hear you! You’re blocked! You’re all blocked!
Tychy: Oh dear, Mr Clown. Do I take it that you are uninterested in leading our organisation?
Hutu the Clown: I couldn’t hear that! It was completely inaudible to me! You are all blocked!
Tychy: Oh how vexing! Pablo, will you assist Mr Clown in leaving the building?
Pablo: This way Mr Loopy!
Hutu the Clown: What was that? An outrageous slur upon my integrity, an uber-zoomer’s foul-mouthed verbal diarrhoea of actionable content!
Pablo: Eh, you say you cannot hear nothing?
Hutu the Clown: You’re right! You’re blocked, pal! [He trips on the stairs and he and Pablo, both arm-in-arm, slither inelegantly down to the bottom with the chamber pot bouncing off each stair in turn. The interview panel listen to the diminishing clangs.]
Tychy: We had an alternative candidate lined up in the event of Hutu disappointing us. I am sceptical, however, that he will be much of an improvement even upon James.
James: Thanks. I suppose that he is not a WordPress megastar like our last interviewee.
Tychy: You are a fan. He is this writer from Pittsburgh…
James: The Botendaddy! This is a great writer – a genuine surrealist. He would be an ideal replacement and it would be a seamless transition.
Tychy: Unfortunately we could only get him here for an interview by having him encased in carbonite. The Home Office made it a precondition of his visa. He’s over there by the bar.
Tori: My word! What is this?
Tychy: He has an incredible imbalance of pheromones, which means that women throw themselves at him in huge quantities. Like lemmings off a cliff.
James: How can we interview him, Biggy, if he is frozen?
Tori: How can he edit our website if he is frozen?
Tychy: Inevitably we will have to unfreeze him, though it could invalidate his visa. First, Tori, I will have to tie you to your chair with this rope. It is an important precaution.
Tori: My head is already swimming. I am yearning to feast upon his delicious spermatozoa…
James: Quick, tie her up!
Tychy [binding Tori forcefully to the chair] Here, now we can start the unfreezing procedure.
[Encased in the grey material, the Botendaddy glows pinkly, before rays of piercing white light begin to break through his face.]
Pablo [having returned]: Eh, the hairs are standing on my legs? My heart feels like the jelly. My nipples – they are erect!
Tori: Me too!
Pablo: I must remember that I have to always be a man. I owe it to the memory of Franco and to a United Spain!
Tori: I am hungering for his firm, supple, filthy, perverted, misshaped manhood, oh the taste of it!
Pablo: I must meditate on the father’s face of Franco…
[The Botendaddy flops to the floor.]
The Botendaddy: I can’t see…
Tychy: You are suffering from hibernation sickness, sir. Oh no, it is already happening…
[Waitresses carrying nachos and cheap burgers are erring from their rightful paths through the numbered tables and streaming from every direction towards the Botendaddy. They throw aside their trays contemptuously and begin to rend his clothes with their teeth.]
The Botendaddy [in a stentorian voice]: Haha, once again I am doing it, dear readers! Are you happy now? Are you enjoying your cheap, squalid thrill? I am doing it right here, unleashing myself upon them every which way with my precious bodily fluids! Where’s the hot tub? [He melts within a mob of howling and shrieking waitresses. They sound as much like seagulls as is possible in humans.]
Tori: Lemme at him!
Pablo: Oh Madonna, forgive me for what I am thinking!
James [brightly]: Why don’t I stay on for a while as a caretaker? Until you find a candidate who can focus whole-heartedly on the job.
Tychy [darkly]: I am compiling a list. The next time we convene, it will be to interview for a new editor.
James: Let us drink to me and us for the last time. Our website will have its day!