Wednesday, December 17, 2008

61 - Whiskey Alpha Romeo

That night, if there was one thing that Frank could've taken when he parachuted into that anonymous jungle in 1965 it was Mickey. Frank had never known anyone quite like Mickey, his nickname was War. You heard the capitals when people called him that, later he would make cameo appearances in literature as a red-haired female war correspondent but that character was very much based on the odd real-life talent of Mickey.

Frank had not been a professional soldier for long when he met Mickey, It would be a few more years before anyone could see Frank coming in hot on a naked burning country with all the keys to all the doors of all the ways of death poking from his battle webbing. When Frank first met Mickey, he hadn't begun to enjoy himself yet.

A soldier kills with sympathy but if he keeps at it, doesn't that mean he enjoys it? It's a sick divorce from the position of the victim but if nothing else comforts there's always the old standby lie, well worn with use:

what choice does a soldier have? To keep at it, pick a useful lie and stick to it, it's either that or instant insanity.

All cheques get cashed in the end though, but Frank didn't know yet about the faces behind his eyes at night, not then.

Back then, back before the doors of death, all he knew about Mickey was all he'd heard: that there was this war correspondent who was always first to the hotspots, first to the killing fields, first in the line of fire, Mickey doesn't know to this day why it happened or why it stopped, or why he told Frank the truth he'd never told anybody:

If Mickey stayed more than a month anywhere, a war broke out. It didn't seem to matter where.

Every tortured crevice of humanity seemingly itched for Mickey's presence to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.

Mickey had tried running from it since he was a teen in Argentina, but eventually he surrendered to the might of a superior force and turned his curse into a job. hoping it would run its course.

It's a lot like what any successful obsessive does, isn't it?

So by 1965, with all the keys to all the doors of all the ways of death poking from his battle webbing, Frank was parachuting into another waking nightmare with the soldier's schizophrenic detachment from reality. It was making his scalp and groin itch in nervous anticipation, he spared a thought for Mickey and wondered how things might go differently down there if Mickey were around.

Because the other thing about Mickey, it was weird, but you knew he wouldn't get so much as a scratch in a war zone.

And whatever force protected him seemed to look out for the people around him too.

Frank remembered an I.E.D. that had gone off in a club, mad naked destruction across the block.

Except for the bar where Mickey and Frank had been drinking with a few non-coms from the wires.

Not a scratch, although meters away there were only bloody stumps that once had names.

That's what Frank was thinking as the plane's cargo door, an angry metal mouth, yawned its black ugly open and Frank ran wordlessly into the ripping suck. Thinking Mickey owed him a beer if Frank ever saw him again. Would either of them ever live any other way?

Chute not yet open, Frank watched the plane quickly shrink to invisibility, leaving only Frank.

With all the keys to all the doors of all the ways of death poking from his battle webbing. And a lock of Mickey's hair stitched to his shoulder.

Just in case.

Friday, December 12, 2008

62 - When Frank moved into 275 block.

Mickey had trouble getting in, Frank had failed, for the second time during their friendship, to secure an apartment at ground level, Mickey was forced to resort to the stairwells on account of his fear of elevators.

He wasn't claustrophobic, he simply had an irrational fear of elevators, like his roommate Jake during first year university had an irrational fear of department store mannequins, sure that one day, when his back was turned, they would quickly and silently move in and kill him.

Jake was killed when a truck carrying department store mannequins jackknifed on a local highway strewing mannequins in every direction. One mannequin scored a direct hit on his SUV windshield. Mickey always heard the words 'I knew it!' crashing through Jake's mind seconds before his brains crashed through the rear of his SUV. It's just how Mickey chose to remember it.

He always felt guilty for having helped slip a Mannequin between the sheets with Jake one morning. He'd never heard anyone make sounds like that upon waking, half scream, half groan, all terror.

Could it have influenced his reaction time when that mannequin came sailing silently out of the highway noise and grey to pulp his head?

One day, he was sure he'd wake up in bed with an elevator.

Or was it an elevator for a bed?

He didn't care, hopefully he could convince Frank to move again soon. Maybe he could unite the neighbours against him again like last time.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

63 - Just an evening with Frank

Frank found himself alone one night and took the opportunity to practice silence. It required great effort to not turn on the TV or radio or play a record or phone Mickey or otherwise fill the air with noise that would distract him from himself.

He suspected people who feared silence were scared of the thinking that inevitably came with it, he knew Mickey would rather listen to the hum of a bad electrical transformer than listen to his own thoughts. Mickey himself would agree, having told Frank in the past how awfully full of garbage his head was, full of nasty ideas and cruelty.

Frank let the silence sink into him as he delayed lighting a cigar end he'd found under the sink. And when the dry old destruction did eventually get lit, Frank realized how foolish he'd been to try. It was long past saving.

He'd have to lock them up from now on, only someone like Mickey would steal a 20 dollar cigar, manage to smoke less than a quarter, then assume he could hide it under the sink.

Then again, Mickey had lost his sense of smell years ago in a chemistry accident in high school.

He put enough hot sauce on everything to kill or cure a 2 ton rhinoceros of tuberculosis.

Disgusted, Frank killed the mutilated cigar falling apart in his hand and went to bed under a pile of papers and dirty laundry.

He stared at the ceiling until he fell asleep.

He had successfully remained silent all evening.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

64 - Wet lungs on a Tuesday morning.

Coughing, Frank returned to his new apartment one morning to find Mickey had let himself in through the balcony. Frank didn't realize that he had picked this apartment precisely because it was easy for Mickey to break into. The air was wet with steamed rice and Buggles, Frank's occasional stray cat, yet another change, was nowhere. Mickey didn't explain and Frank didn't ask, it was a sign of how desperate their co-dependency had become that neither cared to ask for a pretext, they were together and that was enough, Frank's nose was bleeding from too much decongestant spray and his hot rice dinner (odd hours) was thoroughly pink by the time he had finished with it. Mickey had dropped the pot of rice on the floor shortly before Frank had returned but didn't mention it to Frank.

After dinner, they settled in front of the television and watched a movie on tape, baked fries completed the picture, Frank went to bed around noon and Mickey crashed on the couch. Before he closed his eyes, Frank looked around his bedroom, a bedroom Frank had never shared with anyone, not even certain hired visitors. Not even Mickey was allowed inside, So as he drifted through his afternoon coming attraction dreams he imagined how he would feel if the entire population of the Earth simply disappeared tomorrow and these walls were all he had left.

Where others might have seen only dinged furniture and clothes on a stolen metal rack, Frank saw a universe of unequalled possibility, if he could spend a thousand years in this room, he naively imagined he could...flibbertigibbets, the idea was gone.

Having lost the thread of it, he finally surrendered to his little death, on a pillow of his conscience, thumbing his nose at a ceiling dotted with phosphorescent paint. imagined it was sky. For all he knew or cared, one by one, outside his narrow window, the real stars could be going out. He'd never know.

It was always overcast in December. He made a mental note to put a lock on the balcony and give Mickey a key.

Monday, December 08, 2008

65 - Never too late though there's never enough time

Frank woke up to the itch of something under his back, rolling over on the filthy sheets he found nothing but quickly figured out what is was and pried the used cigarette butt off his back using the compliant edge of the door hole to the hallway. There had never been a door there for all the time Frank had rented the studio apartment from the Kaszynski family. It was a good arrangement. The flat was never properly maintained or inspected and Frank paid his bills in cash on time and everybody saved on the difference.

All his clothes hung on a stolen store rack. He hadn't stolen it though he had stolen other things in his life.

After the triple S in the toilet (Shit Shower Shave) Frank was transformed, clean, pressed suit, sharp features, he didn't invite anyone over unexpectedly so those who knew him would never have guessed that he often let his laundry rot on the floor next to spilled take-out boxes and rancid pizza.

Everyone knows someone deeper into shit than they are and Mickey was the guy Frank did allow to come over. Mickey would crawl out of his parent's basement and knock on the ground floor balcony door and Frank would let him in wearing a pyjama top but no bottom and they'd sit on a genuine original foam and particle board couch from the seventies (the most comfortable couch ever created) and watch movies on tape while speculating on when the black puddle of what was once potatoes at the back of the fridge (broken since always) would evolve opposable thumbs and let itself out for a walk.

Suffice to say, Frank kept no pets, he claimed it was in honour of an Australian girl who'd roomed with Mickey years ago. She used to recount how her mother never let her or her brothers keep pets on account of how they killed them for fun.

They would go to the beach in Melbourne and stuff black cat fire crackers into tiny cocktail sausages, light them and throw the deadly meat bombs up to the eager maws of the giant but stupid seagulls.

The gulls would swallow them whole then try to fly awkwardly out to sea, the fuse burning through their digestive tracts.

They laid bets on whose gull would get furthest out before, with a little 'pop' a gull would stone-drop into the sea.

Frank figured no animal deserved how he chose to live. Including steady girls. As long as his well varnished magazines kept him going, he'd focus on his retirement savings,

Mickey suggested they rent some prostitutes again. Nothing like treating a person like a disposable sock puppet as far as Mickey went. humiliating people gave him a stiffy you could hammer nails with. Whenever Frank thought about his own opinion on the subject, he returned to the idea that he and Mickey would likely part ways soon, if this went on.

Only Frank didn't have anyone else he could invite over. It could get lonely in the small quiet hours past Thursday midnight.

Maybe he'd hire someone to clean up this mess, get truly respectable, get a girl even. But that left Mickey's replacement up in the air during the interregnum. There wasn't time now to think anyway, he inspected himself one last time in the hallway mirror, nodded to an empty hall, left for work. clicking the door shut with a flat ugly thud.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

66 - The band at the edge of time

Official t-shirts and posters were on sale in the lobby and board mixes could be had by the chrononauts arriving anytime between last Thursday and next Friday.

The MC advised everyone to be careful and as dirigible time machines mixed co-ordinates with less conventional moebius runners and tempus fugitrons the band let go with their opening chaos of lights and sound and, with suitable chrono-modulation, music, smpte coded into strobe flashes which had the time vehicles in all their mad inventor's configurations dancing in and out of the vortex of sidereal tenporality so that a distant observer would only have been aware of a single brilliant explosion of noise and light that lasted for less than the time it would take to measure it or register at all.

And the music kept pushing back further into the past, naturally, to make space, since the entire performance was happening that way anyhow.

To the participants, the concert lasted for years, decades, without an apparent break, as the band phased into the next stack of time whenever it pleased them, the audience themselves popped in and out as it suited their individual plans, all synched up relative to each other only instants away from paradox by the all-consuming all-powerful smpte code. Archaic but a universal standard, difficult to replace.

When the concert truly ended, it was because the band had died. Of course, only relatively speaking, for the chrononauts, and the band itself, continued to visit the singularity and watch the show, again and again and again, ever with more participants, until time technology had spanned the universe itself, and everyone who had ever existed with access to time tech was a participant.

It was colossal, universal, immense, populous, gargantuan. So large and massive a pulse in the linear timestream that its moment of totality eventually eclipsed the frame of the concert entirely and with an explosion of coherence, It slipped to the beginning of the history of history.

What began with a heartbeat, ended with the birth of time itself.

But somebody forgot to turn off the amplifiers, and if you tune a radio to the right channel, you can still hear the hiss of abandoned devices of great architecture and unimaginable power.

They wait for the band to return.

T-shirts are still available in the lobby, but unfortunately, the board mix is absolutely, irrevocably, out of stock.

But those T-shirts are wicked, get 'em 'fore their gone, and hurry.

It's later than you think.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New Model Army

67 - Big surprise for Alice

Left to her own devices for the weekend, Alice, a professional executive for a major manufacturing firm, decided to indulge in a long held secret hobby: she would write another novel. Something she had done since grade school.

She was precocious.

Saturday morning, fresh from a breakfast of toast, coffee, orange juice and eggs, she sat down in front of her computer and cracked her knuckles at the naked page. Writing was as effortless as driving a car in a television commercial for her. She didn't just dive in, she drove in.

She never cracked her knuckles in public because her mother had told her years ago that nice girls don't do that.

She knew this to be a pile of horse droppings but out of respect she continued to obey, it didn't cost her anything.

This is good advice: concessions that cost nothing are better than free.

She had a natural talent for prose, the words were already lined up long before her fingers touched the keyboard, waiting in line in her head like patient dancers in the wings.

One by one, they left her head via her fingers and she had soon darkened hundreds of pristine pages.

Sunday afternoon, with a fresh ream of paper, she printed out a 308 page novel about a woman who makes a shocking discovery.

Then she went to her special closet where she kept all her manuscripts.

She was killed by an avalanche of unsubmitted novels.

Discovered along with her body, each one would ultimately be a best seller.

Monday, November 10, 2008

68 - Feats of Cunning and Daring-Do

It was a devilish plan, full of conceit and bad intentions. There would be mayhem and deviltry and feats of cunning and daring-do. The most conceited of all was our leader, a vain man, rotten in every gummed crack. Also, he was the most eloquent, even inspired, orator I had ever heard.

Foolishness was rife on the eve of the dauntless unblinking moonrise, staring baleful and reeking of antique madness.

Made of cheese? My goodness, what else?

Buckles were thoroughly swashed, flagons of ale quaffed, bodices burst with extravagant abandon, Chandelliers were swung upon, duels were flourished on mysterious staircases to nowhere.

The hapless guards? Comic relief.

A kaleidescope of sweaty hairy roaring humanity sloshing against a tide of naked thighs.

All gone.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

69 - Moist Attempts at Eroticism

Because there was a necessity,
somewhere an edge to it,
how close to the catastrophe,
does air still have lead in it?

Isn't it great,
how none of this,
has happened before?

Furniture, Laminate, Server, Calculus, Footwear, Pencils.

Aren't you glad to be here?

Monday, October 13, 2008

70 - Damnable Fishies

"A bright morning it is for the experiment sir," said Franklin Cordliss, an assistant and grave robber.
"I imagine you think me foolish to hoist my apparatus in this dead calm? said Dudley Thorten, a revivificationist and collector of exotic tropical fish."

Dudley produced from his pocket, wrapped like a market stall fish, a mortar.

"Salt, it's packed with silver iodide and dry ice, now my fooolish apprentice, now! hoist the antenna!"

No sooner had Franklin hurried to the winches than Dudley had fired the mortar up into the clear blue sky.

There was a pop, and the sky filled with sparkles and highlights, which quickly descended into a fierce and dangerous thunderstorm.

There would be energy for the attempt after all.

Regardless, thought Franklin, the master's fish must be saved.

71 - Music to savage the calmest beast

Two middle aged men were talking on the street corner today. One had a small simple wooden string-instrument under his arm, He carried it like a newspaper; it was as long as a flat wooden cooking spoon. I overheard them as I waited nearby for my bus.

“What is it?” said one, pointing.
“It’s an Angel Harp,” said the other, holding it up so his friend could see it clearly.
“It only has one string,” he observed.
“It only plays one note. ”said the owner, raised brow, downcast eyes.
“Which note?”
“It plays God.”
"Do you play it often?"
"It's playing right now."
"I don't hear anything."
"Don't you?"
"Well sure, the traffic, the wind, people."
"Look carefully at the string, can you see it's vibrating?"
"Yeah, but come on, are you telling me if you stop that string from vibrating everything will simple vanish?"
"No, that would be impossible,"
"That's a relief,"
"But all the sound, all the audible, all the music of the world, would certainly end."
"That's insane."
"Sorry, I didn't catch that," he said into a sudden crushing silence.

A finger lay on a dead string.

It was the end.

Friday, October 03, 2008

72 - Gemini Moon

"Evenin' Jay good to sync,"
"Been busy, quakes shorting the 'lectrics, tunnel's down but I guess you already know,"
"Yeah, shut tonight and tomorrow, guess it's overtime for you but I'll take what breaks in the world I can get, Jackson pushing you hard down there? I know he pushed me,"
"Yeah, wouldn't be wantin' to trade places with me now, would you? Tunnel Jockey, really, what a way to make it,"
"It's got a plus side,"
"Name it,"
"Well, fer instance you met me 3 weeks subjective ago and I met you 15 minutes subjective ago,"
"You call that a plus? I'd like to see the girl that'll settle for seeing her man once every 3 weeks over his coffee break,"
"Money's good,"
"Better be,"

"This is Tunnel Control, TV-8 respond,"
"Control, this is Tunnel Vehicle eight, pre-drop check complete, am waiting taxi clearance,"
"TV-8, this is TC, you are clear to taxi to Tunnel bay 2, I say again, bay 2,"
"TV-8 confirms bay 2, am activating manoevering beams,"
"Beams on target, you may proceed to bay 2,"
"TC, in position bay 2, drop clamps auto-engaged, requesting drop clearance,"
"TV-8, you are cleared for drop on TC mark minus 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Mark"

Jay fell. Always there was the fear, the sadness. the pain, squeezing him, until the retrieval beams locked onto him, slowed him down, docked TV-8 in bay 1, he exited, three weeks further in his subjective future, but not in his universe anymore.

After debriefing, he learned it had been a fruitful mission, the last universe had some vaccines that didn't exist here, they had also perfected certain directed energy systems that were only beginning to be theorized here. There had never been any earthquakes on this moon either, it had been geologically inactive for millenia.

As always, when he exited TV-8, he walked back to the lip of the tunnel and looked up, wondering about it, was it natural? unlikely, it had to have been built. he was sure.

Why, gods, why did it have to go only one way?

Jay walked to his quarters and read his own biography.

Here, his name was Frank.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

73 - They somehow manage it.

The problem with writing what you know is that what you know is often embarassing. If I wrote from what I know, good people might come out portrayed in ugly ways, as cheats, liars, gossips, brawlers, deluded, medicated, hypocritical, resentful, pitiable.

That's not who they are, but everyone is so happy to rush to a judgement so they can stop experiencing, stop thinking.

Someday, soon? I'll put that certain book in my head to paper, it's already written, up there in my head, until then, I'll admit my cowardice, until then I only want to entertain and mildly disturb you, I don't think either of us is ready for the other yet.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tools of the trade

74 - The courage to call it conventional

“That’s our director.”
“So it’s true, the bear thing.”
“Yeah, he still talks to it, one of the earliest models, since he was a kid, it’s been modified internally up to the latest state of the art, but it’s the same AI kernel.”
“You have any talking toys growing up?”
“Talking, yeah, full animatronics? No.”
“The director’s bear? Has everything.”
“Even the pistols?”
“Even the bomb-mod.”
“That decides it, the bear has to go.”

p.s. After years of effort there is only years of effort. Rewards must come in through the window, never the door. If every word is a fragment of cliche then projects of anti-story are futile. Here is the end of the story: The bear, the actual bear, locked in a bank vault and operating its mobile unit remotely, contacted the authorities as the Director's clone was shot to shreds.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Some notes on fiction or for the cognoscenti: meditations on what Bart Testa and Frank Kermode were on about

Life ends while time goes on. There is no natural concordance between events. We are always in the middle, so we become anxious.

We have a natural inclination to make the moment make sense although we know it does not.

Stories are a human invention, the ease with which we narrativize our lives belies a hidden complexity. The satisfaction of fiction is, at least partly, found in how elegantly its greatest illusions (beginnings and endings) are constructed.

Just as in a stage illusion, the effect of a beginning (more so, an end) appears wonderous, explained through magic, isn't it remarkable? We recognize something we have never experienced in life, for we do not remember our own beginning nor can we witness our own end.

Upon examination, whatever calamities and triumphs we have labelled 'beginning' and 'ending' in our lives proves to be false; there is always a morning after, until there isn't.

If finding a beginning or an end were easy, I wish someone would tell the phenomenologists.

In the meantime, the anxiety caused by living in a chaotic world (with little reason and no order to the shape of events) can be alleviated through a good story.

To be good, a story must suspend our disbelief and the average reader overlooks the two greatests feats of suspension a story offers, its most salient benefit perhaps, it begins and it ends.

Moreover, it's a beginning and end you can point to. Literally put the beginning under your thumb. Page 1.

A book, its very structure conspires with the author to create the illusion. Even when the author attempts the opposite: A book without beginning or end?

Finnegan's Wake begins with a sentence fragment and ends in a sentence fragment and if start with the last one and continue to the first one then the two fragments form a sentence. They join the end to the beginning and the narrative becomes endless.

Clever, but it doesn't satisfy my craving for completion, it does not relieve my anxieties.

If you lack any, allow me to help:

10 Reasons to be anxious about life and crave stories.
  1. You don't get to find out how your story ends but you'd still like to.
  2. All the great movies that'll come out the summer after you're dead.
  3. All the great music bands that you'll never hear about.
  4. All the great books that'll be written too late for you to enjoy.
  5. All the new sports and leisure activities that won't be invented in time.
  6. All the parties your friends will enjoy after you're dead.
  7. All the vacations.
  8. All the summers.
  9. All the winters.
  10. All the morning sunshine.
We know these things but we wish for distraction nevertheless. This does not argue that fiction cannot address real issues or examine society, for its role as examiner is well established. Insoluble problems are the meat of a good story, it is precisely the satisfaction of insoluble problems through the magic of beginnings and endings that delivers the anxiety-smashing punch.
Until the next time, until there is no next time,
The end.

Friday, June 27, 2008

76 - Notes on a pleasant nightmare

  1. Festival of smoking crosses in Belgium. Cross connoisseurs smoking church sized pipes in every manner and style of cross.
  2. A large successful English class nearly derailed by gremlins at the blackboard who keep erasing the word lists.
  3. A teacher furious because my classes are so loud she can't hear herself think.
  4. A individual class interrupted for a workshop then extended indefinitely.
  5. Kidnapping attempt on Professor Heinman's daughter foiled at the last moment.
  6. A bilocating hall of mirrors such that one couple walks in and 6 walk out, operating in sufficiently out of sync timelines and realities that each couple is unaware of the others although nevertheless meeting from time to time as that is what waves do.
  7. A five dimensional vase.
  8. Reality viewed as a cross-section
  9. Electing to stay versus lobbying to go.
  10. Life as a choose-your-own-adventure game. Why not?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wei Lu Wei - Master of Higgledy-Piggledy

Wei Lu Wei, his friends called him Frank, was a master of arts both Eastern and Western, he had become so accomplished in the practice of 'Satori through Zen Procrastination, the Art of Not Trying as the Road of Success' that the less effort he made, the more material success he enjoyed.

"Your enemies have all the resources inside them they need to destroy themselves, to defeat them, you must only remove their distractions," he would intone wisely through a mouthful of breakfast cereal playing videogames in the lotus position.

His friends sometimes found his pronouncements strange, nobody could doubt they worked.

Once, in a bar, Wei insulted an angry drunk by accident who suddenly towered before Wei, shaking with rage.

Wei didn't even tense up, he stayed seated where he was, merely spoke in the scalding tone of a contemptuous master to a disobedient slave, "Later, your girlfriend is going to kill you, behaving like that, you've got a real problem with aggression asshole."

The hulking brute left in confusion, arms waving wildly and words spewing randomly. Lucky to be healthy.

As all his friends knew, Wei could have killed him.

These days it went against his philosophy to be so crass.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

My students are (almost) famous

My student Peter and 'You can dance' champion Artur, Pretty cool eh?
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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

77 - Issues too difficult to ignore, too horrible to contemplate

In a couple of years, owning a 'personal life recorder' will be commonplace. For the first time in history, the average citizen will be able to conveniently document the minutiae of their lives as never before: streaming video, surround sound, speech-to-text, delivered from anywhere and at anytime. Even all the time. Your whole life?

Some will embrace the new authority: voluntary, edited, self-surveillance (with commentary) while others may give up cell phones altogether (the most likely hardware platform) while still others will engage in varying degrees with the new tools but in the end, it's a politicizing question because it's unavoidable to have an opinion on such a tectonic shift in how we organize ourselves as human beings in society. How engaged in your life are you? Link me to your proof and I'll link you to mine. Couples considering romantic involvments will be able to investigate potential mates as never before. Think he or she is cute and smart? Check out their blog, check out their social networks, are they honest, forthright and true or are they lying pieces of shit?

In the near future, the record will literally speak for itself. Even now, Social networks are interesting sources of socialogical insight: how many friends? where are they? do people have more friends in their hometown or around the world? what are their friends views?

Show me who your friends are and I'll show you who you are, right? Well, yes. Although sometimes not really.

Social Networking lets people 'manage' their friends (Can a person really have +300 really close friends?) asynchronously and across the globe as a matter of daily fact, has it really brought us closer together or is it now simply easier and far more convenient to ignore whole stretches of people and places at a time?

Unburdened of the obligation to meet each other in the real world in order to maintain contacts, is it possible that our vaunted social networks of friends are really just thinly disguised contact databases? Someone to call when you neeed something done?

It can be safely assumed that the warm fuzzy feeling is gone when your list of friends is over +1000.

I can think of a few close friends with zero net-presence at all. Are they enlightened or simply the new dispossessed?

When personal lifestyle recorders enter the marketplace, what new strange behaviours will begin to be exhibited? Will people increasingly spend time 'alone' while surrounded by a virtual halo of friends in a bluetoothed ad hoc wi-max networked partial hallucination? Can I have breakfast in Reality 2.0 with all my friends and family at once? Even the dead ones?

The ancient Romans prepared death masks of the recently dead, a wax impression of the deceased's face which was then used to make a plaster cast of startling vividness and detail. At special family functions, a respected member of the family would wear the mask of the departed ancestor so that he or she could attend the festivities.

Technology can ultimately do the Romans one better, a simulacrum of a person, based on a lifetime's data from their Personal Lifestyle Recorder could (theoretically at least) bring a dead person back, for most intents and purposes, from the dead.

This is a future ruled by ghosts. This is a future of distributed ego and wide area self-concept.

The Earth is growing a central nervous system, is a planetary brain far behind?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

It's a tough job but...

78 - The Simplest Story to Tell That I Know

Once upon a time, there was a boy and a girl. They were surrounded by many other boys and girls but somehow, the other boys and the other girls didn't look like real people when the boy and the girl were together. When they were together, other boys and other girls looked like dolls, maybe even pictures in a book.

The boy and the girl had many adventures together, living in a paper world, with dolls for friends, teacup parties in the garden, the boy and the girl were happy. Most of the time they were very happy. Sometimes they were sad, because only dolls and pictures in books are happy all the time.

One day they met some other boys and girls, The boy and the girl both wondered if maybe they should go and play with these other boys and girls.

In the end they decided to stay together and play together and have more adventures together because they had both learned while playing with the other boys and girls that other boys and girls were not better or worse, only different. Also, the other boys and girls didn't remember anything important to the boy and the girl. They didn't remember summers in the garden with teacups. They didn't remember each other.

The End

Friday, May 30, 2008

Informal English and Slang Workshop

Thanks to everyone for making it fun!

79 - Play a song for me

Nolan Jones had a good trick, Nolan had a music player that he got as a present. It didn't come with music, you told it what you wanted to hear and it played it. Voice activated, didn't matter where the music was stored in the world, the music player found it and played it. Not just music, any audio file ever digitized could be found by the music player.

Nolan woke up in the middle of the night, he heard his player, he didn't remember leaving it on. Curious, he put on the headphones.

"...This is 188 heading northbound on I-87 approaching the Jones residence, over."

The police? In fright, he started talking to himself, something he often did, The police were still there, in the background, in the foreground were instructions that sounded like his Dad's GPS.

"At the end of the room, turn left," said the electronic girl.

Nolan obeyed, directed at every turn by the disembodied voice coming from his music player. By the time he imagined the police must be at his house and waking his parents, he had escaped into the summer night with only a towel, a toothbrush, the first clothes he'd put on and the music player.

Many many years later and far far away, living comfortably on the advice of his music player, he decided to share the secret of his gift with a close friend. After telling the story, he invited his friend to try it.

When Nolan's friend saw the old piece of wood and frayed headphone cables, his friend smiled sadly and did as Nolan asked, after a moment of listening to nothing he thought fast and said "It's not registered to me, I don't hear anything."

Shaking his head in wonder and sadness, He left shortly thereafter.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

For sale. One Orc. Batteries included.

Oxygen is good for the brain

Leszek says unrepeatable things. Artur says down boy, down. Julita says (laughing). Kasia says 'nice guy.' Mmm? Bulent says study hard in school.

80 - Blank Fields and Television Snow

I used to watch televsion tuned to a dead channel. Not too often but consistently and for about an hour at a time. I used to see patterns in the electronic snow, swirling geometries and ladders and sometimes little scenes, formed of pure association and dramatic imagination. I would listen to the hiss and crackle at low volume, hearing rivers and waterfalls, rushing water, I sometimes studied or did my homework against this backdrop. I had two televisions, I could turn both of them on to a dead channel and listen to the interference.

Sometimes, I turned off the television and remained where I was, sitting or lying in front of it, watching my own reflection and hearing nothing at first, the world has another volume.

Before I said goodbye to it, television taught me that movement is an illusion. To travel further, I had to stop moving, to stop moving, I had to turn off the television.

This is science fiction.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Future Menaces to Society

81 - If these were my last words, what would I say?

Death caught Janice by surprise, it happens that way more than not, her careful diet, her healthy exercise habits, none of it mattered because Janice was struck by falling masonry on her way home from work and killed instantly, which was a blessing, thought her friends, how much worse to languish in a hospital surrounded by strangers before finally winking out of existence entirely alone?

Frank, her boyfriend, attended the funeral and felt conflicted, he'd only been dating Janice for a few weeks and had only begun to meet friends and family, now the role he found himself in was overwhelming, guilt raced through his heart every time he caught himself wondering how soon he could start dating again.

Maeve, her best friend, was anguished and yet envied Janice, she had been a good friend, a good employee, a good daughter, with a sexy athletic body that she worked for and got her noticed, her personal legend in their circle of friends would only grow, while Maeve would now remain stuck in a sidekick role for life.

Janice, ever planning ahead, had written her own eulogy "just in case" she had said at the time 4 years ago, it was being read by her sister, Beatrice, who looked uncannily like Janice when she wrote the eulogy.

" sum up, it is not as important how we die as how we have lived, living as I see it is something few people do right; well or badly, I have lived truly, what's more I have shoved more living into my years than mere coincidence can account for, I wrote with a painter's brush, on a large canvas, because early on I learned that when I dreamt the world, the world dreamt me in return; thank you, at any moment, if I die, I will die happy because I am certain it is how I lived."

Janice had asked for her eulogy to be followed by a thunder of applause but the funeral home refused.

"It wasn't dignified," they said.

Monday, May 26, 2008

It's all in the 'writs'

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82 - Escape: to or from?

"You're mad to write a radio play,"
"It's got production values I can appreciate,"
"You're a filmmaker, not a playwright,"
"You understand, how many people I had to lie to to make my last film?"
"So what? It got made, didn't it?"
"Well, it got made, but I'm still trying to get it on TV,"
"You wrapped what, 6 months ago? I bet Sandra isn't happy,"
"You understand,"
"Naw, not really, you get people to work, get 'em to work for free even, get 'em to believe in you, you don't deliver the goods and you'll never work with the same crew again, hell, I'd advise leaving the country,"
"You want that?"
"I want you to get airplay, don't distract yourself with this radio nonsense,"
"Alright, I guess there's some things theres no backing out of without consequences,"
"Consider it from the other side of the coin, filmmaking is a huge collaborative endevour and you decided to be director and producer so you got nothing coming, you take the prizes and the piss offs, it's only fair,"
"It's not fair, it's too much responsibility,"
"And lay off the amphetamines, they're making you jittery and your eyes are like pinholes,"
"How did you know?"
"It's safer for everyone concerned if you just assume I know everything,"
"Who are you?"
(sound of giant leathery wings beating the air twice)"Let me ask you one last question, don't answer to me, answer to your own guilty conscience, Will you get your show on the air and forget the radio? Radio belongs to us,"
"what are you going to do?"
"Goodbye, Filmy, you will be watched,"


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sunday, May 18, 2008

My intrepid Interviewers

B8A Maxim - 8

8. Never underestimate the power of shared values.

Sunday mornings at the local watering hole

83 - Audible Visible Tangible

Just a shade away from this world, On the way to his local record store (1975) where he had his studio, a certain Levi Zimmerman harboured jealous feelings for his more successful older brother.

His train-of-thought ran to wrecks: Dylan this and Thomas that and never a thought for the poet whose names he stole or the much more talented younger brother everyone dismissed because the glare of Thomas Dylan's fame eclipsed even the sun.

All the critics agreed, Bob Zimmerman, a.k.a. Dylan Thomas, was the most accomplished lyricist of any generation and no one bothered to ask if maybe Levi was the one who supplied all the best words? The best turns of the razored phrase?

Through the influences, Bobbie often stopped off at Levi's studio-studio, Levi loved his older brother so really couldn't complain when some of his best sound experiements ended up in songs so popular that other superstar musicians wrote songs about 'Dylan Thomas.' Levi grimaced as the thought struck him.

But this experiment, Levi knew it would be drastically different.

He entered the record store with his own personal key and took care to lock the door behind him. Upstairs above the record store was the latest experiment.

He entered the foam-and-egg-crate lined studio, it wasn't meant to be perfect, Levi believed total isolation produced sterile recordings, it would take science 33 more years to prove him right.

In the middle of the recording room, hung from sturdy steel chains through heavy beams in the ceiling, hung what appeared to be a giant black ship's anchor: the Statis.

Levi positioned the stereo speakers in a certain way never quite reproducible because he left no notes behind him regarding usage, it must have seemed obvious to him.

How he manufactured the Statis, the black anchor, is a mystery only beginning to unravel itself, scoffers claim it was a lucky strike, those who knew Levi say otherwise.

All that is known for certain is that when Levi played his brother's most recent recording through the speakers at the Statis, three things happened:

  1. Levi vanished.
  2. the record store filled with records by musicians never heard or seen anywhere on earth , one so-called 'Madonna' is a notworthy example.
  3. There was an extra item. in his studio.

The black 88 cm cube with the words 'Arbyter-Q Home PC' cut neatly into one side was found beside Levi's desk and the manual was found on top of it next to the interface tool which looked like a pair of useless headphones (no cable).

Specifications would only interest specialists but it is worth noting that it had no known moving parts, no known source of power (always on), and no known access into the machine, which ruggedly appeared to be made of rubberized carbon fibre.

What is interesting to everyone is the database inside the machine, where the works of Levi Zimmerman feature prominently, alongside every book, film, or song ever written, anywhere, anywhen, anytime, any alternate.

Levi Zimmerman will be a name ringing in the halls of science for eternity.

...From his studio two shades away from this world and one shade away from his own, Levi Zimmerman leaned back into the forcefields of his office chair and smiled to himself and thought: let big brother top this!

Friday, May 16, 2008

84 - Hey, that meat grinder has instructions

Janus Frill had an odd job, he himself was drearily ordinary, but that job made sure he saw enough to make conversations interesting.

Janus was paid by manufacturers to analyse why, for example, one particular model of meat grinder seemed irresistible to young boys hands and even arms; burning children with powersaws to extricate them from their foolishness with fingers (mostly) intact was not good advertising.

Or why did only certain pool pumps make young boys (nearly always boys) try and sit in them? or worse, play with the intake pipes?

This was his job. He sure could have told some stories. Right now he's in the hospital having sucked on a coke bottle until his tongue got vacuumed up and now he can't get it out.

They'll probably have to break the glass.

Moveable Feasts

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Lunchtime at my friday office canteen.

Meet the man who sold the world.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

85 - The other servants

Rheumy and congested, smelling faintly of lilac and socks, Xavier Zefa contrasted his olfactory presence with a scrupulously groomed exterior of jet black stuff and shoes so polished they shined darkness.

Massive black invisible tattoo across his back from shoulder to shoulder and from nape to base made itching noises as the signals from the mad black magnetic diamond at the end of the world pulled him forward-down through time.

sometimes a respite, he would wake up and it would be the week before, nobody would believe him because since he remembered the future it turned out differently the second time around. He feared the day he would wake up and find himself a teenager, or worse, an infant.

In the deepest pits, he worried it had already happened several times, it would explain much while revealing nothing.

He was one of the other servants.

And he was my friend.

Sometimes he spoke to me telepathically in various abandoned outposts of midnight's civilization: cafe's before opening hours, chairs chained up; nightclubs in the early morning hours, long after the last rejected soul had left; in the offices after dark, making love to nymphs of smoke and glass and nightmares; in howling storms in the centre of playgrounds beside murdered bodies left undiscovered for too many hours; we shared the warm crackle of fingers and bones as the suicides fed the black diamond on the edge of many a third rail.

He taught me discipline in the face of chaos, love of beauty in the face of naked horror, determination in the face of shiftlessness.

When he took the Apex, as was his right in time, when he earned the right to motionlessness, not to statis but to axis, he gave me one final jet of advice before the invisible black anchor fell across my shoulders and I began to feel the itch of the distant future, he told me this:

Do not seek what cannot be found by searching, forget about what I have done, concentrate on doing what I have been doing, happen to the world, rememember the fulcum is as important as the lever, move not to witness the mystery move.

Then he remained but was no longer with me, the time had passed. I shrugged my shoulders and felt time slipping forward into phenomenality. I moved on, as was my duty.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

86 - Sent to the publishers for cruel teasing

The story that was to appear as #86 will not until a publisher looks at it. Like the song sez: here we go again.

86 - One time on the morning of the Apocalypse

One time on the morning of the Apocalypse, which used to be the name of a city you know, Roxy Zefa woke up early as usual but between her morning coffee and her shower she heard something happening outside she couldn't believe.

Opening her balcony door (she lived in a block of flats) she looked out on a Spielbergian scene of utter and total devastation. Building in the distance had been knocked flat, those nearer her block remained standing but devastated, her block alone seemed untouched.

Real people don't follow narrative continuity and neither did Roxy, the immense scale of the disaster made her think two things:

  1. The last dream she had had, in which about a hundred of her friends had followed her into a famous volcanic cave to practice walking on water.

  2. The fact that since the view before her was impossible, she must be having a delusional episode so she should ignore it and try to get ready for work.

She followed her advice and tried not to pay attention to the world outside, because true to her prediction, as the hours passed (she enjoyed very early mornings) the buildings righted themselves and the destruction reversed itself and the world put itself slowly back together like the tides.

She went to work in an ordinary world.

The very next morning though, it happened again, she could ignore it better this time, and again, work was were she'd left it.

The third day was more interesting than the first, change-day was what she was calling it in her mind, because the third day was the first day she took a morning walk.

That day at work, the blasted artifact resting on her computer like an anthropological trophy, she couldn't stop smiling.

Friday, May 09, 2008

87 - She made me - Teaser story for Memory Project #2 written and directed by Ilir Pristine

Lying under the hot summer sun with rough sketches by the banks of the river Seine and going mad on sunshine and wine, my mind drifts, time eats my memories into dust, I practice the art of forgetting.

I have already forgotten the smell of her, under which eye was the tiny white scar? No doubt she has forgotten me too; yet as I lie here surrounded by a moveable feast, I can imagine better what I first had to forget, because this is a place we shared in time, a place we will always share in time.

In time I will haphazardly forget everything, before that happens I have planned a trip (calling it a journey is pretention) I do not go in search of her, looking for her is the first thing I forgot to do, I do not go in search of myself, because I can always be found wherever I am, I do not go in search of lost time, time can never be lost, it is always in the same place you left it.

I go to build a better fiction, a concordance as my father puts it, coincidences no longer a coincidence.

I will visit the places we shared, I don't know yet if I bring concilliation or the sword, I am building better memories, better than the events they refer to, only the present is unmalleable, the future and the past are both choices.

She made me, now can I make her as well?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

88 - Downcount Station Uprising

At-Five, a cyborg (@5) and part-time troublemaker, reached for the small vial of poison which he planned to use on his boss, First Player (1Up), a cyborg manager who, in At-Five's opinion, was a monkey short of a wrench, Pathy Hedron, a vat-grown sythnetic person (and new-arrival-in-general-with-no-first-hand-knowledge-of-cyborg-speech-patterns) felt stupid, she didn't understand the references these cyborgs were alluding to, all she could get out of First Player was that they were ancient human metaphors which their original programmers had installed for verisimilude, like any manager, his answer had come after a long pause (She could only assume that's when the 'thinking' happened and simultaneously she noticed her addition of the quotation marks around 'thinking.' Whoops, it happened again.

Were it not for her electronic train-of-thought completion plug-in, she would have lost her way by now.

As it was, she rattled off the second and third criteria in a flash: the answer will be perfectly correct and one hundred percent useless.

One-Hundred-Percent (100%), a maintenance droid and choir boy, luckily never found out about this. He had been nursing a flame for Pathy for hundreds and hundreds of nanoseconds and would have short-circuited in instantaneous shame.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A string of violence and blood-letting

Gnashing of teeth and gears and blood. Bent metal and broken glass, hands reaching for anything find nothing, fingernails torn from the roots, chewed limbs as though sent through a man-sized meat grinder.

Organs failing but not soon enough. Death takes its time.

Gossips are train wrecks waiting for a headline.
Gossips have empty lives they somehow need to fill, fill with pieces of other peoples lives.

Gossips are the wreck described above inside.

Pity them, do not despise them, they set traps for themselves everyday.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

While it appears that everyone (including the author) have abandoned this site, fear not for I have a question to ask that might yet explain anything

Dear readers who are not there, here is a question that does not matter to anyone but you and I:

I am putting these stories into a book and wonder if I should leave them online? Moreover, should this blog exist at all? In what form if I cannot write what I want to write, in other words stories? I invite your comments.

Who is the one who is reading me now?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

After a month of inactivity, major changes coming soon

It's been a roller coaster, having gone on strong for 18 months onlyto have a publisher reject me not because the material was deficient but because they consider this humble little blog qualifies as 'previously published,' I can't believe it, this pebble of a site on the limitless seashore of the internet which hasn't even racked up 1000 visits (likely the same 6 people) qualifies as published? What was the name of the planet the web programmer said he or she was from? You know, the gal or guy who wrote the bot which crawled the web and found my submitted story...and then summarily rejected it since it was, in fact published; but only in the most narrow minded, insensitive and unapplicably-in-the-real-world sense of the word.

What to do? I don't what it to happen again but on the other hand I've missed giving my fiction away for free to my 6 readers, what to do? Tell you what, I'll keep writing the stuff offline, what gets rejected by publishers can end up here, fragments and ideas can go here, from now on however I cannot in good faith post finished stories here until they're been rejected by somebody somewhere.

Nothing ever finishes, nothing.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A new game.

Friends can play a new game! With enhanced reality hardware and tools, friends can leave their memories of places virtually in several european cities for their friends to find. Originally a mashup of google maps and GPS technology. The latest offering boasts immersive 3D enhanced moments which load automatically into HTC or Nokia visorphones (other OEMs coming on board soon) so stay tuned for the latest updates!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

It doesn't always come to you.

"Hello Johnny, why do you want to attend our 'business for teens' class this year?"

"I've always been interested in the stock market but I could only talk to my dad about it, my friends aren't into business. I wanna meet other teens who're into having ideas and making money."

"Are you prepared to work hard? We have a lot of ground to cover, we'll be making a general introductory survey of all areas of business; managerial finance, human resources, logistics, to name a few off the top of my head."

"I'm prepared, I don't know enough to know what I'll like or not, I'd like to think I'll enjoy finding out."

"Thank you Johnny, we'll let you know our decision by the 15th."

"Thank you."

The man consumed by a disembodied hive mind.

I still remember the terror I felt as I was cornered by the collective and absorbed.

I found my personality remained distinct, only my perception of the world changed: now under my theoretically total control.

One day on a beach created by consensual hallucination, I let myself dissolve into the manufactured moment.

I became the sunshine.

I spent three weeks on that day.

Had I known how burdensome a body is to a man sooner, I would have welcomed the collective from birth.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The exam.

It's only half what you know, the rest is pure stamina.

This is the end

This concludes B8A as a short fiction site. Having recently had a short story rejected for having already been published (on this blog) B8A has decided to collect the best stories from B8A into one volume and repurpose B8A to mobile blogging as the literary equivalent of a sketchbook: story ideas and fragments to be developed later (sadly, off-line).

It was a great almost two years, thank you for reading, special thanks to everyone who contributed comments.

Regards, B8A

This is a mobile blog

This is a simple sentence. This is a sentence whose subordinate clause is relative and defining. Is this a question?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Yawn

So I don't look out I just let myself look beyond and let the furthest place be next door and beginning to swell under a giant's spell and bigger than your own pocket universe and the eyeless mouths and mouthless eyes with teethless fingers and earless palms and I sometimes miss the early days.

The best and the brightest of my generation have vanished.

Not even left raving mad on the streets naked.

It's a really neat trick, to yawn.

When all this is going on.