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Posted 27 April 2007, 5.46 pm by shaggy

The difference between a smile and a frown is the difference of choice. However, that being said, the goal of the storyteller is to convince someone to smile or frown, to laugh or cry. But the goal is in itself doomed to failure because of the fact that people choose: they can walk into a movie in which the filmmakers have faught hard to make a film to make everyone in the audience smile, but never so much as chuckle. I could walk into a movie intending to make me weep for a lost innocence and find myself laughing unintentionally at something within the frame (say, a hamster on a wheel as a man gives a monologue about how his life is destroyed).

So what is the point? Basically put, emotion is a strange beast. At once it is our choice whether to be happy or sad, but at the same time we are happy and sad because of other things. Even myself, I fear sometimes that I may be clinically depressed, meaning I ultimately feel sad a lot for no good reason, but it isn't that I just wake up and say "oh I'm sad for no good reason." I wake up in my apartment sometimes with a feeling of loneliness or what have you, and I attribute something to it. "I am sad because..." and what I attribute to it sometimes doesn't make any sense and sometimes is incredibly forced, but the point is my consciousness is incapable of thinking of emotion isolated away from incident.

But still, the minute I realize that I have no reason to be sad, more often than not I cease to be sad. This is one of the reasons why, although I fit the profile for clinical depression quite well, I have never seen medical help on the issue, probably to the great detriment of those around me. Still, as much as I have been a basketcase in the past, I think each day I get better by, rather than becoming opiated with a psychiatrist's grocery list, adjusting the manner in which I see things. No longer is a rainy day sad, but delightfully refreshing against dry skin. No longer is my apartment lonely and empty, but free from complications and a haven for my intimate thoughts.

You get my point.

So, if I were to sit and think upon whether I want to tell a story to convince people to laugh or cry, I have to think about what they will intend the minute they begin to listen to my tale being created. In other words, if the audience wants to laugh, they will laugh. If they think the story dictates a tear, they will cry. "Art-house" movies try to upset this balance, giving you a scene in which you feel like you should be crying but is forcing you to laugh, or vice versa. But I think they are missing one of the wonders of storytelling.

If I begin "once upon a time," it brings to the audience a background that is automatic for the phrase. They know they will hear a tall tale of sorts, most likely fantastical, and most likely with a slight tone of melancholy. Just like the colors on a plate of food will give you inclination of how the food will taste (which is why chefs focus on presentation as well as the quality of the meal), so too are there archetypes of emotion within any story.

So with that being said, I have but to wonder... looking at the state of the world, the cynicism and the jadedness, the xenophobia and the general discomfort, I do believe I've chosen my field of storytelling: to bring a smile into the room.

There is no experience like being lonely and then popping in an episode of Mr Bean or a bit of Futurama. Whether or not you like those shows, it does not change the fact that the choice both want you to make is to just generally feel good, generally smile.

Like I said about Scrubs, people being goofy and loving and silly, and just downright happy, is probably the norm more than the exception. People want to be happy, its undeniable; even "miserable" people bitch and moan because they want somebody to convince them NOT to bitch and moan, deep down inside. And well, if they choose to be so bitchy and whiney as to truly want to be miserable, then it begs the question of why they don't kill themselves if they think life is so unbearable.

Me? I think life is beautiful. I think even the darkest moments on earth have a tiny beacon of light, and that the darkness only makes the light brighter by contrast. I also believe that, if you look at darker stories like Pan's Labyrinth or Hotel Rwanda or such films, people aren't attracted to these films because they evoke tears... these films evoke tears because they have a light shining in darkness, and the light is made only brighter by the darkness that surrounds.

So, if emotion is a choice, than I choose comedy. It is the most difficult genre to write, since it walks the thin line between being funny and being a jerk, but its something I think the world needs more of.

I want to spread smiles. Really, if you sit down and think about it, wouldn't you rather be surrounded by laughing, smiling people than a bunch of goth melancholies that can't justify their own existence?

Tick, Tock

Posted 12 April 2007, 3.40 pm by Villager

I'm developing something of an aversion to clocks. They're deeply unsettling, with their incessant ticking and ceaseless tocking. Grim harbingers of mortality, milestones on the road to death flashing by, each one gone forever before the next has begun. I have achieved nothing. I have not sparkled, I have not shone, I have not excelled. I have barely begun contemplating where to begin. The clock is not sympathetic; it marches on, not stopping or slowing for pause or reflection.

It's not so much that I fear death. More that I fear living in perpetual mediocrity, pointlessness and apathy. What do I want? If I knew I might apply myself, then have at least a fighting chance. Perhaps I ought to develop my spirit, whatever that means. Certainly I find it hard to see what "material" achievements I would value anyway. Perhaps I should once more resign myself to the futile and dull nature of existence and just try to enjoy the ride. But that way lies suicide, of the mind if not necessarily the body too.

I have perceived as wisdom in different forms the idea that it is not one's destination that matters, but the way one travels. That suggests abandonment of goals and a focus on a way of being. But without wishing to be facetious, how can you travel if you do not know your destination, or at least have a bearing? I have ambled along the path of chance and fortune for long enough without reward.

I turned to God, and He wasn't unkind. He took away my sadness, and I was glad to be free of it. But while I find the wrath of omnipotence a compelling deterrence to sin, I am left just as cold by the inducements of spiritual freedom as I am by material indulgence. Peace is smashing when you're in pain, but awfully boring afterwards.

It's amazing how quickly you can become trapped in your perception of the world. You spend your youth considering the possibilities, beholding the incomprehensible vastness of it all. 'I'm going to be special', you think. And then it hits you. Your thoughts, your feelings, your beliefs, even your tastes – they're all contrived through choice. They are just habits, as good as any other, and chosen for the relief they promise from insufferable normality, little more. That may be what it means to exercise free will, but why do I feel no ownership of or even attachment to the person that I have become?

So what is the 'real me'? I spend a lot of time doing nothing. Not even thinking. I sit and I hear, I see and I feel. But I'm not listening, not looking, not truly feeling. That is when I 'feel' most natural. That's not to say I enjoy it, but nothing becomes the default option in the absence of something.

Reflections of a Trainee Teacher

Posted 25 March 2007, 9.45 pm by Villager

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet
How sweet his music! On my life
There's more wisdom in it.

Working in a school feels a lot like working in a prison. I've never so much as set foot inside a prison, mind, so you'll have to excuse the liberties I take with the analogy. Every thing that takes place there is ostensibly in the name of the venerable aim of learning, but in the process of that so much humanity must be curtailed, chastened and pruned. I am called a teacher of English, but I spend rather more time trying to persuade, bribe, bully and otherwise force children into a mode of thought and behaviour that adult society deems appropriate. It's not just the children who suffer, either: I am daily at pains to contrive the façade that constitutes Professional Conduct.

I've been training for six months now. For most of that time I've been quite convinced that I'm never going to be good at it; I've persisted largely through the conviction that I'll not find anything better, and largely in fear of renewed failure. I dare say that most people would struggle to do the job well, but me more than most. The reasons are legion; laziness, introversion, relentless insecurity, emotional detachment, and more that I haven't the heart to summon. So why am I doing it?

One answer would be idealism. It impressed the course tutors, aligns with pedagogical good practice, and makes some sense, at least in the abstract. But it would be a dishonest answer. No, I chose to become a teacher because I couldn't think of anything else. As I read that back to myself I am forced to examine my conscience, as I have done many times. I considered the pay, the holidays, the social status, the pension, the lack of physical labour. People would call me 'Sir'. What else can you do with an English degree, except become a failed writer? I could always achieve that in my spare time. I had no confidence that I could do it, but arrogance and a tendency to ignore anything beyond the immediate future led me to disregard that.

I'm not as bitter as I sound. There are some children who are genuinely pleasant to interact with, and who comply most eagerly with my demands. There is an extrinsic pleasure to be had from conceiving and managing a successful lesson. I proclaim that I enjoy my subject and in part this is true, but there are only so many times that you can joke about Subordinate Claus and his bossy wife before you start to resent the entire exercise.

There are moments that cut through the madness and make me feel simply redundant. Like when an eleven-year old, asked to write an autobiography, narrates a detailed account of a child 'raised' by drug addicted parents, left to contract hepatitis from a needle left around without care, sleep in her own shit and repeatedly be bitten by a starved dog. She has the scars to prove it. And I'm asking her to write about it.

Where and how?

Posted 21 March 2007, 5.08 am by shaggy

I look and wonder; everyone has their own set of ideals, expectations, the way we think the world works. And yet the world is consistently unpredictable in human terms. The world was not built in our image, and we were not built in the image of the world. We are a pebble in the sand, and we rock to and fro in the whims of the tide.

And yet, there is magic-- or at least the will towards it. Freud defined magic as the childish will for control over environment. When a child cries and says "but I want it," magic is the tool with which 'it' can happen and fall unto their lap. And yet, sometimes we fluke magic even without requiring delusion.

So, then, is our will accidental? Some people have lives that are exactly as they wish; others fight the waves as they crash, and are buried underneath the rocks, their cries buried under the thrashing tumult. We remember the ones that stand out, the ones whose will fights against the current, and yet what of the pebbles that remained buried, the ones whose will did not magically coincide with that of the world?

Can we bend reality, or will it break? And what happens if we snap it, what would be the fallout?

We are chemical sloshing, meat that is rotting at each step. Our consciousness is an accident of energy and matter. And yet we piece together our surroundings; can we ourselves willingly create such an accident, replicate ourselves in the sand, make a pebble into our image?

They say that they studied prayer on a quantum level, and prayer actually changes the environment of those who pray. The will has a quantum effect on the environment. Is this my magic? Could I dissemble existence, then, if I willed it strong enough? Or could I create a utopia where our telomeres are ever shortened, our words are never drowned in the sea of human voices?

At which point does the will become delusional? Does the man who wish for a peaceful life suffer from delusions of grandeur?

Does the abyss ever stop staring back?

The end of the first world

Posted 7 March 2007, 9.07 pm by shaggy

Driving down the highway, same route she had taken a million times before, Mackenna tried to keep her eyes open, tried to stay awake. Her eyes were dry and sore, irritated and it felt like someone had been desperately rubbing sandpaper along her sockets.

She closed her eyes for a moment, to moisten them. She had been crying again, wanting desperately for things to work out. She had begun wondering if they would ever reconcile their differences, or if they would be forced to part ways. She did not want it to come to that, but the two were just getting increasingly bitter. As a part of her gave up, another part of her knew that they only fought about trivial things, and they could simply choose to not fight or bite their wicked tongues back for a moment and just truly appreciate each other.

As she smiled, content that they could do that, that they could both be happy, she looked up and realized she had swayed a little bit into the other lane. She opened her eyes as wide as they could go, terribly frightened by the mistake. Still, she was so tired, so exhausted, and her eyes were so very dry. As road signs blinked past her, as the light of her headlights fought the shadows, she thought to herself that she could just close her eyes for another instant. And in an instant, there was change, light, and pain. In a moment, she found herself approaching the other world she had promised her daughter. Metal scraped against metal, and the smell of burnt rubber, an inhuman screeching, and a warm, sticky feeling leaking all over her body as blood flowed freely, all came crashing together. Her first thought was, “no, not like this.” She thought of the last few words to her husband, trying desperately to hang onto life as her blood dripped out of her like a fountain. “You can’t die,” she repeated to herself again and again. She thought she saw a firefly, buzzing in front of her vision, and silently wondered if she was beginning to hallucinate.

She tried to move, but she felt a jagged bit of metal in her stomach, felt the pain of splintered ribs. She tried to breathe, but each gasp was far too painful, but she fought the pain, tried desperately to stay awake. She kept telling herself, again and again, that she would never get a chance to apologize to her husband, never get another chance to tell her family that she loved them.

Everything was fading. She cursed and tried to pull out whatever was jabbing through her torso, but she found that it was a part of the dashboard, and any attempt to remove it proved too painful to bear, each attempt sending her into a state of dizziness from which she feared, if she went too far, she would never wake. She screamed and shouted, cursed and yelled. Each angry curse became weaker and weaker as her consciousness began to fade. Again, she thought she saw a firefly buzzing across her vision, but then again, everything began to change, the world fading into darkness and becoming lit by phantasms, random lights that some people would attribute to a brain that was lacking in oxygen, and others still would have said to be passing onto another world.

She held her hand up and tried to catch the firefly. It escaped her. She closed her eyes and in her dream, she left her body and floated away, chasing a phantom insect and unsure exactly where she was headed, or why she felt compelled to go there.

I'm Not Done Yet.

Posted 25 January 2007, 12.07 pm by The_Roach

As I look back over the last six-plus years of my life, I realize that I've been through a few ups and downs. I've engaged in some rough relationships. I helped to create a reasonably successful local print publication in my home city, with all of its associated trials and tribulations. I've made friends and lost friends. Later this year, I plan to marry and start a family. None of these things would have happened without AKpCEP.

This is my home in the digital landscape. I've never found a place that felt more comfortable to me. The greatest thrills and the most crushing defeats that I have experienced in my time on this earth are all connected in some way to this place. I have physically moved my residence no less than four times since I became involved here but I've never left.

Now, I sit in front of this screen every night and I hit F5, hoping that there is something new. But it's largely become rote. It's killing me to see that my home, which I have so much love for, is simply decaying like the rotting corpses I've been reading so much about in Max Brooks' brilliant books on zombie survival.

I miss Spooky, even though he and I haven't really talked for years. I miss Amaurote, who hasn't left but has little to discuss except for British politics (despite the fucking brilliant Doctor Who revival which has not been discussed here since before it started airing two years ago). The elephants, Anton's second ass hole. At this rate, I'm going to start missing Gladiator soon.

Please, God, if you're up there... don't let it come to that.

I know I can't be the only one. It's simply not possible for there to only be one person whose life has been altered in some way by their participation here. I just hope I am not the only one for whom the effect has been positive.

We have tons of archival material. The thirty guests online right now... they aren't all spambots, are they? What can we do to get them in, get them involved, get their lives changed?

This started as a cultural engineering project. Is the culture gone? Has it already failed? Can it be saved or are we just wasting Alexander's (and the donators') money?

If so, I'm terrified. It's been a long time since I was homeless and it is not a prospect I look forward to.

Through Bright Light: In The Marsh

Posted 23 January 2007, 2.55 am by shaggy

(to catch up: Boogeyman, Peebles, and Mackenna have made it to the Marsh of the Malcontents. While wading through the wetlands, they are attacked on three fronts-- the Shadows of Shadow Forest coming from behind the lake, Anima, the soul of the Malcontents, swimming in from the east, and the Malcontents themselves, a hideous bunch of clay-creatures devoted to misery and pain, coming up from underneath the travelers, spewing from the mud itself.)

Mackenna ran toward Boogeyman, who simply turned to her and looked deep into her eyes. Their foreheads connected for a moment and she realized he was crying. “Go,” he said simply, and when she shook her head, he repeated himself. “Go or you’ll never get out alive.”

One of the Malcontents lumbered toward Boogeyman. Boogeyman made a gesture with his hand that was the same parents might to inform their child that they need to go. The hand stayed in this position even after he turned around. The message was clear: the grown-ups are talking.

Mackenna was hurt for a moment. But when the clay-creature swung at Boogeyman with a fearsome tool that looked like a combination of brass knuckles and pincushion, piercing and tearing a great deal of skin from his face, Mackenna’s base instincts overtook her, and fear, crawling inside her like an animal, forced her to flee.

Boogeyman recovered from the blow, his face dripping wet with blood and clay. He looked at the Malcontent, who appeared to be smiling as it wrapped its arms around Boogeyman, hauling him into the mud of the marsh. Even though he could not see what was happening beneath him, he could feel his lower extremities, already weak from the attack by Coagula, attached to a cold metallic thing. And as he struggled, the thing bit with sharp teeth, and he felt a fresh warm liquid pouring from the barely-healed wound on his ankle.

Mackenna made it to the other end of the marsh, where Peebles waited. She heard the sharp yelp coming from Boogeyman and it made her cry. Because she knew that he had done the right thing, that she had to see her family, and that he had sworn to protect her. This was his way of finally protecting her. She did not dare look back. She knew what was going to happen. Her upper body tensed up as she tried desperately not to cry.

Peebles looked up at Mackenna and let out an urgent meow that quickly escalated into a pathetic wail.

“There’s nothing we can do, Peebles,” she said with a sigh as she wiped tears from her eyes. “We have to get out of here.” With that, she picked up the one-eyed creature, trying not to squeeze him too hard, for all the love and sorrow that she felt for the pet.

Mackenna quickly glanced back at the marsh. Her lip quivering in frustration and grief, she closed her eyes and whispered a eulogy for the guide.

“Thank you for everything. Thank you for helping me finish my story.”

And with that, she turned around and continued in the only direction she knew, unsure of how she would find her way without her guide, but knowing that she had no choice, both for her family and out of respect for the gesture Boogeyman had given her.

Through Bright Light

Posted 15 January 2007, 1.16 am by shaggy

(to catch you up, after seeing a lifeless lump that had once been his pet Peebles, Boogeyman attacks a great dog-demon named Coagula, tearing away at the dog's eyes but getting a severe wound in his ankle in the process. The dog's owner shows up, but is frightened away by Mackenna, who shows no signs of being under his spell. After the dog-demon and its owner leave, Boogeyman is left staring directly at the lifeless lump that had once been his most beloved pet, a part of his family.)

Boogeyman, though he was hurt and though he swore to himself it would do no good, could only think about Peebles. Weak and bruised, and limping on his wounded ankle-- which luckily was not completely devastated-- he wandered over to what was once his pet and, dropping to his knees, picked it up.

Mackenna was amazed at the different applications that his claws had displayed. At one moment, they were desperately seeking the destruction of another being. And now, it looked as if he wanted to pour his own life into Peebles from his fingertips. His hands delicately picked up the body and gingerly lifted it up to his face. Boogeyman rubbed his face against the pet, his entire body heaving from his sobs.

Mackenna walked up to Boogeyman slowly. She bent down and tore a sleeve off her shirt, proceeding to make a wrap for his bleeding ankle. What looked like a chipped tooth was still stuck in the wound, which she carefully removed before wrapping. She did all this as Boogeyman simply lifted his leg, welcoming the nursing but at the same time not really allowing his attention to divert away from what he considered important.

For a moment, after the foot was properly wrapped, Mackenna was distracted away from Peebles and Boogeyman when she heard rustling in the leaves, in the trees. There was a moment in which she feared that Coagula had returned for vengeance. She expected to die for a split second. But as she looked toward the sound, she found she had to tilt her head upward.

The faces that she had seen before they entered into the Old Triangle, the disconnecting-reuniting-disconnecting heads that had separated Peebles in the first place, the beings Boogeyman knew as the Hopeless, flew up far above their heads, dancing around almost majestically. They would separate, and moan; reunite and then bicker; and they would separate again, and offer up a sorrowful, lonely cry only to begin the entire cycle again.

Mackenna closed her eyes, breathed in deeply. She sighed, looked at Boogeyman. He looked back at her, still holding Peebles, with eyes burning and leaking, red and pulsing. He held the body toward her as if it were an offering.

“I said that he would be alright. I said he had to be. But my words did not save him.” He paused for a moment, breathing in, trying to suffer in the way he thought he should. “I couldn’t save him,” he shouted desperately, loud enough that the Hopeless stopped for a moment, peering down at him before carrying on their dance. Mackenna looked at him apologetically, beginning to cry herself in sympathy.

“I’m sorry,” was the best she could do. She was no great storyteller. Her words had never created any living being. But at that moment, feeling the pain flowing off him like an aura, traveling straight to her heart, she wanted to tell him that she could do something, anything. But she could not.

“Please,” he said simply, not sure exactly what he was asking her. There were a million things he could have added. Please do something, for starters. Please make this pain go away, for another. But the only thing he spoke with where his gestures, his lower lip quivering uncontrollably, his big eyes staring at her in need and regret, in pain and woe.

As he sobbed one more violent time, there was a sound. At first, Mackenna thought it had been Boogeyman, but when she looked up at him, she saw on his face a look that spoke her mistake. It had not been Boogeyman making that noise at all.

She looked at his arms, and watched as Peebles huffed impatiently, shook his head, and meowed in triumph. The pet began to drool uncontrollably, and began licking Boogeyman’s shaking, tear-soaked cheek.

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80s candy bars were pretty good

only because i traded it for a candy bar in the 80's.

lol we all know you don't have a soul ghoti

my soul for some carbs...

But of course!

Yo ! Does this work ?


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