The Last Time [Attack the Doc]

The date stamps still haunt me; went from being insignificant, to weighing down my conscious. You gave me two years, I turned them into inside jokes; that no one cared for, that no one saw. How’d I spend the last time we all got to share a room? Watched you walk out, and discussed why I hate me too. You cried, “Bullshit, ’cause I wasn’t with a hooker today!” Yeah, I get it Affleck, you the bomb in “Phantoms,” okay? There’s no strike back, just indie gone mainstream; just an organization, crumbled by its own dreams. It’s time to go back, close the book on the ViewAskewniverse, and finally leave Greendale. Green lights blind us, Community’s what binds us, yet it’s this island that defines us? I thought it was just a Quick Stop, a R[e]ST from all the videos, before getting shot in the swimming pool of [romantic] irony. So, I guess this is still happening…

JacKass

Overreaction for Sale

Dr. Pepper, along with its authentic blend of 23 flavors, also contains the DNA that created the homo sapiens; YouTube gives the followers of Islam a lesson in poor religious green screening; fast food chains known for clogging arteries in the heart apparently do not support matters of the very organ they’re destroying; and I can no longer hear the number 47 without thinking of Mitt Romney (sorry, Ronin).

Advertisements, videos, cartoons, etc. are no longer outlets for freedom of expression, but are turned into (whether they’re intended to or not) blasphemous assertions and assumptions, causing destruction and death, creating fear and ruining faith. A politician saying something ten years ago or ten days ago needs no context or understanding to be turned into a sound bite. Political gaffes and gridlock determine political outcomes. Boycotting sandwiches or stuffing one’s face with them is the only form of protest we seem to understand.

Everywhere you look these days, it seems that no issue, however big or small, is allowed to be talked about in a rational manner. You’re either on one [extreme] side or the other, and there’s no middle ground, just ground zeroes. By now, you’ve all heard of the issues I’ve alluded to above, and I won’t bother going into immense details about each one, but I will ask: how did you react? It’s absolutely fine to have taken a side on the issue, but in doing so, did you ever bother to understand the other side, or did you quickly vilify them?

Did you bother to think politically and understand that Romney’s right–that 47% of the voting block probably won’t vote for him. Is that wrong for a politician to say? That he expects not to get votes from a certain group of people? I know most people are harping on his comments about people being victims, and too dependent on government, but do those being offended even think politically anymore, or is it all personal? Romney’s fifty shades of grey (I hate myself for writing that) on a whole assortment of issues, but it’s when he speaks his mind, that we’re shocked?

The CEO of Chick-fil-A opposes gay marriage. Our conclusion? Chicken sandwiches must oppose gay marriage too. The transitive property never got so convoluted. To the Bible belt: Dr. Pepper creates an ad supporting not just evolution, but it’s primarily role in the evolution of man, and you immediately feel like the creationist children of today will be swayed by high fructose corn syrup’s sermon? To the followers of Islam, but more importantly, the Middle East: it’s the age of the internet, and it comes down to faith. Yes, the dude who made it is a despicable jackass. I don’t think anyone denies that. And if someone ridicules your faith in such a manner, you have every right to respond. But it still comes down to faith–yours versus some idiot’s in California. [Hint: his is probably nonexistent.]

To all people of faith in anything: you preach tolerance, yet fall into the trap of practicing persecution when it doesn’t conform to your beliefs. Just tell me how strong, how weak, how indifferent, your faith is? Attacking embassies and drive-through employees? Did it really take an absurd YouTube video or a CEO’s opinion to incite hatred at such a level? Has it really become that easy? There are those of you that are falling victim to forces that not only expect, but are banking on your overreaction. We’re a society that thrives on it. Forget shooting the Archduke. That’s a thing of the past. We’ll soon go to war over YouTube, not uranium enrichment. Our biggest weapon of mass destruction is our inability to think, yet our almost superhuman speed, and constant need, to react. It’s as if we’ve learned nothing from the Cuban Missile Crisis–about patience, about mutual respect, and about the sanctity of life, in both war and peace.

What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of a peace do we seek? […] Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and build a better life for their children. Not merely peace for Americans, but peace for all men and women. Not merely peace in our time, but peace in all time. […] For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.
John F. Kennedy

What Dreams May Come

Writer’s Note

I’ve always been a visual learner/storyteller. Whenever I read books, I was always able to imagine the action in my mind, and create (and recreate) action like it. For about the last eight or nine years, I’ve focused heavily on script writing, and had neglected my ability to create stories that necessarily wouldn’t be realized on a screen somewhere.

Reading will always be my first love, my first window, into the power of words on a young child’s imagination. If anything, I think I chose to take up writing because I wanted to so badly emulate the style of all those books I had read. I wanted to be able to create those same feelings, memories, and experiences. When I was in my early teens, I started to move away from reading novels, short stories, and the like. I still read, but aside from summer reading books, I began to focus more on scripts and film, perhaps fueled by the need to expand my imagination beyond my own mind.

The earlier ones were all over bloated and terrible (some would say they still are). Truth be told, they made me lazy as a writer. I was no longer writing for myself, or even my imagination. I was merely directing action and lines of dialogue. It all felt rather mechanical. I was moving characters from point A to B with very little anything–no emotion, no sense of thought, or even purpose. It all sounded like dull exposition, even when it wasn’t. I started leaving out entire details, that, if it had been a chapter in a book, would have littered the page. I had become too dependent upon the screen, and put my imagination on the back burner.

While listening to Paul Schrader’s commentary on Taxi Driver, he made a point that has forever stayed with me. Speaking of script writing, he insisted that when doing so, the script must read like a good novel first, before it can ever be looked upon as a screenplay, and to that extent, even a film. When I heard that, and took the opportunity to read the screenplay itself, it dawned on me that I was doing it wrong. I was merely taking action I saw on screen and transcribing it on paper. I was working my way backwards, and still getting lost. His script takes everything I love about reading (and writing) and turns it into a viable screenplay sure, but a viable novel too. There are character nuances, there are background descriptions, but most importantly, there is so much subtext–things that we may never even get to see on screen. It solidified in my mind that a script doesn’t have to lose its sense of literature just because the finished product will be nothing but a compilation of perfectly captured/edited shots.

This brings me to this post, which is probably my first sincere foray into the world of short story writing. I say “first,” because I think whenever I did it before, it was under the pretext of turning it into a screenplay. Ironically, I would love to make a script out of this, but I realized that my budget (green screen alone) would be through the roof.

Based on a recurring dream I seem to have every now and again, it’s been expanded upon to include some semblance of a story. It’s a first draft, but I thought I’d share it with you and get your thoughts. It was a nice return to the well of childhood imagination, now realized in dreams, and told through writing. I hope you enjoy it.

Journeyman’s Kryptonite

What Dreams May Come

An oak tree in the distance stands alone, overlooking the park. Children roll down nearby hills, colliding into pets and empty strollers. Dandelions scatter onto an intersection of joggers and bicycles with colorful training wheels. Rachel sits on a bench, wearing a sundress, admiring the tree. It majestically towers over the rest of the park. She notices sudden movement. A man’s body stumbles out from behind the tree, before quickly hiding itself along its trunk. He appears bundled up in layered clothing and a jacket.

Jason peeks out from behind the tree, his face covered in shadows. His eyes meet her gaze. He turns away quickly. Concentrating hard, he closes his eyes. When he opens them, he’s disappointed to find himself staring at two children playing with a Frisbee. With his back against the tree, he closes his eyes and concentrates harder. When he opens them again, she’s standing in front of him.

“Jason? How—wha—where did you even come from? Even her smile seems surprised. “This is the last place I expected to see you. How are you?”

“Been doing a lot of traveling.” He straightens up, no longer using the tree for support. “Thought I’d drop in.”

“I haven’t seen you in years. You just disappeared after graduation.” He stumbles a bit, back up against the tree. Rachel hugs him. “You look exactly the same.”

“Guess I just lost track of time.” Jason attempts to rest his head on her shoulder, but pulls away.

“Aren’t you hot wearing all that?” She grabs a hold of his jacket’s sleeve.

“You never know with this weather.” He makes his way out from behind the tree. The sunlight touches his face for the first time. The two make their way to the park’s bench.

“What brings you back?”

“You’re getting married tomorrow.” He blurts out, and cringes.

“How did you—you’ve been stalking my Facebook? Checking my timeline?”

“Something like that.”

“How long are you staying?”

“I need to go back tonight.”

“You’re not even staying for the wedding?”

“It’ll turn out great. You looked beautiful.” Jason rests his hand on the chipped white paint of the bench. When she’s not looking, he closes his eyes tightly. Concentrating enough to make his eyes water, he experiences nothing but frustration. “I should really get going. It was nice to have met you again.”

“Aw, come on J, stay a few more days. I’m sure we’ve got a lot to catch up on.”

“I wish I could Rach, I really do. Seeing you again only makes leaving again that much harder.”

“Well, I’m not letting you go.” She sits on the bench and pouts, playing with her ring.

“You’re getting married tomorrow.” He takes a seat next to her. “Don’t think you should be staying stuff like that. I mean, what would Zach think?”

“You sneaky little shit.” She punches him in the arm lightly. “Now I know you’ve been snooping around. Tell me. Who have you been talking to?” She begins to tickle him. He pushes her hands away.

“It’s not important. I’m happy for you.”

“You’re such an enigma. Now tell me, why are you really here? Why now?”

“Do you trust me?” Jason begins to take off his jacket.

“I–I–of course I do, you know that.”

“Then put this on.” Jason puts the jacket on her.

“J, it’s like 80 degre—“

“Take my hand.” She puts her hand in his.

“Jason, what’s going—“

“Close your eyes.”

When she does, Jason closes his, and before long, gone are the birds chirping and the sound of kids playing the park. It’s almost instantly replaced by the sound of honking horns, drivers yelling about street signs, and pedestrians heckling with street vendors about hot dogs. When Rachel’s eyes open, light rain drops force them closed again. After blinking rapidly a few times, she notices large words and screens shining brightly on her face. She’s amazed to find herself standing in the middle of Times Square in New York.

“How are you doing this?” Rachel squeezes Jason’s hand tight.

Question: what dreams may come? Jason thinks, looking upon Rachel’s face. She holds onto his hand, but wanders in different directions, admiring and convincing herself that she’s really there. She splashes in nearby puddles, and waves at complete strangers. Answer: Half remembered ones.

“Ready to dry off?” He takes her hand, as they continue down the road.

“There’s more?” Even her smile seems surprised.

“You know what to do.” He closes his eyes and pulls her in close. She does the same. A taxi screeching is heard for the last time, now replaced by a distant accordion, and the scent of cigarettes mixed with cappuccinos. They find themselves overlooking Paris from the Eiffel Tower.

“J, this is incredible.” The city seems covered in nothing but lights.

Surpassing a reality long forgotten, but never lost, Jason ponders, taking Rachel’s hand. The two begin to dance. Constantly tormented by your smile, your eyes, and your distance. He twirls her. When bringing her back, he dips her. He stares into her eyes. She smiles at him. He closes his eyes. Puzzled, she does the same. When she comes back up, they’re standing in front of the Taj Mahal.

Rachel immediately begins running in and out of the giant white columns. She takes a look at her reflection in the pool.

It was worth it, to wake up with the slightest satisfaction that it happened, Jason joins her.

“You haven’t aged.” She studies his face hard in the pool. “You don’t just look the same. You are the same. I’m dreaming. You’re not really here.” She looks at his face now, running her hand through his hair, and gently tugging at his cheeks.

Because sometimes there’s nothing left to do but embrace what you see in front of you as the truth. Jason turns away from her. Of what happened, what happens, and what will happen.

“Jason, what the hell’s going on?” Rachel tries to catch up with him, only to have the surroundings change around her. She stops a few feet away from him. The magnificent white palace blurs out of existence, only to return as the ruins of the Colosseum.

Jason rests his hand upon the time damaged stone. Don’t tell yourself it couldn’t have happened, or that you could’ve prevented it. I’ve been doing this a long time. I know how it works every time. He turns to Rachel and smiles.

“I want to go home.” Making sure the area is real, Rachel kicks a piece of stone where the reflecting pool once shimmered. “I want to go back.”

“Last stop. Promise.” Jason takes Rachel’s hand, but she pulls away.

“No more stop Jason. I can’t do this anymore.” She begins to walk in the opposite direction. “Take us back to the park.”

“Don’t walk too far,” he concentrates and closes his eyes, “you’ll end up in the ocean.” She stops cold, and quickly looks back. Funny thing, time. Never seems to be enough of it, no matter which way you travel.

Jason’s standing below the crow’s nest. She can barely make him out on what appears to be a moonless night. She glances back in the direction she was walking previously and sees nothing but a railing and the ocean below. She peers over the side of the railing to read the words “Titanic,” and a little below it, “Liverpool.” She runs towards Jason.

“Is this—”

“Told you you’d need that jacket.”

“Why did you bring me here? Why did you bring us here?” Rachel stares deeply into his eyes.

“Rachel, I—”Jason places his hands in his pocket and avoids eye contact. It’s staring you in the face. Say it.

“Say it Jason.” She brings herself closer.

“I—”

Say it! Before it’s too late! You need to say it! Rachel leans in to give him a kiss. She closes her eyes. He does the same. Their lips are about to touch.

“Iceberg, right ahead!” A voice from the crow’s nest yells. Jason opens his eyes and pulls away, running to the railing on the deck. He squints his eyes to make out an iceberg inching closer to the ship.

“We should get back.” He runs back to Rachel. “It was a mistake to do this.”

“No, it wasn’t.” She stops him, holds him still, and kisses him.

Have a night to remember. He closes his eyes. For a while, the chaos from the ship is all that is heard, before going quiet. Almost immediately, the sound of birds chirping, children playing, and dogs barking can be heard. Jason opens his eyes. He’s still kissing Rachel, now in the park. The two pull apart.

“J, wait. Where are you going?”

“I told you, I’ve got to get back.” He makes his way towards the oak tree.

“Why can’t you stay?”

“Not this time.” Jason begins to run towards the oak tree. Rachel attempts to follow him, but her dress keeps lifting in the wind.

“What just happened?” She stops and zips up the jacket.

“Be happy. Always.”

“J,wait, your jacket!” When she looks up to call out to him, he is gone.

***

Rachel is in her wedding gown, staring at herself in the mirror. She walks up to her bed and sees a photo album. While flipping through it, she reaches a page where her wedding invitation acts as a bookmark. It reads “Rachel Sinclair weds Zachary Simpson. July 4, 2014.” She stares at it, and then back to the page. It’s a picture of Jason, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, holding onto his jacket, standing in front of a gate with the White House in the background. It’s dated April 14, 2012. She glances over at her computer chair. His jacket hangs on the arm.

***

Jason, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, sits at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, overlooking the Washington Monument. Every so often, he glances back at the 16th President, and smiles. Leave nothing for tomorrow that can be done today. He proceeds to put on another two shirts, and a jacket, before heading towards the local cemetery. He stares at a tombstone. It reads “Here Lies Jason Smith. 1989 – 2012.” Jason lays down some flowers and walks away, closing his eyes, and smiling.

***

Rachel walks down the aisle, smiling.

Baker’s Paradox

You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

How many times have you heard that and been absolutely infuriated by the idiotic thought process that must go into conjuring up such an idiom. What do you mean I can’t have my cake, and eat it too? Not only can I, but I have, and will continue to do so. What do you know about catch-22’s? I have (and eat) them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, desert, and my midnight snack.

Wikipedia tells us this phrase has been around since 1546. I’m no math scholar, but that’s almost a billion years ago. You know what I discovered in the time it took me to Google all of that? You’ve all been messing up the saying. Apparently, the original saying was recorded as, and I expect you all to read this in your best English accent: “wolde you bothe eate your cake, and have your cake?” Do you see why this is such a profound change? Of course you don’t. You’re still trying to figure out what “wolde,” “bothe,” and “eate” are. You probably didn’t understand them because you’re so used to spelling them “wud,” “bth,” and “eatzzz.”

Logically, it makes total sense, that you couldn’t first eat the cake and still continue to possess it in your hands. But through this weird game of telephone, we’ve reversed the order, so the primary action preventing you from eating the cake is having the cake, which is not just baffling, but physically impossible. The somewhat correct phrasing to get your point across is “you can’t eat your cake and have it too.” But even that point’s infinitely stupid, because the message you’re trying to convey is “you can’t have the best of both worlds,” or “you can’t have it both ways.” In Russia and Germany, the saying is somewhat modified, as “you can’t sit on two chairs,” and “you can’t dance at two weddings,” respectively.

That’s wrong, not to mention negative. And I don’t need “cake,” “chairs,” or “weddings” being associated with such negative imagery. How many birthday cards do you see with a cake on it that just says “Happy birthday. You’re 5. It’s all downhill from here.” That’s right, not many. Because you couldn’t handle the sheer amount of suicides via famous copyrighted character piñatas. And do you think IKEA only sells a dining table set with one chair, because the possibility of not just owning, but accidentally sitting on two chairs is too mind blowing? In Russia, two chairs sit on you. And how about Germany? Do they not understand the concept of crashing weddings? I’m pretty sure they invented it? Or was that countries?

So not only do these phrases not make any literal sense, but metaphorically, they’re a hindrance upon the furthering of society’s need to pursue common goals. They tell us that we cannot do something. They tell us we cannot have something. In a world that is seemingly so preoccupied with growing up far too fast and taking on far too much, sometimes I like to sit back and enjoy the simple things, for however long I can, before they are taken away from me.

Join the Resistance. No caKe but what we make, have, and eat.

Art of the Ransom

I was told that my “Paradox Lost” logo above resembled a ransom note, and it got me thinking, whatever happened to those things? The digital age has all but killed the need for such an art form. Yes, I said art form. What else do you call the painstaking process of finding not just letters, but sometimes individual words, of a specific font, color, and size, pasting them onto a piece of paper, and risking your life to drop it into someone’s mailbox or worse, through the little mail slit in the door (which most houses don’t even have anymore, but I digress).

It sounds odd, but just think about it. When we were kids, we used to cut up magazines, books, and newspapers, for pictures, and sometimes even stories that interested us. I’m in no way condoning kidnapping, but grabbing a kid from his/her bus stop is the easy part as far as I’m concerned. It’s the subtle art of the ransom note that absolutely amazes me. They didn’t bother to write ransom notes with a pen, because I’m pretty sure cops can perform handwriting samples, so the next logical step was to use letters and words that couldn’t be traced.

So there was a person, who’s sole job it was to sit at the table–while the rest of the gang made phone calls and ordered getaway vehicles and Chinese take out–and just go through Lord knows how many stacks of newspapers and magazines, all in an attempt to create a terrifying, yet artistic, threat of a ransom note. It couldn’t have been easy. I mean, first you’ve got to craft a message. What are you going to say, demand, and/or threaten? With so many words at your disposal, brevity is sure to be a skill, especially when your message has to appear hurriedly put together on an 8×11 piece of paper. It clearly took an immense amount of time perfecting how slanted the words should be glued, and how far apart each piece should be placed.

The reason I call it a dying art form is because who even bothers to read a newspaper, let alone cut it up, to formulate a paper mâché letter that looks (and probably reads) more like a five year old’s temper tantrum than an attempt to extort money from unsuspecting civilians? No one writes anything by hand anymore. Nowadays, we’d all just type it into our computers, touch it up with Photoshop, and deliver it via an Instagram or a Tweet. There’s no passion. There’s no art. It’s just a joke now. No one understands the value of having a tangible piece of paper to hold onto, and to read whenever the need arises.

Jaded Kidnapper

P.S. Can you guess where all the letters in “Paradox Lost” come from?