Wednesday 17 July 2013

How is Babby Cheezburger Formed?

There remains just one last chapter to write for the next triple-chapter post of THE PROFITEERS. But I'm not in the mood for fiction tonight, so tonight's not the night it concludes. Stick around, though. I'm good for it.

But part of the new mission of this blog involves substituting frequency when I can't offer consistency or closure -- that is, blogging whether there's fresh pie on the sill or whether it remains in the oven still baking.

In absence of pie I'm serving autobiography tonight. Some of you write to me to tell me you miss it when I don't post enough autobio material, and some of you write to inform me that focused content is the heart and soul of a successful blog and I should therefore post free original science-fiction or shut up.

So depending on how you feel on the issue you should either read on or bail now.

Cheeseburger Brown first posted to the Internet in 2002, shortly after Cheeseburger Blue forgot his password and had to make a new account because he no longer had access to the email address listed for recovery. His first public writing was a point-form review on Slashdot of the Sam Raimi SPIDER-MAN reboot. It was submitted under a pseudonym so the writer wouldn't get in dutch with the friend who scored him the preview passes to the movie before the general release.

From 2002-2004 Cheeseburger Brown posted exclusively in Rusty Foster's famously dysfunctional Scoop community, Kuro5hin (pronounced "Corrosion"). He wrote only autobiographically, changing names to protect the guilty. Subject matter included youth delinquency, the loss of virginity, moving to Montréal with a drug-crazed nymphomaniac Gypsy girl, fucking up art college, and the gestation, birthing and care of mammal offspring.

In 2003 one of Brown's more obscure and post-modern wankerrific Kuro5hin essays was published in the book TRAFFIC LIFE. Brown subsequently reviewed the book on his new Blogger blog -- rather harshly, as it was a pretty terrible anthology -- and as a consequence was never paid for his contribution.

In 2004 Kuro5hin held a contest for best original fiction from within the community which the trolls on the site made sure Brown lost by a massive and coordinated downvote of his submission, TWO MOMENTS OF INVENTION. Since the piece had inarguably captured the attention of the site's readership it was declared the first place winner. The prize was a free copy of an independent novel published through Lulu (THE METAMORPHOSIS OF PRIME INTELLECT by Roger Williams), a concept with which Brown was immediately intrigued.

When Kuro5hin collapsed into a hive of scum and villainy Cheeseburger Brown and many fellow Kuro5hin regulars migrated to an alternative Scoop community called Hulver's Site, founded by Scoop developer Hulver H. Hulversmith (name changed to protect the innocent) as a testing bed for new Scoop features. It was there that Brown began posting the first entries of what would become THE DARTH SIDE blog.

A Kuro5hin alumnus then brought Google AdSense to Brown's attention, and encouraged him to host the ongoing fan-fiction blog on a site where it could generate revenue. Because of his crushing financing problems Brown decided to capitalize on the wave of Star Wars mania leading up to the release of the third prequel, REVENGE OF THE SITH, by stuffing as many high-paying Star Wars keywords into each post as possible.

When the blog concluded on the eve of the movie's release Brown's site was Slashdotted. Within an hour all of his personal websites were knocked offline. THE DARTH SIDE was featured on the CNN homepage and the subject of a skit on the G4 Network's ATTACK OF THE SHOW. Calls for interviews came in from all corners of the globe: Europe, America, the South-Pacific.

In one week Cheeseburger Brown grossed two months of mortgage payments.

But Brown's financial problems were mounting. When he wasn't writing for Darth Vader he was a freelance commercial artist who had recently bought a house -- and to find a house he could afford he'd had to move 50 miles out of the city. And his clients didn't like that. The cost of couriers and commuting in for meetings was sucking Brown dry, on top of the demands of maintenance required when one moves into a decaying stone pioneer schoolhouse heated by wood fireplaces and wetted by a sieve-like roof.

More, because Cheeseburger Brown is an impulsive idiot, he elected to host a grand festival at his new country home, issuing a blanket invitation to the Kuro5hin and HuSi online communities to come camp on his property and party as if it were 1999.

"Shit," said Brown as he checked his steadily declining AdSense revenue; "we're going to need more juice."

And so to fund the festival Cheeseburger Brown began a new blog for hosting a serialized science-fiction novel called SIMON OF SPACE. By fanning the flames of momentum ignited by THE DARTH SIDE the serialized novel was able to garner a respectable online following, and its conclusion was marked by a flurry of generous Paypal donations, AdSense clicks and book purchases through Lulu. Just in the nick of time the festival was saved.

When everyone packed up their tents and left Brown and his growing family were still relatively destitute, however. Cheeseburger Brown then came to a conclusion -- a terrible conclusion -- that many braver men have faced with equal nausea: he needed a real job.

So Brown swallowed his pride and applied. He applied hither and yon. And eventually somebody fell for it. He was hired full-time as an art director at a well-to-do event management concern in the city (a job he described as "chief napkin folder").

Life changed radically. Cheeseburger Brown became a commuter. He wore a tie. He drove into the big city each day and sat at a desk. He wrote hardware investment recommendation reports. He wrote to vendors requesting pricing matrices. He replied-all to weigh in on HR initiatives. He attended conferences wearing a name badge and wrote employee reviews.

Obviously he was bored out of his fucking gourd.

After six months on the job Brown registered CHEESEBURGERBROWN.COM and began spending large swaths of the day writing science-fiction short stories for his blog. The first of this new collection was NIGHT FLIGHT MIKE, then BAD TRAFFIC. Brown took inspiration from the road signs he passed on the commute. After taking a particularly wrong turn into Mississauga he conceived the character of a phocomeliac native detective, as out of place in the world as any vestige of native culture left in Toronto's sprawling western suburb. He hunkered at his desk to pound out STUBBORN TOWN, flipping gracefully to a virtual screen space full of work should his boss drop in.

Since Brown seemed sometimes overwhelmed by his workload he was assigned an assistant. It was at this time that Brown began work on new serialized novel called THE SECRET MATHEMATIC.

But then things changed.

In 2008 the stock market kerploded. The company Brown worked for was downsized from over 60 people to just 12. The dozen remaining were moved into a smaller, more intimate, working space. His boss opted for an "open concept environment" which meant Brown lost his office. All the physical walls came down as new virtual walls went up; increasingly stingy and paranoid, Brown's boss had the Internet monitored and filtered.

THE SECRET MATHEMATIC stalled. Brown and his millennial assistant were now expected to do the work of five people. The display of their computer monitors was essentially public, a wall of glowing graphics to admire as one crossed the office. Brown's only private moments became his commute and his post-lunch visit to the washroom.

Brown's assistant was laid off. Christmas bonuses were cancelled. The accountant started grilling people about every line in their telephone bills.

Concurrent to this Brown's boss had a swimming pool installed, bought a cottage in Muskoka cheek-by-jowl with premiers and senators, operated a personal airplane for shits and giggles, wore and complained about $800 jeans, drank from a $1,200 coffee-maker, and acquired a really flashy new Japanese sports car and gleaming German motorbike.

The other eleven were refused cost of living adjustments to their compensation packages when annual reviews were held.

Brown was heard to opine, "How the devil can anyone be expected to write science-fiction novels under these circumstances? It's outrageous."

Because you all know what's happened to the economy. You know gasoline and rice and fruit all cost a lot more than they did before the recession. A lot more. So getting paid the same meant getting paid less.

In 2011 Cheeseburger Brown wrote a short story called MY GHOST TOWN. If Brown's boss was smart he would have followed the blog. Then he'd have seen what was coming. Brown craved liberation. Next came the novella BOBO. That was a sure sign. Brown was busting free.

He'd demanded an office when the working space was reorganized. That's how he'd found the space to write again. He demanded personal control of the Internet filters, ostensibly so they wouldn't interfere with his professional needs. He read up on obfuscation.

At that point Brown began building a competing company while still employed by his employer. Which may be morally wrong. Brown craves the forgiveness of his creator, should such forgiveness be available.

On the other hand, fuck that guy. Brown's boss was a douche.

Brown quit his job in 2012. He met with investors from oil-soaked Alberta and they capitalized the new company. Brown stopped commuting. Instead of sitting in a car for two and half hours a day he ran two and a half miles through the countryside. He lost forty pounds. He remembered that he used to love to paint, and so painted.

Now it's 2013 and Cheeseburger Brown owns the means of production -- and all of its potential debts. He has two short animated films currently playing in a prestigious downtown cinema, one for a festival and one on an ongoing run. He is invited to speak at conferences on technical issues. He makes practically nothing off AdSense anymore but keeps his fingers crossed for shareholder dividends once the enterprise becomes profitable. Week to week making payroll for the employees is still touch and go.

He takes the train into the city once a week. Trains are great. Who doesn't love trains? Cock of the Industrial Age, worm of the sprawl. Rhythm and motion blur.

Brown pays himself just enough to get by. Occasionally he allows himself to dream it may all somehow work out, and better days will come. But in the meantime he eats canned beans and rice and tells the children they can't go to McDonald's.

He is the luckiest stupid motherfucker in the world.

In the storm of it Brown tries to architect his grandest works but succumbs instead to more plaintive voices. Ambitiously he plots but what he writes tends to be whatever's clouding his jangled brain in this living moment, with this quivering worry or that one. Catharsis is achieved but world-building is left wanting.

The local magazine he writes for folds. Who pays for print anymore? Brown initiates a public mural project in his wee provincial village only to have the provincial villagers object that art is scary and should be subject to a vote. He craves making a new animated film but stops short, straining fruitlessly over the effort like a victim of constipation on the john. He misses Drago Zoran and Mr. Mississauga terribly.

So this is now. So this is Brown. Have we come a long way or haven't we?

(Don't ask me, this is basically automatic writing at this point. I'm not even paying attention.)

Everyone from Kuro5hin and HuSi is on Facebook, but Brown has no idea who is who. He can't discern who are fans and who are spies and who are hazy high school memories. Scoop communities are a thing or the past and Facebook can't replicate the experience. He feels more disconnected from his writing audience than ever, despite a few stalwarts who engage through the Blogger interface or email. It weighs on him that he hasn't rewarded their faith with a fitting conclusion to THE SECRET MATHEMATIC. They deserve to have their minds blown.

Brown finds himself diffused.

Should he paint? Should he write? Should he produce animated films? Should he just keep fucking and drinking and wishing the world away?

Is he a capitalist or an artist? An engineer or an idiot?

He remains certain that summer is beautiful and his children a blessing. He has health, and true love, and an iPhone. He giggles frequently. Above all he delights in making other people laugh. Despite great irresponsibility most of the bills do get paid most of the time. And the mural is going to be great -- pitchfork- and torch-wielding villagers notwithstanding.

Cheeseburger Brown marches on, accompanied by his habitual mix of hope and bewilderment, ambition and bemusement. Nothing can shake his rock-like uncertainty.

The future lies somewhere thataway!


This biographical prĂ©cis concerning obscure science-fiction writer Chester Burton ‘Cheeseburger’ Brown has been prepared as a public service by an armada of nearly intelligent robots capable of virtualizing dynamic models of one million monkeys at one million keyboards. As this nearly intelligent robot project remains in beta at the time of this writing readers should be advised that errors may be present in the output. Therefore no portion of this text should be construed as medical advice.


Anonymous said...

Hey CBB,

I'm one of those people from K5 that used to be and still is a huge fan. I in fact bought a copy of SIMON OF SPACE and had it sent all the way to Canada to have you sign it. It's one of my most treasured books.

I love your writing and your artwork and I hope you can keep doing what you're doing.


hulver said...

Hi Mr. Brown.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Zrail: I remember you!

Hulver: Listen, I already told everyone "Hulver" was a made up name. You can't spoil it now by being real!

Yours in typing,
Cheeseburger Brown

Smiley K said...

"Is he a capitalist or an artist? An engineer or an idiot?"

I think it is quite obvious the answer to both questions is simply: Yes.

SaintPeter said...

Wow, I didn't realize I'd gotten in on the ground floor. I found you through K5, and later The Darth Side and SoS. At those time I was just a spectator to the comment frivolity, but I was delighted to learn that you'd build a more solid internet destination.

I don't know how anyone builds a community on the interwebs anymore. Things seem very diffuse and controlled by massive soulless corporations. I am always delighted to see the regulars come back to comment. I miss the more active comment threads from the TSM era.

I came for the autobiographical and stayed for the fiction. I like the cut of your jib, sir, and wish that the world would recognize your genius and throw money at you. I guess I'll have to settle for feverishly pounding F5 on Wednesday mornings.

(Side Note: I was tempted to critique this story as fiction and complain that the main character was too unbelievable and, really, who calls themselves "cheeseburger brown"?)

Moksha Gren said...

I don't read as often as I'd like...and posted less than I should. But, it still warms my lightly frosted heart to know that the Cheeseburger is sizzling away in adventures both creative and entrepreneurial.

I can relate to the dreams and fears of building a business. I am in the same pursuit. Ask me today...and I will tell you that I am building an empire; a future storehouse of wealth that I cannot conceive. Ask me tomorrow and I will wonder aloud how I will make payroll next week and rub my temples as I try to determine why this company can't afford to pay a distribution.

Hug your children for me, give your wife an inappropriate squeeze for me, and know that warm thoughts of comradery are flowing your direction, my friend.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

(Side Note: I was tempted to critique this story as fiction and complain that the main character was too unbelievable and, really, who calls themselves "cheeseburger brown"?)

Tangentally, after reading a recent comic from The Oatmeal that I particularly enjoyed I dipped into MetaFilter to see if people had interesting things to say about it and/or rarified intellectual opinions so removed from reality as to cause mild dizziness (because the commentariat of MF seldom disappoints on either front). (If you're browing MF don't bother to look for me by name -- my original account was nuked years ago for linking to three stand-out stories from an anthology which also contained an (unlinked) story of my own; this was construed as unforgivable self-promotion.)

A number of the comments focused on how Oatmeal artist Matthew Inmam portrays the drawn version of himself as obese even though in real life Inmam is svelte (though in the past he was apparently heavier). Some commenters felt this distortion revealed worrying truths about the underlying psychology of the comics artist, who obviously suffers from deep-seated body dysmorphia issues and nurses a self-hating anti-fatism festering inside.

The discussion got me wondered what they'd make of me! Self-representation happens throughout my work and the distortions are rampant. For example, I've certainly drawn myself as obese, which is even harder to justify than Inmam's self-representations because he at least used to actually be fat (by his own accounts). I've never been particularly physically fat. But I've felt fat in my soul, so it sometimes seemed to make sense to let that show in my self-representations.

I think wankers call it psychological symbolism. Like in dreams when you can only flee in slow motion -- this is representative of fear, not of atmospheric viscosity.

So I have no problem with Inmam depicting himself obese even if he isn't. It isn't a lie about how much room his ass takes up, it's a message about his feelings of self-indulgence.

Similarly if there is one consistency in the distortion that is Cheeseburger Brown it is the angle of self-critique. I tend to play up my worst qualities when depicting myself (or what I perceive to be my worst qualities -- others may have different lists of grievances). I become slightly more glib, slightly more cynical, slightly more avaricious, slightly more clumsy, slightly more cold. Why not? It's theraputic and seems more credible to me that a character be defined by his flaws.

I also believe in letting creativity to its thing unfettered, and not trying to think it to death. If a character wants to say something I let them say it.

Cheeseburger Brown talks about God more than I do. What does that mean? I don't really know. Me, I'm a rigourly orthodox existential nihilist. But I have my doubts about Brown. I guess he has his doubts about me.

When I was younger I used to manufacture action figures of me and my friends. Very little has changed, really.

Rambling rather than working,
Cheeseburger Brown

Anonymous said...

I remember following a link into the midst of the then-ongoing SoS and not finding it too interesting, since I was just plunking myself down somewhere random.

I remember following a link to the trimester reports and being fascinated. Don't remember how far along they were then, maybe sixth or so.

So, ermm, anyway, I like stories and I like the biographical.