enemy dispenser

manuscript-day eleven of 100
 

Overlay text points me to a decidedly surreal element, a large switch, its socket pasted to a brick wall. An enamel sign above it reads ‘enemy dispenser.’ Gathering all my guts I am stepping up to the oversized button and ‘engage.’
    Sudden excited shouting in the street. Outside my field of vision (FOV) a yet unknown number of bad guys has spawned. While I am hastily turning around a gun cracks. Blood sprays, the stereo headphones relay a pressed ‘Ugh!’ to my brain. Payne’s way of quitting him being hit. Panic stricken, having no idea where the projectile originated from, I am running across the street, dodging into suspected safety behind a parked car. Crouching there, condensed breath rhythmically appearing in front of my face, I realize that I have lost health.
    The according gauge in the lower left corner of the screen, next to the bullet time hourglass, unsparingly shows me this risk-aggravating factor. When health melts down to nil, I am dead. The health-meter is designed as the silhouette of the one who has nothing to lose, the outlawed ex-undercover cop Max Payne. My silhouette. At the moment it appears to me like the oh so familiar chalked outline of a corpse on concrete. Dead man walking.
    My meditations on the balancing of the game’s health- or damage-point system are brought to a grinding halt by catching a glimpse of pants legs in the corner of my eye. One of those aggressive blokes has spotted me hiding behind the forlorn car, and already came around.
    I am facing his gun’s muzzle at point blank range. The bore is octagonal instead of round, I am shootdodging sideways. Although bullet time gives me plenty of opportunity to aim, I only manage to bring my crosshairs to his stomach. The impact makes him tumble backwards, but does not bring him to the ground. Realizing that he is preparing to attack again, I am leveling my Beretta with his line of sight.
    One down, nothing to celebrate, the others are storming towards me, guns blazing. Sending a fan of bullets into their general direction does no good. I am failing to hit and run out of ammunition.
    ‘WASD,’ the space bar, the whole keyboard, the mouse, even the screen are forgotten, from now on only registered by the subconscious, I am no more actively aware of operating them. I am running, crouching, dodging, and shooting for my life. I am Max Payne, out ‘in the violent, cold urban night.’
    Rushing into the fleeting cover of a doorstep, a trash bin, the bus shelter, the safety railing of the entrance to ‘Roscoe Street Station.’ Streetlevel standard city elements seemingly get inscribed with new meanings out of the urban warfare field manual.

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raining games

manuscript-day four of 100

Yesterday night, while hunched over his C-64, absorbedly somersaulting over compact droids while running along platforms, hard banging against the door of his flat wrenched him out of immersion.
    ‘Open that door immediately,’ a commanding voice shouted from the staircase outside his apartment. The order was preceded by the incomprehensible, but nevertheless authoritative yelling of a name, and of a likewise yelled address resembling the one of a nearby police station. Already close to wetting his pants, picturing himself in jail for having committed the arch-crime of copyright infringement at least a zillion times, he sprang to immediate action.
    Each inmate of his building has access to a balcony, running along the width of the facade, divided into cubicles by flimsy separating plates. He used to joke, that when he returned home from work, and stepped through the balcony door, he sometimes for a moment felt to be back in the office.
    The office he would not see for the long time of his sentence.
    Pressure upon him, he knelt down and started to gather up all data storage media he could get hold of. Quite a task, as the dispersed heaps were littering half of the floor. He knew that a friend of him, occupying the laying-battery cell next to his, was home.
    The yelling and banging not ceasing amplified his nervousness and fright to a state of terror. He rushed out on the balcony, balancing his load on both arms.
    ‘They’re coming for me,’ he cried into the neighbour’s face, who happened to be outside on the balcony, ‘you gotta help me!’ Leaning over the parapet and halfway around the separator he started to shove the untidy bundle of diskettes over to his friend.
    The neighbour, completely caught by surprise, did not manage to properly receive the contraband. Neither did the sender manage to properly shove it over, resulting in the two of them ushering a wobbling shower of real ‘floppy’ disks, 5 1/4” in diameter, down to the street.
    ‘What’s that?’ the neighbour finally asked, looking into the abyss, where the cloud of data started to settle on the concrete.
    ‘Our games, silly!’ he spat out between clenched teeth, rushing inside again, not wanting to make the law wait for too suspiciously long a time.

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warped visions

manuscript-day three of 100

Imagine an unspecified European traveller voyaging into an equally unspecified remote area, there coming into contact with the even more unspecified indigenous population. The society he visits lacks scripture, but pictorial representation is abound. With an instant camera the traveller takes pictures of the landscape, the village, and of his hosts.
    On presentation of the pictures the locals give to understand that they do not recognize anything. The visitor is flabbergasted, but after some explaining from his side, the villagers manage to recognize the to them familiar sceneries as represented. Time passes, the people are gathering more experience with photographies. In due course they are able to interprete all new pictures without any aid whatsoever.
    In reciprocity the traveller is shown clay vessels, over and over covered with paintings. The European only sees abstract geometric patterns, to him in no way related to the material environment. After some explanation work he manages to recognize the shape of an animal—strangely warped and twisted, like simultaneously looked upon from several vantage points. A number of pots later the drawings start to untangle before his eyes. Very much to the villagers’ joy, when looking at a pot he has never seen before, he now instantaneously can voice the correct interpretation of the picture thereupon.

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ignition—ablaze rewritten

manuscript-day two of 100
 

Inside the burning Casa di Angelo
 

My having an appointment here and now renders the situation odd. Else there would be little wonder in the downtown Manhattan spaghetti joint being perfectly deserted at that time of night. Way past the graveyard shift, uncanny twilight, floor covered by classical black and white checker tile, rows of lavishly upholstered benches, matching diner-style tables squeezed in-between, an enormous mahogany bar in the back, and nobody to be seen.
    A cliché setting not missing its target, bringing home the menacing ambience quite nicely. Just if I would not be nervous and frightened enough yet. Since several minutes—ages, that is—I am standing here, staring into the shadows, hardly daring to move.
    Alas, there is no choice, I have to fathom the darkness to its heart. Maybe they are in another room, well separated from the main area. Some black chamber of conspiracy. Those mobsters are equally fond of cozy backrooms as they are of laying traps.
    Something is wrong in here.
    Within my mind the slightly caustic impression of petrol vapour, pleasant and repelling at the same time, kicks in way too late. Already I have undertaken my first tentative steps towards the unknown depths of the dimly lit Italian restaurant and things start to go horribly wrong. A row of until now well hidden incendiary bombs detonates and sets the ‘Casa di Angelo’ on fire.

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penthouse

manuscript-day one of 100
 

The Penthouse
 

Are you really sure that a floor can’t also be a ceiling?
—M. C. Escher

The skies outside the floor to ceiling glass panes resemble all but white noise on television. Nothing of a dead channel here, they are as brilliant as two high-end TFT flatscreens can render. Screens which are quite alive—so much so that they can switch from absolute black hole darkness to blazing supernova white, and the other way round, in less than two milliseconds. Hence the nocturnal nonsky appears as a star-speckled perfect black. The crisp vista of the metropolis skyline below might represent Seattle, we are not sure.
    Finally I made it through the high-rise, up to the penthouse—it took me six full years since accessing the entrance hall. When approaching the panorama windows, the sound effect of impacting raindrops becomes louder, clearly stemming from the crystalline slabs in front of me. Only if you know it and concentrate, you will discover that it is looped.
    The polished wooden parquet flooring faintly mirrors everything in the room, including the three man-high tarot cards on the wall. Every thing’s Wiedergänger stares up from below, but my mirror image lacks. What a matching metaphor for the condition of an avatar inside a virtual world. Neither deceased nor alive, undead like a vampire.
    Just like at the set of a horror movie, a lot in here is smoke and mirrors. The floor does not reflect the room, never could, as this function is not built into the ‘Second Life’ engine. The floor’s surface consists of a semi-transparent texture, partly showing the structure of wooden planks, partly showing what is beneath. And below is an upside down version of the room I am in.

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manuscript

During the last days the process of writing the dreaded book, which now definitely will be christened “maxmod—an ethnography of cyberculture” (note the humbleness, it’s an ethnography, not the ethnography), was going really well. I’ve got a run. Recently I read an interview with Philip Roth—he produces two pages of manuscript a day, up to ten pages on exceedingly good days. Yesterday I managed to write three and a half pages, one page of those falling into a hard to write section. If I can keep up yesterday’s pace, I’ll be finished in a hundred days. So, in order to crank up the pressure valve even more a bit, let’s declare today as day one of a hundred, and let’s see if I really can do it.
 

In fact, I have to do it, or will find myself out on the street. Hence I have to tone down the frequency of blog entries on astray issues. To keep it running nevertheless, and because I believe that this belongs into the whole project’s weblog, today I created the new section manuscript. In there I will post bits’n’pieces of my draft, not in the order the parts will appear in the book, maybe some won’t make it in the book at all, or get rewritten later on. If I really can keep it up like yesterday, entries will be steadily trickling in.
 

At 2AM last night I called it a day and, for relaxation, watched Season 1, Episode 5 (SE1EP5) of “Twin Peaks”. Yes, the fandom is right, every episode I watch leaves me with a question, becoming ever more burning … The phone number of Sherilyn Fenn? Anybody? No? All right, that settled, I am only left with making it official: David Lynch is a genius. Watching “Twin Peaks” is not just pastime, but a measure to keep myself in the write mood, just like my current rereading of “Neuromancer” for the umpteenth time is.

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big-a-dog, big-a-bite

John Ferdinand Woodstock & The Rebirth Experience
 

Detail from CD-cover of Big-a-dog, big-a-bite by Gerd Baumann
 

Once upon a foggy night,
I put on my hunting shoes.
Told my Lady not to wait—
said, I go hunting for a goose.
 

Rays of moonlight on my way,
make me running with the pack.
Far and wide—needless to say—
no goose—cause I was off the track …
 

Big-a-dog, big-a-bite,
small-a-dog must not fight.
Have a problem with the right?
Wake me up in the night.
 

Something screaming in the woods,
make my blood surge to my face.
Just in time I understood—
I’ll be gone without a trace.
 

Slap, Bang—I’m wide awake,
behind my back a piercing shriek.
Looming large out of a lake:
bog bodies playing hide and seek.
 

Big-a-dog, big-a-bite.
Wake me up in the night.
 

By mistake I crack a limb,
scaring up the evil bunch.
Now or never—sink or swim,
so I’ll be home in time for lunch
 

And as I’m running for my life,
got fifty monsters on my heels.
With a deep-drawn sigh:
I step out of my dream.
 

Big-a-dog, big-a-bite.
Big-a-dog, big-a-bite.
Small-a-dog must not fight.
Small-a-dog must not fight.
 

Have a problem with the right?
Have a problem with the right?
Wake me up in the night.
Wake me up in the night.
 

Big-a-dog, big-a-bite.
Your pants are full, your face is white.
He won’t kill you, but he might.
Better keep away all right.

Music and lyrics by John Ferdinand Woodstock aka Gerd Baumann, from the soundtrack of Wer früher stirbt, ist länger tot (Grave Decisions) by Marcus H. Rosenmüller.
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