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?

Sunday, September 4, 2005

the death of poetics

Born of a generation which champions the uninspired as art. The cryptic perishes beneath the crushing weight of the explicit. The discomfort of the unreal is tossed aside, discarded, for the comfort of the real. Today, no-one creates so much as manufactures. No-one shapes so much as fabricates. No-one writes so much as generates, formulates. And we're all here, neatly queued, licking our lips, waiting to have our trays filled with more vapid, tasteless slop.

Ease, and the pursuit of. We've trading in one-off films for dime a dozen movies, none of which can end without being set up for a sequel. The innocence of the situational comedy has been ruthlessly murdered in a dark alley by reality television. Radio plays have moved over to provide space for the continuous playing of top-forty hits - a steady stream of mass-produced garbage, you can tune in, listen, and never hear a thing. Our museums are lined with a million blank canvases. Our bookstores, filled with all the masterpieces of yesteryear - because there is nothing else.

You're queued up, waiting, the stainless steel tray cold in your shaking hands. Your stomach rumbles - it does that a lot lately. You're thinking about food, sustenance. In particular, you're thinking about what you ate yesterday and the day before, trying to conjure up the tastes, trying to bring to mind the smells. There is nothing. Your tongue presses against the roof of your empty mouth, as you try to remember the feel, the texture, of yesterday's meal - was it coarse? Was it smooth? Your stomach turns - it does that a lot lately. The queue inches forward, and clutching your aching gut, you reluctantly shuffle ahead, dispirited. Closer to the front. Closer, perhaps to close, to one more ladle of nothing, one more scoop of bland, unpalatable slop.

Friday, September 2, 2005

idée volée

An ear to the wall, a wiretap on the telephone, subminiature cameras switched on, film rolling. Intelligence trickles down, someone is always listening. Sousveillance sees one participant in a group gathering information, stockpiling data secreted from the bunch, no piece of datum too difficult to find. Like common garden slugs, we all leave slimy trails behind us.

A dash of research, a little sleuthing, shadowing, some outright robbery. It's like this that you come to put together your plans. It's a game of disguise and deception. Skulduggery and dirty pool. You say that you'd take an open and honest fistfight any day over the deceit and dissimulation of backroom politics, but when darkness falls, you're the first with a dagger in hand. Those fingers itching. Eyes searching the inky recesses. Prowling for a victim.

Hear that static on your telephone? See the way that long, black Cadillac deVille slides slowly around the corner? Too many sneaking glances from behind newspapers. Shapeless shadows following you in the night, footsteps from men, unseen. Unscrupulous behaviour breeds paranoia. Or maybe not. It's possible that being in on the action makes you more aware, increasingly perceptive, alert to the subversive activity around you. Or perhaps it's mere delusion.

I'm those whispers from behind hands, concealing treacherous lips. I'm the slight clicking of a camera, its lens opening and closing in the fraction of a second. I'm the fleeting images dashing through your peripheral vision. I'm all around, underneath, and inside you - and everything you do.

Thursday, September 1, 2005

idée perdue

No-one can hate you like you do - they shouldn't even try. It's a carefully cultivated, sharply honed hatred. A refined revulsion. Distilled detestation. You mask this self-loathing with humility, cover this penchant for personal contempt with humbleness. A calm, collected exterior - but inside, you are afire.

Waging war with yourself, convinced you win every time. Modern warfare, a dirty, immoral affair. Both sides collecting POWs, practicing abuse, war crimes, rampant. No-one wins. Bound and gagged. Starved halfway to death. The subject of nightly beatings by masked men - psychological torture mixed with physical. How can a mind remain functional after years of such maltreatment?

A daring escape under the cover of night, thanks to the selfless actions of two prison guards. At the time, the thought doesn't even cross their minds, but they have sacrificed their two lives for your one. But, in their dying thoughts, the last moment of life, not an ounce of regret.

Here's you, two years later, back in the burbs. Out in the driveway, the early morning sun on your neck, the taste of freshly brewed coffee, you reach down to collect the newspaper. A smile plays at your lips. War in the Middle East. Chaos in Africa. Turmoil in Eastern Europe. The whole world is ablaze, but you're going to be okay. An aching in your back. That old pain. You straighten up, stretch, and walk back to your castle, bathrobe hiding a back marred by the scars of an old whipping, a self-flagellation.