Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I hope you all have been having a great time during these holidays, and if I don't get my computer back until next year (don't be alarmed because, remember, next year is only in a few days!) then I wish you a Happy New Year now!
Using the public library's computer doesn't give me much time to do my normal work on my blog, so it may be a few days before you hear back from me.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
But here is part two of my short story, "The Puppet Show". The final part will come next week, and unless there will be a problem with New Year's Eve online traffic or such, I'll have it posted by next Wednesday. If you are just tuning in for the first time, you can read part one at this link here. Enjoy and have a Merry, Scary Christmas! Or for the ones who don't celebrate Christmas--Happy Hallow-days!
The Puppet Show (Part II)
by Steven Rose, Jr.
The two of them had been touch-up painting the huge paper mache Buddha on the stage while discussing their future career goals in theatre. Manuel imposed, “I like stage crew work but I want to make my own plays. My own plays, not somebody else’s. Most of the plays here have been made by someone else other than the director, huh?”
Mariana said, with a sad but compassionate voice, nodding, “Yeah. I think every theater needs its own plays and playwrights. I get kind of tired of acting the characters that someone else has acted. I think that’s another reason my mom wants me to go into directing plays instead.” Then she laughed, “She’s afraid I might be told what to do too much by male directors who use actresses as sex objects for their shows. But I never wanted to make shows; ever since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to be other people in other worlds. But I’d like to be new people, other people who no one else has acted out before.”
Manuel said, “So you wanna play in premieres?” He was very delighted that he was talking to a girl who may one day be the actress in a world premiere play. He dreamt of directing that very same play with her in it.
She said with a tone of common sense, “It’s all actors’ and actresses’ dream. I don’t expect it to happen, although I believe there’s a very small possibility that it could. But I’ll take whatever I get. Just as long as I can act. I’m addicted to acting,” and she laughed childishly. Yet pretentiously.
As the two of them collected the rubble of the movie theater after having pried apart all of its planks, Manuel examined the sour face on the Motown-greaser girl. She kept hurling each piece into a steel bucket that she carried. The few facial features that resembled Mariana’s was the smallness of her mouth, of her nose, and the wideness of her eyes; these were the child-like features that never seemed to change on her. This girl was Mariana. Like the other boys who played with his mind throughout all his childhood and adolescent years, she was playing with his mind. She was in costume, in theatre make-up, to avoid him. Like all the other boys throughout his childhood and adolescent years pretended to be his friends, but when they would ask him to go on lone errands for them they would then ditch him, she was basically doing the same thing. All of a sudden, Mariana was all boys of his entire childhood, and all girls of his adolescent years who made themselves absent from his life because of his loner identity. But this bitch did not fool him. Not this time. But she was good trying to do so. She was very good.
Even though he felt like a mad man encountering a total stranger, he immediately asked her, “What happened that night we were going to go out?” Even though he figured out that this girl was Mariana incognito, he felt intrusive. Suddenly, without saying anything, Mariana strutted, gripping the steel bucket, into the backstage blackness behind the back curtain.
Manuel raised his voice from where he stood saying, “I don’t know what kind of a fool I am to you, but you can at least answer my question.” But there was no answer. Only the silent backstage blackness looming behind the back curtain. Without thinking, he strode after her.
He did not see her anywhere. He quietly walked downstairs to the dressing rooms but all the lights were out. He flicked them on, and peered into each dressing room in which, fortunately, each one was open. He would have felt very uneasy if he had to knock on any of them. Nobody was down there. He climbed back up the stairs to the backstage area.
Still Mariana was no where to be seen. All he saw was the black brick wall, a few old decaying props, and two doors. One of the doors was an exit and the other, hidden in a black corner, was a small, bright orange, wooden door. He remembered hearing the faint slam of a door just after Mariana walked to the backstage. It could not have been the exit because it would have sounded louder since it was made of metal. He knocked on the orange door. No answer. But he did hear, from within, a noise like that of something being slammed onto a wooden table, something that rattled as it hit the surface. He walked back to stage front to see if Mariana was anywhere on the cat walk. He could not see anybody nor anything but the infinite blackness of the high ceiling. Then he walked back to the orange door and knocked on it a few more times, but there was still no answer. He was about to turn the knob until he noticed the small brown rectangular sign saying, “NO ADMITTANCE.” The only place she could have gone was through that door. But the sign said nobody was allowed in.
Ever since Manuel walked into the girls’ locker room out of curiosity, at his cousin’s gymnastics tournament when Manuel was five, he respected signs. He had been whipped by his father and yelled at by his mom in front of the spectators and gymnasts for walking into that locker room. Ever since then, he respected signs in the way he respected live authority, in the way he respected Church, state, family and friends . . . . What friends? Who ever respected him? His life had been nothing but shut doors from childhood friends’ Anglo parents whenever he asked if he could play with those friends, nothing but shut doors when he would ask girl acquaintances out after walking them home from school while he was in junior high, in which those were shut doors which never opened again, and now here was just another shut door! No one had ever asked him in!
He cursed all those shut doors, shot his hand out to the knob and attempted to turn it but it would not turn. He pounded on the door violently. It swung open only a few inches and an old man peeked out shouting, “What do you want?” He had thinning gray hair, a bushy mustache, and brown skin. He wore wire thin framed glasses and suspenders that clinched to the shoulders of his early 20th Century red and white striped shirt.
Manuel apologized, “I’m sorry, I was looking for somebody.”
The old man said angrily, “Well there’s no one in here, I’m very busy, I have a performance to get ready for that starts any minute, now go!” He talked so fast and in so sharp of a tone that he sounded as though he was dealing with a life threatening emergency.
Manuel said, compassionately, "I understand, but I was just wondering if you knew a girl by the name of Mar--"
"I said go, now!" the old man cut in, and then continued shouting, waving his arms violently, “Go! go! you’ll ruin everything, damn it! get out‘a here!”
Manuel felt the blood burning in his head. He grabbed the old man by the shoulders, started shaking him, bursting out, “Listen! I asked you really nicely if you’ve seen my girl! Where is she damn it? Tell me, now! Tell me!”
The old man threw Manuel’s hands off to the sides so hard that they almost touched each other in back, causing such a sharp pain in his shoulders that he thought the joints snapped. The old man was several inches smaller than Manuel, but his hands had a lot of power in them. He said, “You have no right coming in here shaking me like that and demanding information from me! I don’t have to tell you noth’in. You guys work for me, all of you! Now get out’a here now!”
Manuel realized that he had just attacked the manager of the theater, Al Pietro. For the first time since his employment at the Woodvale Opera House, he was seeing the manager. Before, Manuel had only heard stories about him. But even though the old man was the manager, Manuel did not care; all he wanted was Mariana.
He shoved the old man out of the doorway as the old man attempted to shut another door in his face, and jammed into the room shouting, “Mariana is my girl and I’m going to find her!” The room was dimly lit. It looked like a toy shop. There were puppets lined against the walls and others crowded onto shelves and tables. There were several stage sets made for puppets. They depicted scenes of deserts, circus tent exteriors and interiors, and medieval European castles. Some of the scenes were so three dimensional in appearance they almost looked real.
Manuel noticed, among all the scattered items, lying nude on a work bench, arms spread out, a marionette that looked exactly like Mariana. At least what was left of the face did. Half of the face was carved away, but the puppet had the same Motown hair style. The clothes lay carelessly spread out right next to the puppet. They looked exactly like the greaser clothes Mariana wore, only smaller. The cat eye glasses also lay next to it.
Suddenly Manuel felt a shove from in back that caused him to shoot across the room and then slam down onto the floor. Manuel soon noticed that the figure standing over him, looking like a giant, head eclipsing the dim light source causing the facial features to become shadowed out, was the old man. The old man barked out, “I said you guys work for me! You are not your own damn boss! You have no business coming in here, I don’t need you in here right now, GET OUT!” and Manuel felt a sharp kick in his ribs and himself sliding away in a spinning motion. A metallic door slammed.
He heaved himself up and noticed he was outside the building. A cold looking iron door stood in front of him. Vaguely, he remembered seeing a door like that inside the shop. He yanked it open and, surprisingly, it opened much more quickly and easily than he originally thought it would and therefore felt much lighter than it looked. He walked back inside the building but noticed that he was not in the work shop. In fact, he was not even inside the Opera House at all. Somehow he was outside again.
He walked a block over to the next towering building that at least somewhat resembled the live theatre. The side of the building he arrived at had no door and so he scurried around to another side. But there was no other side. Except for the side with the wood frame with canvas stretched behind it. Another flat. He kept trying each nearby building that he was positive to be the Woodvale Opera House but it always turned out to be a flat. He finally got to some houses but, after frustratingly knocking on each front door several times, getting no answer and so opening each door himself, he discovered they were flats as well. After a while he felt that he had covered the whole labyrinth town of Woodvale but he discovered that he had really only been covering a labyrinth of flats. He figured he must have been in a back lot that the theatre stored flats on. But there was no way to be certain; he hollered several times for help until his voice went hoarse but nobody answered. Nobody else was around.
This will be a very short blog entry and, no, I haven't forgotten about the second part to "The Puppet" show. (If you missed part one you can see it at this link here.) I'm sorry, but I've been delayed all day today by technical errors on both my computers (desktop and laptop). It's really taken me out; you don't want to have seen what kind of mood I've been in today.
I will have part two of "The Puppet Show" posted tomorrow afternoon (which, theoretically, is later on today since it's long past the witching hour, and so it's 2:44 Thursday morning as I write this).
Once again, my apologies greatly.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Oh, yeah, if some of you don't return to this blog until after the holidays because you find this story to be, in your honest opinion, that bad, or if you don't return to this blog at all because of that, then let me say it now . . .
Have a Merry/Scary Christmas!
Your Friendly Cyberhood
Horror Writer Among A Lot of Other Things
The Puppet Show
by Steven Rose, Jr.
Manuel felt like the floor of the stage was trying to hold his feet down. Even so, he forced himself to walk over to the girl who appeared to be Mariana and who was forcing a crowbar under one of the planks of the flat. The flat had been made to resemble an art deco movie theater which looked a lot like the Woodvale Opera House that the play had been performed in. The whole set, in fact, resembled Woodvale’s old town Main Street, except that the flats depicted the buildings in fresher and brighter colors because the setting to the teen musical was in the 1950s. The set looked so real that each time Manuel walked toward the stage he almost felt as though he were walking toward a giant, open bay door. He asked the girl awkwardly, “Do you need help with that?”
She looked up from the crowbar, stared at Manuel for a few seconds with a lifeless expression and then said, “Get a crowbar.” Manuel grabbed a crowbar from a nearby wooden tool box. He then forced it between a couple of planks that were nailed together to form a triangular base which was opposite the one that the girl was getting ready to pry apart. They both pumped their crowbars up and down, making loud creaking noises in doing so, noises similar to those of opening coffins in old vampire movies. They kept doing this until both bases snapped apart and then there was the fall with a thundering “CRASH!”
After a cloud of smoke faded away, the girl stared at the wreckage dejectedly. Manuel stammered, “Have you been in any plays here? . . . Lately?”
The girl continued staring at the fallen movie theater. Finally, she slowly lifted her head to look at Manuel with an apathetic expression. Several seconds went by before she said, in a middle age woman’s voice that was a lot like Mariana’s, “I was in this one.” Her voice was much softer and a lot quieter than Mariana’s yet it carried a tone of annoyance.
A wide smile grew on Manuel’s face as he asked, “You played the girl wearing the yellow poodle skirt, didn’t you?” The hopeful feeling that Mariana had returned to the tech crew flourished rapidly in him.
The girl said with suspicion, “I played a girl wearing a yellow poodle skirt, yes.” There had been at least twelve girls in the play who wore yellow poodle skirts. Manuel’s hope began to wither. Although the girl’s voice sounded a lot like Mariana’s and the eyes looked Asian (but not as much as he remembered them looking the last time he saw Mariana) the girl’s reaction to his question indicated that she had never seen him before. Also, her lips were rounded rather than flat and her nose was just a little wider than Mariana’s, yet her face was circular like hers. She started prying more boards out of the fallen flat, hesitantly, hanging downward.
Mariana was not like this girl. Manuel never remembered her being so somber or sour ever since he started working for the Woodvale Opera House. In fact, she was the only one who had actually welcomed him his first day. The rest of the tech crew, a gruff group of men, had been as apathetic towards him as had the supervisor on duty who introduced Manuel to them. He had never seen a group of people look so lifeless before. The tech crew men seemed to had force their labor hardened hands out to “greet” him with hand shakes. In addition, the men’s bulky build and wide jaws intimidated him even more. He was about to walk out on the job that first day.
Until Mariana showed up.
Mariana was the light in the theater’s darkness. After she greeted the other techs who greeted her back more invitingly than they did Manuel, she paced over to him, smiling, revealing her brilliant white, baby-looking teeth, extended her smooth hand in greeting to him and said, “You must be the new person.” He returned her greeting, laying his hand in hers, although stiffly. When he felt the grip of her tropical brown hand in his pale northern Iberian one, an affectionate sense of security warmed throughout him. He did not want to let go of it. She was the only minority of color that he had seen at the theatre so far. However, her features made it hard to place her ethnicity. She said with invitation, “If you have questions about anything you can ask me. I’ve been here . . .” she paused, looking up at the black ceiling of the stage area, in deep calculation, then childishly shot out, “forever,” and laughed. Strangely her deep, mature voice did not match her child-like features. Her face was very rounded and her nose so small and stubby with a very gracefully curved bridge. Her hair was gleaming black and lanked in wide looping locks down to the middle of her neck. These features were so child-like they looked like a cartoon character’s. Manuel found it hard to believe anyone could have them. They did not seem to belong on the girl’s mature, bulky build.
No girl so beautiful, no girl period, had ever talked to him with so much acknowledgment in a very long time. He could not even remember when any girl had talked to him in such an inviting way between high school and his present sophomore year of college. He knew he was going to get along with her well since she was very hospitable like most of his female relatives. In fact, it was her very disproportional appearance that made him feel attracted to her. She was at least a good five foot-nine inches to six feet tall like many of the tech crew men. However, her size may had only looked large to him because of his five foot three that he inherited from his Spanish Basque father.
A few months later, while the two of them had been cutting apart a giant paper mache Buddha statue that had been used on the set of a play, he realized that Mariana had very Asian looking facial features. Her eyes were slanted and her lips very flat. If it was not for her normal loose blouse and loose-fit jeans she was wearing, he would have not recognized her. He asked her, “Are you part Asian by any chance?”
Mariana said, “I might be. I was adopted as a baby so I don’t know for sure what I am. My adopted parents, who are Mexican, always told me I was Mexican, and that may be true. But there’s no way to tell for sure. That’s why I love acting, because you don’t always have to be one thing or person.” She laughed. Pretentiously.
Manuel barely nodded his head in understanding. But he did not understand. Such features did not seem to be so pronounced on Mariana before. She had played the Chinese princess in the play that they were tearing down the set for, although that was the previous night. So he further inquired, “Are you still wearing your make-up from the play?”
She stared at him with a stunned expression for a couple of seconds. Then she said, “Come on, we’d better work more quickly; Al wants to move on to the next show by tomorrow.”
Manuel asked, confused, “How come Al never shows up around here?” In all the months he had been working for the Woodvale Opera House, he had never even met the manager, not even when he was interviewed for the position. To Manuel, Al Pietro, director and owner of the theatre, was only a name.
Mariana halted slicing her blade through the Buddha to look up towards the blackness of the high ceiling, as though to think of a suitable answer. Finally she said, “Oh, he thinks he’s God. He never associates with the employees. He only pulls the strings.”
“But he’s the manager, he’s got to do more than just pull and lower the curtains and lights and all that.”
Mariana corrected, “No, I mean he does everything through the employees, or at least the supervisors under him. Kind of like a God Father, you know what I mean?”
“Oh,” Manuel said, with uneasiness welling up in his stomach. He had never felt this tense ever since his first day working there. It added to his nervousness of finally asking Mariana out on a date. He had rehearsed how he would do it the entire previous evening. No girl had ever accepted his offer for a date before; he was very awkward when asking girls out. But he decided that he was going to hold off on asking Mariana. For some reason, Manuel suddenly felt as though he were realizing that he did not know Mariana as much as he thought he had. He quietly and mindlessly continued mutilating the Buddha.
The next day, he felt he did not know this girl any more than he had the previous day. Yet he forced himself to ask this “stranger” out. Surprisingly, she accepted and told him to be at her house at 6:30 that evening. He made sure he arrived at 6:25 just to be safe. But when he rang the door bell exactly at 6:30 nobody answered. The house was completely dark in the twilight. He knocked several times. No answer. Apparently nobody was home. He did not see her again after that. Until the 50's teenage musical two months later.
It was then, while Manuel was wrecking a paper mache shark finned car when he noticed a very familiar looking girl emerge from out of the dark entrance area. However, as she walked into the light the familiar face seemed to wash off to reveal another face. Until that moment, he had been positive that she was Mariana. The girl who just walked in wore tight, black leather pants, a black greaser’s jacket and cat eye glasses; her strait black hair hung down in a 60's Motown perm that bunched up at the crown. He figured that this girl must have performed one of the characters in the play.
But he did not remember seeing her in it.
Mariana had not dressed this revealingly in the show. She had worn a bright yellow poodle skirt and her hair had been tied back. Also, the Motown-greaser girl looked a little bit more African-American than Latina. Or Asian.
The Motown-Greaser swayed past him, as though he were not even there, with a very somber expression. She squatted in front of the tool box and mindlessly yanked out a crowbar, walked over to the movie theater flat and began prying out the nails to it, passively. The eyes did look much like Mariana’s, wide and child-like. However, the clothes, as attractive as they were, were not Mariana’s. And such a gloomy expression was definitely not hers either. Or had the Mariana he was familiar with been part of an act too? She had told him one time, although humorously, that she was addicted to acting.(To be continued . . . )
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Last week’s Sacramento News and Review contains an article about a war protest that occurred a couple weekends ago at the Sacramento Central Library. But it wasn’t so much a protest against a real war than it was a war game. The article states that the activist groups Veterans for Peace and Grandmothers for Peace protested the video gaming event Nerd Fest’s Call of Duty tournament. According to the article, the protesters felt that Call of Duty was encouraging war and violence. But the game has an M (“Mature”) rating and so is limited to the 17 and older crowd in its sales and at its tournaments such as Nerd Fest’s, as the article indicates. That, at least to an extent, solves the problem of influence on minors. However, according to SN&R, what the protesters were really speaking against was the library, a place of educational and intellectual activity, promoting the game and in so doing promoting war and violence. Therefore they were saying that the tournament had no place in a public library (as stated in the article), an institution of free access to information whether in the form of literature or art.
Now, speaking as a war protester myself, war in reality is one thing; war at the level of play is a totally different one. War at the level of playing is mere fantasy. We need fantasy; we need a sense of high adventure even though most of us wouldn’t want to find ourselves in a dangerous situation such as a war. Fantasizing throughout time has been proven to be healthy. It has prevented artists and writers from going insane and it has helped entire societies ventilate their frustrations in ways that otherwise would be taboo and/or illegal. That is why cultures, including our own, have celebrations such as Mardi Gras and Carnival (as it is called in many Latin American countries). Such events allow people to act out their frustrations and desires through the expressions of bizarre and/or immoral costumes and dances that otherwise would be socially unacceptable. Playing a mere video game is no different. In many cases it’s much safer and therefore prevents violent and dangerous acts. There have been reports of Marti Gras and other carnivalesque events having problems with participants getting wild and wasted to the extent of causing fatal accidents.
Now being against war myself, I do not admire Call of Duty. My “Call of Duty” are games such as Star Wars: Empire at War. Playing these games hasn’t even changed my views on war and violence, and so has not caused me to commit these acts.
To say our public library should not sponsor this or that cultural event, including pop cultural events like Nerd Fest’s Call of Duty tournament, is almost calling for censorship of a form of art and story telling. Video games are a form of art and story telling through digital media. Therefore video games like literature, fine art, film and music are means of expression. They are means of expression both by their creators as well as their players. If a public institution such as Sacramento Central Library, an institution of learning and culture, is required to ban video game tournaments due to violent subject matter it would be banning an artistic form of expression. If a person doesn’t like such events because he or she doesn’t believe what they stand for, that person has no obligation to attend them. That’s why many of my fellow geeks didn’t see me at Nerd Fest. For me, unlike Empire at War which takes place in space and on alien worlds, Call is too close to reality in its depiction of war.
I hate and am against war just as much as those protesters at Sacramento Central Library two weekends ago. But I don’t give up Star Wars video gaming because of it, let alone Star Wars fandom in general. In fact, one of the reasons Star Wars is one of my favorite space epics is because the heroes are of a liberal class: the Rebel Alliance, a group that goes against institutionalized oppression which comes from the Empire. Of course, this violent conflict serves only as a metaphor for my own political and social justice beliefs. It’s mere fantasy.
Hansel, Sara. “Kill Screen”. Sacramento News & Review, Vol. 22, Issue 33. December 2, 2010.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Let me know what you think of this e-book experiment discussed in this article.