Moon #16: “Our Justice Runs on a Tilted Table”
“The world’s gonna end. It has before. It ends all the time.”
Episode Sixteen of Mike Daisey’s twenty-nine-part theatrical novel, All the Faces of the Moon, finally begins to pull back the curtain on some of the larger mysteries of the storyteller’s wonderfully bizarre narrative. Daisey unpacks the mystical explosion in Zuccotti Park and the events leading up to it from two very different perspectives – one decadent, the Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn, and one derelict, a shack in the woods outside Bangor, Maine. Daisey, as always, gives his audience a lot of credit; he delicately lays out the key ingredients and fixings of his story like a Korean barbeque, but leaves it to the savvy listeners to cook up the grander significance for themselves.
In the present we have Daisey himself, Elaine the Grey Lady, and George Soros at Peter Luger’s. This is a weighty council indeed for a steakhouse: Soros is king of the vampires, the Grey Lady is the human personification of the New York Times, and Daisey is Death’s representative on Earth. None among them knows exactly what caused the explosion, but they agree that despite forensic evidence suggesting a bomb, it was magical in origin. This means whoever planted it wanted to attract the attention of occult types AND convince everyone else that it was a terrorist attack – a highly contradictory set of motivations. Whatever its cause might have been, the explosion seems connected to a deal struck in the 80’s that requires the Grey Lady to send a young woman, like Livia, down to Wall Street twice a year to be offered up to Soros’ vampires sexually. The fact that this cabalistic deal somehow maintains order in the city does little to mitigate Daisey’s disgust and horror. When he calls them on this shady transaction, it elicits a vehement response from Soros:
We keep this city running every day. Every year. Every decade. People like you, half in one world, half in another, what the fuck do you know? You’re practically like them out there, walking around blind all the time. You don’t know. You don’t know what’s needed. You don’t know how things work. Power has a responsibility. I have saved so many lives. You have no idea. And you judge me. If I took my hand off the lever for a moment, if she didn’t do what she was doing, nothing you imagine would be here. Nothing about the way you see this world would work. We make these things happen. You don’t like it? You don’t like the way it works when you look at it? Don’t look at it. Be like the others. Close your eyes.
This speech, which Daisey delivers in a commanding growl, brings up something that I’ve yet to enumerate in these write-ups and probably should: magic is a discreet art in the Daiseyverse. The more awareness you attract when using it the less effective it becomes, hence why such a blatant explosion would raise eyebrows with magical types. On the other end of the episode, where Daisey’s friend Gibbs is thinking back on he and Daisey’s last encounter with their hermit sensei Phil, we learn that openly practicing the magic could also have more disastrous results. “If you pay too much attention to it,” Phil says, “There’s no predicting how it’s going to work. All that pressure builds up, it’ll squirt out in a new and exciting direction.” Which is to say that the world itself could come to an end… as it apparently has many times before.
Both of these scenes could have amounted to mere info dump sessions, but Daisey elegantly allows these two bits of exposition to dance with each other, informing the causes of the explosion and its potential potentially far-reaching consequences. It seems likely that the explosion is just the type of “squirt” Phil was warning about. Although if the end of the world is coming, Phil seems convinced that what comes after might be even worse. There’s a hand gesture that Daisey and his characters use in both scenes, a measured “smoothing out” motion that acts as shorthand for the way the Universe compensates for large scale magical aberrations. Like, you know, the world ending. Phil explains it this way:
People think that’s a kind of a cultural bias; like we think the world’s about to end because we want it to be about us. We want the world to end on our watch. We believe these are the end times. We think oooh all the shit’s about to happen. We feel like it’s about to fucking happen to us, right then. And we’re dreaming that we’re going to be there. But that’s not actually fucking true. But the other thing isn’t true either. You know? The other story, where we think the world just keeps on fucking going on and on and on and nothing fucking happens and we were wrong every time. Instead, the world fucking ends all the time. It ends over and over and over. And every time it fucking ends, every time it fucking ends do you know what happens? Yeah. They smooth that shit out. They smooth that shit out and they roll it back. If you’re lucky you’re going to live a while. And then you’re going to experience it. You’re going to feel it the first time you seriously fuck it up. You’ll feel it when they roll everything fucking back. And you’ll be there and you’ll remember the way it was and your wife won’t be your fucking wife and your kid won’t be your fucking kid. And you don’t know who he is.
In my tribe, the tribe of the comic geek, we have a name for this gruesome business: “retcon.” Short for “retroactive continuity,” it’s become an efficient way for publishers to work the kinks out of wonky histories or the contributions of wayward artists in mainstream comics. As is the case in Phil’s story, there is often collateral damage when such maneuvers are attempted; favorite character incidentally shoved out of existence, hundreds of issues of comics mercilessly rendered irrelevant. Here, Daisey homes in on the similarly violent ways that magic evens things out, and also on the dark deeds those in power sanction to maintain the status quo. And so, as the scales in Larissa Tokmakova’s “Justice” painting suggest, this episode concerns itself with balance and the ways in which it is shifting across the Daiseyverse.
The end of the episode finds Jack and Mary Jane on the beach in Coney Island, having poisoned themselves with mushrooms to enter Luna Park, a place only the dead can enter. Just then, the power goes out across the city. It’s an event that all three sets of characters react to with a single word: “Edison.”
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