Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Flash Fiction - Get Dirty, Get Clean

Good day,

 What do a long weekend, a nasty cold, and Portal 2 have in common? Me delaying this week's Flash Fiction by a day.

 Here it is, by the by.

***

            Her hair smelled of rubber and spice. The embrace she locked him in was firm and tight.
After walking for half an hour, she dragged him into a shop with red-tinted windows. Doors opened, and a bell sounded. Murals of semi-nude men and women groping one another decorated the ceiling and walls. A Bettie Page poster hung between two sets of shelves housing a menagerie of sex toys. Rows of novels and DVDs lined the front. Someone slender with a low-cut top and rows of hair extensions stocked the end of one aisle with unseen wonders.
            “What are we looking for again?” he asked his associate.
            “The latest issue of Clowns on Browns,” the girl said, running her fingers along a display case lovingly.
            The man put his fingers up, “This is where you explain why we’re doing such a thing.”
            “It’s a gift for my boyfriend,” she half-explained, eying the penis-shaped candles on the shelves. “It’s a joke between him and me.”
            He jolted upright, “Boyfriend?”
            She glanced back at him, “Yeah?”
            “I thought you were with Nikki,” he wondered.
            “I am,” she said, surprised. Her eyes shot towards a magazine rack. “Ah, there it is.”
            He saw his friend pull out a book. The cover depicted a man in a brightly-coloured wig and red nose pressing his lips against the cheeks of a stunning woman with coffee-coloured skin. White gloved hands cupped the model’s breasts. He tried not to focus on it. “So what’s this about –?”
            “What? I’m polyamorous,” she said, tucking the magazine under her arm.
            “Since when?”
            “Since, like, forever?”
            “First I heard of this,” he admitted.
            Sneering as she picked up a pair of fuzzy handcuffs, she eyeballed him, “Is it a problem?”
Defensively, he dug his thumbs into his pockets, bumping his shoulder against the shelf with mindless abandon, “No. I just didn’t know.”
She kept her gaze on him and nodded slowly, “You’re making it sound like a problem. Also, watch ou –”
Peach-coloured rubber hit his scalp; he pushed a deflated blow-up doll back onto the shelf while she chortled raucously. “Sorry if I am. I’m just surprised,” he struggled to put it back, asking when she had calmed down: “Your boyfriend or Nikki, though, they don’t get jealous?”
She chuckled again and shook her head, “Jealousy’s for kids. No friend asks you to hang out with them and their friends and no-one else. That’s like the definition of a cult. Why should lovers be different?”
“I suppose that makes sense.”
“You never thought of it?” she asked him, dancing her fingers along a row of Kama Sutras. “Having someone else at the same time?”
            “Well, no. I just, y’know,” he shrugged, “Once I joked with an ex and said her and I should hold a threesome, and she looks at me and tells me ‘I don’t want to share  you.’”
            Her face curled like she smelt something sour, “That’s stupid. You’re not a toy.”
            “Yeah, but,” he trailed off and put his hands up in a gesture, “Okay, here’s me. When I’m in a relationship with someone, I,” he paused to compile the right words in his head and turned his palms over, “I focus on them. All my energy, all my attention, it goes to them, and if I deviate from those feelings, or if she doesn’t put in the same effort, then it’s like a betrayal. Know what I mean?”
            Turning her gaze upwards, she twirled the handcuffs and pursed her lips, “Yeah, sure.”
            Lifting his eyebrows for a split-second, he gave a smirk, “No worries. I had a friend tell me my idea of love is rooted in the Eighteenth Century.”
            Supportively, she gave his arm a pat, “Nah, it’s just a bit more traditional.” Gaze drifting, she walked to the other end of the aisle, mumbling under her breath: “And a damn shame, too.”
            “Sorry?” he asked.
“Nothing,” she said, shaking her head and reaching onto the top shelf, “I think I’ll get this one, too.”
She held up her final purchase. Phallic in shape, the lava lamp gleamed at him. He squinted; it looked like it had several uses.
He didn’t get the signal until later that evening.

***

 Also, brief announcement: I'll be in Korea next week from May the Third to the Eighteenth. As such, I may or may not use this Blogspot account as a travelogue during my stay there.

 Here's hoping Kim Jong-Il doesn't shoot down my plane.

See you next time,

-RWI

EDIT: May 20, 2012. Edited?! Also, this one was kind-of personal and based on a conversation I had with a friend of mine at the time. Whyyyy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Let's Talk About: Finger Eleven

Oh hi, I forgot something.

                Can we talk about what is wrong with Finger Eleven these days? I remember when this band first came out a full decade ago, with a brutal sound that I can still enjoy as I sit here well into my mid-twenties. Their music used to be hard, and four-fifths of the band dressed like they just escaped from jail; nowadays, though, they’ve just turned into another alt-rock band.

                Don’t believe me? Look at the music video for Drag You Down and now the one for that new song they have that I can’t be arsed to say aloud. What the hell, guys? Why are you dressing like you have jobs now? Why are you writing fucking love songs when you used to be all cryptic and weird? It’s like when Our Lady Peace stopped screeching alongside ventriloquist dummies in a desperate attempt to become uplifting, or when Nickelback decided to release How You Remind Me over and over again.

                You know what it is? Check the music video for Drag You Down again. Try to spot the odd one out, there. So you have some twitchy dreadlocked fellow as the drummer; the guitarists have spiked hair and baggy pants and are prancing around like two cobras in a paint mixer; finally, the lead singer – one of many tortured bald guys that were running around at that time.

What about the bassist?

Look at this guy! He’s just there, trying not to stand out, in clothes that don’t so much evoke the image of a grungy hardened man as they do someone who’s about to head out to his job at Starbucks afterwards.

You know what I think? They’re all turning into that guy.

This is the only possible solution. I’m pretty certain that after concerts, the rest of the band must have stormed back into their dressing rooms with black smoke emerging from their skin and voices like charcoal and the bassist would just be right behind them like “C’mon guy why are we so mad all the time let’s go get a lemonade or something” and eventually they started listening to him.

I should be mad but I’m not. It’s really gotten me thinking, now. What if we have access to the world’s first X-Man? If he can mellow out a band that used to call itself The Rainbow Butt Monkeys, imagine what he can do on the battlefield. We could have the solution to the mid-east conflict right here. We should harness this power, pump it into the water supply!

You placid motherfucker, tell us your secrets!

See you next time

-RWI

Monday, April 18, 2011

Let's Talk About: The Virtual Band

Good day,

            Let’s leave the poetry behind, shall we? It’s so pompous.

On that note, I’ve noticed that when people of our generation talk about society’s ‘fakes,’ or those who put on personas to attract prestige and money, the word seems to be used very closely to describe people in the music industry. Toss this idea around and one is instantly reminded of Ashlee Simpson and similar artists who lip synch during live performances and adopt characteristics contrary to their real selves.

I’ve already banged on a bit about our species’ tendency towards tribalism, and music buffs are guilty of this as much as anyone else. Go through any music store, forum, or stretch of Youtube comments for any music video, and you’ll see all kinds of fans accusing other fans of following ‘fakes,’ or people who are ‘sell-outs’ or ‘too mainstream.’ Musical styles form entire subcultures, and with those subcultures come rules and norms and laws upheld with near-religious zeal by its followers.

            So what happens when musicians take the idea of “fake” to a different level? What happens when artists transform themselves to become new entities altogether? You get the Virtual Band.

I remember groups like The Archies and Alvin and The Chipmunks from Saturday morning reruns and renting old tapes from video shops that time forgot, but both ‘bands’ were creations meant to tie in with larger franchises. Records and t-shirts needed to be sold, and what better way to squeeze nickels and dimes out of kids’ hands than to flash colourful cartoons having a jam session?

As time wore on, these groups would help to seed the minds that would create concept groups like The Gorillaz or Genki Rockets. The former is a particularly popular U.K. group while the other just has sci-fi J-Pop appeal – and appeal that is big enough for the lead “singer” Lumi to be an icon, particularly in the gaming circuit. There are others coming out of the woodworks that I don’t have space to talk about, but I will very quickly mention a Filipino Christian rock band composed entirely of puppets. It’s a small phenomenon, but more people are quickly latching onto these groups every day.

So why are virtual bands so big? Aside from cartoonish madness, I would say that authenticity in fabrication is a major seller. There’s honesty in a music group comes out says “Yeah, we’re all so fake we don’t even exist” that appeals to the mind. People don’t have to worry about band “members” dying in car crashes or leaving to pursue solo careers. Detachment from the band’s “members” helps one appreciate the music and the idea of the band without slipping into idol worship – that is, until the swarm of homoerotic Gorillaz fanfiction hit the internet, but that's another kettle of fish.

            While we’re on this topic, I’m going to come right out and say something that will no doubt put me at odds with a good thirty percent of the nerd community: I really don’t care for Miku Hatsune, or the whole Vocaloid phenomenon for that matter.

            For those playing the home game and don’t feel like a Google Search, Miku Hatsune was the mascot of a music program where you could add vocals. The program would read musical notes and have a digital voice hit each one accordingly. One of the voices used was Miku, a hyper-cutesy sound cultivated from the pipes of an actress named Saki Fujita. Since then, the program was a hit, especially with so many geeks falling head-over-heels for the candy-coloured creature associated with the Miku program. Mikumania hit like a Texas-sized comet, with the dust cloud spreading across the world and with other Vocaloids spawning from this initial being.

            Oh, yes, and Miku has been over-sexualized too, with custom nudie models and body pillows popping up all over the place. This doesn’t win brownie points with me as I’m not mentally fourteen, but I’m not surprised. Internet creeps will create erotic art of train engines if someone tacks on a voice.

            But that isn’t entirely why I’m not fond of her – er, it. My issue is that the Vocaloids don’t have real voices. Even if Archie, 2D and Lumi aren’t real people, Ron Dante, Damon Albarn, and Rachel Rhodes are. And even though Saki Fujita and many more provided their voices as samples, those are all they are – samples. The soul of the singer is lost, replaced with cold steel and circuitry. In the end, Vocaloids are just synthesizer apps born of digital necromancy. Pressing a button to hit a high note is not the same as hitting it yourself with your own set of pipes.

            Someone once said to me that you have to see a Miku concert like seeing a DJ perform live. It's true; Daft Punk and Deadmau5 have personalities and a unique musical style, and having that makes it easier to enjoy the songs she makes. I think my issue is more than we're bringing Idol Worship into a sub-universe of music that really does not need it.

Plus, you can defend the Vocaloid concept all you like, but I have a far deeper concern. Let me drop two words on you that you’ll perhaps understand: Sharon Apple. For that matter, here’s a third: Superidol. That’s right, kids, Vocaloid is the real Skynet. We’ll see who’s rushing to the side of whom once Miku gets a hold of the launch codes and starts World War Three. Oh yes, I have a tinfoil hat and suitcase full of canned beans prepared for just such an occasion.

See you next time,

-RWI

EDIT: May 20, 2012. Edited! And added a point someone made to me once upon a time.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Poetry Jam - Trap

Good morning,

 A week involving two films, yard work, extensive city-wide travelling, and a little project called The Midnight Equation left me winded. That, and I've been cobbling information together for next week's Let's Talk About, which you will hopefully enjoy.

 As such I've only had time for a poem. Put down the torches and have a gander.

***

We say our vows in heat of night
And once again in black and white
We curse each other in morning sun
Swear our oaths when day is done
All our smiles tell not of the fight
Over who was that bitch last night
We tell our friends that it is fate
But know it is newfangled hate
And we could leave; this we know
But there is nowhere else to go

***

See you next time,

-RWI

Monday, April 4, 2011

Flash Fiction - Sunday Morning

Good morning,

 Today's entry is all about hangovers.

***

            The hangover was intense. When my eyes eventually opened, everything hurt. My room seemed larger, and the light from the windows was more oppressive than before. I didn’t want to get up. The clock beside me buzzed to say that it was 10:15; it could go fuck itself. Acting on its own, my hand lithely reached over to switch off the noise that dug into my ears like a drill.
            As my hand pulled away, I heard Beethoven’s Ninth booming from my phone. I groaned and knew who it was. No doubt he got drunker than me and is calling from an airport cafeteria, I thought. My fingers veered left and stretched out to grip the black Samsung by my radio.
I brought it my face begrudgingly. “Hey, Jerome.”
“There’s a naked man in my bathroom.”
I rolled my face into my pillow, relieved that he was at least at home, grunting out the word: “Oh.”
“'Oh?’ He’s upside-down in my tub. I need to shower!”
“Well, move him.”
“I can’t. I’m afraid.”
“Why? Him-being-naked isn’t contagious.”
“What if he’s on meth? Or shrooms? What then? What if he tries to kill me because he thinks I’m The Pope or some shit?”
“Then you hit him with a chair and call the cops.”
“No. You do it.”
“I’m on the other side of town!” I barked, wincing at the sound of my own voice.
“C’mon, man, you’re my best friend.”
“I’m not going to drag my hung-over ass out to your crappy apartment so I can beat up your naked guy.”
“Oh, so he’s my naked guy now?”
“Your apartment, your naked guy. Those are the rules.”
“There are rules?!”
I threw the other pillow on top of my head, pressing it down. “Yes. Can I sleep now? I need –”
“Oh god,” I heard him cry out, his voice dropping to a harsh whisper, “I think he’s awake.”
“Do you have a chair handy?”
“Yes,” he hissed. I heard a gasp. My ears focused for a brief moment to hear dry heaves in the background. “I…” he paused, “I think he’s crying.”
I nodded and pursed my lips together, “Better go and say hi.”
Throwing the phone into the hallway, I rolled over and went back to sleep.

***

 On that note, I'm avoiding The Hangover II like a dark alleyway. Take a look at that trailer and compare it to the one for the first film. The absolute absurdity and madness seems to be missing, and that bothers me. Mister Creative Team, you took these lunatics and sent them to Thailand, the very home of ladyboy strippers, fried insect vendors, and creepy expats, and on top of that this country is currently recovering from a massive political crisis - roll with it!

 Have these boys wake up to find that they stole a Kinnara statue, or that Alan joined The Red Shirts, or that Phil bought a transvestite, or something. Waking up to find out that one guy got shaved, another got a tattoo, and that there's a monkey in the bathroom just sounds like a regular post-drunken-party morning anywhere.

See you next time,

RWI

EDIT: May 20, 2012. Edit, edit, edit.