UPDATE: 39 Minutes Later, Weird-Lookin’ Fella Still Clawing Frantically Through Wal-mart $5 Movie Barrel

October 9, 2015 Leave a comment

Seems Pretty Sure Other People Do Not Exist or Need Access to the Bin He Has Claimed

@Florence – Field correspondents are reporting that an unknown man, probably having a common name that is spelled in an unnecessarily uncommon fashion, has been engaged in a determined quest—for which film, exactly, they are uncertain—that has discouraged upwards of a dozen other browsers from forking through the discount bin. Other shoppers, citing that “it’s just not that big of a deal and that guy kind of creeps me out”, have repeatedly approached the barrel, attempting to carve out a little bit of browsing space long enough to determine which five movies have dozens of copies available at the $5 bargain price.

Almost everybody gets bored after two minutes of sifting through this crap

“I was kind of hoping to get lucky and score a T2, or maybe even the Kevin Costner version of Robin Hood,” says one frazzled shopper. “But this squirrely dude with the baggy shirt and tight shorts over there is definitely not interested in allowing other shoppers a comfortable amount of space to casually browse while he digs out the equivalent of half his bodily volume in digital video discs.”

Readers have responded to Claustrophobic Press’s requests for their personal experiences of the situation, in which they describe things that have taken place from start to finish in the amount of time that the movie hunter has been at his task. Your best responses are featured below:

– Tanya and Darren both went on their lunch break and came back, surprised that the shopper was still undeterred by the repetition of seeing the same few titles every time he lifts his arms up and waterfalls the cheap disc cases back into the pile or spreads them around in an attempt to get to the middle stratum of over-manufactured films.

– Someone watched an entire episode of Friends, commercials included, on the bank of plasma screen televisions in the back of the electronics department.

– Mark Ellis listened to “The Dark Side of the Moon” on his iPod all the way up to about the halfway point of “Brain Damage” (which isn’t even one of his favorite tracks anyway, so he normally just skips it)

– Anne B. cooked dinner for her family of three (from scratch)

– Patrick Bloom left work, made it halfway home, realized he’d forgotten an important document at the office, went back to retrieve it, and subsequently made it all the way back to the point on the road at which he’d realized what he forgot.

We urge readers who wander into the local Wal-mart in a misguided attempt to use retail therapy as a distraction from their troubles to use caution when approaching the sale bin in question, as staffers have tried (even begged) unsuccessfully to help the man locate the particular title or titles he seems to be searching for. But is this man the Frodo Baggins of Friday night Wal-mart shopping? Is this inexplicably wasted evening more about the journey than the end point? Only time will tell. And according to the time, the movie shopper has now made it all the way to the end of “Dark Side,” though we should state the obvious that it is an album noteworthy for how smoothly it loops for multiple playbacks.

2015, Claustrophobic Press. Today is fucking horrible.

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New site

September 30, 2015 Leave a comment

A quick note: I’ve launched a for-real more-serious site for my writing that is not quite as chock full of vitriol and national shame.  It is located at http://christopherburkewords.com if you should be inclined to mash your eyes into its sparse imagery and less-sparse text.  Good day!

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Me no jokey-jokey here, folks.

September 22, 2015 Leave a comment

I have a story in the soon-to-be-released Nightscript, the ToC of which I’ve included below in case any eyes show up on this occasionally-updated place.


“Everything That’s Underneath” by Kristi DeMeester
“Strays” by Gregory L. Norris
“In His Grandmother’s Coat” by Charles Wilkinson
“The Cuckoo Girls” by Patricia Lillie
“The Sound That the World Makes” by David Surface
“Below the Falls” by Daniel Mills
“The Keep” by Kirsty Logan
“She Rose From the Water” by Kyle Yadlosky
“Animalhouse” by Clint Smith
“Tooth, Tongue, and Claw” by Damien Angelica Walters
“Momma” by Eric J. Guignard
“The Trees Are Tall Here” by Marc E. Fitch
“A Quiet Axe” by Michael Kelly
“The Death of Yatagarasu” by Bethany W. Pope
“The Cooing” by John Claude Smith
“A Knife in My Drawer” by Zdravka Evtimova
“On Balance” by Jason A. Wyckoff
“Learning Not to Smile” by Ralph Robert Moore
“Fisher and Lure” by Christopher Burke
“The Death of Socrates” by Michael Wehunt

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Man Freely Buying Firearms to Protect Against Tyranny Confident These Will be the Ones Seized by Government

Totally Not Planning To Accidentally Discharge Weapon into Brain of Loved One

@Providence – Roy Carroll doesn’t think of himself as special. In his words, he’s just an “everyday Joe concerned about goverment (sic) overreach and his Constitutional rights.” His hobbies include reading, watching football, and occasionally ending the life of another creature for the thrill it brings. He doesn’t consider himself brave or an activist. But in recent decades, he has grown profoundly concerned about government intrusion into people’s lives. Roy has owned guns all his life, and considers himself to be a responsible citizen who puts safety above everything else.

Claustrophobic Press wanted to get the real story on Roy, so we caught up with him at his local gun store.

Since turning 18, an age younger than one is required to be to purchase alcoholic beverages or rent a car, Roy has made at least one major gun purchase per year at the establishment.

“Sometimes,” he explains, “I have to wait about as long as it would take for me to receive a title on a newly purchased vehicle. Which is deeply troubling because what if I need them to fight off the entirety of the U.S. Marshals Service today?”

Some people believe stupid fucking toughguy platitudes like the one on this sign are in some way meaningful or clever

While chatting with the cashier, who had already conducted a background check on Carroll–a relatively simple process no more complicated than writing a high school term paper –he unloads a shopping cart filled with enough weaponry to hold an entire building of people hostage until he runs out of food and other essential supplies. There are no government agents preventing the purchase here in this publicly accessible, easy-to-find retail space that is listed in the phone book under “Sporting Goods” and offers quite reasonable prices, but Roy does not let that reassure him.

“This gonna be it Roy? The big one?” jokes the clerk.

“We’ll see, I guess.” Roy taps the barrel of a shotgun that could easily blast a person’s face off in the blink of an eye, which will soon be legally his as a result of this casual transaction conducted in broad daylight. “Can never be too prepared, am I right?”

Carroll has long contended that the Second Amendment exists primarily to prevent the government from violating the Second Amendment; it is up to well-armed, responsible citizens like him to own enough firepower to massacre at least one classroom of children in order to fight back against the tyrannical whims of a government that possesses more weaponry than has ever existed in the recorded history of the human race, and he wears this badge proudly.

“I’m certain that after buying this carload of rifles, pistols, and shotguns, the government will see my name on their lists and show up at my door to take them. Just because they didn’t do that last time, or the time before that, or the time before that, or the time before that, does not mean they won’t now. And when they do, I’ll be ready,” he says as he hands over his debit card to the cashier.

As he enters his PIN number, Roy hits the wrong digits and, for a moment, is worried that he has set off a red flag somewhere. But the cashier reassures him that it was just a simple mistake and no one is coming to take away the three Bushmaster AR-15s that he could easily use to slaughter a movie theater filled with people before anybody could tell what was going on or act to stop it.
“Huh…Well, I guess we all make mistakes and accidentally press things from time to time that we didn’t intend. No harm, no foul,” Roy says. “Doesn’t mean they aren’t still tracking me. Mark my words, it’ll happen, and soon.”

Carroll’s eyes carry with them a sort of eager hope that one might see in a person buying a lottery ticket or pulling on a slot machine handle: this is gonna be the big one. The one that makes it all worth it, that justifies years of effort.

After freely purchasing enough firepower to easily mow down at least one shopping mall before turning it on himself should the need arise, Roy drives home, where he enjoys a dinner of Atlantic salmon and corn on the cob, but the knock at the door from federal agents never comes. When asked if he ever feels hard-pressed to find justification for all the weaponry, Carroll chides us for our naivete’

“There’s always tomorrow,” Carroll says. “You never know until it happens, and if you’re not ready when the time comes, then how will you shoot the people who have shown up to stop you from shooting people?”

Roy’s is a deeply cherished philosophy rooted in part of a quote from a historical document, which is why it is so important to him.

“If we can’t rely on the wisdom of part of a sentence that our forefathers wrote 250 years ago, what can we rely on?” he challenges would-be naysayers. “This country was founded by men bearing arms, and it is up to us vigilant arms bearers to make sure that the federal government does not slide down the slippery slope of tyranny by threatening our ability to have as many life-threatening weapons as we need to stop it.”

2015, Claustrophobic Press. Violators will be forced to join a well-regulated militia to defend against King George’s redcoats.

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Young Man with Acoustic Guitar Fails to Impress Party-goers, Inspire Pixies Singalong

August 4, 2015 1 comment

Frank Black Expresses Disappointment

@Louisville – Local sources are reporting that as of 11:20 p.m. last Friday night, mildly intoxicated party-goer Tom Steele had been failing at an attempt to rally the thirty people in attendance around a group performance of Pixies classic “Where Is My Mind?” The enthusiastic novice player and sometime student had brought his instrument along just in case the right opportunity opened up for him to demonstrate his rendition of one of his favorite songs, figuring that its popularity would reunite revelers at the gathering who had broken off into factions, but eye- and earwitnesses have informed Claustrophobic Press that nobody was particularly interested in joining his off-key singing.

“Apart from his bad voicing, the playing was rather lackluster, and the song isn’t helped much by the transition to acoustic guitar,” says college student Emily Roth, who was in the exact same room as Tom when his attempt fizzled out. “This is particularly problematic because Tom has trouble landing those string bends on an acoustic.”

Emily’s best friend, Rozz, confirms that most people in the room could tell he was just bending them without a particular frequency as a goal, a hallmark of lazy party playing.

But the problem with Tom’s subpar strumming extends far deeper than the mere disappointment of failing to launch a singalong; Mr. Steele failed entirely to impress a single member of the opposite sex with his contrived-to-be-casual decision to lug his guitar all the way to the party and thrust himself into the center of attention.

Before Tom started playing, there were five other people on this couch.

“I mean, it just seems kind of douchey and presumptuous to plan to bring an instrument to a party where people are hanging out. Why would you want to make it all about you? Who thinks that a person is attending a social outing and just ‘happens’ to have their guitar with them by coincidence?” speculated Rozz.

About halfway into the song, conscious of the coldhearted gaze of the musically-disinterested attendees, Tom’s voice and playing trailed off and he muttered something about having to use the facilities, but none of the witnesses can remember seeing him return. Many conjecture that he took his guitar out to the car and just decided to cut his losses and run, but these accounts have not been corroborated independently.

“It’s actually a bit of a shame,” states Emily. “I was starting to really like Tom, but this blatant attempt at padding his reputation amongst the easily impressed has really started to make me reevaluate that position.”

Word eventually reached members of the Pixies while on their fourth reunion tour, and frontman Frank Black expressed disappointment at the butchering of a tune that he spent a good deal of effort in crafting.

“Is it too much to ask for a guy to hit the f%#king string bends every time instead of just when you feel like putting in the effort on the first couple of measures?” asked Black.

Mr. Steele could not be reached for comment, sung or otherwise. However, his family confirms that they have recently observed him trying various tactics intended to result in him playing popular songs in situations that would result in him being noticed or complimented by others, including on themselves.

“Tom has always been a sweet boy,” says Mrs. Steele. “I’ve always encouraged him to take up the instrument and practice at it if it makes him happy. But there’s a line, a social line, and some people just take longer to learn where it is than others. We’re pulling for him and we love him no matter what. He is still our son, and no amount of bad public performing will change that.”

“Unless he tries to play ‘Stairway,’ she adds hastily. “Led Zeppelin is very dear to me and I don’t know if I could handle that. The Plant/Krauss collaborations, he can do with those what he pleases and that’s none of my concern.”

2015, Claustrophobic Press. Violators will be subjected to me showing off my mastering of the power chords in “Smoke on the Water.”

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Man Aspiring to Be Tech-Savvy Pretty Sure He Used “Internet of Things” Correctly

Has Failed to Resurface After Several Days

@Providence, RI – Several sources have independently verified that the 37 year-old, in a desperate pitch to remind his peers that he was at one time “the nerd” of his high school peer group, tried to casually slip the phrase “Internet of things” into a conversation which, until that point, had largely been a relaxing chat about miscellaneous office politics. It seems that Patrick Murphy, who has felt his grip on the present cutting-edge gradually loosen with the inexorable passage of time and the slowing of his ability to acquire new skills while aging in a fast-paced world, has a long history of such blatant slang-drops, but none quite so egregious as this one. Murphy’s countenance had appeared completely confident as he delivered the five syllables, not seeming to realize anything was of the ordinary.

Investigations have revealed that this is not the first time the man has transparently attempted to impress others with trendy terminology that was no longer of interest. A former friend, going by the name of “J.” for purposes of this story, came forward with footage of Murphy using the term “Web 2.0” in a video presentation about digital marketing earlier in his career. Claustrophobic Press has obtained and authenticated the footage, but is choosing not to encourage its dissemination on moral grounds.

“It would have been fine, really, if Murphy’s whole Web 2.0 debacle had taken place in 2005, maybe even as late as 2007, but this happened in 2010—well after the world had come to know “Web 2.0” as simply the norm for the Internet and anyone with any self-respect had long since abandoned the term. I felt bad for him and his family, but what can you do in a situation like that? It’s just awkward all around, really,” the friend stated.

Requests to Patrick Murphy for comment on the troubling situation went unanswered, and other sources have speculated about Murphy’s own well-being, citing concern for his emotional health.

Investigators claim that Patrick Murphy was last seen here, in the Australian Outback. His last known correspondence was a note found in his kitchen, stating that he was going on a walkabout in order to conduct some needed soul-searching.

“I mean, it’s one thing to use the phrase in a white paper, or a satirical news article, but this was just a casual conversation. It had nothing to do with anything related to technology. We were just bullsh%&ing in the break room, and then from out of the blue…” says J. as he looks off into the distance. “There was just no call for that. No reason it should have happened at all.”

Murphy’s boss confirms that he stayed home for the remainder of the week, citing the wish to spend time with family so he can recuperate his social skills and attempt to reintegrate into what was once a group of carefree 30-somethings, and has since appeared to take on some of the signs of middle age. But his home appeared unoccupied, and his coworkers can only speculate as to his whereabouts and reflect on the incident in the interest of learning.

“This should be a warning to us all,” reflects J. “I mean, it’s not just about Murphy’s horrifying attempt to appear more with-it than we all know him to be. It’s about all of us. Deep down, I think we’re all Murphy, and that’s what is truly frightening.”

2015, Claustrophobic Press. Violators will be rendered hopelessly obsolete.

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This 21 Year-old Philosophy Minor Would Like to Tell You about Slavoj Žižek

Claims You Might Just Reconfigure Your Entire Ontology

@Louisville, KY – Mark Newsome doesn’t look like much of an evangelist; in fact, he doesn’t look like much of a Marxist if one follows him around for most of the day. But relentless enthusiasm for a freshly acquired collection of philosophical ideas that have basically been around for a long time bring a shine to his scruffy face and coffee-stained teeth, and it’s an enthusiasm that would be contagious if it were coming from someone else and about a different topic.

It’s quiet at the moment in the Daily Grind, a local coffee shop located next to a neighborhood book store. But that tranquility doesn’t last long as Mark gears up for some seemingly casual conversations in which he’ll carefully name-drop Slovenia’s most famous living philosopher, Slavoj Žižek, in social circles in which that is a popular way to boost one’s reputation.

“It’s a great way to make friends,” Mark says. “Well, a friend. Or I guess we’re more like acquaintances, really.”

His voice filters across the room to me while the person he addresses is inaudible: “Excuse me, sir, but are you familiar with “The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema?”….No, that’s not an emo band. Žižek…Slavoj Žižek… ¿Hablas ingles?”

A short time later, Mark returns to the table where we’d been sitting, shrugging his shoulders with a grin as if to say, “You can’t win ‘em all.” The trick, Mark tells us, is to work Žižek into the conversation as organically as possible, which can be a challenge at times.

“It definitely helps if you’re talking about the arts,” Mark says. “Really a lot of what Žižek says is so vague it could be applied to almost anything in any haphazard manner. That’s what makes him such a great philosopher—his ability to popularize ideas.”

Sometimes Žižek says things that are kind of funny, I guess.

Mark and I take a break from our interview and coffee to explore the shelves in the bookstore attached to the coffee shop. Not surprisingly, Mark makes a point of continuing the discussion of Žižek as we walk through the aisles, in order to make sure the staff understands that he is literate in current philosophical topics.

“Yeah, and then over here in the Philosophy section, you’ll find Slavoj Žižek, who has many interesting ideas about a wide variety of topics, such as film and hegemonic systems of representation. Really, I’d suggest that anybody and everybody check him out. You’re sure to find something to latch onto,” Mark says loudly.

The bookstore is a regular stop for Mark, and he’s on friendly terms with many of the workers.

One bookseller tells me: “we love it when customers come in and ask if we’ve ever heard of fairly well known authors whose books we carry on our shelves so they can make sure we know they are knowledgeable people.”

After Mark scans the philosophy section for potential browsing customers whom he might be able to lure into a discussion of institutional violence, he checks to ensure that most of Žižek’s books are in stock. Then we head out to the car, where our Žižek session continues.

“I haven’t read any Lacan yet, but you can be sure that if I had, my understanding of his work would be made so much better by Žižek’s plain-spoken writing style and diverse collection of topics that he connects, seemingly in no sensible order,” Mark says. “But that’s part of what makes him so accessible.”

We arrive safely at a house belonging to one of Mark’s friends, Thomas, where several members of his peer group are gathered, smoking and listening to music. If I’m not mistaken, I catch a look of mild exasperation on the face of one, perhaps because Mark’s presence will make the room more crowded.

Soon, as is perhaps inevitable in such a group, conversation turns to politics, and once the topic of State authority is broached, Mark seizes the moment.

“Excuse me, Jason, but have you given much thought to the symbolic order indicated by the process of Othering political leadership and its subsequent alienating effect on citizens?”

Jason keeps talking, but others take note of Mark’s interesting new perspective and eventually it becomes apparent that they want him to go on and explain his position. Mark is all too eager to comply:

“You guys should really read some of Slavoj Žižek’s work,” he says. “Fascinating stuff. And ‘The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema is a totally fascinating and contemporary way to think about film. It’s on YouTube. In fact, we could watch it right now if you want; it’s pretty entertaining.”

Mark’s suggestion is voted down, but as the evening progresses and the conversation wanders through numerous other categories, he casually slips in no less than seven other mentions of Žižek. It is unclear if his work will convert into interested persons buying Žižek’s books and in turn being able to slip his name into such conversations, but for Mark it’s a matter of leading a horse to water and being unable to ethically wield State power in order to force that horse to drink. Eventually, it’s time to go our separate ways, but before that happens, Mark presses a copy of “First as Tragedy, Then as Farce” into my hands.

“In case you start thinking and not liking the answers,” he explains. “It has been a comfort to me on many occasions, and now I’d like to pay that forward.”

For this American reporter, it was truly a day out of the ordinary in which many interesting things were learned, but for Philsophy minor Mark Newsome, it was just like every other day this semester.

2015, Claustrophobic Press. First as tragedy, then as tragedy, and probably a few more times as tragedy.

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