“Unplugged” – Josh Elyea

Smoke circle

When I was a child, my father would rake leaves in the front yard and when the pile was big enough, he’d pick me up and throw me (almost callously) into them. My father was wild in his younger days; he rode a motorcycle and played bass in an underground funk band. He settled down though, when he married my mother. He had a daughter, and found work as a cashier in a record store of dubious structural integrity but impeccable cultural acumen.

He killed himself when he was sixty-one.


There’s something slyly atavistic about the way the leaves, dried out now since they’ve fallen, feel against my hands as I rustle them gently. From behind the mountain, a small line of smoke stretches thin across the setting sun. Smoke signals at sunset, he says.

We’re quiet after that, for a long time. Uma Thurman had it right; you know you’ve found someone really special when you can just shut the fuck up and sit comfortably in silence, if only for a minute. Silence is a rare thing, and people don’t bother to make time for it anymore. How could they? There’s too many distractions, too many addictions. Screens everywhere, and sitcoms and internet dating websites, reality TV shows and political debate shows and the horrid, overwhelming cascade of contemporary pop music. There’s education and employment, no alternatives, and you’re left to choose between an outdated, meritocratic institution or the dreaded 9-5, an existence that’s so alarmingly mundane it’s turned an entire generation into alcoholics, assholes who waste their weekends on outrageously priced booze and horrific hangovers so as to forget that they owe their time, their lives, to companies who speak only in terms of profit. There’s internet pornography, advertisements and an endless supply of empty entertainment, assailing our senses and undermining our character, our concentration and our connections.

It’s all a joke, a joke with a vicious punch line that relies on the inherent irony of a situation whereby the most connected civilization in the history of humanity is destined to die alone, each and every one of us connected to the internet and nothing else. Where in this hilarious chaos can one be expected to sit and think on the endless potential of the universe, or even the endless potential of the self? I look again to the man beside me, and I tell him I’m afraid that not even the autumn leaves can save me from my vices, from my addictions both good and evil.

Don’t worry, he says. We’ll take refuge in the wilderness.

Don’t worry, he says. Once you’re unplugged, everything will be alright.

these words by Josh Elyea were inspired by the work of Daphne Boyer

On Advertising and Chips: “Crusading”



word by Jacob Goldberg

colour by Loish 

Elias’ bag of chips had gone missing. He was walking around the classroom searching for his bag of chips. He brandished his lunch box at Mr. Epplin, telling him that they were there this morning. He asked Mr. Epplin where they had gone. Meanwhile Mr. Epplin hadn’t even asked him a question. He had been standing at the chalkboard writing the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. And he looked to everyone to be terribly confused, like someone who had just been told that in fact Santa did exist. Elias didn’t care. He wanted to know where was his bag of chips. LAYS. Bag made of 70% reusable goods. The bag doesn’t mention where the last 30% came from. Elias speculates that it came from non-reusable goods. This is what Mr. Epplin calls an educated guess. 

Several minutes had elapsed since class began but this class seemed to be a lost cause. Of course, it could be have been recovered, had Mr. Epplin had ambitions to resume. But he didn’t. Mr. Epplin was looking for Elias’ chips. In fact, everyone was. Elias had corralled all of his classmates and his teacher into searching for his chips.

Elias asked every one of his classmates to empty their bags on their desks. He asked them to examine their belongings for his chips. He told them that they might have forgotten what you put in their bags. Sometimes, Elias said, he could overhear Mom whisper to Dad at Olive Garden that she’d forgotten something and now there was in issue underneath the table. This issue was her period. But dad would find a tampon in her purse. Elias said that the moral of the story was that you sometimes forget what you put in your bag. 

Mr. Epplin totally understood what Elias was getting at. He exclaimed to the class that he would be their father and inspect their bags for them. One girl, Eve, wondered whether this proclamation was grounds for terminating Mr. Epplin’s career as a teacher, but God intervened. He said to her, “Your namesake ate the apple: Don’t be the second Eve to fuck it up.” She wasn’t sure how to take this advice.  

When Ms. Chu, the biology teacher, appeared at the door with her students, Mr. Epplin, frisking Joseph, told her that he could arrest her if he wanted. He removed a pair of handcuffs from his breast-pocket and said don’t test me.   

Elias had removed the axe from the In-Case-Of-Emergency box and began to hack at the room’s infrastructure. One student had removed a wok from his backpack, another dry ice. Several students in the room were smoking cigarettes. Ms. Chu asked a student for one. The student said no. Ms. Chu and Mr. Epplin were holding hands. There was much excitement. Yes. Yes yes yes.

With the floorboards uprooted, the desks overturned, the windows kristallnachted, and the wallpaper peeled, Elias sadly decided that his chips were not in the room.

The next step was to set off the fire alarm. Elias’ thinking was: chips are denser than water, so they’ll sink in the rising water. Yes, Ms. Chu, the science teacher agreed. They emerged from the classroom, all attached to toddler leash.

The day would end soon, and Elias would go home hungry and chipless. All of Wilmington High would soon be on the Crusade for the Chips. Here, there is separateness in the togetherness, loneliness in the community. This crowd grows, and they are not alone, warding day and death away. 

word by Jacob Goldberg

“I was thinking about what it means to be a member of a group, to be driven by an idea, buying stuff, and how advertising can compel us to do things.  The girl in the picture seems like she could inspire such a crowd.”

see more colour by Loish