Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Nellie, she was a cruising yawl...

Your eyes, man. Your eyes are filled with all the death and hate and sadness with missing girls and lost homes and distant parents and even siblings of any man with eyes like that.
And a rifle.
And, man, those eyes have seen it all.
How can you do it?
How can I agree to it?

If you ever need a country to help you out and soften those blows and bandage those wounds and help you deliver those letters to your dead friend's family, well, I have a bumper sticker.

I have a plastic wrist-band.

It's yellow and says that I support the troops.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Run now. Mourn later.

Sometimes we are all ghosts and alone.
No feeling.

Sometimes we are the ghost bicycles.

But tonight.

I fucked it all up hard and you are in bed calling for me.

Remember Krazy Shack?

I think you are so much better than anything I could ever have loved or even be loved by.

Like the kayaks at Krazy Shack.

Like the beach at that cabin.

Like the time when we took off our shoes and threw them into the water for kicks...
Like then, when we kissed.

I am no longer afraid of your love.

And I will


your ghost bicycle.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sports bars.

Man, it snowed fucking hard yesterday. Winter miracles.
Anne and I walked to the bar and hit it.


You never know why I don't quit.

It's my life.

You are.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Crowsnest Pass.

I love your California hair
in my face.
The way that you love me, too.
In the truck and on the way, you kept those mountains high
and those passes cold.
Frank Slide.
Crowsnest, from Vancouver to Edmonton up 22 the Cowboy Trail.
You kept me warm those nights.
Cochrane hotels and drunk on each other.
Vodka, too.
I cry when I make you smile because it's been so fucking long...
Have I ever made anyone smile like that. Ever? Ever?

When you lit my cigarettes as I drove the straight line roads
I hit the brakes as rarely as possible
because I need your momentum
you fucking angel.

I love that California hair in my face when I sleep.
When I breathe.
When I dream.

When I am awake.
And I am awake.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Stars and bars.

And here I am
All yours.
You brought me out and sought me through.
And poetry is the medium.
I love you and love you.
My city. My Edmonton.
I have been dreaming of you for years.
That river valley.
That flat land.
That hot sky.
I have been dreaming of you for years.
I am all yours.

Saturday, September 04, 2010


When I am alone here
And the lights are out
I imagine a slow-dance with you.

When my hammer swings
And the nail is hit just right
There is a spark
And I imagine building a house for you.

While tying my shoes or washing the dishes
Alone, here
I imagine your hand on my back or neck or even on my ass
Lightly, lovingly, longingly.

I just want to crank the wheel of my truck
And drive to you
Openly weeping and yours.

I say sometimes
There are no other times
I don't think of these things.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

"...the diver descends to maximum depth immediately and stays at the same depth until resurfacing..."

Hit with it
Stung by it
Ruffled and fucked
by it.

Open your legs like an Alberta sky in August
Let me in.

I am all yours.

Hit with it
Stung by it
Ruffled and fucked
by you.

Open your heart like a Wild Rose in July
Let me in.

I am coming there, back there, for some kind of terminal end.
Some terminal finale, some everything. For you, just you.
I am yours, all yours.

Hit with it.

Stung by it.




Get in love.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Winter Miracles.

I want to freeze again on those long nights from 4 p.m. to 9 a.m. when the sun is gone.
I miss the drifts of snow and the instant sobriety upon leaving a place.

Boots and toques, icy lungs and cold fingers.

I want you to miss my warmth at 4 a.m. on an Alberta morning when I get up to piss and make coffee. I bet you'd call my name softly between sleep and wake states.
"Sid, come back to bed".

I would, too, cold and naked, leap under the covers and tell you I love you. I'd run my fingers through your hair until you fell back asleep.

I think I should retrace my steps, but in different shoes this time.

I want my winter miracle.
I want my spring lust and summer freedom.

The hard trees, the brown, the over-frozen everything. I want it.

I want it all that winter miracle.

Snow in my boots and frost-bitten ears so hot that I can't fucking stand it.

I want the drifts and wisps and shifts again.

I want to jump under the covers when you whisper my name on a farm in Northern Alberta.

"Sid, come back to bed."


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Dowshi, Afghanistan. The cunt road.

Sentry was never done, but my shift was over at 0900. I needed sleep, water and new laces. I always needed to hydrate.

On my way back to camp I saw three boys playing soccer.
Their ball was a piece of shit. Cow shit, or something.
I didn't even care and hoped they would die before they were old enough to want to kill me.

When I thought that, though, that second, that fucking instant, I was suddenly beside you. Your scolding, your fantastic love, your compassion.
I was sorry for it, for thinking like that.

Dowshi is a tiny fucking town at the cunt-opening of a valley into certain death. A76 North, a suicide drive. We had patrols up there, but man, that road buttressed by mountains on both sides is death. Drones went ahead of us and we stopped every 500 meters for a sniff-check.

It rained all day Saturday and I was up it only 1500 meters. I kept the rear and made sure we didn't get flanked or pinched or drawn-in.

It was silent.

We drove and hopped and checked like that for days, for days.
I sang Neil Young songs and kicked rocks.

But fuck I loved you, through that dust. A76 was shit, deadly but so fucking shit.
Maybe the Terry had bucked it deeper into the valley.
Fuck, I hope so.
At night we tri-podded the M20 just for kicks.

I slept well on that road.
IEDs, mortars nor snipers riled us.

Two teams were on either side of the road at all times, sifting slowly and looking overhead.

But those letters from you.
They killed me.

In Safeway.
In traffic.
In line to pay your SHAW and TELUS bills.

Fuck you.

I love you.


I waited and waited again.
Not just for a rebirth of wonder
Not just for Christ to climb down
Not just for some fucking lines from God
But for you.

I waited for you and I came to thoughts of fucking you.
Again and again and again and again.

And again.

This is it, you know, my last stretch, my last grasp.
Keeping a man like me on the fence is like keeping a man like me on the fence.
One day, the whole thing is going to come the fuck down.

Like a Zimbabwean government
Like the Eiffel Tower without rivets
Like Marxism built by IKEA!

Like me.

Again and again and again.

The snow is going to be heavy this year, baby.
Are you sure you don't need some soft-shoe, soft-heart to clear that fucking drive?

This is it.

Are you sure?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Only after a few.

I love you like a plane crash.
Those jet engines digging into the earth
and serving up everything for the last time.

I love you like a fucking car crash
glass everywhere and me hanging out the driver's window. Alone,
bloody, and even dead.

I love you like a firecracker or a nuclear bomb.

Everything is always exploding.

I love you like that.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sometimes, a monster is loosed for want alone. It will take you and it will eat you and it will give you pleasure.

I want flesh.
I want to fuck.
I want to be deep inside of you.
I want to cum in you and keep my hard cock pushed in there, filling you.
I want you and I will have you.

When your duvet or covers or sheets are pulled tight tonight, and you are drifting off to sleep, I will creep in there, into your secrets.

In that place you will be free to take me like the lover you have always wanted to be.
You can have anything you want of me, as I will of you.

Your fingers will drift below your waistband and with self-muffled sighs you will imagine that those very same fingers are mine; my cock, my tongue and my heat.

And when your hips buck as you cum, you will say my name and gasp for it; clenched fists, curled toes and open mouth.

After it all, dear lover, you will shudder and shake and return to your senses and drift away into sleep.

But I will have had you then like that, using your own body to fuck you and make you twist.

Sometimes, monsters be loosed.

Tonight the jailer has opened the doors and the monster is out there. He is hunting you.

Check under your bed.
Close the closet doors.
Leave the lights on.

Friday, July 16, 2010

"She is the paragon of paragons of beauty, the reply to all desires, the bliss-bestowing goal of every hero's earthly and unearthly quest."

It had been a long ritual. I cleaned out everything that meant anything to me. Under the seats, the buttons on the roof, the rosaries from Mexico and the Philippines hanging from the rear-view mirror, the clothing and camping gear and carpentry tools from the back, the Jesus and Mary stickers carefully lifted from the rear window using dish-soap and my bank card; even the small things like my favorite tapes which I had constantly played in you: David Bowie, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.

On Saturday morning we took that final drive and I spoke to you softly; the radio stayed off as I wanted to hear what you had to say to me. Your V-8, 350 5.7 purred and roared at all the right times, when I asked you. You have never let me down. When we pulled off the collector and onto Highway 1 East I opened you up wide and was willing to take any ticket, any punishment; just for you. I opened you wide and was hitting 180km by the time I passed Canada Way and we swerved in and out and I thought we would die together as we lived. You have been my shelter, my home, my work-horse, my escape-pod, my darling in white. I have driven with you through the Rockies and slept in your lap, I have worked to feed you the things you need. Your new catalytic converter and muffler, your new tail-pipe. I love you.
You hauled me and my small number of belongings through Alberta and into Vancouver to begin my new life in Canada. I worked you hard those hauling days. And you took me back through Alberta and back again to Vancouver, too.

As we sped toward your final destination, our last drive, I began to weep and shake hard. I pulled over once to explain death to you and I knew you might never understand but I did it anyhow and I just wanted you to know how much I love you; so much.

We pulled into the wrecker and I did the sign-off, tears running down my cheeks and a hole in my little heart. They had to ask me several times for the keys before I complied. They knew why I was crying.

I couldn't watch you being driven off but I did sneak a small look as you rounded the corner and I blew you a kiss and hoped to God that you saw it; I think you did and your tail-lights were gone.

I left my favorite Elvis tape in your cassette deck.

I left you a love letter in your glove box.


Sunday, July 04, 2010

Not infrequently, the supernatural helper is in masculine form.

Many years ago there was a young man with a broken heart, and a soul which could never be still. His spirit was strong, but never silent enough to hear the sounds that trees make when the wind kisses them. He was attached to worldly delights and measured his manliness against them and defined his godliness through them. The young man was well known in the small kingdom he thought he ruled and was sure that the women and flowers were pretty for him alone.

One day, while inspecting his possessions and counting his coins, he was approached by an old man. The old man walked slowly and was dressed in rags, yet there was a peace in his face.
"Is this your fine house, sir?", the old man asked.
The young man did not answer, but instead continued counting coins.
"I will give you a wish if you answer me, boy."

The young man told him that it was in fact his house, his land, and bade the old man to stay as many nights as he needed.
The old man smiled and said,"I knew you would be kind to me."
"How did you think that", said the young man, "when we have shared but mere words in exchange?".

"I am the future you", said the man in rags. "I have met the women and the money and the possessions and the hollow-nothing."
"I have returned to warn and encourage you".

The young man wept hard and fell to his knees.
"I have nothing", he cried.
"You never had anything", said the old man.

The young man became old.
But his love became grand and wide.

Being a man, he thought, is the greatest profession.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Aspen Tongue and Groove Plywood at 1&1/8".

This shit is fucking great for building walls.
I like Aspen, it's soft but strong and has a low flammability rate.
The T&G ply just fits in so nice over some squared studs.
It's an automatic hoarding wall; and even cheaper than factory flat-edge.
You couldn't even fit a piece of paper through those joints.
Not even a fly's wing.

Today after some serious fucking around with a 12x12 timber support, I drove home mad with thoughts of all things carpentry. I drove home listening to the Frank Sinatra cassette, "Some Nice Things I've Missed", loud on my stereo.

The traffic was pre-cum at 4:00 p.m. near 1st Beach, not quite there but showing promise. I always drift to the days we used to be insane together, then. I wonder about you now and think you would love carpentry.

On Monday, I'll drive in some duplex nails for you. I'll bury the top head in Aspen and dull the point.

I wouldn't want to split the wood.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Roma by Night.

There was a postcard on my floor when I came home the other day. The postman had slid it through my mail-slot and it landed picture side up. While I was taking off my work boots I examined the front and wondered who could have sent it to me. The entire front of the postcard was black except for the words, in gold and longhand, "Roma by Night". I thought it was a funny little joke.

When the boots were off I picked that postcard up only to find that it wasn't for me. It had the right address but was addressed to someone named James.

It read:

"I would have sent you a card from Paris, but Paris does not sleep. Have loved every bloody minute... Off to Barcelona tomorrow. Let you in on a secret, if we had gone to Paris instead of San Fransisco, you would have never returned.
-Love R."

The word "returned" was underlined three times.

I think it was the saddest thing I had ever read.

Postcards always say everything clearly.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I love it, I love it, I love it.

I love the ways you make me

I love the ways you make me

I love the ways you cook my head.

I love the ways we fuck in bed.

I love the ways that you love me.

I love the ways that I am free.

If you ever need a man to hold,
if you ever feel your love is old.

Voila. It's just me. A simple man, your levee.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Build, man, fucking build it to God.

There is something so simple about construction and carpentry that always makes me return.
I love the feeling of a half-dozen 2x4s on my right shoulder as I leap from concrete post to foundation wall; always 6 to 12 feet from the ground.
There is something about building.
I love the feeling of hammering in duplex nails, or using an impact to put in 6 inch wood screws, even when 3 inch ones would have done the job.
There is something about washing it all away in the home-time shower and laying on the couch, still wet and naked and thinking of your lips.
I love how you make me feel like a carpenter; your man in uniform.
There is something about my hammer, my leather tool-belt, my square and chalk-line, my tape and pencil.
I love that you love me.
There is something so simple about building things that makes me a man.

Robertson, #2.

There is a screw in my cutlery drawer. It is a wood screw, a Robertson.
I saw it when I was looking for scissors to open some brown sugar.
I wondered how it got in there and then I remembered how careless I was.
Always mixing things up and placing them poorly.

There is a screw in my cutlery drawer and I can't recall as to how it might have gotten in there.

It's like you. In my little heart. Out of place but there for certain.

I left the Robertson there and thought about it for days.
It's still there.

It's like you.

I have come to welcoming myself home these days, as no one else is there.

“I’m home”, I say.

I wait a long while before answering, “Welcome home”.

It’s a little lonely.

Maybe I should do something about that.

Friday, June 04, 2010

"No, they did not bury me, though there is period of time which I remember mistily, with a shuddering wonder..."

My older brother takes care of me.
He looks out for me and softens my falls.
He never scorns nor judges nor complains about my failings.
He just looks out for me.

And I never say "Thank You" enough.

I have never had an older brother before, but I bet I'd shoot straighter and be a better man if I had. I am trying. But man, let me tell you, older brothers are better than anything, better than everything.

Thank you.

Class Asteroidea.

I want to make you feel like Otis Redding makes me feel.
How can I write like that?
What can I do, like that?

I wonder if it would be the same, in bed with you.
Would you tell me to try a little tenderness?
Or would you let me wrap my arms around you and pin you down with my hot love?

Are you always teasing me?
Or is it true?
Can I stroll your lane?

I want to make you feel like that music makes me feel; shaking and teary.
Gripping the wheel, shouting.
Legs keeping time with the bass-drum.

Asteroidea, fall down and rock out.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


I wanted to tell you, I plugged in some old external hard-drives today and looked through the pictures. Man, you were beautiful then in my life and kept me in orbit. But we started drifting soon after those were taken, so I don’t like them too much. I do like how you looked at me through the camera lens though. There was love in those looks. And my aperture was just right.

I think that was the best beginning to a love story I have really ever known. It was sweet and true and we delighted in future possibilities and were always passionate. I smile when I remember how much you wanted me to be posted to Okinawa or Kagoshima so that it was tropical and a good place to have some kids. You really wanted me to teach them to surf.
But it broke, well, I broke it; I broke it officially by stepping out of what had become poison and awful. And I was never posted to Okinawa or Kagoshima.

I know you are still beautiful and you live with your new man in a house around 124th St. or so. I’ve even passed you two when I was taking a break from sledge-hammering a walkway at my father’s house, or when I went to the store for cigarettes. I know you saw me then. I sure saw you two.

That’s how it goes, though, isn’t it? You observe the time while remaining aware that it is mere observation, just as I am observing this now. But as sad as that story is, I am happy that it ended. I mean, with you. You see, I love love and love stories, but it’s a real trick to get them right. Maybe you’ve found a way. I have not.

Here in Vancouver, I am adrift and have been for two years. I just don’t feel like letting the roots touch the soil for too long. I have too much momentum behind me, perhaps. Maybe. What do I know of me. Really.

Well, I do know that it is all in here. In me. I know that all of these questions and answers and fears and cures and love and hurt and terrible dreams of success and failure, of you, they all exist in here and in here only. Memories, too. I observe them, running loops, overlapping.

It feels like there is a bug in there, in my brain, always scurrying and digging and fucking around.

I’m going to Tofino, I want to be a surfer.

"This was the unbounded power of eloquence -of words- of burning noble words."

I've turned over a new leaf.
I am going up the river.

I am still young enough
to be terrified.
And old enough
to be terrified.

Up river, into it.
And I won't pull out
until we meet
me and I.

But I have turned over a new leaf,
didn't I tell you?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

I want to be a HEAVY METAL songwriter!

"I think that everything is going to be alright
tonight is out.

I think that everything is going to be safe;
but I sure fell in love with you quickly; dangerous.

I think that everything is going to be sunshine and oranges.
I think everything will be fucking great.

I think I can pay the rent, this time.
I think that everything is going to be golden.

You know that I'm yours, this time.
You know that I'm yours, beholden.

You're golden golden x 2

If you could understand what makes me be a man,
well, I can't help you at all!

You're golden x 2"

...that's all I have, now.

Friday, May 28, 2010

This was sent from Japan.


From: Jody Cloutier
To: Everyone

I had the saddest morning.
I was in my car, parked on a country road, enjoying a 7-11 can of
coffee; a usual morning.

Suddenly this van came speeding by me, and this cat I had been
watching playing in the sun-drenched field ran out into the road.
The van hit it and it flew out into the middle of the road. The van
kept going so I jumped out of the car and ran over to the cat.
I picked her up and slowly walked, with her in my arms, over to the
side of the road. The cat was warm and soft and still breathing,
I sat down in the grass and placed the cat on my lap. I pet it and
whispered sweet words to it.
At that moment in time, this morning, I
have never loved anything more than that cat.
She looked at me a bit, eyes wide, and I think she understood me.
Then, as we sat there, together, her eyes slowly fixed on a point I
couldn't see, a place happier than the one she had been; a lighter,
brighter place. Her breathing stopped and she died on my lap, in the
sun, at the side of the road in the country.
I was happy that the last thing to touch her were the hands of a man
who was filled with intense love and compassion for her, and not the
cold steel of a machine, uncaring.

I cried all the way to work.

I have been thinking about that cat all day. I miss it and I never
even knew it.

It made me think of my connections with those in my life; connections
made in a split second of compassion or over years of steady love. It
made me think of you, my friends and family. I am so lucky. Please
forgive me, my lack of communication. I am so sorry to have taken it
for granted. Please write to me, I miss you all so much. I love you,

Jody Cloutier

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I am going to sneak into your heart like Dave Brubeck's "Take Five".

I am going to sneak into your heart like some damn wet animal on a thundering night.
I am going to sneak into your heart like a child on mother's day.
I am going to sneak, into your heart, like the sun always sneaks into your dreams and pulls you out again, lashes flashing and lips sticking.

I am going to sneak into your heart with winds.
I am going to sneak into your heart with brass.
I am going to sneak into your heart hard and mean every fucking second of that sneak.
Like a hard thing loves a soft thing because these things are the same, isolated by definition.

I am going to waltz into your life and give you the best kiss you have ever had and even, I bet, fuck you better and truer and deeper than you have ever been fucked before.
I am going to saunter into your life and provide rest for the ones who could never keep up with a beating-heart angel like you.
I am going to stroll the hell on into your life and be the man you always wanted me to want to be.

I am going to listen to Dave Brubeck, take five.


I think that the worst thing I have ever done was to break someone's heart. Once, twice or a fucking thousand times. It was always the worst thing.
But I always got over it and moved, on.

Spring, though, always breaks me.
Thaws me and rids me of trapped leaves and twigs and shit caught in my ice.
Persephone, eat not the pomegranate seeds.

It will be so cold without you.

Until next time.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Alan Wake: Don't let Ebert see it

Five-odd years in the making, psycho-supernatural-action-adventure-mystery-thriller Alan Wake wants, more than anything, to be taken seriously. With every word, frame and pixel it wants you to know what a deep, heavy, meaningful work of cinematic suspense-gaming it is. But there's a terrible secret at the heart of Alan Wake. If this were a mystery story rather than a game review I'd let the reader discover that secret on their own, but what mystery writers call "creating suspense" newspaper editors call "burying the lede", so here it is: Alan Wake is silly. 

Now that's said, let's call it foreshadowing and start at the beginning. As a game -- when it 
is a game -- Alan Wake isn't too bad. As the eponymous hero, a writer's-blocked bestselling mystery author who's retreated with his wife to a tiny mountain town, makes his way through the woods of the Pacific Northwest, he gets to engage in some typical but well-exectuted third-person gunplay against hordes of zombie-type enemies. The twist here is the flashlight action; this standard tool of survival-horror has been elevated into an integral part of the action armory, serving as both targeting sight and main weapon. 

The possessed hillbillies are invulnerable until they have their protective cloak of shadowy evil burned away by light, and this illuminate-first-shoot-questions-later mechanic gives combat an interesting rhythm that does a lot to up the terror factor, at least through the first couple of chapters. After the first few showdowns against the same handful of enemy types, though, the novelty wears off and Alan Wake's action sequences show themselves for what they are, what action sequences so often are in games with cinematic ambition: tedious hoops that must be jumped through in order to advance the movie the game wishes it was.

Thing is, that movie's pretty dreadful; were it shown in a cinema, even the most dedicated so-bad-it's-good craphound would groan it off the screen. The mopey protag, whose only real character trait is a five-o'clock shadow (videogame shorthand for Aunguished Soul; see Heavy Rain et al.), fights to save a wife he didn't even seem to like very much before the spoooooky stuff went down. What we read of this supposedly mega-bestselling author's writing is so dire it could sweep the Bulwer-Lytton awards. The sub-Twilight Zone supernatural twist gives itself away early and often. Facepalm-inducing dialogue is delivered in affectless table-reading tones by indifferent voice actors and projected through dead-eyed, flappy-mouthed digital mannequins. Constant "references" and "homages" (read: "cribs" and "ripoffs") of other, better, games, movies and TV shows make the whole thing feel like a desperate collage. 

All this could be forgiven or at least ameliorated -- Lord knows, I've given better games a pass on worse sins -- if Alan Wake didn't take itself so damned seriously. But there's no knowing wink, no sly elbow; the game/movie is totally, humorlessly committed to its unearned pretension to gravitas, and the undeflated tension between what it wants to be taken as and what it actually is leaves Alan Wake ridiculous. 

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Good Book

Another driving-composed song

It'll all be all right
It'll all be all right
I learned that in reading the Good Book at night

God must've been bored with just water around
so he split day and night and brought forth the dry ground
made fishes and birds and all things that creep
fashioned Man from the dust, woke him up from his sleep

Gave him a garden where the sweet waters flow
gave him dominion over all things that grow
but he left behind something Man might want to obtain
when sinful Man took it, God cursed him with pain

It'll all be all right...


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Perpendiculars, Pt 3

Continuing for your delectation a work in progress. Part one is here, part two is here.

Adastra Morales is beautiful when she’s sleeping. I mean, she’s pretty cute when she’s awake, but when sleep hides the trouble in her eyes, when her mouth goes slack and those tight lines fade, when her dark curls frame her baby-doll face… yeah. I saw her mind moving behind her flickering eyelids, moving through dreams. She was beautiful in there, too. Too beautiful.

I could have stood a long time watching her through the dirty window of the Bunny, drooling gently onto her Bay blanket, driver’s seat reclined as far back as it could go and still be counted on to return to an upright position, but I really wanted to get as far away from that farm as I could, as fast as four German cylinders could carry me. Plenty of time to moon over sleepy sorta-ex-girlfriends back in town, away from angry mummies and their primordial punishments. One of the boons Sekhemkhet had granted me in gratitude for winning his arm race was that he would deign to delay his vengeance for “one solar hour,” just long enough to hustle fragile Addy out of the psychic blast radius. Plus, you know, I needed a drink. This action-adventure shit is thirsty work.

Addy started awake at my knock, brown eyes shedding panicky sparks. I had a brief vision of her as a tough-as-nails, pistol-packin’ mama, pulling a piece from under that drool-damp wool wrap and me flinching back, hands quick into the air, and she sighs out a big breath, letting in the hammer with her thumb and saying something like “Don’t ever sneak up on me like that again!”

Where did that come from? Addy hates guns. In every personal interaction I’d seen her have with a firearm, she’d picked the gun up between thumb and forefinger, like garbage, dangling it at arm’s length only long enough to pass it to me. Instead of a six-gun popping up from under the blanket, I got a sleepy scowl and a fuzzy-mittened hand popping the broken passenger-side door open from the inside. I slid onto the chilly seat.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Perpendiculars, excerpt cont'd

Work in progress, etc. Part one is HERE

As sanctums go, Sekhemkhet’s prairie pad had never been much to look at on the surface, but now it was a full-on dump, human trash mixed in with the garbage. Breathing shallow through my mouth and damping down other senses I couldn't lose if I tried, I still gagged on the flophouse stench, the corruption of decayed and eroded enchantments.

The place was filled with people and the shells of people, a wall-to-wall, room-to-room carpet of bodies in various states of narcosis, drunkenness, withdrawal, unconsciousness. In dim light refracted between heavy curtains I counted six people leaning against the stained walls of the dining-room, in the centre of which a big table buried in reeking food containers tilted on two legs. Nobody cared, was able to care, that I was there. Another morning after in three years of mornings after, thralls rocking a sick and stolen party. How could they know Daddy was coming home?

On the livingroom loveseat, under an obscenely daubed diagram that made my sloppy glyphwork look like the Seventh Seal, a jaundiced teenager lay passed out with her mouth slack around her scabby lover’s limp dick. Beyond this charming tableau, a greasy dude in ancient Ocean Pacific surfer shorts lay with his head propped up against a charred Ottoman, playing Grand Theft Auto with the sound off, bashing a virtual bag-lady with a golf club over and over again, digital bloodspatter replacing itself as fast as it faded from the screen. I knew that if I opened up I’d see the sick loops circling around his head; dude was in the zone.

Honestly? I was disappointed. I mean, what a waste – an ancient archbeing’s undying power usurped, a treasure trove of physical and mystic power free for the fucking around with, and all you can come up with is drink, drugs and whoring? I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of angry jealousy at this failure of imagination, knowing that if my buddies and I had dared to run a grift like this we’d have done so much better. Just thinking like that must’ve been the taint of the place getting to me, but... seriously. Even if we hedged fully half the money and mojo on spooky insurance and cosmic bribes we’d still manage a hundred years of wonder, maybe a millennium of might and majesty, before that inevitable, inexorable somebody showed up at our door to do exactly what I was about to do.

I hoped Shafiq had something more interesting set up downstairs in the vault. If a man might be judged by the caliber of his opponents, I was coming out of this operation looking pretty low-rent. Stepping over a pasty jerk with PRAIZE SATAN 666 branded on his distended belly, I clickety-clacked through an unbelievably tacky chicken-bone bead curtain and headed down down down into the dirty earth.


Saturday, April 03, 2010


Chapter 1.

Hardwood floors always feel cool if the sun hasn’t been hitting them all day,
and I liked that. It’s probably why it was my third night sleeping a stumble from my
desk. I doubt it had much to do with me being too drunk to do anything but fall out
of my chair; making it to bed had become as daunting as climbing a mountain or
running a marathon, in that state.

The floor was where I slept and it kept my face cooler than flipping my pillow
100 times a night. Although it wasn’t very soft at all and I hadn’t vacuumed it in a
while, it did keep me cool those nights. And I guess nothing more than wood could
really be as hard as you, so it was no change. Cold and wooden; yes, it was like I was
in your arms all over again. Except at least now I was drunk and unconscious and
didn’t care this time.

Showering always feels good, no matter what crimes you may or may not
have committed the night before; or even before that. I loved shaving that day, and
even tried to press the blades into my face just to see how much pressure it would
take to bleed-out and into the sink. It didn’t work and I just ended up looking well

No breakfast today, I knew it would make me sick. I drove to Anon looking at
those fingers gripping my wheel. I could never get my fingernails clean. The Kendall
“ToughTac” and its “3% Moly” haunted my hands forever. Fuck that grease. And fuck
the long series of checks I had to pass through just to do a job.
I have lived in Bnei Brak since 2004. Five years, now. I have driven this road
a thousand times since then. They know me. I know them.

“Papers? Who are you? Why are you going to Anon? Do you have a pass? You are Canadian Passport, why do you come to Anon?”.

“My name is Sid Heart. I am the regional sales, repair and rep. for Caterpillar International. We sell you IDF boys the D9; you know? The dozer you call “Teddy Bear”?

“Ok, Mr. Heart. Please show me your company document and access permission. And where do you live?”

“I live in Bnei Brak, corner of OrHaHayim and Rashi, you know?”

“No. Show me your car. Get out, keys on roof. Please open the boot and doors.”

“Ok, here is the number of Rebbi Kats, he is my contact at the IDF, 972-3-821-8911. Please call him for verification.”

“Open your jacket and turn toward the barrier, slowly. Please do not move too quickly, Mr. Heart, my men will shoot you.”

“*sigh*…fuck you Silverman.”

I had seen, met and even drank with ‘Mamak’ Silverman before.
‘Mamak’ Silverman is a terrible poker player. He always stands his rifle up
and rests his chin on the stalk, lightly kicking the barrel when he is bluffing. It’s a shit tell.
But we have played together, many times; when the roads are down and the
lines are long, it’s best to make friends. Yet, he always gives me shit when I see him
on those desert roads into the territories; the settlements. The bull-dozed-invasions.
I’d get arrested for a fucking camera much, much quicker than I would for an AK-47
at these checks; IDF hates foreign media. A lot.

I fucking hate this desert. And I don’t get it; people actually kill and die for
this shit. If God gave you this land, well, I think God is either an asshole or God really hates you.

Of course, Silverman and the boys let me through.

“Yes, Mr. Kats, I understand. Sorry, sir.”

Silverman half bows and quickly closes the sat. phone. He gestures to the road ahead.

“O.k., Mr. Sid Heart, you are verified for access to Anon, please be careful…”

I turn up the volume on my radio while he speaks and before Silverman
finishes I weave through the concrete barriers and posted gunners, peeling out and
off. I head for Anon, again.

My car is a modified Audi 900 with a skid-plate covering the entire chassis
belly, armoured panels and bullet-proof windows. Diesel is costly, but the IDF pays,
so I can’t really bitch about that. That armoured car looked so feeble, though, when
IDF had its doors open and the hood and trunk were up, like some prehistoric metal
bird in its dying throes or looking for a mate; pathetic and floundering.

90 minutes late. Fuck.

Anon is a shit-hole. A bulldozed shit-hole, thanks to me; thanks to the D9.
Beit Shamesh, Anon’s mayor, welcomes me like a lost brother. The only
reason he wants my D9 expertise is to clear land that isn’t his.

“Shalom. Shalom, Mr. Heart. I trust that your drive was safe? Did you encounter any problems?”

Israelis tend to refer to intifada or rocket-attacks or suicide-bombings as “problems” in the same glib manner the IRA are referred to as “the troubles”, in Belfast.
Problems. Yeah, fuck you, Shamesh. IDF gives me more grief, and I sell you shit, than I have ever gotten from any Arabs in 5 years.

“Nope, it was a fine drive through God’s country Mr. Shamesh. And Peace to your town, Selah.”

In Anon I make the tired pitches;

“The Caterpillar D9 Bulldozer is Caterpillar's most well known piece of equipment. It weighs 54 tons, stock, and is powered by a 474 HP Cat diesel engine. Not only is it capable of razing an entire town with its 13 foot blade and optional ripper attachment, it also serves a very important position in the mining, forestry, construction, and waste management sectors”.

I started as a small engine repairman after a life fixing tractor engines and
combine hydraulics for Ontario farms. I left the farms and worked in Toronto on city
snowplows and graters. Finning hired me for Cat-troubles in Toronto. The, “Willing
to Relocate?” box has always been checked on every application I sent. I never really
meant it but I still checked it.
I was, and also am, still, willing to relocate.

I am the only person in Anon without an Uzi, without an automatic machine-
gun shoulder-slung. I decided long ago that carrying a gun was making a choice in
this war of attrition, and I don’t care enough to choose. I just work; and drink and
smoke. Those are the sides I choose. Those are the only sides I’ll ever choose and
work for. At least then the war and casualties are both mine, alone.

After the sales meeting, town meeting, I dined with Shamesh at his fortress.
Orthodox dinners are the worst. The food is fine but man, every fucking table
probably looks the same at the same moment over Israel. The head of the house, the
man, talks and talks and even starts yelling; challah in hand, soup dripping down his
The poor women, wife and daughter, just sit there, head down and serving
Fucking awful; I like hearing other, less bearded voices.

I like silence. And I am fucking sick of talking business between bites and slurps. I just don’t care, really. I sell to these people but to me it’s just a pay-cheque; to them it’s life, death. But I don’t care at all. A part is a part and grease is just that. I hate this place. I hate being forced to choose a side on something I don’t give a fuck about.

I wanted to tell Shamesh that Fatah had ordered three stock D-9s. Not
just to ramp prices, but to shut him up. Just to have some silence.

On the drive back I think I smoked about 20 cigarettes, one right after the
other. I threw the glowing stubs out the window and watched in my rear-view as
they hit the ground and exploded in sparks.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spock Days, 2009

With Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock himself, making his long-awaited first visit to the town of Vulcan, I figured I'd go ahead and post this piece I wrote at last summer's Spock Days, which got the spike because I guess a Toronto newspaper somehow had something more interesting to run than coverage of a strange event that had already happened on the other side of the country. Go figure.

Abbot K'Obol Chang-K'Onor of Klingon Assault Group (KAG) Kanada, a fan club dedicated to the culture and costumery of Star Trek's fearsome warriors, is glaring at me through his space-shades, sun glinting off sharpened teeth. Handmade leather armor creaks as he sets his shoulders; a twin-headed flail, replete with wicked spikes, dangles menacingly from his gauntleted hand.

"Your understanding of Klingon philosogpy," he growls, "is... imperfect."

As a senior Klingon cleric, the Abbot (aka Doug Welsh of Halifax) would know. His head freshly sheared in the "Shave a Klingon for Cancer" event here at Spock Days/Galaxyfest in the town of Vulcan, Alberta, I made the mistake of asking how he reconciles such charity work -- and the dozens of other good-cause events, from MS fun-runs to fundraising daffodil sales, in which KAG Kanada participates -- with the apparent cruelty of survival-of-the-fittest Klingon culture.

"Klingon philosophy is not about destroying the weak," he explains, as patiently as is possible for a Klingon;"Klingon philosophy is about making the weak stronger. We think everybody should be Klingon!"

They're making a good start on it here in this farming community of 2,000 that's trying hard to turn the sci-fi cachet of its 94-year-old name into precious nerd-tourism dollars. A concrete-and-steel replica of the Starship Enterprise presides over the highway, in view of the seed-cleaning plant; the futuristic headquarters of the Vulcan Association for Science and Trek offers souvenir Spock Ears and a rather cheesy virtual-reality "Vulcan space adventure"; Trek murals dot downtown, and street signs are styled after Starfleet insignia. With the KAG's 20th-anniverasry gathering coinciding with Galaxyfest, the town's rolled out the blood-red carpet: a local cafe's menu board offers, untranslated, such Klingon delicacies as "Throck," "Mool" and "Bartas bir Jablu"; the tavern of the Vulcan Hotel is offering $1.50 mugs of refreshing "Klingon Beer" -- pisswater draft tarted up with lime juice and red food coloring.

It's a strange intersection of cultures. Without its spacey trappings -- out of costume, you could say -- Vulcan would be more or less the epitome of the dire little struggling farmtown, but GalaxyFest's combination of rural county fair and Star Trek convention makes for a surreal appeal. An elderly lady sporting pointy-eared prosthetics rolls by on a handi-scooter decked out in spaceship regalia. The local old-folks' home leads the parade with a replica Enterprise float, complete with command-bridge cockpit and laser sound effects. Characters like "Ysnap the Peace Klingon",  her costume a combination of star warrior and glam hippie, line up along with weatherbeaten farmers and truckers for bratwurst Spock Dogs. Another Klingon tries to wipe away tears without smudging his makeup as a woman on the Community Stage karaoke-sings a country tearjerker about childhood cancer. Local dudes at the beer garden out by the softball diamond horse around with town mascot "Ee-Cheeya", a furry cat-thing modeled after Spock's childhood pet.

"It's amazing," says celebrity guest Lolita Fatjo, a veteran of Trek TV and movie production crews and now operator of a company that books guest appearances for Trek stars; "I've been booking talent for [Galaxyfest] for six years. Everybody I've sent up here has come back and said 'Oh my god, that was so fun.' Usually we go to a hotel, we never see the light of day, we're in that hotel for two or three days..."

Suzie Plakson, who's played several Trek aliens ("I'm a multiracial, global trekkie-gal") including Worf's half-Klingon mate K'Ehleyr, agrees. "A mainstream convention -- and I don't mean this as derogatory -- the description is 'mercenary'. Because it kind of has to be. But this is just pure heart. There's something more... organic about the Trekhood of this town. It's something woven into everything."

Still, this is Vulcan the out-of-the-way grain town, not Vulcan the planet of calculating space-philosophers. In front of the Cinnastop cafe, whose windows sport a mural of what looks to be Captain Kirk and Scotty running toward an alien mirage of giant milkshakes and hamburgers, a pair of shimmery-cloaked Talosians (the bum-head aliens from the original series, remember?) stroll by pushing a dummy replica of crippled Captain Pike, Kirk's predecessor. A trio of old ladies watch them pass, bemused looks on their faces.

"Well," one remarks, with that inimitable small-town cluck of the tongue; "there certainly are a lot of strangers in town today."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

“The living self has one purpose only: to come into its own fullness of being, as a tree comes into full blossom, or a bird into spring beauty..."

I think there is an animal in there, in my brain, walking and eating and laughing and shitting in there. I think it is gnawing wires for kicks.

I think I am losing control but I mean I really can't help it this time and I drink and do drugs and fuck to shake it but no; no, it is in control and there is nothing I can do anymore but observe and tell you about it.

I tried again to keep it under control but I made another mistake again and have to write a report about it. Again.

I'll write it in the morning. Tonight, though, tonight is time for a swim.

The still phosphorescence as I forward-crawl through the lake is enough. I mean I know I am mad, but why lights? Why at night?

But, do you know why I struggle so?

It's for you, my lost love. I swim for you.

And drown too.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Perpendiculars, Book one, Part one -- excerpt

“Char me the trunk of a giant redwood, give me pages of white cliffs to write upon, magnify me thousands of times and replace my trifling immodesties with a titanic megalomania… then I might write large enough for our subjects.”
-- Charles Hoy Fort, the Book of the Damned


A late October morning, see-your-breath cold. Frost on the ground and the dirt track feeling stiff underfoot. A morning for quiet contemplation of the coming winter, for watching the pinking east through a cloud of coffee-steam… or for staying in bed, cozy, until the sun softened things, chased off the frost.

Without coffee and without a bed – I’d rolled up my rim about twenty kilometers back on the highway, and my blankets were two chilly hours behind that – all I had on that country morning was a mission and a message, a bagful of mojo dynamite. I fingered the battered satchel at my side, feeling my own flimsy hocus-pocus over and around the dark and ancient secrets within. It felt transparent; only a lazy idiot could fall for this gimmick. Lucky for me, I guess, that laziness and idiocy are powerful constants in this unpredictable world. What else can you count on?

The house itself was unremarkable. Hardly the pulp-novel image of a wretched hive or a royal refuge, which was of course the whole point, since it was both. Vinyl siding, cedar deck, tar shingles… just another ranch-style farmhouse on a medium-sized acreage in a typically pretty chunk of some run-of-the-mill geography. A retirement plot, exactly.

Except this particular piece of Freedom 55 – Freedom 5,500, if you want to get cute – was a long way from country-kitchen fantasies of thanksgiving with the grandkids. I could smell it from the foot of the drive, mystic stink overpowering the molecular diesel aroma of Addy’s idling Rabbit, the Brave Bunny. Scent of decay, mouldering mansion… something majestic gone sick and wrong. Piss in the corner of a palace, a cathedral repurposed as a dungheap, and through it all a whiff of incense, of camphor, of clean reeds from my bag. I pumped as much will as I dared into my metaphysical odor-eater; I didn’t want the shitdwellers scenting the disinfectant. Not yet.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. "

Sandra Concepcion interviews Sid Heart, one of this century's greatest fuck-ups.
Here is the full interview:

Concepcion: "Good morning, Sid, thank you for doing this at such short notice."

Heart: "...unh..."

Conception: "So, um, can you give me a break down of your recent writings and the success of them all?"

Heart: "...fuck, what?"

Concepcion: "It just seems with your last bit about mushrooms and regular proclamations of loneliness you are, well, not very interesting as a writer.

Heart: "Well that's something I go through all the time; I never said I was good, I just write. But 'polls', or shit like that, have never troubled me much."

Concepcion: "O.k., well, why do you always write about love and beauty and lost things?"

Heart: "What else is there to document? I mean, for me. These are the things which captivate me and send me. You know?"

Concepcion: "Maybe. And maybe I might be able to swim through that, it doesn't mean our readers will. Can you simplify it?"

Heart: "No. Look, if someone doesn't understand heart-break then there is nothing I can do about that. They just don't know. It's like describing a colour to someone who has never seen said colour. Impossible.

Concepcion: "Interesting. Another question people want to know is 'why are you single?'."

Heart: "I don't know and have stopped trying for love. I mean not in a bad way, but I have recently decided to focus on me and forget the women. You know?"

Concepcion. "Yes. I think so. Last question, Sid, as I know you are on your way out, is there any advice you would give to young men out there?"

Heart: "Yeah. Have friends like Fish and Darren and Steve and Dwayne. These men have always made me better."

Concepcion: "O.k. Thank you so much and goodnight."

Saturday, March 06, 2010

"Even the river wanted him dead."

I tried writing on a mushroom jaunt; not very good.
But I did take notes and tried to record the times as best as I could. Thank god for the digital 12-hour cllock on my computer or I would have been fucked in that respect.
I was fucked anyhow. This was all that I could get out.
Alone in my apartment after a 10 hour trip with my buddy Chris, walking through Stanley Park and uptown. We had some beers and then I came home and ate a ton of mushrooms; still buzzing and just wanting to see if it would work, or something.
This is unedited, un-spell-checked and untouched.

5:20 p.m.

At 20 after 5 I am feeling the pull.
I ate a half-ounce of potent mushrooms at 5 today.
I have no plans and nothing to do, which is good, as I am sure to be fucked for a solid 12 hours; fucked from doing anything.
And I have a 6 pack of beer, just to keep me grounded.

5:26 p.m.

I have closed the curtains now, though I had thought of looking at the Yoga-practicing redhead in the condo across Nelson Street; always when I am drunk and smoking out there on the balcony, she turns on the back-lighting in her kitchen and then stretches beautiful in the living room.
But I have closed the curtains tonight. Even she can't save me now.

5:32 p.m.

The mushrooms come in yawns and heightened awareness. As my pupils dialate the dark becomes more friendly; I can see better. I doubt I'll be interested in documenting this much longer.

5:39 p.m.
I was right, except I am really fucking terribly aroused. I guess if you eat enough mushrooms, your cock becomes an iron rod. I bet I could have worked the spike-line on the railroad with this thing. i am feeling very thoughtful about trains a

/awareness shift(?)

something felt different again. I mean it was the music this time it really is the music after-all.


I am ruined. But laughing because you are all fucking ruined, too.

wait, wait. it's just drugs.
Smoke? This is shameful. But how am I supposed to know the difference?

6:48 What?
that was never just 20 minutes. was it? why does it look like everything has been painted by Robert Bateman?

this is stupid. fuck it. I need a bigger typewriter.

7;20 pm

I just made contact. She was waving something and by the fridge i thought it was awoman you know just forget it

i am so fucking high

that was just 15 minutes no fuckING WAY?????

7:46 p.m.
I have resumed control.
Rosanne Cash and a beer, rations.

Fuck this is like war.

I smoked some pot just now in hopes of getting sleepy.

8:00 p.m.
So, this is a never-ending trip broken only by time-checks?
let's go then. This is laughable. I need stronger drugs to challenge my MENTAL MONZTERR!!!

New reality show idea

8:07 p.m. eh?

8:30 p.m.
still incredibly stoned.

9:16 p.m.
I just ate so much food, feel better.
sleep soon I think, no?
not yet?

10:04 pm
I think I was on the phone but I never dialed and thought i was on hold the whole time.
I was reading before and am stsrting to chill out.
I dont know if I can sleep yet, but I am going to try. This experiment was shit.
Stupid idea I didn't write anything. Fucking fuck.



Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Goodbye and Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish.

It was so long since I had seen you.
I doubted you would know me and knew you had long forgotten my breath on your spine as we slept in that old house.

Goodbye dear book, I am sorry to have outlived you like this.
But you offer me nothing but bitter memories now; when you opened for me and I gleaned knowledge and joy from you, sequentially.

Goodnight. I hope your spirit is infused into the milk carton or legal pad you are destined to become in this recycled world.

Goodbye dear book.


Friday, February 05, 2010

"What we do often feels more like zookeeping than film-making": Jordan Thomas on BioShock 2

The raw text of my email interview with BioShock 2 creative director Jordan Thomas, in support of a piece for the Toronto Star.

Jordan Thomas, Creative Director, 2K Marin

Q: Well, how about I jump right into the heavy angle? BioShock -- it hit hard. It made people think, not just about the game but about games themselves. People fell all over themselves finding ways to praise it, it's paraded on the shoulders of gamers as "the [insert famous film here; Citizen Kane, etc.] of Games". A tough act to follow. Can you give me some insight into you mindset, your approach as you entered into the task of making a sequel to a game with that kind of profile?

I felt honored and humbled. My job is, in part, to treat the creative offspring of my former co-workers with respect – but also to avoid boring them with an excess of safety.

Without falling prey to hyperbole and overstating the challenge, in many ways calling any single, physical game BioShock 2 is to invite a parade of dissent. Because everyone seems to have sieved out different subjective rewards from the original, trying to please them all equally would have led to madness, as you suggest.

Fortunately, the artistic standards of my colleagues at 2K Marin and 2K Australia are unbelievably high, and I never saw them flinch. So it was more a question of picking our constants (returning to Rapture was a big one, we felt it had more to say) and making the game we personally wanted to play, knowing that a lot of smart people would queue with picket signs in the aftermath.

Q: Actually, that makes me think of a related question: What do you think of the sometimes hyperbolic laurels heaped on BioShock... was it, to your professional eye (and ear, and hand) the revolution/revelation it's made out to be?

I’m a little too close to it to comment meaningfully on long-term resonance, but I’ll try not to dodge your question completely, how’s that?

Certainly the depth of the story and the originality of the setting attracted me to work on the original as a level designer. And it was cathartic, in that Ken and the guys at Irrational had finally managed to bring this creative legacy of highly immersive, expressive niche games we all grew up on to a much wider audience.

I’m also interested in game scripts that play to the strengths of the medium, and I think the original BioShock did so in a way that was largely unprecedented. The BioShock 2 team have worked hard not to let that layered quality slip – hopefully fans will derive their own meaning from the sequel in a way that both inherits from (and yet departs from) the original.

Q: What would you say were the "keywords" that guided you (and your team) as you were conceiving the game's various aspects.

Well, one was ‘Expressivity’, and by that I mean that we want players to own the experience, to craft a play style which is all their own from a very broad array of tactical options.

Rapture is a living simulation which connects a diverse set of enemy behaviors to the game environment, and then supports hundreds of responses to the player’s dozens of weapons, tools, and other forms of input.

It’s especially rare in shooters, because, frankly, it hurts to get it right. With all that wild unpredictable player behavior to account for, what we do often feels more like zookeeping than, say, film-making. But the player’s feeling of self-expression is worth it.

The other is ‘Immediacy’, which distinguishes BioShock and BioShock 2 from some of their forebears. There’s a heavy emphasis on a punchy, readably concrete result to the use of any player tool. That helps you build a hypothesis, which becomes a strategy – even if you’re not a hardcore gamer.

If you zap a puddle of water in BioShock, highly visible electricity will crackle throughout the entire pool, making it clear that you’ve changed its state. Fire will cause an enemy to flee towards water. The player ‘does the math’ there, and feels clever for having worked it out.

Q: Like Rapture itself, BioShock felt very self-contained... when you started work on BioShock 2 (or even before that), what was the first angle you thought of in which to expand that hermetic world?

I was interested in a child’s eye view of Rapture … growing up in an insular, ultimately failed undersea utopia would be unlike anything our cultural norms could offer – the beauty and the horror of it.

That quickly became a much more zoomed-in, intimate story of a dysfunctional Father-Daughter relationship, opposed by a kind of ‘un-mother’ figure in the form of our antagonist. The first game was all about the setting. This one is more about a specific small group of people, each of whom gazed upon paradise and were consumed by it.

Q: "Player choice" and the discussion surround it -- what it means, how to implement it, whether it's even meaningfully possible -- is one of games' big topics. Within its linear flow, BioShock offered players some freedom (in upgrades, tactics, harvest/rescue) and then made a huge statement on the illusory nature of that freedom. What's your (and BioShock 2's) take on that? How are you running with /elaborating/repudiating that "Would you kindly..." philosophy?

Well, we’re taking it seriously – and it’s probably our biggest area of risk. Unlike the original protagonist, your freedom of will is precisely what distinguishes you in BioShock 2. And as you close in on your former Little Sister (the girl you were bonded to, way back in the city’s past) you continually make decisions about the fate of key characters – not just Little Sisters this time.

I can’t say much more about any intended subtext without spoiling the reward, but suffice it to say that these choices dramatically shape the story, particularly in the final act. That, too, we feel – is rare in the shooter space. So we’re proud of the power over the BioShock 2 narrative that the player has, this time around.

Q: Andrew Ryan's Objectivist Rapture verusus Dr. Lamb's Altruist Rapture... Big Brothers versus Big Sisters... a sealed place (mostly) lost to the outside versus a known (to some) place in which outside parties have an active interest... from what I know of BioShock 2 it feels very Mirror Universe. Am I feeling that right? To what degree is 2 a reflection, and how is that reflection distorted?

You’re absolutely right that because Ryan’s (following from Ayn Rand’s) philosophy of rational self interest was so extreme, his political rivals such as Dr. Sofia Lamb had to be similarly larger than life to pose any real threat to him. Lamb is indeed an altruist, based in part on John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx … but whose strategy was to couch her secular thinking in a kind of unity cult called the Rapture Family. Lamb’s organization, once suppressed, has now seized control of the city. And the player – an overwhelmingly powerful individual, no longer enslaved to the city – constitutes a very direct threat to that utopian vision.

The variable, I would say, is Eleanor Lamb – the former Little Sister who is caught between them. She adds a dimension that wasn’t really present in the conflicts between the player and the original game’s villains – someone to care about, other than yourself and your many toys. But knowing the elder Lamb, some players will ask themselves if Eleanor can be trusted.

Q: Nuts n' bolts: multiplayer. To what degree will (are) the BioShock philosophy (-ies) animate and inform the multplayer experience?

Well, the Multiplayer component takes place in a different time period than the single player story. The year between 1959 and 1960, which precedes the original game. Rapture was wracked by a civil war that was the direct result of ‘utopian’ self-interest leading to an inability to agree on a set of rules.

Corruption and addiction followed the discovery of ADAM (the precious genetic substance that allows for all the wild genetic powers the player wields). So because it’s directly integrated in the story, it is directly informed by much of the Rand-inspired philosophical exploration that the first game was based on.

And competitive MP allows you to earn ADAM and, indeed, grow your character to increase your odds of survival. Along the way you unlock unique audio diaries that describe how each of the MP playable characters fell from grace in the pursuit of their own aims.

The economy of multiplayer is about as laissez-faire as you can get. So it’s a pretty effective meditation on the fleeting, mercurial nature of satisfaction, if you take a step back and smile.

Q: On the personal (and maybe a little softball) side, what are you most proud of in BioShock 2? What was cut that you regret having to leave behind?

I’m probably the most proud of the aforementioned narrative ‘reflection’ that the game offers, I think it’s an example of taking our theme (which has to do with family) and turning it meaningfully interactive in both the broad strokes and the finer ones.

But I’m also proud of the improvements to the game as a shooter – the enemies are much more environment aware, using cover, leaping off of walls, picking up objects, etc. The Big Sister in particular is in many ways a dynamically-generated boss fight in response to your actions – she has to be able to fight anywhere you can, which distinguishes her from more scripted confrontations in other games.

Ironically, I regret having to leave behind the backtracking feature! Almost nobody actually did it in the original despite huge amounts of work to support it, and there were massive gains in trade for its removal in BioShock 2. But for a small, hardcore group of people, it’s a loss.

Q: Personal, again. What in your own professional experience most helped/informed you through the making of BioShock 2? I'm thinking here (as I often am) of Thief: Deadly Shadows, a game I loved almost beyond reason.

Well, it warms the heart to know that anyone actually played the poor thing! Certainly there’s a level I threw my heart into on Thief:DS, guided by Randy Smith, that formed the foundation of my game narrative ‘philosophy’. The same principles were applied to Fort Frolic in the original BioShock (the level I worked on), and any cogent guidance I’ve offered our design team on BioShock 2 has come from the same principles.

To sum it up quickly, I’m a big fan of embracing the subjective – that is to say, offering some compelling knowns, but holding back on a lot of the connective tissue for people to speculate and fill in with their own theories. Meaning in games is malleable – very participatory. You can guide it, but to force it is to betray its very nature.

Q: Meta time. Games like BioShock 2 -- and almost all AAA games -- are huge undertakings, and hugely expensive in consequence. The risk/reward terrifies accountants. Not to put too fine a point on it, but is the current model of development, with its attendant financial risks and its hard use of talent, viable? What do you see in the future of development at the AAA level. What would you *like* to see?

Well, with digital distribution, you’ll see a flexibility of format and price point. That is to say that games like Portal may end up being financially viable stand-alone works, even on console, only meant to provide a few solid hours of play for a lower cost – but hopefully bearing replayability in a way that is unique to games. Imagine physically participating in an episode of something like LOST, learning more each time you play through it, and seeing all the ways it can turn out? Sort of the ‘short-but-deep’ model.

Beyond that, I’d like to see us break down the barrier to entry. Learning to use a modern game controller is, for many people, like being dropped into a foreign country without a word of the local tongue. It’s just too much – passive mediums like film and TV allow them to just sit back and take it. There’s no progress gating. Look at something like the iphone, the Wii, or Natal. By and large, the interface is your body. I hope to see us evolve beyond the traditional forms of input and models of ‘challenge’ – then my Mom and I can co-op through Pride and Prejudice And Zombies, y’know?