Another Chapter! Chapter 4 Here
I knew that crime scene. I’d seen it before, spread over a loading dock in an alley in midtown. A scene I left chasing a man who was running from the scene. He was covered in blood. A man who I fired at and accidentally hit a lady further down the alley. She later apologized for getting in my way. The bullet is still in her collarbone, and she baked me a cake to say sorry.
The worst part was that the body disappeared when I got back to the loading dock.
So I took a squad car back to the precinct and I stopped on the highway to grab a bottle of water out of the trunk. I was getting lightheaded. I’d have to twist some balls to get the blood-work off of the scene by tonight. Its not that I didn’t appreciate what the techs did, I just wanted to have some real evidence to follow before I started chasing ghosts. Ghosts seemed to like long car rides anyways.
“I don’t want you to start looking into this” Misha was right, of course. My only stake in this investigation was supposed to be the murder of Adam Kraden.
“But there is too strong a chance that it could be linked.” She knew I wasn’t wrong.
“Michael, you have a pad of paper that doesn’t say anything and-“
“It doesn’t mean anything!” It didn’t mean much, but it meant something.
“Look at this thing, Misha.” The evidence bag and the pad was between us on her desk. “Kraden was holding this before he died.” I flipped it over, showing her the bloody fingerprints on the back.
“Then tell me what to do about it.”
“Nothing. Not yet.” Misha wasn’t happy. A dead politician and a commissioner who didn’t approve in her choice of detective was enough to make anyone jumpy. For Misha? She was pissed. I didn’t like waiting to drop the worse news on her, but I’d rather she kick me out than spend another hour yelling at me.
“Why,” She pinched the bridge of her nose and measured her words carefully, “The Hell. Are. You. Here.”
“I wanted to let you know that this might be more complicated than the murder,” I heard her mumble a small ‘fantastic’ before I continued, “And also that I am adding the midtown files to this case. The body I witnessed is concurrent with the way Kraden was killed.” I was scared for a second that she was going to lunge over the desk and kill me with a paperweight. She didn’t. I would later wish she did.
“This is my career on the line too. If you fuck up, I fucked up”
“Do you trust me?”
“No, but I believe you.” This wasn’t the response I expected.
Being witness to something like Midtown and then having no evidence to back it up and having no one believe you- It’s an awful thing. You start to become obsessed with proving it. The midtown file was nothing more than my report and some nearby security camera footage.
What I wanted to do was to dig back into it, to link it somehow to Kraden or to find any lead at all. I wanted to make it real. And the worst part about this was that just in the early dark hours of this morning I was driving around trying to make myself finally let go of it. I wanted so bad to let it go. But then I see the parts of Kraden laid around his living room. Now I can’t.
I was back at my desk sipping a cup of coffee for twenty minutes before I even realized I had gotten the file. It was open on my desk. I forced myself to close it.
Well I guess I’ve strayed into multimedia.
My friend and housemate Scott Key helped me out by throwing a little voice acting onto Devil’s House. I’m pretty damn pleased with the product, and this may be the mode of distribution from here on out.
The first two chapters are currently being hosted on SoundCloud. I encourage you to give a listen. They aren’t yet available for download- but they will be at a later date.
Please listen! Enjoy!
This one is too easy, I swear. I mean, you ask the question, what the hell can make small talk interesting. Well here it is:
Humans evolved as a social species. The development of language is its own fascinating bundle of fascination, but what strikes me about small talk is its purpose. If you meet someone at a cocktail party, especially someone you don’t know too well, you ask them about their job, their hometown, and, of course, the weather (This, in major cities, is relegated to traffic, the urban weather). People look at small-talk as useless dribble, information less nonsense we resort to when we have nothing good to talk about. I don’t usually resort to absolute, but those people are wrong.
A great deal of information about social compatibility is exchanged in Small Talk. It helps to look at small talk as Human Butt-Sniffing. Dogs, when they great each other for the first time. First: they will smell each other’s noses. This serves as an indicator of mood for both animals. Second, they will sniff each other’s asses. Why? to tell the gender, pack status, and cleanliness of the other dog. It is an exchange of social data. Humanity has evolved its small-talk to include the basic social data. Who do you know, what Friends, if any, do we share, how much money do you make, and what kind of a person are you (Do I want to be your friend).
While social posturing and small talk may seem useless, try approaching it with this in mind. It also helps those less socially adept to function in those group situations. When in doubt, ask questions and gather info. People not only love to talk about themselves, but the more social information that is shared, the more of a subconscious connection is felt.
Right. Everyone’s favorite topic. Homework. THe bane of the weekend and afternoon, scourge of the high-schooler, and joke of the undergrad. A large subject that has been beaten to death by the likes of my peers. So lets take a different tack.
The main component of learning a skill is repetition, and this is where the homework paradigm comes into play. Sheets of simple math, grammar, spelling. The hundreds of calculus problems that professors will assign to drill the basics into your head. This is where I will take my contention
Tell me if this sounds familiar: An elementary school teacher with 40 kids has 2 hours to teach the basics of adding fractions with different denominators, in between trying to calm the class down and an ill-timed fire drill, she only has 45 minutes to teach some very important fundamentals. After blasting through the materiel, she sends the children home with their math worksheet because she has another 4 furrow days to go this semester alone, and has to keep her curriculum up to speed, or they won’t be ready for the standardized test at the end of the year that dictates how much funding the school gets. So the children go home, not really understanding the materiel, and try to complete it, not knowing how. Some get help from their parents, but most don’t. They try to complete the homework, don’t know how, build bad habits by “Incorrect Repetition”. Learning a skill depends on correct repetition, incorrect repetition breeds incorrect skills.
This is a small diatribe on the fact that we need more educational funding, and some teaching methods need to be changed. But how are we supposed to change education?
Homework is necessary. We hate it (and some don’t), but its true. What needs to change is the nature of the homework. The current paradigm is to lecture in class, and to assign the repetition outside of class. This is effective as long as the students completely understand the method, which they often don’t. It might be more effective if the repetition was guided in class, allowing the students to perform the correct repetition. This also allows you to introduce the idea outside of class, developing critical thinking skills, and intellectual independence. To put it simply, Have a student learn outside of class as much as they do inside of class. Make intellectual exploration a habit outside of the classroom.
Robert Rauschenberg, White Painting (Three Panel), 1951
Take a moment to imagine what would happen if a painter from history happened upon this painting. Michelangelo might be intrigued, Van Gogh could be somewhat disgusted at its simplicity, Leonardo would be in awe of its technical proficiency. But all artists before the last 150 years would never have seen a painting like this receive recognition, much less be painted at all.
More than a 1000 years ago, it would have been nigh on impossible to achieve such a smooth and perfect white. The technology didn’t exist. Canvas was rough, oil paints were of poor quality, and keeping it such a pure white would have been next to impossible in most studios. In fact, going back to antiquity, the easiest way to achieve a smooth white was to polish the proper type of marble or granite to a sheen, and hope it doesn’t have any faults or mineral lines. This simple painting illustrates the technical proficiency of our time.
But this painting is more than that. It is an identifier of one of our species’ most unique qualities. Meta-thought. The analyzation of abstract ideas as their own entity. Art was about recreation and imitation, Landscapes, God-forms, theological idolatry. Then, suddenly, Artists started changing their view. They created altered versions of reality. Impressionists, surrealists, abstract artists. Then, somewhere along the line, the alteration of reality was surpassed by art that was completely independent of the world it inhabited. It didn’t mimic anything, it didn’t reference anything, it became art that reflected thought-form. Our reality became our mental construct of reality. And more than anything, this is what makes this very dull, very minimalist painting interesting. How in the world did we get from cave paintings to 3 white sheets of canvas?
Being an Office Receptionist
This isn’t interesting? I mean, it already seems to be to me, but let me spell it out for you, since you asked.
First, look at the prevalence of the service economy in this day and age. If you go back just 200 years, there wasn’t much of an economy around supporting the needs of others. You could carry packages or be a servant. Other skills, like service manufacture, required the creation of physical goods. Nowadays, there is an entire economic ecosystem of people’s whose job it is to coordinate, organize, or communicate. Office Receptionists, who write memos, and fill date-books, are just the tip of the iceberg. Someone from 200 years ago would look at jobs like that, and would likely laugh. “what kind of a job,” Says blacksmith joe, “Requires you to sit and talk to people all day”. But the fact is, without the service economy, we could not survive. As society becomes more complex, we have more of a need for people to organize it all, prevent it from collapsing. Office Receptionists form the basis of modern society.
But then we move on. Office receptionists are not only the cornerstone of modern society, but they also lead lives of intrigue. We are a society that thrives on social interaction, and, to a smaller extent, gossip. I am not lending any credence at this point to general archetypes, I am only using them because we as a society use them. Anyone who works HR or Reception in an office building has a better idea of what is going on in the office than anyone else in that building. This is because it is their job to deal with the people, to organize it all, and to know what to say to who to get what they need. Social information is power.
The receding Hairlines of Congressional Aids: A Study
Hair-loss, for some odd reason, is inextricably linked with stress. Which, when constantly getting texted pictures of a congressman’s junk on capital hill, is fairly high. Hair loss, in our society, is almost a sign of weakness. One can be bald and still be strong, and one can have hair, but if one is in between the two, we suddenly see weakness.
Its funny, in this way. We have had an African-American president, a Catholic President, and with any luck we are well on our way to having 2 X chromosomes sitting in the oval office. We haven’t yet elected an openly balding president. Can you think of one?
Well, there is Benjamin Franklin, I’ll admit. But he was elected in an era where wigs were the commonplace, and unlike most of the founding fathers, he was shoved far back to the 100 dollar bill, behind all of his peers and contemporaries. His name is even being redacted from history by a few southern and midwest states who don’t like his policies.
A man puts down his pen. A man picks up his pen. Indeterminable moments pass and his pen is back down. Perhaps, Man thinks, he needs a drink. Man picks up pen, gets up, and goes to get drink, realizes he cannot pour drink with pen in hand. Man sets down pen. Man realizes, via his behavior and the large number of empty tumblers on his desk, that he may have had enough to drink. Man sits down.
Maybe this isn’t how I want this story to start. Maybe I need to learn to shut up and let myself talk.
The Man, of course, isn’t just a Man, his name is…
Indetermineable moments pass and a name is still not found
Well his name isn’t important. What is important is that he is trying to write a book
How very self referential
And he is having trouble…
Not making it any better for yourself, are-
The man is in a room
Aren’t we all
Sitting at his desk
Who else would be sitting there
I think we know it’s a guy
And he very much hates his writer.
Hey, be careful there, I made you
Yes, I don’t think he cares very much about that
But I Created him
Was that capital C really necessary?
Well is is something of importance, isn’t it
No, it isn’t. you are just trying to grant what you do some false importance. As if creating a world and creating people in it makes you a God (capital G intended)
Well… Doesn’t it?
Oh don’t go down that road. They don’t exist. All this is, just so happens to be you sitting in a comfy armchair with a glass of watered brandy trying to escape into a world of your own making
But it has importance!
What, the Importance of the Artist? All False, I assure you. An artist creates things that people merely like or despise with all their hearts. Do they make foreign policy? Do they lobby for new laws concerning corporate regulation? No, they sit and whine and bitch and do nothing. How does that matter a whit?
Not to you, at least
Not to anyone.
Not true. Someone’s acting once inspired a man to try and kill Ronald Reagan.
A Crazy one
How does that matter? Every single one of us is at least a bit crazy, and we can sit and not be able to do anything about foreign policy, but every one of us can create. Every one of us can show someone something beautiful or interesting or horrifying.
But that doesn’t mean that what you create means anything to the world
The World? Screw the world. It doesn’t have to mean shit-all to the world. For all we know, the world isn’t sentient. You know who is? Us. We experience, we create, and we feel. We are the only reason we know we exist. Because like it or not, there is more than one of us. And I don’t know about the world, but if I can influence one person, if I can change then, then I have changed a world. Theirs at the very least. What you don’t realize is that this world isn’t one coherent mass, it is just a landmass inhabited by billions of people who see things differently, and billions of people who have their own worlds. So I’ll tell you this, you don’t have the dominion over worlds that I do. By just going on stage and speaking I can change a hundred, by writing I can change a thousand. That’s the thing. I don’t control or create reality, I add to it.
Larry: (pounding back a shot) well shit.
(Arlus walks up, Larry is poured shot after shot after shot of something clear, Arlus approached Barkeep)
Arlus: (worried) what’s he drinking?
Arlus: …you keep water in a vodka bottle?
Keep: keeps the underage happy and paying
Arlus: (nods, then to larry) Larry, what happened? Wife leave you for a white bull again? Pregnant with a monster, is she?
Larry: nope (prepares for shot, takes it)
Arlus: Did Daddy cause another earthquake in Sparta?
Arlus: Hade’s steal your daughter away to the underworld and… something with a pomegranite?
Arlus: I didn’t even finish!
Larry: already knew the answer
Arlus: well what was I going to…
Larry: Dionysus visited me today
Arlus: … hm?
Arlus: no, I heard you, that one wasn’t all that funny
Larry: I wasn’t kidding
Larry: he honestly did
Arlus: (pause) so why water?
Larry: just popped into my-
Arlus: seems a little weak for-
Larry: and just whipped it out-
Arlus: I mean, I know you can’t hold-
Larry: and it was just gigantic, then he-
Arlus: showed you how to take them, just-
Larry: told me to get up, started yelling-
Arlus: and the whipped cream makes it even better-
Larry: Told me to PROduce a play!
Arlus: and that’s how you take a shot!
Both: Wait… What?
Larry: you told me to take a straw and drink through my nose
Arlus: Dionysus told you what?
Arlus: I may have been drunk at the time
Larry: He, uh, told me to PROduce a play
Arlus: that’s not how you pronounce-
Larry: I don’t care
Larry: so what does that even mean?
Arlus: Fresh vegetables for sale at a market
Larry: no, the-
Arlus: yeah, you pronounced it wrong
Larry: Don’t Care
Arlus: Figures. Hm… I think its when an asshole shows up and tells the director what to do.
Larry: well that doesn’t sound very helpful
Arlus: I could be wrong
Larry: yeah, that doesn’t sound right.
Arlus: does it mean…? Yeah, I’m out
Larry: me too.
Arlus: well, we could just go around and ask people what producing is, this is Athens, after all, someone should know.
Larry: Oh yes, that sounds like a fantastic idea. We could go to Lickus, the street lecher, and ask him, “do you know what a producer does?” and he flashes us and we say, “not that kind of producer, what a Theatrickal producer does” and he tells us he doesn’t know, but would sure as hell like to find out. So he follows us when we go to ask Scandalus, the politician, Acrylica, the beautician, Little Pintus, head of the league of orphans and the president of the competitive drinking league. We can ask flicus and Bickus, and kalamazoo! And then go and ask mr. floppity roo! And then we’ll take this great big mob of people up to mt. Olympus, stand in front of Dionysus, and say, “Listen here, you schmuck, none of THESE people know what the hell a producer does, why the hell should I?”
Arlus: You’re drunk… ( pause, picks up shot glass of water sniffs it, looks at Larry, who continues line)
Larry: (dawn of realization) Oh god Damnit! (leaves)
Arlus: yeah he probably has (moment, follows)
(Dionysus walks on, hands jug to Keep, asks for a gallon, Keep looks confused)
Dio: (to Keep) Think I was too hard on the fellow? He was pounding the drink pretty hard
Keep: (stunned) it was water
Dio: (looks angrily at Keep, grabs back his jug, starts to leave, glares back, and struts out)
Every story humanity has ever told, and ever will tell, all come from the same myths, the same basic narratives. Boy finds friend, they find trouble; boy meets girl, they fall in love, they die or live happily ever after. Every that is going to be told has already been told. So how do you tell a story that is worth being heard again?
It is tempting for me at this point to write a list of what makes a story memorable; but the truth is, there are no specific methods. The key, however, seems to be resonance. A story, as should be obvious, needs to have some sort of relation to the person reading it. This can come in the form of an Active Relation, something someone wants to get out of the story, and a Passive Relation, something in a story that, for one reason or another, evokes an emotional reaction.
As always, the line between an Active and a Passive relation is larger and more blurred than “The Greatest CENSORED Hits of Ron Jeremy”. This is also true for how much of each element any one story may contain. Novels that are usually focused more on an Active than a Passive relation are what we have come to refer to as Crime or Detective novels. These are books that we read to try and figure out a mystery, and are actively involved in trying to decipher the plot. A Passive Relation can best be found in almost any comedic novel, where the entire point of which is to create the humorous and unexpected, and therefore inspire a passive relation (i.e. trying to make the reader laugh)
As always, the best road seems to lie in the middle. Well, at least according to my limited world-view. To illustrate why, you need only take the one piece of literature we have probably almost all heard read in monotone by an English teacher; Hamlet. This is a story that creates both an active relation, forcing the audience to determine if Claudio really did kill Hamlet sr., but also is a story, in its most basic form, about a boy losing his father, creating a Passive relation.
But Hamlet is a story we have all heard before, isn’t it, along with most of the stories we are so fond of telling. So how do we get an audience to listen to them? First, you give them something new, a new take on it, and a new perspective. Anything to pique their interest. But failing that, every good story, every story worth listening to, has to be both felt by the audience, and interpreted by them. The perfect moment is when the audience is halfway between slight confusion and emotional devastation when the plot finally resolves. If done right, its enough to leave most people speechless
Screw. You. Shakespeare
This isn’t an open letter to good old Bill, mind you, I hold, and have always held, a deep love for all (Most) of the Bard’s works. Even still, screw you, Shakespeare, for ruining shakespeare for me in high school. Its not the words I hate, its not the writer, its not the content, its the way that people read them.
Nothing in the world can possibly be more sexually deadening to me than a perfectly enunciated Romeo and Juliette said in a perfectly iambic metronome. Its something akin to imagining the sweaty effort your parents made that earned your little white tadpole a seat on the 9-month egg express.
The joy of acting isn’t found in the words, its found in how they are said. I am of the firm belief that anyone can be inspired by Henry V’s “St. Crispin’s Day” Monologue, or that anyone can know pain by hearing Titus lament the destruction of his daughter. The power of those words isn’t as much in what they say, its how people say them. That seems obvious, doesn’t it, that the power of the Bard’s words are in how they are said. But we have a habit of taking ourselves out of the equation when it comes to Shakespeare’s works.
The joy in seeing one of Shakespeare’s works isn’t watching a perfectly rendered period reproduction with original accents, its in seeing an actor take words we have heard thousands of times, and saying them so we listen like its the first time. Like that first time that we actually heard the words spoken with emotion, not from a high school teacher, not from a monotone reading, the first time we heard someone actually MEAN those words.