On John Innes, the Fabulist (with cameos from Hunter S. Thompson and Bruce Innes)

John Innes is a high school English teacher in Oregon. He works at a Catholic School there where he also coaches basketball, and probably does some other stuff. His players call him “Coach Innes,” and I think they respect him. And this is reasonable enough. Innes is a good coach, and good teacher, and most of the time a pretty good guy. He used to be a good golfer, but I think he lost it. Too much water on the elbow, can’t control the slice. But teachers show one side of themselves in the classroom and another outside of it. What John Innes has kept hidden from his students and players is that he is big fabulist.

I know this because Innes, probably to fill the time when his lesson plans peter out or something, is known to tell stories about the days when he and I were in high school and university together. And these stories are all completely bonkers. Innes will tell his students a story about me throwing people into the Little Spokane river back in high school. But I would never do that. I mean the Little Spokane is cold, and what kind of person would toss a fellow student into a cold river just because? Also, to get to the Little Spokane, which ran by our school, you had to cross a super long bridge. I’m not dragging some chick or dude across a super long bridge just to get them wet. Doesn’t make sense. I don’t know where Innes gets this stuff. It’s totally ridiculous. Innes is big old fabulist.

In another of his little “stories,” Innes claims that during university at Hamilton College I snuck into the chapel there on campus and climbed up into the bell tower. Now, there might have been a chapel at Hamilton, sure. There might have been a lot of things. Hamilton has some pretty old buildings, and it’s not impossible that a chapel would have some kind of bells in it. But I’m not gonna go climbing up there. Innes fancies himself a “literature” teacher, and maybe he’s mixing in some part of a Dorothy Sayers plot or something. Also, Innes may be extrapolating from the notion that I generally may attempt to access certain spaces that might seem “off limits.” That’s possible. I mean, if I see a “Members Only” sign on the door of a club, I’m gonna think “hey there pal, I’m a member. In fact, I’m a permanent member baby” and I’m gonna go right on in. I have also noticed that in buildings where there may be some public spaces and some private or closed spaces, if you are dressed nicely, as I can, and are pretty tall, as I am, you can sometimes just wander wherever and people will, by and large, just let you, especially if you wear some kind of lanyard around your neck. But this doesn’t mean I’m going to go poking around a bunch of bells. It’s totally ridiculous. Innes is a big fabulist, and he needs to get over it.

Innes tells another story about me graduating from university in linen. What’s he even talking about? I mean, I did graduate and have a piece of paper somewhere I think, but linen? What a bizarre thing to say. And for that matter, what if I did? Linen is a cloth, clothes are made from cloth, I was presumably clothed at graduation. So what? I think what may be going on here is that the water from his elbow is migrating up to his brain. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, and what I do recall is that I wore a little purple flower in my hair at graduation and some dude from the newspaper took a picture of me and this ran somewhere. Innes may have remembered the flower thing and then imagined a whole bunch of other nonsense around it. Linen. It’s totally ridiculous. His fables are just getting out of control.

So Innes apparently thinks it’s funny to spin a bunch of nonsense about me. I don’t know exactly why he does this, but he may come by his mendacity honestly, so to speak. Innes has a father called Bruce Innes. Bruce Innes is a Canadian, and a pretty interesting guy. He used to be in a band called The Original Caste, and they had a hit called “One Tin Soldier.” The song is still pretty well known to a certain generation, which is cool. That band split and Bruce Innes must have drifted around blowing his money for a while, cause he ended up in Spokane in the late 80s, which is when I met the known liar John Innes. I went to Bruce Innes’ house sometimes in order to crush John Innes at a video game called “R.B.I. Baseball.” I don’t play a lot of video games, but it doesn’t matter. I crushed John Innes at Sega Hockey a few years later as well and he whined about it for weeks. Guy has water on the elbow from way back.

Anyway, Bruce Innes’ Spokane house was pretty large and had a fully soundproofed music studio in the basement. I’d never seen anything like this and assumed that he must have some serious cash. But I don’t think this was actually the case. Like I said, I think Bruce Innes had spent most of his money from his music heyday by this time. My brother Mike, who remembers some stuff and forgets other stuff, told me recently that Bruce Innes made his living around this time by writing jingles for an audio and video store in town called Huppins. I don’t remember anything about this, but it’s too specific not to be at least a little bit true. It can’t all have been Huppins though, right? He must have done other stuff. Bruce Innes ended up leaving Spokane and moving to Sun Valley where he became the go to guy to play music sets at rich people’s parties. Then he moved to Oregon. I don’t know where he lives now. So yeah, he’s had an interesting life.

Back in the days when Bruce Innes was high on the hog with his music royalties he ran around with some famous folks. He met Leonard Cohen, and told me one time that Cohen was a total dick. Leonard Cohen is a legend of course, and is now remembered best as a genial older statesman, but this doesn’t preclude the possibility that back in the 70’s he may have been a dick. Doesn’t preclude it at all. Mr. Google says that Bruce Innes also knew Joni Mitchell. More well known though is Bruce Innes’ association with the writer Hunter S. Thompson. Most people of a certain age will remember Thompson, the “gonzo” inheritor of Hemingway and a pretty major figure in American literary history. Thompson wrote Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, in which he relates a funny anecdote of bonding over college football with President Richard Nixon in the back of a car sometime, despite the fact that Thompson hated Nixon. Thompson also wrote Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which I also have read. This is the book that the Terry Gilliam movie is based on, the one where Benicio DelToro plays Thompson’s sidekick and always advises him “as your lawyer…,” a phrase that has entered popular culture and is still widely used.

This is also the book that features Bruce Innes and some story about a monkey. I’m not sure if this next part is in Las Vegas or not, and in fact I think it isn’t, but another story is that Thompson and Bruce Innes were hanging out in Colorado somewhere and decided they would run for political office on the same ticket. Thompson would run for sheriff and Bruce Innes would run for something else. Now, Thompson’s run for sheriff is a well known piece of his mythos, and he did actually have a platform under the umbrella of “Freak Power,” but I imagine that whatever this run really entailed, Thompson exaggerated it pretty dramatically in later telling. I’ve heard Bruce Innes talk about this as well, and he makes it sound like the two of them were actually aspiring politicians for a time. But I don’t believe it. I’ll bet you what happened was these two guys were hanging out and getting stoned, and thought it would be funny if they “ran” for office. They probably got a poster or two made and hung them up around town, told all their friends about it as a lark, and talked a bunch of BS for a while. Bruce Innes is a great guy, but I think he and Thompson are kind of full of it. So like I say, John Innes probably comes by it honestly.

Whatever the source of John Innes’ struggles with the truth, one time after he had told some of his usual whoppers about me, one of his students found these stories interesting and wrote me a request for more information. He actually wrote it in verse, which was pretty creative, so I wrote him back in the same style on an flight out of Adelaide. The poem basically attempts to correct the record that the fabulist John Innes distorted. It also touches on some of the lowlights of my college career, including my fondness for writing excuses for students who needed extensions, the fact that I sported a tan trench coat for much of my first year, and my inability to get a steady girlfriend. John Innes, the known liar, is referred to as “J.I.” in the poem. In the interest of having some of my “b-sides” back in print, I am re-posting this guy in its original form. It’s called “An Open Book,” and I gotta say, it’s still pretty good.

“An Open Book”

Not really in the mood
but you’ll think me quite rude
if I don’t make a reply
around me on the plane
folks eat, are entertained
no one’s writing save I

So I’ll take a look back
to days at the dog track
where I ended up by mistake
thought we could beat the odds
just silly teenage sods
there was no money to make

I know not if J.I.
has spun a pack of lies
concerning my personhood
Yes, I wrote poems for girls
who told me they were pearls
ah–but they weren’t any good

About a cold river,
and the rest of his quiver
of myths and exaggerations
well if someone was shoved
it was done out of love
or congratulations

So to upstate New York
in a trench coat–what a dork
but the world took pity
the life there was fine
but naught was on the line
should have gone to the city

I did two things quite well,
needing something to sell
I wrote brilliant excuses
‘bout ridiculous capers,
couldn’t finish my papers
I claimed aces, held deuces

My second great skill
is one I hold still
I fell for crazy ladies
locals, Russians, and Turks
they all drove me berserk
with a boatload of maybes

Four years in the dorms
and countless reforms
led to little of note
I left sans a sob
a plan or a job
and without my trench coat

Dedication: For John Innes, the fabulist. You know I won that Sega game, but I confess I may have tried to get up in that bell tower. So let’s call it a tie there baby.

The Genius Razzlekhan and the Phony Nassim Nicholas Taleb

I went home with a waitress/ the way I always do/ how was I to know/ she was with the Russians too.

Warren Zevon

This is the saga of the queen of crypto hacking Heather Morgan, aka Razzlekhan, and the shameless tail chaser and phony public intellectual (is there any other kind?) Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Just so we are clear about who is who here, Taleb, the bestselling author “The Black Swan” and “Antifragile” is the villain, and Morgan, who along with her husband is accused of pulling off the largest heist in human history, $4.5 billion dollars, is the heroine. Morgan was briefly a Twitter star in late February, 2022 when her alleged crimes were revealed; however her stardom was not based on her hacking prowess, but rather on what was perceived (incorrectly) to be her world-historically awful rap videos, including, but not limited to, her banger “Versace Bedouin,” in which names herself “the crocodile of Wall Street.” Here is a taste of her work (note that the real Heather Morgan appears to be in her early 30’s, and is certainly not a grandmother. Also, the video depicts Morgan rapping around the Wall Street district of New York City with three women “dancing” behind her, one wearing large green gardening gloves and carrying a flag with a design we are unable to clearly see for the entire video):

Razzlekhan’s the name/ the hot grandma you really wanna bang/ always run the gilf game/ ever since I was fif-taneee

I’m many things/ a rapper, an economist, a journalist, a writer, a CEO/ and a dirty dirty dirty dirty ho

Better than most writers/ creepier than most girls/ weirder than most rappers/ but I still rock pearls.

Alert listeners will note the apparent Liz Phair reference vis a vis Razz’s sexual maneuvering in her teens, suggesting that there may be at least a little guile to her lyrics. But what impresses me (and I’ll just state this right out–I think Razzlekhan is a misunderstood genius) is the straight ahead sincerity of the lyrics. I mean, Versace Bedouin was released before Morgan was implicated in the crypto hack and here is her dedication at the top of the song:

Never forget, weirdest is the most original/ this song is for the entrepreneurs and hackers/ all the misfits and smart slackers.

The really hardcore music fan may pick up a possible Drugstore reference from “Say Hello”:

I say hello/ to all the junkies/ the sinners and the creeps/ I say hello to all the people in this place/ I say hello /to all the drug heads/ the prostitutes and freaks/ I say hello/ to all the people in the world!

But even I don’t think Morgan is a Drugstore fan, so the resemblance is most likely coincidental. What I love about Razz’s work here is that Versace Bedouin is a simple and totally sincere statement of intent. She tells the listener exactly who she is and what she’s about. She’s a weirdo and misfit, a hacker, a probable criminal, a business owner, and a dirty ho, and she is just letting the world know. She is, as the kids say, putting the motherfucking world on blast. Razzlekhan is coming for your bitcoin, baby, lock that shit down.

And the media loved it. The Guardian wrote a long (and pretty helpful) article on Morgan with the lead “Is this the new face of organized crime? Decoding Razzlekhan, the rapping bitcoin fraudster.”

“Who is this Bitcoin crime queen” they write breathlessly “and what does she tell us about the future of organized crime?” Well Mr. Guardian, that’s a good question that maybe I can shed some light on. Morgan and her husband (who, like the rest of the uncaring world didn’t care for her rap career–Heather I’m here for you baby; just reach out) stole the money, allegedly, from the platform Bitfinix but were unable to convert much of into cash or liquid assets and had to settle for Walmart gift cards instead. So that might tell you something–I’m not sure how organized the pair was.

Mr. Guardian again:

“It is hard to articulate how it feels to be alive in an age of massive wealth disparity and multiple deregulatory lines of questionable crypto minting, but I think watching an alleged Bitcoin embezzler struggle through painful rap bars in a flat-billed cap that reads ‘0FCKS’ is a good summation of the overwhelming confusion.”

But it really isn’t hard to articulate at all–it feels great, because while Heather Morgan the journalist, CEO, and dirty ho may be facing a little legal trouble, Razzlekhan the artist, in my opinion, stands unbloodied and unbowed atop the pinnacle of outsider art along with Daniel Johnston, Mayo Thompson, and the handful of other transcendent geniuses so far ahead of their time they were subject to as much ridicule as they were celebration.

(My favorite piece of music criticism ever comes from a Pitchfork review which doesn’t seem to be online anymore of The Red Krayola’s 1989 album malefactor, ade–it must have been a re-release because Pitchfork wasn’t around in ’89 of course–where the critic accuses Mayo Thompson of “playing the guitar badly, on purpose.” And it’s pretty true. The Red Krayola is out there.)

Razz herself embraces the outsider role and speaks directly to her artistic origins and sensibilities in her artistic biography:

Razzlekhan is like Genghis Khan, but with more pizzazz… No one knows for sure where this rapper’s from — could be the North African desert, the jungles of Vietnam, or another universe. All that matters is she’s here to stick up for misfits and underdogs everywhere (…) Because Razz has synesthesia, her art often resembles something in between an acid trip and a delightful nightmare. Definitely not for the faint of heart or easily offended, Razz likes to push the limits of what people are comfortable with. Her style has often been described as “sexy horror-comedy,” because of her fondness for combining dark and disturbing concepts with dirty jokes and gestures. Just like her fearless entrepreneurial spirit and hacker mindset, Razz shamelessly explores new frontiers of art, pushing the limit of what’s possible. Whether that leads to something wonderful or terrible is unclear; the only thing that’s certain is it won’t be boring or mediocre.

To my knowledge, no major media outlet even gave Razzlekhan a fighting chance; however I invite you to read the above self-description again with care. She is not in the least bit joking around. She identifies variously as a Bedouin, Turkish, a nomad, and an alien. Later in the same piece she identifies her influences as: Die Antwoord, Tierra Whack, Mickey Avalon, Salvador Dali, Diane Arbus, Hunter S. Thompson, Roald Dahl, and Charles Bukowski. This is a consistent, real, list of artists that a true outsider might well identify with. At the Razzlekhan level, the distance between greatness and awfulness is razor thin, artistic merit being, like everything else really, a circle not a line. In any case, judge for yourself–pull up a Razzlekhan video on You Tube (they are still there) and see what you think.

But what does any of this have to do with the author Nassim Nicholas Taleb? Well, it would have had nothing to do with him if our boy hadn’t chosen, with exquisitely poor judgment, to interject himself into the Heather Morgan/ Razzlekhan drama. Within hours of the heist news breaking, Mr. Taleb posted the following:

I have several things to say about this nonsense:

I. Check his use of “Attention” and the scare word “vulnerability.” Taleb thinks this message is super important and even urgent. He’s got to get it out there RIGHT NOW.

II. The story is obviously total BS. Taleb seems to have no sense of how Twitter works, and his narrative is so bizarre that he is basically begging for a roasting, which users in the hundreds did, of course.

III. Taleb gives no insight into why Morgan was DMing him. What did she want? Well, users, myself included, had a theory as to what might actually have occurred here. Occam’s Razor would suggest that at some point Morgan and Taleb began exchanging DMs, possibly on her initiative, as she was writing extensively for Business Insider and Forbes I believe, and maybe she wanted to ask Taleb something about one of his books. Taleb then pivoted into a bit of tail chasing, or, as one Twitter denizen put it slightly less crudely, he was looking for a little “bobs and vagine.” When Morgan was arrested, Taleb got spooked that somehow their DMs would leak, so he concocted a ridiculous cover story almost (but not quite) as stupid and unbelievable as Joy Reid’s claim that her fifteen year old blog with homophobic jokes and comments was hacked by Russians.

IV. The use of “some more recently” is a pure “tell.” Taleb’s bobs and vagineing has been going on for some time, it seems. But why in the world would Taleb think that the messages would leak just because Morgan was arrested (she was later released and her husband was held in custody, and I haven’t been able to get a status update on where she is today)? I mean there are really only two options:

i) that the messages would be released by the FBI or something as pertinent to the case, in which case Taleb and Morgan would have been discussing her hacking. This seems highly unlikely;

ii) Morgan would choose to release them herself in an effort to incriminate Taleb. But Nicholas baby, this is just not going to be a priority for Morgan after her arrest. I mean, she is accused of stealing 4.5 billion, and she’s got her rap career, and her husband is in prison. She has got stuff going on man; your DMs are way down the list.

All and all, this message shows that Taleb is an idiot and a complete joke. And people took note, including Edward Snowden, piping up from Russia. Check this out:

Snowden comes in with the savage take down here, and Taleb punches back with an offer to debate, what exactly? It’s not clear if this debate challenge was issued prior by Taleb nor is it clear, at least to me, what is to be debated. Are they supposed to talk medical issues? Mental health? Hacking? Bobs and vagine? Taleb continues to make no sense, and Snowden lets him know with another zinger:

Main Character Syndrome indeed. I would add Major Asshat Syndrome and Big Phony Fraud and Fragile Loser Syndrome as well. Because this is the guy who wrote Antifragile! Which is supposed to be about things that thrive during chaos, or in other words, things which are resilient. And nothing says resilient less than faking a hacking narrative to cover your tail chasing, issuing an incomprehensible debate challenge to someone way out of your league, and tripling down with blocking random twitter users who question you. And I would know, because after I liked the bobs and vagine comment and added something like “Methinks Mr. Taleb doth protest too much,” the fucker blocked me too! Sadly that Twitter account is history so I can’t post a screenshot, however it was obvious that this huge baby was scrolling chats and mass blocking to distract from his disastrous piece of public relations. Honestly, the whole thing was super funny and Taleb showed his ass in the worst possible way.

Taleb obviously thinks he is hotshit. Check out his Twitter bio.

What a poser. A flaneur is a French term for someone who walks the streets taking things in, and Walter Benjamin wrote extensively about the flaneur in his epic, and epically unfinished, “Arcades Project.” Actually, a flaneur is a lot like a kibitzer. I am the kyotokibbitzer (two b’s baby), and I love Benjamin’s work, including the Arcades Project. I bet Taleb is aware of Benjamin and fancies himself a fan. But he doesn’t know the first thing about Benjamin, because Benjamin was a humble guy who did great work and Taleb is a braggart, a tail chaser, and a bum. Deadlifts and dead languages my ass. Text is dead there Nicholas, at least your texts are, because you made a complete fool of yourself and you suck. Taleb exemplifies precisely why I dislike anyone who calls themselves a public intellectual or an expert. He is a poser and I’ll bet you 10 to 1 his ideas are stolen just like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, another total loser who piggybacks on people who know something to pump up his image. (A sure sign of a loser is a “public intellectual” who insists on using three names. What’s wrong with Nassim Taleb or Neil Tyson? The only people who need three names are serial killers; I mean even public intellectual number one Malcolm Gladwell only uses two names. Gladwell is known to pilfer ideas as well, but The Tipping Point is a pretty good read and the dude genuinely knows a tremendous amount about the sport of running. And he doesn’t call himself “Malcolm Julius Gladwell” or whatever. This is because he’s just a writer and knows that using his middle name would make him a prat.) Anyway, it’s totally fine to fake it ’til you make it, and most of us do to a greater or lesser degree, but you can’t fake your way into being an expert. Never trust “experts,” full stop.

So that’s the story of Razzlehan, the misunderstood genius, and Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the big phony. And in case you are asking, yes I did ask Razz to get in touch with me above. I’d say “I can fix her,” but she needs no fixing. She can DM me all she wants, and she doesn’t even have to get the Russians involved.