Author Archive

Part I-

June 14, 2009

The honorable Prince Zaw

            I am typing this on the laptop of an elderly polish immigrant named, Strychacki Zbigniew. We call him Stanley for short. I am using his laptop for two reasons:

1) I made a scene at the Starbucks at Times Square a week and a half ago when I moronically dropped my Macbook, then subsequently dropped my “iced venti, sweet (indecipherable word), leche,” after trying to catch my beloved computer on its unfortunate way down to the stone floor. I bit my lip. Hard. After gravity was done yanking three years of pictures, documents and progress out of my hand and down to the ground like a fucking tractor beam, I bent down to pick up the now defunct laptop. It was still in one piece and I was shattered. I grabbed all of my belongings and high-tailed out of there, never looking back. I will never see those people again.

2) I have accepted the task of locating and getting in touch with Stanley’s good friend and prominent homosexual, the honorable Prince Zaw of Dubai. Downloading Skype onto his computer seemed like a good place to start. Apparently I’m doing this in exchange for two Marcepan candies made by Poland’s own famous Mieszko candy company. What joy! I didn’t expect the candies, but they were sloppily taped to a tattered note with my name on it in the bag with the laptop. They tasted like sugar coated with pure shit.

This is not fiction. 

It’s 3 am during the graveyard shift at The Manhattan House and I need to get some rest. I’ll explain everything tomorrow.

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Three pages a day

June 14, 2009

So.

            I am writing this at the recommendation of a young, New York film student clad in designer, suede leather shoes. He’s most likely terrifically well-to-do, as most, if not all tenants of The Manhattan House tend to be. The middle to lower classes of society do not fare well in the Upper East Side. Full pockets and stiff necks are a must.

            “Three pages a day,” he told me. A slim task, given the breadth of the laziness that seems to have clouded and infected the whole of western civilization; myself included. As he was making his way beyond the spotless (thanks to yours truly) stainless steel doors of the elevator, we wound up in a short, hurried conversation as the doors kept trying to shut between incessant and annoying beeping noises. I asked him about film school and discovered that he too, was interested in writing as well as directing and producing. When I told him that I was studying writing, a dim, yet apparent enthusiasm emerged in his eyes. “Three pages a day is all you have to do. Do it until it’s a habit—something automatic,” he said with the calm, laid back certainty of any good teacher. I knew he was right. Every textbook in every writing class I’ve ever taken said to get into the habit of writing on a daily basis until writing is no longer a task, god forbid a burden, but a part of your routine. It should be like brushing your teeth or masturbating (never been more sexually frustrated).

            Maybe it’s because I knew he was right that I am writing this now. The idea of writing every day had been mulling around in the deep, nearly forgotten recesses of my mind for quite some time. Every day I did not write, I went to sleep with a small shard of relative guilt in my conscience somewhere. Like the pinnacle of splinterdom, I could never really put my finger on it, but I knew it was there. Somewhere. Recently, everything has been slowly coming into perspective. A new and growing light has been revealing my life to me, day by day. The clouds around my head have been dissolving into the atmosphere. The weather is a beautiful 70 degrees and sunny in my airspace and take-off will be any minute now. Maybe it’s compensation for the fact that I’ve hardly seen the sun in the better part of a month. The engines are primed and the last throng of expensive Samsonite luggage is onboard. An excited little boy points from a terminal window in a tarmac somewhere.

 Somewhere.

            For the longest time, I’ve known that I was passionate about writing, but I lacked any direction or motivation. I was thinking of giving up on writing and assuming my unfortunate position in one of many dead-end jobs that in no way applied to what I really longed for in life, as many Americans do. It’s the summer before my last year of college and I’ve never looked for an internship anywhere. Maybe it’s because I had no idea what type of writing job I was looking to get. It seems that any successful young adult should have an internship during the summer before the last year of school. -That’s just what people do-. It’s like looking both ways before crossing or putting milk in your cereal. -That’s just what people do-. Every year seminars are given and mile-high stacks of handouts and flyers are given out, blowing around and littering college campuses around the globe. They practically shove it down your throat. So much time is devoted to the concept of finding this coveted “internship” that it seems to take on a mythical aura; like the banshee or the clitoris. It has become a requirement for success, much like a pristine academic record or a wallet bursting at the seams.

Fuck internships.

            So I write this now—three pages, size 12 font, one-inch margins, Times New Roman, double-spaced. A part of me wants to find solace and confidence in the routine, the other part hopes it will be the easy way out to success—a way to gain lost ground and fast. Writing every day is the difference between being a writer and being somebody who writes. I don’t know why this has taken so long, or why I am finally getting serious now. It seems like a good time to begin, as I’ll later explain. I want to write fiction. Maybe I’ll write a book. I want to be a writer and I have to start somewhere, so I’ll start here:

Here.

Lets pat ourselves on the back.

May 9, 2009

I’ve never blogged before and I don’t think anyone in this group has. All in all, it was a worthy experiment and I think I might actually keep maintaining this blog. If not, it would be a waste of a great .wordpress name. 355 hits, people out of this class actually reading our work, 2 real authors leaving comments, me getting ripped apart by expert archaeologists for a poorly researched blog post on stonehenge… priceless.

Reconstructing Stonehenge

April 30, 2009

In response to Mike’s blogpost Stonehenge It Still Works

Many people don’t know that Stonehenge was actually reconstructed sporadically throughout the twentieth century. Currently, it may look nothing like it did when it was initially constructed, so its original form is anybody’s guess. Nonetheless, it stands as a monolithic reminder of the mysteries of the long-lost ancient world– authentic or not. Here are some pictures of its reconstruction:

Cars at Face Value

April 30, 2009

The concept of making the world over in our image, as brought up in McCloud’s piece reminded me of an article that I read some time ago, published in the journal, Human Nature. For many years, car companies have been spending copious amounts of time in researching the way people react to the fronts of cars, as if they were indeed human faces. Carmakers used to strive for an inviting face, but in recent years they’ve been pushing for an edgier look: Car faces that look meaner, angrier and, at times, even downright evil. This can be seen with the ‘bubble’ cars of the nineties, which put an emphasis on aerodynamic, clean lines and rounded features. The mid-nineties Ford Taurus is a prime example, as is the New Beetle.

Today, cars have taken on a more angular, boxy and sleek look with more emphasis on broken lines. Cars like the Chrysler 300 and Cadillac STS were designed under the doctrine of this new design philosophy and such cars seem to even echo the design of cars from the seventies.

Slightly unrelated, but I wonder if this interest in boxy, angular cars with ‘angrier’ faces says anything about the global mood or climate. Round, friendlier-looking cars seem to gain prevalence in mainly peaceful and decadent times, such as the early sixties and nineties, then during times of war or economic turmoil, it seems we prefer the boxier, more aggressive looking cars, as during the Vietnam/Iraq wars and during the recessions both then and now. Perhaps it’s a subconscious need or desire to vent that alters our taste in the aesthetic and stylistic elements of the automobile?

…Getting back to my point: The study that was done about a year ago concluded that about a third of all people found a 90% correlation between human faces and the fronts of the cars that they were shown. The theory is that through evolution, human brains have been wired to “infer a great deal of information about another person such as, age, sex, attitudes, personality traits and emotions—from just a glance at their face. As a result, people are tempted to see faces anywhere they look, whether it be in clouds, stones or cars (ANI).”

According to Dennis Slice, the conductor of the research from FSU, “The fact that we can so easily see faces in inanimate objects may tell us something about the evolutionary environment in which this capacity arose. Seeing too many faces, even in mountains or toast, has little or no penalty, but missing or misinterpreting the face of a predator or attacker could be fatal.”

The original and very jovial-faced concept for the New Beetle

The original and very jovial-faced concept for the New Beetle

The agressive-faced new Camaro concept.

The agressive-faced new Camaro concept.

A news article discussing the study can be found here.

The Sandwich Incident in 3 Acts

April 28, 2009

I
Little Billy Baxter took off down the hall. His sloppy, stupid mushroom cut flopped up and down with every step.
“Get over here you little son of a bitch!” I launched myself out of my seat and hesitated for a moment. When he disappeared around the corner with my sandwich, I darted across the cafeteria floor, throwing tiny little Jenny out of the way with outstretched arms. Behind me, things went silent and I could tell I had become the center of attention. There was a gasp—eyes locked in. My stomach growled deep below grit teeth.
I ran down the hall and cut a quick left, nearly taking down little James, who wore high socks and smelled like sour milk. The sound of the wind rushed passed my ears. At the end of the hall I could see him. He had a good lead, but his stubby little legs couldn’t take him too far. Not from me.
“Hey you! No running in the hall!” Mr. Harrison with the red face did nothing to stop me. Billy went right. I was gaining on him and I could see his little left hand clutching my beloved ham sandwich. The thought of his little bony finger imprints on my two previously flawless, fluffy, and wondrous pieces of white bread made me crazy with anger. My stride grew longer and my fists tore through the air.
He was a few yards away and I could almost smell it. It was either the ham or the smell of Little Billy Baxter’s imminent death. I reached out, stretching my right arm as far as it would go. It strained. When I felt his little collar in my hand, my heart started to pound. I yanked at it with all my might and heard the fabric tear as I heaved him onto the ground. There was a light thud and the sandwich exploded in all directions, escaping his weak grip. I screeched to a quick halt and looked down. There was a long trail of peanut butter leading to one of the pieces of white bread, indented with little Billy’s desperate handprint. Red was everywhere. Strawberry Jelly I suppose—no wait, blood? That’s when I remembered that I had already eaten my ham sandwich that afternoon. Silly me.

II
Today is my special day. After all, it’s my birthday. My mommy told me that if I got an A on my spelling test yesterday, she would pick me up early from school and take me to Happyland Ranch. I got every word right, even ‘biscuit’—after all, it is Happyland Ranch; the happiest ranch in the whole wide world! I couldn’t wait to ride the pony. Last year the pony had pneumonia and some man named Elmers had to come and take him away. That’s what my mommy said. This year, my mommy said that the pony was happier than ever. There are sheep that go baa, and you can pet them too! There are even little yellow ducks. Geez I love ducks. This is my special day.
I looked up at the clock. She was coming at 12:30 to get me. I couldn’t believe I was going to leave school early. I sat at my table with Jenny and my best friend, Benjamin, waiting for mommy to come. I wasn’t hungry that afternoon. I was all filled up on my mommy’s special vanilla cupcakes that she baked for me and my class; they had rainbow sprinkles. My favorite.
When the little hand… no wait; the big hand got to 30, I said bye to Jenny and Ben. They had pudding all over their faces. I couldn’t wait! The last time I got to go home early was when I had pneumonia.
I was so excited that I got up and ran down the hallway, I couldn’t help it. I took my peanut butter and jelly sandwich with me in case I wanted it later. I think Mr. Harrison said something to me when I passed him, but nobody likes Mr. Harrison anyway. My daddy says he used to touch children, but my teacher touches me all the time. She gives me hugs and one time she even put a little, yellow star sticker on my shirt for me when I gave Jenny my apple juice, because her mommy forgot hers. Poor Jenny.
At the end of the hall, I could already see my mommy’s blue car outside. I thought I saw her waving and smiled.
Then I heard someone running behind me. Maybe they were going to Happyland Ranch too. That’s when I was choked and thrown to the ground. My new collared shirt that Grandma got me, with yellow stripes and a ‘Happy Birthday!’ sticker from Mrs. Stankowitz ripped in front, right down the middle. I lost my sandwich and my nose bled everywhere when my face hit the ground hard.
It’s my special day.

III
Big Heath looks like he’s thirty, but he’s just thirteen. He’s big, freckled, has red hair on his head (and face) and likes to kick his dog. He probably couldn’t tell you the difference between right and left. I don’t know why I hang out with him. He’s a terrific asshole. Not that he’s terrific, but he’s terrific at being an asshole. He’s the only thirteen year old I know who smokes Marlboro Reds.
I remember one time he peed his pants in Mrs. Barbarito’s math class. He didn’t do it because he had to pee that badly, he did it just to be funny. I didn’t think it was funny, but everybody else seemed to. I didn’t think they had a choice. I pretended to laugh; otherwise I might end up like Michael Deever, who forgot to laugh at one of Heath’s stupid jokes. After school, Michael opened his backpack and found a dead, bloody raccoon. Nobody knows where he found it to this day.
Heath doesn’t have any real friends; people are just afraid of him and act like they’re his friends. If he were to disappear tomorrow, I don’t think anybody would care. There would be an unspoken relief in the air and I think the meatloaf would taste just a little better.
That’s why it didn’t even faze me when Heath got up from our lunch table and ran after some little second grader, ten minutes after eating my goddamn ham sandwich, which he makes me give him every day. I started telling my mom that I’m really hungry and now she makes me two. I usually sneak out and eat the other sandwich on the playground just before lunch. She wonders how I’m still so skinny.
Oh man was he in trouble that day. Principal Connell nearly beat his ass, himself. Apparently Heath thought that the little kid took his lunch—my lunch. What a moron. I watched him eat it right in front of my face. I heard he gave the kid one hell of a nosebleed when he punched him in the face—or threw him on the floor, depending on who you ask. I heard it was this little kid’s birthday or something. Man, that really blows. His parents got called in as usual and did nothing as usual. The school suspended him for like three days and he had to write a written apology to the Baxter family. When he was back in school, I asked him what happened and he said he thought the kid stole his (my) sandwich, so he roundhouse kicked him in the face and flushed his bloody face down the toilet. Yeah, okay.
Big Heath is a terrific asshole.

A ham sandwich.

A ham sandwich.

Do you speak Engrish?

April 23, 2009

As much as writing is about understanding writing, a whole new dimension of writing is revealed when due to a language barrier, writing is awfully regurgitated, skewed and completely mis-interpreted, often to the point where the original idea or concept has been completely lost:

If the fire doesn't get you, the grenade will.

If the fire doesn't get you, the grenade will.

Welcome  to Engrish.com

If you haven’t heard of it or seen it yourself, do yourself a favor and take a look. Many of the examples of “Engrish” on the website are so obscure, it’s hard to image what they actually intended to say. It really looks like many of the words and sentences were taken out of a hat. Nonlinear writing? you got it.

You had me at the..of.....

You had me at the..of.....

Nothing cracks me up more than a poor translation in a public space, or on a label… especially when it seems like they didn’t even make an attempt to get it right. Reading the labels on paper chopstick sleeves and miscellaneous items at the dollar store is a queer pastime of mine and I’m more than happy to share it with you. Have a joyluck happy goodtime.

I knew I left it somewhere...

I knew I left it somewhere...

You MOOs, you lose? Not really.

April 23, 2009

Reading Dibbel’s, A Rape in Cyberspace was actually a wierdly nostalgic experience. I used to dabble in the text-based network about 8-10 years ago, way back when the concept of multi-user collaboration and interaction in a virtual reality environment still seemed like a semi-new and exciting idea. Although my time on LambdaMOO was basically rape-free, I still fully experienced the network and the society that evolved within it. As I commented on Michael’s response, the whole concept of LambdaMOO seemed like a highly-evolved, interactive and electronic version of the Choose Your Own Adventure book series. What was most fascinating to me about the network was the fact that in many ways it was more immersive than most role playing games of the time. Not only was it a multiplayer game, but the fact that it was text-based meant that all pictures and visuals were self-established instead of universal. This could easily be compared to the relationship between a book and the movie production of the book.

Even at the time I was using it, the MUD seemed archaic in comparison to 3D computer games, first person shooters and any game on the PS2 or N64 platforms, but this never deterred me. The game and even its concept seemed like some strange remnant of the past– a historic landmark left untouched in a rapidly changing and evolving electronic world. It was completely open-ended. Any conversation within the network that was with a character built into the game was scripted, but most conversations occured with real people. It was entirely open-ended and no two gaming experiences were exactly the same. Although I’ve never played World of Warcraft, I would imagine that LambdaMOO was just like a text-based version of the game. Now graphics are generated for the user wheras in the early days of the internet, this was all up to the user’s imagination.

In today’s high-tech and highly immersive gaming environments, the concept of a MOO or MUD seems almost ridiculous, but their visual simplicity gave them a serious advantage. They were very data-friendly and took up almost no space, allowing for a larger, more open-ended gaming experience then would have been otherwise possible back in the day. In scope, it was almost akin to today’s Grand Theft Auto game series, without the processing or memory demands, because that type of computing was simply not possible at the time.

For anybody interested, there is a way to experience retro computing and gaming on all Macintosh computers. Its just like reverting your computer back to 1977 mode. There is a seemingly ancient operating system called “emacs” hidden somewhere within UNIX. To open it up, simply open up terminal (it’s in utilities or you can open it in finder) and type in or copy:

ls /usr/share/emacs/22.1/lisp/play” (no quotes)

This should open:

This list should come up.

This list should come up.

After this comes up, bask in the user-unfriendliness and confusion of this old OS and be happy that its 2009. Use this image for reference if you want, as it wont come back. Remember the name of the game or program you want to open (no clicking here), then type in:

emacs

This will open up the prompt.

Then press the ESC and X key at the same time. It may take a few tries, but when you get it, “M-x” will appear at the bottom, left of the window. When this occurs, type in the name of the game or the program you want to open and simply press enter and it will run.

Old-school pong on a mac

Old-school pong on a mac, who knew?

Some interesting games and programs in all their retro glory are:

-doctor: a really unhelpful psychotherapist built right into your computer

-pong

-snake

-tetris

-gomoku: tick-tack-toe with five-in-a-row.

-dunnet: old-school text-based rpg game, much like a MUD or a MOO

-yow: seems to provide random facts and statements that make little to no sense

And to switch games, you have to exit terminal, re-open it and do the whole process all over again… gotta love the 70’s.

A new machine?

April 21, 2009

The video, The Machine is Us/ing Us got me thinking…

This whole concept of a machine (the internet) that is not only an extension of ourselves, but actually part of ourselves (the human race) has pretty profound implications. Everything that the past two modules of this class have touched upon seems to be leading to the same eventual conclusion. Not only is the Internet revolutionary, informatory, and the future of writing and media, but it seems to me that given its wide-ranging power for collaboration and communications, it will one day bring almost everybody with internet access together.

I mean this not in the stereotypical peace, happiness, end of racism manner, but in the manner of a unified, almost “hive” mentality. This is a huge stretch, but I’m not talking about the immediate future. Perhaps a hundred, if not more years from now, when the internet that we now know has taken on some wild, exotic, super highly technological form, we might all be part of a giant, collaborative groupthink network, where everybody knows everything, everybody knows their role and everybody works together. As a society, we currently cherish individualism, but I think that individualism and varying ideals always causes conflict. Being one in the same could be the closest we could ever get to utopia and one day individualism might have to go out the window.

Perhaps one day we’ll have the Internet implanted in our minds. It might look like we’re asleep in class but we’re really on Future-Facebook, or we’re really tweeting about continuum transfunctioners with beta extrapolation capabilities (just made that up). It’s a pretty cool idea. We can all know everything without really knowing anything. Maybe one day we can download the entire pool of human knowledge directly into our minds. It would be like the training scene in the matrix… and the educational system will be obsolete (Sorry Dr. Wolff).

matrix31

The internet as it now exists would be baffling and incompressible to anyone from a century ago and I think given the rate at which technology is picking up, this idea of a unified hive mentality where we can all know everything isn’t really that far-fetched. It’s the post-humanist dream, I suppose—the complete merger of man and machine, but for the complete benefit of every man, woman and child.

It’s even possible that machine intelligence will surpass ours within even our own lifetimes, given the implications of Moore’s law. For this to happen, new computing methods are necessary (quantum computing) because you can only fit so many transistors onto a piece of silicon. It seems that throughout the course of history, the unthinkable will always become not only the thinkable, but the status quo. We used to say that the world was flat… right?

Flip Bondy

April 21, 2009

Here’s a little piece of microfiction for your enjoyment. Although some optimists may disagree, I’m convinced it will never be accepted for publishing elsewhere, so here it is, bound by the blogosphere:

Flip Bondy was a fine young innovator. He was a go-getter and family pets enjoyed licking him. His parents bought a second fridge when he was a child, just to show off his good grades. Flip Bondy was bound for success. After all, he ate his toast with the butter side up.
It was his lucky day in 2020 when NASA chose him to develop the adhesive to hold together the most important spacecraft mankind has ever built. It was to be a marvel of modern technological design. The idea was ambitious. We were to launch all of our planet’s garbage, nuclear waste, Bluetooth headsets, junk mail, hair metal, shoe pebbles, apple cores, etc. etc. deep into space to be forgotten about and never spoken about again.
It took six years of hovering over various glue samples at his desk, careful formulation, rigorous testing, and hovering over even more glue samples to develop the adhesive. Despite his terrible headache, it was clear that his efforts paid off. On March 15th 2026, Adh-Easy X-Treme  HappyMagic X-Core was ready to hold together man’s most important undertaking. Flip Bondy was elated. The press lauded him for his efforts and pretty women asked him on dates. In four years, Clusterf*** I, as the spacecraft was affectionately named, was on the launch pad.
On March 15th, 2030, the world looked on with wondrous, optimistic eyes and gleaming smiles. From this day forward, the world would be free of fruitcakes, fanny packs, splinters, DMVs, clothing tags, flat tires, unopenable soy sauce packets, etc. etc. Mission control began the countdown. Five—four—three—two—one—Clusterf*** I lifted off the ground seamlessly and for the first time, the world was completely burden free. A split second later it erupted into the most expensive, most toxic and most inconvenient fireball in history.
The whole surface of the planet was littered with AOL CDs, isotopes, used tissues, drunk uncles, burnt chips at the bottom of the bag, etc. etc. Scientists in caves peeled scented JC Penny flyers from their faces and deemed the earth unlivable, the water undrinkable and the air unbreathable. Lucky for everyone, the fine young innovator, Flip Bondy was busy at work. Within weeks, he invented a world renowned oxygen system for people’s subterranean homes. At last, the people of the world could stop holding their breaths. Things were looking up for Flip Bondy until he one day, still high on glue, forgot to pay his oxygen bill. He died face down on the buttery side of his toast.