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4. The Marketer

by Disparition

The Marketer 33:12



V1: Well hi and thank you for tuning in, you are listening to "All Rhodes Go to Heaven", America’s premier podcast dedicated entirely to the Fender Rhodes electric piano and I am of course your host Wermund Whitlaeg. Folks we have a lot of ground to cover in this one so let's get into it, but first we have a real special

V2: (garbled)

V1: A real special treat for you, we have this guy who

V2: (garbled) plaaa

V1: this guy who, alright so, in 1976 Joe Zawinul put this band together with some of the guys from

V2: (garbled) play it. Play it

V1:yeah well I’m getting to it. So, in 1976 right Joe and, and these guys head down south to, uh, down south to Athens and the regular tech

V2: (growl)

V1: I’m gonna get right to it. And you know, you were there. You were right there. And we’re gonna hear all about that. Its, you know, its a real

V2: play it. play the goddamn record fucking plaaaay it. play. the record.

V1: ok. Ok. (long pause/cut bg music). I’ll... I’ll play the record. Folks we have... ok. We can do this. But um first, I’m going to have to talk to you about these mattresses.


Your government has failed you. Your heroes have failed you. Your friends and family, for too many of you, have failed you – and for too many of you, that day is yet to come.

Who has stayed with you, held you up, through everything? Who is always with you, in waking and in dreamlife, holding you even now?

They live in our minds. And there is no hand of flesh and blood that can hold you with the tenderness or strength or committment of their hands.

Inside these doors, we are their servants, their helpers, sometimes even their trusted advisors. But make no mistake, we are here for them.

Outsiders call us “puppetmasters”. They misunderstand the relationship. The puppet is the entire reason, The puppet is the center, the reason there is a show, an audience. The puppet is the doorway into an entire world. Those of us on the other side of the strings simply provide the support that world needs to come into being, to sustain.

Do you remember the idea called fiction? We used to have this wall, this barrier, between what we thought was real, and what we decided was not – what we said existed only “in the imagination”. And we were caught on the other side of this wall from those who sustain us, who hold us, our masters.

You may seek solace in one of our temples, from one of those that we serve. Or you may live inside of the mirror, or in one of our many other holds on this globe. Your debt, though it may feel like a great weight, is a gift not only to us but to you – all those who do the work of this House earn its benefits. In health, in arms, yes, but also in love – unconditional love – and in flow, the flow of puresource, a flow which has powered this House since well before the age of awareness.

And so the time has come. Before you set out on the road of your labors for this House, listen, look, look down. Once, there was a delicate painting on the inside of an egg shell, explaining the whole story. And you hold a piece of it in your palm. Go on, look closer.


(by consuming the following content I call down upon myself a Marker, such that if I knowingly divulge the true history of this Company, its subsidiaries, vassals, or affiliates, to any known outsider for any reason, in whole or in part, I shall become Visible, clearly and explicitly, in public and and private, my name listed on the walls of the Galleria, my location marked upon the map, my face worn in play and in poem. As the wave crosses the drum it is so.)


Mari Hazan entered the professional world in Anno Domini 2010 armed with an advanced degree in 20th century English literature, at twenty-five years old already the world’s youngest expert on the later works of Anglo-Irish author Iris Murdoch. The professional world, still reeling from financial crisis, found itself embarassingly at a bit of a loss when it came to matching this formidable expertise with a suitable role. She had a friend who wrote historical fiction, the friend had an agent out in Queens, the agent had an assistant who died or moved to Connecticut, and so in the usual way of things Mari found employment beneath the slush pile.

At first she felt isolated, lost. The dingy little office, located on an otherwise industrial block in Long Island City, was far from the warm and erudite environment she had pictured for her professional home. Her employer, absent most of the time, had no interest in her opinions on the romanticized atrocities she skimmed. The isolation nearly gave way to boredom. But in addition to her knowledge of the Murdochian, Mari was also possessed of an incisive wit, a growing presence on the early social media platforms of the time and, thanks to the slush pile, a tremendous amount of raw comedic material.

She sought out the most cringeworthy passages, the sex scenes written by people who’d never seen a human body move, the misunderstandings of historical events so maddening they made you spit, the lumpen characters hand drawn by family members the author didn’t know how to refuse; she collected, she curated, and she posted it all online with her own cutting commentary. She very quickly became popular, and she was very quickly fired.

But her skills had not gone unnoticed and before long she was employed, far more gainfully, at a different kind of agency. She found herself coming to work with an energy she’d never felt before. Sure, part of it was exchanging the cramped, train-rattled old office in Queens for the wide open, brightly lit idea lab in downtown Brooklyn – the experimental offshoot of a Madison Ave elder, kept on a long and loose leash. But there was more than that. She found herself falling in love with the art of taking a hugely complex idea or feeling and cutting it down to a handful of words that would stick in your mind like a fish hook. It was in many ways the opposite of the kinds of writing to which she had dedicated her life. She had always been attracted – she thought – to building vast palaces of ideas. In her work on Murdoch she had described storm systems of emotion, mapped out entire climates of repressed familial tension. With her new work the beauty lay in the efficiency, the focus, it was like cutting tiny jewels.

As much as she loved writing copy, Mari was even better at the strategic side of the business. When were audiences active, how did the algorithms change, what kind of content resonated deep in that reptile brain of the target? Mari saw the patterns faster than anyone, she stayed on top of it all, she was set to rise through the ranks, appointed lead social strategist within two months of her hire, a director the year after that, eyes already set on a VP spot. Then their masters over on Madison avenue ran into a spot of trouble, and the agency was sold to The Company. That’s right. Us.

Now I know what you're thinking. We probably told those agency folk, you want to keep your jobs, you’ll be scattered from Lake Buena Vista to Burbank. Well, that’s right. Our old friend Mari, she got the better part of the deal. Shortly before the acquisition, The Company had a few rough moments when actors, musicians, writers and so on began putting their own actual thoughts and opinions directly out into the world on public platforms without any kind of legal review or audience testing, let alone wider strategic consideration. Damage control was done, contracts were modified, and now that they had Mari and her team, The Company required that everything go through her. She was moved to southern California where she could work with these temperamental personalities in their own environs. At first they felt stifled, but the Talent quickly realized that Mari, rather than censoring them, had a way of saying what they were thinking, finding the tiny jewel of an idea at the center of a big bunch of words in their heads. It was almost like she could see an idea in you and, before you even said anything, just pull it right out. Before long, she earned their trust –soon after that, one by one, their direct input faded away, and Mari was representing them on her own.

Fast as she was, she didn’t have time for all that. She mined her old publishing network for underpaid and underappreciated writers, she sorted through the rising chaos of the online world for seasoned internet warriors, and put together a team that was responsible for authoring the public opinions, anecdotes, snatches of daily life, and media consumption habits of everyone from movie stars and celebrity chefs to football commentators and cruise ship captains. A department buried within another department, its existence was not listed on any public site. The outward facing resumes of its members simply mentioned digital marketing in vague terms, and anyone foolish enough to leave the department was bound to silence by The Company’s notoriously brutal NDAs. But departures were rare; Mari inspired a confidence and devotion in her team that was rare even in an environment often called “cultlike” by ignorant outsiders. And not just in her own team – her reputation grew throughout the Company, and though she was never publicly acknowledged, the title of “Secret Queen” was sometimes heard in hallways and seen in group texts.

Ol Dobosz had met Mari while working as a media buyer at the idea lab. Working together closely; in the early days Ol had once successfully feigned a longtime interest in Iris Murdoch in spite of only just learning of her existence during that conversation, using only tiny bits of information captured from stolen glances at their phone. Intimidated and impressed by this brazen toxicity, Mari kept Ol close as she moved up at The Company, and by the time they moved out to California, Ol was a core eminence gris in their own right. But they were not content to stay behind the scenes. While Mari and the rest of the team focused more on strategy, long-term thinking, sculpting the culture – at work in “vast palaces” once more – Ol never lost that love of the frontline. When controversy arose – and those days it arose daily – Ol was there to dive right in with a cutting remark from the mouth of a teen heart throb, a poignant observation from a star athlete, a self-flagellating non-apology from a film director. It was a time of many public scandals, real and manufactured; Mari’s department soon grew in power due not only to her formidable strategizing, but her team’s staggering collection of what was called, in those days, kompromat.

Some time in the early 20’s, part of the team was working out of a satellite office up in San Francisco for a week working on some security project with a tech firm. Mari didn’t have time to notice the young delivery driver who stopped by the office every afternoon, but Ol sure did. That delivery driver? It may not have been her name at the time, but that driver grew up to be everybody’s favorite communist general, Mia Marisol. History is funny that way, sometimes.

Mari’s team spent the first half of that decade waging a quiet but aggressive war of territory with the Company’s traditional publicity department, taking control of authorship not only of the Talent’s public voices but those of the executive tier. A tumultous period marked by back and forth between uprisings against police violence and the country’s racist power structure, and brutal reprisals from reactionary forces, The Company was forced to abandon its apparent neutrality. Actors, musicians, directors and producers long shielded from the slings and arrows of accountability found themselves suddenly exposed. As divisions grew in the country and throughout the world, they also grew within The Company.

By the thirties the political situation had become untenable – both in terms of the country and its government, and in the overall culture of the online spaces in which Mari’s team operated. The institutions of what had been the United States were failing or already gone, but rather than disappear or fall apart, the infrastructure changed hands. Corporations, individuals, and the odd collectivist organization stepped in – first with stopgap solutions, then with more permanence. Our Company, of course, was already a leader in this regard in many respects – already had been in the decades leading up to this transitionary period.

There’s a lot of talk about spells these days, but that transition felt almost like a spell wearing off. In the old arrangement, you’d work the fields for your local lord, maybe die in battle for him – in exchange the lord, plus the collective force of everyone else indebted to that lord - would protect you and your family from bandits and wolves. In the new arrangement, you create product for your local company, maybe spend your life in an office – in exchange the company, plus the collective labor of everyone else working for said company – would protect you and your family from bankruptcy and wasting disease.

As the veneer of Americanism faded away there was no hiding the fact that the arrangement had not changed. The power structure adapted to this exposure by leaning into it, with The Company leading the way.

The failure of governments, hypocracy of institutions, and toxicity of celebrities stripped many of their heroes – but the hero worship of characters, the love of other universes, these did not fade. In fact they grew stronger - in a time of chaos, characters who had been developed over the course of generations were the sole consistency and consolation – and they now seemed wholly independent of their human creators. They could be appealed to in their own right, they had their own separate will, manifest in the world.

Few people understood this better than those on Mari’s team, who had been tracking the development of fandom culture for decades – not only tracking but infiltrating, guiding it along, as deity after deity was born out of the skull of an one artist and then came alive at the fingertips of thousands of others, drawn and written over and over again in situations and relationships their so-called creator never could have predicted.

In earlier years, the old guard within The Company had been horrified by what they perceived as a loss of agency, even a direct assault on the idea of intellectual property – a concept that had, for years, been one of The Company’s foundational pillars. Some of that old guard had been swayed to a new way of thinking back in the early 2010’s when works previously derided as “fan fiction” began outselling the source material, and terms like “shipping” and “headcannons” relocated from the chat room to the board room. True, this first acceptance was more in the vein of a market adaptation than a spiritual transformation – but it allowed for a crack in the wall.

That crack grew with the social upheavals of the following decade. Fueled with a rage that had been building over centuries of American history, marginalized groups within the culture found each other and worked together to shake the power structure. Influential writers, actors, producers, directors who had been protected by their networks were exposed as abusers, and many actions of the overall organization were called into question. The Company, like many others, scrambled to stop the stain from spreading, and responded to the mounting pressures with attempts both real and superficial to right internal wrongs while maintaining our cultural dominance, maybe even seeking out some advantage in everything that was going on. It quickly became apparent that those who called out the authors of characters as toxic, in many cases, still remained attached to the characters themselves and the worlds they lived in. This was the beginning of the idea of “ownership” of these worlds really slipping away.

By the 2030’s, there was a different understanding. Mari herself, as with everyone else on the team, had grown up in a world populated by characters who were real, living and breathing personalities. In a professional capacity, it increasingly made more sense to function as liaison, guide, confessor, dramaturg, and heirophant. This was how, as lines between official and unofficial acts of creation blurred and then were left behind, the artists and producers at work within the Company were still able to shape direction, character, and mood – and how the energy still flowed, over all, from us out into the culture.

By the forties, the dream of greater nationalism all but gone, a vast and diverse array of intentional communities were beginning to appear across the continent – on and offline. The Company has never truly been an originator, an innovator. While the superficial trappings of western European medieval kingdoms had long been a part of The Company’s brand and aesthetic, we were certainly not the first to bring all that back. By that point there were certainly fortified strip malls in the outer suburbs forming vassal-like chains of protection and representing themselves with crests, the title “La Reina” was already in use by the community that had gathered around the Source of Salton, the term “desert kingdoms” had been in common parlance for most of that decade in reference to the closed domains of billionaires with private hired armies, the independent self-defended indigenous territories, and the experimental communes that now dotted the Colorado Desert.

There were a lot of places the idea could have come from. But it was Mari who perfected it. The idea of royalty, or even nobility, had never had a place in her life. Her family had lived for generations in the margins, in Yemen and in Russia where she was told they originated, and in Mexico where her parents and grandparents had come from, and in their early days in the US – in all of those countries, they had felt surrounded, submerged in the culture of others. But as Mari’s team grew in power within The Company, so did their influence on the cultures outside – if indirectly – even as those cultures diverged. The people who had been Americans drifted further apart, but many their heroes and villains and the worlds they lived in remained in common, as they did all over the world. And it was now Mari, and Ol, and those who worked with them that shaped these worlds and guided audiences into them. Mari herself had no desire to be a figurehead, to be exposed to the public, but it was clear that the Company needed a new voice, a central voice, to exert dominion over all those who partook of the culture that stemmed from their ink and their flow.

Rather than the personal ambitions of a monarch or the quest for glory of a nation, the shaping of this great realm and of its royal line began with careful analysis, brainstorming, theorizing, collaborative storytelling, iterative development, user stories, ruthless editing, all underscored by an expertise in character creation and audience retention gained by over a century of media domination.

Around this time the City of Glendale, still technically part of the Republic of California, had repossessed a large shopping mall and sold it to The Company. Called the Galleria, Mari chose it as a new headquarters for her team, and then set about hiring architects.

It’s true that some inspiration for the structure may have come from the so-called “walled cities” that had begun to emerge, built around outlet malls and church compounds in the outer suburbs and the central valley, or from the crudely fortified apartment blocks taken over and defended by groups of tenants scattered throughout Los Angeles and most other cities of that period. But the Galleria was no hodgepodge of cargo containers and truck parts. Keeping within The Company’s tradition, the new exterior structure wrapped around and on top of the mall took its chief design direction from the 19th century Schloss Neuschwanstein of Bavarian king Ludwig II, and it was very nearly the same size.

And thus in November of 2045 Glaenda of Glaendale, Light of the Galleria, First of the Name was born unto the world. Understand that even then, this was all meant to be a fiction, a framework, almost a game. It was a chaotic time, it had been for decades. People find comfort in old symbols, familiar patterns. No one knew that more than us but even so, maybe we didn’t all anticipate the extent of it. Folks began streaming to Galleria from all over the world, declaring themselves subjects of a realm that did not exist, not quite yet.

The division of labor within the team was still in place, and it was this perhaps that led to the dark time that followed. Mari was content to remain out of the weeds, the strategist planning out the long term game. Ol Dobosz, who had remained a specialist in crafting and voicing personae and worlds, was responsible for creating the daily life of this monarch, the interactions with subjects and, increasingly, with other leaders. In addition to the walled cities that increasingly dotted the valleys and suburbs, other organizations had quickly followed the Company’s example. Subjects of the Kaiser received free high quality healthcare for their service and devotion to their crown, a so-called Baron of the San Joaquin valley had acquired book and media chains up and down the coast, the Knave plied fealty with pizza and improved road infrastructure. While our own monarch was a complex fictional persona woven by a staff, carefully planned months in advance, many of these others were just... people. And Ol saw that of course and, well, so we had the Succession, and everything that came after.

So now you know. I hope I don’t need to stress how very private all of this is. I don’t want you to think about all this as though you are bound to secrecy by some agreement you’ve made with us. It’s not like that. It’s better if think about this as something personal, a family issue, one that you don’t talk about outside the family.

But more than that, it’s important that you remember what’s holding people together out there. It’s not you and it’s not me, it’s the art that we make together, the living beings and living worlds we put out there. The less they see of us, the better.
As a weaver, it’s your job to keep the spell going – it’s a spell that sustains so many, so many you will never see or know.

It’s probably been a long day. You’ve already watched 6 or 7 videos, most of them gibberish, you’ve toured your facility, picked up your badge, and sat down with the most boring person in HR. Now you’re eager to meet your team, get out there, get to work. Believe me, I get it. But we wanted you to know. There’s real people behind all this. Real work. Layers and layers of it.

There’s a lot of talk out there about spells these days. We’ve been in that business a little longer than most, we’ve been open about it little longer than most. The hard walls and floor of reality have gone all squishy, you can trip and fall right out of your world and into another. If you’re going to do this job, you have to float, you need stability. That’s why we chose you and.. rest assured, we know you, we know you’re up for this.

You’re going to make mistakes. You’re afraid of the consequences of those mistakes. These are both good things. We’re all going to learn from what happens to you and how you handle it. But I think you’ll be surprised how quickly those who thrive on our source and flow not only forgive you, but leap to your defense – even against us.

This is the kind of clarity and honesty with which we speak internally, to and about each other. And this is the opposite of how you should exist and communicate in the lives of outsiders – even those closest to you. As you climb that latter out of the dream, not everything is going to remain clear. But the patterns, the shapes of how we got here, that’s your bread and butter. Now, let’s take a look at that hand of yours. It’s ok. Just take a look at it. If you can see your hand it’s ok, this is real, and that’s you and you exist and you’re right here in this body and this world.


did you think you could leave?
or are you just returning?
sand carried over your head in clouds
hand in hand around you
grain after grain
dust, ash, germs, flies, pebbles
a wrathe of particulate and the circle below
and the circle below
the earth in its shade
wheels that rise and burn


released July 21, 2020

written, performed, and produced by Jon Bernstein




Disparition Los Angeles, California

Electronic, ambient, industrial, found sounds, beats, piano.

Inspired by history, geography, travel, occult, fiction.

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