Seasonal Madness and Supermarketry

My Regular Mind, December 19, 2010 at 08h01

Using public transportation is a great way to get around the city. Under ideal conditions, it is efficient and reliable, and you’re never standing on a crowded and overheated bus as it inches toward a traffic jam caused by a parking dispute. This of course leads to the ongoing debate of pulling in versus backing in. I don’t know if there is an actual law, so I won’t pressure you with my opinion except to say that I’m with George on this one.

Typical gray winter days loom over Vancouver, ruining nearly everyone’s Corn Flakes. If it’s not currently raining, it’s either just stopped or it’s about to start. Usually both. This relentlessly wet weather brings out the Irresponsible Umbrella Owners, a secret society that I’m convinced is dedicated to poking out my eyes. As a person of above-average height, you can imagine my perfectly rational fear of these people. They’ve yet to connect with more than a scratch, but I have once again initiated my seasonal defense mode. Oh yes, it’s on.

A few weeks ago there was a suspicious incident with a local specialty supermarket. Early one morning, I saw that fire investigators had it all roped off and were inside beeping and reasoning. A sign on the door now says that it was declared arson, and as I’ve learned from movies, arson is always suspicious. Hypothetically, if there were a supermarket of similar specialty in the same area, this would be an opportune motive to shut them down and ruin their inventory. But hey, draw your own conclusions, I’m just spreading gossip.

There’s an underlying frustration during the holidays that can’t quite be obscured by massive sales and Salvation Army carolers. People with no time, no patience, no money, whatever. It affects drivers, pedestrians, and grocers alike, and you can either let it affect you or let it pass right through. Lately I’m a ‘pass through’ kind of fellow, and when the seasonal madness approaches, I grab a rum-and-nog and relax by the imitation fireplace with my best gal.


Pieces, Torn and Sinking

Briefs of Fiction, December 13, 2010 at 08h49

One by one, the pieces fall down, down, resting for a moment on the water before being pulled away forever. Henry treats the photos like strangers. He does not want to recognize more than he has to, more than he already does. It all feels like the day before, when he still had her.

This was the day they met. Summer camp, twelve years old, she was fourteen, wearing a Road to Ruin t-shirt. He had the same poster at home, that’s what they talked about. Nobody else in the photo matters, just him and Lisa, side by side. She wrote her address on the back. It rests for a moment and then is gone.

When he was fifteen, he performed in Chicago. She came out to see him, to witness the unscheduled solo they joked about. He was kicked out of band class for it, but he had to, Lisa dared him. Her laugh was in perfect harmony.

That was the day he told her that he loved her, but this too falls and is lost forever.

Yesterday, they were dancing at their wedding. In her beautiful white gown, in his black suit, flailing wildly to the music. Laughing. This was their joke together, to play Sedated as their first dance.

And then they are torn from that day, and they fall in pieces to the water.

He remembers everything she said, every gesture, every smile. Oh, that smile, it always leaves him breathless, and then the memory gently fades. Down, down, and gone forever.


Comicle #8: Modern Commerce

Comicles, November 20, 2010 at 01h35

I got some feedback that this comic is hard to understand, so here’s its plot: a man steals an iPod, then sells it to another guy who robbed someone to pay for it. Punchline. Humour.

But seriously, how many of us are buying worthless products using money that isn’t ours?

I am. And I think a lot of other people are too.

So agree or disagree, laugh or super-laugh, it’s all up to you. Because you are capable of making up your own mind. You’re an individual, just like everybody else.


My Favourite Briefs

My Regular Mind, November 16, 2010 at 04h39

Believe it or not — and I certainly hope you do — occasionally I’ll hear that someone enjoyed one of my stories. This always leads to a little parade in my heart, with balloons and streamers and stilt-walkers. Herein is a shortlist of a few such parade-inducing briefs so you can avoid the fluff of my entire catalogue.

Flowers For Pepito was inspired by one of Kristian Adam’s beautiful paintings. As soon as I saw it, an entire story poured out of me, and I knew I couldn’t capture it all. Within the story are hints at this bigger story, and I would be delighted if one day I had the time to tell it.

Dolls was for a monthly contest done by Other Voices where they offer a prompt such as, in this case, no man is completely masculine and no woman solely feminine. I imagine the main character in this story as a living embodiment of a Russian doll, but hopefully with more interesting redundancy.

Under The Bed was based on this feeling I had one morning that there was something under my bed. When I lifted up my air mattress, there was nothing there but dust, but it gave me some flashbacks to some of my childhood worries. The same day that I posted this, three of my friends let me know that they enjoyed it. They might have once had similar worries.

Petals In The Fall is a story I read at an open mic, and afterwards a couple people told me it was their favourite of the three stories I’d read. It was written based on my own speculation of a conversation I was eavesdropping on.

Regrowth was read by a friend of mine who subsequently told me she had a nightmare about it. I suppose that’s just about the highest compliment for a story that is intended to conjure these similar fears. Like most of my briefs, it was written impulsively based on an idea I had, this one being about modifying plant genetics.

These last three are speculative fiction about the end of the world. Nobody told me these stories were particularly good so I won’t bother going into detail; all you need to know is that I like them and that’s why they’re here. The first is called Darkness, the second is called While We Were Sleeping, and the third is called Time Running. Who knows, maybe the three scenarios are in fact linked to the same event. Only time will tell…


Generating Content

My Regular Mind, November 8, 2010 at 01h47

When I first started this site years ago, I found it enormously easy to update frequently. There was even a month when I had updated almost daily, something I probably couldn’t achieve today. Back then I wrote very emotionally, very abstractly, and now, even though that style comes naturally to me, I don’t enjoy it. I want my work to have a deeper significance no matter how artistically constraining it is. This post will not be constraining or significant: I will let it be what it is.

I’ve been generating content on various sites since the mid-to-late 90’s, back when not everyone and their dog had a web page. The same day that my family got Internet access, I bought a book on HTML programming. This was when we had a top-of-the-line 56K modem that barely achieved 14K. My first web page — (called My Asylum, clearly during my black-jeans-only phase) — was a collection of various links and a logo drawn in MS Paint. I thought it was cutting edge. It had animated GIFs.

My next site came years later and was much more refined. I called it iMike, which more accurately reflected my less gloomy, more geeky lifestyle. It’s still up — surprising, since Tripod used to have a tendency to remove inactive accounts. All the manual coding became so tedious that I eventually signed up for one of the earlier ‘blogging’ sites called Diaryland. Later I moved my content to Blogspot, and finally to this present site, my handcrafted, WordPress-powered The Trigger.net.

Today I find myself updating less and less frequently. Multiple unfinished drafts glare at me, pending, but never quite seem perfect. Years ago I wouldn’t have had a problem posting them. I must have grown, evolved, improved; became cynical, pessimistic, unenthusiastic. Maybe I’m waiting for some cosmic signal to risk everything for this hobby of mine, something I used to consider a passion. But what does passion mean anyway?


The Mad Trapper

Briefs of Fiction, October 31, 2010 at 06h00

A rifle gets cold when it hasn’t been shot, so cold it freezes to your bare hands when you’re trudging through knee-deep snow falling so thick you can’t see right in front of you. There’s tracks on the ground, and they’re not a man’s tracks, but they’re the only things to follow.

Thick fur coats, blankets, tents, food, fire; who could survive here without these things?

Someone says he must have died somewhere far behind, someone else says no, his body would’ve been found, someone else says to keep moving, it’s too cold to stop unless it’s to make camp. They say he killed two Mounties, they say he’s got to be caught.

He’s not a man, he’s the Mad Trapper of Rat River, a ghost. Can’t be caught. Hard to believe ’til you’re after him.

There’s new tracks now, a man’s, from the caribou tracks to the trees. That’s how he’s been hiding, that’s where he is now. Who knows how long ago, his footprints are almost snowed over. A few hours, maybe, but they’re deep and they’re straight, so he’s not tired. He’s running. Seventy-two miles, he’s still not tired.

The ghost goes to a canyon. The trees are thick, and it’s too dark to see anything but the tracks leading down there. Someone says to set up camp at the top, there’s mountains surrounding him, he can’t go nowhere without coming back this way. A storm hits. It’s gonna be bad.

Even with a fire, it’s the coldest night in months. Nobody knows how he’s staying warm or what he’s been eating. How’s a man on the run find time to hunt, to dry his clothes, to build a new shelter each night?

A rifle is fired, it wakes everyone up, it kills the man on watch. Somewhere down in the shadows, the Mad Trapper is fired upon, and at the top of the ridge, given away by the campfire, two more Mounties die.

In the daylight, his tracks go from the top of the ridge, down through the trees, to the face of the mountain. There they stopped, nowhere to go. The ghost either vanished or the man climbed up, at night, during a blizzard, rifle in hand.

Everyone says he’s a ghost.


Comicle #7: Money Can’t Buy Everything

Comicles, October 21, 2010 at 10h29

It seems these days that some people are hesitant or downright unwilling to do something good for the environment because of cost. This argument always sounds absurd to me because, as I see it, it’s illogical. The planet’s been around a whole lot longer than money and frankly I can’t imagine it’s too concerned with our artificial concept of economy. It’s probably even a little bit ticked off.

As a quick analogy before my mind completely shuts down for the evening, let’s say there’s a ship full of sailors out at sea. One of the sailors — we’ll call him Bucky — happened to bring along his collection of antique buckets and another — we’ll call him Corky — brought his finest corks. When the ship is out as far as it can get, it’s discovered to have a hole in it! And not just one, but several, all over! Water’s getting in everywhere and the ship is sinking!

One sailor goes up to Bucky and asks to use his buckets to save the ship.

Bucky says, “What? Are you kidding? These buckets are much too expensive to use for bailing out water! But I’ll sell some to you!”

So a bunch of sailors pool their money and buy a few buckets, and while they’re doing their best, they realize it’s not enough! They need to plug the conveniently cork-sized holes! So they go up to Corky and ask for his corks.

Corky says, “Not a chance, these are my best corks! But I’ll tell you what, I’ll sell some to you!”

But guess what: the sailors spent all their money on buckets! (Except for Bucky, he must have left in a life raft or something.)

So one of the sailors says, “Listen up, Corky! If you don’t give us those corks, we’re all going to go down with this ship!”

But Corky’s a stubborn and selfish jerk, and he shrugs his shoulders and walks away. Then when his back is turned, the sailors bop him on the head with an oar and take the corks anyway.

So the moral of the story is that if we want proper renewable energy sources and the corporations aren’t willing to sell them at reasonable prices, we’re going to have to bop them on the head with an oar. You know, metaphorically.


A Curious Example of Corporate Restrictions

My Regular Mind, September 26, 2010 at 05h47

Years ago, the corporation I work for centralized our Internet access so that it ran through its head office in the States. They didn’t notify us of this change, not that they necessarily had to, but I only realized this after noticing my external IP address was located in Illinois. At first this didn’t affect me at all, but after a while they started restricting some web access. Again, I can’t emphasize enough that this is entirely within their rights to do, but lately it seems a little absurd.

The first sites to go were the obvious social media sites (like Facebook and MySpace) and adult content sites (like 99% of the rest of the Internet). Then they started expanding the restrictions to include streaming media (goodbye Youtube, goodbye radio), then gaming sites (including educational games, which were great fun on lunch breaks), then any sites that include certain keywords, until now it seems like its more of a question of which sites aren’t blocked.

It wasn’t until I tried researching how to donate my hair to cancer patients that I realized the extent of this absurdity. It’s funny that ‘Donating Hair For Cancer Victims’ is blocked because of its malicious reputation.

Sure makes me wonder.


Comicle #6: Marketed Values

Comicles, September 18, 2010 at 10h23

This Comicle doesn’t properly summarize what I intended it to, so if you’ll allow me, I’d like to explain my thoughts further.

Just by living in a society, we are almost always under the influence of others. In the case of the character in this Comicle — we’ll call him Durpius — he’s angry that the vegan is trying to push his values on him. But what Durpius doesn’t seem to acknowledge is the abundance of advertising all around constantly pushing their values on him! And not just any values, but the most biased values possible: companies selling their own product.

But let’s suppose Durpius is aware of this subconscious influence and isn’t bothered by it. In fact, he probably finds it comforting since this same influence has always been in his life. But if this is all he’s ever known, could it be possible that these are not his own independent, actual values?

Put simply, my point is this: there are values all over the place, but when you don’t disagree with them, you may not notice. Take a look around, identify every time someone else’s values are being pushed on you, and before you believe it, make sure you believe it.


Straggler

Briefs of Fiction, August 30, 2010 at 10h41

Onada crept towards the garden in silence. Fallen branches bent under his step, but did not break. This forest knew him, and it would never give him away.

He paused at the edge of the clearing. Hundreds of leaflets littered his crops. There had been an airplane the day before, but Onada couldn’t tell if it was Japanese. He hoped it was, hoped that his commanding officer had come to relieve him. But of course it was not, orders were not dropped from passing airplanes. They were given in person, face to face. They were accepted reluctantly and obeyed completely.

Onada retrieved a leaflet and retreated back to the forest. It wasn’t safe out in the open, in the garden that he came to only when he must. If it were too well cared for, the enemy would know he was alive, so he let most of the crops wither, even when he was hungry.

The leaflet read: LIEUTENANT HIROU ONADA, THE WAR IS OVER. JAPAN HAS SURRENDERED TO THE UNITED STATES.

Did the Americans think he was a fool? That such an obvious trick would coax him out to be captured? His name was misspelled, his rank was incomplete! Such poor forgery! No protector of Japan would ever accept such shame as surrender! Never would the mighty Empire of Japan fall!

Onada remained vigilant. Here, on this island, to this soldier alone, the war raged on for thirty years.