Slow Show: for Julian

julian 2

My brother.

Julian is, without a doubt, impossible to read. To use a tired quote, he is a riddle wrapped in  an enigma. When you hang out with him in person, he treats you exactly like he treats everyone else around him. His easygoing attitude seems at odds with his seeming indifference, an unlikely juxtaposition between feeling at peace and friendly while also giving everyone the cold shoulder.

There are very few people with whom this is not the case, and who get to know Julian fully and well. I feel I am not one of these people, but I’d like to try to share what I know.

Even though it’s noon, the basement is dark and somber. Shafts of light from the small windows nearby break through the gloom, floating dust statically staying still as if the beams of day had frozen them in place. A futon lies in the middle of the floor. Someone is curled up in a ball, their head buried in the covers. Julian.

Soft music plays from his computer nearby. I don’t know the band, but I like the sound; it takes a minute for me to register it’s indie rock. Honest, earnest music, like a good friend in a bad time.

I ask him if he’s alright.

He grunts.

I leave. Not much else to do; trying to talk to him right now would be like talking to a stone.

It’s fact that Julian feels quite deeply. Despite this, and I have no idea where he learned how, the man has a poker face that’s hard to beat. Talking to someone he likes and to a person he hates, you would barely be able to tell the difference. Most people would be passive aggressive, sarcastic, something. Julian? Nothing.

Even when you’re alone with him, the most he has to say about anyone in private is that they’re some expletive or another, and that’s that. Thing is, Julian is incredibly good at walls. He’s all the tougher and tenacious for it, sure; but sometimes I wonder what else is going on in that head of his.

My nails are chewed down to a stub, two of them are bleeding. It stings a little, but I don’t care. I’m in the middle of an anxiety attack, but I’ll have no idea that’s what it is until 4 years later.

“Yo.” Julian walks in through the doorway, carrying his laptop. He sets up across the table from me, plugs in Jimmers (his computer), and boots up Heroes of Newerth.

“Hey. You playing HoN?”

He grabs a handful of jelly beans from a Costco sized bag of Jelly Bellies.


He knows something is up, but as per usual, he doesn’t talk. The voices of strangers blare from his speakers; apparently, someone else had called a character and is calling them a little bitch. Charming.

“Hey man, chill,” Julian says through a mouthful of candy, “it’s just a game. Let’s settle down, take it easy.”

The jerk on the other end calls Julian a couple of colourful words not fit for print, and leaves the game.

“How does this not piss you off?” I ask.

Shaking his head, he tells me that it does piss him off.

“But what the hell am I gonna do about it,” he adds, “It’s not like bitching about it will change much.” He grabs another jelly bean, and tells the rest of his team to get their shit together.

An hour later, he ends up winning.

Julian joined the Navy a couple of years ago now. His practical nature and quick wit made him some easy friends and were instrumental in successfully  passing his officer training; either through study, or through convincing the people training him that their test was hot trash.

I know my own brother half as well as I’d like, but I know the important stuff. He’s kind, brave, and practical. He’ll do anything for someone he cares about, and is quick to defend those he deems worthy. Rolling with the punches comes naturally to the man, and he’s just as quick to dish it out when it does something useful.

More importantly than all that, Julian is a good man. I suppose that’s all that I need to know, and knowing more wouldn’t change a thing.

A chill wind blows past me, a bitter English February evening in London, as I walk down the street towards home.

I’d just lost my teaching position at the primary school I’d been working at for six weeks. I wasn’t even allowed to say goodbye to my class; just a quick meeting with the head teacher and bam. Out on my ass, looking for more supply work.

A gust whips at my face, but through the comfortable numbness of oncoming depression and my very scruffy beard, I barely feel a thing. My iPhone plays away, the music turning from the game remix I’d been listening to for the past few minutes into something I’d forgotten about.

It takes me a minute to realize it’s indie rock. I instantly think of Julian, and I recognize the tune from the basement. It had been at least half a decade since then. Since then, Julian had recovered from a terrible memory. Since then, Julian had become an officer in the Navy. Since then, Julian had started seeing a wonderful girl, and was now happier than I’d ever seen him.

I whisper under my breath, “Slow Show.” It’s a song by the National, a group I know Julian liked a lot. I’ve no idea if he still likes them, or anything, but I know he listened to this song once, when he needed a good friend in a bad time.

Thinking about Julian fills me with a sigh, and I start walking with renewed energy. I smile, and think: it’s not like bitching will change much, right?

On Garbage

So I’ve decided to finally finish and edit my novel from NaNoWriMo. Just…

It’s complete garbage.

I didn’t make it 5 words before finding something I disliked, and wanted to vehemently cross out in bright red ink, like slashing a terrible monster or the like. It’s my worst nightmare come true, it’s 87 pages long single spaced, and I would rather print it off to experience the catharsis of burning that piece of $%#^.

10 year old kids can write better than this absolute tripe. It’s like watching a car with a bent wheel try to move, only to have the one side of the car lift and fall like some shambling Igor.

The bonus here is that, at the very least, I can tell it’s garbage.

It’s also telling that writing this abomination took a month, and after having spent months teaching others how to write basic forms of stories in a variety of uninteresting and curriculum mandated ways, I can look back on this thing and tell that it would take much, much longer to edit. Multiple months, to be sure. Five, if I had to guess.

Hulking is not a descriptor I would use for most novellas, but the one I wrote has earned it. Not because of deep, heavy hitting content. It’s also a novella, so not size. No, the hulking bulk comes from the pedantic, terrible pacing and ridiculous attempts at tension by focusing on the wrong parts of the story.

Focus on character would have been much better than focus on environmental factors. I was trying to write a video game, but it’s worse than that because video games present and environment for a player to interpret, and this story rams it down the reader’s throats.

Not to mention all the ‘edgy’ gore, the attempts at horror, action best described as a play by play on a football monitor. Clunky doesn’t begin to cover it, like a blanket for someone who is several inches longer than the motel bed.

There is much work to be done; if it can be salvaged at all. My Dad always could find uses for good quality trash; just the other day, while he was visiting, Dad picked out several doors, hooks, and shelving units that others had thrown out. To him, these items were still useful, helpful.

Some things, though, are just trash.

Response: Boss Fights

Mike Rugnetta of PBS Idea Channel asked in his latest video about Boss Fights what people thought about… well, boss fights. In games, specifically. In reality, he asked two questions:

  1. What are Boss fights (to you?) and what do they do?
  2. What about games without Boss Fights? Or adversity at all?

Before I start drunkenly answering these questions, you might want to go check out the video for yourselves. Click the link to watch it, then come back; I promise this post isn’t going anywhere.

Alright, welcome back. Let’s talk bosses! Or at least let me blow smoke up your respective asses about bosses!


He’s listening…

Boss fights are, popularly, a test of the skills you have learned. Traditionally, boss fights are staged, closed off skill checks that require a certain amount of mastery over skills learned over the course of a game. Some games test recently acquired skills; a perfect example of this can be found in the more recent Legend of Zelda games, where the means to defeating a boss is found within the dungeon preceding it.

In these kinds of games, the boss fight is very much a licensing test, where the dungeon is a training course and defeating the boss is proof enough for the developers that a player has mastered the item, and can be counted on to figure out when and how to use it.

In other games (Enter the Gungeon comes to mind, simply because I’ve played/watched it a lot), Bosses are a pure test of in-game skill. The items you’ve acquired and progress you’ve made during a playthrough will make a boss fight easier, no doubt; but if you’re garbage at dodge rolling, you’re still going to hit the ground hard enough to make a 6 foot deep crater.


More or less; depends on how you died.

In these games, the skills required to beat the game are typically given right at the start, and each progressive boss simply ramps up the difficulty, either by increasing the number of threatening situations or limiting the room for errors, which forces a player to hone their skill to the point where the boss can be defeated.

Boss fights aren’t necessarily one singular entity, though; in Devil Daggers, for instance, there is one boss in the game, somewhere so far into a run that under 2% of all players have ever seen it. Every other “boss” moment is either the introduction of new enemy types, which quickly become a regular and terrifyingly numerous occurrence, or a suddenly large wave of enemies to combat all at once. Moments like these are still tests, but without all the drama of a big baddy. The idea is that, once these moments are mastered, future parts of the game can be accessed and played better, leading to further boss moments.

All of this, however, requires “buy in” from the player, and this is where the second question kicks in. Can games without adversity still have boss fights?

My short answer is ‘yes,’ they can, if we look at boss fights from a different point of view.

Broken down to its essentials, a boss fight in most games is a payout for the gradual structured rise in tension brought on from mounting difficulty and more complex game mechanics. The rising difficulty of challenges designed to make players figure out how to use the bow and arrow in Ocarina of Time’s Forest Temple climaxes with the shadow Ganon fight at the very end of the ordeal. This moment only feels like a proper boss fight so long as the player understands that this moment, this fight, is the ultimate skill check before the reward the player knows is coming; they’re accustomed to having their reward at the end, damnit. In addition, the boss fight itself, being a spike in difficulty, earns its “boss” status in part because of the incredible difficulty spike.


Now with 2 times the murder!

In short, change and conflict create the emotional buy-in from the player necessary to give it the oomph required of a boss fight. Good boss fights are tough, but not too tough, and you won’t find them in the middle of a section of gameplay (unless it is a “mini” boss, a fight only significant enough to break up the steady pacing of a dungeon and create a mid-point for the player to reference how far along they’ve come).

In non-adversity games the question becomes “how do you create tension when mechanics and mounting difficulty are non-issues?” Unlike more mechanically focused games, where story telling and narrative can help but are ultimately not necessary for building the tension to create a boss fight moment, narrative games create the tension required of “boss” moments through writing and story.

Journey, for example, creates powerful, beautiful moments where the player is invited to experience the adventures of their pilgrim; sand-surfing, for instance, or the terrifying crossing where you have to avoid the large, mechanical snakes lest they… do something.


Look, don’t ask questions here, I don’t want to know.

Point is, all of these emotions and thoughts the player brings with them start to stack one atop the other in a big, unstable, tension piled mess. When the player reaches the final moments of the pilgrim’s journey, the payoff is palpable; nerves, hope for survival, and the desperate chanting of “come on, you can make it!..” These feelings are practically the same as a boss fight, where instead of the payoff coming from beating a difficult check of abilities learned, payoff comes from narrative resolution from a character overcoming the issues facing them through story and presentation.

At the heart of both of these ideas is one of conflict, and its resolution. Boss fights are just big conflicts; and if there’s one thing that good stories do to the exclusion of all else, it’s conflict and the resolution of them. Instead of boss “fights” you have boss “moments” but in the end, both kinds of games have bosses to cross, moments of gameplay where a player invested in a game will find the same kind of feeling and weight from either one.



dark hallwayThis is the story of one brave (?) boy and his need to go to the bathroom.

The boy lay in the bed, sleeping soundly. His chest rose. It fell. It rose again. The rhythm of a slow pulse, in and out, the coming and going of waves on the shore. Unexpectedly, a sharp intake of air and his eyes, blurry from sleep, cracked open. He was awake, and dimly aware of  one of the most basic needs; the need to go pee.

The nightlight at the far end of his room shone a comforting light, a sunlike glow across the warm peach painted walls and the soft carpet floor.

First things first, under the bed. The boy carefully got to the side of the bed, and like Spiderman hung his head carefully over the edge of the bed. Unlike Spiderman, he realized he did not have sticky hands and began to slip, causing him to scramble for a handhold anywhere on the loose duvet, which of course he didn’t find. A short tumble later, the boy was secure of two things:

  1. No monster under the bed.
  2. He was very awake.

Carefully picking himself back up to avoid the creaky parts of the floor, the boy snuck across the floor of his room to the door bordering his land, and the land of his brother. He guided the door open slowly. The door made all the noise in the world, much his chagrin, but his little brother slept soundly… for now.

Still, the boy knew what to do. He had a lot of practice with these floorboards, the hardwood a path of solid and creaky places to walk. Imagining himself a dashing adventurer, like Indiana Jones, the boy tip toed across the floor avoiding the noisy spaces like his heroes avoided the trapped squares.

*creaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaak* went the floor.

The boy stood stock still. Halfway to the door on the opposite side of the room, and he made the loudest noise he possibly could have, practically thunderous. His brother would surely wake up.

As luck would have it, the brother slept along, and the boy stood still for a whole minute listening to his brother breathe. Just to make sure. Couldn’t be too careful around sleeping people, he thought. When the coast was clear, the boy made sure to be more careful while stepping around.

After carefully navigating the rest of the room with all the agility of a heavy set sumo wrestler on tip toe, the boy finally made it to the door. This part, however, was tricky. Very tricky.

This part had the Dark.darkness-7

On the other side of this door was a long hallway, where the brother’s room was on one end and the parents on the other, both on the long wall. Next to the bedroom the boy stood in was the washroom, not more than 3 feet distance. One small step for man, but several small steps for the boy. During the day, this wasn’t a problem, but at night… the risk was great.

Down the hall, at the very end, lived the Dark. Again, no issues during the day; the Dark had to hide in the closet hidden in the wall next to the parent’s bedroom. This was fine, the boy thought, except it didn’t stay there. At night, the Dark left the closet and swallowed the end of the hall whole, creating nothing but pitch black emptiness there. The boy gently peeked around the door frame, just his eyes, to see if the coast was clear. It was not.

Even in the briefest second, the boy could tell the Dark saw him, and turned its unknowable being his way. It was aware; not only that, the boy could tell the Dark was famished, too.

The boy hadn’t seen the Dark eat anyone. He didn’t need to, because it was obvious to him what the Dark would do to you. The boy broke into a slight panic. He felt very uncomfortably hot all of a sudden, and his palms began to sweat. Unseen eyes stared at him through the walls, making his skin crawl. It was waiting for him.

With all the care he could muster, the boy pulled the door open again, edging towards the boundaries between where it was safe and where he knew it wasn’t. The moonlight from the window across him lazily illuminated the area in front of him, showing the short-but-altogether-too-long distance between him and the washroom door. Sneaking a peek leftwards again, the boy could see the Dark preparing to move. It already lapped greedily at the moonlight, like a cat licking a bowl of milk. Still, its eyes were set on the boy. and the boy knew that once he’d made his move, he’d have to be fast.

Breathing deeply, skin crawling, the boy counted to three in his head. On one, he locked eyes with the bathroom door. On two, he checked the end of the hall to make sure the Dark was staying still. On three, he made a break for it.

He dared not look back as he practically lept to the washroom, and slammed the door behind him. He wasn’t sure, but the boy thought he heard the silent whisper of shadows slashing at the door. After a few moments, the sounds stopped and the house was deathly quiet again.
With that done, it was a normal routine. A wisp of moonlight peeped into the bathroom through a tiny window high up the far wall. The light bounced around the mirrors that covered almost every surface, allowing him to see many versions of himself in a row. Behind him was another version of him, his face unchanging, and another one behind that until infinite. The boy dared not say a word; in every reflection, the dark of another world hung behind the boy like a shadowy pall. He stared down, away from the disturbing mirrors of other worlds. A quick trip to the sink to wash his hands, and then it was time to go back to bed. scary mirror

He crept to the door and opened it a crack to see the end of the hall. The Dark was still there, waiting for the boy to dare to cross its territory. Little by little, the boy could see the darkness move towards him, and the hallway got darker by the second as the light was swallowed by the nightmarish monster.

Although no one else would hear it, the boy heard the Dark make a hollow growl, a tenebrous noise that chilled his heart. The boy had to move. Now.

He threw the door open and dashed for the bedroom. The Dark pounced, its deep murky threat instantly replaced with sharp, pointed malice as the shadow devoured the moonlight in the hall. Sprinting, the boy ran as fast as he could over the creaky floor of his brother’s room. He felt the cold touch of the Dark on his ankle, a near miss. It chased him still, snarling, swallowing any light in its way.

The boy practically dove into his bed head-first, using his duvet to create a protective dome around him, drawing all the little holes closed and securing any possible weakness. Just in time too; the Dark slammed into duvet, repeatedly. In the dark of the dome, the boy was alone, surrounded, and faintly crying to himself as the assault continued for what felt like hours.

Eventually, the beating at the walls stopped. The boy lay curled in a ball, breathing in his own fear and stress. The lack of oxygen was causing him to feel dizzy, but he dared not lift the duvet. He could still feel where the Dark had touched him, his ankle numb, empty and cold from the experience. The boy would stay like this for a while before finally being forced to surface for air, and eventually start the process of falling asleep again in the glow of his nightlight.

The following morning, the boy’s father would get up and walk to the bathroom. He would look at the door, and with an exasperated sigh make a mental note to grab a can of white paint for the three gashes in the door.5jr64

A Confession

surprise-catDragging his feet, the teacher clambered aboard the bus and shuffled his way into a seat, collapsing like a loosely packed rubbish sack. What a nightmare of a day. He stared with glazed eyes out the window, not entirely paying attention to anything that passed by. It all seemed a blur; pubs, grocers, students, stores, trees, apartments… none of it stuck out and none of it really seemed to matter. To the teacher, it was all noise to the thoughts tumbling about his head like numbers in a raffle, only to be picked out like some terrible lottery where none of the tickets won.

Counting down was about as serious a commitment to discipline as he could muster.

“5… 4… 3… 2… 1…”

“Sir’s counting, shut up!” chorused several students, their hearts in the right place but their execution somewhere between a match and an actively burning fire next to a dry tinder. The teacher sighed as the pupils proceeded to begin an open discourse on the benefits of telling one another to shut up at the top of their lungs. Mostly by telling everyone else to shut up, or that they started it, and that they should consequently shut up first.

“I’m waiting.” Hand raised, the lone adult in the room glanced at the clock. It had taken 15 minutes to complete the register. Just to make sure that every child had, in fact, attended school and had not been misplaced en route, it had taken a quarter of the hour. School proper hadn’t even started yet.

Some students, to their everlasting credit, raised their hands and waited patiently. How nice, thought the teacher. But then he thought about how they were mostly expecting to receive a bronze or something for behaviour that the teacher simply expected students to exhibit, and slumped into the chair behind him as he waited for order that would not come.

In fact, over the course of the day, he would spend approximately an hour waiting for his charges to listen to him and learn… something, he supposed. Anything, he hoped.

The teacher stumbled off the bus, clutching a grocery bag he had absentmindedly paid for and somehow had the presence of mind to not leave at his seat. Cars passed by as he waited for an opportunity to cross the street.

Waiting. He had done so much of it. He had been so patient, so prepared to simply let bygones be bygones, move forward in his lessons… well, not his lessons, but it was his task to teach them. He was a supply. No planning, no report cards, no parents, no expectations, no real respect. Supply? Stop-gap teacher made more sense.

“I’m not even a real teacher,” he moped inwardly. A passing magpie squorked indignantly at him before flying off.

The classroom was silent as the last of the teacher’s words echoed in the class,. Moments passed where student and teacher alike just stared at each other, a dare to see who would break first in this game of chicken; the teacher, who had just waited 15 minutes and then had enough of waiting and had shouted in anger, or the students, who clearly could see the teacher was not capable of handling them.

Moments after the children would apologize, the talking, throwing of erasers, and sword fighting of rulers would start again. This time, the teacher would not move. He would spend the rest of the day hoping the time would go by faster.

It didn’t.

Later, he sat at the desk filling out a report for the class teacher, a woman who must have been far more capable or steadfast in her determination as a teacher. Everyone in the profession, especially those who held full time positions, had the teacher’s undying and unilateral respect. He had tried that once; after a month and a half, he was fired for not being able to control his class.

Great topic knowledge, he’d been told, but behaviour management was an issue. In fact, this had fired him from another full time teaching position about 5 months prior. It had also cost him most of his sanity, as his mounting anxiety levels could attest to.

The teacher stared upwards, his eyes unwilling to stay shut and let his brain go to blasted sleep. 2 more weeks until summer holidays, and then another year of the same routine in order to deal with debt that, if one wanted to be precise and verbose, could be best described as another really long and stressful year of kind-of-teaching to help make sure the debt vanished. If he didn’t collapse in a nervous pile first, he sagely added.

He had a confession to make to himself. After another year of this, he thought, it might be best if he distanced himself from being a teacher and just stick to being… something. He wasn’t sure what. After spending well over 7 years to get the accreditation he needed to teach in schools without being considered a security risk, it was with great reluctance that the sort-of-teacher admitted he didn’t have any other immediately marketable skills.

With great discomfort, he resigned himself to teaching tomorrow. One day. One day he’d figure out what he wanted to do. That could wait for another night.



28626934_a3d3b6647c_oMonsters exist. They’re incredibly real, and if you don’t believe me just ask a child. Children are smarter than they look, and most will tell you first thing: of course there are monsters! Just look in the closet, or under the bed. Only the ‘brave’ ones don’t see us anymore, and the older humans, like you… you forget.

Sometimes though, you remember. Or you figure out you can see monsters. I’m a good example; I drift from shadow to shadow. Unlike other monsters, all I do is observe. Watch. Listen, and wait. I take my time and look at things as they pass by, taking it all in. Sometimes though, you humans see me, and look right at me.

Like, right at me.

And it’s really uncomfortable. So I drift a little bit and find someplace else; the thing is, once you start seeing without your eyes, you keep finding me. And I get really uncomfortable.

I’m not vanishing. I’m drifting from place to place, shadow to shadow, another dark corner to collect my thoughts in peace.

But sometimes, you get too close, or I get way too uncomfortable; so I hide in your shadow. It’s really squished here, and there’s not much room. I’m pretty big. I also fidget a lot, and don’t luck being stuck. Still, you don’t look at me, and you’re moving fast enough that I can go somewhere else and not get bothered.

My favourite place to hang out, and watch the world, is down dark alleyways, or halls. Long places where I can stretch and I don’t have to be so cramped. I get to look at everyone, at you, walk by and… you’re staring.

Stop staring at me please. It’s rude. And I’m really uncomfortable. Would you please..?



monster bedIt’s a shit job, to be sure. You lie down, wait, and wait some more. You sleep sometimes, and that’s a help ’cause the time goes by faster. Still, you can wait a long time before anything interesting happens; in fact, the last time I had anything to do, clocks still made a ticking noise. Now, they just murmur with a small, almost impossible hum as their circuits flare at almost impossible speeds.

When the job’s good though, it’s real good. Nothing better than a job well done. You’re lying there when, for the first time in years, something lands on top of your bed. Then you go through the steps.

First step, wait until night. Has to be nice and dark, otherwise they’ll not see you coming.

Second step, slowly check to see who’s in the bed. This time, it’s a child; 5 years old, no older. This doesn’t happen all the time. If you get someone that’s older than 11, usually it’s no good and you go back and wait some more. I mean, you could try to go to the next step but most times you’ll be wasting your energy. Still, the boy’s 5, and we’ve got a catch.

Step 3, and watch carefully now, you gently grab the kid. If they’re too old, they won’t see you; which means you can’t do anything. Monsters can only be felt if they’re seen, and can only be heard if they’re thought of. Didn’t your parents teach you anything?

So once you’ve grabbed the little thing, you just gotta… there we go, yank them underneath the bed. Our job was easy this time; the bed didn’t have bars at the foot of the bed. We didn’t have to pull the bastard through the bars; I had to do that once, was cleaning the stains off the underside of the bed for a week!

Once you got the kid here, it’s easy pickings, easy to prepare. We’ve got claws after all, and they should be sharp.

You can always sharpen them some more while you’re waiting for the next one.

Story idea: Windeye

I was sitting down and had an idea of story. I thought I’d write down what ran in my head.

There’s a saying that goes “eyes are the window to the soul,” as if one could see every facet of someone’s life through something the size of an iris.

Henry never understood why, but he was different. To describe Henry in one word, most would use ‘observant,’ as he was always looking. Gazing. Searching and staring his way through the world. As a baby, people Henry spoke with would come away feeling a little uncomfortable, a sense of unease seeping into them as if someone had laid them out on a table and dissected them, which wasn’t fully far from the truth.

People tend to wear clothes, put on perfume, smile or scowl to give off an impression, but most of all people try to fit in. For all the oddities in the world (and there are a great many), it seems a main preoccupation is to hide in the crowd. Henry had the strange and altogether unique ability to see past that; to him, quite literally, the eye was a way for him to see people as they truly were. To him it was like seeing a different colour.

Henry, a small boy, gets lost in the city on his own. He’ll experience different adventures relying on people, a collection of short ideas and stories.

Nothing past that; just an idea.

Stream of Unconsciousness I

There’s something to be said about people who can just speak or write non-stop with no real slowdown. Not only that, but doing so while remaining entertaining or otherwise listen-to-able, seems to be a talent that is difficult to get the hang of.

The term motor mouth applies here, liberally, like icing on a really dry cake. Scratch that; just literally anything liquid to wash the cake down, cause the icing will make it worse! That sugar isn’t going to help a throat being assaulted by moisture absorbing sponge cake, it’s going to exacerbate it, by a factor of ten!

Look, the point is that stream of consciousness is hard. Always has been, always will be; but it is so much fun to get with once you have it down, if you know what I mean which you might not because if we’re being honest, and I do love being honest, honestly, it’s important to be honest with the people listening to you. There’s an unspoken contract between the listener and the worder, or speaker or whatever, and one of them is don’t blow too much smoke up each other’s asses, right?

But what I meant before is that stream of consciousness is a learned thing, something you can practice and get better at over time. What is better in this case kinda depends on the person making it and the person listening, an aspect of that contract I tangeantified (that’s definitely not a word) earlier. People are going to hear whatever they hear, and the person making the content can intend all he/she/they like; at the end of the day, it’s all about the receive.

Think american football; doesn’t matter how the big guy in the back throws the sack of pigs, all that matters is did the really fast asshole catch it? If not, no progress. It’s the same thing here, where it doesn’t matter what the content creator does so much as whether people like it or not.

So why even bother bringing this up when it comes to stream of consciousness? Northernlion. That’s why. I’ve been listening to the man speak and play games at the same time for the past year and a bit, almost non-stop. I look forward to his videos because he always has something to say, a LOT of something, and he usually manages to get it out of his mouth hole sounding really entertaining. Not always mind you, but how can you expect “always” of anyone? Always is such a B.S term, when you get down to it, and no offence meant to the inestimable Alan Rickman and his incredible talent and works, but Snape was a sunavabitch for saying always. Unless he was being a self-directed man here, which means his universe started and ended with him, there’s no way he could “always” in that situation, whatever it was it’s been a while, because he was going to last all of 5 more minutes! But if he really did think the universe and world started and ended with him then Snape is just an asshat.

Not actually though, Snape was pretty brave about the whole thing, I’d probably just curl up and cry like a little pansy insteard, so kudos to that fictional character presented to us in an immaculate and exceptional performance made by a man who, in his memory I’d just like to state, was a Grade A actor and a phenomenal man.

Where was I again? Right, stream of consciousness, Northernlion, how he’s not always the most entertaining man ever. I have fallen asleep in the middle of his videos if I’m watching late at night, but he’d actually take that as a compliment; he’s okay if other people call his content background noise. I think that’s largely helped by him getting paid either way, but there’s no way to know for sure unless you know him personally, which I don’t. No lie though, I love the idea of it. He seems like a fun guy to play a game with or something.

Anyway, stream of consciousness is hard and I’m going to try practicing writing it so I can practice speaking it. Does that make sense? I hope one day I can make sense. It isn’t today, but one day maybe I’ll manage.

Purple Papa

a;lksjdf;lakjsdf“When you were born, we still couldn’t think of a name for you.”

Nameless for a few hours, I did whatever babies do while my Dad and Mom eventually came to a conclusion, together, that I should be called Phillip. They later, unofficially, removed the second L. In hindsight, this explains a lot of my teachers misspelling my name; the official transcript must have had two Ls.

My Dad and I had an interesting relationship from the moment I was born. There was a time, the story goes, where I wouldn’t stop crying. Dad checked and changed the diaper. He fed me, or tried. He tried bouncing, burping, the whole shebang, and nothing worked. Fed up, he put me in a jolly jumper to tucker myself out, sat in the other room, and put on some records.

I was out within 15 or so minutes.

The stairs weren’t entirely uncomfortable, but I was getting tired of sitting on them waiting for my parents to all get out of bed. Christmas was the best; lots of presents, and Christmas milk, and awesome food… plus, Dad and everyone would get oysters!

I loved having Oysters with Dad.

With a creak, the door of the bedroom cracked open to show a bleary eyed pair of parents shuffling to the stairs.

“Why are you sitting on the stairs, Famous Philip?”

“Waiting for you! Presents!” I grinned.

My brothers and I got a wicked sick Batcave, and the action figures were getting a lot of attention that day.

Dust had gathered on the Batcave. It had been awhile since we last took it off the shelf. I passed it by with indifference on my way to the basement. I hadn’t seen Dad yet today.

The stairway down was dark. I hated and feared the dark, so I crept down carefully, flicking light switches from as far away as I could so I could stay in the light. Once I got to the bottom, the sound of Dad’s electric shaver was loud enough to wake the dead.

I opened the door.

“Morning Dad!”

“Good morning Famous Philip.” He kept shaving, his focus clearly on making sure he got all the rough patches without missing a one.

“Can I shave?” He laughed, and propped me up on the sink, and gave me a shave.

The trimmer tickled my face, and I laughed. Dad smiled. It wasn’t often I saw him smile since he and Mom stopped getting along, but he always smiled around my brothers and me.

Trees flashed by, punctuating the grey outside the car as we sped to the cottage.

Dad was explaining what was happening, how often we could see him and stuff. While driving, he started explaining how Mom wanted us to see him every second weekend.

My furrowed face grumped in the front seat, trying to puzzle out why Mom would want that. “That doesn’t seem fair.” 10 year old me was very interested in fairness; having two brothers has that effect on a boy.

He nodded. “Neither do I, Philip. I love my sons; if I could, I’d want to see you all the time. Now, you should love your Mother, always; she’s the only one you’re going to get, and I’m the only Dad you’re going to get. But…”

A flash of blue circled on the note pad as Dad made a pie graph, something I’d learned about not too long ago, so I could read it. Half of the circle was being sketched in blue. One side was Mom, the other dad. 50/50. Week on week off, he explained.

“That’s a lot more fair,” I judged. Dad smiled.

We hauled firewood from below the cottage, hand bombing the bits from one brother to the next. Julian was in the deepest; he was small enough to fit without banging his head all the time. I was in the hole, taking from Julian and passing it on to Sebastien, who would then run it inside the building and stack it. Dad was inside, correcting Seb’s mistakes and lighting the fires, getting the house warmed up. In the mean time, the cold had permeated my gloves, and my fingers hurt a bit. It didn’t matter much though, we were close to getting the wood we needed for the next couple of days.

“Philip, do you have any homework this weekend?” Dad’s voice was clear through the house.

“Nope, did it while I was in school.”

“You telling the truth? I have to know I can trust you.” His voice betrayed his distrust. Once bitten, twice shy and all that.

“Trust me Dad, I’m not lying. I don’t have homework.” I lied.

I sat crying in the back of Mom’s car, her friend Brigitte in the front with her. Both were asking for details of some kind. What happened?

Sobbing, I told them how I didn’t do my math homework for my tutor, and after trying to squeeze out of it all day I had gotten caught. Dad was furious. He threw a dictionary across the room, and told me to leave.

One month. It had been a month since the last time I lied about my homework, but it wasn’t enough. Dad had kicked me out to Mom’s house.

His voice rang in my head. “If you can’t tell me the truth, then get out! If I can’t trust you anymore, and I love you, and this…” he left the room, the sound of heavy footfalls going upstairs. Sebastien helped me call mom and get me picked up. I don’t know what Julian did.

I cried until Mom got there, and sobbed some more.

The house was dead silent. None of the lights were on, save for a faint glow near the red room at the front of the house. I took off my snow-slogged shoes, leaving them in the mudroom. My socks padded the floor, the wooden floor creaking as I passed through the dinning and piano/reception hall. The dark stillness of the house was like a heavy blanket, smothering all the colours, turning them into a lifeless still-brown.

The door to the red room swung open on semi-dry hinges. The glow of white outside was stuck at the window opposite the door, the light of day unable to pierce the perma-gloam inside. The sofa nearest the door was occupied; someone lay there, wrapped in several blankets.


Drifting past the table, I sat on an empty section of sofa near him. He had visibly lost weight, but not gained any muscle. Stress and misery had robbed him of his demeanor, his joyful and bright twinkling eyes which now sat on dark beds themselves. He stared at the window, but couldn’t see past the darkness.

I gently placed my hand in his, and squeezed. As if breaking a spell, his eyes focused and turned on mine. No one spoke.

He squeezed back, the crack of a smile touching his eyes.

An hour later, I left his sleeping frame on the sofa and embraced the bitter cold outdoors as it bit into my face.

Intro to Western Philosophy. Not a bad class, not at all, but the best part was being able to see the one girl in the back every day. I’d never talk to her (and I never did) but she was always a highpoint in my day without meaning to be. I worried about whether that made me normal, a monster, or both.

My phone rang. Dad.

As we spoke about my school and whether I was doing the work, I kept searching in the Sleven for a snack. I stopped mid sentence as I found a tin of oysters. I couldn’t help but smile.

“Philip, are you still there?” Dad was worried we had cut out, again, since he was driving in hilly areas.

“No, no, I’m still here Dad. It’s just… remember how we used to get oysters?”

“Sure thing, Famous Philip.”

The hall broke up in elated cheers as the ceremony came to an end. By contrast, I stood up, stretched, and sighed in relief. Those chairs sucked, but I was glad I got through the ceremony. Graduation isn’t so much a feeling of suddenly being spectacular, but a slow and satisfying stretch after hours of sitting.

I walked to the end of the pathway and saw Dad. He had the biggest smile.

“Sorry Dad, I forgot to shave. I know I should have.”

“No, no. The beard suits you, just…” he paused to collect his thoughts. “Just make sure you keep it clean, mister teacher.”

“Whatever Dad. Look at you, you scruffy bastard. You look good!”

Chuckling, he brought me into a hug. It had been a lot of effort, for him especially. Full professional degrees don’t come cheap, particularly when they take 7 years of secondary schooling to achieve. I worked over the year, sort of, and worked over the summer in a kaleidoscope of jobs that never really paid as much as I would have liked. School would have been impossible without his help. Not to mention all the times he moved me, or lent me the car; the times when he gave me needed advice, or an instrument with which to do a music degree. I owed him everything.

“Thanks Dad,” was all I could manage.