Thursday, 27 October 2011

STC - Unfinished Story

Our writing challenge this week was to craft a story based on the pun "celery stalk-ers." I went for a Dick Tracy esque detective plot (with all characters being celery rather than human) and quickly realized that I am not quite the thinker for a crime story, and that the one that I invented refused to end. I was aiming for two pages and at the start of my fourth, stopped/ran out of time. I couldn't get it to land, but here it is for you in all of it's raw glory. Please enjoy the plenteous puns!

  It was a dark and stormy night. Everything in Apiaceatropolis had slowed to a stop... that is, everything except the crime that never rested. The crime that, like a burning ulcer, had consumed all joy and hope in the hearts of our city’s citizens. A city that once had flowers on every street corner and showed goodwill to all who entered it’s gates; now a city littered with the dismal slime of greed and contempt. Some say it started when the longtime mayor Smarty Pants retired and appointed in his place a greasy newcomer: Slim Pickens. Some say Slim had spent a bit too much time in the cooler. Some say he had buttered the mayor up, or put him in a sticky situation to get himself appointed. Some say he was starting to rot from the inside out. I don’t know. All I know is that things went south when Smarty left; and that Slim’s public statements are a little too bendable to be called upstanding. One thing for sure is that Slim’s longtime girlfriend Sulty Omosis and right hand man, Myco Tocsin are seen together frequently at the bar Celeriac, which also happens to be the hub for the gutter trash, slug eating, rotten killer - The Man.
  Because of all this, this mushrooming villainy I’m working late again. Because of this malfeasance my girlfriend Crispy Trueheart is home alone again tonight. Because of this infelicitous turn of events I was forced to change my name, leave my home, and take up a life of crime in my own way. Who am I? Cellar E. Stalker’s the name. Sluthing’s the game.
  Two nights ago a tall, thin woman showed up at my office. Usually, I work for myself, asking and answering my own questions, but her son was two days missing. The seventeen year old had been working all day (at an upstart guttering business) and never came home. After some questioning I was interested and stumped. This was the kind of boy seventeen year olds used to be. Responsible, dependable, kind. He worked to support his mother and younger sister. There was nothing out of the ordinary and nothing to suggest him as any kind of target. Then she said it, a passing mention about the job being new, replacing the person who used to work for the guttering man.
“What’s his name!” I jumped to my feet “What’s the gutter man’s name?”
“I... I’m not sure! Uh, it started with an L... Loo... Loomy. Loomy Num! That was it!”
“Did your son mention anything else about the person he replaced?”
“Not that I recall. Just that Loomy said he was a better worker than the other boy.”
“So he was young! Interesting. Lady, you better get back to your daughter. I’ll do what I can to find your son.” I got up and opened the door, locking it behind her.
  I had seen this type of thing before. A middle man. But it had only been that dog walker that went past the Korean market every day, and the old woman stealing dresses for that famous actress... who would this Loomy Num be stealing boys for? Why would someone need boys? I pulled my trench coat over my shoulders and grabbed an umbrella. I was going to find some answers.
  I used my two-way wrist TV and contacted Crispy the next morning letting her know I wouldn’t be home for a few days. “Be careful Cell. This city’s not the only one that needs you.” The night of searching had been to no avail, other than an idea I had, sitting outside of the Celeriac hoping to see something. When I got in this morning I checked the phone book and there it was: L.N. Guttering. I called. A slightly raspy, but even voice answered and said he could come by to give an estimate around 2 o’clock. With that, I layed down on the cot in my office closet and took a nap.
  Loomy never came. I called the number again on my wrist TV and saw nothing but an empty, messy office... and wheat grass. No! I was lucky enough to trace the number to an address across town and rushed over. The door was broken open and there was Loomy, or what was left of him, laying in a pool of green blood. There was nothing in the office to indicate any family and nothing to really indicate crime except a matchbook from the Celeriac laying by the ashtray on the desk. I had never actually been in the bar before. I had wanted my face to remain unknown to that lot, but if I wanted to stop the crime I was going to have to face it.
 Once night fell I approached the despicable place. Ordering a bloody mary I sat at the bar staring at my glass. On the way over I turned on my Corne inner ear eavesdropping system with the intention of listening instead of looking. The couple in the corner booth were talking about some risque pollinating they planned to do later. The guys around the celevision were betting on the juicing match. One hour. Two hours. Nothing. I had gone through three drinks and was getting ready to leave when a stumpy man in a white jacket walked in and quietly addressed the bartender “I have those supplies you ordered. Want me to take them to the kitchen?” When the barman walked out with the white jacket I moved toward the bathroom, ducking into the security office instead. I quickly reached around the guards head, putting a ranch drenched cloth over his nose rendering him unconscious. I didn’t have long, but in here I could see what every camera in the place saw. There was the main room, the kitchen, the bathrooms, and.... a gym? I’ve never heard of a bar doubling as a health club before. The guard was coming to and if I had any hope of keeping my anonymity I had to go. I sat back down in front of my bloody mary and told the intoxicated man next to me that there was a place down the road that was doing half price peanut butter shots and he took off out the door at the exact moment the bartender was coming back in and the security guard, still a bit dazed but furious, burst out of his office. They both set off after peanut butter guy. Now was my chance! I patted the salad shooter under my coat and headed back down the hall. No gym. I swung through the kitchen. No doors, no gym. Then I remembered the white jacketed man going outside. I walked around the block and into the alley behind the buildings. The bar had no back door, but then something caught my eye from behind the dumpster. A staircase. No one was posted at the door and it wasn’t locked. No private sign, no keep out. As quietly as I could I descended the steel stairs and looked around the corner. It was the gym. There were weight benches and treadmills and what looked like a yoga class in the back room. Every machine had someone on it, and every person was wearing what looked like a kind of wetsuit... but wait! What were those tubes at the cuffs of the sleeves and pants? They went loosely from the suit into the floor and seemed to be draining a opaque liquid. Just then I felt something creamy on my face and everything went black.
My eyes opened on a white room. Sulty and Myco were there. So was the security man from upstairs (still sporting a slight smear of ranch on his cheek). Slim was sitting in the corner with his head in his hands and Crispy was sitting next to him. Oh no, Crispy. How did they know? I tried to keep my face blank.
“I see some bumbling do-gooder finally stumbled into our gym.” The guard almost hissed. He was a yellowy, stalky man.
“I’d wager he didn’t stumble. What do you think Sulty?” Myco said cooly.
“Maybe he was just looking for his girly friend! He probably missed her.” She returned in with a childish tone, glancing at Crispy. Crispy didn’t move.
Slim raised his face, smiling “Well, now that he’s here, why don’t we give him a tour? If he’s good, maybe we’ll introduce him to The Man himself!”
  They jerked me up and took me back out to the main room. From closer up I could see that those were most definitely tubes going from the runners and lifters and benders. They were all young boys, and they seemed exhausted.
“Wondering about the tubes huh?” Grinned Sulty. They took me down more stairs to a room with a giant tank in it. The tubes ran from the ceiling into the tank and at the bottom were workers filling bottles with the clearish liquid.
“Sweat.” Said Sulty “Nasty sweat. Who would have guessed it could be so valuable?”
“You’re running a sweat shop!?” I gasped
“Hit the nail right on the head.” Myco elbowed me.“We add sugar and sell this stuff as a super beverage! People think it can do anything - Weight loss, energy supplement, even make you more attractive! A miracle drug!”
“Androtestosterone.” I breathed.
“The one and only! A steroid released through sweat... aaannd highly addictive!” Sulty chirruped happily.
“And you use the young boys because...”
“It’s so concentrated in them!” She said, then moved closer “But older men work too..”
  They put me in a tubed suit and took me back up to the treadmills.
“How do you keep these boys here?” I asked, nervousness growing in my fibers.
“They want to stay” said Myco “They’re good boys, and they don’t like seeing other people get hurt... or killed.”
They set the machine to 6mph, tossed me onto it and left. After an hour I was tired. After two I was stumbling. With all this time to think I still couldn’t understand: How were all these people connected? How did it all start? What did Slim hope to get out of all this... but maybe, maybe he was the middle man. Maybe Slim wasn’t doing this all for himself. Maybe Slim hadn’t empowered The Man, but the other way around. Maybe it was The Man behind all the destruction the whole time! Slim didn’t look exactly happy to be in that white room. He looked troubled. Was he falling out of The Man’s good graces?
 After five hours they came back and took me to the white room again, the same faces filling it.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

STC - Sea Turtles

This week we were supposed to write anything we wanted as long as it included sea turtles. I set to write about the (naked) girl and turtle in the painting that went with my first STC post (The Bad Gift) and here's what transpired:

A soulful girl, a slogging beast
the ocean land world at a crease,
walk together by the by
and here the girl let out a sigh,
"But for to live as you do friend,
one toe in water, one on land."
"But oh!" he said, "As you wish I,
could over land on two feet fly!"
Came now Amphitrite up from the sea
"But only could my life been but as thee!
For here I am in marriage bound
to mean Poseidon my joy to hound
and will never walk in sympathy
with lovely companionship as do thee."
With crashing wave she held their hands
"Now you in water and you on land
shall ever be in friendship thus;
To share in life and love and trust
and share the sea and share the shore
and share swiftness on either or."
Had their wish been granted them?
Hopefully they took a swim.
Both could equally skim and dive
and without a frequent breath did thrive.
Now from the shallows to the deep,
to see what creatures they could meet.
"But how I want to try the land!"
Said the turtle and took her hand.
They set their feet on shore to run
so far and fast till came the dunn.
Resting in a mossy glen,
they stayed till sun came up again.
Such contentment!
Such abandonment!
Such as this their lives were spent,
with child joy and merriment,
and every year were closer bound
by this sweet fellowship they had found
for sharing is what makes a friend
and these are cords no man can rend.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Day the Saucers Came - Poem Feature

I just happened upon this poem in the Rabbit Room and thought that it was so great I felt the need to share with you all. Enjoy!

The Day the Saucers Came
by Neil Gaiman

That Day, the saucers landed. Hundreds of them, golden,
Silent, coming down from the sky like great snowflakes,
And the people of Earth stood and
stared as they descended,
Waiting, dry-mouthed, to find out what waited inside for us
And none of us knowing if we would be here tomorrow
But you didn’t notice because

That day, the day the saucers came, by some some coincidence,
Was the day that the graves gave up their dead
And the zombies pushed up through soft earth
or erupted, shambling and dull-eyed, unstoppable,
Came towards us, the living, and we screamed and ran,
But you did not notice this because

On the saucer day, which was zombie day, it was
Ragnarok also, and the television screens showed us
A ship built of dead-men’s nails, a serpent, a wolf,
All bigger than the mind could hold,
and the cameraman could
Not get far enough away, and then the Gods came out
But you did not see them coming because

On the saucer-zombie-battling-gods
day the floodgates broke
And each of us was engulfed by genies and sprites
Offering us wishes and wonders and eternities
And charm and cleverness and true
brave hearts and pots of gold
While giants feefofummed across
the land and killer bees,
But you had no idea of any of this because

That day, the saucer day, the zombie day
The Ragnarok and fairies day,
the day the great winds came
And snows and the cities turned to crystal, the day
All plants died, plastics dissolved, the day the
Computers turned, the screens telling
us we would obey, the day
Angels, drunk and muddled, stumbled from the bars,
And all the bells of London were sounded, the day
Animals spoke to us in Assyrian, the Yeti day,
The fluttering capes and arrival of
the Time Machine day,
You didn’t notice any of this because
you were sitting in your room, not doing anything
not even reading, not really, just
looking at your telephone,
wondering if I was going to call.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Sunshine Again - A Fairy Tale

In my vocal class last week we chose the second song for our performances out of our textbook. The one that stood out to me was cited as being written by George Macdonald. I assumed it wasn't the Scottish minister/author that I know and love, but after a little research it turned out to be a poem of his that was set to music somewhere around 1950. As part of our homework we have to write a story about the song and so this tale was born. I wrote it hoping to catch even a little bit of the essence of G.M.'s stories. Enjoy!

Alas, how easily things go wrong!
A sigh too much, or a kiss too long,
And there follows a mist and a weeping rain,
And life is never the same again.

And yet, how easily things go right!
If the sigh and a kiss of a summer's night
Come deep from the soul in the stronger ray
that is born in the light of the winter's day.

And things can never go badly wrong!
If the heart be true and the love be strong,
For the mist, if it comes, and the weeping rain,
will be changed by the love into sunshine again.
- G.M.

It was a bright night, even for the forest. The trees glowed with a internal luminescence. A young man had taken to walking here every night and could notice even the slightest changes on his path. Along with the light, there was an uncommon scent of honeysuckle and sage. Cresting the ridge of a shallow glen his eyes fell upon the source. A woman in shining, pale green robes sat on a large rock in the valley. Her eyes were the same shining green as her clothes and her hair fell softly about her shoulders in soft brown ringlets. He was taken at once. Love seized his heart and he ran and seized her. She didn't resist. She didn't react at all. He spoke love to her. Nothing. He kissed her hand, her cheek. Nothing. He wrapped his arms tight around her, smelled her sweet honey hair, and when his eyes opened there was nothing in his arms save a mist that had sunk from about the trees. He looked everywhere but found no trace of his lady, and as he began to weep so came the rain.

Two years passed. Still, every night he walked and while he no longer hoped to find her, he thought of her often. He thought of how he rushed to her and grabbed her. He thought of how he had abandoned courtesy in the name of love. He thought of how something called love and acted on with greed is not really love. The leaves fell, and winter fell, and as he walked in the frozen forest, he began to learn a true way to love.

Mid April, as the glowing tress had begun to bud little lightning bug leaves and the clouds hung heavy with rain, he walked again. He rarely thought about that beautiful woman anymore and his thoughts were mostly on a poem he had read earlier in the day. It promised hope to a true heart and he hoped his heart was true. He noticed something as he came to the ridge of the glen, but it was not his lady. It was a she-wolf scratching fiercely at her back paw that had gotten wedged between the boulder and  a tree. She lunged away when she saw him and panicked when her paw became even tighter between stone and tree. His curiosity had just made her situation worse and he couldn't bear the thought of her slowly starving to death, or resorting to maiming her leg to free herself. In obligation and trepidation he approached. He got close enough to throw his thick coat over her head and tried not to think about what would happen when she was free. He wrapped his legs around her back to still her, and with much effort and scratching and loss of blood (on his part) pulled her loose. He jumped away and sitting up from under his coat was not the wolf but the woman, and now, instead of a face void of reaction she smiled, leaned forward with eyes like sunshine and kissed him.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

STC - A Brief History: The successes, Failures and Figureheads of Communism and Hip-Hop

 Ideals, bad reputations and powerful leaders are just a few of the things that tie communism and hip-hop together. The first takes it’s stand on a mostly political level and the second on a mostly artistic level; despite this difference, both have had significant, worldwide impact through their respective methods of creating social change.
 Communism was originally a concept birthed out of the French Revolution in the early nineteenth century when the idea of equality for the working classes was very appealing. The actual term, Communist, was coined by Goodwyn Barmby to describe the followers of a controversial French journalist Francois-Noel Babeuf. It was then cemented by the delineation of Karl Marx’s socialist philosophy in his work The Communist Manifesto. The basic concept was for social classes to be abolished and for the common man to essentially follow a sort of instinctual self/communal democracy where everything from tools to land is shared without exception. Marx himself was also a newspaper man who was born into a wealthy middle class family, but whose strong political opinions and controversial worldview resulted in him being exiled multiple times from multiple countries. His life ended in poverty and one can only presume how much of an effect his personal experience had on his work. Most of the funding for Marx’s work came from Friedrich Engels who also edited the Manifesto and had an astoundingly large moustache.  If Karl Marx solidified the idea on paper, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky fleshed it out. Leading the Bolshkeviks in a revolution they overthrew the Russian Czar and here’s where everything started straying from the idea of a country led by a common democracy into a sort of dictatorship. The majority of Russia’s citizens were never empowered to lead themselves, but instead had Lenin’s, and after his death, Joseph Stalin’s ideals forced upon them with a method that was often much worse than their original situation. While Stalin did help the Russians in many ways (by industrializing the country, creating a unique style of architecture, and putting them on the world map in terms of nuclear power and space travel), it could be said he did more hurt than help. The same was also true of Mao Zedong’s efforts to bring communism to China. During the time of his influence he educated millions of Chinese people, made health care readily accessible and increased the overall life expectancy of the population. The problem was that he simultaneously exposed them to violence and famine caused by revolutions and also pushed his ideals by means of torture and extreme persecution resulting in the deaths of millions.
 These men were what originally gave communism the negative connotation that it has today and it’s a huge question as to why a philosophy based in communal leadership, when acted upon, nearly always ends in singular dictatorship where the leader has to defend their position with strict laws, secret police, and murder.
   Our second topic is one of the newest music genres, and has gone beyond that singular industry to become an entire social movement of it’s own. Birthed in the poverty and violence riddled area of South Bronx in New York City the Hip-Hop movement was pioneered in the 1970’s by a group of artists who took samples of existing songs and mixed them together using a pair of turntables and a guitar amp to create new, danceable beats (called DJing) while simultaneously speaking over the music in a manner based on the Jamaican tradition of spontaneous toasting and West African folk poets (called MCing). This music was also paired with a new style of spontaneous energetic dance (called Breaking) and a type of street art/marketing using spray paint to “tag” various objects (called Graffiti). A Jamaican born man who went by the name of Clive “Cool Herc” Cambell created the blueprint for what we know today as Hip-Hop, while his friend Grand Wizzard Theodore invented “scratching” records, and Grand Master Flash coined the term “Hip-Hop” in a rap he performed and was the first person to be called a DJ. Toward the end of the 70’s, one of these original artists, Jazzy Jay, realized the potential of taking the local gang’s competitive energy and pointing it toward this art rather than violence. It was at this point that he created an affiliation called Zulu Nation. In many ways this was a very successful endeavor. You could now see gang members dissing each other in a rap competition, or B-boys and B-girls having a break dancing competition in the alley instead of fighting and killing. The problem with Zulu Nation was that it worked almost too well. It took a localized trend and brought national attention to it. What followed was a series of films in the early 80’s that launched the style to an worldwide audience, but also shifted the focus from social issues back to the original problems of drugs, violence, and the victimization of women. It’s founders focused their creative energy and personal influence on giving kids an alternative to violence, while the current leaders of the industry (e.g. Eminem and 50 Cent) use their influence to promote a personal lifestyle of violence and drugs - that is now even being marketed to people living in a healthy home environment and neighborhoods that don’t have daily shootings.
 While Hip-Hop has always been obscene in one way or the other, what once challenged and empowered it’s performers and listeners to rise above less than ideal circumstances has now done the opposite, and in the name of honesty, encourages it’s audience and artist alike to take a negative perspective on their situations and elevates the victim mentality.
 In the end, Communism and Hip-Hop are both powerful movements that were started with the ultimate goal of bringing peace to the oppressed and providing a solution to real problems and they have both digressed to the point of creating the problems they were aiming to solve.