For anyone who doesn’t know, the open participants of the NetNarr realm have started their own project and have invited us to participate as well. It’s an awesome opportunity to dabble with some digital alchemy~
I wasn’t sure what I was going to do at first–or if I would have time to do anything–but, miraculously, I’m on it with the time management this weekend and I also had a burst of creative inspiration. I decided to remix-ish an old story I wrote about a year ago that was inspired by a random bot prompt.
Originally, I posted the story here on my blog. Then, I uploaded a reading of the story to Soundcloud that I created using Audacity, complete with some simple sound effects I created crunching tortilla chips or snapping vine charcoal.
Now, I decided to make a pseudo-ish ELit work using Google slides. I would prefer to make it more interactive but I’m kind of working with what I’ve got on hand. A while back, I made a pretty cool and interactive ELit piece using Microsoft Powerpoint which has a lot more features than Google slides and is a bit more user-friendly in that regard (one you get used to the interface and all its buttons, of course). The only problem with using Powerpoint is that it makes the work a download so every time someone wants to see the work, they have to download it to their computer which, really, gives them free license to edit and disrupt it as well
Anyway, I made do and I’m pretty happy with what I came up with. I had a lot of fun find images to play off my work and even more fun editing them as well as playing around with Google slides’ meager selection of animation. I think my text effects, though subtle, are the most powerful editions I made to the work. They play off the spirit of the piece, if you will.
But enough rambling on from me.
Check it out for yourself and tell me what you think~
Despite this week’s many technical difficulties on campus, this is not what actually happened though I thought about it…. Myself along with the rest of the goody-2-shoes class that showed up this week did stay for a crash course in gifs and their creation~
The Gif of Gifs
(Okay, I’m done)
This week we explored the animated gif. Though we didn’t spend much time discussing the creative form in the classroom, we did watch a short clip of a movie that is entirely made of gifs(?) It was pretty trippy to watch. Marissa and I likened the experience of watching the video to that of having a fever dream or going on a bad acid trip. Check it out:
(How long did it take you to realize the start of the vid was a montage of loading screens/ modules???)
Many of the gif forms shown are definitely unfamiliar to me and, I think, not as popular online. According to this article though, many of the animations popularity attributed as gifs are not actually gifs. They’re short video clips played on a loop which is, come to find, out, not what a gif is. Mind-blowing, right? I don’t want to butcher the actual def of a gif so I highly recommend checking out the article linked on it~
Anyway, aside from that fever dream of an induction to gifs, we checked out The Digital Materiality of Gifs–prepare for a MySpace flashback. If the Popular Mechanics article on the history of gifs gets too overwhelming and techy, I think this project does a fairly well job of explaining the history of the gif in laymen’s terms.
What I find most meaningful about the project’s breakdown is it’s final thought: “Gifs are a dumb, limited file format, and in the end this why they are important: They do not belong to anyone. Because of their constraints, they become a design material, to be played with, challenged, and explored. To try and domesticate them would be missing the point.” This, I believe, articulates the idea that gifs (along with memes and other new digital media created for and in online spaces) are the people’s art, their creation and burgeoning language. When you try to commercialize the medium and remove it from that kind of freedom and remix-ability, you remove the essence of the medium that allows it to function and to have power, to have agency.
Essentially, part of the gif’s power is that anyone can make one and use one. When you begin to chip away at that, you chip away at the ideology, at least, that makes a gif a gif.
Same as for memes, it’s difficult for me to imagine the internet without gifs. More, without the free and ubiquitous use of gifs. I may not understand every iteration or evolution of the form but I still believe their home is online and freely accessible. Like I said, gifs are a new facet of our language. They are tools for communication and they, in many cases, allow for smoother communication than could occur without them. Like memes, they are complex cultural and social messages in compact form. They streamline communication, especially in online spaces where space can be at a premium (think Twitter’s character limit >.>).
What do you think the internet and communicating online would be like without the gif?
Making & Wrapping Those Gifs
(I lied ^.^)
In addition to discussing the gif and its function, particularly in online spaces, this week, we were also tasked with creating and exploring the power of the form for ourselves. In the Make Bank, we had two activities we could do to practice our prowess at creating gifs. Both activities asked us to familiarize ourselves with Giphy. (An old friend of mine~) For those of you who don’t know, Giphy is a simple and easy way to create gifs from snippets of video or whatnot which are apparently not technically gifs but whatver.
Anyway, the first activity allowed us to practice making both a gif with text overlaid and a gif without text by providing a short clip from a western film and asking us what verbal and non-verbal message we could communicate by giffing it.
Here’s what I came up with:
My first gif is meant to be a reaction to the situation captioned. Meaning, when the wifi is down, I’m out–a sentiment I imagine many of agree with. If there’ not wifi, don’t invite me, right??? What am I supposed to do??? Talk to other people and not play on my phone???
(This gif was inspired by the aforementioned technical difficulties occurring on campus this week. First, there was no wifi and then the power went out on half of campus *sigh* I felt like I was living in a commune >.>)
My second gif connects to my first gif. The first guy is the one who left when the wifi first went down and the guy gaining on him is joining him on his search for wifi. Though, I imagine this gif could be used as a reaction to any initial action that spurs a second agreeable action.
The second activity this week asked us to gif our own content. The only catch was that we had to find a way to make it relate to a topic we’ve discussed thus far about digital life and digital art. Not too much of a catch.
I definitely had some fun with this one
Big Brother’s got to know my angles, right???
My gif here plays off the idea that out online activity is always being monitored. Specifically, I’m referencing the ongoing joke online (since the Snowden thing???) that not only are all American citizens being constantly monitored, but they have an NSA/FBI agent assigned to watch them. (Few cultural/social levels you’re going to need for context, huh?)
I used a clip from the mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows (which is great if you haven’t seen it yourself~ Amazon Prime recently added it I think?) in which one of the human characters is trying to teach 3 ancient vampires how to use modern tech and social media. Thought it was pretty relevant~
(I was also kind of inspired, aesthetically and stylistically, by a digital gif artist mentioned in this Buzzfeed article–Dain Fagerholm. He combines his ink drawings with the digital medium, creating these really trippy works. Here’s one:
As for my other gif, I continued to play off the idea of the selfie.
This time, I used another clip (titled “Dead but Delicious”–please check it out) from the same mockumentary to create a gif that somewhat shows the history/evolution of the selfie??? In a way, I also think it shows how much work our phones actually save us from having to do. (Of course, since the main characters are vampires, they don’t have reflections so this is their only option…. till they find out about contemporary tech and have a field day~)
Overall, I think gifs, like memes, are the sprinkles of the internet. They don’t always need to be there but they certainly add colour and vibrancy and life when they are.
More, I think that gifs are fast becoming a means of communication. They aren’t just accessories anymore. They convey meaning and can be used as reactions to situations which can streamline communication for all familiar or fluent in the gifs being used.
*Clash allows you to input a phrase and then it finds the words it can in different songs and plays you back your phrase with the snippets of song it found–which is really f*cking cool, in my opinion. I’ve never heard of something like this before and I think it would be really interesting to find out how to do something like this. (I might actually enjoy this kind of audio work ha-ha)
So, I’ve had a bit of a change of heart from last week. It’s come to my attention that I may have been far too ambivalent about my feelings toward online data tracking. More, I believe I let the internet ideals I hold in high regard cloud my judgement of the realities that currently rule the digital landscape.
When confronted with the realities of third-party tracking servers and learning algorithms, it is almost impossible to believe how unconscionably and irresponsibly online sites and Big Business corporations are allowed to operate in the digital sphere. It’s disturbing just how much information about me is not only readily accessible but profitable–big time. (I voiced some of my concerns in regards to Robert Heaton’s post on the ins-n-outs of online tracking here and here.) What concerns me most is the lack of privacy and the lack of consent. These sites are making stupid money selling my information to the highest bidder. As Zeynep Tufekci says in her TED Talk, we are not consumers in this financial equation. We are products. Hot products (emphasis mine).
And, I’m aware it is because of this current system of practice that the internet and most social media sites are freely available to the public but does that access offset the cost? Is the exchange from human to commodity, soluble as it may be, fair?
I credit my initial ambivalence toward online data tracking/mining to my prior perception that I wasn’t really sharing all that much personal information on the web. And, what I was sharing, was non-consequential at best. Who cares that I follow a poetry page on FB, a pro-legalization page, or that I retweet sappy quotes, right? A lot of people.
Let’s take a look at that Twitter data and at just how easy it is to compile and create a profile of me from:
For some reason (I’m sure someone has created an algorithm to figure out), I have a propensity for tweeting heavily on Thursdays around 6AM & Fridays around 1AM???
With an activity log like this one, corporations could time what ads would be most effective not just to the day but down to the minute. And, they would be able to find out what ads I as a consumer would be most receptive to through data like this:
From this data set, anyone who wanted to could easily identify what news I follow through hashtag usage and what my relevant interests are through who I retweet as well as what my affiliations are outside of Twitter through what sites link back to me. All of this data can be compiled and associations can be made from it and cookies can follow up on its trends so that there is always an advertisement designed particularly with me in mind, no matter where my internet journeys take me.
The world wide web ain’t so much a democracy anymore, is it?
What’s almost more troubling than the idea that my digital self has zero to zilch autonomy or agency is that this same information can be used to affect the quality of my life outside of the internet. Institutions have invested heavily in this data and can use it to withhold certain services IRL. This is explained in episodes 2 & 3 of Do Not Track, a documentary series that explores online data tracking.
For instance, in episode 3, you are provided the option to connect your FB account to a risk assessment site (Illuminis) created, as you discover, by the creators of Do Not Track to illustrate how certain information could be collected digitally and could be used to affect your life and opportunities outside the internet.
The information it’s able to gather is mildly concerning, to say the least:
The first screen that pops up after connecting your account
Not only is Illuminis able to show what pages I liked on FB, it is able to establish a personality profile from those pages I like as well as from other info from my FB profile.
I dispute some of the conclusions drawn about my character~
Which is all fun and games until you see how this information is applied to real world situations. Because of something as simple as liking a post in support of decriminalizing cannabis or following a page that shares posts about traveling to exotic places or being female apparently, things so seemingly minuscule in the grand scheme of the internet, I could turn myself into a poor investment to some interested parties.
Yahtzee! I was a “mediocre candidate” and a “risk” in both my financial and healthcare assessments. In fact, I was not a candidate at for healthcare because of my possibly propensity towards “high risk activity” as indicated by my social media profile~
This is problematic–especially when you see how many daily devices and platforms you use routinely make use of tracking software such as cookies:
And what is perhaps most troubling and most problematic about all of this is that there is very little you and I can do to improve this situation. Again, as Tufekci reiterates in her TED Talk, it is the system that has been put in place that needs to fundamentally change. More, it is the financial structures that govern that system that need changing and a reorganization of values. Unfortunately, those are not tasks that can be very well accomplished on an individual level.
At least, not unless the rules of play change.
In our studio visit with Brett Gaylor, the director of Do Not Track, discussion revolved around what measures can be enacted to combat this online data tracking free-for-all pay to play suck it losers. More, we discussed how can anyone achieve any semblance of privacy in such a monitored environment and, while maintaining some kind of separation, be able to still participate in the digital sphere. Gaylor says, “Privacy is what allows us to be authentic people” after all. I would further argue that privacy and anonymity allow for activism and advocacy as well and when using a platform that has the capacity and capability to spread awareness that can facilitate necessary action, it is more than important certain protections be in place.
Most tracking services and cookies rely heavily on implicit consent rather than an explicitly provided one, especially in North America. In episode 2 of Do Not Track(?), it is shown that European countries require websites disclose to users whether or not cookies are being used to track data. Even though the only option to being given that info is “OK” or leave the site at least it’s an attempt to inform consumers. That’s more than we can say here.
It may be a small gesture but there is something powerful about returning responsibility, agency, and accountability, no matter the amount, to the entities that shouldn’t have had it stolen from them in the first place. It’s representative of freedom–that of choice and of digital self-determination, choosing who can use our data and for what purpose. More, the gesture is informing. While many people may be aware that they are being monitored through their devices and their social media, the extent to which is probably less clear. (As evidenced by my own beliefs and those of my classmates here. There seems to be a distinct disconnect between our perception of the surveillance and its reality, something Tiff(?) I believe touches upon. Also, questions about the “necessary evil” of tracking arise as well by Hailey–I mean, disconnecting from the internet now essentially means disconnecting from the world; becoming less relevant and less informed. To leave or not to leave is not an easy problem to resolve.)
For me, what it really comes down to though is finding a way to restructure the system to value the ethical more than the financial. Tufekci ends her TED Talk saying, “We need a digital economy where our data and our attention is not for sale to the highest bidding authoritarian or demagogue.”Side note: She kicks ass and I’d love to meet her IRL.
This shift has to be non-negotiable, though. There has to be not just regulation of but enforcement of ethical internet practices in some way. To me, this means there must be an incentive–the easiest kind of enforcement but also the most expensive $$$$.
As stated in Gaylor’s Do Not Track, most of these sites make their prime revenue from ads and the amount many of us would be willing to pay out of pocket to use these services per month pales in comparison to what these sites can make through selling our data. With the state of net neutrality itself, I’m honestly not sure how easy it would be to accomplish some kind of endowment or fund for the internet to sway platforms using it away from the allure of data tracking~ There’s a political side to all of this as well, of course. What kind of world do we live in that our right to privacy has become politicized….
I’m not proposing a step-by-step plan here for how to go about fixing the internet but I think there are conditions that must be met or else the internet will continue to remain a lose-lose situation for consumer privacy.
Keeping the Game Going
When it comes to data tracking, that latter half–tracking–seems to steal most of the glory. But that data part is, arguably, the most important component here. Without the data, there’s nothing to track after all. And how are these sites accumulating data, you may ask? By keeping us on their sites for as long as possible, of course. And how do they do that? By providing lots of shiny buttons to click and sensational videos to watch and hot music to listen to, of course. And how do they choose those things? By analyzing consumer data, of course. Tracking trends. Tracking us. Full circle, huh?
That said, I disagree almost philosophically with articles that forward this idea that the increasing use of technology is making us stupider as a whole. Quite frankly I find the notion insulting, uninformed, and usually ageist. It has been my experience that most articles of this nature are pushing their own narrative or agenda without adequately considering the many beneficial applications of the technology and weighing them against the cons. They want to focus on the very worst aspects of social media and apply those findings to all new digital media.
And, of course, they blame the consumers wholeheartedly.
There isn’t one mention of the corporate entities or the learning algorithms that are largely responsible if not entirely so for how these social media sites are designed. In my humble opinion, the lack of ethical or conscientious advertising paired with the unregulated data tracking is far more egregious and should be of far more concern to our society than whether or not some people prefer technological amusements to someone’s IRL company. More, it reveals a distinct bias and a pronounced agenda that I have simply no interest in entertaining. (If you want to hear me get super salty about it, I highly suggest you check out this thread~)
An aspect of this problem I am interested in entertaining relates back to the issue of privacy online and how that affects authentic expression overall. I wonder to what extent all of this monitoring, this surveillance, has affected our behavior IRL. The recent uptick in content being posted to social media platforms that I believe wouldn’t have been uploaded a decade ago (i.e. the Logan Paul Suicide Forest video to Youtibe, or the brutal fights shared via FB live, that livestream posted to Instagram of a woman getting into a car accident and killing her sister, etc.) leads me to believe that we may all be becoming more performative–because we believe we are always being watched. In that sense, everything about ourselves becomes content for public consumption. We are products. It’s all some reality show. A performance art piece–neo-Dadaist style.
Removing privacy as a valuable concept from the social consciousness is a pretty good way to eliminate the issue of privacy from the data tracking discussion entirely again, in my humble opinion~.
It makes me wonder about authenticity. If privacy is what allows us to be authentic people, as Gaylor said, what is authentic expression in a world without a concept of privacy? How does living without a sense of a private self affect your self image? Because digital selves are so public, does that mean that they can never be private?
I don’t know. I really don’t.
End Game…Plot Twist???
Ultimately, the issue of online data tracking leaves me dissatisfied–a little abjectly horrified too, tbh. (I’m not sure if that’s much better or far worse than feeling conflicted.)
I fundamentally disagree with it and have serious reservations with the system’s current business practices and ethics but I also understand that the internet can’t very well run without the current infrastructure. I mean, it’s entirely doable just not practical at this moment in time. I wish there was more transparency, though, and accountability. Right now, the onus is on consumers who are really commodities and so don’t even have the power that would be afforded to them if they were consumers. Simply, we’re not properly informed about what’s going on behind our screens and so we can’t consent.
It’s like we’re playing a game that’s been designed to beat us.
We’re being exploited for all we’re worth and most of us are gladly participating in our own exploitation.
Which is unfortunate because the internet really has the capacity to be this place where communities of individuals can gather and create, innovate, better themselves and the world at large. Just look at our little community here:
Can you find yourself? Do we connect? If not, why not???? Drop a line and say, “Hey” ^.^
It’s hard to entirely dismiss the internet when it’s responsible for the creation of something like this. It’s the current system that has made our community possible. At the same time, the very system and algorithms that make our community possible are responsible for the creation of a lot of really toxic and problematic digital communities, ones that perpetuate falsehoods and often dangerous narratives and that profit off of it. Again, there’s just an issue of consent but of oversight, culpability, and many other serious problems that have, unfortunately, in many instances, been politicized. This is another aspect of internet use I would categorize as of greater importance than whether or not we’re addicted to social media. (Though, I’ll grant this ties into whether or not the internet is making us stupider. More uniformed, really.) Its difficult to reconcile all of these many sides of the internet. Seems easier to let yourself get lost in the stream.
I’m not sure where any of this leaves us other than in need of a drink but I’d love to hear your thoughts~
*I’ve recommended this video a couple of times throughout my #netnarr travels but I think, especially in light of both our current class discussions and the current state of political affairs in our country, it is incredibly relevant. It’s from an educational channel and it’s all about how to navigate this post-truth error where such things as “alternative facts” exist. More, it’s an exploration of the relationship between social media, consumerism, and factual truth. Highly recommend checking it out~
*A documentary that I’ve watched recently and would recommend is Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. It’s different from Do Not Track but it is still interested in bringing an underlying truth to the surface. (Plus, it’s an Oscar nominee. (Double plus, it’s free if you have Amazon Prime))~
*This week’s musical artist of choice I listened to while hitting the grind was blackbear, if you want to check him out~
But, what if those tuning in don’t care so much to hear you as they do to extract information about you and exploit it? (That took a dark turn, huh?)
Compare, Contrast, & Conflict
Do Not Track, a mini-documentary series/interactive digital project directed by Brett Gaylor, discusses the very real ways our internet meandering is not only tracked but compiled and used for economic gains–not our own, of course. I’m only one episode in so far but the tone is clearly different from that of a work like the Network Effect which is another interactive digital work that allows users to, I would argue, see just how much personal information is not only out there in the interweb miasma but also easily accessible to anyone and everyone. That isn’t to say the Network Effect is trying to do anything nefarious–in fact, it seems their purpose is rather the opposite–but Do Not Track is clearly trying to make a different point about the internet’s ability to not only observe our actions but collect and compile them to use for purposes we as users of digital spaces are not always aware of or able to control.
To be honest though, I found the contrast between the purposes of the two projects to be most interesting. Perhaps it is because I am a child of the digital age and can only remember a small window of time living without tech being an integral part of how I interact with the world, but the idea that I’m constantly being watched and tracked through my devices is not shocking nor does it make me afraid. If it were all more Orwellian in nature, then maybe. As it stands, I think Big Brother has a more invested interest in selling me out to Big Business for bigger bottom lines all around than it has a desire in anything more sinister. Yet, at least. Greed, especially of the corporate kind, disgusts me, but, again, it’s expected. Would I prefer not to see Amazon adds of things I was just perusing popping up on my social media feeds? Yes. Would I prefer Google not storing a story of me in their vaults? Yes. It’s disconcerting at least and paranoia-inducing at worst. It makes me wonder how else I’m being exploited without my consent. It makes me want to rip the power cells out of all my devices and sign off for good.
But, I can’t.
Again, this is the digital age. If you live in modern society with most of the rest of the world, you simply can’t disconnect. You wouldn’t be able to function in the world. Maybe I’m not so much anesthetized to being surveilled by microwaves even!as I am resigned to its being an inevitability of digital life. It’s the trade-off. (That continual debate of safety vs. freedom.)
That isn’t to say that some of this collective information or story can’t be used for good. The Network Effect is a primary example of how the internet’s ability to track people and their actions can be used to unify instead of to divide. I think now more than ever we all need to be reminded that, yes, while we may be unique individuals with unique stories, we also share a vast array of similar experiences that connect us. That can.
In a post I made a year ago on my first experience of the Network Effect, I focused on the action GRIEVE and on how the amount of people tweeting about grieving tended to pique at 7am & later at 7pm.
There’s something grounding and uniquely human about the timing. Or maybe it’s just the confirmation that we all experience loss and have so few words to capture it the 140 character rule never seems to be a problem~
First, this statistic made me wonder why. Because grief is most poignant upon first waking and then at dinner, a time typically spent with family or friends? Because first waking is the first moment a loss is remembered again? Because sitting at a table with an empty chair that wasn’t always empty is so unbearable it makes you want to scream into the void? Don’t I know it. None of the above? All this wondering (an act which I believe has merit inherent unto itself) led me to my second realization which is this: there are individuals that make up every bit of this data I’m viewing. More, this data isn’t just a static chart on a page. It’s video and tweets in live time. It isn’t just percentages–it’s story. It’s lives. Big Brother and Big Business may forget that but when it’s presented in such a way as it is through the Network Effect, I think that reality is undeniable and that is what makes this project powerful.
What’s Louder? Our Stories or Our Silence?
Ultimately, I feel conflicted about internet tracking/surveillance. While I agree with Do Not Track’s position that undisclosed or unwarranted tracking “dis-empowers” me and robs me of agency in that it makes choices for me about what content I’ll see on my internet journeys, I also believe or want to believe that there can be a benefit to having a digital collective or archive of the human experience like the Network Effect.
Not everyone who is tuning in to us is doing it with good intentions but I believe it is important and it is progress that we have a platform where we can all tune into each other.
“The people’s chant must be everything the people can’t be~”–I think the internet does a spectacular job of showing us all where we are as a people and how far we still have to go. It gives us a starting place, at the very least. It can. In recent years, yes, the internet and its many platforms have become weaponized and increasingly capitalized upon, creating horrible echo chambers in too many cases, but I think it’s important to remember all the possibility still inherent to the idea (think the Arab Spring or the Women’s Marches or the #MeToo movement which were all conceived of in internet spaces and then actualized). Allowing our stories to be digital can create stories that can exist beyond digital boundaries. And, to me, everything is story. It can be. In the digital age especially, there are so many opportunities to tell stories. We may not always be able to control who is listening to them or how they are received but I don’t think that should silence us. Should stop us from tuning in to each other. From trying to cut through the chaos and static.
*Twit 1 & Twit 2 (I meant to use only one this time around but I’ve already mixed it up Silly so here’s both~)
*If you’re interested in short stories based off of Twitter bot nonsense, I recommend checking out my Killing It tag. I’m toying with the idea of reviving it~
*I posted this vid by Al Jazeera in the #netnarr tag about media literacy in the wake of fake news’ popularity on Twitter and then it was retweeted with the #netnarrlinks tag (for anyone who also wants to share cool content on Twitter).
*For anyone who was disappointed by season 4 of Black Mirror, I highly recommend checking out Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. It’s an Amazon original series based off of works by Philip K. Dick (the title of the show is a play on the title of one of his more famous works Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which is a classical dystopian I actually enjoy ^.^). and it’s free if you have prime. Like Black Mirror, it’s an anthology series that bridges sci-fi and the psychological through explorations of the intersection of life and tech.
*See The Post if you haven’t already! It is phenomenal and relevant to current events >.>
***I didn’t think about it till after but the Soundcloud link I shared to a Chance the Rapper song is oddly appropriate in that Chance is an artist without a label who rose to popularity and eventually mainstream prominence through the internet and digital media. People shared and promoted his music online and through apps like Spotify. Would definitely recommend checking him out if you’re looking for some good music. He’s more poet than rapper to me in some ways.
I think you’re very right about the Other Side being like my shadows–not as empty as I may like to or be convinced to believe. There is something remarkable about the world you call “home.” Something that is something about the place you eyeless-eyes have grown to admire, your story-skin has grown to find comfort within. It’s something I think we all here in the Other Something world should like to appreciate more than we do.
For myself, I found becoming a part of your world, Faerie Girl, to be somewhat of a struggle but also, somehow, effortless? There is something very freeing about donning a story-skin and continuing the word-weaving from it. On the Other Side, there is this ability to extend one’s self and one’s reach far beyond what is usually/feasibly capable this side. And, because I’m wearing a story-skin, it’s less to scary to perform that extension. Because, despite what additional connection is fostered via the Other Side’s “magic”, I am still difficult to touch. You may feel me in writing but you cannot grasp me, not wholly. Which may be viewed as a blessing or a curse depending on who you talk to, methinks
That said, I do feel like I was able to connect with many different people and voices through playing pretend? with you, Faerie Girl, and others from the Other Side. Before even journeying to your realm, I felt like I was forging new connections. Like, in my now infamous?story-off with @dogtrax. We weren’t just word-weaving. No, our little powwow, knitting circle was something else. There was more creation and creativity going on than what word-links were appearing in this chain. At least, it felt like more. Like something powerful. Magickal. In the Something world, it’s not always so easy to foster this kind of reciprocity. Ego can get in the way or timing or environment or any number of things the Other Side can oft level out or, to some extent, alleviate. This moment of collaboration and of sincere reciprocity is one of my fondest memories and one I am most proud of. I felt a part of something bigger than myself but also like an integral part of that something. I was both tapping into something and being the thing that was tapped into (keep the thoughts clean, folks~ kids read these ^.^).
Aside from that, Faerie Girl, I’m also quite proud of the stories I wove these past few months from the nonsense words of bots. They weren’t necessary but they allowed me to interact with the Other Side in a way that was comfortably familiar but also new and unexpected. Really, these stories were a segue into the Other World for me. Despite having taken a “crash-course”, so to speak, in Elit last semester, I was till unsure about how to conduct myself in an online, collaborative space. Still very self-conscious about how I would be perceived. And, more, I was certainly afraid I wasn’t “up-to-par” with the outside participants who would be taking part in this adventure with us. But, finding this small way to insert myself into the community, to offer something of myself so that others could get to know me and where I come from, made me, overall, feel more comfortable participating in the more interactive aspects of the Other Side’s way. If any of that at all makes sense. I just felt more comfortable existing in this community once I had a more fleshed out identity.
That, I think, comes back to something that was recently discussed irl–the dissonance many writers experience when it comes to what they write versus how it sounds. I didn’t think I sounded authentic till I had more writing to show for who I am. Till I had this piece of e online for others to get a sense of and feel. It’s an evolution of that mindful fear of dissonance, I think–not believing you can possibly sound authentic enough in an online space without incorporating some tokens of authenticity from the Something world. Again, I don’t know if any of this makes sense but, I hope at least some small part of it does in some way. When working in a digital space, you are putting yourself out there in front of a whole lot of people–more people than you ever do in a Something classroom and certainly before more strangers. You’ve got to find some sense of confidence or nerve or you’re not going to be able to write anything at all in this kind of a setting–in my opinion.
Anyway, Faerie Girl, sorry to go off that self-centered tangent. I’m sure you’ve had enough of me, by now ^.^ I know I have. Though, I’d like to think future explorers will be able to explore themselves as much they will the Other Side. Will learn just as much about the magic within as they will the magic of collaboration. To do that, I think future alchemists have to, first, find a way to incorporate what already interests them into a digital medium. Like, I brought my love of telling twisted tales and weaving disturbing words into disconcerting harmony almost immediately over into the Other Side. I found a way to use it to engage with the proposed assignments explorations. From the beginning of a Something class like this, I think it’s crucial to emphasize the place of the self in the work. Online spaces can be great places to forge an identity but they can also be very daunting places to do that very thing as well. For future alchemists to make meaningful explorations into the Other Side, I think a foundation of the self must first be laid in some way. Once again, if that makes sense.
….Look at that, another self-centered bum-bumbling ramble. You may have me pegged after all, Faerie Girl. It’s almost like you’re inside my head or something….
Before I get lost in my head again, let’s wrap this up! I’m sure you’ve got fancy places to be, fancy folk to unsee and all that jazz, Faerie Girl. I don’t want to keep you
Honestly, though, exploring the Other Side and getting to know the alchemists who call it home has been, all joke aside, magickal and unforgettable…..Well, some of the more, shall we say stressful weeks may be more blocked out than others. But, that’s neither here nor there. Back to the point. Focus, Shadow Girl!Hopefully, I am able to keep in touch in some way with some of the amazingly and immensely talented and driven folk I’ve met on my journeys thus far. It would be meaningful, too, I think, and it would do justice to all I’ve learned navigating this new world if I tried to make something out of the unexpectedness and the reciprocity I was able to experience. I don’t know what but I want it to manifest in some way on the outside. And, maybe that’s enough–wanting to create something so much more than myself but so necessary to me. Putting that energy out there, I mean, is enough, is something. Despite the Something world being, well, the Something World, there seems to be a shortage of this desire for the reciprocal, for collaboration and appreciation. The Something World has become, if you can believe it, even more self-centered than myself! More focused on I and less on what I can do for other people. So, I believe just being able to emit a more positive energy through my endeavors and my demeanor would have a minor but meaningful impact. It would alter my perspective, at the very least.
And, on that note, I end this ram-rambling on. I really am long-winded, though, huh? How have you put up with it, Faerie Girl?
Anyway, Faerie Girl, try not to be a stranger either. You, by far, are one of my fave folk to collab with ^.^ It’s like we’re just on the same wavelength, same page or something. Truth be told, it’s a little crazy. That said, I think it’s been real.
“World building” is somehow a difficult concept to attribute to the world–proper, so to speak. Actually, it’s kind of a hard term to think of the world in/with because the world is built, isn’t it? All around us, there are these constructed and contrived places. Infrastructure and institutions. Spaces with such seemingly benign, or, should I say, obvious stories that even considering them as storied spaces at all is bizarre. Like, I know why the library is in the center of main campus–access and availability. And, a library is a resource center, one that provides books for your needs/interests so long as you have a card with the institution. It’s all very prescribed. Background noise at this point. Facts my brain doesn’t need time with to process and sort.
There is a world that exists behind or beyond that kind of dictated, socio-culturally enforced, shallow surface. When I think of the library, utilitarian purposes don’t exclusively come to mind. The books I’ve checked out do. The conversations I had with the librarians do. The friendship I formed with one of the librarians does. Even, all my anxiety about tripping down the library’s totally trippable steps comes to mind when I think of the library! (Don’t judge. I’m afraid of all heights equally and I’ve seen more than a couple of people miss those tricky steps~)
Anyway, it still sounds weird to think of my own personal experiences with an environment or place as being “world building” but, I guess they are. I mean, it’s how I see my world–through my interactions with it. Those interactions inform how I navigate and how I structure my life. If I had a poor experience at a certain restaurant, I probably won’t go back there, regardless of how hungry I may be and my proximity (i.e ease of access) to it. Through a utilitarian lens, when hungry, I should go to the nearest place that provides food. But, that’s just not the reality of the world. Not the one I live in, at least. I’m not eating someplace where I don’t like the service. End of story.
I’m not sure if there’s a means of communicating all the stories a space can accumulate in a way that isn’t overwhelming or too selective, still. Like I said earlier, my brain can process a place’s utilitarian, dictated purposes like second nature. Increasing the amount of info (i.e stories) it would need to process in a short amount of time may become more of an interference in how I’m informed about a space instead of an improvement. Maybe. Our brains are capable of processing such an abundance of info though–but it takes time to do it well. And, I think when it comes to attaching a multitude of associations to a place, time becomes a reasonable concern. Over-stimulation, a major concern. Plus, how much does every person who walks through/uses the library need to know about my fear of falling down the stairs? What would that meaningfully add to their concept of the space? Would they walk a little slower down the steps? Again, maybe. If they cared. Which is another thing.
I may know the technical purpose of a space and know the intended use of a space, but that doesn’t mean I care. For another example, the Quick Check’s (local convenience store) back lot by my high school may have been intended for parking–and it was used for parking–but everyone also knew it was a great place to skateboard after the skate park closed. And, to be honest, that function superseded the original because it was the only one most anyone cared about. The police would come by and round you up every now and again but that didn’t deter anyone. So, that was my roundabout way of explaining that there is a level of care that goes into the conceiving of a place. It’s the functions that everyone cares about that become a place’s associations, become what it is renowned for. Applying this idea to storied spaces, to me, means that people will still only care about a select few stories themselves because there’s nothing stopping them from doing that. Attempting to give a place a greater depth of meaning through attributing more stories to it, while admirable and overall nice, doesn’t ensure any intentions will stick. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer
Still, I think there’s some merit to using digital means or digital storytelling to help inform people about how to conceive of a place, how to build it. At the very least, it can provide a place for a record of another place’s experiences. Like, a lot of museums have apps now that allow you to explore the entire museum via your phone. Some even have cool activities you can do whilst meandering through the galleries. Essentially, those who do care about what lies below the surface of a space can dive in. I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable for other spaces like universities to have apps specifically for cataloging the experiences of their students in order to possibly enrich experience of the entire space overall. For any place, really, I don’t think that’s unreasonable or, too far off from reality. Not with the way technology is developing.
(Let me know if any apps already exist that are attempting to do what I just spent for-freakin’- ever describing!)
Apparently, I was in a sharing mood this week. Adding a dash of “feelings” to both this week’s blog post and to the Padlet. Just couldn’t help myself.
So, if you’re interested in learning more about the purpose (or, intended purpose, should I say) or, really, the person, behind the writing on this blog, I’d check out this week’s post. Also, if you want to hear me curse at Audacity. And, read a story in my own voice….
(Speaking of, the items I used to make the sound effects are, in order, sticks of vine charcoal for the tinkling sound in the beginning, 2 faux-skulls banged together for the steady beat + mortar & pestle, a stick of vine charcoal snapped in half for snapping bird bones, and a handful of tortilla chips I crushed for the crunching bone sound. Kind of difficult guesses. Sorry~ but not really)
Creative Enterprise (i.e that section you can skip if you don’t care~ I’ll only cry myself to sleep a little bit)
This week saw a grand total of….*drum beat* 1 bot story written.
This is largely due to the fact that I have a new-found addiction to My Favorite Murder. That podcast I mentioned in my blog post this week. It’s ruining my life (i.e productivity) and I love it. Highly recommend.
Anyway, before I became a raging addict, I did manage to finish a jewelry-making project–a necklace that I’m still describing as “blood-splatter wings” because I haven’t picked a name yet…. Like I said, this has been a poor past few days for getting sh*t done.
Also, I’ve managed to acquire some bones (chicken, relax, and ethically gathered) for my project I’m working on now. Have a new friend who dabbles in taxidermy. Score. So, definitely check back to see how that turns out.
Hopefully, the creativity will pick back up. I’m like half-way through the podcast’s archive so I’m on my way to getting it out of my system. Or, you know, maybe I’ll accept moderation into my heart….
I like the idea of storied spaces catching on. Would make the world feel “homier”, I think. Less indoctrinated and more lived in.
Actually, it would be cool, I think, to create a kind of storied space with my writing an art. Like a show or an exhibit that sought to join the two mediums together via a personal interjection of some sort. Maybe that could be accessed in a digital format. I’d like to find some way to get people to hear me reading my stories too–so, that could also be an element to this concept. Think that would be pretty cool and be a way to “story a space” because everyone would have their own interactions and experiences with the exhibit to add to the ones that are already installations of it. It’s something to think about anyway.
Drumbeat batters breeze bare-knuckled. Bloody, if it could. Tut-tut-tut transforms the atmosphere into something tormented. Tortured. Just a sliver shy of a scream.
I sway to the sound, skin soaking in its scathe. Absorbing the maim and claim. The tug and tear.
In the thick of the crowd, illuminated by a mix of fire and faint moonlight, a figure fights the drum’s beating. Twists sharp turns to thwart possession. To prevail. A losing game.
Once lured in, that’s it.
Other figures clap, pound flesh till the night seems alive with its own rhythmic pulse, thrumming steadily through the battered air. A grunted chant rumbles in time.
Somewhere, deep in the wood surround, a wolf howls. Tears at night’s skin. A territorial call if I’ve ever heard one. A victorious brag. I grip the skin I’m in. Tame growl into grumbling chant. Return sight to the light bathing those gathered in shades of dark red.
The dancer nearest flame, so deeply red they’re shadow on smoke, throws back their head–theirs and the bear skull that swallows it whole. An echoing, bellicose bellow–growl–silences both flesh and drum beat.
Another deep sound, the wolf.
A last, me.
Closely, I watch the dancer shed the bear skull. Slide claws as long as fingers from their hands. Keep the grizzled pelt wrapped ’round their wide shoulders, though. For warmth, maybe. The skin in place ’round their meaty waist.
Two figures donning wolf skulls and matching hides separate from the crowd as the lone bear dancer returns to it.
Beats begin their battering blows once more. Less heavy. More lean. Like wolf meat. Night’s pulse picks up in a low thrum, a lower hum. Faintest scream.
I track the bear dancer as they cut through the crowd, one toothy smile at a time. A short laugh or two. My rhythm mirrors theirs. Overtakes it. Sleek. Light. A slow skulk. Steady hunt.
We meet where the edge of the crowd kisses forest fathoms.
Bear Dancer slashes a charming smile across their face, distinctive jaw jutting upward with its self-assured slant as if to display the many scars crisscrossing sensitive skin like trophies. One rather deep cut is still raw. Fresh. I curl my fist.
A grin of my own begins to stretch flesh. Tempt tearing. Bear dancer’s widens in return. Devours his face.
“Hello,” he steps into my sway. “Like tonight?” I nod, grin sharp enough to put Bear Dancer to shame.
“You dance good.” Another growl tamed into something softer. “It’s striking,” I motion to the pelt on his back. “your form.”
“Yes.” He preens, fingering the fur. I swallow fury. “A lucky catch, bear. Usually, they keep to their caves.”
“Ah?” I drag him back to me. “Where’d you get the bear then?”
“Clearing by Slim River.” His voice is proud. “Mama and cub hunting. Hare, probably. I got Mama first in the side with my spear. When she charged, I got her in the head with my handy ax. She clawed, though.” He taps his scarred chin. “A fighter.”
“Huntress.” I correct.
“Yes.” Bear Dancer nods, looking grave. “Very fierce. The others threw many spears till she went down. The cub though,” Bear Dancer’s grin returns. “was easy. Little fella. A club to the head.” Bear Dancer swings his arm past my face. “Dead.”
“Dead.” I repeat, dead, stepping back into forest, spiny nettles brushing bare skin. Swirl my hips. Bear dancer follows. “Poor boy.”
“There were two.” He leans close as if revealing a secret. “Cubs. Two of ’em. Always with Mama but not this time. Very odd.” He quirks his head. “Bears don’t usually keep more than one. Too hard to feed. Keep only the strong one…. Wonder where the runt is? The little fella cried out after he was hit. Almost like a scream. Maybe–”
“She heard.” I finish with too much gnash. “The sister?” Bear dancer gives me a confused look and I reach for his hands–the ones that were wearing Mama bear’s claws–settling them on my waist.
“Yes.” Bear dancer tightens his hold on me. I lead us further behind branches. Beyond the fire light’s creeping reach. “You know the story?” Now, I quirk my head. Take another backward step. “About the sister cub. That she’s one of us. Child lost from the tribe long ago. Found by bears. Clothed in their skin.”
“I hadn’t heard.” Another step. So close.
“Not from ’round here?” Bear Dancer asks. “Was wondering…. You look familiar but can’t place face.”
Finally. Trees give way to open space. A clearing. Nearby, a watery babble replaces drum beats. Flesh beats. Moonlight overtakes flickering flame.
“It’s not my usual.” I brush Bear Dancer’s hands off me and he tilts his chin. That fresh cut. Shiny red beneath the moon. I flex my fingers. Feel nails sharpen. “Face.”
A swipe of my claw to the head and Bear Dancer is down. For brother.
I’m on him before he knows what hit him, my lithe body now heavier. My skin, fur. Much better. Weight settles on my shoulders–my skull no prop large enough to swallow a head whole. Bear Dancer’s. I stare into his wide eyes, grizzly reflection in their glisten. I can’t smile anymore so a snarl will have to do. Recognize me now?
“S-s-skin-n-w-w-wwalk-ker-r.” He accuses.
No, a growl like a laugh rumbles in my cavernous chest. I told you. Huntress.
A claw finds purchase in the mark Mama carved so I’d know and tugs. Jaw gone before Bear Dancer can scream. Then, claws like little spears and teeth like ax blades find flesh. Tear. Bite bone, too, creating their own beat, own chant. Rhythm.
And, when the song is done, I toss my head back. Scream. Tear the night in two. It’s no victory screech. No brag. Nothing celebatory. It’s a warning. An announcement.
The battle is mine.
*Side note: those last words are coincidentally my first thoughts in the morning…. Weird. ^.^
Anyway, that means I finally got around to playing with sound. And, to being frustrated by it.
That said, I didn’t really feel a strong pull towards any of the not-to-do-list prompts. I did really like reading one of my works aloud in class this past week, though. So, I decided to run with that and record myself–again–reading my story. Only, this time, with some added sound effects to set the mood. Create an atmosphere.
It was noteasy.
Audacity seems like a simple, user-friendly interface until you start piling on the different sounds and then it get complicated. (see, uncooperative) Adding a sound here or there moves everything else out-of-place. And, cutting something is a very, shall we say, hellishdelicate process. Always, always listen a few dozen times after every little change to ensure you’ve done what you intended is all I want have to say. Always.
Without further ado, why don’t you take a little listen to the fruits of Shadow Girl’s many frustrations~
(Can you guess what I props I used to make the sound effect? Yes? No? Maybe? All will be revealed in this week’s reflection~)
This is the same story I read in class and, to be honest, it’s a favourite I’ve written so far.
In class, I talked a little about the inspiration behind a lot of my work. But, because I was kind of nervous speaking in front of everyone, I only discussed one aspect of my work–that I like writing girls who are as cruel as their world has been to them. More, I enjoy writing stories about female characters who’s motivations are not responses to a patriarchal influence. My girls are violent or disturbed/disturbing in and of themselves.
But, there is more to it than that.
For many years, when I was young, I was silent. Silenced by some unspeakable things that happened to me. It was very hard for me to speak because I didn’t feel like I had a voice of my own. More, I didn’t feel like my voice was mine. It belonged to someone else who preferred my mouth shut.
It’s taken many years and lots of intervention for me to realize my own preferences. For me to speak as I please. Still, though, I struggle to do that–speak at all. Break the silence. It’s not easy to exercise something you didn’t believe you had the right to for a long time. Often, I worry I come across as disengaged or uninterested, maybe unimpressed, when that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In my writing, I think my feelings obvious. On the page is where I began to rediscover my voice so I think it makes sense that it is where you can hear me clearest. But, I wish I could find my voice just as well beyond the edges of the page.
That’s another reason why I don’t like to speak aloud–I don’t sound the way I do in my writing and I so desperately want to. Hearing the difference between what I’ve written and how I voice it frustrates me. It sounds like a disservice. Sounds disappointing.
In class, though, it was an unexpected surprise to hear that people liked how I read my work. Apparently, my soft tone paired with my “brutal” words created a discordant, eerie harmony that actually worked really well. Which, is something I never really considered–that my gentle from disuse, honestly voice could add another, meaningful layer to my writing.
Forgive the long preface but that other aspect of my work I didn’t mention in class is that most of it is an exploration of trauma and how it informs one’s future interaction as well as its, overall, lasting impact/effect on one’s life. It’s a focus of both my written and metals work. Specifically, when it comes to my metalwork and jewelry-making, I like to create wings–in case you haven’t noticed.
(Really, in case you haven’t)
To me, making these symbols of freedom out of a fixed medium transforms them into a profound statement. Emblems of what could be or could have been but isn’t or wasn’t.
They become almost escapes.
It’s an inherent contradiction I hope I can continue to finesse in my art.
Getting back to the writing, though, I think that discordant harmony I was made aware of fits in appropriately with my overarching theme–something I would never have known if I hadn’t spoken up.
Silence is such a hard adversary to conquer. Especially when doing so feels like a betrayal. I mean, silence is an old friend. The oldest of mine, even. An integral part of me. And yet, it’s not. It’s a companion I didn’t choose for myself. Still, though, they’ve always been there. Like a crutch. Like a friend.
Our relationship is one of attrition.
Living with trauma is attrition–a back-and-forth tug-of-war with yourself. No matter on which side ground is lost, you feel like you are playing a losing game. It’s, like I said, contradictory a lot of the time.
It’s calm, too, sometimes. Inside. When it’s stalemate. Usually, deadlock occurs when I’m writing or in the metals studio.
Writing and creating from that silence is revenge. It is opening a mouth that was preferred shut. It is telling a story I was supposed to keep secret. It is traitorous. It is truth.
If a lot of my work seems coarse or vengeful that’s because it is. It is my vengeance. These girls I write in these vicious worlds are meant to articulate the sorrow and rage trauma sows in the heart it broke. That most of these stories end on the crux of closure or with a tinge of something at best bittersweet/disappointing is not a mistake. It is for your contemplation.
Anyway, personal introspection/rambling aside, I imagine incorporating readings of some of these short works in some digital storytelling format with my metal projects. I think telling my stories with my own intonation and in my own voice is necessary for meaningful communication. After all, it is what my body of work sounds like to me. Me. It sound like me.
Something else I’ve also discovered since reading my work aloud is how similar my vengeance sounds like confession–like honesty starving for listeners. Hungry to be heard almost as much as it is ravenous for revenge.
When it comes to confession, I know, it’s best to be all-in. To be unapologetic. To be brave. I want to be.
If nothing else is heard, I hope that is.
Speaking of listening, I’ve recently been introduced to a great podcast.
My Favorite Murder is all about these two freakin’ awesome chicks discussing, you guessed it, murder–a decidedly morbid interest/fascination of my own. My friend @libraryguy introduced me to this delightful show as one of their entries in our own little March Madness competition. We dubbed it #marchmacabreness/#marchmorbidness and, since we’re both connoisseurs of the creepy, horrific, and otherwise disturbing, the object of it is to see who can freak out the other more each week with some deep, dark internet find/fave. Well, at least, that was the object. It’s kind of turned into us just sharing freaky sh*t with each other back and forth.
That’s beside the point though.
Check out the podcast! It’s not so much about employing sound itself to tell story, I’ll admit, but the way the hosts structure their conversations and use tone to convey different feelings is worth appreciating. And, the content is killer. It’s to my tastes, at the very least, so take that for what you will….
***Got that featured image up! A recent, horror-esque drawing of my hand in charcoal ^.^***
So, you may have noticed that I’ve been rather silent this week. Or, maybe you haven’t….
Anyway, the reason why Shadow Girl has been on the down-low these past few days is because she is currently–and unfortunately–without a reliable mode of access to the digitalscape
Last Wednesday, in fact, my laptop decided to–moment of silence–die. At least, that’s the official diagnosis till I hear back from the repair techs. (And, tbh, they’re outlook was not very encouraging.) Since, I’ve been relegated to an ancient–see, shitty–tablet that I haven’t used for a while. As you can imagine, my internet travels have been quite slow. I wish I could say I’m taking the, uh, scenic route but, I can’t really see the images yet. They’re still loading….
To make a long story short, I was unable to play around on Audacity this week or with using sounds to create a narrative. Hopefully, I will be able to do that soon but now was a really bad time for my laptop to pull a kamikaze. (See, financially) But, I will figure something out.
Sorry to ditch once more on an opportunity for me to share my voice. Keeps seeming to happen…. First on the Studio Visit and now with Audacity T_T For some reason, the universe is conspiring against me, it seems. (Vengeance shall be wreaked, mark my words. My revenge will be inevitable, Universe.)
Despite my difficulties–see, struggles with ancient relics of the technological age–I was able to add to my own creative pursuits. A poem and a story.
Attrition~ poem I posted to YWP about how hard hope can be to welcome inside, more, how hard it can be to accept an invitation out. (Look out for more posts from me on YWP!)
Split Girl~ Another twisted tale ^.^ This one may be a little disturbing for anyone struggling with their gender identity–may evoke gender dysphoria–so fair warning.
**My writing is never meant to offend but I am aware that it still can. And, I’m sorry if that happens. Let me know if there are any tags I can add to help alleviate any issues :)**
Aside from these new works, I’ve a few others I’m rather proud of (All can be found under the Killing It tag):
**All are inspired in some way by random, bot posts. Some more closely, other loosely. In my opinion, using bot posts for writing prompts is an easy way to incorporate technology into the classroom in a meaningful way and, it is lots of fun ^.^ Unexpected and nonsensical but full of endless creative, well, enterprise.
Not digital storytelling related exactly but, remember that scalex analogy I gave at the end of this post? Remember that scalex protects one side of a metal piece while the other is enameled? Well, I’ve finally finished that piece I was working on!
Like I said, this isn’t so related to digital storytelling, per say, as it is to creativity itself. But, all of my work is related in some way to my writing and this piece is certainly no exception. I’m rather proud of how it has turned out ^.^ See? The scalex was totally worth it. Without it, I never would’ve been able to create this work. Maybe I’ll bring it to class Wednesday night….
(Does it look like how I write?)
I’ve had a rough week. Productive in some ways but disheartening and aggravating in others. Hopefully, next week will be something worth writing home about!
All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.
~ Edgar Allen Poe
Mama went in her sleep.
How she wanted. How she dreamed.
Death is an illusion. An imagined end. Mama rasped toward her own foreseeable ending, breaths short and shallow. We don’t live here. We live inside. When you dream, my little ghost, look for me. I will be there.
So I did.
When Mama moved on from here, I searched–inside. Reached into the recesses. Haunted my hollow spaces, hoping for a familiar specter. A lingering trace, no trick of longing.
What I found, though, was smoke and mirrors, fogged glass stretching for as far as the eye can fathom. A maze of murky reflections and, wailing through it like a willowy wind-chime in a gale, Mama’s voice, beckoning.
I’m lost, little ghost. A hazy figure in the fog. I reach for it till fingertips kiss frigid glass. Help me find my way. Cold stings skin. Just a smudge. Please. It hurts.
Mama wasn’t a beggar. A bargainer, yes, but never desperate. If she ever appeared as such, it was an act. A performance. A scheme. Artifice. Those smoke and mirrors.
See, in the waking realm, Mama was a magician. I, her faithful assistant. Mama lowered the curtain and I disappeared. She held the saw and I split in two shards.
Defying death, Mama would tell the evening’s adoring audience, her top-hat tipped to stymie applause. is child’s play. A dream forgotten upon waking. A little ghost, her hand on my shoulder, proud. of who you were. If asked nicely, they’ll return. Show you how to remember. How to escape.
Please.Mama calls now, from deep within mirrored halls. Come.
So, like a faithful assistant, I do. I split in two.
I follow the sound of Mama’s imploring cries, her delighted giggles when I hit a dead-end. Hunt the hush of footfalls, discordant echoes off emptiness. Raindrops tap-tap-tapping the glass in out-of-tandem staccato. Pitter-patter-pat. Like a taunt.
Hiding was an acquired skill of mine–from Mama. Crouching in crawlspaces, tucking limber limbs from suspicious, searching sight. Mama taught me all I knew. Every trick…
Or, so I thought.
Suddenly, a shimmer through the fog–the sparkly band ’round Mama’s trusty top-hat. I give chase. Pat, pat, pat–around sharp corners, down splintering corridors, a tinkling of… bells? in my ears. Maybe wind whistling through chimes….?
A silvery glint twists left. I clip my shoulder veering after it. Hear an explosion of clinks and of tinkling–feel a tingling run up my arm. Realization dawns. It’s glass. The sound is glass. Broken bits and pieces flinging through the air.
The mirrors are shattering.
I pick up my pace. Ignore the jagged fragments gnawing at my heels, biting into the tender flesh. This is not the end. Mama promised. There isn’t one. Not in my dreams.
At last, the top-hat is in reach. I thrust out a numb arm. Snag the hat by its brim. Tug it close for safe-keeping to my chest.
Immediately, silence falls.
Across the void to me. Then, the quiet stretches from where I stand, top-hat in hand, to the lone mirror before me. For once, the glass isn’t fogged, my reflection only a vague impression. No, now, when I look in the mirror, I find Mama.
She stares at me, a smile slashed from ear to ear. Her hand is outstretched and, after a measured moment, I move forward to meet her.
Fingertips caress glass, warmth seemingly radiating from within. Mama’s….my eyes glance from my recently captured prize back to my face. Put it on, they suggest. Then, little ghost, you’ll remember.
So, ever-faithful, I raise Mama’s glimmering top-hat to my head.
A perfect fit. I tip the brim.
As if in approval, Mama nods. My breath hitches. In my ears, a ringing–no, a pounding. Inside, Mama said. I will be there. I fall to my knees. Mama does the same.
Defying death is…. a little ghost of who you were. My hand brushes a shard, fingers its cracks, its poignancies. My reflection begins to tear. They’ll… show you how to escape.
“Little ghost… Little ghost… Little ghost…” Mama reclaims my fracturing focus, her grin splitting–sawing–her in two. It’s just the crack. “Are you there?”
“No,” Slowly, back and forth, I shake my head. The fog has cleared. The curtain lifted. Dream dissipated. I clench the shard in my grip till it cuts. “I’m here.”