Monday, June 29, 2009

RIP Robot Michael Jackson, 23:43 6/27/09 -- 00:03 6/28/09


That unmistakable hoot-howl, at once lilting and tormented -- I'm reminded of Werner Herzog's line on the Amazon jungle: "the birds do not sing; they shriek in pain" -- comes forth when you drop a credit into a Moonwalker cabinet. It used to be the loudest sound in the arcade, louder even than the theme music from the TRON game; you always knew when some poor sucker, his curiosity having got the better of him, was about to enter Michael Jackson's vitrual futuristic dance-battle adventure. Sometimes you'd get a savvy repeat customer, or a multiplayer group of them, who knew what a merciless quarter-sucker the game was, stocking up on continues right off the bat, as I'm doing right now:

WHOO-hoo! WHOO-hoo! WHOO-hoo! WHOO-hoo! WHOO-hoo! WHOO-hoo!

I'm not really standing in an arcade, and I'm not really feeding a week's worth of allowance into a real Moonwalker machine. This is all virtual, emulation. That's the beauty of digital media; it may exist, pristine, forever. We'll never see Nijinsky dancing with Les Ballets Russes, or John Barrymore's Hamlet, but long after the last physical Moonwalker cabinet is broken down and shipped to a Ghanian recycling centre to have the precious gold acid-leached out of its circuit boards, we'll still be able to play the game itself, on our laptops and iPhones, on any electronic device that can be coaxed or hacked into running an emulator, in perfect fidelity. As I am doing now. In memoriam.

Comix-style panels fly across the screen, setting up the scenario. An evil-grinning unsavoury type known as "MR. BIG The Boss" -- I know he's known as this because he seems to be wearing a sign to that effect -- is kidnapping children for some reason. It can't be a good reason; at best it could be a morally ambiguous reason. Perhaps MR. BIG The Boss is kidnapping children in order to save them from terrible circumstances, to give them a chance at a better life? MR. BIG The Boss might be to Child Protective Services what Batman is to the cops, a vigilante working outside the system to get the job done. Whatever, Michael Jackson's not having any of it. Besides, as MJ himself said, it doesn't matter who's wrong or right. He is going to show them how funky and strong is his fight. He is going to Just Beat It.

A little picture of the King of Pop comes on the screen -- this is 1990, and it's weird; at this point MJ's epic self-mutation is already as legendary and rubberneck-fascinating as his musical and choreographic accomplishments, but I'm looking at that picture going "Michael, you look fantastic! You can stop there!" -- and registers his displeasure in a two-frame animation. One defiant "HOOO!" later, and it is on, motherfuckers. On the streets.

Michael Jackson's not too keen on guns or knives or swords, or sword-guns, or any other videogame armaments. His weapon is Dance itself, augmented by glowing blue-white lightning bolts of pure will that he shoots out of his hands like a taser. He can also drop a funky Dance Bomb on the whole place; accidentally, fumbling around the keyboard trying to figure out the controls, this is the first move I trigger. A spotlight comes out of nowhere -- or maybe Michael has a fleet of choppers providing airborne pyrotechnic and lighting support? -- and the move is righteously busted, its power such that MR. BIG The Boss's henchmen, a weird mix of fat gangsters from the Twenties and sci-fi jumpsuit types, are compelled to helplessly dance along until it kills them.

Or does it? At the end there, Michael does this thing where he flings his hat and it flies around the screen trailing magical sparks before returning to him, boomerang-style. Maybe it's the hat that does the killing; maybe Michael borrowed the hat from Oddjob, or bought it at an auction to add to his Cabinet of Curiosities, knowing it would come in handy when MR. BIG The Boss made his play for the innocent children of Michaeljacksonville or whatever this weird city is supposed to be. Either way, I busted the righteous move too early; there were only two bad guys on the screen. A waste of precious righteousness, but at least I made an entrance, gave those henchpeople something to think about. I rescue a little girl trapped by magic rings like the ones Marlon Brando used to keep General Zod in the prisoner's box when the Kryptonian Science Council sentenced him to the Phantom Zone. She gives me a first-aid box in gratitude -- the parents and guardians of Michaeljacksonville are really into preparedness; all their kids are packing either EMS-grade trauma kits or Dance Bombs -- and runs off.

Dance, dance, dance; yaargh, yaargh, yaargh. These thugs go down pretty easy, but there sure are a lot of them. Are they really mercenaries, I wonder, or did MR. BIG The Boss just send out an open casting call and recruit every up-and-coming backup dancer in the state? A paycheck's a paycheck when you're struggling to the top, and some of these guys -- even the droids! -- display some pretty sick moves before the Dance Bomb (or maybe the hat) kills them for not being Bad enough. Hey, is that a chimpanzee in overalls and a longshoreman's jersey? It's Bubbles! Bubbles, over here! Whaddya got for me, little buddy? Maybe some more Dance Bombs, or... oh. Oh, OK. You turn Michael Jackson into a robot. I totally get it.

Michael Jackson's not too keen on guns, no. But Robot Michael Jackson? He fucking loves guns, laser guns especially. He loves laser guns so much that instead of hands he's got laser guns. Now he's just walking with his laser-gun arms outstretched like a mummy or a zombie, just lasering the living shit out of everything. BYOO-BYOO-BYOO-BYOO! It's kind of hard to aim, but who cares? Robot Michael Jackson's got lasers enough for everybody, but all the little kids trapped in those magic rings (note to self: MR. BIG The Boss a Kryptonian?? Investigate further) aren't even scared or anything. They just say a cheerful thank-you -- very polite, these Michaeljacksonian sprouts -- and hand over their first-aid kits, happy to help Robot Michael Jackson hand-laser his way to the end-level miniboss, which is a couple of Tilt-A-Whirl carriages with flamethrowers where the seats ought to be. Yeah!

Haters, step right off; Michael Jackson was fucking awesome. WHOO-hoo!

"The function of wisdom is to discriminate between good and evil."

Oh Cicero, shut the fuck up.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”

Oh God you were so beautiful that night.
I came out of the ground and I could hardly see anything.
Like Plato's cave allegory, Like Jason's Argonauts; astronauts.

I worked with a candle on my fucking head.
In methane pockets.

I am dirty but I just want to see the bluebird sing.
Hear it chirp and watch it love; nesting.

I came out and am free to watch love build life.

Touch that.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"...there's a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out but I'm too clever, I only let him out at night sometimes when everybody's asleep."

I am yours. Your sweet bluebird. I am yours.
Put out the seed, fasten the feeder, I am home for summer; hungry and thirsty.
Yes, I am your bluebird.

I whistled at you today but you were busy, I guess.

I pecked at your window today but you were busy, I guess.

I fucking died for you and screamed your name and cried and drank and fell and stood up again
I wept and wailed, failed and fluttered, and even waited for God, sometimes.
I kissed death and swam with monsters
but you were busy,

I guess.

I am your bluebird and the summer is so strange without you.

Friday, June 26, 2009

"It is no use to blame the looking glass if your face is awry."

Drugs. Insanity.
The battle and the victory.
MDMA, cocaine, mushrooms, exctacy, speed, mary-jane, beer, whiskey and tequila.
Eating, fighting and winning.
Thanks, kids, for the win.
In my tent I fought it alone, as usual, and won.
There was one who helped me, though.
A strange angel from the past.

She took me down through the mists and gave me socks to wear, even.
I loved her hard, but I could not be a lover for her.

You see, those trips, those tastes, those sick fucking wastes
I should be alone, I said.

Again, heart broke and face pouted.


But you know me, by now.
Burning through, ripping through, loving you.

I never knew you, too.
But I love you still and your Vietnam-chopper whinge.

The last one out.

Are you on it?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Toronto, September 2008, drunk lines on a balky typewriter


Brown is a short man;s world

Dragging a bulldog that,s don

done walking

Hot dark eyes and hot pink bo



The body lushes lesgs blush

arms blush face blush feet bl

blush but eyes eys eyes eyes

black black

black black

black blck



Thursday, June 18, 2009

Obscurity rules: Live A Live

Caveman, cowboy, kung-fu master, robot, ninja, cyborg, wrestler, knight... how's that for a who's-who of escapist badassery? Or maybe, I keep thinking, they form the nucleus of an all-new troupe of Village People, an expanded travelling revue that takes the stage along with a pirate, a drill sergeant, a viking, a voodoo priest, a regular priest, a chimney sweep and a trucker in an all-singing, all-dancing cavalcade of camped-out cliches. But I'm getting two fantasies ahead of myself. Those eight stereotypes are in fact (of course) the stars of a video game, and not just as sidemen or companions; in Live A Live, an obscure Japanese title from the Golden Age of Super Famicom RPGs, each of these dudes takes his turn as the main player character.

Yes, it is very weird, which would explain why nobody was much interested in risking the money and time to give it an official North American/European release back in '94. A strange title in a niche genre, kind of a compilation album of short but fully realized RPGs, each conceived by an individual artist whose fame and cachet ended at Japan's 12-mile limit, linked by common themes and concepts, coming together in the conventional sense only in the final, symphonic "tracks." Interesting, yes; a minor masterpiece, maybe; marketable to the SNESheads stateside, busy going gaga over Super Metroid and Mortal Kombat II? Not so much.

Live A Live, a game so obscure that -- unlike other Japan-only RPG classics; Sweet Home, say, or the legendary Mother -- I'd never even heard of it until it... well, it came to me in a dream. Woke up one morning with the name "Shimomura" rattling around in my head. Making coffee: Shimomura, Shimomura. Walking out to get the mail: Shimomura, Shimomura, Shimomura. What the hell? I came back with my stack of overdue bills and consulted my dream advisor, the modern-day Daniel of Googlipedia: Yoko Shimomura, Japanese video game composer and musician. Lots of credits. Kingdom Hearts, Parasite Eve, Street Fighter 2 (wow, cool)... Live A Live? Never heard of it. Click. Caveman, cowboy, kung-fu master... OK. OK; I know a must-play when I see it...

A moment, here, to give props to all the world's fan translators; high-five, you beautiful nerds. Thanks to your awesome efforts, unpaid, translating and localizing the scripts, going into the ROMs and monkeying around with fonts and files and sprites and whatever other arcane shit you have to deal with, folks like me get to experience this otherwise apocryphal stuff in which the beancounters (rightly) didn't see enough of an English percentage. Gideon Zhi and Aeon Genesis, domo arigato. And beyond games, back to the fan-subtitlers who slaved on those anime VHS tapes we'd trade and copy until generation loss made them unwatchable, back before the North American anime boom: you are loved.

Anyway. Live A Live? Highly recommended to all curiosity seekers; the patched English ROM and emulators with which to run it aren't hard to find. Each character's chapter has a distinct look, feel and sound, yes, but beyond that each has a distinct thesis, a distinct soul, its own approach to how the rather formal genre of the Japanese role-playing-game might be approached. I started off my journey, kicked off what would eventually add up to a few dozens of hours of play, at what I figured would be the chronologically sensible point: back in the old caveman days. Ninja games, kung-fu games, even cowboy games... these, I'd played quite a few of; cavemen are still quite a novelty.

The idea of Live A Live's caveman segment is that the culture is pre-verbal, or at least pre-abstract-speech; there's no dialogue, only pointing and gestures and "speech" balloons containing pictures of discrete concrete objects. Never mind that these prehistoric people obviously have a material culture and social organization that'd be impossible without sophisticated language; it's still fantasy, after all. The gameplay gimmicks here are item-crafting -- you gather bones and rocks and animal skins to make the stone axes and hide robes that are the caveman's arms and armor -- and scent-trailing; pressing X causes little clouds to appear and drift around the field, the spoor of animals and men. Following these scents -- and/or avoiding what you're smelling -- is key to moving through a plot of primordial knight-errantry.

And this continues, very different gameplay variations through ages and universes. As a ninja you'll use stealth and guile to move through an enemy stronghold, making the choice whether to slaughter those in your way or to slip by like a shadow. As the gunslinger cowboy, you'll instruct beleaguered townsfolk in the setting of traps and pitfalls in order to even the odds against a bandit gang. The sci-fi chapter involves almost no combat, instead following the adventures of one little robot as he moves through a claustrophobic, shipbound mystery-thriller filled with murder and betrayal. As the kung-fu master, last of your lineage, you will recruit and train a trio of disciples and ultimately choose a successor. The wrestler works his way up the ladder of the world's top martial artists in fighting-game style, learning his opponents' moves as he goes. Each segment is its own little gameworld... until they're all brought together in a very satisfying crosstime struggle against ancient evil.

The world of games -- especially Japanese games -- is much bigger, so very much bigger than what the English-speaking markets have been officially allowed to see. Check out Live A Live and then by all means go further, down into the hidden byways of concepts and creations within another culture's canon; it's the videogame equivalent of getting into French film, Argentine literature... a trip into another world of worlds. Worlds that just happen to contain ninjas and cyborgs...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On watching Cheap Trick at the Thunderdome, Edmonton, 1997

In Edmonton did Doctor Paul

A stately Thunderdome decree:

Where Rock, the sacred music, ran

Through speakers measureless to man

Down to a black-lit sea.

So half a block of fertile ground

With beer signs and posters girdled round:

And here were riggings bright with synchronized strobes

Which spotlighted many a classic-rocking band;

And here the servers, scanty in their robes,

Went running cool drinks with steady hand . . .

And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil dancing,

As if this earth in tight hot pants were prancing,

A mighty rock band momently was forced,

Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst

Huge anthems vaulted like rebounding hail,

With crafty notes 'neath Robin Zander's wail:

And 'mid the dancing rockers at once anon

They flung out immediately the sacred song.

Six words meandering with a crazy motion

Through guy and girl "I Want You to Want Me" ran,

Through those speakers measureless to man,

And pumped the tumult in the lively ocean:

And 'mid this tumult I heard some talk

Ancestral voices prophesying rock!

A guy with six or so guitars

Was playing in that place:

It was that Rick Nielsen fellow,

And his playing was real loud (not mellow),

And one axe had his face.

Could I revive within me

That symphony and song,

I'd be so glad (like Steve Albini),

That with music loud and long

I would build that 'Dome in air guitar,

That smoky 'Dome! those babes so nice!

And all who heard should see them kick,

And all would chant, Cheap Trick! Cheap Trick!

Their brand-new songs, their classic licks!

And though I'm poor, can't pay my lease,

and barely keep myself well-fed,

I'll be happy, now, when I am dead:

'Cause I've heard the chords of Dream Police.

Monday, June 15, 2009

On buying bread from Wink's, June 15 2009

Don't know what you did to me;
Wish you'd do it again...

Fire in the belly
Fire in the blood
Fire's on the mountain
Run, boy, run!

Chick's in my brainpan
Pickin' out dough
Granny am I all right?
No, child, no!

Don't know what you did to me
Wish you'd do it again

Saturday, June 13, 2009

At night, the demons come and become me.

We stood against those gray-slate walls, tough.
On Younge Street, like that.
We made trouble and we made this place. This fucking country.
Yeah, we were all tough. Tough babes. Babies.
But we took that shit down and combed our hair like that, fixed our cars like that.

I had a straight-8, Roadmaster. A Buick. When we revved that engine I swear to God everyone fainted and the chicks all came in thier tight, pink panties.

I knew some girls and we took them out sometimes and necked-down with at least some heavy-petting in the works, and on the menu.

I remember my good buddy, at Danforth Tech.
He died in my arms at lunch after a knife fight one day.
Just like that, lights out.
Many friends died on me those years.
I left high school and bought a pop-truck, worked it like that.
Scams and shams.

I started selling drugs soon after and got hot.
It was 1971 and I was driving down the Don Valley Parkway with $10,000 in my underwear.
I bought a new car that day.

A year later I gave my girl an ounce of coke for Christmas.

She was pregnant in the fall and had a boy in 1973.

We were tough like that, against the gray walls on Younge Street.

We used to push the freaks into the lake, off of the end of the pier, into Lake Ontario.

We were tough, once.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ixtab: Goddess of ropes and snares.

The hunt went poorly.
Ab and Ben fought over the heart.

But Ixtab, could she be appeased?
With rope or fire?
With human heart, blessed by Exsama, of early mists?
Are we caught in the webs of Exjade, like morning dew?
Or Ah Zhez, Master of cold?

Will you release me on Albertan soil?
Like Exjunchan, The Dangerous One.

I will be

The Destroyer.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Very Viscous Fluid.

I met the ocean today and we had a good talk. It told me to keep on pushing, hold out; roll in and out like the tide.
I told the ocean that I was a little sad, and I missed my friends.
The ocean said, "Roll on, move the mountains with your constant rolling, reduce those boulders to sand. Grind it down".

"What do you expect, becoming an island. Of course you will be alone".

The ocean knew me and I felt shy and stepped back. But the tide lurched for my feet.
"I am you", said the ocean, "and you are me".
I jumped back again, but just a little, as I knew that showing fear was akin to showing your cards in poker.
The ocean asked me, "What do you need?"
"Something more than love, more than life?"

"I can't pay bills with those things", I yelled.

"What do you need?", the ocean repeated.

"I need me", I said.

The ocean laughed and told me that I had me already, and crashed at my feet.

"You don't understand, I don't have me. I don't know me and that which I knew is gone".

The ocean crashed at my feet, and rolled back, making sand from the rocks; rocks that were once boulders.

"Ah", I said, "I see".

And I rolled on.

Friday, June 05, 2009

"When I become Death, Death is the seed from which I grow."

Ah Pook, The Destroyer.

I wonder about it, often even.

What is it that makes me want to destroy?


The same as love, I guess.

"The mockingbird had been following the cat.
all summer
mocking mocking mocking
teasing and cocksure;
the cat crawled under rockers on porches
tail flashing
and said something angry to the mockingbird
which I didn't understand.

yesterday the cat walked calmly up the driveway
with the mockingbird alive in its mouth
wings fanned, beautiful wings fanned and flopping,
feathers parted like a woman's legs,
and the bird was no longer mocking,
it was asking, it was praying
but the cat
striding down through centuries
would not listen.

I saw it crawl under a yellow car
with the bird
to bargain it to another place.

summer was over."

Thursday, June 04, 2009

"You will bring about the destruction of the German war machine,...

... the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped, and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely....The free men of the world are marching together to victory. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory. Good luck, and let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."

~General Dwight D. Eisenhower giving the D-Day order on June 6, 1944.


My hat, if I wore one, would not only be topped off to you, but I would throw it at your feet as you have seen enough mud and I enough death, of brothers and fathers and those whom I loved, dying for us all. Christ? Naw, he is just one fabled man dying for our sins. WWII, yeah, now there were some men dying for the real lust, love of life. A million dying for freedom and us and tears and ideology.
But true, is the face of a man who has nothing and wants to, at the end of the 1930's, provide for his family.
So, he goes, off to fight Fascism. Off to fight Nazi Germany, off to take 10 yards of sand. Off to take a beach.
We died, like that and even harder. We died so that others may live and even in Holland, and I wept like a child upon seeing it, there is a statue to a Canadian airman,
He had the choice, after being shot-up and down, of ejecting his plane to have it hit a small Dutch town, or stay on board, and ride that fucking kraut-hit bitch to hell, avoiding the town by a few miles.
And he died like that, throttle back hard, praying, loving his wife and children, knowing he was going to die. He did it because it was the right thing to do, the only thing to do.

When I saw the statue, in 1995, 50 years to the day of the liberation of Holland by Canadians, I breathed deep and prepared for memories that were never mine but always ours, collectively.

That soldier, that man, that hero, has made more of a contribution to Canada than I could ever hope for.

Thank you, granddad. Those beaches were hard and now I know why grandparents can handle kids when the folks are off; because kids are easy, compared to .50 caliber slugs, semi-auto, raining down all fucking day.
Or your man in a trench somewhere, you only getting rain-soaked letters from him telling you that you are all he wants, all he has ever wanted. A home, with you, and some babies to carry forth in this Nazi- free world, that new world. Here, now and always. And so they did.

So, happy V-day, you lazy cunts.


Monday, June 01, 2009

"Making Plans in a Small Town, May 28, 2009"

Three grandfathers on a summertime porch
fat with their quota of mice:

Brother, let's go down to the tracks

Brother, the trains don't come

Brother, they'll never be back

“Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god”.

It didn't take much time, really, for the forgetting. I guess if you are only present in memory then that's where you remain. I had been gone for about 5 years and upon returning I found that it was only me who held grand fantasies and homecoming wishes. I thought it would be like it used to be and it wasn't. I mean, I am not a fool and I knew that there would be a shift, things had gone and things had stayed the same; and that was fine with me. I guess I just didn't understand how far removed I had become.
I had begun to liken it to a footprint in the sand. Although at first the sand clearly misses the foot, as the shape holds and waits to be filled by that same foot in that same print, after a few waves, man, that shit is gone; as though it had never existed at all.
I guess I feel like that now, and today, even. I have received a few emails asking me, "When did you get back to Canada?", or "Where in the world are you now?".
I have been home for about a year and it still feels like I ought to be a million miles away again. My mother and father and sisters, far away and consumed with life, have gotten used to it; I am always away, I guess, and I reap what I sow.
When I was 19 I left for the first time, going to Europe and the Middle East and North Africa for kicks. I have not stopped since then, moving, that is. Not just moving through life but also moving through phases of me, this man. Geography has always played a heavy part, and I have grown and changed out of sight from my friends and family. They get incremental views; only.
One year I am with so-and-so doing such-and-such, when we meet again, 5 years later, that has all changed. I am o.k. with it but it seems to fuck with the heads of those whom I love.
And sometimes it fucks with me, too.
Today, though, I am on top of it all and even planning a visit to Edmonton.
I want them to remember me, to know that I am home and it's time for trouble.
I know I leave often and to those with anchored lives I am hard to track.
But I am here, I am your bluebird, I am waiting for the phone to ring and for Christ to climb down and tell us to save the lumber.
Yeah, like Ferlinghetti said, "I am awaiting a rebirth of wonder".

-Love Sid