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Archive for the month “October, 2012”

Candy House

Weee!! Halloween is my favourite holiday. Scares for all! What would be more fitting tonight than a scary little story from yours truly? I do so hope you enjoy. Come on, step inside the candy house.

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It’s Halloween, my favourite holiday, the only night it’s acceptable to take candy from strangers.

Perhaps I’m getting too old for trick-or-treating but my friend Mark and I go every year, it’s like a tradition. Plus I’ve already got my costume – sexy Red Riding Hood. Mark’s going as a vampire. So original. It’s dark out, only a sliver of moon in the sky. There’s a slight fog heading in. Perfect Halloween weather. We set off on our usual path; we’ve done this enough to know which houses give the goods and which aren’t worth the time.

After maybe three quarters of an hour we stop to check our progress. It’s a good haul this year, maybe one of the best. Of course, we’ll need to sample some first before we can make a final verdict. Mark and I drop down on the grass and have a quick rifle through, peeling off the wrappers from a few choice selections. I think we’ve earned a little reward for all our hard work. I’m taking my first bite when I hear a high-pitched giggle from somewhere behind me. My head whips around as I scan the edge of the woods behind me. It’s too dark to see anything. Probably just some dumb kids. Except now there’s murmuring. And it sounds closer. There’s definitely more than one person. I motion to Mark. He’s heard it too. I bet it’s someone’s lame idea of a prank. That’s the point of Halloween, right? To scare people. Not that I’m scared.

“Come on,” I tell Mark, “Let’s show them how immature they’re being”. I walk to the edge of the woods and peer in once more. How far in are they?  I look back to where Mark’s hovering at our candy bags. Some help he is. I take a few tentative steps in amongst the trees. Not too far. I mean, I don’t want to get lost. They’re whispering again but the trees distort the sound and I can’t work out where it’s coming from. There’s a rustling to my left. I turn around but there’s no one there. Now it’s coming from my right. It seems to be coming from all around me. How is that possible? How many people are out here? Fine. Whatever. I don’t care anymore. I turn around to go and that’s when someone grabs my arm. I scream and spin around to see who it is. And I scream again. Because staring at me are two big grinning Jack O’Lanterns, looming over me and laughing. OK, they’re not laughing. The kids wearing them are laughing. Mark races to my side. Finally.

“What’s going on?” he ask, as the two kids pull the pumpkins off their heads.

“Trick or treat!” they both squeal. “Got you good!”

Oh great. It’s Jenna and Jonah. They’re these two kids – brother and sister – in my class that moved here like a month ago. Now the whole school’s going to hear about this. Or maybe not. Jenna and Jonah are totally weird and keep to themselves.

“So funny,” I retort, “Not!” Yeah, that sucked but let’s see you think of a comeback when you’ve just been scared stupid.

Jenna and Jonah are both giggling like a pair of lunatics as they skip over to where we left our candy.

“Trick or treat. Trick or treat,” they chant together, “so many lovely things to eat!”

“Eat your own,” I say, “this is ours.”

And that’s when I notice. Their bags are totally empty.

“I hope your stupid joke was worth it,” I say, “because you’ve basically missed out on any candy now. People stop handing it out soon.”

“Doesn’t matter”, Jenna says.

“We’ve got a secret,” Jonah chimes in, “Want to hear it?”

“No”, Mark and I both reply. Although I kind of do.

“We only need one house,” Jenna mocks, “And we’ll get more candy than both of you”.

Yeah, for sure.

“Prove it”, I say. “Go trick-or-treat at one house and show us how good you are.”

They turn and grin wildly at one another. “Deal”, they say together.

I start to step onto the street to cross over to the house opposite but Jenna calls out to me.

“No! It’s got to be the right house. The candy house.”

What are they even talking about? I told you they were weird.

“The secret house. The candy house. It always gives out unlimited candy”, Jonah adds.

Why have I never head of this? Unlimited candy? Mark and I have been wasting our time. Not that I believe anything these two dorks are saying.

“Fine,” I sigh. “Where is this stupid house?”

“Through the woods”, they reply.

Are you kidding me? Like I want to go tramping through the woods with these two losers on Halloween.

“Let’s leave these kids”, I say to Mark as I pick up my bag.

But Mark isn’t listening. “How far is it?” he asks.

Jenna and Jonah share another smile.

“Not far.”

Mark turns to me. I can’t believe it. He actually wants to go.

“If you’re lying…” I say to the two of them.

“Never lie to a very best friend”, Jenna chants.

Great. Now they think we’re friends.

They set off, skipping madly through the woods.

“Candy house. Candy house. What will you get at the candy house?”

Seriously, are these two brain-damaged?

Mark and I are struggling to keep up. They’re practically running and we’ve got to carry our half-full bags of candy.

“Slow down for a minute,” I say, “some of us have an extra load”.

Jenna stops suddenly and grabs my bag out of my hands before I can react. The next second she’s dumped it all out on the ground.

“What the hell?” I cry out hotly.

“You don’t need it. You’ll forget about it once we’re at the candy house.”

Jonah scoops a few pieces off the ground and throws them at me.

“Trick or treat! Trick or treat! So many lovely things to eat!”

They both set off again and I reluctantly follow. If I don’t get at least double the candy I had, Jenna can come back and pick up every last piece for me.

It feels like we’ve been walking for ages and I’m about to complain when Jenna and Jonah stop.

“The candy house”, they say in hushed tones.

I can’t believe it. I thought we were just cutting through the woods but there’s actually a house all alone out here. It looks ancient, like a haunted house. What’s a house doing out in the woods anyway? Jenna grabs my hand.

“Come on.”

You know what? I don’t want to get any closer. Something creeps me out about the house.

“No way anyone lives here. Let’s go back”, I say.

“No!” Jenna shouts. She sounds angry. “The candy house.”

She starts pulling me towards it. Jonah does the same with Mark.

I decide to obey. The sooner they realise no one lives here, the sooner we can leave. The four of us crowd around the front door.

“Ring it”, Jonah tells me.

What? This was their idea, not mine. I can tell Mark’s having second thoughts. There’s no way I can let him know how scared I am. Slowly, I extend a finger and press down on the doorbell. I can’t hear anything. It probably doesn’t even work.

“No one’s home,” I say, “let’s go”.

“Knock”, Jenna orders.

I knock on the door. It swings open against my touch. Inside it’s dark. I can barely see a thing. It’s pretty obvious this house is abandoned. And then Jenna just walks straight in.

“What are you doing?” I hiss.

“Candy time”, she replies.

OK, she’s clearly mental. Where does she expect to get candy from in here?

“Come in,” Jenna beckons, “come inside the candy house”.

I hesitate. Jonah shoves me roughly from behind.

“Candy time”, he says.

They shepherd Mark and me inside the house and we stand awkwardly in the entrance.

“OK, great. We came, we saw, it was a complete waste of time,” I say, “Let’s go”.

That’s when Jonah closes the door. He looks to his sister and they both grin. Oh God, their teeth are glowing in the dark. Why are they so sharp?

“Candy time”, they say.

Jenna grabs my arm with a vice-like grip. Jonah pins Mark’s behind him. They both start chanting once more:

“Trick or treat! Trick or treat! So many lovely things to eat!”

All Your Memes are Belong to Us

I was going to talk about memes but then I took an arrow to the knee. Ahahahaaahaahaaaa!

But seriously, what is with memes? I just don’t get them. What is their merit? Why are people laughing at them?

I suppose I better stop at this point and maybe define what a meme is for anyone who doesn’t know. Essentially, they are ideas that are spread across the internet. They don’t necessarily have to be ‘jokes’ but these particular memes are what I am focusing on.

Memes can only exist on the internet. Because once they are transplanted into the real world you realise what a ludicrous premise they are. Memes aren’t even jokes, really. Jokes stand on their own and are funny in their own right. Memes need context and an understanding of the origin of the meme. Take ‘Nope, Chuck Testa’ for example. If someone says, ‘Nope, Chuck Testa’ that’s not funny if you don’t know who Chuck Testa is and why he’s saying ‘Nope, Chuck Testa’. Saying something that someone else said isn’t funny. That’s not how humour works. Saying something funny that someone else said might be funny. But not when a person is hearing it for the 1000th time. And that’s what a meme is. It’s just a mass of people repeating the same thing verbatim

Memes are the bane of creativity. Instead of original thought they breed stock responses. Imagine if a comedian got up on stage and proceeded to just repeat the jokes of the previous comedian. Imagine if every comedian after that continued to just repeat the same jokes. That’s essentially what memes are. Perhaps a meme starts off as funny but just like anything else repetition quickly kills its value. They quickly lose all humour, as it becomes about being recognisable rather than funny. It’s basically an internet-wide ‘in’ joke. When you have an ‘in’ joke with friends, those not in on the joke don’t find it funny because they have no idea what you’re talking about. They have no point of reference. To me, memes seem to be ‘in’ jokes but mostly without the jokes. The point seems to be to just reference the meme so everyone can know that you ‘get it’. That you’re in on it. You understand the internet.

Just to clarify, I find some memes humourous. But only the memes that allow variation. Writing ‘First’, ‘Nope. Chuck Testa’ or ‘C-c-c combo breaker’ isn’t funny because they’re the same phrase pigeon-holed into wherever they may vaguely be able to fit. Adapting a meme’s concept to create an original joke can be funny. So, something like the advice dog memes are fine because you take the original idea of the meme and create something new around it. Yay, somewhat originality!!

Oh memes, y u no try harder!

Internet Apocalypse

Some of my regular readers (one can hope!) may have noticed my bloggy absence lately, and would no doubt be gutted at the recently pathetic output of my techno tidbits. Fortunately, I am not dead. But my internet had been for the last week or so. And the burning question I had been asking myself as I stumbled through the no-web wasteland of real life is ‘Can we live without the internet?’

Obviously we can, in the sense that a broadband connection is not a biological necessity, but does our life have any worth if we live it unplugged? Ok, so I’m being sarcastic. We don’t need the internet. We managed perfectly fine without it for several thousand years. But in our modern technophile lifestyle the internet undoubtedly plays a very large part. It seems there are more Facebook accounts than there are people in the world (and with people making Facebook profiles for their unborn foetus babies, that may very well be true). Anything you can do in real life, you can do online quicker. I wouldn’t call myself an internet addict but I would use it nearly every day.

Surprisingly, I carried on with life rather easily during my time offline. It suddenly didn’t matter that I had no way of knowing what everyone was eating for lunch or which pseudo celebrity was trending.

I hadn’t even seen Gangnam Style until my friend forced me to watch it last weekend. (It was mildly amusing but I feel no need to ever watch it again or force ‘Oppa Gangnam style!’ into casual conversation.)

My regular internet activity just seemed so mundane and pointless when viewed in the cold light of real-life-not-Tumblr-Instagram-or-Reddit day. (Clarification: I visit none of these sites. I’m not even sure how to Tumble). So why as a society are so obsessed with the internet? Are our lives that depressing that we resort to acting out a better one online? I mean, does anyone really need to see another cat picture?

OMG! Memes! I could write a whole post on memes (and I probably will now that I’ve thought of it). I just don’t get the point of them. If you were to repeat a phrase ad nauseum in real life, everyone you knew would desert you. You would probably be confined to a mental institution. Seriously, what’s up with memes?

Oh well. Better go tweet this.

Literary vs. Popular Fiction

Generally, fiction can be split into two categories: literary or popular. Literary works are those that are critically acclaimed for their ‘literary merit’ and focus more on the inner story of the characters than the plot, whilst popular fiction is more mainstream and less ‘serious’. Someone, somewhere, at some time, decided that literary works were the only ones of any merit. Literary critics rave about how fantastic literary writers are, and it seems the more obscure and esoteric the writer, the better their work is regarded. Popular writers, these critics bemoan, are not of the same calibre. They are derided as hack who might be able to spin a good yarn but whose writing appeals only to the basest of intellectuals. I find this totally unfair.

Popular writers should not have to apologise for what they do. The fact that they are ‘popular’ and widely read does not necessitate low-quality writing. Surely, if they are so popular they must be doing something right? I would argue that story trumps writing. Writing is still important. Awful, uninspiring and clichéd writing is dreadful to read, but a book could have the most spritely, intelligent, sophisticated prose on earth and still tell the most dreary story that no one can be bothered to read.

In fact, I would say good writing is writing that you don’t even notice. If you are constantly stopping during a book to marvel at a turn of phrase then you are being drawn out of the world that the author has created. If you look at popular books such as the Harry Potter series, Hunger Games or 50 Shades trilogies, this writing isn’t fantastic but it isn’t bad (50 Shades might be debatable but I haven’t read it). What is so popular here is the story they tell, the characters we want to know, the places we want to visit. And an author that can manage to create all that is pretty good in my books.

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