Monday, November 30, 2009


So let's say there's this state, right,
Let's call it "Shimmy".

Shimmy has a government
and the government of Shimmy knows
it doesn't have the support of the people.

There's a lot of people in the government of Shimmy
who have a lot invested
and desperately want to stay in power.

What does the government of Shimmy do?

the situation is a little more complicated than that
so let's just leave the question for a moment.

Let's say there's this other state,
Let's call it "Sham".

Sham has a government
and the government of Sham knows
it doesn't have the support of the people.
(Did I mention that Sham is the most powerful state in the world?)

There's a lot of people in the government of Sham
who have a lot invested
and desperately want to stay in power.

What does the government of Sham do?

Again, it's a bit more complicated,
so just bear with me another moment.

Sham has a little puppet state called "Shump".
Shump has a government
and the government of Shump knows
it doesn't have the support of the people.

There's a lot of people in the government of Shump
who have a lot invested
and desperately want to stay in power.

What does the government of Shump do?

Here's where it gets interesting...

The government of Shump says it hates Shimmy and says that Shimmy is dangerous.
The government of Shimmy says it hates Shump and says that Shump is dangerous.
The government of Sham hates them both and doesn't care what happens as long as Sham can sell guns and make shit loads of money.

You can probably see where this is going.

It's good for Shimmy to be the victim
of an attack by Shump
because then the government of Shimmy
can say to the people
"See, I told you they were out to get us"
and solidify their power base.
So Shimmy provokes Shump.

It's good for Shump to be the aggressor
because the government of Shump
can say to the people,
"We did this to defend you;
they pushed us to it;
we had no choice"
and solidify their power base.
So Shump provokes Shimmy.

It's good for Sham to allow this all to happen
because violence equals guns to the power of money
and then the government of Sham can say to the people,
"We will negotiate peace and bring stability to the region"
and solidify their power base.
So Sham (covertly) helps escalate the tension between Shimmy and Shump.

So that's the way to do it.
As long as it's good for everyone
(except the poor people who always pay the price)
Shimmy, Sham and Shump
will wait for the right moment
and do each other a favor.

Of course, there are a few details I left out
(like how states are as imaginary as Alice's Wonderland,
a facade so that rich people can make money.)
but that seems to be the gist of it.
(However, this may all be BS.)

Please stay tuned... your regularly scheduled programming will resume shortly.
But first a word from our sponsor:

"he got the charm of his optical life when he found himself (hic sunt lennones!) as pointblank range blinking down the barrel of an irregular revolver of the bulldog with a purpose pattern, handled by an unknown quarreler who, supposedly, had been told off to shade and shoot shy Shem should the shit show his shiny shnout out awhile to look facts in the face before being hosed and creased" (James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 179)


I met the Walrus, by Josh Raskin and James Braithwaite

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ground Rules

Do not be coaxed into a plot too soon.
There is a danger in a plot.
Nor should you be coaxed into character.
Once you create a character they require a lot of attention.
Right now there is enough.
There is the narrator.
There is the reader.
Both surreal to the other.
Both important in this dance.
So when I tell you the story that I'm going to unfold just keep in mind
None of it's real at all.
Think how a narrator never experienced anything.
Think how a reader experiences something all their own.
Together we will look for the first time at this particular set of circumstances.
They may or may not lead to a story.

Setting: New York, 9999CE

As you can see there are no characters around whatsoever. There are many different animals, those that walk on four legs, insects, birds, but no people. The remains of great monuments and feats of construction have given way to the earth's apparent immortality and thick vegetation has taken hold of the concrete. The whole sprawling metropolis of the east coast is a playground for the descendants of elk, and foxes, and osprey.

Our species can never have really hoped to accomplish anything truly monumental (in a world as precious and balanced as ours what monument could represent insignificant little us?). Then look at the stars, their infinite complexity to the power of possibility. How can anything on its own , even the earth, ever be given a special place?

When I speak of time (especially since we're taking a tour of 9999CE) I must think of it in terms of the earth, and space, and the mystery. It's all a matter of time, and, more specifically, the scope of time.

We've also got to think of location. I visited here on a holiday I took back in 9999BCE and I've got to say that it looked pretty similar. I just guess it's lucky that I visited both in warm patches, because if you've got a cold spell going on it's best to just get right back in the phone booth. Once when I visited Okinawa, or should I say where Okinawa was to one day be, it was so frigging cold that the words froze in mid sentence right there on the page.

Again though, New York is much the same as my pre-history visit, but with a few differences. Look to the east there and you can see some odd shaped hills that resemble a game of Tetris gone terribly wrong. If we got down closer you'd see the ocean surging through the farthest archways of what was the greatest city when the crest of man's wave broke and washed back out to sea.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


My attempts to get answers
were something like
walking into Disneyland
and asking the actress
playing Cinderella
to tell me something other
than how she lost her slipper.

**The title of this post comes from Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, a book, but not an actress, that also yields no answers.**

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Enemy Within

"They had the uniforms, the numbers, the weaponry. And they'd push the people, and the rest of the world, into the choice: us or them. The war was already won; all we had to do was get them to react." (Roddy Doyle, A Star Called Henry)


"Fuumpf" said the mortar.
They sat in a boardroom with glass walls.
"Would yis keep yer fecken heads down!"
"If they ever find out, we are finished," he said
"Poh! Pah! Sllt!"
"I know. How long do you think we can hold on?"
"Today's numbers don't look good. Boeing is down two points."
"Did yis mine that field?"
"Yes, but not that."
"What are we shooting at? I can't see a bleedin ting!"
"What then?"
"On that 50 cal!"
"I mean, what happens when they find out? You know they will."
"Oh, you mean that."
"Ere they come lads! Ere they come!"
"How will we keep them from knowing?"
"How do we know which ones to shoot?!?"
"Clearly, it's only a matter of time."
"Fecken shoot them all!"
"Yes, but..."
"But they're only young ones!"
"But what?"

Monday, November 16, 2009

Story of Autumn's Curse

I was asked to tell a story at a birthday party. The birthday girl was turning 9 and her party was Halloween themed, so she asked me to tell a scary story. I was in touch with her mom over email a few times, and asked if it was OK to tell a story about someone being cursed, and just what scary meant -- violence and blood and gore, or black cats watching from a fence. She assured me that whatever kind of scary story I wanted to tell would be just fine. When I started telling this story, one of the boys heckled me from the back, "This isn't going to be scary!" he said. I looked over at him near the end of it and he had a shocked look on his face. Some of the kids had their fingers in their ears, and some of the parents that were listening seemed as thought they were going to stop me... perhaps I went over the line. Let me know what you think.


Every time I close my eyes I see his face and I hear the last words he spoke, the words that have haunted me these past ten years, the words of the curse he put on me.

His name was Autumn, and we had been friends as children. He grew up in the house next door and we were the same age. We went to the same schools and played on the same sports teams. We built forts in the forest behind our parents' houses and had sleep-overs on the weekends. For many years we were best friends -- we cut our fingers and mixed our blood and swore and oath to be brothers, to be loyal and true.

But that was before... and the terrible story I tell you now is of how our friendship fell apart, how Autumn came to be the one person in the world I truly hated. This is the story of his cruelty towards me, and of the revenge I took against him, and of how a sinister course of events has led me to be a man who cannot sleep, someone who can scarcely blink his eyes for the terrifying sights that lurk behind my eyelids. This is the story of the curse Autumn cast on me with his dying breath.

It was in grade 6 that everything started to change. We had been best friends up until then. But in grade 6 Autumn began to be different. He started to hang out with the bad kids, with the kids who stole money from their mother's purse and who tortured cats and who beat up the younger children in the park after school. One day when we were riding the bus home I knew for sure that he had changed. Autumn was sitting in the seat behind me with one of his "cool" new friends. I turned around and asked him if he wanted to come over to my house and watch a movie.

"No way!" he said. "All the movies you have are for little kids!" and then he spit in my face.

His cool new friend laughed at me and said, "Who is this loser anyways?"

"He's nobody," Autumn said. "He's just my stupid neighbor who still wets his bed."

Then they both laughed to kill themselves, and I knew right then that he had become evil, that being blood brothers was all over.

It just got worse as the years went by. Autumn was always mean to me and was always saying nasty things behind my back. He told the kids at school that I had lice and scabies and still slept in the bed with my mom. He called me stupid and slow. He wrote my name on the walls of the bathroom with the F word next to it. He put glue inside my winter hat. He picked on me all the time... and one day after school in grade 8 he grabbed me and threw me down over the stairs. Then he broke my arm while I was lying on the floor and kicked me in the face. I've got two false teeth that the dentist put in to replace the ones that he broke. Autumn had become pure evil. There's no other way to put it. And after I had endured so much pain and humiliation I decided that enough was enough. I decided it was time for me to get revenge on the devil, the ultimate revenge.

And so I made my plans and I waited... I stewed over it and I obsessed. I got together all the things I would need and I carefully laid my trap. I wanted everything to go perfectly, and I didn't want to get caught. So I waited and I obsessed... and somewhere along the way I think that a part of me turned evil too.

It was late at night and everyone in my house was asleep. This was the night. This was when I was going to get my revenge. I quietly got up out of bed and crept out of my room. I moved slowly and softly so as not to make a sound that might wake up my parents. I went down the stairs and then out the back door. No lights turned on, and I knew that no one had heard me go outside. I went and got the book bag I had hidden in the woods, the one with my supplies inside. The moon was full and bright and the shadows of the tree branches moved with the wind and looked like hands, reaching out to stop me before I made a mistake.

I put the book bag on my back and crept through the trees, over towards Autumn's house. As I got closer a cloud moved in front of the moon and blocked out all the light. It was dark, but I could still see the window to the basement and I crawled up to it, careful not to make a sound. The latch on the window was open, and I ever so quietly lifted it up. I paused for just a moment, wondering if I'd gone too far and if it was me, not Autumn, who was the evil one, whether I could live with myself if I carried out my plot. Goosebumps broke out on my arms and neck... I could feel a cold breeze under my shirt... my body shivered and shook. But then, it passed, and I decided to go in the basement window.

It was pitch black inside, but I knew my way around Autumn's house. I made my way to the stairs and went slowly, quietly, careful-not-to-make-a-sound, crawled all the way to his bedroom door. My heart was beating like mad -- thump thump -- and I was sure that someone would hear the sound of it going -- thump thump, thump thump. But they didn't hear a thing... nothing stirred inside the house.

I slowly opened his bedroom door. The hinge creaked -- eeeccree!! Then I looked inside and saw Autumn, fast asleep, lying in his bed. I stepped in and closed the door behind me. I took the can of gasoline out of my book bag and ever so quietly poured it on the carpet around his bed in the shape of a horseshoe. I stepped back towards the door and took out a box of matches and as I struck one and its light illuminated the room I could see his face, softly sleeping. I knew then I had gone too far but I couldn't turn back... and so I let the lit match fall to the floor.

Flames shot up in a ring and the sheets on Autumn's bed started to catch fire and a cloud of smoke rose up in the room. I turned away and opened the door. I knew I had to run, knew I had to get out of there. But then the flames began to lick Autumn's body and he cried out in pain, "AAARRRGGGGHHHH!!!"

And then I looked back at him (oh, how I wish I had never looked back). Autumn was sitting up in his bed and the fire was raging all around. The flesh was melting away from his face, his hair sizzled and his face swelled up. A terrible smell reached my nostrils and I urged and almost puked. He was looking right at me and his eyes were bloated and blood red. Then he raised an arm and pointed at me and cried out the curse that has haunted me to this day:

Gods of the underworld
I summon you here to listen to my last words
I offer up my soul and all I have left if you will curse this boy
Let his food always taste like ash
May his water always taste like metal
May he for the rest of his days be haunted by my words
May he hear them and may he see my burning face whenever he closes his eyes
May he wander the world alone and may he never rest.
Grant my wish and curse his every day
And may his torture be never ending

Then he laughed a foul black stench and melted away into the burning mattress of his bed. I turned and ran for my life. I ran and I hid in the woods. I never was caught and this confession I tell to you is the first time I have told this story. I think I have very few days left. For every time I close my eyes I see Autumn's face on fire and I hear his words. I am a man cursed, and I can never rest.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fan Fiction -- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

This post is a reworking of the final section of Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, "Henry Jekyll's Full Statement of the Case". I was wondering what would have become of the story if Jekyll had more fully embraced his inner Hyde and decided to flee rather than poisoning himself. I thought it might also be fun to try to write in the stuffy, drawn-out style of Victorian literature. Admittedly, I have found that I am not quite up to this task and beg your forgiveness for this ambling writing.


May this letter not be read as confession or apologia. Let these words, the last I shall write under the guise of Henry Jekyll, not be taken as an expression of remorse or regret, not the last desperate ramblings of a man who once did something finer and better with his life. No... it is quite the opposite. These words are written by one who has at long last found his way back to the true path and to a long forgotten self -- recently rediscovered -- a self I now long to never let go. This letter is an exaltation, a call to my fellow man to let go of themselves. And above all this is a call to you, dear reader, to return to your primal nature and cast off the cold coil of this artificial world where we toil and labour for the benefits of a rich few and deny our passions and desires. May these words be a call to liberation, and may you read them well.

I was born into a respected and prosperous family -- my father a gentlemen, by most accounts, and my mother a pious and devout woman. I was raised to uphold the good name of the family, to be a pillar of society and to contribute more than I took away. I attended the best schools. I went to church every Sunday and played nice with the other children. However from that very young age I was aware of a creeping suspicion in the marrow of my bones that the world of supposed goodness and truth I had been indoctrinated into was but a facade, and that there was a real world behind a curtain which waited to be thrown back. As I grew, this suspicion grew with me, until in my early twenties I decided upon a path of transcendence and actualization.

I enrolled in a medical academy, more to satisfy the demands and expectations of my family than from a genuine call to the vocation. My secret ambition I kept locked away, and at night after I had studied anatomy and dissected my specimens I took out the books for which I had a burning interest -- those of the occult and of alchemy. I wished to derive the quicksilver of the soul, the gold to be found at the bottom of my leaden heart, and to turn the shadows so long constrained loose, as starlings first fly from the nest of winter in the eaves. Verily I tried and again and again failed, for it seemed that whilst I could combine chemical elements to make laudanum and arsenic and lye, there was no formula to be found for the liberation of the secret cravings and desires locked away inside, and those starlings were surely meant to starve.

Finally, disconsolate, I decided to call an end to my quest, and chose to settle down to a life of toil and misery as a practitioner of medicine -- though I was always sceptical about why medicine should be called a practice, knowing I would never wish for a doctor, at least not those I had studied with, to "practice" on me. And so it came about that I concealed my pleasures, and when I came to a point of life that called on me for reflection I began to take stock of my place in the world, and discovered that I had committed myself, unwittingly, to a double life. For I could never actualize my pledge to leave behind the quest for my secret passions, and each time I resolved to rid myself of these carnal cravings I found that they came back with renewed strength and vigour, until after long years of torment I realized that I must follow my will down the dark corridors of inequity and be true, in the first, to myself.

Having so resolved, I renewed my pursuit for the elixir that would allow me to forever transcend my inhibitions and doubts. I came to see that it was the world, the society and culture I lived in, that was the stifling influence on my quest for a functional, primeval self. The decision, upon this revelation, was made for me -- I must cut myself off from the rest of the world if any semblance of sanity was ever to be found amongst the vacant thoughts and spectre filled delusions of my consciousness. I sealed my door and my practice from the prying eyes of the citizens of this greatest of all cities of the walking dead, and I began to experiment with certain substances that I had procured from an ancient apothecary via post. And as no suitable lab conditions would allow me to experiment on rats, and certainly I did not wish to experiment on other humans lest they should be the first to experience the bounty of my toils, I took the potions myself.


This one is still a work in progress. It seems to have ballooned out of control. I'll be back to add the second half.