A false start (process, process…)

Sources of Contamination:
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An Op is an Op, simple; but an Op doesn’t venture into enemy territory alone. We vet families – and can bar them from joining the Op – but once they leave our sphere of influence, the Op must seize control and wield his kin as clandestine cover. A respectable man must have a wife, after all, and a respectable wife must be fecund and productive for her Lord and State. But the pliant, detached creatures we select for foreign assignment are not householders by nature. Would that we could destroy their defective brood; but that is an engineer’s solution. And much as we suffer the consequences, as much as it might be humane to do so, we cannot simply execute children without risking international outcry and accusations of profound hypocrisy at home. By mandate each household must reproduce the State in miniature. When a family veers off course the community and State will apply corrective pressures and return it to equilibrium. Abroad, at best the family will live on a diplomatic compound, where a network of families can provide at least a semblance of normalizing forces: a bad facsimile of State, perhaps, but at least an image of State, however blurry. Compound life is not always possible. Often a family must survive as a discrete unit, submerged in a zone of maximal contact with hostile elements, where surveillance must be assumed and proper comportment is crucial. Those families – estranged from State and saturated in Strange – become odd and decline.

Decades of discrete surveillance finds clusters of traits evolving in families bereft of State. A male and female pair will often allow the infantile fantasies of their child to pollute their discourse and cuckold the State. And what is family but discourse? Or more accurately: what is family but programming and course correction through discourse? Transcripts reveal trained Ops referring to their families as prides of lions (which in turn fosters a base environment of sprawling), wolf packs, dolphins, and in one instance as a flock of geese. Correctives applied through official channels – specifically requests for the patriarch to intervene and introduce elements of Protocol and Doctrine into their play – yield weird and unwanted results. Aforementioned flock of geese, a mother, a father and an infant nicknamed “egg,” spoke of “squawk protocol” and “big honk,” performed chores in service of “the Pond.” Prefrontal lobotomies were performed resulting in the usual steep drops in performance. Other methods of maintaining a semblance of separation from outside elements and a totem of State in the home include cooking meals unavailable in the assigned country. Such meals involve complex improvisation to find substitute ingredients, or interaction with a network of countrymen- ritual trades of baking soda for dried raisins, for example, or a bottle of wine for carob syrup. Camaraderie is commendable, of course, but substitutions of any sort are worrying, and threaten to undermine the meal. The meal being the transubstantiation of State, nourishment wrest from labor applied to the homeland’s soil.

Cities with large expatriate populations have stores dedicated to foreign comestibles. Britons in particular yearn for their native treats with remarkable fervor. Brewery slurry potted and sold as toast spread, clotted creams, tinned puddings with phallic names, sultanas, carbonated fluids… securing and consuming these atrocities becomes ritual for the Briton, and in this way, he is to be emulated. The treats are cheap and rewards not in the realm of the consumer. We have already begun to appropriate the process. Our farms produce delicacies for export and these may sometimes be found in such stores. Rinds sugared and packed with tissue in elegant tins. Dried cubes of stew meat we will call “threadies”. Our [commercial] agents spread these products. Our cuisine shall eventually become ubiquitous. Until then it shall struggle for shelf space among the lesser foodstuffs, among the gaudy things of the East and West, the heathen and the vulgar, cross-contaminated with the good.

It should go without saying that an Op should cultivate his relationships with those who serve the expatriate community, with an eye toward recruitment. They make excellent agents. Conversations overheard reveal compromising personal information, such as infirmity (toiletry and minor medical items such as familiar brands of bandage, lozenges, cough remedies etc. a large portion of their trade) or – in the case of stores equipped with a lending library or videocassettes for rent – sexual deviance. The clucking of spouses overheard is also a rich seam of information. But it should also go without saying one should be wary of these shopkeepers. All agencies are after them and their information is often muddled with their contact with the enemy (or entirely made up for profit, see: TINCAN where a shopkeeper in Havana supplied us with vacuum cleaner schematics he claimed were taken from a military installation and mislead us for years).

Our training is unrivaled, particularly for the current generation of Ops. Yet the training each must undergo is a source of distress and contamination when brought into an alien context. A complete description of the Training Round is beyond the scope of this document, and given that most of readership have experienced it, redundant. A brief overview will suffice to refresh the experienced many, and gloss over the experience for the unfamiliar few.

Each citizen must undergo his or her two years of mandatory military training at the age of eighteen. Aptitude tests are administered. High achievers with particularly agile set of personal ethics are identified and tracked into demanding, dangerous positions. Future Ops roam the southern borders, huddling for warmth in the mountains and firing at marauders with long guns. Others stoke furnaces or guard prison camps. Those who survive are sent to technical institutes and elite colleges for intellectual hardening. Ops are recruited from the ranks of junior party members, and introduced for two years to foreign orthodoxies – subjects that are corrosive to our ideals but necessary for an Op to become “polished” and presentable to the diplomatic community.

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Interactive Serious Games

Saffron (a serious spice).


PlaytheNewsGame, Winner of a James Knight Foundation Best News Game)


All that remains is this news story.


Most of the older blue bordered reports have substantial contributions from yours truly.

Parametric Press

NB: This is a work in progress, Parametric Press has commissioned this game and I’m in the process of working with them and their team. (Link to working outline)

The story I want to write is very location- and decision-based which is why I think it needs an interactive interface – plus I like the idea of the decisions being made having consequences for the reader/player. There was a Native American college in Oklahoma (Bacone College) that used to be one of the best in the country, particularly for a kind of peculiar style of art called Flat Style painting — a kind of sleek modern 50s interpretation of Native American visual culture — they used to let artists live on the campus in exchange for letting them teach a few classes and that they left some of their work. Fifty years later and the campus is destitute, they can’t pay professors, yet it’s filled with dusty, decaying art. 

You play an adjunct art professor. I’d like to write what seems like crime drama taking place in the college (in that the inciting incident would be deciding to make off with some art work) but gradually would explore some of the complex racial and financial dynamics at play in a ruined Southern Baptist tribal university. South Eastern Indian culture was so thoroughly eradicated that what remains is largely a construct; there’s also the ethics of stealing, and then the escape itself. 

My technical skills aren’t too bad. Besides a somewhat experimental body of work (my most recent creative essay was for a cryptocurrency magazine and was a ‘decentralized history of Bitcoin’) I have experience writing copy for games (I used to be the editorial lead for a serious game called PlaytheNewsGame). And I would imagine keeping this to about four potential endings (meaning lots of overlapping forks). My programming skills are limited to basic HTML for now but am willing and eager to learn.

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Read some writing

View some images

Read his writing…


There’s a lot of it. You’re welcome to dive into the pile. But the damn thing is riddled with bit-rot and paywalls. So let me offer suggestions and an occasional link to a Google doc or Web Archive.

Care for some awful situationist poetry? (Why We Trash Hotel Rooms). This one is better: (Armour Brand Thyroid Bottle). This one was given the Gordon Lish treatment by a teenage editor but was better for it: (The Op in the Expanded Field) and reprinted by Wake Forest Press in a handsome volume.

Before I forget: here’s a combination of personal memoir with archival images I found from grandfather’s exploration of the Amazon: My Grandfather’s Imposter.

Here’s a link to my Amazon page: (James McGirk) There you’ll find my Kindle Singles. Here’s a piece I did for The Paris Review. (Satan Comes to Oklahoma City: Facing Fears in the Sooner State).

If you read my personal statement you’ve already read the first place winner of the 2016 Oklahoma Society for Professional Journalists Best Writing Award. This one, published in the much-missed THIS LAND PRESS, is typical of what I enjoy writing the most: (The Horror of the Ouachita Mountains). Here’s one about Vaporwave: (The New Flesh PDF, page 95). I gave a condensed version of it as a speech at the Oklahoma Innovation Institute’s annual conference — which was a massive thing sponsored by Texas Instruments and I was sandwiched between three pipeline corrosion experts and my slide show of “sexual golf” was deemed quite peculiar.

Let me close with a link to my last Bitcoin story, it’s interactive, I wrote a deconstructed history of Bitcoin for 21Cryptos Magazine (A Deconstructed History of Bitcoin’s Last Decade). 1F24KqhGNCnEVvAPcq2Z41BkrAb8PRq91h

Return to the portfolio page

Look at his images

Read about his work with interactive games

Exchanges in the Crosshairs

Check out my latest article in 21Cryptos describing the SEC’s crackdown on the crypto.

The Next Bull

Check out my latest cover story in 21cryptos magazine. I spoke with a couple of experts who were approaching crypto from different philosophies and found they both came to a remarkably similar conclusion. Plus analysis with behavior economics, 4chan/biz mythology and tiny bubble lore.


The Plot(s) to Stabilize Venzuela

Latest article for 21Cryptos magazine. Saving the world’s worst economic crisis with Cryptocurrency – discusses a few recent attempts by crypto-currency companies and foundations to stabilize Venezuelan hyper-inflation by increasing the adoption of crypto-currencies.

Internet 3.0 will start in the third world | 21cryptos

Why the developing world will likely leap-frog the west when it comes to adopting to the “internet of money.” 

“The New Flesh” essay in Angel City Review

PDF link to the magazine.

Awarded Art 365 Grant

Amy and I were selected as 2017 Art 365 artists by the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition.

Art 365 is an exhibition from the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition which offers five Oklahoma artists a year and $12,000 to create innovative artwork in collaboration with a nationally recognized curator. The artists work with a guest curator for one year to create a body of original artwork for the exhibition.

South China Morning Post Reviews “A Grand Theory…”

Grand Theory of Everything
by James McGirk
Amazon Digital Services (e-book)

Perhaps “strange chemicals”, and large quantities of alcohol, have affected the way James McGirk thinks. For A Grand Theory of Everything is odd – deep but also shallow, and meaningless, unless you too have careened through life trying to make sense of stuff. That will include many, although few will have had his upbringing, living as a “princeling”. As an Anglo-American teenager growing up in New Delhi with journalist parents, his was a third-culture existence, heightened by hard drugs, which he took to expand his mind and become a psychedelic astronaut. Then, everything was like an onion, wrapped around a core of nothingness. His theory of everything shifts when he encounters Colonel John Boyd, developer of the OODA loop, which stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. The premise is that by acting faster than an opponent you will appear unpredictable to them and have the upper hand. Readers will wonder whether this Kindle Single was the result of a bad trip.