Loneliness.com: how did it end up this way? In the beginning, the use of computers was a group activity. Communities punched cards, time-shared, even the Apple I at the dawn of personal computing was presented for a homebrew club. But with unrelenting Moore's Law and (at least) a computer on every desk, the promise of a virtual cyberspace has become this: on one hand, soulmates exchanging packets of love over the ether, on the other, couples in the same room estranged and yet both giga-bit connected.Would we gain connectedness to the whole world at the risk of losing the ability to connect with those who are closest? We have reached a point where Hollywood stars petition against war by making you visit a website, somehow ignoring the irony of the multiple layers of un-reality. Tit-for-tat hacking is considered a perverse kind of patriotism. Angry emails assert the necessity of flooding the inboxes of presidents.Can action be virtual?
Penthouse office, second tallest building in the business district.
A total mess, Chen finally pushes himself up with one mildly fractured hand. Slowly and painfully.
A muffled explosion somewhere downstairs, powerful enough that he can feel the floor rock. A woman screams, this time almost next door, at first in terror and then in pain, and then a long hysterical howl of both. Sounds like Miss Susan the accounts clerk. Or maybe Joanne from marketing.
Nevermind. Chen just noticed a stump where his beloved right leg should be. Motherfuckingfucker, he curses. Damn bloody motherfuckingfuckercheebye. Over and over again. The silent, desperate chanting keeps him just this close from passing into oblivion.
A rattling, then the office door slams open, followed by thick footsteps. Chen peers around his desk in panic, as best he can.
Sees Mr Chandra and Mr Low in military garb. Old men, flabby and balding in their retirement years. Slinging big triple-barrelled automatic rifles.
They loom above him.
"Pain, yah?" Mr Chandra sneers. His teeth are black, there's a crusty curry stain by the side of his mouth. "Told you just now not to run. Pretend never hear, right?"
Mr Low reaches out with his rifle, prods the bloody stump. Cackles when Chen gasps violently. He bends over, real close, to whisper in his nicotine-fucked rasp: "Eh, CEO Chen. Heh heh, give you some time off today. Want?"
In his agony, Chen glimpses the ring of passes swinging from Mr Low's leather belt. A couple of green-striped laminates, some blue-striped, lots and lots of yellow-striped. Blatant trophies from their rampage, ripped from around the throats of office co-workers. By now, dead or dying somewhere in the building.
"Ungrateful bastards," Chen tries to spit out, but all he manages is a slippery slur. Mr Chandra cocks his eyebrow, like a Bollywood villain.
Mr Low is already attacking the open laptop, scavenging through the central database systems, hurriedly substituting his own renegade signature strings into the company's system files. He peers and squints, scrolls and clicks, hammers out commands as urgently as his shaky fingers will allow.
Meanwhile, Mr Chandra pulls out a syringe and starts drawing a pale pink liquid. "Don't worry, sir," he assures Chen, "a Reality Cocktail." A homebrewed mix of tranquilisers, painkillers, hallucinatory agents, elephant steroids, who knows what else. Probably bought in bulk off the underaged retard who used to wash toilets in the building.
Three weeks back, the two senior citizens were just night duty security guards. Hired by HR out of compassion after listening to their pitiful groveling, but also to replace their existing security contractor, and hence cut costs.
Two weeks back, they started turning up at work in shirts and ties, instead of their shit-hued off-grey uniforms. Cheap, tacky shirts and ties. But shirts and ties, nonetheless. Someone should have known better.
Before long they were shoulder-surfing their way around the building, picking up passwords and routines and quarterly figures. Putting two here and two there together, to get four billion. Hatching their own ambitions. And still nobody suspected anything.
Until now, too late, after they had forced their way to the top.
Mr Low makes the last change, and logs off the network. "Okay, Chandra. Everything in our name now."
Mr Chandra beams. "Sure, ah? We own this company already?"
Mr Low: "Told you, so easy. Million times better than doing jaga."
Chen gives in, blacks out at last from the clumsy jab. Helpless and clinging to his final thought.
In the good old days, hostile takeovers were so bloodless.
Catch Silicon Sounds at Zouk!
Zouk Live & Wired presents The R.O.S (Religion Of Sound)Friday 21st March 2003 at Zouk, Starting 11pm
The Religion Of Sound - an eclectic sight & sound showcase led by the everloving preachers of sound, The Silicon Sounds, and accompanied by The R.O.S Collective, with the helpful hands of believers & friends, The Sleepwalker, MUON and a host of Live Performing Artists from UV dancers to Visual Jockeys to Instrumentalists to Singers/Rappers & Emcees.
Line-Up:MUON - LIVE set - IDM/Dark Dance :: The Sleepwalker - LIVE set - D&B :: The Silicon Sounds - LIVE set - Breaks/Leftfield Dance
WIG-01 is a creative design partnership based in Sheffield UK, we are currently working on a book called GRAPHIC POETRY.
GRAPHIC POETRY will be a book containing modern poetry from contemporary poets around the world. Each poem included in the book will be illustrated across a double page spread, by a selection of the worlds most creative designers, illustrators and image makers.
We would like you to submit your poetry. Please send us your favourite or most recent 5-10 poems, on any subject, roughly 20-200 words long.
Please send poems in an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org (no attachments)
Deadline for submissions: 22 March 2003
Sitting slouched at the front of the skytrain at Changi Airport reminds me of that short, delicious period when one is young enough to be happy and old enough to almost know it.
The darkness outside, together with the electroluminscence of too-friendly lights inside, turns the windows almost to mirrors. Looking up, it is impossible to see the sky; the view alternates between a reflection of myself and a black expanse of non-space that might be a starless sky, or might just be nothing at all.
I recall that there once used to be only a single carriage in the train. Now there are two. I am not, strictly speaking, at the front of the train, only the front of the second carriage. There are children pressed up against the glass of the carriage in front; as they are children - on a train (of sorts), no less - I am sure that they are smiling, but through this imperfect lense, I cannot see their faces to make sure. My own face must be just as unknown to them, leading me to wonder what conclusion they have reached about my expression.
One girl sits cross-legged, as if meditating, and draws invisible landscapes across the glass. It is very familiar. I wave, and the children - there are four - wave back.
Only one is hauled off by his parents when the train stops. The rest stay, though not unharassed, I imagine, by their respective mothers. I stay too. Now the train is reversing; consequently I am in the back of the front carriage. Eventually reaching the other stop, it reverses again.
Back, forth, back forth, back, forth, back: but which is which? Is the starting point the first terminal, as the number would imply, or is it the second - the end, as T.S. Eliot said, truly being where we start from? Perhaps the idea of an end is fallacious to begin with.
As a quiet part of me contemplates this small mystery, the skytrain starts to move with a little lurch. Cocooned in fluorescent brightness, we autonomous apparitions continue to vacillate between the two terminals, seemingly alternating between pursuer and pursued, half-hidden, perhaps smiling, certainly waving.
It's Friday night, so I'm sleeping on the couch in the living room. My parents are already in bed, my dad snoring loudly and my mom watching TV, only half-listening because my dad's snores have deafened her in one ear. I can see the glow from the television screen changing colors from the gap at the bottom of their bedroom door, so I know that she's still awake. From different rooms, we flip channels in unison. I know this because we both have a 3-second attention span when it comes to channel-surfing, and the glow disappears from underneath the door every time my index finger hits the channel button on the remote control.
I'm actually waiting for my favorite British show, "Are You Being Served," to come on PBS. My mom doesn't like it because the working-class characters speak with thick British accents and besides, she doesn't understand their humor. Then again, my mother doesn't really like any program or movie that doesn't involve explosions, high-speed car chases, guns, and Steven Segal. I ponder this as I linger briefly on an airing of "Lethal Weapon." Finally, I settle on "Nova," a show that I, being the dork that I am, try to watch regularly. The glow underneath my mom's door is purple, so I know she's watching it too. I put the control down, because it's "Nova," and "Nova" is always interesting. I secretly thank God for the quality programming on PBS.
Tonight's show is about eating disorders. I suddenly want the control back, but I don't know where I put it. So I'm forced to watch it. And I know my mom is watching it too.
I watch girls my age saying on camera what I will only say on paper. I hear them speaking the words that I can only enunciate in my head, telling the stories that I haven't let myself realize yet. There's a part of me that is jealous because they've found the words that elude me, and a part of me that is disgusted that they'd want to share them with the world. Why would you want to put yourself on display like that? But I, who look away when people cry and hope they do the same for me, cannot pry my eyes off the screen.
And I know my mom is watching too. She's secretly wondering what I do every night after dinner. She's wondering if I stand underneath the spray immediately after running the water, if the water noises are only hiding my gags and retches. She's wondering if my clothes are looser, if my teeth are corroded, if my ribs poke out. I know she is wondering this because I begin to see myself on screen.
Separated by layers of wood, plaster, and paint, our televisions simultaneously relay the misery of sick, young girls in a harmony of light and sound. My face is illuminated by the ghostly white skin of an anorexic, and my ears are full of her mother's pain. On screen, the narratives force me to reveal my addiction to myself, like peeling strips of wallpaper in an old Victorian house. As I watch my future flash before me on the screen, I force myself to peel layers of denial and excuses away until all I see is my porcelain addiction, the nickname I gave to what I thought was just a bad habit. In my head, I'm tearing away lengths of angels, gardens, flowers, fruits, stripes, solids painted on thick paper until I can finally see what lies underneath my own delusions.
After an hour, I finally hear her television making different noises from mine. The clashing sounds ruin the clarity that I had for a few brief moments, and once again, I fool myself into thinking that nothing is wrong with me. I remain oblivious, mesmerized by a mirage of sanity and normalcy, wrapped in a cocoon of ordinariness.
My mom is watching Conan O'Brien, the master of comedy by self-deprecation. I watch "Are You Being Served," and sigh, anticipating the silence that tomorrow will deafen her completely.
"I always tire very quickly of old things and old friends. People I've been friends with for a mere five years bore me very easily. I look for new interests, new people, a new environment, I like to find novelty all the time. How do you suppose I would feel about myself?"
"I suppose you'd hate yourself for being such a bastard."
"Close to feelings, but grossly inaccurate in both rationale and details, amigo. I do dislike myself, intensely in fact. But not for the reason you said."
"For what, then?"
"Haven't you figured it out, dude? Someone who tells you he always gets rid of old friendships, old things he owns, old furniture, even old computers and cars, what do you suppose he'd feel about someone he's known closely for more than forty years?
"Who have you known more than forty years? You're just over forty yourself, friend!"
"Haha! Don't tell me you just got tired of yourself as well?"
"And what? You're going to avoid yourself now?"
"Oh, that's a bit hard to do, what with me being stuck with me. There seems only one way to do it..."
"Hey, what're you doing? Why are you putting that pistol to your head? This is insane!"
"Not half as insane as some of the things I usually do."
"Wait, this is interesting. Just before you off yourself, maybe you can tell me some more of the psychological make-up which ahs driven you to this."
"There is not much to say, but I will do so anyway. I was trying to make my own life interesting by renewing my own personality, sort of giving myself a psychological makeover. But in order to make it as straightforward and understandable to as many people as possible, I decided to create a mathematical model of life. Misery and happiness seem to be the only psychological constants. Our main aim is to be happy. Our main fear is pain, which is a derivative of misery. So we gravitate towards paths that we believe will provide us happiness. But there seems to be some neglect of the causality in life here. Life is
much like a bank. Happiness saved, and by that same token misery experienced, is credit. Happiness spent, by which can also be meant misery avoided, is debit. Our balance is in the shape of our dreams. And therefore there must be misery in life for us to have credit."
"Life is not Math!"
"No? Whatever happened to justice, fairness, tit-for-tat, rewards, punishments..."
"God did not ask us to experience pain on purpose!"
"Oh? How do you know? God told you? Besides, even if what you say is true, what of it? Misery and suffering intensify human feeling, giving leeway to deep thought, in whose dark wombs are conceived the foundations of great works."
The Blood Economy © 2003 Don
Tokyo Spirit! © 2003 (Photos and clips) Shannon Low
Untitled © 2003 Wong Zijia
Between Fixity and Flux © 2003 Nicholas Liu
The Composition of Distance © 2003 Vivian St.George
Untitled © 2003 Subra Velu