Monthly Archives: March 2015
Science Park, ver. 2
Rolling hills that roll with
just a little too much
Lawns of clipped grass, clover
and strategic asphodels, to
break up the monotony.
Glassy deep meres haunted
by arm-length koi,
their steep banks
gird by metallic mesh.
Rabbits in the thickets,
Moorhens in rushes and reeds,
Squirrels leaving bare
the efforts of their squirreling.
Trees budding on
islands, sinking roots
into ponds of aluminum and
Paths laid down in crumbly concrete
tan, attractive –
and showing wear.
Bit of fan-fic. Gave it a miss in my teens, but there’s no time like the present. Top-marks to whomever can guess the identity of protagonist!
Gift, Forcibly Lent
“One crack two crack three crack four,
five cracks and there’ll be no more!”
The crone warbled as she shuffled about the cluttered garret, nimbly weaving her way through the assorted refuse littering the space. Over-turned oil lamp, filled only with clotted residue. Stack of half-way tanned leather, best not to examine too closely. A hoe of antique design, propped against mouldering wainscot and jarringly out of place.
The ancient finished her circuit and came again to the prone figure beneath the sole window, who, chilled once more by the cruel shadow, shuddered a whimper.
“Ah, duck, don’t cower so,” the beldam cooed, drawing a long, yellowed nail across the soft flesh. “Soon it will be over, and you’ll regret having made such a fuss!”
The girl only answered with another sob, trying against her restraints to get away from the talon’s rasp. Bad as the sharp scratch felt, it was at least a point she could concentrate on, a star of pain within the shrouding mist of her thoughts, muddled by whatever foul concoction had been forced upon her…what seemed like hours ago. The following embrace of the parchment-skinned hand, cupping the girl’s bare stomach, sent tendrils of repugnance through her drug-addled mind. The dry yet clammy embrace cut through her befuddlement, and the horror of the situation was brought home to her.
She could just make out a gibbous moon through the window, riding high above her in a sky of blue velvet, as she tugged wildly at the head strap. To her left, a shapeless mass of dark hair, gaunt hands grasping a winch. Directly in front of her, the object of her misery – the witch of legend, the terror of the all the Dark Barony. Blood-shot eyes with xanthous iris’ starting from her face, hair so much straw, pulled back with in a rough twist, teeth crooked and gapped. Her chest, visible as her virdigris gown rippled with the manikin movements, slim as a pre-pubescent boy, thinner, sunken in amongst the ribs and cartilage.
“Yes, soon it will be over,” the fiend sighed, her breath redolent of grave earth. A sharp glance towards the heap of impossibility in the corner, and another twist of the chuck. The apparatus the girl was fastened to heaved, pulling fearsomely at her bound extremities, till, at last in her agony, she heard a pop as her body rearranged itself to the strain.
“Ooo hoo hoo hoo!” the hag giggled, clapping her hands and jerking about in delight. “Hear the pop, hear the crik craketty crack!”
“Crack, you say?” A far-away light seemed to awaken in the crone’s eyes. “If not a crack, then, then maybe…a shatter?”
Rictus horror imprinted itself on her whipcord visage, and she pulled at her hair, and she ran about the room, shrieking.
“It was just a chime, a little chime! How was I to know? How was I to know!? I’m sorry! I’m so-so-sorry!” she cried as she ran, ample tears sluiced the pre-graven lines of her face. Without any outward warning, she stopped of a sudden, hunkered down and pulled her bony knees towards her chest.
“Alone, all alone now. Alone forever and a day. Alone forever more,” she whispered pitifully as she rocked back and forth.
“All alone here in my Spire of dead rock.”
Despite the terror of the situation, despite the raw agony she was feeling in every inch of her body, the young maid was moved to something like pity at the sight of this creature, obviously insane and yet possessed of an acute pathos. In the swirl of her foggy mind, she wanted to make some sign of commiseration, some effort to lessen the sadness on display before her.
She murmured what she hoped was a comforting sound, difficult, given her secured jaw.
The sound seemed to lance through the other woman, who immediately stopped her rocking, and, for a time, simply stared into the middle distance.
As she drew herself up, she said
“Ah, but then, my beautiful Grandson, he came and he opened the tower. He came and he showed me how much fun there was to be had in this new and blear homeland of ours!”
A quick twist of the neck, and the tawny eyes were boring holes into the girl’s nude body.
“Isn’t that right, duck? Such fun!”
Before the thrill of terror she felt could more than but blossom, the girl saw the withered head jerk once more to the side, and, following another pop, everything went dark.
The furred thrull, not much more than ball of hair, scurried about cleaning. Cleaning gore off lewd machinery. The crone, gem-encrusted goblet in hand, flexed her skin, reveling in the restored suppleness of it, the vitality she could feel coursing through her. Time to spread a bit of fun!
This Ain’t My English
I’ve been living in England for a month shy of half a year now. It’s given me time to get my bearings, to settle in, and, finally, has allowed me to take a look around. As far as moving more or less half-way round the world goes, I’d be hard pressed to find a place closer to home. Same language, similar if not identical culture, same bloody monarch, and, if we want to dip into controversy, same phenotype. So, no big shift, really.
Though it took some doing, my paperwork is well on its way to being sorted. On the balance of averages, I probably know more, if not regional, then at least national, history than the domestic population. I’ve acquired a local pub. I can just about pass.
That is, I can just about pass – until I open my mouth. I said we have the same language, and, while it’s the same thing on paper as it is back home, the vagaries of the spoken language betray a wide gulf, wide as an ocean. It’s true that there are certain areas within Canada that are unique in their dialects, but that pales in comparison with England. There are numerous reasons for this – Canada’s population is too young to have developed beyond some rough and immediate differences, and the composition of our nation is largely immigrant based, which started the whole venture off as a bit of a melting pot. Two amongst many.
I grew up speaking what is known as the West-Central dialect, which, aside from some rather small regional quirks, is one of the geographically largest and most homogeneous dialects on the planet, stretching from the borders of Quebec through the Great Plains and on to the Pacific Ocean, paying no attention to international borders along the way. This isn’t to downplay those differences, but they are of the kind that requires some extra effort to decipher – it helps to be a native Ontarian if you’re interested in differentiating between someone from Pembroke and someone from Cochrane (mostly, well, because it’s unlikely that non-Ontarians, let alone non-Canadians, know people from either place, but I digress). Same thing goes for figuring out if what you’re hearing is a Thunder Bay accent, or that of Duluth, Minnesota. But these differences are far from as stark as those between Northampton and Gravesend, or Newcastle and Penzance, and, occur over vastly larger distances.
Thing is, though, as stark as these regional dialects may be from one another, they are known entities. English people know by ear if someone is English, whether they’re from the Lake District or from the Home Counties. And they distinctly know that I am not English. If I put the effort in, I can code switch and drop out most of my natural rhoticisms, to the point that someone thought I was an adept non-Native speaker, from some unknown corner of the Continent. I’ll allow the reader to make up their mind as to whether I consider that a compliment or not.
When not putting the effort in, I’m invariably nailed as a North American, and, due no doubt to the huge spread of West-Central, assumed to be American. I’m likely victim of my own neuroses on this point, but I can’t help but feel like people mistakenly pegging me as American comes with a whole heap of background assumptions – latter-day Imperial guilt and all the rest. Maybe not so bad amongst the English themselves, but certainly amongst expats of other countries, who have, at one time or another, been rubbed the wrong way by our bellicose cousins. I don’t need to carry that baggage – my country of birth has loaded me with enough for my liking, and, thanks to the indefatigable efforts of dear leader Harper, continues daily to heap it on.
What puts me in a bind, though, is that I’ve no interest in changing my dialect. It would be false of me to speak with a Received Pronunciation, and I have no interest in entering the fray of classism that is so inextricably wrapped up with how one speaks here, on either side. I guess that leaves me with the classic burden of all Canadians abroad – fleshing out the stereotype and politely correcting people when they mistake me for something I’m not.
For the first time in my life, aside, of course, from brief trips or holidays, I’ve been Othered, and been made to feel it. All the unheimlich of it aside, I’d highly recommend emigrating for a period, even if only for this. Difficult for us white hetero men to find it, otherwise.
Of Gendered Space and Tactics
This comes out of the wake of the ongoing brouhaha focused around the Fitness Centre at McGill University, in Montreal. In short, though this provides a bit more context, two students have made a proposal to introduce a women’s only period during each week. There is already a precedent, as the university pool already has such a program in place. Unsurprisingly, given the rather bizarre world we live in, this proposal has been met with “an uproar.” I’m so glad that we’re at a point where we can discuss these things civilly.
Though it probably doesn’t need to be said, the various MRA’s who have come out of the woodwork to criticise and smear mud are beneath contempt. Their perspective doesn’t really need to be considered, given how startlingly out of touch these people are. It’s unfortunate that, at a time when serious inroads are being made against previous gains for equality, we have these cretins and clowns squirming about, making a mockery of the whole affair.
That out of the way, the situation is, as ever, more complicated than it at first seems. I honestly don’t know which way to fall on this one, and this piece is just as much asking a question and trying to get to grips with what’s up as it is trying to draw attention to what’s going on.
It’s accidental to the issues I’m having with the situation, but it’s worth noting that the motivation for one of the students putting forward the proposal was religious – she is a Muslim, and garb is a concern for her. The niqab, the hijab and the burqa have become rather hot political topics as we continue our drive to demonise Islam and its adherents. Of course, anyone current with the situation knows that there are already legal wrinkles in Quebec with regards to these weighty bolts of cloth, due in no small part to the more openly xenophobic elements within the cultural make-up of the province. To their credit, the governing bodies haven’t cited this as reason to discard the idea out of hand, though that of course would be heavy-handed, even in these latter days of “the war of civilisations.” For myself, I’ll side with the laws of the land on this one – the country is presumably equal-opportunity when it comes to make-believe friends, so, citing religious grounds is good enough. Unless, of course, it isn’t actually a tenet of the religion per se. There is plenty of evidence, and debate, internal and external, that point to the hijab of women being not something required by Islam but rather a hold-over of Arabian culture. I’m not a Koran scholar, and to presume to declare what is and isn’t part of someone else’s religious views is not a slope I’m prepared to slide down. I think the whole bundle is sexist, but, free country, people are welcome to their Stockholm syndrome if they want it.
On the flip side, I can sympathise with women wanting to avoid the beady glance of the male gaze. Our culture is still one that promotes the objectification of women, with all the essentialist trappings that come along with it – body-shaming, whore and Madonna dichotomies, the whole package. So, I can understand the desire, particularly when performing activities that overtly focus on the body, to fight for a safe, secluded space.
My concern is that the tactic may be confused with the strategy. It’s not enough to target the symptoms of the patriarchy, we need to go after the base causes, and pull it out by the roots. My own position on this is a fairly standard Marxian one; that gender rides on class antagonism, but that’s an aside for later. More to the point, I’d hate this, in the event of its success, to become yet another example of out of sight, out of mind. I fully understand that there needs to be an immediate solution to the issue, and that the proposal, given that the cost of the execution of said solution is so small, is well-within the scope of reasonability, but I just hope that the motivation for the effort isn’t dissipated by its short-term resolution. To purposefully divide ourselves along the lines of gender and/or sex as a way of policing our problems is tantamount to burying them. Problems like these, though, don’t stay buried very long.