Archive for the Infinite City Category

Celebrity Cult

Posted in Infinite City, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2012 by javedbabar

It was the global launch of the film HUMANITY. Rather than New York, London or Mumbai, auteur Manish had decided to have it in Lucerne, where the idea had been sent to him while mountain climbing.

The village was packed with people wanting accommodation. Lucerne was an easy day trip from the New City, but the 3 hour film started at nine p.m. and people didn’t want to drive home at midnight. Being realistic, with all the cops, diversions, and remote parking lots, they wouldn’t leave till one a.m. and would reach home after three.

“How about we rent one of your rooms?” a young father said to Bobby.

“I am sorry sir, we can’t do that.”

“Why not? This is a free country. We can do what we like.”

This was the tenth conversation like this he’d had today. To cut it short, Bobby decided to be brutally honest. “Sir, this is a halfway house. We are all losers in life here. Some are drunks, some are drug addicts, some work as prostitutes, and some are prone to bouts of psychotic violence. We would love to have a nice family of professionals stay here, but can’t guarantee their safety. That’s why we always refuse. Still, if you’re feeling brave we could…”

“Erm, okay, I see. Maybe we’ll drive home after the movie.” The man stood there, stunned.

“Do you actually have tickets?” said Bobby. “I heard there were only two hundred available, and most were going to VIPs. There seem to be thousands of people in town. What are they all doing?”

“If we are lucky, we’ll catch the film. There are fifty walk-in tickets available. But we’re mainly here to see the celebrities. My wife and kids really wanted to come. You don’t often get so many famous people together in one small place.” He reeled off a list of names, none of which Bobby recognized.

When he reported for work that night, the situation changed. Many of those names were guests at the Lucerne Valley Hotel, which was packed with VIPs. It seemed that Bobby was the only one who hadn’t heard the names before. Crowds outside were silent for spells, and screamed uncontrollably when beautiful folk entered or left the hotel.

Bobby learnt from other Executive Floor workers that these people were sports heroes, film and rock stars, billionaires, prominent chefs, famous explorers, those known only for their extravagant lifestyles, and cult figures from Arcadia, such as the midget-sized hugging saint, naked tightrope walker, and acid-disfigured belly-dancer. These local figures tried harder to please the crowds, but the international elite received bigger cheers.

Some of the celebrities looked familiar. Bobby recognized them from magazine covers at the grocery store, waxworks he’d once seen in Florida, and from DVD covers. Stuff forgotten during his drug haze years seemed to be returning.

He met many of these celebrities in person on the Executive Floor. Most were warm and gracious, and gave good tips. He could see why they were successful. They were good with people.

When he returned home at 6 a.m. he was ready to drop, but his housemates wanted to hear all about the celebrities. He told them a few stories which made them laugh. One of the girls squealed in delight and said, “Come on Bobby, tell us more!”

He said O.K. and told more stories. He enjoyed being surrounded by adoring people.

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Mattress Mortgage

Posted in Infinite City, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2012 by javedbabar

“Paying rent is wasting money,” said Bobby. “We should get together and buy our own place. At least then the money would count towards something.”

“How do we do that?” asked Shama. “Shall we all bring the money from beneath our beds and build a mattress mortgage?”

Bobby thought, there are ten rooms in the halfway house’s ground floor apartment; four male dorms, four female dorms, and two double rooms. There are four people in each dorm, plus four more in the double rooms, making thirty-six people in total. Combining their income and assets could really add up.

The problem was that residents of the halfway house were generally not working, and those that were didn’t earn much. But thirty-six people working together could surely do something. “I’m going to look into it,” said Bobby and went off to do so. He didn’t have much else on today.

The lady at the bank said, “Are you an existing customer of this bank, Mr Law?”

There is no chance of that, he thought. The residents of the halfway house had zero, or even negative, credit scores. “No, but I am considering it. I would like to discuss mortgages first. Please assume I know nothing, and run me through the basics. What does the word mortgage even mean?”

“Mortgage is a French word meaning death contract. Don’t look so shocked. It’s not what a gangster offers to an assassin.”

It was a joke, but Bobby was sobered by the thought.

“It is a pledge which ends when the obligation is fulfilled, or the property is foreclosed. Of course, everybody hopes for a successful transaction, the loan paid off and the house fully your possession. But I am legally obliged to tell you the other possibility. If you do not repay the loan in the prescribed manner, you can lose the house.”

This sobered Bobby some more. He said, “You mean a bank can take your home away if you miss a payment. That sounds…”

“Technically the bank owns your house till you repay the loan. It is only yours upon the loan’s fulfilment.”

She spoke of the 3 E’s: Evidence, Existence, and Encumbrance, and the various kinds of loans available: direct and indirect, partial and complete. She mentioned intermediaries, size, maturity, interest, payment method, fixed and adjustable rates, interest only and repayment loans, debt ratios, and time-money value formulas.

What to make of all this? Bobby’s head felt like a spinning coin.

When it finally landed – he wasn’t sure if on heads or tails – she was speaking of MOST mortgages – Multi Occupant Strategic Tenure – where you somehow owned and didn’t own your property at the same time.

The numbers looked good though. If they paid all their rents into the MOST fund, they would own the house outright in twenty-five years, possible via the 3 M’s: Multipliers, Matching, and Magnetic MoneyTM, the latter a financial technology patented by the bank, which involved “attraction and integration of negative-positive cash flows.”

Bobby didn’t understand the details of the mortgage. He didn’t understand its essential purpose either. They would spend twenty-five years repaying the loan, and when they finally owned the house, they would be old and alone with no one to pass it on to.

The residents of the halfway house were mostly strays, who had been abandoned or lost. Life held little promise for them, and they lived day to day. Maybe renting was better.

Just a Suitcase

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Infinite City, Sacred Geometry with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2012 by javedbabar

Bobby’s shared apartment was on the ground floor, and he rarely had any interaction with people from the upper two floors of the halfway house. They came and went, each in their own wounded world. They said hi and bye, and sometimes smiled, but that was it.

One day a teenage boy was waiting with a large black suitcase. He stood with good posture, and looked ahead but also around. He bit his lips lightly and blinked often; a red scarf around his neck made him seem festive somehow.

“Are you okay there?” asked Bobby.

The boy seemed to be drawn out of a dream world. He blinked more rapidly and shook his head. He said, “Oh yes, thank you. I am waiting for someone to let me into the apartment upstairs.”

“Are you visiting somebody there?” People behaved strangely at the halfway house. Unless they were expecting visitors, they ignored the doorbell. They didn’t want to see people. They were ashamed of being stuck here, not knowing if they were going up or even further down.

“No, I have come to stay here. The agent said to buzz and someone would let me in, but no one is answering.”

“Look, why don’t you wait in our apartment. You can have a cup of tea while you wait.”

The boy said, “Thank you,” and lifted his suitcase. It was clearly very heavy; he hauled it up with both hands.

Bobby said, “What have you got in there? Corpses? Are you a teen serial killer on the run?” He reached over to help him, but the boy reacted with alarm.

He shouted, “No! I will carry it myself!”

Bobby backed off. “I am sorry. Okay, I will open the doors for you.”

The boy hesitated. His shoulders hunched from the effort of holding the suitcase up.

Bobby said, “Look, it was meant to be a joke. I was trying to put you at ease. Please come in. I was a stranger too when I came here. It’s nice when someone welcomes you.”

The boy’s shoulders eased. He said, “Thank you,” and walked forward with the suitcase. It’s got wheels, thought Bobby, why doesn’t he roll it? Strange boy. What’s he got in there – Venetian glass?

The boy looked around the apartment. Again, he bit his lips lightly and blinked often. Bobby made him some tea. “Just take it easy, I’m sure someone will be home soon. We’ll see them approaching the door, and I’ll grab them before they go up. What brings you here? We don’t often have such youthful guests?”

The boy looked down. He felt like crying but he had cried enough already. It was time to be strong now.

It was still had to believe that he was one of the thirty-six Righteous Ones appointed by God. Human life depended on their existence. It wasn’t usually a hereditary role, but his father had died young, and in his last days he had passed on the burden that he said was a blessing, to his son. The suitcase contained an armed nuclear bomb that was wirelessly connected to thirty-five similar devices around the world. The activation of one would trigger all the other devices, and human life would end.

Each righteous person was vital. Each could make or break the world.

African Sandwich Shop

Posted in Infinite City, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2012 by javedbabar

Bobby couldn’t believe that it had happened again. Rather than telling the person sitting opposite him about his business idea, he’d allowed him to talk for the full two minutes, till it was time to move onto the next person. The Speed Networking event was fun but also stressful. He didn’t like competition and aggression; maybe he wasn’t cut out for business.

The black lady he’d spotted earlier came and sat opposite him. She wore a bright turban and kaftan. Maybe she would be interested in hearing his idea for an African sandwich shop. Or maybe she was a pushy businesswoman who would tell him about her idea instead.

“Hello, I’m Betty,” she said. “My mind is filled with many profitable possibilities, but first I would like to hear about your business idea.”

“Oh thank you,” said Bobby, taken by surprise. “I have an idea for… Oh sorry, I didn’t introduce myself. My name is Bobby, I’ve recently moved to Lucerne, and I have an idea for an African sandwich shop.”

“That sounds very interesting,” said the lady, smiling broadly, and nodding her head, her turban almost toppling. “Please tell me more.”

“Oh, yes, sure. The main constituents of a sandwich are the bread, the filling, and the spread or sauce. I’m pretty tired of what’s available at most delis. White or brown bread with mayo or marge, and turkey, ham, beef or cheese salad.”

The woman nodded deeply, the top of her turban arcing eighteen inches. “Yes! Yes! So boring!” she said. People on both sides of them looked over.

“I’ve travelled quite a bit in Africa. There are simple, rich flavours there, so strange and delicious. I wanted to make creative use of them. Not so much mix and match, more adapt and innovate…”

The woman continued nodding, her turban top now attracting much attention. “What places have you been to? What flavours did you like?”

“Just in terms of bread ingredients, we could use carbohydrates like Morroccan cous cous, Egyptian Nile barley, Ethiopian injera, Tanzanian ugali, Zimbabwean sadza, Nigerian cassava, Namibian bush potatoes, and have a weekly Saharan Special where we try something really crazy.”

“Ha! Ha! That sounds wonderful!” Her nodding was huge; her voice booming. Speed Networkers and other attendees of the New Idea Show stopped and stared. “I can help you with this. I am a trained chef and master baker. Shall we test recipes next week?”

“That would be great! Which part of Africa do you come from? We can start with that.”

“I come from the Caribbean,” she said. “St Vincent and Grenadines. Not Africa.”

Bobby hadn’t considered this possibility. He must have looked shocked. “But I come from Africa originally. We all do. That’s why I wish to help you with your business. It will reconnect us to our source.”

“Our sauce?” said Bobby, before realizing his mistake.

As a bell rang to signal the session’s end, the New Ideas Show was abuzz with talk of the African sandwich shop.

Guru Who?

Posted in Infinite City, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2012 by javedbabar

It was tiring meeting so many people so quickly – thirty in an hour, for two minutes each. The New Ideas Show’s Speed Networking event was however a great way to broaden your business connections and share your backgrounds and goals. Who knew what it could lead to?

The problem was that Bobby was too polite. He held back and didn’t like talking over people. What happened at most of his meetings was that the other person told him all about themselves and their ideas, and heard nothing about him. Maybe he should think of the interactions as beatings rather than meetings.

He decided that in the next one, he would go first. He would own the meeting.

It was an Indian guy with shiny black beard and orange turban and robes. Not your usual business attire, but Bill Gates wore jeans, Larry Ellison wore turtle necks, and Richard Branson wore dresses, so each to his own.

He’d spotted this Indian guy earlier, and was keen to talk to him about one of his two business ideas – a “spice cream” van, exotically flavoured ice creams for sale to ethnic communities. He could target their holy festivals and their weddings circuit.

“Hello, I’m Bobby,” he said to the Indian guy. “I’d like to discuss my idea for…”

“How do you know that?” he interrupted.

“How do I know what?”

“How do you know that your name is Bobby?”

“Look, that’s my name. That’s what it says on my driver’s licence. I’ve had it all my life. Is that good enough for you?” Jeez, who was this guy!

“It’s good enough for me,” said the Indian guy. “But is it good enough for you?”

“Of course it’s good enough for me. It’s my name. What are you getting at?” Was he trying to link his business idea with his name? Maybe he could call his product “Bobby’s Spice Cream”. But that was hardly important right now. “Look, I’m not really sure…”

“I am Makasha, a spiritual teacher who has learnt at the feet of the great Guru Baba, and acted as OM’s personal assistant.” OM was short for Ozwald Malchizedek, a controversial local figure.

Bobby’s politeness was his failing. He said, “Oh, what did you learn?”

“There are two Universal Laws that supersede all others: The Law of Attraction and the Law of Karma. The Law of Attraction says that you get what you wish for; it is a qualitative, emotional law. The Law of Karma says you get what you give; it is a quantitative, rational law. You exist at the place where these two laws meet. You are always at their centre. The only thing to choose is your orientation.”

Bobby had heard about these laws before, but not thought about them too much. Who has time these days?

“All human beings are aware of these laws, consciously or unconsciously, but they choose to ignore them, instead wasting their lives on trivial matters like making money and chasing…”

The bell rang. “Oh our time is up. It was very holy to meet you. Please take my card.” His shiny orange, gold-edged business card said “Makasha, Spiritual Master. Personal appointments from $100/hr. Corporate incentive schemes available.”

Pyramid Power

Posted in Infinite City, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2012 by javedbabar

The silver-haired TV producer was an interesting fellow, if a little creepy. The bell rang at the Speed Networking event, and the outer circle of people each moved one chair clockwise.

The girl now sitting opposite Bobby was pretty. She was in her late twenties, dark-haired, with a diamond nose-stud and silver Ankh necklace. Surprisingly she wore a pin-striped business suit, rather than jeans or a dress like most ladies present. It seemed too formal for an event in Lucerne. The New Ideas Show’s Speed Networking event was about creativity not formality. At least that’s what he’d supposed.

“Hello, I’m Caroline,” she said. “And I run my own business.”

“Pleased to meet you, I’m Bobby, currently erm… in between jobs. What kind of business do you have?”

Her right eye twitched before she answered, saying, “I would like to make an appointment with you one day next week to discuss it.”

Bobby was confused by her answer. That wasn’t what he’d asked, so he repeated the question. “What kind of business is it?”

Her right eye twitched again. “I would like to make an appointment with you to discuss it.”

Momentarily he was flattered, thinking this was her way of asking him out on a date. Then he thought, who are you kidding? She’s repeating a script.

“I’m not trying to be difficult, Caroline, but how can I gauge my interest in your business if you won’t tell me what it is?”

“It is a business that is accessible to anybody who is passionate about helping others and acquiring wealth. We offer world class training in leadership dynamics, mind dynamics, and sales dynamics. Its all about beliefs and habits. If you believe you can do it, and are willing to develop productive habits, you truly can.”

“But what will I do?” He was losing patience with this woman, but was also amused. Besides, you are allowed to indulge babes.

She said, “You will develop a passive income which will be received monthly, with little effort required once you’ve set up your system. You can work flexible hours from any location.”

“That sounds great but…”

“I started last year and am already a millionaire.”

Bobby thought, maybe I’m wrong about this girl. Is she really on to something? “That’s amazing! In twelve months you’ve made a million dollars?”

Her eye twitched and she looked uncomfortable. “Not a million dollars, yet. A million friends though. Money comes and goes, but friends last forever.”

Bobby couldn’t help laughing. “You’ve got a million friends. Wonderful! Where are they all?”

“Well, I’ve only got one thousand friends myself. And if they have one thousand friends each, that’s a network of one million people, ready to make money. It’s all about relationships – like atoms at the quantum level…”

Bobby interrupted, “And how will they all make money?” He suspected this was a pyramid scheme set-up; the classic eight-ball model where rather than the steady arithmetic progression of 1+2+3+4+5=15 you use a geometric short cut of 1+2+4+8=15, which runs out of steps far quicker, leaving the smallest players struggling.

She looked away and said, “I’m not sure yet. I’m building my network first. It could be any business. I would like to make an appointment with you…”

Her Ankh caught the light and shone out. Bobby held a grudging admiration for her persistence but felt her belief was misguided, like workers in Ancient Egypt, playing their part in building a great pyramid, but only ever laying its lowest blocks.

Five Flag Theory

Posted in Infinite City, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2012 by javedbabar

Bobby hadn’t enjoyed his first session of Speed Networking at the New Ideas Show. The lawyer had been a parasite, wanting to target victims of large-scale disasters. The term “climate sucker” sprung to mind. Bobby wondered if he had invented it.

The next person to sit opposite him for a two minute session – a minute each to introduce themselves and their ideas – seemed a curious fellow. He was a middle aged man in bright yellow blazer, blue trousers and green hat, with a black and red flower in his buttonhole. The bell rang as soon as he sat down, and they began conversing. “Can you guess my profession?” said the man. “Go on! I bet you can’t!”

“Are you a professional clown?” said Bobby.

“Professional clown! Ha! Ha! Many people say that. Actually I’m the opposite – most unprofessional! Ha! Ha! And most sober. I’m an accountant.”

He performed some hat tricks, rapidly swapping his green hat for a bronze hat, then silver hat, then golden hat, before returning the green hat. “I’m trying to attract new clients. Do you find me amusing?”

Before Bobby could answer, he produced five flags and waved them around his head. “I wish to create a more colourful image for my profession. We get unfair press. It can be stifling for one’s creativity!”

“But you need to have a reason for what you’re doing,” said Bobby. “If there isn’t a purpose behind your display, people won’t take you seriously.”

The accountant was taken aback by this. He stopped waving the flags.

“Sir, I was only jesting when I stated I was unprofessional.  I am highly proficient and most professional. My flower, for example, symbolizes the state of your bank account: in the black or in the red. My hats show the stages of an ideal investment career: from being a green investor, to earning bronze, silver, and ultimately golden returns.”

Bobby wasn’t convinced. “Then what’s with the flags? They are just distracting people.”

“Five flag theory is a valuable tax strategy. For an individual to retain sovereignty over his affairs, he should have his citizenship, residence, business, assets, and playground all in different countries, with appropriate structural advantages. I am promoting the concept of world citizenry, rather than narrow affiliations to the present paradigm of nation-states.

“When you create an us, you also create a them. I am for global equality in all matters – especially financial ones. Anyway, can’t a man have some fun at work?”

The accountant seemed like a nice fellow. Bobby had upset him and he was keen to make amends. He restarted the conversation and asked, “And where have you planted your five flags?”

He said, “Here in Lucerne of course. Five different countries? No thanks! The truth be told, I am a rather conventional fellow.”