Thursday, December 15, 2011

Der Kuss der Gräfin: Dreams of the Mudlark


...The green of the grass, the murmur of small talk, and the balm of camellia in the 21st Stratum...

The garden party took place in the backyard of the Stuttering Barrister, a man who fancied himself a small-town media mogul, so many of the invitees were local politicos, reporters and uni law students.
  The event was catered by Mr Bobbs, who was dismayed by the guests’ upturned noses regarding his colourful hand-farmed spores. Stoddard should have been with the Nuts mixing down the Making Love For Now UK sessions but instead attended the soirée, not because he was any fan of the Barrister or for the opportunity for free grub. The presence of one Miss Tuddley had him overlook the mingling toffs and other annoying aspects of the gathering.
  She was landed gentry, a young woman from a family with a fortune in divinity treats. But she wore her privilege quietly as she studied law at uni whilst residing in the Stuttering Barrister’s attic loft.
  Stoddard had already met her acquaintance so the slide into cordial conversation came quite naturally, and was facilitated by a fellow law student by the name of Rhett, a sociable young man conversant in topical banter.
  The three chatted amiably away from the rest of the stiffnecks meandering across the lawn, and much punch was imbibed. Stoddard subdued his crush with nonchalance, but tacitly admired the favours of Miss Tuddley in her propinquity. Her raven hair and brown doe eyes captivated him, but he was under no illusion of anything serious, for her station in life was far above his. That said, natural beauty and natural smarts are to be relished and not resented, after all.
  With the sun setting the garden party waned and the trio retreated to Miss Tuddley’s loft for further refreshments.
  It was a charming yet humble abode. The hostess pointed out her snowglobe collection whilst she prepared convivial adult beverages.
  Stoddard lifted one snowglobe off the shelf and gave it a slight shake. Dusty flurries swirled down over a dark, sleepy village.
  Merriment ensued and was indeed entertaining to Stoddard, yet he felt both privilege and appreciation to be in the company of social betters who were no doubt heading for the haute monde in years to come. Rhett, probably a future barrister himself; Miss Tuddley, most assuredly destined for nobility. Stoddard recognised status hierarchies, but only in the context of merit. Is envy not an affront to aspiration? Though a humble tradesman, he aspired no less than his present company, so there was an unspoken camaraderie beneath the boisterous cheer in the room.
  The evening wound down and everyone’s groggy fog of incapacitation meant no one was going anywhere. Rhett volunteered to crash on the settee. Stoddard nervously eyed the floor, looking for the most comfortable spot.
  Miss Tuddley stood placidly across the room looking directly at him. She made a slight gesture with her hand and quietly said in an almost childlike voice, without a hint of guile, “You can sleep in my bed.”
  Mere seconds felt like hours. Her delicate face was expressionless, save for a faint trace of ...what? Wistfulness? Tiddly fatigue? A beautiful woman is offering you her bed. What to do?
  “Okay,” he replied with clumsy nonchalance.
  The lights doused, they both lay side by side above the covers. Stoddard was stiff as a corpse and would indeed fit in a coffin, given the nervous restraint of his posture. Yet he felt more alive than ever as he quickly faded to slumber with the lovely Miss Tuddley silently inches away.

I’m on my best behaviour out of respect. I’m on my... best...

He was fast asleep.

They say one’s dreams are all the more vivid when dozing far from the comfort of one’s own bed. Intense imagery, heightened spatial acuteness, the locus of dynamic circumstance. But lucidity itself often takes leave...

In the middle of the night the vision appeared somewhat abruptly before Stoddard. It was a silhouette seated beside his frozen, prone self.
 Soundlessly the figure watched over him for a moment, then bent forward as a moonbeam caught a glimpse of face.
It was Miss Tuddley.
  She leaned close and planted a warm but firm kiss on his cheek. One. Two. Three seconds and she drew back into the gray murk, staring for another moment. Stoddard blinked as the movie played in reverse and ended in darkness as suddenly as it had begun.

Years passed and the lives of Miss Tuddley, Rhett and Stoddard progressed quite nicely, both socially and professionally, though all three had lost touch. Stoddard didn’t think much of the odd dream -- it was simple wishcasting, right? Still, there was something about it he couldn’t put his finger on.

One nondescript afternoon Stoddard was strolling down High Street when he ran into Rhett, bearing a well-dressed and more mature mien. The two reminisced and updated each other on their respective professions -- Rhett, who indeed became a barrister; and Stoddard, who was a successful operative with the APF.
 Stoddard cooly brought up word of Miss Tuddley, who was no mystery, for she was now a countess with a current seat in Parliament.
“Do you ever see her? In the city?”
“Not too often. She’s busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy.”
“We are,” Stoddard nodded slightly, looking askance in the distance.
 They stood for a moment until Rhett broke Stoddard’s silent reverie.

“You idiot.”
“What?” Stoddard straightened himself.
“She always liked you,” Rhett muttered with a sly grin. “Don’t you remember that night at the Stuttering Barristers?”
“I... erm, yeah.”
 He stared out at the horizon, slowly piecing together something everyone else had seen as rather obvious.
 And he remembered the strange, paralytic visions in the attic loft all those years ago. And in them, he remembered having blinked at them.
 And he thought: Since when in the hell do people blink in their dreams?

Maybe he was an idiot.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Quantum Walk Through the Arcade: Answering the Tachyonic AntiTelephone


BIO-RITMO de DOS: A common device of the early strata, often found in emporium vestibules but mnemonically associated with the Echelon Facility. On the console displayed are date selector inputs and a posterised pentad of some chick’s changing moods. What is wrong with her?
  To a curious 8-year-old, this apparatus looks like some sort of Hippie Computer. Or is it a Time Machine? Maybe the Big Kids know what it is.

  Initial curiosity aside, the 8-year-old needed no epistemological epiphany to suss out the triviality of the contraption, for it sat amongst gumball machines and other frivolous bagatelles.
  Actually, scratch that. He saw the mechanism’s meta-essence for what it was, regardless of its superfluous surroundings: This year’s Pet Rock. This year’s Leg Warmers. This year’s Ironic Mustache.
  Everything that comes down the cultural pike is a constant déjà vu: Something chronologically new, yet simultaneously tired, old and boring. This is not mere jadedness. This is the Time Traveller from the future, with amnesia: He’s seen it all before, but it doesn’t register until he sees it again. The first time feels like the last time. A blind Möbius Roller Coaster with only a rear-view mirror.
  If there is irony in this unfolding pageant, it is that a dime-store gadget offered to illustrate internally what the 8-year-old already unwittingly possessed externally: A leg-up on the Rhythm of Life.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Organisational Health: Corporate Taphonomy in situ

ACT I: THE MICROCOSM OF WANTS VS. NEEDS
A: “This idea is shite.”
B: “But that’s what the customer wants.”
A: “No, that’s what the client wants.”
B: “The client is our customer, so he’s always right.”
A: “Perhaps so. But ultimately the customer is John Public. Shouldn’t the line of communication be tailored to that end, rather than to the whims of a fledgling shopowner with no business sense?”
B: “I guess. But that’s what they want.”
A: “As a sales rep, isn’t it your job to analyse the client’s business needs, market demographic and competition to craft an effective advert strategy?”
B: [Begins to softly cry.]
A: “I know: ‘It’s what they want.’ But look at it from the perspective of the reader -- who is the potential customer. Your idea creates little interest or curiosity. This tells the reader nothing aside from the sig [name, contact info]. I can’t even tell what sort of business this is. I can mock up some better specs myself if you can squeeze some better copy out of him.”
B: “Well, his nephew had already built it in PowerPoint, but the file got corrupted. And since he spent so much time on it --”
A: “--Then that’s the design he wants. Got it. You’re right -- the ‘customer’ is always right: He has final sign-off. If a man wants ketchup on his filet mignon, who am I to stop him? But let it be known that I made a good faith offer to provide a visual solution, to the best of my ability, in lieu of your lack of a strategy for your client. When the rateholder has ended its run, I will hear no complaints.”
B: “Can you get me a proof by noon...?”

Thirty days later...

ACT II: THE PREDICTABLE FALLOUT
B: “The client’s really upset. He got no calls. Or any response.”
A: “I offered a solution one month ago. Naturally, a stubborn client wouldn’t hear of it. But you’re the one who took the easy way out. You’re the rep -- the professional who’s supposed to know better.”
B: “But--”
A: “I’m not going to repeat myself or my volume will rise and I’ll see bloody tears again. If you think you have a case, take it upstairs to Mandley.”

ASIDE I: THE BASICS OF PERSUASION
Organisational decay and office neuroses aside, persuasion techniques are not too difficult to understand when one is familiar with human nature.
 There is one key approach that is sadly lacking in communication today, from puppet-filled protests of the street to the slick mass media avenues of 30-second TV spots and nattering network news commentators: Unless your prospect is a microcephalic 9-year-old, do not speak to them as such.

Thirty minutes later...

ACT III: THE SOLVENING
A: “Good day, sir.”
M: “Good day. How are we going to solve this problem?”
A: “One month ago, your rep failed to provide a solution. I offered one, which was left unconsidered.”
M: “I see. What can we do?”
A: “Sir, I just told you. What would you have us do?”
M: “...”
A: “To be blunt, sir, these kids you hire can’t do the job.”
M: “I need to fill those seats with warm bodies!”
A: “Rather than hire seasoned professionals at a premium, you hire college-aged kids with no experience.”
M: “I’m limited by the budget.”
A: “Yet no training or foundation is offered to the greenhorn and naif, which could at least attempt to bring them closer to parity with your ‘idealised professional’ who would work within your budget, albeit without an investment in the basics.”
M: “I’m limited by the budget!”
A: “Yes, I did hear you the first time. So the short term outweighs the long term?”
M: “Perception is everything.”
A: “Perception does not trump your numbers. Or lack thereof.”
M: “Do you like your job, mister?”
A: “Yes, sir. So much, in fact, that I stand up to face problems head-on rather than run away from them. Even when they’re other people’s problems that end up in my lap. But finger-pointing aside, let us clean up this mess. How about I sit down with the client myself and sketch out some possible solutions?”
M: “That is the rep’s job.”
A: “Indeed it is. Your point?”
M: “...”
A: “I’ll sit with the rep and client and sketch out their ideas and show what works, what doesn’t, what is best for both client and potential customer. I’ve done it before with Mr. Gutts and the Orville account...”

DIAGNOSIS I: CORPORATE PATHOLOGY AND THE BIGGER PICTURE
The obvious dilemmas:
• A Mom-&-Pop shop proprietor with little savvy, saddled with confusing a hobby for a business. [Poor Planning]
• A sales/media representative lacking the training, tools and temperament to carry out their job. [Q.E.D.; also: Buck Passing]
• A designer given poor instruction on a thoughtless plan with no recourse for alternate proposals. [G.I.G.O.]
• A manager given to massaging sales figures, perceptions and busy-work, rather than providing direction and counsel. [C.Y.A.; Dilbert Principle]
• An unseen department head even more myopic than the manager, distilling everything down to hollow numbers. (“Quantity > Quality” delusions) [Dunning-Kruger Effect]
• Passive as long as the right numbers breeze in, Corporate-level brass sleeps soundly without any regards for oversight. [Peter Principle]
 [Other Symptoms Observed: Administrivia, Meta-Ignorance and “Weighing the Pig.”]
 [Across-the-Board Observation: Deterioration in Skills Ecosystem]


PROGNOSIS AND TREATMENT?
Obviously, an inexperienced business owner can be sensibly counseled by the experienced advertising professional. Hire them?
“Limited by the budget.”
Okay, hire someone with less experience, and provide some basic in-house training -- and not just on how to properly fill out paperwork, but on fundamentals in this field of work.
“Time is money. Get out there and sell.”
So, inexperienced reps are sent out with little tools to service both long-standing accounts as well as new ones. From a business owner’s standpoint, this amounts to a different face walking in the door every six months, asking the same inane questions repeatedly: “What do you want?” rather than “What do you need?”
 Constant turnover leads to rapport destroyed. Accounts dry up. Numbers go down. This ineffectual hiring pattern is a managerial problem.
 Should the hiring/promotion process into management involve some sort of “grooming process”? A vague and simplistic solution, perhaps. Would the initiative come from department heads or the corporate level?
 Comfortable with decades of cushy profits, Corporate had become loath to micromanage its far-flung properties, even whilst the internet’s growth was making their business model obsolete. The only “grooming” that went on was the nepotistic fast-tracking of favourite sons.
“What about...?”
“Yes, but...” [The Loose-Tight model]

 And so go the efforts toward any kind of solution. Not only is the business model outmoded, but the rot that has seeped in at almost every level has left the organisation unable to rectify itself. Can’t blame a guy for tryin’.

ACT IV: THE WISDOM OF OUR BETTERS
Several years later, after the whole structure had withered to a husk and profits inevitably dwindled, the company sold off self-amputated limbs and shuffled arrears in a panic.
 One day, word trickled through the desolated office that Big Honcho from Corporate would be dropping by. Whatever for? It couldn’t be more bad news -- that was done the brave and accountable way: over the phone. It had to be more than a pep talk.
 Cubicles tidied and shirts pressed, the staff stood at attention as Big Honcho strode into the office and mechanically made his way around the room, meeting each employee with a token handshake and a few muttered syllables.
 What message from on high could he possibly bestow?
A rousing vision of re-purposing the business model? A well-considered media re-alignment tailored to clients’ business demands deferential to changing market forces? Some Grand Plan, if not big words? After all, Honcho had access to the best and brightest of analysts and consultants.
 The exec finally came to this office drone, pumped his hand twice whilst beaming a most vacant smile and blurted two words:
 “Think digital!”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tuesday Tipple: Michelada del Jefe

As the blistering dog days in Classic City slowly ebb away, so too do most people’s summer drink preferences. Johnny Gutts advises us not to say adiós so hastily to his particular beverage of choice, for whilst it makes a good quencher during hot August nights, it equally can add a Scoville-spiced savoriness to any drab December eve.

 La Michelada del Jefe

• Fill 1 pint glass halfway with ice.
• Add Bloody Mary mix or tomato juice to halfway.
• Add 2 lemon wedges.
• Add 1 freshly chopped chilli pepper (Fresh jalapeño, serrano, or -- for the brave -- habanero).
• Top off with a lager beer and stir.
• Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Vitello di Trota: The Fish Don’t Know It’s Wet


The advert proof came back from the client with their “Special of the Week” headline circled in red ink with an accusatory question mark: “Veal Trout(?)”.
To the designer: “What the hell is ‘veal trout’?”
“I dunno. [Looking at mock-up instructions] The handwriting is terrible.”
“[Looking at mock-up] ...Yes, it is. But why didn’t you get the rep to clarify his copy since it was illegible?”
“I dunno. I just typed in what I thought it said.”
“So no red flags or second thoughts arose when you ‘just typed in what you thought it said’? When it made no sense? And you sent it to the client for approval?”
“I dunno. I just typed in what I thought it said.”
“No wonder the client thinks we’re idiots.”

Her job title included the word “designer” and her department included the word “creative,” even though she had no creativity nor did any designing. “Data Entry Clerk” would be a more suitable job title, save for the fact that the data she entered was often given an erroneous and nonsensical quality, with her inputting terms like “Cadillac converters” and “veal trout.” For all intensive purposes. Sic.
 Though it’s taken for granite that the purpose of client approval is to prevent errors from reaching the publication stage, one must admit that much was indeed accomplished here. This time.

The efficacy of workflow safeguards is not the issue here, but the curious mental framework present that fails to see the context surrounding the immediate job at hand. That, and the repercussions of that job’s actions.
 In the “designer’s” case: In thoughtlessly treating all copy and text as asemic, context errors will obviously aggregate. [Something Spellcheck will not catch.]
 This amounts to a basic case of Information Illiteracy -- a human version of the aforementioned Spellcheck: going through the motions without seeing the larger picture.
 Fortunately, no persons were harmed due to these clerical errors, but outside the proverbial office this mindset can take a more injurious turn.

The decline of Situational Awareness (SA) in everyday modern life
 • The classic illustration of the importance of SA can be found in such high-risk fields as aviation. All too often in aviation accidents, pilot error is attributed to a failure of SA. Flight crew fiddles with instruments, unaware that their jetliner is about to slam into a mountain. If the aircraft itself was not on autopilot, surely the distracted minds of the crew were on it.
 • Witness the coed walking the dark streets wearing the headphones of her portable listening device. Senses are voluntarily hampered whilst in a high-risk environment. Lack of SA.

The distractions are not always the result of some new technology.
 • Substitute the coed’s headphones with a skimpy dress. A naive absence of SA or a brazen flouting of that very lack? One or the other. Blaming the (potential) victim? Freewill dictates the adult responsible for their own Poor Risk Assessment. [Cf. “Bad Medicine”]

The dearth of awareness is neither limited to one’s own behaviour, but also to that of those under one’s auspices.
 • Behold the befuddled mum, daunted by the vast variety of goods displayed before her whilst her feral progeny tear up merchandise and play grab-arse. Also, her mobile phone conversation is of prime import rather than the antics of her charges.

Information Illiteracy, a shortage of Situational Awareness and a lack of basic social propriety are all variations of a myopic “autopilot” mode all too common today, whether on the job or in public.
 • Parents, be they the lazy laissez-faire or the excuse-making, hypervigilant helicopter type, fail to impart the proper social tools, leaving their children in a cerebral cocoon come adulthood.
 • Employers fail to hire neither the able and broad-minded nor to nurture those towards competency.
 • Among armchair analysts, there is no scarcity of culprits in the “dumbing down” in the modern age. Schools, pop culture, socio-political forces encouraging dependence on the State -- all have fingers rightfully pointed at them for some culpability in societal demise.
 That said, parental and adult/workplace examples are cited emphatically in this missive because, 1) Parenting (or the lack thereof) ultimately trumps these secondary societal factors as to how their children develop; and, 2) Adult and workplace behaviour are the ultimate result of said parenting. [Two ends of a continuum with secondary factors in between.]

But perhaps Chicken Little has clucked enough, as there is a plethora of real-life examples extant, whether in neighbouring cubicles or stumbling down High Street.
 What do we call those flighty fish of our social seas with brains fatted on the empty calories of pop culture? Those with a voluntarily restricted mental motility? Those whose experience prolongs their own social and exploratory retardation? Those who are thus more susceptible to infotoxin ingestion?

“Waiter, I’ll try the Veal Trout.”

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dumb Luck Dog: La Sindone di Reddi

“Herr Doktor Ghoulsby wasn’t much for watching the dogs, being a busy man with his golf game and dentistry gig. Pets are for the kids, right...?”

Ruff and Reddy were a charming pair — a winsome beagle and friendly golden retriever. Sadly one day, Ruff — left outside unleashed — was struck dead by a passing automobile.
  The good-natured Reddy remained, finding more companionship next door with the Benton brothers and cat Scamp than she ever found at home. At any given time one could find her in their garage nosing through the catbox for warm treats or simply “chilling out” in a less foul manner.
  Unfortunately, Reddy almost met the same fate as Ruff. Likewise hit by a car, she was found by Mrs. Benton faltering and bleeding from her haunches. Wrapped in an old bedsheet, she was rushed to the veterinarian where her tail was deemed to be amputated. She lived on tailless, none for the worse.
  The stained bedsheet mysteriously followed one of the young Bentons off to uni, which he used as a giant doodle pad to pass the time in between the daily study sesh. “The Sheet,” as it had come to be known, was soon filled with caricatures, vignettes and whatnot, much to the amusement of residents of Reed III, who would often inquisitively drop by requesting a viewing. An unintended gallery, as it were. Some favourite sketches were the S&M Wilma, Deity-Inventing Prof, and Neil ‘Deceit Has Run Amuck’ Rubble.
[Micro-memes accumulated up to and including the 13th Stratum.]

Images in ink, archived annals of a facetious flavour muster both laughter and puzzlement. But let that faded blotch in the corner give one pause — for the first “ink” to grace this spirited shroud was from a red dog... named Reddy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dumb Luck Dog: It’s Gotta Be Jarrett

Jarrett was first spotted just off a rural Alabama road trapped in a briar patch howling wretchedly. An offer of cold pizza caught his curiosity long enough to hold still so Benoit could extricate him from the thorny brush.
  Apparently he was a wall-eyed Cocker Spaniel with an unkempt black-and-white coat. How he arrived in the middle of nowhere was anyone’s guess. Benoit tossed him in the bed of his pick-up and headed off to Classic City.

Jarrett never did fully adjust to domestic life on Papal Street. Sweet yet rambunctious, he knocked things over and generally created an annoying mess. He was endearingly referred to as being a “spazz.” To remedy, a tilt from a Mickey’s Big Mouth would puddle onto the hardwood oak floor, which Jarrett would happily lap up. It proved an effective relaxant.
  He would come and go, often escaping the house or backyard lead to wander off on great adventures, no doubt. One afternoon he mysteriously trotted through the front door with matted, sticky goo covering his daggy regions; hence, another nickname: “Bubblegum Butt.”
  One sighting placed him crossing Princely Avenue, oblivious to the four-lane traffic he miraculously passed through. Dumb luck? He was found in a nearby car park nonchalantly sniffing a pile of discarded clothes outside the Potter’s Haus.
  Benoit’s housemate Stoddard arrived home one day to furious yelping from the backyard. There by a tree was Jarrett, impossibly tangled up like a knot in his doggie line — a veritable canine pretzel. Efforts to unbind him were met with snapping jaws, so Stoddard phoned Benoit at work down at the Gristle. Five minutes later Benoit was there with his bowie knife to quickly free the hapless hound.
  Indeed, Jarrett’s exploits were quite foolhardy, often resulting in folly sometimes bordering on idiocy. Survival was considered a fluke. His experiences raised interesting questions: Can dogs have autism? Or guardian angels for that matter?
  After Benoit’s passing, memory of Jarrett faded into fuzziness. Was he given away? Some think he ran off.

Some months later word got around about the dog. Evidently Jarrett was sighted off Park Avenue, romping around the yard of some hippies. Fatter and happier, but doubtfully any smarter. A benediction from St. Francis, perhaps?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

“Akhecvs!” — Of Freefall and Momentum


The pair of canoes set off from the foot of the lake’s spillway, coasting the still branch that ran alongside Timber Ridge. Under the bridge at Willeo the band paddled through the marshy estuary onto the main run of the ’Hooch. The sun dappled the copper waters ahead of them as the sound of cicadas whirred in the distance.
  A brief break for refreshment at a shallow embankment resulted in a jovial mud fight between two bikini-clad girls, much to the mirth of the fellows who eyed approvingly.
  Onward down the river to a granite outcropping where a rope swing hangs some ten metres overhead. After tying up the canoes, Ian, Jordan, Keith and the two girls clambered up the rocks through the trees to the swing. Everyone took turns amidst the laughing and howling, pitching themselves high into the air to plunge loudly into the cool current.
  Ian was up. With both hands he gripped the thick rope above one of several large knots. With one foot he stepped into a small sling tied at the end. He took a breath and gazed over the gently burbling expanse of the ’Hooch. Hopping into the air, gravity drew the swing and passenger down a steep curve over the water with the wind whistling in his ears. The surface sped by below close enough to touch, and before the arc was completed, Ian’s leg slipped.
  The foot sling gave way and ran up his leg to clench his inner thigh like a noose. By the time the swing met its apogee Ian was literally arse over tit, suspended ten metres over the middle of the river. Back the rope swung, dragging him head-first gasping through the water, out and up for his body to slam with a thud against the rocky wall. Back out again like a pendulum, dipping low, hitting the surface face-first, he gulped for air and grasped to free his loins from this inadvertent waterboarding. Repeat the cycle several times and the alternating dunking and slamming slows till his body loosens from its vice, dropping into the river like a lead sinker.
  With a wounded groan, Ian tread to shore to be pulled in by his mates. Upon private examination, his back and shoulders seared with abrasions, and worse, his groin was swelling with purple-red rope burns.
“Gaah...”

The crew pressed on down the river to the high escarpment of Huntcliffe. Keith jumped in to scout the waters for submerged logs and unseen debris. The crew scaled steep trails to arrive at a vantage from which they could stare even higher over the river to the marshes beyond and the dull green of the wooded horizon.
  The fifteen metre acme of adrenaline was the group’s own Everest, au fond. And they stood in the high breeze facing west to take in the landscape baking under the sun. Anyone standing at any elevated height will attest that their perch appears twice as high looking down than being on the ground looking up. And it was no different peering down from a cliff.
  Ian, still sore from his rope swing mishap, stood with toes curled over the rock's edge for a moment, silently gathering grit to make the leap.

“...For a jump from such a height, it is ideal to make the entry as vertical as possible — feet together, toes pointed, hands tight at one’s sides — or better yet, cupping the family jewels...” [Degree of Difficulty: Zwei-Punkt-Null... Hoden]
Ian swallowed and bounded out from the precipice, limbs held tightly together, casting himself into free space. Flight time probably measured a scant three-and-a-half seconds, but those seconds stretch into eternity as with any freefall.

Air resistance blasts upward peeling eyelids back and filling the ears with a roar. Linear momentum pries arms away from the plummeting body to rise and match the horizon. Time slows and weight grows, forcing a Christ pose upon impact, stinging all to hell. The murky sepia of the thick water braked the descent to a halt and Ian grasped his way to the surface. With his head popping up he loudly drew a lungful of the bracing air and tread his way to the riverbank.
  Once again, a hike up the rocky incline under the cool shade of oaks to the high ledge. One by one, and sometimes two by two the guys made their leaps whilst the grinning girls sat by, eyeing approvingly. The sequence of climbing and jumping repeated throughout the humid afternoon with intermittent breaks for refreshment.
  The day wore on and the adrenaline wore off. As he was catching his breath, Ian looked down at himself. On the underside of each arm was a black and blue stripe running from wrist to armpit. Old man always wanted me to go out for Diving Team. Told ’em I wasn’t cut out for it. Guess I was right. “Bruising due to repeated improper entries” he could imagine the judges announcing.
 The worn crew got in their canoes and made their way up the ’Hooch back to the spillway before sundown. They went their separate ways and Ian, exhausted yet satisfied, hiked the half kilometre home amidst the smell of fresh-cut lawns and outdoor grills.
 Changing out of his drenched clothes, he noticed that, in addition to a rope-burned crotch, scraped-up torso and thoroughly bruised arms, he had a wicked sunburn.
He slept well that night, nonetheless.

Johnny Gutts remarks from on high:
“Those inquisitive risks borne of adrenaline and the thirst for high adventure... once common rites for a lad; now, fading mainstays. Yea, for the price may be pain, pleasure, or a melange of both.
And maturity eventually tempers the physical dares with prudence, as it should, in parallel, with moral acts as well.
But please pray heed to the youthful exploits and the spirit that drove them, lest that torch grow too heavy. For that sort of hunger, in abstracto, is what drives us beyond, for better or worse.”

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Occlusion du Sablier: Le Cœur sous l’Armure

Ah, Paris, City of Light. To the romantic, mere mention will send the heart aflutter. To three male teenagers from the States who actually find themselves there? Well... what does any male teenager think about most of the time anyway...?

[Int., Hôtel Flatotel -- Late Afternoon]

P.: Maybe we can bring one up to our room. Won’t we freak out the folks? ‘Bed check — who's that with you?’
M.: What?
R.: I don’t think they just stand around the corner of the Eiffel Tower...
M.: No... Maybe the locals’ll find you one.
P.: They don’t have a Soho district... I don’t know where—
R.: Just go to the guy [at the front desk] and say [gesticulating] ‘Wahoo!’
P.: Hah-hah.
M.: I think he knows the universal sign for Wahoo.
R.: ‘Ah, Wahoo...’ Yeah, uh, ‘Where...?’
P.: Hah-heh... [frustrated] We can’t even get a phone book from the guy!
M.: He probably knows what ‘Wahoo’ is before—
R.: —Yeah, he’s Japanese...

Just past the 11th Stratum, randy teenagers in mock eagerness posit scenarios they know will never come to fruition. But under the swagger the heart reveals itself, sometimes later, sometimes sooner.

Three hours later:

[Ext., River Seine -- Night]

A riverboat glides through the evening and tinny, canned concertina music blares out on the top deck. Stars shimmer and lights glitter along the riverbanks, painting a setting that is basically tourist-bait. Teenage girls swoon over the pop culture-fueled clichés dancing in their minds and the guys chuckle about technocratic frustrations of the social order.
  Though the scene itself abounds with trite appeals to sentimentality, perhaps there is some frisson of Parisian magic in the air that seeps through a chink in the jaded armour of wiseacre 17-year-old cynics...

Taches chatoyantes réveiller
dessus d’un bateau sur la Seine
et la liberté se trouve dans la rivière
Élever une torche à saluer
Bien que Melodica chante une
éclatement épanouissement de regarder le temps congelés
et turquoise devient velours

Vol à voile est coulissante pleure
par le biais clapotis des vagues, sereinement
deux mains se touchent, tandis que gantée
un esprit chaleureux traverse
et le miroitement gonfle
dans tous les yeux
dans tous les ciels


In the end, are jocular schemes and fanciful dreams thoughts for nought?
Grains of sand, either way.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Manifestations of the 3-D Grid — Beyond Muryoju-do

A recurring motif — corridors running parallel and intersecting across all three axes. A first-person perspective wandering long, wide and deep in a anti-maze semblant, yet abstruse regarding purpose and direction.

One actualisation of this theme exhibited itself in the vicinity west of Tech. On a bachelor’s last night of revelry a double-decker was employed to traverse the town's hot spots. (It is unfortunate that a bottle of Old Grand-Dad was casualty to a sharp turn, as it had tumbled down the aisle and stairwell [90°], shattering all too close to the hapless driver.)
  After ritual humiliations at the Cheetah III, the crew retreated to the lone penthouse atop the old White Provision building. Merriment for the others ensued, but further investigation of the deserted structure found a labyrinth of hallways, dim stretches of concrete reminiscent of the old bunker that became Seaside Pungeonary.

A second exposition of the theme occurred near Kiyomizu-dera. A jaunt from the temple downhill through the valley of obelisks, one finds a windowless trapezoidal structure. Inside was a latticework of passages, alcove shrines in a haze of incense, and the droning sutra of meditations humming from within. (As it turns out, this building was a Buddhist columbarium known as the First Hall of Immeasurable Life.)

Two real-life instances that have triggered the memory of a frequent but oft-forgotten dream fragment. Surely, Freud, Jung and dream dictionary dilettantes would have a field day with armchair analyses.
  But let us look at the most obvious thing in common threading between dream and reality: the ever-present spirit of exploration, delineated upon the most basic schema of the conscious mind’s orientation — deportment of the physical in the three dimensions. The lasting impressions of geometric harmony in the columbarium raise considerations of “rebirth,” the Land of Bliss, and other levels in the Buddhist cosmology, in the context of the three dimensions we grasp with our senses and in our dreams.

Paradigm Para-digression:

Residents of Flatland could not perceive Spaceland, and those visiting from Spaceland would only appear as fleeting shapes, sectionals of solids passing through the plane.
  What lay beyond Spaceland? The Square posited the realm of Thoughtland, though the idea was found preposterous by the Sphere.

Johnny Gutts offers us a pithy pseudo-koan:
“As Prometheus gave us the flame, the sun grazed Icarus’ wings with the same. From Dharmakāya what can we claim?”

To the layman, a question echoes throughout those halls still:
“What is the geometric balance between curiosity, enlightenment and hubris?”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Die Worte zerschlagen das Bild: When Falls the Masque

The Image-Construct exists for everyone — from the apex of social echelons down to the very dregs of the populace. Sometimes it is manipulated explicitly on the macro level through PR, socio-political affiliations and speechifying, most often by celebrities, politicians and media figures. More commonly, the rest of society controls the Image-Construct implicitly on the micro level: Personal fashion, social circles and status markers.
Either way, the Image-Construct is too often lazily accepted as the True Self when it is actually a projection of the Public Self. This is regardless of Social Distance — the person could be lover, friend acquaintance, celebrity or world leader.

And then... inevitably some variation of the Kinsley Gaffe is caught when the mic slips, shredding the delicately devised mien:

• “People I don’t know are mean and must’ve cheated their way to where they are,” coming from one who has coat-tailed their way to power, never having had a day job, castigating those with merit and effort.
• High-IQ shut-ins who verbalise their Magical Thinking betray their delusions when using words like “empowerment” and “stripping” in the same sentence.
• “Sensitive” artsy souls clumsily blurt advice to high-IQ shut-ins: "Maybe you can get a job at that place that hires retards.”
Unconsidered words shrivel and rot the Image-Construct, whether coming from friends stretching to force-fit disintegrating puzzle pieces, or from Famous People distantly chiming in on subjects unrelated to their fame.
Honest words can be edifying in both a positive and negative manner, though no amount of charm or beauty can erase inner ugliness, once revealed.
The hero, demigoddess and stranger alike are equally susceptible to Image Taint without prudent elocution.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cue for the Visions: “Head Over Heels”

Tá an amhráin sin séala ár gcuimhní cinn mar céir ar an tsubstráit ama.

The 33rd Stratum saw many foreign market attempts at piggybacking off of Orville’s successful SetUp™ lifestyle product. An ignoble effort by OptiGrids Ltd. used substandard Image Toning without the benefit of Validity Projection, resulting in unfortunate Avatar Vitiation:

• Stone-faced Maoris wielding chainsaws want their cake, and also: to eat it.
• Adult proles on the dole in fancy dress scrawl Year 3-quality fantasies of faeries whilst their chav progeny regurge and belch nihilistic slogans they themselves learned... in Year 3. (A complete circle?)
• Theological posturing by hedonists who also want their (beef)cake. The in-word-not-deed theist approaches indistinguishability with the atheist.
Diaphanous façades thus disintegrated with Virtual Biteback and Contact Slough.
OptiGrids Lifestyle Programme: FAIL.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Cue for the Visions: “Don’t Call on Me”

Песните кои печат нашите сеќавања како восок на подлогата на време.

The woman in the gray utilitarian dress stands in the doorway -- a slim silhouette backlit by a 40-watt bug lamp and the spidery shadows of a catalpa tree.
A former shipmate aboard the Rev. Resbo, she offers a heartfelt appreciation before jumping ship to Macedonia.