B Rant: Panic in the Cranium

by Brantly Martin

photography Scáth Umbra

20 October 2014

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I saw one of those Goebbels must be alive and now under the employ of the US Hollywood-military-hero complex movies the other day. You know: WWII, Nazis closing in, “we’re all going to die boys,” whiskey, stoges—last stand steez. All die except the young newbie who gets out alive—son is a fucking hero! steez. It was fine. Old friends. Times Square. IMAX or something like it. Matinée. The three of us walked home afterward—(East Village, SoHo, Chinatown)—splitting up at the NYU reservation and casino.
       This shit storm of a movie was really a remake of Quentin Tarantino’s Goebbels’ movie within Inglourious Basterds—but flavored with give me a U … give me an S … give me an A …. I wish Russia had the loot and/or desire to make WWII monster movies year after year. (And I wish Cambodia had the loot and/or desire to make Khmer Rouge monster movies year after year.) And I wish …
       And because I was recently in Rome for two months working on something that—(in my mind)—would be more purely wrought (or, at least, less rot) if I peaced fiction consumption for the duration and, you know, at the end of the work day, stuck to reading “non-fiction” before bedtime … I ended up reading or re-reading the post-war Italian fiction/poetry/film guys’ “non-fiction.” (Yeah, I know.) One of my favorites of that lot was all-in communista until he felt The Kremlin had replaced The Vatican. A few others bounced around The Party, played games of "that's not X! this is X!" Pier Paolo, of course, stuck it out. Still under the fading glow of a close re-read of his essays, it’s impossible to visually consume (and, I suppose, audibly: machine-gun soundtracks, fake southern accents) American Consumerism without filtering it through his observation that consumerism would destroy with relative ease what fascism could not. (But neither could communism preserve maestro.)
       Before splitting at the ancestral home of downtown dormitories, we stopped for lamb burgers and “how’s the wife?”s and “work?”s and “you seen ______?”s before moving onto the game of How many cases of Breiks until! ... Being civilized world travelers(!) who, if nothing else, are respecters of the proportionate, we, of course, focused our thoughts on the possibility of induced panic brought on by “that lot that ain’t us.” We knew that 30,000 people in the US died from the flu last year. Car accidents. Guns. Et cetera. But … whatever. 
       I hadn’t thought of the game, but, okay, let’s play. 
       The tacit rules seem to be: We know the chances of actually catching Breiks are minuscule, but how many cases would have to be reported in New York until there is enough chaos to justify leaving the city before (cue jingle of doom) subways are closed! … there’s a run on food/water! … the island’s quarantined!
       Friend A has a wife and young daughter. 
       Friend B (me) is married with no kids.
       Friend C is single.
       Friend D (a late twenty-something or early thirty-something woman) is about eight months pregnant and single and just appeared at our booth like a blend of “former lover you split on good terms with" and Caribbean apparition. She also orders a lamb burger. We think nothing of the appearance or the lamb burger—it all makes sense. 
       A and C are Type A: they need a number and a plan of action. “How many reported cases and where do we go?”
       B, having never considered fleeing the East Village for Breiks, hurricanes or anything else, can’t make that leap. But he’s playing the game: “I need a number of deaths. Not infections.”
       D “doesn’t believe in any of this shit.” She’s not sure if it’s (1) all made up (2) a real outbreak in Africa propagated by the US government (3) neither 1 nor 2 but simply the natural cycle of things that falls under (4) shit that has always been happening, and with much more frequency, but is now caught in social media loops like never before. 
       A puts his number at 5. He’ll rent a car before “there’s a run on rentals” and head “anywhere west of the Hudson to start.”
       B is even more dubious after D weighs in. He’s not going anywhere. If it becomes “too late” then he’ll sneak off the island and "head to Mexico." 
       C reveals he’s already “stocked up on survival essentials.” He could survive three to four weeks “right now.” In light of A’s 5 and C’s lack of immediate responsibilities to other humans, C puts his number at 15. 
       D eats her lamb burger then dematerializes. 

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The Breiks Czar announces on social media that Breiks has been contained both in the US and in Africa but he’ll be announcing on social media that there are new cases of Breiks in New York to test the response. We’ll announce the first case of Breiks in New York tomorrow, then, over the next month or so, announce additional cases. We’ll probably announce up to 40 or 50 cases. We want to be transparent: this is an experiment and we’ll have private sector funding in the form of sponsorship.

       A leaves town with wife and daughter at 5. They rent a car and grab an Airbnb spot in Pennsylvania.
       B decides he doesn’t want to live in a city that “pulls shit like this.” He buys a cheap car and drives south at 1.
       C leaves Manhattan at 25. He thinks the “experiment” is nothing of the sort.
       D reports symptoms of Breiks and is checked into Beth Israel. 

****

Breiks was the biggest selling FPS game of 2015. 

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