Friday, December 23, 2005


Here are a couple of little stories from real life on a subject which rarely enters my fiction. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe the subject matter is just a little too real for my liking.

1. So, in my line of work it's required that I interact with a lot of Calgary's homeless. In the past, I found it too easy to paint them all with the same brush. I'd see a guy my age begging for change, perfectly healthy, and I'd say: "Why would I give him money? Has he not all the same opportunities that I do." I'd see a young woman wearing rags, high on meth, and I'd say: "Why doesn't she seek help? Are there not a dozen places in the city offering?" I'd see an old man drunk and crazy, standing on the corner, yelling at passing cars, and I'd say: "He's made his choices." Well, this is the first job I've had where I've been required to actually interact with the homeless. I work amongst them. I'm getting to know a few of them. I'm starting to understand that I don't understand at all.

A few weeks ago, I was in a busy train station in the middle of the night, when I saw a young native girl, maybe fifteen years old, sitting in the corner scribbling something on the floor with a Sharpie. Knees tucked up to her chest, a ratty backpack by her side, she could have been a student. That is, she could have been a student if it looked like her clothes had ever been washed. If she didn't look so sad. A few hours later, passing through the station again, I noticed the girl was gone, and I went over to have a look at what she wrote. It was a lot:

I'm tired of being homeless
I'm tired of sleeping on the street
in these stations
in the cold

I'm tired of being tired

I'm tired of eating



I'm tired of abusing



I'm so tired of being homeless
I don't know how to NOT be



2. Last night, I was at this same train station when I saw a rough looking homeless guy in his late thirties leaning over one of the regulars, an old man in his sixties. The old man was in even worse shape than usual, drunk on something, crying, trying to stand but unable. Seeing me, the younger guy, also very drunk, came over to chat. Turns out he's a recent addition to the homeless population due to a combination of alcohol and gambling addictions. It also turns out that he was beaten and robbed the other night while out on a bender, and was trying to get the old man to go to a shelter. "I gave him my boots and gloves," the guy said. "I just want him to be okay. He should stay warm, I think. Trying to help, that's all."

I nodded, and looked down at the younger guy's feet which were now clad in a pair of worn sneaks. "But what about you," I asked, "are you going to be okay? Surely, you'll freeze."

"I'll be fine," he said. "I've been worse off."

"But you just gave away your boots," I pointed out, needlessly.

He nodded. "But I also know that if I try, I can sober up for a couple days, work, and earn enough money for another pair. Knowing that, I'm already better off than that guy."

With that, he turned and walked back to the old man, and kneeling next to him, once more gave him directions to the nearest homeless shelter. Then, he set down a pack of cigarets, a half bottle of some amber liquid, and all the money in his pockets. Before he walked out the door into the night, he turned and waved to me. "A merry Christmas to you," he said. And he smiled. He actually smiled.

I started thinking about the thousands of dollars people spend at Christmastime to show their love. The dollars spent. Blowing the budget. The near-thoughtless purchasing of products. Rote spending, increasing year by year. I started thinking about all the numbers, and started thinking about how, maybe, this guy understands Christmas better than most people. He didn't think about the numbers. He didn't budget. He gave everything he had to someone in greater need than himself. He just gave everything, and walked away. He didn't give with the hope of getting something in return. He didn't give to look good in the eyes of another. He just gave. And he wished me a merry Christmas.


I'd like to wish a merry Christmas to those dedicated readers who still come by to check on this infrequently updated page. Your continued support is much appreciated. Here's wishing you the best in the New Year. I'll be back soon.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

preservation (an untruth)

There's something I've got to say. And my interrogator waits. He waits for this something just as I do. He waits and grows impatient, waits and grows antsier just as I do. He sits across the table from me in this tiny room with the acrid air. He sits opposite me with his arms crossed before him on the rotting wooden table just as I do. There's something I've got to say. We both know it, but neither of us knows what the something is yet. But I've got to say it.

The chemical nature of the smell takes me back to my time in Darfur. And my work there. And the time that dog with three legs led me back to that beautiful deaf girl. Sweet and kind. Seemingly. Generous, having let me stay in her parent's guest room for awhile, allowing me a break from the detachment. She was all of these things - for a time. That summer, I spent my free hours learning sign language so that I might get to know her on a deeper level, only to find that she was irreparably crazy, hated me, and wanted me to leave her parent's house immediately. To this day, I'm stuck with the knowledge of this language - this useless chunk of data taking up precious memory - to remind me.

My interrogator waits. And beyond the darkened doorway behind him, there are the shuffling steps of the others who also wait. Kicking up dust, they wait for my words, wait for me to speak. They grow restless. The irritable furrow of my interrogator's dark brow reminds me of a little trip I took to Papua New Guinea. And my work there. And the look on the face of my mistress's father right before he chased me out of the house and down the street with an axe. It was the first time I'd been chased by someone who really, truly, wanted to kill me. It's a feeling that I will not soon forget.

Finally, I say it: "I really loved her."

I say it, and as I do so, I can feel the tension in the room break. Gasps from outside the room, from beyond the threshold of that darkened doorway. My interrogator's stony face breaks into a grin, I'm clapped on the shoulder with a giant hand, and he says something, loudly, in a language I don't understand. There are cheers. There is applause.

"I really think I loved her."

I've been trained to choose my words carefully.

Thursday, December 8, 2005

fraud automatic

Clicking links. Sitting at this desk, in this box, clicking links, ear buds in, Transplants' Haunted Cities playing. Loud. I am a responsible adult. Alone in this box, this office. I've two windows: one which looks out over a grey parking lot, and another which looks out over a grey sea of cubicles. I keep the blinds to the parking lot closed, but the blinds to the grey sea of cubicles must be kept open. Company policy. I am a responsible adult. My happenings must be kept transparent.

I gaze out at the cold grey sea. At the grey walls of the cubicles, and the robots occupying them. At the black domes housing the cameras above their heads. Surely, one of those cameras points my way. That's not paranoia - it's just the way things are. I am a responsible adult. Wasting company time and money beneath the watchful eye of corporate security. But I've fitted my monitor with a privacy screen which makes it impossible to read anything unless looked at head on. I cover my tracks. To keep my happenings as opaque as possible.

It's a game. I know that they know, but they knew I was smart when they hired me. They'd have been aware that I would know all about the game, know the rules, and know how to break them. I am a responsible adult. Engaging in psychological warfare with individuals I've never met. Oh, I've seen them. Rats scurrying through the maze of their glass cage. Shuffling papers. Compiling information. Staring into monitors, beady eyes shrinking further. My identification card was fabricated there. By them. If you normally wear glasses, be sure to wear them for your photo. If you normally have facial hair, be sure that it is present for your photo. So I shaved off my beard and put on a pair of fashion glasses just for the occasion. I am a responsible adult. Faking it.

Clicking links. Sitting at this desk, in this box, wasting company time and money. Plotting against those who attempt to keep me in check. I gaze out at the cold grey sea. I wish I were one of them. A robot. No need to feel special. No need to feel superior. No need to feel. Just do your job beneath the obvious gaze of Big Brother, guided by his hand, and go home at the end of the day. Hourly wage: your job is done when the workday is. Salary: your job is done when the work is - which is never. I am a responsible adult. Filled with disdain. I am a responsible adult. Feeling the effects of last night's drinking binge. I am a responsible adult. The effects of last night's psilocybin ingestion just now wearing off. I am a responsible adult. Wearing the disguise of a responsible adult. Posing, just like everyone else.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005


Off-white is now white. Everything just a little brighter. The names of colours come slowly, now. The brown of your leather chair. An island. The honey of your hardwood floor. Slowly rotating. The yellow from the bulb above your head. Divine light. Words wiggle, vibrating madly, before breaking free, jumping from the page, and easily overtaking your crawling brain. You don't understand them. Can't concentrate. Numb. You stare at the floor past your book. Stare through the planks of hardwood to the plywood beneath that. And beyond. That, or you're staring just one millimetre in front of you - you can't tell.

Your attention loiters, stands around, idling. There is no past. There is no future. There is only the present, boiled down, and brought to this exact instant. And it moves, ever fleeting. Oily bubbles blown from a child's bubble wand, popping on the floor. Smoke rings blown from the lips of a drunk, dissipating in air. Blown. Like your mind. Shadows mingle high up in the corners of the room, whispering to one another, conspiring. Smudges on the window come together to form images of something greater. You find the corner of the bookcase intensely fascinating.

Coffee growing cold, and tomorrow growing ever closer. Sleep comes like smoke from a cigaret left smouldering in the ashtray. There is no choice - it just comes. The fire burns, and what is left is ash. You, curled in your bed, cocooned in a mess of duvets, twitching to the rhythm of your unconscious. Yes, sleep comes, and it is deep. You walk through a world every bit as rich as the one you just left; a whirlwind of words, a tangle of colour. Off-white is now white. Everything just a little brighter.

Thursday, December 1, 2005



"Red," you said. "Reminds of the sunset in Punta Gorda."

Aloud, I had wondered how long it would take to drive there.

"I've two weeks off," you said.

The next day, we had filled the van with clothes, shoes, and bedding, and set out on the road. It took six days of driving, and we pulled in just in time to see the sun set. The Gulf of Honduras was dyed red beyond the beach. We dug our feet into the sand.

"You're not going to make it back on time for work," I said.

You shrugged. "I would if we left tomorrow."

At this, we both laughed before speaking in unison: "But we're not leaving tomorrow."

Right there, we buried those words in the sand, hiding them to be dug up, discovered, by the next travellers.


"Red," you said. "Reminds of the fire which ripped through gran's bookshop in Northampton."

We used to play there as kids when our folks would send us to visit during those long summers between school years. Running through the isles. Hiding behind the counter. Exploring the darkened basement. All day, we'd play until something brought the play to a halt. Either me with a skinned knee and a rip in my corduroy trousers, or you with a bee sting and tears in your eyes, something always brought the play to a halt. One evening - the last evening of play in that store - it was a raging fire which forced us out of play.

Even now, everything's a blur. There was an alarm. A lot of smoke. Flames. Somehow, gran got us out of the store. I guess she was younger then. We stood around outside crying for awhile, huddled close to gran while she patted our heads and told us it was all going to be okay. At one point, the entire building was ablaze. Half the block. The sky, too, seemed to be aflame. Everything was red. The firemen were there with their trucks, the water seemingly doing little good. Lights flashing. Gran was calm.

"There was nothing good in there, anyway," she said. "Hasn't been a decent book written in forty years." I think the word is stoic.

Now, every time the subject is brought up around gran, she just smiles and says: "That's the kind of thing memories are made of, right?"


"Sis, what's your favourite colour? I've known you all your life and still I don't know this."

"Red," you said. "The colour of a ladybug's back. The colour of dear mama's oven mitts. The colour of apples fallen from aunt Nell's tree. Red. Without a doubt, red. Reminds of the trees out east, their leaves turned in the fall. Remember that? How red they'd turn?"

"Yeah, I do, sis. Yeah, I do."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


"So, tell me, how does one take a break from something that isn't really anything?"

"Well my friend, It's all about priorities - and getting them straight. Using this little unit of time for something more productive. More important? A measure of energy to be spent somewhere else doing something else."

"You're being very vague."

"It's the best way to be."

"I guess."

"Besides, I think I may have finally figured out a simpler way of saying things."

"Oh yeah? And how is that?"

"By saying nothing at all, of course."

"Well now, I can't really argue with that. So, a break then?"

"Sort of. More of an interruption than a break, I suppose. And more of a lapse than an interruption, really. But certainly it would be more of a, um, of a-


"Yeah, but even far more sinister than that - an open-ended hiatus."

"You'll have to create a new word then."

"I'll use my time off to think about just such a thing."

Monday, November 21, 2005

house rules


Sitting in Casey's study. His writing group. More a support group, I suppose. What did you write, then? Nothing, really. In those days, stories of the fantastic came easily, like tall tales from the lips of a drunken sailor. Just as false. Every bit as empty. Casey, locked in the illusory world of accidental fame and fortune, wholeheartedly encouraged such pursuit of mediocrity. He saw how easy it was to make something from nothing. To take a second rate collection of words and feed it to the gluttonous masses. Have them eat it up. "You can easily pay your mortgage with the undiscerning over-consumption of others," he said. He had faith in his system. He walked his talk.


Then the critics came. At first there were only a few. A less-than-favourable review in this journal, an antagonistic article in that paper; damage control was easy. "So I've a few bad reviews," he said. "What great man does not attract a handful of detractors? Let's have another look at those sales figures, shall we?" Then came the flood. A mob of critics emerged on the horizon wielding their grotesque weapons. Rushing forth, ravenous, they tore poor Casey apart. And to see you scurry, as fast as you could go, as far away from Casey's fetid corpse as you could get. It was precious, really. Everyone feared the taint. His body was battered so beyond recognition, that his funeral would be held with a closed casket. Not that anyone would actually show up for the viewing, anyway. In fact, no-one would ever see Casey again in any shape or form. The critics swarmed on. Devouring. dismantling. Destroying.


A new life now, like that of a participant in the witness protection program. Placed in a nice suburb. Barbecue out on the back deck. Nights spent in the hot tub beneath patio lanterns. You shield your eyes from the sunlight, and peer out into the afternoon blue. A smile comes as you think of Casey's ghost. "Successfully convince others that you're a writer," he said, "and you are one. Play the part well, and you'll live well, but drop the guise even for a second, tip your hand, and they'll tear you apart. Blackballed. You'll never be forgiven." It was through Casey's own implosion that you finally learnt something. Something about essence. Something about substance. Or at least the impression of substance. That's what it is, isn't it? All a big game. No-one really knows anything. We'll make up the rules as we go along. Alter those fake rules to suit our own needs. Boil down those modified fake rules as is convenient. House rules. No-one ever wins, no-one ever loses - except for guys like Casey.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Save some face-
seven shakes,
hold the vermouth.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

time, the tailor (a mending)

At the sink, trying to scrub away the lines. Wishing the pillow lines away in hopes the age lines might follow. Cool water splashing onto face. Washing the sleep from eyes. Looking up, the mirror is trying to tell me something. "Go back to sleep," it says. "There is no need to be awake this early." Fragmentation. Seven time zones away, another me, in an alternate universe, is sleeping soundly in his bed. Foetal position, knees tucked up to chest level, drool on the pillow. A phone rings, and we both wake up.

"Hello? Hey, man. Yeah, I'm up. All right."

Sure, I'll wait. Pouring myself a cup of strong coffee, I just stare out the window for awhile, unthinking, listening to the thump and bang of the hotel radiator. Morse code. "Just go back to bed," it tells me. "It's much too early for this kind of business." Rubbing my eyes again. It's just the weather here; dry and cold. My skin itches, eyes scrape with each blink of reddened lids.

Haven't seen you for awhile. What's it been, three years? No big deal. We're the kind of friends who can just pick up where we left off. Easy. None of this what-have-you-been-up-to? bullshit. None of that matters. What was it that you said to me all those years ago? We were sixteen years old then, I think, running down an alley with a cop car on our asses. You turned to me and yelled, "let's never allow a girl to come between us!" I didn't question the statement. Adrenaline pumping, I just continued running as fast as my juvie legs could carry me. I didn't miss a goddamn step. "Of course not!" I replied, breathless.

That was two days before you screwed my girlfriend. Or at least two days before I found out you were screwing my girlfriend. But it didn't matter. She was out and you were in - because that's just the kind of friends we are. Besides, inside of two years I'd get you back by comforting your girlfriend after a fight. Met her at that place we used to go to drink down by the rail yard, about an hour before last call. Stayed until the bartender kicked us out. Spent the night in her flat. Drank cheap red wine until daybreak. Went with her the next day to sell her fall semester's texts. She dropped me off. I didn't even think about you once - not that I recall. But that's just the kind of friends we are. One doesn't stand in the way of the other.

The radiator taps out another message urging me not to be so stupid. Telling me that I need more sleep. But I see you now, your car, long and black, creeping around the corner. Diplomatic plates. It won't be long now before we're holed up in the corner of a pub, lost in reminiscence. Two stupid kids hanging out, laughing and bullshitting over some pints. No discomfort. No fragmentation. No time lost.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Let's just get this one little thing straight: image is all there is. Is it important for a man to have a clear view of himself? For a man to truly know who he is and what he stands for? No, not at all. To know a man who has fooled himself into thinking he knows himself is to know a fool. Identity is a delusion. What is truly important is to provide a clear view of yourself for others to see. What is most important is the image projected to the masses, for who you are is nothing more than the summation of the opinions belonging to those around you. What of the man who lives his life unknown to the world, shut up in his basement, never venturing outdoors? He does not even exist, and, in fact, is not even living a life.

You're widely thought to be a fool, so that is what you are. Nothing more. Not until you succeed in changing popular opinion, anyway. "A man ought to know where he's been to completely understand how it has shaped him - to completely understand who he is in the present." That's what you said. Something like that. And you couldn't even begin to believe that load of rubbish, yourself. Nightmares come so easily now.

Who was I, then, curled into that tiny chair in the musty lecture hall? What unspeakable deeds were committed by a past me to have had the present me sentenced to such horrible punishment? Condemned to a life of speaking the words of the dead, thinking the thoughts of those who were jailed before me. Whose hand wrote those notes? Whose eyes read those books? Whose ears heard those words, heard those words, heard those words, lies passed down, generation to generation. Certainly not mine. A stack of boxes sits in the closet, full of yellowing paper, fading ink. Pages filled with regurgitated suppositions and inaccuracies. Pages filled with wasted time. I'll never open that door again.

But you do. You can not help but to open that door every so often, peeking through the half-light. The boxes sit there still, never moving. They lurk. You're held back by a simultaneous fear of failure and success. Torn apart by it daily, you can't allow yourself to even live the life that has allowed your very existence. A comfortable life in 21st century North America. A life of collecting pieces. A lovely wife. A solid job. A cosy home. A reliable automobile. You look down on such a life, attempting to brush it off as the worship of the material. "To live a life of any import, a man's got to spend his energy in pursuit of greater truth." But you don't know how easy it is to waste an entire life trapped in such a pointless pursuit. There is no truth. There is nothing greater to know, but comfort. You're much too aware of yourself and your ideal, and if anyone should know this it is you: to be overly conscious of any action - be it physical, mental, or spiritual - is to have that action doomed to failure. And that path to failure is the one you have apparently chosen for yourself.

"What of the man who lives his life unknown to himself, projecting false images, allowing life to just take him? He does not even exist, and, in fact, is not even living a life." But there is not much to see here, either, it seems. Little more than the shell of a dead projector sitting on a dusty shelf in some little-used storeroom, I dream that one day I might be outfitted with new insides. I'll really be something, then. A bigger, better me. Horrible visions fill my sleeping hours. An eternity trapped in contemplation, evaporating one molecule at a time. Thinking myself to death in this bloody closet. Nostalgia brings me back to a time when I was whole, even though I didn’t know myself then any more than I do now. The rust creeps. Here, I may sit forever, deteriorating - or until the custodian comes to throw me away.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

the bad tourist (an interlude)

There's an acute resistance, a refusal to allow yourself to become fully immersed in the culture of our adopted home. Two weeks in Tangier, and each day I'm met with a refusal to leave the resort. Can I blame you for preferring the feel of your sneaks on the cool marble floor to the feel of your bare feet in the hot sand? The ease of conversing with Americans over the embarrassment of displaying your lack of finesse with Arabic? The consumption of hot dogs over cous cous? Yes, I can, and do, blame you. Like wearing a wetsuit in the bathtub, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I guess you just prefer to stay dry at any cost.

Transplanted. Like the transferring of a sensitive plant to a new home, we had to pack you in the dirt you were familiar with so as not to have you die of shock. And here you are in a breakfast nook in a five start Moroccan resort, eating Doritos and chugging an imported American beer. You just sit there looking out the window, day after day, watching the girls on the beach saunter by in their skimpy bikinis. Not even they could bait you. I know, we tried.

Approaching, I watch your arm muscles ripple with one more hoist of the bottle. Easy now. Choose your words carefully. A tat crawls up the side of your neck, flames licking with every gulp. "Where'd you get your work done?" I pull up the chair, opposite. Confident.

I'm met with a look. That look. That same look I've been given for the past thirteen days. It was easy for the guys at HQ to take one look at you and make assumptions. He'll be easy, they said. A guy like that, a real pit-bull, doesn't argue. They thought you were stupid. They were wrong.


"Pardon me?"

"Vegas. That's where I get all my work done."

"Ah, I see - well, it all looks really good, um-"

"I won't be goin' anywhere today."


Friday, November 11, 2005

now and then, here and there (a migration)

A home could be made here - made here by someone. Made here by someone other than me. She rocks, she rolls through the waves, her massive hull creaking with every mighty lean. I dated a girl like that once. That's what you'd say. I laugh to myself in the darkness. I just lie there snickering, until that snicker turns to a chuckle, til that chuckle turns to a cackle, and til that cackle turns to a howl. Just me and the darkness. I'm lying there, head resting on a sack of something, feet up on a crate of something else, and laughing to myself. And I'll laugh myself to sleep if I bloody well have to.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 1998

We're younger now than we will be. Younger and just a little more brash. Well, you use the word brave, but in my language, that signifier does not match up with the intended signified, so I throw brash out there - and you smile that smile. Full of teeth, eyes crinkling comfortably in the corners, genuine. You've smiled this same smile often. I can tell.

"What we are doing here?" you ask. There's a shuffling of feet on sandy floorboards. A running of rough fingers through thick, black hair. A dry cough through drier lips.

"Just having a beer," I say, lifting my glass. "Afya! Vifijo! Drink up - we've time for but a single pint before going on to the next place."

We're just passing through. We're always just passing through. And we'll pass through the next city, as well. We'll pass through this city, the next, and all cities thereafter as unnoticed as extras in a dream. A man will wake up tomorrow with the vague recollection of having seen us, and in a sweltering Tanzanian police station, he'll give his dubious account. He'll talk for hours, sweating into his chair, rifling through his memory. He'll leave, go back home to his wife and kids, and our paper counterparts will sit on a great oak desk tormenting the inspector. We'll exist as vague facsimiles shuffled into a thousand piles of paper around the globe. Invisible.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

convenient concord (a dissociation)

You're pointing out the different constellations, hushedly labelling, explaining them, voice hovering low on bated breath. Dampened excitement. You're made self-conscious by your own brilliance in the same way a teenager is much too aware of her awkward gait. "Corvus, Eridanus, Centaurus, Canis Minor," you go on. I'm lying in the grass, gazing up at the night sky through beery eyes. Body, earthbound, mind, a trillion miles away. What is it that keeps you tied to the stars, while others suffer through life disconnected?

Detachment. A military base in southern Djibouti. "When most people look at the sky," you say, "they assume they are looking at the same sky as every other person on earth. But if they only knew how different it really is on the other side of the globe!" Listening. Half-listening. Thinking: I'll get out of here someday. Soon. Contract work. I pull you closer - if only to get you to shut up - and you tumble neatly into the crook of my arm. Just for a second, I want you to see the same sky I see. "So, what do you call this job we do?" A change of subject. And it's a start. "We're labourers," I reply. "We're all labourers here. I try not to lose sight of that."

Drinking ourselves blind. It's what we do, how we cope, with the loneliness of travel, with the loneliness of being truly alone. You, beside me at the bar - both alone. Shots lined up, filled, then emptied, I see you learnt more at university than just astronomy. I've a tattered map spread out on the sticky bar, Africa, and I'm pointing out different locations, hushedly labelling, explaining them, voice hovering low on bated breath. Dampened excitement. Who knows who's listening. "Uganda, Djibouti, Senegal, São Tomé & Príncipe," I go on. You're staring through the map, I can tell. Through the map and through the bar, beneath. Through the bar, through the floor, and through the earth, below. Through the entire globe and at the sky, opposite. We sit like this, listening to one another. Half-listening, half-there. Me, planted in the ground, you, soaring through the sky.

Saturday, November 5, 2005

traveller (a reclaiming)

So, we're just going to go ahead and gloss over some stuff here. Lost amongst the trees for two days after the ingestion of an unknown hallucinogen. Psilocybin, but more so. Not quite acid. Baby woodrose? Argyreia nervosa. Maybe. High, so high. Don't look down. Or do. A shaky walk over a rope bridge. Ropes stretched taut, cliff to cliff. Fray, ignore the fray. Or join in. Dancing, and firewater chugged from a clay pot. Serious firewater, really on fire. Alcohol set ablaze, it burns my tongue and lips, singes my beard. Then comes the vomit - and more dancing.

The serotonin tap has been left on, and I'm dry. My guide tells me it's okay, that it's normal. They've a phrase for it, he says, adato ehisdv. Soul pain? I shake my head - and even that hurts. Can not focus. Consciousness stretched like the frayed ropes of that rickety bridge from a couple days ago. A week ago? It's stretched taut from one corner of the universe to the other. Impossibly long, thought simply can not make the journey from one end to the other. There's a disconnect. Synapses broken. Like untethered cable, unwound, stretching out to space, strung out to space. I'm a bloody mess.

The pursuit of words and the pleasures they bring. The dreams come like I was told they would. Attention is short the first night due to cold shakes and mild fever, but the second night is clear. As clear as those dreams from childhood, and infinitely clearer than those non-dreams of adulthood. When did the dreams end and emptiness begin? Mid-twenties? Late-twenties, certainly. The dreams stopped, and in their place a dense void - a veritable black hole - squatted in the unconscious. Ingesting ingenuity. Consuming creativity. Snacking on my style. Something had to be done. Sometimes one has to go in and set things straight.

On the plane, ass planted comfortably in manmade luxury, head back, arms relaxed on the rests. A film of sugary gin clings to the inside of an empty glass on the tiny fold-out table ahead. Ice cubes slowly melting. Tucked in my head now, taking a little trip. A cloud of dust mushrooming out, expanding, like an unexplored universe. Clusters of sequoias standing around, their lives yawning, stretching, before me. Visiting an old friend. A flock of birds bursts from the branches ninety metres above and into the night sky. I'm with them now, one of the flock. Flying high, I see everything. I bloody well see it all. Every goddamn stone, every drop of water in the brook, every ant crawling on the ground - my eyes pick up every detail.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

visvi owe`nv`sv

A family of sequoia trees in my headlights - mammoth bastards - seen through the thick cloud of dust after a sudden stop. Let's start here. My chin resting on the steering wheel. I'm staring, half-dazed, at the bark of one great tree in particular. Zoom in. Thousands of ants - maybe even millions - crawl up and down, marching through the deep grooves etched into the thick skin of this ancient tree. I see everything. I bloody well see it all. Every goddamn ant, every woody rut, every bead of sap - my eyes pick up every detail. The excruciatingly slow dripping of this trees lifeblood. Its slight sway in the wind. Roots worming their way through the ground. Having already spent 1,723 of its expected 2,057 years, this tree's life yawns, stretching slowly, as it prepares to enter the era of gradual decline. I was there at the planting of a tiny seed. I came for important moments along the way. And I will be there at the end.

And this is how it is when darkness creeps into something good. In an instant, the Jeep is thrown into park, and I'm at the tree, hands gripping roughened skin. Oginali. Hello, old friend. I feel its slow, sad pulse, the timeworn heartbeat of a millennia gone by. A deep tremble at my touch. There was a near miss once - a great fire in 1857. We took that near end and turned it into a new beginning. But that can't happen now; nothing can be done about the persistent march of time. Gaestost yuhwa danvta. I'm sorry, old friend. There will be a decline, and then death. A few centuries of rot. A slow return to earth. The completion of a circle.

Turning, I place my back against the tree's trunk, and slide down until I'm sitting at its base, squinting into the headlights of the Jeep. My head leans back, my eyes close, and an ant plays at crawling onto my neck. Utlvquodi ayawisgi. Proud warrior, not now. Keep away - and tell your friends. I tap a cigaret out of the pack and light it, filling my lungs to capacity. I hold it until my head goes all light, and my consciousness floats above me, mingling with the realisations of countless other souls. There's a thank-you whispered into my ear. Wado. An exhale. Of course I came. I had to. And I'll see you again in a few hundred. I'll walk with you, then, across the threshold. Together we will find our way. Donada`govi.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

cocksure and crazy (a misrepresentation)

When did success happen? Has it yet? It wasn't the moment of first publication. No, certainly not then. If it has happened, and, indeed, you wanted to mark the point of its happening, then perhaps you would choose the acquisition, no, the developing of a critic. "Developing," you mutter under your breath, and laugh a little to yourself. Developing, as though you played a major part in the critic's springing forth into existence. And perhaps you did. For without your words, and the words of other's, the critic's life is a fairly purposeless one.

Tonight, a party. The clinking of glasses filled with absurd alcoholic concoctions, pretty and pink. Lame jokes and affected laughter falling flat in opaque air. What do you do? is the question on everyone's lips. You make up a name, and tell them you're a labourer - and it isn't far from the truth. Words don't come easily these days, and there will be no talk of them tonight. A suspicious eye tries to squint beneath the slender arch of an over-plucked eyebrow. The beast's collagen pumped lips part slightly. "What type of labour?" it purrs. "General," you answer. The beast tries to smile, but can't for the botox. Or maybe it never learnt how. Smiling is unique to humans, after all.

In the washroom, now. You're comfortable here, with the party little more than a barely audible hoo-ha through the wall. Just you and the bass line. Leaning against the inside of a stall, staring down at the toilet and the floor, you're thinking about all the coke that's been snorted in this very space. Shit, there's probably enough for a line right there between the ceramic tiles. How many times has the same scene played out here? Fine white powder, chopped up with a platinum card on a cigaret pack. Sliced into a line. The careful rolling of a twenty. Breathe in, nice and natch. Feel the drip, taste it, acerbic, medicinal. The packet of posh slipped back into pocket. A stretch and an exit. A confident re-entry, a seamless shuffling of one into many. But this isn't you. No, not anymore.

You - you'll slip out of the washroom and through the back door. Wary of the searching eyes of beasts. Fearful of their veneered snarl. Outside, you'll loosen your tie, and shrug out of your coat despite the cold. Metamorphosis. Like a butterfly breaking free of its cocoon. Following this, there's the scene consisting of a lonely cab ride home. A searching of city lights, the same lights which called to you in youth, and those same lights with which you've since grown disenchanted. When did success happen? Has it yet? Is this it? You were promised more - weren't you? The critic, he lives a good life. One of waiting and dismantling; easy things. Right now, he's at home sleeping peacefully, a smile on his face. Tonight he dreams of your next work. For him, it's already written. For you, there's still so much work to be done - and it won't get done like this.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

unsound seams (an ungluing)


Someone was here, you think. A sneaking, evasive soul, lurking behind the scenes like a puppet master of old, dancing marionettes on strings. A vaudevillian ventriloquist and her dummy, one voice speaking through the mouth of another. The worst kind all, one who plays at making shadows on the wall, leaving no evidence behind. Her stage, little more than a bare wall, her actors, little more than tricks of light and non-light. When she leaves, she packs up her entire universe with the opening of a light and is gone.


Was it then all in your head? "Get thyself to a doctor," he said. "Call in sick to work, get some rest." No-one saw her. Remind yourself of this. You're leaning, easy, on the water cooler. Waiting for more talk. Keeping work at a distance. The buzzing fluorescent lights come down, pouring in through your eyes, filling your head. The bitterness of terrible coffee eats away at your tongue. Acrid. A storm is building. Images of a whirlwind of papers sweeping you away. A twister of a billion misspelt words. You grip your head, applying pressure at the temples. Then you're looking back up, squinting out across a sea of cubicles. She's out there, you tell yourself, adrift, lost, alone.


She vanished as such,
like one who steals through the night
on the cool autumn breeze
riding waves of yellow moonlight.


Hell, you didn't even see her - you only noticed the non-evidence of her visit. Does that make sense? Anger builds, and you're roughly calculating how many sick days you have banked. You detected the non-evidence of her visit, to be sure, a sort of unique sense of non-being. Like standing in the same room as a corpse, even before one knows she is in the presence of a body, even before she sees it or smells the sweetness of its initial rot, she will know it is there by the acute absence of life.


The end of the day comes. It always does. You'll say goodbye to those others you say goodbye to. You'll nod to those others you nod to. You'll ignore those others you ignore. Calm and cool. Everything's alright. Remind yourself of this. A backward glance at your desk reveals papers stacked neatly in place, the lead of your pencil sharpened just right, and your mouse is sitting exactly where it should be - where it wasn't this morning. Right? Password protection will be enabled from this point on. Someone was here, you think. A sneaking, evasive soul, lurking behind the scenes. You lock your door behind you - the click doesn't bring the comfort it usually does. You survey, once more, the sea of cubicles. She's out there somewhere, you tell yourself, planning, calculating, scheming. They're all suspect. Everyone here is your enemy.

Monday, October 24, 2005

the ride

It's a misplaced looking of the backwards type disguised, perhaps, as a lateral flitting of the eyes, a wink and a nod to a time fresh, but not so recent in memory. This fleeting glance at the past is necessary not because he has to yearn for that time, but because he does have to acknowledge it so as to enable forward movement. With no past, there can be no present, no future - no-one needs to tell him that.

So who is this man with the shifting eyes? You'll see him shuffling down the street, dishevelled, with a mess of books under his arm. Not really going anywhere - he's just going. You'll see him in the train station. You can't miss him. Is he young or old, you'll ask yourself. It looks like he might be doing homework, so you'll mistake him for a student. As it turns out, he's exactly the kind of guy you want sitting near you on the train, and you'll end up boarding the wrong car behind him, sitting adjacent to him in hopes of a spontaneous - or a not so spontaneous - conversation. It won't happen, though, because you won't say the first word. But if you do, he'll be more than happy to lie to you for awhile.

Oh, yes, he'll tell you lies all right. He'll let you believe one thing while telling you another. Then he'll flip it around and tell you another thing while simultaneously hinting at something else. The most dangerous part is that he'll do all of this without drawing your annoyance - only your deeper interest. Noticing the text books, you'll most likely ask about school, and he'll most likely be noncommittal. Not so much due to the embarrassment at having, or not having, something to do with the echo chamber of formal education, but due solely to lack of interest in such a thing. "So, what do you do?" you'll ask, and he'll throw around a bunch of words. Words like government, maintenance, accountability - labourer. "Labourer?" you'll ask. "We're all labourers," he'll tell you. And in that instant it will make just enough sense.

He'll spend a lot of time avoiding obvious eye contact, this man, choosing, instead, to stare out the window at the passing scenery - or that's how it'll look to you, anyway. If you choose to look the right way, though, you'll notice how he looks not through the glass, but at it. He's making eye contact with your reflection in the window. He prefers it this way: personal contact on his own terms. Just one more buffer between him and reality. All the while, you'll be looking at the side of his face, talking away, wishing he would just turn a bit so that you might see his eyes - not knowing that all you need to do is turn your own head just a few degrees and meet him in the middle.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

dormant desperation (an awakening)

There's a certain sadness and a whole host of moody offerings left on the table after his departure. It smoulders in his cigaret stubs crushed in the ashtray. It listlessly saunters round the coffee rings left on his paper placemat. It's crumpled up in the five he dug out of his trouser pocket for the tab. "Tell her she can keep the change," he said, shrugging into his coat. A quick calculation revealed that his sandwich and coffee came to $4.55 - before taxes. He always was a cheap bastard, though. But I didn't say anything. Why would I bother? He'll never change his game.

"You've lost your potential." This is how he chose to kick-start the conversation, by saying something provoking. No, wait, it wasn't even provoking - that's giving him too much credit. As though this shot was carefully planned, as though it required some modicum of thought. No, it was more inciting than provoking, and more instigating than inciting. And surely it was more taunting than instigating. Yes, taunting, that's what it was.

"I had potential? I do wish somebody would have told me this."

"You've plateaued too quickly," he laughed, "reached terminal velocity. You've stopped becoming, you said it yourself, and have now become - this is it, there will be no more growth, no going forward."

He couldn't get to me. It was impossible. "Well, I guess it's better to have had potential and wasted it," I said, "than to never have had potential at all."

It rides on the particles of cheap cologne still hanging in the air long after his exit. It's in the black scuffs beneath the table marked by the soles of bargain-basement shoes. It's desperation, and he's chalkfull of it. Desperate to discover some kind of personal potential. Desperate to find purpose. Just desperate. He wants, no, he needs to find evidence of that same desperation in others. He yearns to find that familiar misery in their eyes. He searches for it, tries to draw it out. Like Hansel and his breadcrumbs, he leaves bits of desperation everywhere he goes. Not so that he might find his way home, but so that potential might one day find him. But like the weak beacon of an aging lighthouse flashing out to a vast sea, seen through the fog by the bleary eyes of a drunken sailor, it could easily be missed. Missed by all, that is, but for those who know this sorry man.

Friday, October 21, 2005



The challenge, as always, will be trying to reconcile the man who is with the boy who used to be. Friends will look for a bridge. "When did he change," they'll ask each other. "Did he always think such things? Why did he never talk to us?" They will, these friends, search for clues to explain your sudden change. That's what they'll call it, sudden, as though you just up and changed over night. You'll want to remind them that the shift was not so abrupt, that perhaps they just weren't paying attention. Or maybe you'll want to say that there wasn't a change at all, that maybe, just maybe, they never really knew you. And maybe they still don't.


Sometimes you tire of signing your signature to papers. When will it end? you ask yourself. All of this signing, what does it mean? Waiting in line at the bank, you're signing things and thinking about signing things. You take a break only to stare at the tiki floor, and to flex your hand. There are no muscles here, you remind yourself, little more than flesh, bone, and tendons. Fingers moving by remote control. Reading signals from the brain. Amazing, really. And all so that you might spend your life signing things. The line inches forward. You're next. Listening past the non-silence of the bank's interior, your consciousness floats above the din and you hear it: the muttering of voices, one on top of the other, overlapping, like a sort of vox collage. Each voice like piece of tissue paper glued to a construction paper background. Each voice saying the same thing: Sign here, please.


"He can't be trusted," she says. "He talks a lot," she tells me, "and a lot of that talk comes with very little thought." She reminds you that this is a very bad combination. "Just the other day," she says, "he was talking about you and was busy paraphrasing a little conversation you had with him last week - a conversation that I would think you had intended to be confidential?" You tell her that perhaps he was seeking insight, a different perspective. "No," she says, "he was most assuredly not seeking insight - he was betraying you." Considering this a moment, you ask: "Waitaminute, was not your conversation with him supposed to be as well confidential?"


You'll sleep. In time, you'll sleep - but until then, you'll wait. Just as you waited in rush hour traffic, waited in line at the bank, and at the theatre, so, too, will you wait in line to sleep. A whole life spent waiting your turn. And will death bring yet more waiting? To be sure, it will. You're certain that no matter which end you've chosen for yourself - a rebirth, a glistening afterlife in the sky/a hot afterlife in the ground, or eternal nothingness - there will be waiting involved. Oh, and signing. Many forms will have to be signed, of course. Forms filled out in duplicate, triplicate, and quadruplicate. A signature on every page. An eternity of waiting and signing - and the rumination that comes with each. Chewing cud forever and always.

Monday, October 17, 2005


How is it possible for one man to say so much? You're standing at the other end of the table, talking with mouth and hands, shouting with both to make your point. You're leaning in, fists clenched, mouth open wide, talk, talk, talking, and I steady my pint, watching with great sadness as beer escapes glasses all across the table. It's not pretty, this oration, but it's effective. You have the ability to draw others in with your excitement. Make them as excited about your subject as you are, as you pretend to be. You'll be a politician someday. You can't help it - it's what you were born to do.

At the end of the night, a tab materialises and is settled up, coats are put on, the last gulps of beer are not wasted, and slide easily down throats. Memory is a little hazy here, but I can only imagine that there was an unsteady meandering to the exit, and as clumsily as we cross the threshold from one year to the next, we would have poured across the door of that pub and spilled drunkenly out into the streets.

"Wait, did you say spilled?"

It's cold outside, and I'm fairly certain I'm not in any state of mind to listen to what you have to say. So, I decide to say as little as possible in hopes that you sense my mood and change your course. "I did, indeed," I mutter.

I should have known. After fifteen years, I should have known. "My apologies in advance if I'm wrong," you say with false lightness, "but I believe the word you're looking for is spilt."

I sigh. I'm sure I sigh, and a reluctant response is drawn from me. "No," I tell you, "it is most assuredly spilled - I only use proper words. The words I want to use."

There is silence for a moment, but not just any silence - a smirking silence. The worst kind. "So you can just make up words now?" You pause to smirk some more, and wait for a reaction. Not immediately satisfied, you push a little harder. "So, you could have used spilted and it would have done just as well?"

We walk in silence for half a minute or so. You're patting yourself on the back for pushing the right buttons. I'm deciding what to say. "I'll address this matter in three parts," I announce at last. "a) Spilled is every bit a word as spilt - the use of one over the other is simply a matter of personal choice. b) If I had used spilted in place of spilt or spilled and you understood me perfectly, what would have been the problem? Is not the sole purpose of language simply to make oneself understood? And c) You, my friend, are a world-class idiot."

You chuckle just like I knew you would. Even before my answer, you knew what your response to my answer would be. The construction of sound conversation requires careful planning. "Well," you say," I think one does the language a great disservice by just making up terrible words. What if someone else was listening? What if they bore witness such a terrible choice of words? What conclusions could be drawn about the language?" You throw in a pause for effect, before carrying on. "It's important to use proper words whenever possible to make the language, and thus, you, as attractive as possible."

Apparently the consumption of pints has put you off your game. You've made it things too easy. "If the eavesdropper in question is a speaker of this language - which she would have to be in order to understand what was being said - then she would understand perfectly well its nature," I say. "Please, allow me to use a French word here to describe the English language: jolie-laide. Beautiful-ugly. It is the ugliness of English which makes it beautiful - so I have no qualms about making it uglier."

At this point, there was a breakdown in borderline civilised conversation, and we resorted to childish bickering. We were talking at the same time, voices raised, right to the sky, where they mingled with car exhaust, factory smoke, and other pollutants. Someone could hear us. Someone could always hear us. Somewhere, someone was lying in bed with their window open just a crack, barely enough to let the heat out and our voices in. They floated clumsily on air then, our voices, never having learnt how to fly, and made their way to that window where they smacked up against the glass, slid sorrily down, and spilted through the crack to waiting ears inside.

Friday, October 14, 2005


How many times have we walked down this same path? Through how many seasons? Over how many years? We're not any older, but everything around us is changing. The trees have grown taller, fuller, and the flower beds have widened. That's good, I think, the world could use more flowers. I sneak a glance at you, and find you tense, pensive. You've something on your mind. And I know exactly what it is.

"I hear you're thinking about bringing the great experiment to an end?"

"I'd ask how you always hear about such things, but I know the answer is perhaps a little obvious. Anyway, yes, you're right - I'm thinking about bringing the whole thing to an end."

"Dare I ask why?"

"Well, the most interesting part of the experiment was just waiting to see where it was going. It seems now, though, that after a full two years, this thing has indeed stopped becoming and has now become - there is no more change to be had. Evolution has ceased. I've seen it through to the end."

"How is it that you end such a thing, anyway? Is there some accepted way of doing it?"

"That I haven't figured out yet. How does one end something that has no purpose and no proper beginning?"

"I suppose you could start with some thank yous - you know, to the people who kept you going."

"Naw, then I'd run the risk of sounding like I was giving a boring Oscar acceptance speech: standing in front of the microphone in fancy dress with sweat beading on my forehead, pulling a little creased piece of paper out of my jacket pocket, holding it in trembling hand, and rambling off a hundred meaningless names. I don't think so. A little overdone don't you think?"

"I guess so. What about writing one last poem?"

"Now that's not a bad idea. Let's see, maybe something like:

What can be said
in finite syllables
that is original?"

"Dude, that's not so good."

"Hey, that's just something off the top of my head - of course I'd finesse it a little."

"I think it needs something more than a little finessing. Couldn't you just write something normal for a change? Maybe just say what you mean, you know?"

"Yeah, okay, I think I see where you're going with this - say what I mean, so as not to leave people confused. Scrap the ambiguity and the indefinite. Leave them with something solid. Leave them with no doubt."


"Okay, so how about this:

There is nothing
more to see here-
this is the end."

In autumn, the green leaves turn the colour of fire - orange, yellow, and red - before falling from the trees. Then the caretakers come, labouring beneath the naked branches, raking dried leaves into great piles, shoving them into bags, and taking them to the landfill. They'll go home, these caretakers, pleased with their day of work. Home, to a hot meal and a loving family. Home, to a fireplace and a good book. Home, to sit down with pen and paper. Home, to let their imaginations run free. These caretakers will go to sleep at night beneath mammoth down-filled duvets, dream, and wake in the morning to do it all over again. There are no ends for the caretakers - only cycles. Beginning after beginning.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

business partners

holey (past)

Black cars look better in the shade, therefore white cars look better in the sun. You know a guy whose logic works like this. Unerring in the simplicity of his reasoning, he's satisfied in his ignorance, and roughly casts about his flawed opinions to all who will listen. Ratiocination - perfect only to him. But his opinion of himself is all that matters, anyway. There’s a lot of talk, a veritable avalanche. Somewhere along the line, a plan is proposed and accepted. A deal is struck. Papers are signed. You’re swept away.

holy (present)

Short staccato bursts from the trumpet, the wail of a sax, the bass drum heartbeat, and here's you at the edge of controlled chaos, snapping your fingers in the offbeat. The dance floor stretches before you, a sea bopping heads, and swinging arms, no longer made up of individuals, but existing as one entity. Beyond this, the band plays, whipping this frenzied mass to life. You catch the eye of the conga player, his palms feverishly slapping the drums. A bead of sweat rolls from his brow, down his face, and hangs from his chin for a second before falling. There's the slight nod of recognition. Shirt pressed, hair immaculate, you tap your toes in shiny wingtips. Tossing back the rest of your gin and tonic, a cute dress materialises before you, smiling. Then her hand is in yours and you're out on the floor again.

wholly (future)

There's not much here anymore. Like a Hermit crab inhabiting a found shell, a bank has moved into your old nightclub. Protecting its soft underbelly with the walls that once protected yours, the bank is completing a circle. As much as you hate its presence and detest all it stands for, the bank has become very important to you. Just have a seat in this chair, the manager will be with you shortly. Black lights have turned to buzzing fluorescents. Already getting a headache, you rub your eyes. There's a far away tune. Listen for the rim shots, follow them - they'll lead the way. Toes begin to tap, and fingers begin to snap in the offbeat. You can almost taste the lemon twist. The bubbles of tonic dance on your tongue. Taking a sip, a black suit materialises before you wearing a fake smile. Then his hand is in yours and you're back in reality again.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005


As a child, you were told all about the fantastic future. Robots and flying cars - engineers were working on them you know. Artificial intelligence and a cure for cancer - they were being developed. In secret bright white laboratories scientists were working 'round the clock on such things. Furiously labouring their lives away so that you might one day enjoy the fruits of their labour. Moon stations and teleporters - yes, the future was to be grand, indeed. You were told all about its magnificence and given a promise of easy living, told of the day, in the future, where we, each one of us, would live like kings and queens. They were so close, you were told, to developing such things. Even now they're so close. And in the future they will be close, still.

One thing you weren't told about was the loneliness of the future. A life where playing with your friends down by the creek on summer days turns to going to movies on summer nights. A life where these same movie nights turn to hazy parties in the fall. A life where parties give way to weekends spent in the neon light of nightclubs. Cold winter nights in warm taxicabs. Where club life turns to pub life. Friends find careers, friends find mates, friends find God, and here's you sitting at the bar alone, your beer sweating onto the countertop - the bartender, your only friend. You're reminiscing about catching frogs down by the creek, about catching girls in the nightclubs. Reminiscing about the best times of your life. Reminiscing alone. The bartender just nods. He feels it too. He was promised the same exciting future you were.

So where's your flying car? You're told they actually exist, but the car companies are conspiring to keep them from the public. Or you're told that because there is no system in place, no rules for flying cars to follow, the idea of public use has been shelved. And where's your cure for cancer? They actually developed one a long time ago, but it's being kept from the public to keep the donation money rolling in. To keep their pockets nicely lined. And where's all that other stuff you were promised? All the victims of conspiracy. They don't want you to have them. They're just mean like that. In childhood it was easy to believe you would be given the future you were promised. And in youth it was easy to believe in the conspiracies which were keeping these things from you. But in adulthood it's hard to believe in anything. Certainly not promises. And not half-baked conspiracies. You go to sleep each night in a bed of cynicism - and awake in a mess of pessimism. You don't even remember your dreams anymore. In fact, you don't dream at all. If the future isn't filled with lies, it's at least empty.

Sunday, October 2, 2005


Land and sea: sure and unsure. Solid and liquid. The difference between inside and outside. Reality viewed through smudgy window panes set in dry, rotting frames - cracked caulking. What time has done to them, time will do to you, as well. A listless wandering through your darkened flat takes the place of your Sunday morning walk in the park. Spilling coffee on the floor, there's a bleary-eyed look in the mirror. Two: the number of grey hairs found in your beard this day.

For all the wrong reasons, you've decided to forgo your usual walk. The paths will have to settle for the footsteps of another. The squirrels will have to get their peanuts elsewhere. But the park will survive - you will not be missed. The gardeners are there now, weeding the flowerbeds, trimming the hedges, fertilizing the grass. With continued help from mortal workers, this park will be as beautiful one hundred years from now, and could remain as vibrant forever.

Here's you, with hurried brush in the back room of your flat. The canvas gets a little more colourful, and you wonder if you might work better with the lights on. Viva Zapata! plays in the next room. For noise. Marlon Brando was in that, you think, and time was not kind to him. You're mixing Cadmium Yellow and Orange on your palette, furiously chopping the two lumps together with your knife, looking for a certain colour. Waiting for it to appear. You move closer to the window for better light. The sky - someone's left it open again. Apparently not at all worried that you might escape.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

state of the blogosphere

You're highly suspicious of anyone who claims blogging as the 'New Medium' as though this should mean something, and you're inclined to believe that anyone who would make such a ridiculous claim has resigned himself to the fact that he has no place in old medium. Has not, can not, find a place for himself amongst the great women and men who have committed their thoughts to paper, bound their ideas between two covers, made solid with ink their liquid thoughts. Will not even try because he doesn't have to.

It was Marshall McLuhan who told us that "the medium is the message." And just what message is this new medium sending, anyway? We've eagerly embraced a medium which has made publishing as simple as the push of a button, a medium which has made reading as easy as clicking one more link. Don't like what you see? Click. Take issue with another's words? Click. Don't agree with what you read? Click. There is no discourse here. You continue to click away until finding a blog that agrees with you, creating a tailor-made list of links which is in complete compliance with your current philosophy. And others do the same, each becoming the centre of their own circle of like-minded bloggers, shutting out those who disagree. We've gone tribal.

You know a guy who will disagree with everything you say. Even if you agree with a point he, himself, made five minutes ago, he will then turn around and disagree. As annoying as this might be, you need each other. He needs you to keep talking so that he might have something to disagree with, and you need him to keep disagreeing so that you might have someone to check yourself against. Such a man does not exist in the Blogosphere. No, in this vacillating world of pixels and poseur prophets the blogger attracts not arguers, but agreers - anyone with a different opinion can simply take a glance, move on, and slip comfortably into a more welcoming tribe.

A product given to laziness, perfectly fitted to the doughy bodies and minds of the point-and-click generation, the Blogosphere is driven by a collective carelessness, simultaneously (and recklessly) generating and consuming, overproducing and overeating. In time, the patron becomes as fat and bloated as the chef's ego, and both are driven by an overwhelming desire for more. Unavoidable, unstoppable, barrelling towards a coactive collapse - or so the naysayers would have you believe. But blogging isn't going anywhere. In the same way that cockroaches found a perfect fit, so, too, has blogging. Like karaoke, reality television, and MP3 playlists, blogging is here to stay – because it has manufactured its own necessity.

But blogging is not art, and we should never confuse it as such - blogging is something you do between art. And blogging is not so much the future of writing, as it is the embodiment of downtime. The space between made real. Little snippets of nothing between the something. Something to do when your next short story stalls, something to do when you just can't put brush to canvas, this is your writer's block. A place to speak when you have nothing to say. So go ahead - I’m listening.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

18th and 6th

A critic undoes what the artist does - a constant undoing and doing. An unbuilding and building. It's art. Then the process is flipped and turned back on itself. The artist tears down the ugliness erected by the critic through the production of greater beauty. Deconstruction through construction. Disassembly through assembly. Then the process is flipped and turned back on itself again becoming part of an ever growing process. Relentless. Unstoppable. It's art.

There's a pale yellow sun casting cool shadows from the autumn trees across our table. Your fingertips rest on your Rook. A slight breeze picks up, depositing crispy orange and red leaves at our feet, and then, a move. "Rook plays to Queen's eighth," you say, unsteadily, looking a little queasy. I bury my chin in my scarf, considering my next. You could take me inside of five moves - but you won't because you play a terrible end game. Instead we'll trip through an awful, bloated middle until you make enough mistakes and ultimately concede. We've played this game before.

Abruptly, you ask: "What makes art?"

Still mulling over my options, I offer a chilly laugh. "What?" This word hangs in a cloud of vapour between us. "That's a little out of the blue isn't it? Besides, what do you mean, exactly? What or who makes art? What is art?" I'm toying with the idea of bringing my Queen into the action - always makes you a little nervous.

"Yeah, I mean, what makes you appreciate a piece of art? What makes it art in the first place? Take, for instance this table we're sitting at - is it art? Its surface has been carved, after all."

"No," I say, "with the right funds, I could hire a craftsman from the directory to make this table." There's a growl, a yelp - to our left, a dog chases its tail. "Bishop to Knight three." I slide my piece over a couple squares.

"That's a peculiar move."

"It's all part of the plan," I remind you, taking note of your scepticism.

"So, are you saying that craftsmen can't make art?"

The breeze kicks up again, and we both bury ourselves deeper inside our coats, hands digging deep into pockets. "No, that's not what I'm saying. In fact, sure, this table can be art, but I don't have to appreciate it."

"Knight moves to Rook's seventh for check," you say.

Obviously you're keeping your eye on the ball. I immediately return fire with: "Queen takes Knight."

You're unfazed by my shameless display of firepower. "So what makes you appreciate," you pause to shiver, vigourously rubbing your hands together, "what makes you appreciate a certain piece of art, then?" Our eyes meet. My stomach drops. "Rook plays to King’s eighth." You've got me - we both know it.

A cold gust of wind brings a handful of leaves onto our table, and neither of us moves to clear them away. "I guess I can appreciate a piece of art when I know that I could not replicate it myself or hire some guy out of the directory to do it for me. Those splatter paintings or blank canvases with the single dots or stripes? They can be art, I suppose, but are certainly not very impressive. A van Gogh or Degas, on the other hand? Sure, now they're impressive." I flick over my King to make my concession official. "The same way a game of chess between two amateurs is a lot less impressive than a game between two masters - the amateurs fail to impress because anybody could play such a game, the masters, nobody."

There's a secret weapon rarely talked about in the civilised world of chess: the art of distraction. When played right, a good distraction is virtually imperceptible. When played wrong it appears crude, lumbering. Standing, we button our coats and I extend my hand. "Well played, friend," I tell you. Your grip is confident and sure now - the colour's returned to your face. "Well played, indeed."

Saturday, September 24, 2005

advocatus diaboli

"What is it to be lazy?" you ask, uncrossing and crossing your legs. Tapping a cigaret on the table. Trying not to light it. "I mean, not your 'I'm just going to take a day off and do nothing' kind of lazy, but I mean really lazy, maybe even capital el Lazy." The cigaret goes to your lips, hangs there for a second, and is snatched away by your other hand. A furious tapping of the table ensues.

"Maybe it's just in a person's nature," I suggest. "Listen, are you going to smoke that or not? I think the time has come for you to decide - you're really driving me quite mad." I push an ashtray across the table towards you.

"No - I mean, not yet," you inform me, and magically palm the cigaret out of view. Your leg begins to bounce. "And what do you mean by 'a person' anyway? Do you mean a particular person, or persons in general?"

"I don't know," I say, "which were you talking about?"

"You know, I mean what makes a person decide he has the right to just do nothing? Say, those guys who live in the train stations - if you ever talk to one of them about it, they come off as though they honestly believe they are entitled to just be there. You know? To just be there doing nothing. Not contributing to society, only taking-"

"-so they're not really doing nothing then." By this point, the table is shaking crazily atop your bouncing leg. I'm steadying my coffee, so as not to have it spill. I'm eyeing you menacingly, hoping that you stop.

"Okay, so they're panhandling-"

"-you've got to stop it with the shaking."

"What shaking?"

"Your bloody leg! You're shaking like a crack addict and spilling my coffee all over - stop it."

"OK, fine, sorry," you say with feigned hurt. "Anyway, so they're panhandling. What purpose does their taking from others fulfill aside from a wholly selfish one?"

"Perhaps their goal is to make others feel charitable," I say, and hold my cup up for the waitress to refill. I smile a 'thank you' and continue. "Say a businesswoman is coming home at the end of a hard day at the office, completely demoralised, thinking the worst of humanity, when she spots a person in need of help - a little way in which she can make a difference. She drops a dollar in the poor bastard's hat and feels like a philanthropist. She's given a renewed sense of purpose. It brightens her day. What's so wrong with that?"

"Believe me, you give these people too much credit with this talk of goals - as if they set out each day with the goal of making others feel better about themselves," you scoff. The cigaret has materialised again, and is being twirled unconsciously through your fingers. It's actually pretty smooth.

I shake my head, and tear my eyes away from your unrealized show of dexterity. "Whether they're conscious of this goal or not, you have to admit it's a step towards legitimacy - they inhabit a rock solid place in the symbiotic relationship between helper and those in need of, between giver and taker."

"But what makes a person just decide they don't need to work?" The cigaret has found its way to your lips once more.

"Ah, so we're back to lazy. Well, I don't know," I say with an exaggerated shrug, "maybe it really is in a person's nature - and I mean humankind's nature - to be lazy. We only work because we have to - not because we want to. As soon as one finds a way to survive without work, one stops working - it's a well documented phenomenon, you know-"

"-don't be smart-"

"-perhaps those guys living in the train stations just managed to discover the secret to happiness a little sooner than most. And perhaps the disdain heaped upon them by the masses is little more than envy." I drop another cube of sugar in my coffee, add a little cream, give it a quick stir, and raise the steaming cup to my lips. "I just love the coffee here - a little cinnamon-y, I think."

"I'm going to smoke this cigaret now. I can't help it – it’s fate, I think."

"Or addiction, at least," I say.

Cigaret dangling from lips, you pretend to rummage through your coat, seeking fire, before looking up at me in mock surprise. "I don't seem to have a light."

Smirking, I flick my box of matches across the table. "You never have a light."

Friday, September 23, 2005

keeping secrets for the dead

As sure as life will always give way to death, joy is sure to move over for grief in time. She was happy on the outside. She came from a wealthy family, was pretty and popular - always smiling. The worst part of it all was that smile. It wasn't the kind of smile a girl puts on when she's hiding something. It wasn't plastic and superficial, but warm and genuine. A selfless girl, she seemed to find joy in finding joy in others. So it came as a bit of a surprise when she hanged herself in her mother's closet one crisp September day. She didn't leave a note.

Here's what the Cool Kids didn't want you to know: being cool wasn't a lot of fun. Long before reality television brought with it shows like The Real Life, Survivor, and Big Brother, there were the Cool Kids - part of a show rife with backstabbing and betrayal, double-crossing and deceit. Alliances were formed, and played against one another. Each school year saw contestants voted out of the clique, and new ones elevated in status. Rising through the ranks, sharpening their teeth. Whatever misdeeds were committed against those outside the group paled in comparison to the much more vicious infighting. But this isn't what did her in. No, she survived, and in fact thrived in this cruel environment. She was that one player who managed to play the game with honour and integrity. The type of player who managed to play with dignity and grace right to the very end. No, it wasn't the game that did her in - it was something far more sinister.

She dated this boy for a couple months in the last year of her life. Nothing serious. They walked to school together, and on the weekends, laid in the park at night beneath the stars, talking about Lennon and exploring the poets. They smoked a little pot sometimes, and laughed about school politics while running their fingers through the cool, dark grass and squinting up at the huge, bright moon. But laughs turned to tears one night. Instead of the usual wobbly talk of Ezra Pound and Ginsberg, there was a mad whispering of deep, dark secrets. A trembling flood of admissions - horrid tales. A terrible promise of secrecy. They didn't date much longer after that night. It wasn't so much a breaking-up, as it was a growing apart - that old thing. And that night in the park was never mentioned again. She would be dead within nine months.

And what did her brief life stand for? What meaning can be taken from her sixteen years? Was the end preventable? Her suicide came as a complete surprise for most people - for most people. It was like this that the boy found himself saddled with an impossibly heavy burden: the choice between keeping the secrets in death that he kept in life or a posthumous betrayal. Even if it meant keeping the girl's reason for jumping the fence between life and death to himself. Even if it meant keeping those who loved her in the dark. He couldn't bring himself to say a word. He had made a promise. Could anyone possibly know how hard that decision must have been? How hard it must be still?

She didn't leave a note. She didn't have to - she relayed it to a boy in the park, months previous. Beneath the stars. A head full of THC. Her fingers tearing at the cool, dark grass. The huge, bright moon blurry in teary eyes. To this day he hasn't told anyone. Somewhere, the boy struggles, still, with that decision made in favour of keeping secrets for the girl - and that decision he made in favour of keeping secrets for the dead.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

quintet (encore)

tomb ethics

The quietude of night falls. Like the curtain which descended just two hours ago - that red crushed velvet barrier between fiction and reality - the quietude of night falls just as easily now. With the sound of the last clap still fresh in your ears, you sit seemingly alone in the front row. There's a bottle of Macallan single malt on the seat beside you. A pile of ash on the floor. The fictional ghosts of a thousand dead characters looking over your shoulder. Tomorrow's newspaper lies open in your lap.


You'll realise how much you depend on him when he's gone. That feeling you get when you're walking on thin ice - there's a sensation of cracking and crunching, you can feel the depth of the water in your every step. That's how his absence will be - you'll long to be on solid ground. But it's so easy to take him for granted when he's there every day. Always within reach, you can depend on him to save you from yourself. Ice melts quickly in the spring. And how deep are the waters beneath you? You yearn to dive in, to go for a swim, but you know that you might never emerge from the water's murky, infinite depths. Nostalgia. How many lives are lost to that lake each year? Too many to count, you think, too many to count.

man of tomorrow

He's like Wells' Time Traveller talking about the four dimensions of space. You - you're one of a group of disbelievers not able to, no, not willing to wrap your mind around the fourth dimension, Time, and see it as an equal to Length, Breadth, and Thickness. You accuse him of speaking in abstractions, of relying on verbal trickery, but really he's only saying things you don't want to hear. And you can't see the truth for what it is - a lie. "I'll come back for you," he said. Sure, you thought, that's what they all say.

horribile dictu

Those impossible hours. Lost between night and day. The constant struggle: why choose A when B could be so much fun? The moment when there are more people waking than going to sleep, when is that? Obscured shapes flit through the darkened park. 4:30 comes and goes. Somewhere, there's a missed opportunity for adventure, you know it. "Come with me," he said. Another you would have jumped at the chance to shake things up, but it comes too easily now: always choosing A instead of B. "Go on," you say, and you yell at the stars, "live that life of mediocrity!" Your city is haunted - but at least you'll never be alone.


Yourself at present: adrift on an ocean of past experiences, catching fleeting glimpses of your future in the sky. Mirage. You once read in an article, that each year between June 21st and July 10th, a phantom image appears over a glacier in Alaska featuring a handful of buildings from Bristol, England - more than 7000 kilometres away. Strange things happen, you think. Flashing neon crosses. Black velvet Elvis portraits. Bobbing hula girl dash ornaments. There's a stretch of highway in the south of the province that is more familiar to you than your own reflection. You'll speed, top down, with the fresh spring sun cool on your face - so rote, you won't remember the drive. Flight, a basic instinct. The comforts of home always call when trouble surfaces. Tomorrow will come, you think, tomorrow always comes.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

anything but 4/4

Strange evil. It's not more or less, better or worse, than your everyday, garden-variety evil. Just different. Stranger. It's not a knife in the back. It's not the kicking of a stray cat. It's not a balding middle-aged man driving his Porsche with the top down on a cool, cloudy day. No, those types are evil are not so strange.

Strange evil is your assumed adversary throwing a public tantrum, spilling her guts - one metric ton of empty criticism. Pointless passion: embarrassing for all. Is there a way to verbally attack the host of a party without ruining the night for everyone? Yes - it's taking the host aside and ruining his night, and his alone. It's called tact - something she hasn't figured out yet. "You," she screams, "say too much without thinking - and too many idiots listen!" By this time, a hush has fallen over the room. Your last gulp of gin and tonic is highly audible. "Did I invite you here?" you ask, calmly.

Strange evil is your assumed adversary keeping tabs on you. Driving by your house in the thick of the night. Telephone calls ending before hello. She wants desperately to know if her tirade made an impact. She not-so-subtly brings up your name amongst mutual friends. "No," they say, "he is as he was. And prolific these days, too. He's a good man - you just have to know how to know him." It's not certain which part of this she takes issue with, but it steams her all the more.

Strange evil. You can try to make sense of it, but it's like making sense of the senseless. You'll look within, and come up with a dozen probable excuses for her behaviour. Common feelings like jealousy, resentment, and envy come easily to mind. But could that be all? Could that be all it takes to make one girl waste her precious time with an idiot and his idiot followers? "Look around you!" she screams. "There's greater truth out there, but you can't see it for your ego!" Different perspective. The whole episode is put out of mind with a shrug and a laugh, a fresh gin and tonic, and a new record spinning.

The crazy acid jazz trumpet wails, and mania falls away to a laid back groove with snare fills. A percussive sweep leads into a breakdown, and the triplet melody of a guitar solo. Following the rim shots clicking with every other beat, you're tapping your fingers. She won't be missed - there will always be a stranger evil out there.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

quintet (reprise)


The weather wears, moisture gets in, remaining trapped, and the wood begins to rot. Insects burrow, making homes. They lay eggs and multiply - an infestation occurs. Ropes fray and break. Nails rust, their strength undermined by corrosion. I'm one hundred fifty feet of shoddily built bridge over a dangerously active river - the tenuous mass of excuses for everything you do. Deteriorating, swaying precariously in the wind, the water rushing relentlessly below. I wait for just one more step.


"My interest," he says, "lies not in the machinations of rulers, not in the devilry of killers, not in the trophy piety of the righteous. No, these people do not hold my interest. And my interest lies not in the artists who display their thoughts so openly on the paper and canvas of their work - there is no big mystery there," he says. "And my interest lies not in the philosophers who have repeatedly admitted that they know nothing. If they know nothing," he says, "then there is nothing to know about them."


To exist in that place where reason had survived the kill. To be present in the time before innocence suffered that most unfortunate accident. To live and breath in that alternate universe where sensibility had not grown old, had not gone senile, had not died a slow death, gasping for air, alone in a decrepit caravansary. Blood on a handkerchief held to the mouth by a frail claw of a hand. That last cough still hanging heavy in the air. The stale breath of death. body rigid, already decaying.


"No," he says, "my interest lies not in these people - my interest lies solely in the common person. The labourer who builds your house, the barista who builds your coffee, the cook who builds your pizza - these are the people who build up and hold my interest," he says. "How and why do they love? What drives them to hate? How do they rationalize their place, their purpose in the universe? How do they build their own importance?"


It comes easily now. Easier than a fish swimming downstream, easier than a bird flying with the wind - it comes easily. After death, nothing can stop the rot, the decomposition. You die, and in that instant, there is a coming apart, a breaking down into simpler forms of matter. Autolysis: your own internal enzymes and chemicals begin to break down your own tissues. Putrefaction: bacteria consume. Then the scavengers come. There's an unbuilding, a dispersal, and you're scattered amongst the still living, reborn.

Monday, September 12, 2005


There was this guy who told me to always ask questions. "Never accept anything at face value," he said. "Always ask why something is before even looking at what it is." His eyes were always searching, and I wondered how such a man could ever be content. "Nothing is what you think it is," he insisted. And he was right, of course. Nothing is exactly what you think it is: nothing. This guy was a security guard - but maybe he should have been an insecurity guard.

There was this guy who told me that there is no such thing as identity. "There is only image," he said. "Identity is a man-made word," he would go on, "self, nothing more than a linguistic construct, existing long before you ever came to be." His eyes were cold, seemingly dead, and I wondered how such a man could ever be content. "All you are is what you project," he said. And he was right, of course. As I looked at his tired face, I wasn't seeing a lot. Little more than the strained light from some long dead star, light-years away.

There was this woman who told me that knowledge is worthless. "What does it mean," she asked, "if it doesn't make you happy?" Her eyes were pleading, imploring, and I wondered how such a woman could ever be content. "The more I learn, the more miserable I am," she said, "and each year spent in school feels less like one step closer to truth, and more like one step closer to death." There was nothing I could say, no way to argue. "I'm living life in an echo chamber," she continued, "and the walls are closing in, the echoes thrown about with ever increasing ferocity, becoming shorter, sharper." And she was right of course. I could hear the echo in her hollow voice, ringing and tinny. Ancient worries riding into the future on the backs of countless uncertain voices.

"It's the search for a middle line, some grand median." These words from an old man in the produce aisle. "Average?" I ask. "No," he says, "It's not to be confused with averageness or mediocrity - more equidistance. Though it's not so much finding the middle between two extremes, but finding the middle between all extremes. From the middle of it all, you have the best view of it all, do you not?" I nod, looking around, becoming keenly aware of my place amidst the rows and rows of vegetables. "It can be as easy as disvovering your place in society, and finding importance there," he says, "it's finding contentment in an otherwise discontent world." He presses into an avocado, testing for ripeness. Lifts it to his nose, breathing deeply, inhaling the scent. "But," I say, "we're taught from a young age that one should never be content, that one should always be looking to better oneself." The old man raises an eyebrow at this, feigning confusedness. "What else is there but contentment? What if to be your best means to find contentment? What then?"

Later that evening, I whipped up the best guacamole I ever have. Ockham's Razor was never so sharp - those avocados didn't stand a chance.

Saturday, September 10, 2005



It's the band playing on as an ocean liner slips beneath the waves. It's the sympathetic smile of a friend as you relay your grief. It's that lock on your bedroom window. Reassurance: the only active ingredient in the healing salves sold by travelling snake oil salesmen.


I wanna say that we're more. I wanna say that our luck is more than the sum of our choices, but I'd be a goddamn lier. No better than the liers who run yer country, tellin' ya it's all for the common good. No better than the liers who run yer school, telling ya that yer really gonna be somebody. No better than the liers in the media who tell ya they report without bias. Ha! I wanna tell ya that ya can rely on luck, good or bad, but I won't - 'cause I ain't no goddamn lier.

"Excuse me, sir?"

Whaddaya want?

"Did you know the word 'lier' as you used it does not even exist?"

Whaddaya mean?

"I think the word you're looking for is 'liar'. A lier is one who lies in wait, as in an ambush. Then, there's the French verb, lier, pronounced 'lee-ay', which means 'to bind'. So one who lies, who isn't telling the truth, is not a lier, as such - unless, of course, they happen to be lying in ambush at the time."

Goddamn lier.


Randomness will save us, the collective sensibility of countless voices yammering away all at once. Like the phantom patterns which form in a row of blinking signal lights, order will break from chaos and we will stumble into agreeance. But what will we, the ensemble, be singing? What will we be asking through our verse? Who will answer?


She should've stayed in, lying on the sofa, remote in hand, her face awash with the glow of the future. Unblinking eyes capturing reflections of eternity. Her face warm. A voice would call out from another room: "Do you not find it strange that we are not getting any older?"

With the future flickering, filling up the room, she would think, half-thinking as best as she could, before answering: "Not so much strange as beautiful, I suppose - evenly strangely beautiful."

She dreamt of nothing in that year in which she did nothing. This only makes sense, though, if you ignore everything you've ever learnt about dreams. And everything you've ever learnt about nothing.


There are those who are too quick to sully the innocence of art with the arrogance of intellect. Weak, fearful people, they'll cry about objectivity, mumble in their sleep about content or lack thereof. "I need the answers, man," they'll say, shaking, "just gimme the answers, dammit!" They're like addicts, these people, strung out and looking for just one hit - one hit from a drug they've never even used, never even tasted. "You holdin' out on me, man?" So desperate. So pathetic. "I know you got the answers in there somewhere!" Like the walking dead, they're decaying rapidly. And these words, too, shall decay, crumbling even now as I type them.

Friday, September 9, 2005

manufacturing comfort

Scribble the sky a pretty blue, add some puffy cotton ball clouds and a nice, yellow, construction paper sun. Everything you need. Some Magic Markers and double-sided tape. Safety scissors and a nontoxic, environmentally friendly, acid-free gluestick. An orderly and sterilised workspace. Take some Ritalin to keep you focused. Shhh, sit still now - there's homework to be done. I've put the television on in the other room to chase the silence away, slipped on your favourite CD, readied your game console in case you need a break. I'll be over at the Smith's if you need me. I'm number seven on your cell's speed dial.

From childhood, we're taught that our society is great, and one of the biggest reasons for this greatness is the fact that we have choice. "Did you know," asks one high school social studies teacher, "that in communist Germany we were only able to purchase one brand of toothpaste?" And the students all marvel at this, considering just how lucky they are to be able to choose from hundreds of varieties of toothpaste. "Yes," he continues, "one brand of toothpaste, one style of shoes, one type of soda." The horror! the students think, imagining only one type of soda - evil, evil communists! How lucky he is to have escaped the tyranny. He lives now in a place, in a time, of near infinite choice - a veritable ocean of choice, abyssal and dark. But as pretty, as serene, as the ocean can be from a distance, each day, thousands of children drown in those murky waters - and their imaginations are never found.

Just like the untempered printing of money can cause hyper-inflation, a severe devaluation, so it is that we have managed to devalue our entertainment through the propagation of unlimited choice. By November of 1923, Germany saw its mark hyper-inflated to the point where a single postage stamp cost 500 billion marks. Similarly, by September of 2005, we find our entertainment hyper-inflated to the point where we require 500 channels just to provide the slim chance of finding one decent program to watch. We need to watch 20 movies to find one that's all right - and we'll wait years to find one which really, truly, wows us. We'll read countless comics which never make us laugh. Go to a thousand concerts which only leave us searching for the next great thing. We’ll attend a million art exhibits which never inspire.

You can imagine what it must be to sit on a swing in the park, pushing off with your feet, hearing, feeling, the sand crunching beneath your sneaks. On your descent, you'd lean back, stretching your legs out to gain momentum. You'd raise your face to the warm sun, close your eyes, and let yourself fall knowing that you'll tuck in your legs and go right back up again. You can imagine this, but you can't possibly know what it feels like. When's the last time you actually sat on a swing? Beneath the vibrant blue sky, beneath those luxurious white clouds, beneath that bright, beautiful sun - go outside and play.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

panopticon: a fictional journey from mayhem to mobocracy

the extreme

The riots drag on for days. Chaos with boundless energy. Ceaseless bedlam. "How do they do it?" one spectator asks, aghast. "Do they not need to sleep?" They must be rioting in shifts, with one group sleeping while the other continues the process of looting, murder, and rape. "Well, someone needs to tell them that they are behaving very badly!" No-one needs to be told that. "Look at that - they've begun turning on each other!" How quickly things change in the cold winds of lawlessness. When there are no rules, the extreme rules; either extreme goodwill - or extreme violence.

the innate

The talking heads tell us that the looting has become necessary. "The people are desperate,” they say, "and will do whatever it takes to feed themselves." We can only imagine how hard it must be to eat a television. And surely those DVDs will be more than a little tough to chew. “Would it not be more civil to develop an organised system for the recovery of edibles, and the dispersal of said provisions?” asks another. But is civility natural? Is civility innately human?

the desperation

And the word 'desperate' is thrown out at us again to explain the murder. When the going gets tough, the tough loot department stores, steal firearms, form tribes, and stalk through the streets facing off against other equally desperate tribes. The rape becomes little more than a footnote, almost never mentioned. Desperation can not justify that. Nothing can, so it is swept away.

the trans-for-mation

The spectators sit glued to their televisions, one hand clutching a cold beer, the other immersed in a bowl of Doritos, their teeth crunching away, their eyes wide. "Can you believe this? They've formed little safe areas where violence is not permitted!" Yes, even the most destructive needs a break from destruction. Pillaging is a most taxing sport. "Tribes are laying claim to whole neighbourhoods! Protecting them!" And no doubt, crafting rules, laws. Paranoia is a heavy load to bear; mutual fear, a powerful thing. From chaos comes order, and with order, the inevitable reversion of violent thug to average citizen. A seamless transformation. The victims? What victims? Nothing happened. When there are no laws, laws can not be broken. All are expected to move on. Make a full recovery.

the sigh

The riots drag on for days. Then the clouds break up a little, and the sun shines down, the light chasing away the dark. And all is quiet. The spectators sit back, exhausted, in their La-Z-Boy recliners, issuing a collective sigh. But wait, is that a sigh of relief? Of wonder? Of disappointment, surely. But is it disappointment in the actions of their fellow man, or is it disappointment in the anticlimactic ending of the spectacle just witnessed. Few spectators will ask this question of themselves.

Monday, September 5, 2005

truth, and the pursuit of

When you know yourself, you will know how to live your life. Each step closer to self-knowledge, identity, brings you one step closer to a true understanding of your position in this life. Grey skies clear. A previously rugged road becomes the Clear Path. And the answers couldn't be closer. We carry the instructions, the manual, coded within us. Unfortunately, however, we weren't created open-source, and great pains must be taken to reveal this knowledge.

“You're in a rut.”

I'm in disbelief. It's not the sentence, itself, which surprises, but the offhand way in which it's delivered.

“Y-you're telling me I'm in a rut?” I sputter. “You don't think I know this?”

“Oh, I'm sure you're aware. These pages you sent me? These chapters? A little dull, friend. A little dull. What's the word? Hollow? Contrived? Ah, formulaic.”

This doesn't surprise me, not in the least. Writing's been easy lately. Too easy. And when writing's easy, something's wrong.


“-I'm not saying it's all terrible. No, in fact, it's all good. But that's just it, it's all good - it could be better. A little more dynamic, you know? Each word in each sentence sits in place, behaving perfectly. Each group of sentences, each paragraph, is perfectly uniform. Each chapter, the same. All so - what's that? - ah, homogenised.”

When you know your story, you will know what to write. It's one of the first things you'll learn when you start out, fumbling through the wilds of writing. The big dogs will tell you this. You'll learn it at your writing workshops. They'll repeat it like a mantra: When you know your story, you will know what to write. The words will echo in your ears. You'll draw up your outlines, boil your plot down into a 250 word synopsis. You'll keep condensed chapters, bulleted lists, tacked to a corkboard for easy reference. You'll know your characters so intimately, you'll start inviting them to important events. Oh, you'll know your story, all right.

But perhaps you'll get too close, too snug, and you won't be able to see beyond the printed page. You'll begin typing, and the words will flow from your fingertips, sticking fast to the paper. Solid, rocksteady words. Immovable. What is it to have no soul, to be completely, utterly, spiritless? Just ask any character who has had her life written for her. She does not, and indeed, can not easily know herself, and so drifts aimlessly, effortlessly, through the pages of her life.

It is only when she begins asking questions that she will truly understand herself. Why am I here? How many pages are in this book? She'll start out in this manner, asking questions which only have more questions as answers. Is this book just one of many on a shelf? How big is the library? Greater knowledge breeds greater confusion. Is the library just one of many buildings on the block? Sometimes in our quest for enlightenment, the obvious is overlooked and we forget to ask the most important questions of all. Whose fingers are typing this? Why?