This Little Party is Just Beginning

It’s been two weeks now since I posted anything on here.

Really, my post before this would could have had a few other alternative titles: you know, like “Fed Up,” or “Exhausted,” or something more responsible along the lines of “I Love You All, But I Need To Take a Fucking Break.”

So let me tell you what I’ve been doing since I last wrote here, and what I plan to do.

The very day I wrote that last post, I went to my friend Noah’s birthday dinner and then hung out with him and my friends at a Tim Horton’s: including my friend Andrew whom I haven’t talked with in ages. We just talked about geeky stuff and nothing more strenuous than that. That was about the last time I have seen my friends so far, but it reminded me that I needed to get more time out that I have, well, honestly been getting.

I’m can’t remember a lot of what I did after that. I kept meaning to write something here and I just … didn’t. I even started to get ideas again and have them become more coherent in my brain. I bought the second issue of The Sandman Overture, and then the book Darth Plagueis: the last of which I’ve been meaning to do for a while now.

And during this time I knew that I had a few ideas for more Sequart and Mythic Bios articles. I want to look at Gwendolyn MacEwen again, at an interesting form of comics, at a Batman fanfic comic and the second volume of the new Sandman. The material is all there. I’ve contemplated writing about women in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, but figured it had already been done before and didn’t include it here: though some of that did make its way into an article on Sansa Stark on GeekPr0n. Perhaps that will happen one day.

I also thought about eventually making that article on Anakin Skywalker and how as a classic science-fiction swashbuckler hero he is at a severe disadvantage merely existing in the extreme black and white Force-powerful Star Wars universe. I have also been meaning to write something for my friend Anthony with regards to his second novel Beloved Demons.

And, of course, after one playthrough so far I also want to look at Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest. It’s fitting I guess, when you consider that this past while I’ve been depressed.

Me and my Head

At first it was all exhaustion, but then I started to get perfectionist and disillusioned and side-tracked with procrastinating. Also, I began to feel concerned that I would get restless and feel empty again: having no sense of accomplishment writing at least two hundred words a day.

So I didn’t do anything at all.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been maintaining my one post a week on GeekPr0n, as it is my job but also something I like to represent my skills well in doing, but it’d been a lot of white noise in the back of my head. Of course, that white noise is ultimately a lot of ideas that lack a structure or starting point that threatened to drive me crazy.

But now here we are. I’m writing something on here again. And now, we come to the next part of this post.

I took one proactive measure that I’m proud of. A few days ago I went downtown and made good on my Day Pass to Bento Miso: a collaborative workspace and community. Game makers utilize the space considerably, but there are a whole variety of different people that go there to work on their own projects, network, and attend particular events. I must have the strangest luck in the world in that the few times I’ve visited outside of the Bit Bazaar events, I’ve always come when most of Bento Miso’s members are at conventions.

The fact of the matter is that, as I have said before, I do need a space away from home to work, but not just on anything. There are some other projects I’ve been meaning to focus on and I have not had time or the concentration to do so. And I just need something new. So I decided to join Bento Miso as a cohort. :)

I remember that night, walking down Queen Street from Strachan, thinking to myself that the street didn’t feel nearly so old anymore or filled with ghosts. In the spring time, looking at Trinity-Bellwoods Park and walking down the street to take a streetcar to the subway, it felt like it was new again. I mean, here I was outside going downtown on some adventures and a new quest.

I think what I’m trying to say is that for the first time in a while I felt more like me again: no longer hiding and starting that process of making new opportunities and perhaps even connections. Who knows, right?

And I do have plans. I’ve thought long and hard about why my Patreon account hasn’t been followed or supported. And I realized that my work right now, on Mythic Bios, is good but scattered over a variety of different subject matters: all of them geeky, but not always specific or focused. This was always ever meant to be a supplement to the main writing that I planned to do.

Kris Straub, before he created Broodhollow, spent much time creating works to get to that place where he could make something akin to an ongoing master project or, if you’d like to get more profound about it, a magnum opus.

So here is what’s going to happen.

I am going to be writing on Mythic Bios once a week now. I simply can’t always write two posts a week like I used to. I need time to work on other projects and details in my life. I will, of course, break my own rules from time to time, but expect a post either Monday or Thursday. I will most likely alternate.

I will still be working at GeekPr0n creating my articles for them as well and with more time, hopefully, I can send some more … unique work Sequart’s way again. But, more importantly, I am going to be creating Patreon-Only content. My plan is to create a serialized work, or series of works, and make it so that those who Support me will be able to see whatever it is I will post there. Anyone can contribute whatever they’d like and we will see what happens from there.

And that is just for starters. I need to make my Patreon more presentable aesthetically and outline what my actual goals are. Right now I just have what I can offer. These are two entirely different things and with something more concrete, I might be in something akin to business.

You can find my Patreon account right here: http://www.patreon.com/mkirshenblatt

Let me know if you have any suggestions. I have a few ideas for some serialized work, mainly fiction, that I think some of you might actually enjoy. In the meantime, this is just the beginning. There are other possibilities as well. And I look forward to seeing where they might go.

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Something’s Got to Give

Hello everyone.

I’m writing this post on something of a time limit, but given how much time itself has been challenging me lately, it’s only appropriate. So let me try to tell you what I want to say.

There’s this point. I’ve been really back-logged lately. What I mean is that I have a lot of different projects and some obligations to deal with and they are beginning to mass on each other. It kind of makes it really hard to breathe at times, in all honesty. In fact, it gets to the point where it’s really hard to think and you get to that place where you begin to wonder if it is ever going to pay off.

But I think more than that is the fact that I’m starting to get tired.

Picture0039

From 2012 or so, I have had a very nice, if somewhat insular routine in place. But now that safe place from years of constantly moving around is becoming really suffocating for me. There are times when I just literally can’t stand it anymore.

I’m tired of being stuck in one place and away from resources that could help me: once I can identify and gather them. At the same time, I am terrified of reaching out for the potential of changing this situation–especially in terms of being social–because, quite frankly, I’ve been burned on that front before. There’s no other polite way to phrase it beyond that.

It’s now 2014 and I need to get a new passport. I need to not always be sitting in front of this computer screen: and when I am, one of my own customization. I need to get out of my parents’ house and meet the people I care about. Mostly, I feel this driving need to get out.

To get the fuck out.

I need to have something akin to my own space again: and not just in the material sense, but psychologically as well and when I am outside. At the same time, I need to maintain a routine and a sense of discipline but also that sense of calm and centring in carrying the rest of that out.

A while ago, I was talking about limiting my time on Mythic Bios to one post a week, as opposed to two. This was back when I was writing that other work of mine that required so much time. I am now seriously considering this. At the same time, I don’t want to become aimless or feel that every bit of writing I do has to be out of a sense of obligation. But the fact is, when it comes to it, I have not had enough time to essentially play with my writing or challenge myself: and this is not a good thing.

I need that time to play or I won’t make anything remotely original. And right now I am fighting against that whole “what is the point if I am not even getting paid because I want to pay off my dues and move out and have my own adult life again while doing something a worth a damn to me” mentality. It is really frustrating all around for me right now and, at the same time, there is this strange feeling I have that I am very close to something: to getting closer to something that I need if I can find that place. I just don’t want to stop doing my work because I’ve lost enthusiasm for it or I took much time away from it all.

I can sum this entire post up in one sentence: something has to change. And I may have some idea as to what some of those things might have to be.

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Amanda Palmer: The Keening Moment

I’m not the most musically literate person there is out there. I always heard some of my friends constantly talking about musicians that they love and bandying their name all around. And I never understood it really until relatively recent times. I’m also sure that there plenty of musicians that can sing with the intensity that Amanda Palmer has displayed. But the fact of the matter is that none of the others that I’ve either heard or haven’t bring up the effect in me that she can.

Not to this extent.

I don’t even know where to start: though I do know it is going to be short. There is a moment in a few Amanda Palmer songs, particular songs, where she enters what could be called a climactic phase but what I call a keening moment. For Amanda, and from my limited experience as I am not a fully comprehensive Amanda Palmer listener, it is that point where she builds and builds her tone and pitch to the greatest of passion and it … rips through you.

For instance, take her rendition of the song “Hallelujah.”

While she didn’t create this song, and the piece in itself already has a powerful emotional resonance, Amanda increases this frequency to its nth degree. She sings it for Anthony, who at the time was fighting a particularly brutal form of cancer. Her voice is broken. Apparently, when she was singing this and as she is wont to do as she is always on the move, she was physically ill. But, as if that weren’t enough, she was also in an intense place of grief.

But when she reaches that moment of “Hallelujah” … I don’t even know what to say. It is a scream. It’s a scream that, for me, pierced me right to the quick. In that moment, it was real. It was very real because, quite simply enough, it was. It is the terror and anger of life fighting for life. It is primal and messy and only the surface of what is underneath it. It’s like that moment when you try to detach yourself from what’s going on and you don’t understand, or want to understand what your friend is going through and you hide behind something petty only for that friend to scream that this supersedes all of that bullshit and you will damn well fucking acknowledge it: because life takes precedence over the proprietary.

I’ll be honest with you. It’s makes me uncomfortable: to have that surface of pretend that makes most human interaction ripped away to expose the raw. It is a brilliant, uncomfortable feeling made even more poignant that it is from another person being shared with everyone else.

Yet as potent as this is, Amanda’s “Bed Song” is …. something else entirely.

If her voice in “Hallelujah” makes me uncomfortable in that it reminds me of mortality and my very real lack of power, “The Bed Song,” quite frankly, terrifies me.

I’m not kidding. It scares me. It scares me to the point where after having heard it a few times, I just can’t listen to it or watch the music video. It, too, is far too real. But it’s more than that. It’s worse. It is a beautiful song and an excellent series of visuals and storytelling that captures the essence of a relationship dying.

I mean: think about this. You have two people together who love each other and you watch as time and circumstance erode that connection and friendship between them into distance. Into death. I’m not even talking about the physical death that happens at the end and the retrospection, but the emotional death: the slow rot of the soul between the two people living together, but not being together in any meaningful way.

Neil Gaiman, Amanda’s husband, has created many terrifying creatures and stories in his time. He has made “Cereal Conventions” and Other Mothers and all kinds of terrors with and without flesh. But, if I were to choose, I would say that Amanda Palmer in the context of “The Bed Song” scares me more than Neil ever could. She manages to build up to and capture the essence of a living death and the helplessness of watching it happen and feeling powerless to stop it only, at the end, to confront it … after it’s far too late.

That realization, in and of itself, is enough to drive anyone insane or want the embrace of physical death, but “The Bed Song,” the idea of two people lying next to each, facing away from each other, inches away and dying alone, is all the more horrifying because it is a wrongness that becomes accepted much in the way that someone slowly succumbs to an icy death.

It is a brilliant story. It is a poignant song. It takes the spirit of that lack of communication to the point of “too late” and makes it into art.

And it utterly terrifies me: because it makes me feel something I don’t want to feel. Or it brings out something that I already have. Because that keening moment isn’t just the climax of the song or the pitch of Amanda’s voice, but rather it’s that painful and almost transcendent moment of recognizing these qualities growing inside of your own very self.

I could just leave it all at that. I could leave you here with the feeling of raw grief and a lack of catharsis. I really could be that mean and say that this is what life really is. But I would be doing Amanda a tremendous disservice. The keening moment I identify is not merely in the domain of grief but its very opposite.

“The Ukulele Anthem.”

Sometimes nonsensical, sometimes weird, but oftentimes fun and always, for me, transformative. It just expands to the horizon and becomes liminal. There is darkness but it is the song commands, “Ukulele banish evil.” I can just see a glowing, eternal figure facing the growing darkness and playing her simple ukulele: making the shadows scream and, for a time, retreat from her sheer presence, only for her to hand it to someone else cowering in the darkness, smiling and skipping away to make another one.

So while I like the ferocity and anger of the keening moment in The Killing Type and dealing with the loss of a romance as life goes on in the summery fey cabaret of Massachusetts Avenue, “The Ukulele Anthem” is, for me, a reaffirmation that eventually the darkness will be put in its place as people realize they are not alone and they can make the light grow together even sharing something as simple as how to play ukulele.

Maybe one day, when I am less self-conscious, someone will show me how to play one. In the meantime, I am just grateful that through those keening moments I have another way to relate to music. Perhaps, as Neil’s Erasmus Fry once said, all writers are liars, but I believe that at least some musicians tell the truth.

Photo Credit: Glenn Ross

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What If Comics Had Been a Place Without Codes? Would We Live as Air?

I’ve been having some technical issues these past few days and time hasn’t really been my friend but what I’m going to write here past most reasonable people’s sense of sleep is another down and dirty, and therefore ad hoc, article on comics.  So if anyone out there is an expert or has done their homework, by all means, please correct me if need be.

As some of you already know Sequart created and is now in the process of editing, a Kickstarter called She Makes Comics: a documentary on women in the comics industry and the culture surrounding it. One element in particular that it has focused on is the fact that long ago there were more female readers of comics than they were male. Now, I wrote a short article on what will soon be called GeekPron in which I found some of my own assumptions to the question, well, questioned.

I believed that it was the Comics Code Authority, inspired by the fear of McCarthyism “witch-hunting,” blacklisting, the detrimental testimonials by psychological experts such as Frederic Wertham, and a loss of business that had comics publishers eliminate most of their different genres of comics and focus mainly on watered-down stories about superheroes. All the horror, revenge, gore, westerns, romances, and sexuality all went the way of the dodo at the time because of fear. Anything that challenged the rules of the Comics Code, of authority always being right and just for starters, could not exist in mainstream corporations that published for money.

But the comic book editor Janelle Asselin also mentioned that this female readership of 55% over 45% of male readers changed as the superhero genre became more mainstream. Think about that: the idea that after a time the superhero not only reduced a female readership, but also eliminated or greatly marginalized a whole body of stories and genres that made the medium different. I realize now, looking back on what I wrote earlier, that these two statements are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

I mean, if you are afraid of losing your business and your liberty in telling stories for which you want a certain pay cheque and livelihood then eliminating anything that could be construed as an overt challenge to your culture’s status quo or even subversive to it, it unfortunately makes a horrible kind of sense.

The godfather of manga Tezuka Osamu once said that “Now we are living in the age of comics as air.” And while he was most likely referring to the influence of manga in Japan as becoming more widespread, its connotations can be applied to the comics medium in general. According to Paul Gravett, in Sixty Years of Japanese Comics, Tezuka believed that comics without passion or originality can become damaging and even create pollution. It took me a long time to figure out what this meant. When I first encountered the quote and the explanation, I thought that it referred to the potential damage to the morality of the reader but now I realize that the quote can definitely apply to comics as a medium and what occurred during the heyday of the Comics Code Authority.

The age-old notion of the superhero ghetto that we are so used to hearing about with regards to the comics medium: the notion of an immature all-boys club with shallow depictions of sexuality and simplistic violence with no consequences is damaging not only society’s concept of the medium but also that of its readers and future creators.

I’m not, by any means, saying that the comics that existed before the Code and its predecessors were the fonts of enlightenment for gender or, really, humankind. But there was a lot more experimentation before the Code and it just makes you wonder: what would have happened if these vigilantes and superhuman beings in tights had just remained one of many genres and there had been no Code?

I mean, there is always the scenario that Alan Moore presented in Watchmen: that if masked heroes and one a superhero had been in existence then no one would have paid attention to Wertham and the horror comics of Bill Gaines and friends would have dominated the medium from the fifties all the way into the eighties: becoming darker and more grotesque with time while also innovating itself much like our comics have done.

But that is just one creative interpretation. Who knows? Maybe a flat period of unoriginal and recycled stories would have followed regardless. Perhaps female readership demographics would have changed or something else would have challenged the “morals of comics:” for or against the status quo. Or we could have had another Golden Age: where comics became, earlier on, a widely accepted form of beautiful art and every great artist might have tried their hand at one. Maybe comics could have become widely accepted and mainstream coffee table or instructional as manga has in Japanese society to an almost ubiquitous degree. Instructional comics even had their place in North American society and to some extent they still do.

Of course, those latter thoughts are just me playing at utopia and I’ve never been really good at that. Maybe if there had been no Code comics would have, earlier, been just another form that challenged conventional morality much like any work of great art or literature should. Of course, again, this also happened in the Western world through the advent of what we understand as Underground Comix defying the establishment during about the late 60s: about that same time frame that Asselin gave when she talked about the female comics readership majority existed from the 1950s to the 1960s. Or perhaps the comics medium would have burned itself out as a fad and amateurs such as myself would be wondering, even then, what if: what if it had been different.

As for me, if you really want my honest opinion I will say this. I think that if there had been no Comics Code or anything like it children would have still been influenced by Tales from the Crypt, and Archie, and The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet and all of those others. And some girls and women would have had Wonder Woman and Black Fury. Many things would have continued on, but sometimes I think about that idea of all people–young, old, straight, LGBTQ, male, and female, different ethnicities, different classes–making their own comics and showing them to their friends and the world. They would realize how different they and everyone else are but also how many things they have in common.

And when you wipe away my pseudo-utopia of a whole loss of potential for a readership of intensely intelligent men, women, and sentient beings, when it comes down to it I do like the idea that without the Code and the forces behind its development, the medium of comics would have been considered more than just silly laughter and transparently hidden BDSM parodies. Those things would have been a part of the kaleidoscope. I think that many more people might have seen comics as a medium that tells all kinds of stories: a space inside and outside of us that is pictures and words. I think many more people may have been more accepting that the medium of comics as that place of sheer variety, like film, between both art and literature.

There is another way to look at Tezuka’s quote about “comics as air.” If you take the pollution of censorship and unoriginality away, what you might ideally have is a fluid art-form that anyone can learn and use. And if you consider that we all live in the continuing Age of Information and in societies that utilize wireless Internet and you include webcomics into the medium … perhaps we can all fly where only superheroes used to tread: up, up, out of the ghetto and away.

Miracleman Balloons

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I Found Out I Was a Cambion on my Birthday

It was my birthday yesterday.

It’s funny. I can’t always remember what I did every March 16. I can’t really remember anything particular about 2013. I do recall watching the controversial return of Darth Maul in Clone Wars back in 2012. I also recall my girlfriend buying me a Ms. Fields’ chocolate chip cake in 2011: the same year she had offered to have me move in with her. I didn’t really celebrate my birthday in 2010: though there had been the promise of a celebration that never happened. In 2008 I brought a birth cake to a gathering and before that there was another where someone announced it was my birthday and I was all embarrassed and such.

Before that it was a blur of Undergrad and small family celebration. I do know that every time this day comes along, it feels lighter. I mean there are seasonal reasons for that. When you look at it I was born towards the end of Winter. According to my parents, I was supposed to be born in the Springtime but I was apparently eager. Sometimes I wonder about my infant self’s wisdom, but there it is.

For many years in my childhood I had a birthday party with my friends and such. And yes, I was an eighties child and my parents did rent a party room and we did watch The Neverending Story and gave out memorabilia such as Falcore on a ruler that turned into a wristband. But then I got older and my friends went their separate ways and I found that I had no friends really to celebrate anything with. Birthday parties just started to feel very childish and when many of your friends live downtown or out of province and country, it is hard. Even though it didn’t feel like it, aside from dinners that my parents insist on taking me out on now that I’m at their place and a cake, my birthday just became every other day.

C'Tor Solutions

I was lucky this weekend. My friends, some of whom I’ve known since high school and one who I knew in elementary, told me at the last minute that we had a role-playing game session. This was going to be a special session. This was the point where our characters were going to cross from the ordinary mortal realm into beings of other essences. A new rule system was based and is still being tested by us. We talked, rolled dice, ate, laughed and actually role-played. I was exposed to so much lore from this world that Noah, our DM, has taken great pains to create.

And now because of the revelations of last game, my character’s plans might have changed along with his view of the world.

We spent the first part of our time cutting out cards and writing down our new powers. Then we started playing. I felt really enthusiastic and there were twists and turns and dinner and I could just see Noah waiting to reveal all of this lore: and it is not over yet. It’s funny. I have talked about my friends here before and our games, but I don’t think I ever realized just how long we would know each other. We have evolved over the years and sometimes we are together and other times we are off by ourselves. I think that is what loners of our kind do. But loners do gather from time to time to do awesome things.

And I vowed, for that one day before I even knew we had these plans, that I wasn’t going to dwell on the more difficult elements of my life. Not my welfare, nor my conflicts, or the myriad of other things I want or need to do, or didn’t do. All that mattered was that one day where I got to roleplay with my friends.

So there you go. This is my obligatory post-birthday, well, post.

Oh and, my character found out he was a Cambion: a descendant of a human and a demon. It actually explains a lot about me. It really does.

Happy thirty-secondth birthday to me.

Looking Outward

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There’s No Place Like Home

“I am Oz! The Great and powerful …”

I ignore the floating green skull and its superior glare, hovering theatrically in its own flames as I make my way to the red curtain not too far away.

“How dare you!” the terrible voice booms, “You have not been given permission to go there!”

The sounds of thunder explode throughout the great chamber. Lights not unlike lightning explode into my eyes. I continue to stalk towards the booth with the red curtain with Apollonian purpose, an ironic reference in itself. Mists and fog swarm around me, and frightening admonitions echo throughout the great throne-room. These sights, and sounds and smells almost make me dizzy.

“Taking a scrap from the Pythia’s scroll, I see,” I speak aloud and continue walking.

“Cease this insolence!” the other cries, his below prompting a burst of orange flame around me, “Or I will summon my Guards to destroy you!”

“No,” I say calmly and without feeling, “you won’t. As an Oracle, you can’t afford to have your men that close,” I get closer to the booth, “besides, we both know they are already dead.”

I walk through the illusionary flames, images channeled there by glittering panels from the corner of my eye.

“Desist, or be struck down by the power of Oz the Great and Terrible!”

“I’m surprised, really,” I tell him as I get closer, “I’m surprised that in a world of magic and strangeness like this one, they wouldn’t have seen right through your disguise. Of course, a magician of any kind–mystical or otherwise–does his best work,” I come up to the curtain, “in plain sight.”

I rip open the curtain. And there is great maniacal laughter.

The man behind the curtain … is not a man at all. It is something else dressed in long emerald coattails. The bronze creature lunges for me with its blade. I barely dodge it, and meet it with the sword in my own hand. Then the curtain completely collapses and two more metallic creatures wielding great silvery wicked-looking scythes surround me. I parry the central construct’s blade even as the others come towards me from the sides …

And promptly collapse into pieces.

The central construct, the Tik-Tok as my companions outside called them, halted. In its beady clockwork eyes, I can almost see fear before it too shudders, steam bursting from its neck-bolts, and falls to the ground with its fellows in one great ruinous scrap-heap.

I hear the click of the weapon at my neck before I even turn around.

“Steam-powered clock-work automatons,” I nod, “I’m impressed.”

“Why thank you,” the voice behind me said, “it took me quite some time to create them.”

“I can imagine.”

“Get up.”

Slowly, I turn around. He’s dressed in the same green coattails that his construct wore. He’s short, and stout, and his receding hair is grey, almost silver. Anyone who saw him would probably have thought him some kind of minor janitor in the Emerald City, a harmless and perhaps even friendly old man. But the hard eyes behind the small rectangular spectacles say otherwise.

“There’s always one in every crowd,” his voice quavers somewhat nasally without the machines to make it sound fearsome, “someone who just won’t believe in the magic.”

“So that’s what you call it,” my words are cold, and final.

He trains his weapon at me, a black antique Colt pistol, “Young man, it is all magic. It’s all one spectacle. Bread, and circuses, you know,” he drawls casually, “It’s just very rare that you find one in the crowd that sees through the trick,” his eyes narrow, “But since you seem to know how my tricks work, it’s only fair–from one magician to another, mind you–that you tell me yours.”

“It’s a trade secret.”

The man laughs, “It was Elphaba, wasn’t it?”

“And what makes you think the Witch is the only one with magic?”

“Well, she isn’t. Not really. She is just more skilled at it than most here. You’d be surprised how much ‘magic’ is left in even these lands.”

“Actually,” I tell him, “I’m not.”

“Tell me what I want to know, young man,” his nasal voice becomes low, the weapon in his hand clicking again, “we are not in Kansas.”

“Though we do come from the same world,” I relish telling him this, now, “Oscar Zoroaster.”

The man seems to freeze in place. His beady eyes seem to dilate like that of a bird’s, “What?”

“Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs,” I repeat, “You were a showman in the United States, probably in the late nineteenth century. A minor conjurer, traveling magician, and tinkerer. You know a lot about mirrors, tricks, sleight of hand, sophistry, clock-work devices, and the power of steam, your Age being what it was before you … left.”

“So …” he says after a while, “You are from Earth.”

“From a different time, yes. You missed a lot since you’ve been away, Oscar Zoroaster.”

“I am Oz now,” he grins at me, waving his gun at me, “the great and powerful Wizard of these Lands.”

“You’re an artificer at least,” I amend, “Like I said, you must have spent a lot of time here, letting you hone your craft. You made one great Industrial Revolution here, I’ll grant you that much, but not much else. I wonder though … how much of it was your innovation, magic filling the gaps … or slave-labour.”

“Merely dirty Animals, and savages,” he says dismissively, “no one will miss them. I brought peace here. Stability. I brought them civilization.”

“And all the horrors of Industry to go along with it,” my mouth clenches and I remember why I want to kill this man, “Like I said, you missed a lot after you left us. Pollution, starvation, two World Wars, and mechanized genocide. An entire century of human atrocity and dehumanization, anticipated by and brought to scale right here by a carny-man. You are an Oracle after all, ‘Wizard’: a retrograde Oracle from our world more than anything else.”

“Hush now,” he growls at me, “you only live because I want to know how you know about me. I mean, you could have researched, but there are things … perhaps you read The Book. Elphaba probably learned …” he shakes his head, “a pity I can’t let you live beyond this.”

“It won’t matter what you do or don’t do to me,” I tell him, “you’ve already lost, ‘Wizard.’”

“I can recover easily enough. My men are a dime a dozen, and there are many exits to this place. I know. I had it built myself,” his gaze becomes considering, “And then I will rebuild. It won’t take long. None of it really did in relative terms. Then …”

“Your Madame Morrible is already dead. I’m sure that Elphaba and Glinda of the South made sure of that by now, even as we speak,” I allow a smile to appear on my lips, “By the time you kill me, they will be right here. Them and the flying monkeys you experimented on. And all of this, all of this here will be even more meaningless than it already is.”

“You’d be surprised how quickly one can disappear,” he takes aim at me, and pulls the trigger.

There is a sharp click. And then nothing. I let him pull the trigger of his gun again. And there is still an empty click. His small eyes have dilated further into shock, disbelief, and then fear. Very calmly, I take the gun from his hand.

“This is quite the antique you have here. It’s almost as dated as your Vaudevillian antics,” I throw it on the ground.

“Please …” he backs away from me.

“It is already too late for that. And no, I don’t want emeralds, or power, or ruby slippers,” I grab the collar of his shirt, “you’ve already taken enough from these Lands as is.”

“H-how …”

“Oz is a magical place, as you well know. Back in our world, I always had a knack for causing my machines to malfunction. But Oz … seems to make things less obvious things very pronounced, taking concepts and rounding them up to the next most cosmically ridiculous common denominator. It’s like one great Caricature.”

I let my rage fill my eyes, “But it was a Caricature I loved. Dearly.”

I throw him to the ground, “Your mistake, you murderous charlatan was that I watched this place from the very beginning. I saw it grow. I grew up with it. And saw you. I used to think you were pretty something. I used to think, much like Elphaba did, that you were a wise and benevolent Wizard. Even when I knew you couldn’t use magic. I looked up to you,” my voice cracks, “I liked you, and your hot air balloon until I realized that the only thing in your heart is precisely that. Hot air.”

The next thing I know, I’m shaking with fury, and pointing his own gun at him with one hand, “You ruined the Land I loved, that gave me any meaning in my life — poisoned it with the exact same nationalism, and war, and death from our own world. Our own garbage. You … had … no … right! I should kill you right now.”

I walk back a few paces. And then, I do the unthinkable. I toss his own gun back at him. He catches it, with shaking hands and trains it on me again.

“I helped Elphaba figure out how to read The Book. All of The Book. I didn’t have to do much. You can run anywhere you want. You can hide. You can try to kill your way through. But she will find you. Her and all the citizens of Oz: the Munchkinlanders, the Vinkus, the Quadlings, and the Animals. Especially the Animals. They’ll find you, and make you wish you were dead.

“But I don’t want them to get any more blood on their hands on your account. So you have two choices really. Choose wisely.

I wait and watch him. He knows he can’t run from me. And I can see that he knows that even if he can, they will find him. Elphaba even knows who he is. It doesn’t take long for him to make the choice. I swallow violently and look away after. Even after all he did … I almost wished that what I saw come out of him was spilled oil, and shattered coils and springs. An advanced Tik-Tok mechanism that was created with benevolent intentions, then went out of control and killed his real creator: enchanted to look like a man. Like him. But sadly, all that hot-air inside him was not merely the result of steam-power.

It was just the result of another man playing at being God. I feel less like a child now than ever.

But there is just one more thing for me to do. I search around for a little while until I find it. The green elixir.

I hide it in my pocket before she comes back in. She stands there, surrounded by her winged monkeys and Vinkus allies. They scatter and start securing the room. She sees the body on the floor. Fiyero isn’t here yet, so it falls on me to get to her first. Elphaba doesn’t flinch from the sight. But even after all this man did, I can see in her eyes that her heart is broken. I hold her and she holds me back tightly.

“Glinda is fine,” she says to me, “she handled Madame Morrible. I came here as fast as I could …”

“I know,” suddenly I find a lot of my wordiness is gone.

“It’s done then,” she looks sad, and lost, but at the same time there is a great flush of strength from her emerald skin, “I suppose … you have to go now.”

I look at her. We stand at the same height. None of the literature from my world ever really did her justice. This time, I look away from that penetrating stare, “I … don’t want to,” I admit it. I love this world. I love it and its people, and the magic and the friends I’ve made here. I want to see them grow, and prosper. I want to be with them. There is so much wrong with the world that I came from, so much that disgusts me and isolates me there. There is just too much potential to become petty and small again. To forget everything. And her.

“But you have to,” this is not a question. For a few insane seconds, I want to ask her to come away with me, to fly with me on the Wizard’s hot air balloon back to my world. But although my world is more politically correct in some places, she would be no less green to anyone there as she is here. And she would know that. Those few seconds are gone. She has a life here … and a new life to begin. This entire Land has a new life to begin, and Earth and those few people from it have already done enough to it.

I look at this amazing person who is the best of both worlds–though she would never know it–embodied into a beautiful green form with discerning intelligence and an even greater heart and I know that Fiyero is a lucky man, whatever else he is now. A choking feeling sits hard in my chest, not unlike the one I felt as a child when I saw another farewell scene.

“There must be people who care for you,” she prompts, and then hands me something. It is The Book.

“Elphaba …”

“No, I want you have this. Glinda, and I learned everything we needed to. We want you to have it and keep it safe. Who knows …” she smiled, sadly, “maybe one day it will lead you back to us.”

Then she wraps her arms around me and I hold her.

“What will you do with all of this?” I ask her, looking at the throne-room.

She smiles, “I think I might have a plan or two.”

We hug again, and then I manage to walk away. I don’t know what I’ll do now. Maybe I will go back home. Maybe I will succeed in finding the hot air balloon in one of those workshops that the self-styled Wizard had lying around. Or maybe I’ll take it and ride across the clouds to other places, others untouched by time and always going. A little girl and her family one day will move to Oz, hopefully under better circumstances. Maybe I will find the Oz I knew from my childhood again. Though it would be one without her.

No, it will be better to find other Lands. To keep travelling. A young girl from Kansas once said that there is no place like Home.

But I now know, however, that Home is where I carry The Book: this Book and story, that I now keep on living.

Photo and Collage Credit: Beth Ann Dowler

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Out

Sometimes I can still hear it.

It’s the end of the night and Dead Can Dance’s Rakim drifts and rhythmically rumbles through the musty air before the undulating chant of the female singer through the night. The DJ knows what he’s doing. The frenzy of Electric Body Music with its violence of movement and the wry painfulness of clarity that is Alternative Rock have taken their course and had their place in their club.

Now the bar is closed and the black-jacketed, white dressed, neon colour-haired patrons are fewer and dancing with each other in pairs: slowly in tempo with the music. All of reality itself seems to wind out like a wavering road as the woman sings and the man chants in a deeper voice, with stranger words, accompanied by the hollow tap of drums and waves of languorous, synthesized sound.

Everything downtown, far away from where I sleep at the time, unfolds a path in front of me as I watch them dance. I see everything that has happened before and I know that even before being here it had already been in my head: this simultaneity. It gestates through countless songs, and observations, and the weird jerking near-violent movements and pseudo-martial forms that I called dancing. This feeling will continue to grow long after my long bus ride home.

“A million faces, a million lies,”  VNV Nation’s Chrome wavers out before I ever knew its name, accompanied by a weird looping music that somehow taps my heart.

“The streets are cold, the lights go by…”  Like a strange, throbbing, secret whisper it tells me about walking downtown the first time by myself at night, the passing of the streetcar away from Brock, a lost white grin and electric blue eyes, words on a screen leading nowhere, that summer on Euclid Avenue, friends at a Noodle Shop, wishing my friends were there in a bar dancing, a worn convenience store open past three, Higher Ground and Eglinton, cold darkness, past chances, taken chances, lost chances…

When that music comes on, it’s as though my life isn’t linear but multiple-choice: my thoughts fragmenting but somehow being pulled back together again. Then I remember EBM and rock music and it’s as though I’m fighting against the inertia of my life in the epic battle I’ve always fought in my mind: alone and proud.

But then at the end of the night, my favourite night of the week, my Friday night, after dancing through the endless possibilities and talking mutely with people over thundering percussion, I’d see the reality of it. Two men in glistening black leather kilts dance with a white-blonde girl between them. A tall girl moves with a shorter darker one. Then Rakim winds down for the night, the male singer’s last reverberating, “Since forgotten…”

I remember these Friday Nights well as I skirted the rim of the dance floor and danced in the middle of it in my own bubble of space. I interacted with the people much in the same way, just as I still in some ways do. I remember that I don’t relate well to groups. I am like the girl in “Tonio Kroger” that tries to dance like others, on the periphery, but unlike her I know I have my own dance that few can or could care to match. Perhaps I’m getting too old to dance now, too hermetic to move as often. Maybe I already had my chance to find something special in the night.

Yet sometimes, even now, I have this insane urge to contemplate another Gothic Picnic in High Park drinking the liquid essence of fruit salad and watermelon juice alongside white-painted people wearing black leather and lace. Or maybe I’d dress up like the Crow again and go downtown to lose myself in the role while dancing: laughing at those who think I’m Heath Ledger’s Joker instead.

At the very least, I can take comfort in knowing that I can still dance well in one place: through the diaphanous smoke screen of my own words. Right here.

The Crow

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