Emperor Penguin/Assassin

penguin-kill.jpg(I do this writing exercise when I get in a rut. I randomly pick an image on the Internet and try to come up with 1,000 words surrounding the image. Today was one of those days. First, I needed a word to go on. Noticing on my Google home page that a plot was foiled to assassinate Barack Obama, I grabbed the word ‘kill’ as a starting point, plugged it into Google and did an image search. The result, well, it wasn’t something I expected. It was a penguin, standing over a dead person with a bloody knife in hand. So I had an image. It wasn’t anything I ever expected to see or write about, but it became the unfortunate topic. I apologize in advance. This is the untimely story of Agur, emperor penguin/assassin extraordinaire.)

“I have thought about this for quite some time now, father… Starting with last year’s journey to the Cape Washington breeding colony, I just knew I didn’t belong here among the emperor penguins… This flightless existence, the constant threat of the leopard seals and the Orcas, that damn movie that said that no one on Earth has a worse time than us, it’s all too much for me… There’s gotta be something else out there,” said Agur, a 5 year-old emperor penguin with a penchant for blood and agile flippers that could handle a knife better than most. He wanted out of the colony. His father thought differently.

“But where will you go?” asked Agur’s father Abia. “Our home is here. Your family is here. Hell, the entire population of emperor penguins on the Earth today is here,” he added. “We’re simply not made for the outside world!”

“Father, we are an adaptable species. I have heard the Orca rumors throughout the Antarctic. There are emperor penguins living and breeding in captivity as far north as San Diego. Though the Orcas may be our sworn enemies, they are an honorable species. They would not create such a lie,” replied Agur. “And if I can make it past the ice of the Antarctic Circle, past the sharks of the Indian Ocean, I could do more with my life than simply walk, breed, swim, eat and huddle,” he added.

“That is the way of the emperor penguin,” answered Abia. “And it has been so for almost three million years. I will not be known as Abia, the father of Agur, deserter of the emperor penguins. You will remain here as one of us, and you will die an honorable penguin, whether that be from the seals, the Orcas or the warm spells.”

“But father, I am an assassin,” pleaded Agur.

“You are an emperor penguin first, and an assassin second,” answered his father. “If you crave the ways of the knife so dearly, then please, be my guest the next time a human vessel stops around here. The elders won’t stop you.”

“Perhaps I will then,” answered Agur, dropping his beaked head down and turning towards the water on his own. He descended past a small huddle of chicks and mothers, leaned forward and plunged into the clear cold depths of the water. He dove 50 meters down, peered towards the sea-ice surface of the Southern Ocean, then spotted a single glacial squid, blissfully feeding amongst a school of antarctic silverfish. Agur swam upwards, first quietly, then precisely. He wasn’t hungry; he was frustrated. And as he slowly ascended to just below the squid, he unsheathed his dagger. Holding the dagger in his left flipper, Agur rushed forward at the squid. Suddenly, the school of silverfish swarmed in all directions as a pool of blood began to fill the clear waters. The body of the lifeless glacial squid slowly drifted towards the ocean bottom; Agur sheathing his knife and heading towards the ocean surface for air. The kill was clean, accurate and quick. The squid never knew what hit him. Agur’s father may not have appreciated his ways, but there was no doubt among the emperor penguins of McMurdo Sound. Agur the emperor penguin had become an efficient killer. An efficient killer that had since come to crave human blood. Agur headed for the coast line. The leopard seals would soon be out hunting, and Agur wasn’t ready to die.

Along the coast line, word had spread from another colony of emperor penguins in the Ross Sea sector. A cruise ship of human tourists was well on its way to McMurdo Sound. Agur had seen this occurrence before. The ship docked off shore, with humans disembarking. Once on the coast, the humans approached the colony, attempted to feed the chicks, took photos and mockingly laughed at the way in which the emperor penguin walked. Among the colony, it was collective humiliation. But even when the colony attempted to avoid human contact, humans would somehow find them. Eventually, the colony had run out of places to hide, choosing to endure the humiliation of the humans in exchange for food.

Ages ago, there was no human contact. The emperor penguin’s only foes were the seals, the Orcas and the Petrel birds. But the times had changed. The humans had caused the warm spells and overfished the sea. But more so than anything, they never respected the emperor penguin. Here was Agur’s chance.

An idea brewed inside Agur. “I will take the life of a human today,” he thought. “I will avenge the emperor penguin, and I will prove to my father that I am a worthy emperor penguin/assassin. One that’s ready for the world outside of the Antarctic.” Agur cradled his knife, standing along the coast line and peering out to sea. He calmly waited for the distant approaching humans, planning his conquest.

A few hours had passed, with Agur steadfastly waiting along the coast, standing among various members of the colony, including a few elders, a handful of chicks and their nearby mothers. He had not seen Abia since the discussion earlier today. Suddenly, the sound of crushing ice beckoned from the sea. A vessel was approaching, tearing through sea-ice en route to McMurdo Sound. A pack of leopard seals quickly scattered. The collective grunts of “Oh no, not again” could be heard throughout the colony. A few elders began organizing the colony, asking the mothers and chicks to descend on the humans first in hopes of being fed. Agur stood his ground along the coast. Suddenly, a smaller boat was launched from the larger vessel, with about 10 humans inside. As the boat landed, the mothers and chicks began to approach. Agur slowly circumvented the group, awaiting his chance.

The first human, younger with brown plumage, approached the group. Agur held his dagger close, and approached the human. As the human leaned forward with food and camera in hand, Agur launched at him, unsheathing his knife and plunging it deep into the human. The human struggled at first, but quickly fell backwards as the rest of the colony created a barrier between the humans and Agur. Agur climbed atop the human, digging his knife into and out of the human repeatedly. Within a few moments, the remainder of the group was back in the boat, frightened and screaming, headed back towards the safety of the larger vessel. Agur stood atop the lifeless body of the human, peered in the direction of his blade, and savored the crimson red liquid leaking from his weapon. The human was dead. “I am Agur, emperor penguin/assassin,” he shouted.

The colony had become uneasy by now. The elders often wished for this vengeance, but they knew that retribution would be swift and unmerciful. From the group emerged Abia, Agur’s father.

“I have done what you asked me to do father,” said Agur.

“You have destroyed this colony Agur. The humans will be back in no time to exterminate not only you, but all of us. You must leave now,” Abia bluntly stated.

“I was only doing what you wanted me to,” replied Agur.

“Son, the humans know a vengeance far deeper than the emperor penguin. You had to know I wasn’t being serious,” pleaded Abia.

Agur did know. He simply wanted out. The sacrifice was unfortunate, but Agur’s desire for human blood could not be thwarted.

“Then I must go,” answered Agur.

“You are a worthy emperor penguin/assassin son… I am sorry,” said Abia.

“Thank you father. I will surrender myself to the humans. Tell the colony not to worry,” said Agur.

Agur walked towards the water, leaned forward and plunged into the sea. He began swimming in the direction of the larger human vessel, with Abia and the remainder of the colony watching from the coast. An elder approached Abia. “Your son is a hero,” he said.

And just as he finished his sentence, an Orca cut the surface the ocean, gripping Agur in his jaws and biting Agur’s body in half.

Agur, son of Abia, first emperor penguin/assassin, was dead.

I am Barack Obama and I approve this message.

Potential Accidents

img00741.jpgI went to the post office yesterday at around 2:15 PM. The branch closest to me is located nearby the Hudson County Courthouse on Newark Ave. in Jersey City. The stretch of road is dead after 8 PM, but bustling during the day, with a fair share of people overflow hitting the post office throughout the cyclic lunch hours of courthouse employees.

Inside the post office, a decrepit post-nuclear box of a room with tattered government warning posters and paint-peeling walls, I noticed a sign posted on the wall. It read “Report all accidents/potential accidents to the supervisor at once.”

Because the line was long, and varied, and slow-moving, I was left speculating about the idea of a “potential accident.” And because the line continued to remain moving as slowly as possible (prompting one older man behind me to walk out frustrated yelling, “Dumbbells, cock suckers!” which in itself should’ve been what I was focussing on), I started imagining all of the potential accidents I could report to the absent supervisor, including the following:

“Excuse me sir, but there’s a stack of Priority Mail envelopes stacked on the shelf rather crooked. The corners, if taped together and sharpened using a dull blade, could cause a potential accident should anyone trip, fall and impale themselves while in line.”

Followed by:

“Excuse me sir, but the increase in stamp pricing last May, from 41 cents to 42 cents, might hinder some alcoholics from purchasing their nightly fix, which might in turn cause alcohol withdrawal, which could lead to death. It would be a horrible potential accident if that happened.”

And finally:

“Excuse me sir, but if the government doesn’t figure out a way to keep two clerks working during the later lunch hours of the day, the lines of frustrated customers will continue to increase, prompting worldwide hysteria, more people yelling “Dumbbells, cock suckers” and eventually, a postal customer taking back the expression “Going postal” for themselves and shooting up an entire post office. It would be a tragic, potential accident.”

I looked down at my watch. It was 2:50 PM, and there were still two people ahead of me on line. An African American man with a name tag that read “Lenny,” denim shorts, a beret and suspenders, followed by a Sikh woman with a stack of wedding invitations, and myself, clutching a stack of paperwork headed for Germany along with a gas and electric bill. Potential accidents and frustrated slices of Americana aside, the post office was nothing more than another line on another day with yet another way to laugh at how humanity loves to torture itself. At least that’s how I potentially envisioned it…


It’s been a coupla busy weeks between here, Mexico City, Las Vegas and the looming deadline of Dig issue 67. Fortunately, it seems as if a break in the action (or lack thereof, it’s more of just sitting in front of a computer and being frustrated) is on the horizon. I’m done with my deadline (well, 98%) and might actually get out to ride my bike tonight. But for now, I guess some photos are in order.

dsc00911.jpg This is me shredding the shit out of the dumbass pose outside of Mexico City.

dsc00913.jpg This is the closest I’ve ever become to being a sensitive artist. I think the morning tequila session helped.

dsc00969.jpg This is how I spent the better part of three days in Las Vegas. I hate that I have a Kronik Energy Drink in almost every picture from Vegas. But I do love Paul DeJong’s facial expression. I think it’s the most serious I’ve ever seen him. (He’s the one on the right.)

And finally, it’s not a photo, but a video. Shudder To Think reunited for a few shows this year, and I was lucky enough to spend $32.50 (up from $5 when I last saw them in 1991) and see them play live for over an hour this past Saturday night. Shit was tight. They were always great at pulling off this certain kind of toughness that lingered below their off-structured pop melodies (via guitarist Nathan Larson.) Like the tortured soul of an artistically-inclined criminal from a Batman movie, only catchier and hopefully nicer…