Thanks, The Last Fat Lady Sang, I’ll Be Wearing Robes Tomorrow, and Other Tales

First of all, let me thank everyone from yesterday and today who “liked” and liked my articles on horror. It was the most “Likes” I’d ever gotten on here–in one day and ever–and I more than appreciate it and the new readers that I have Following me. I just love writing about subject matters as though I am some kind of expert, though I tend to expand on just a few thoughts I have rolling around in my head and fill in the blanks with Internet and whatever books or other people I have access to. I also notice that there are some topics and themes that can really strike at the heart of the matter when you write about them or when they are even seen: some human universals if you’d like and I woud definitely like to write about more of them. But let me thank you all again: you are all awesome and I hope to make many more things here that will be worthy of further entertainment.

Well, I didn’t make it to the Finalists on ENO’s Mini-Opera Contest, however they are all pretty bad ass from what little I’ve skimmed through. I’m not surprised I didn’t make it–what with it being my first attempt and being done more or less at the last minute–however, it left me with quite a few ideas that I want to work on in other ways, shapes, and forms. And I also get to say that I dabbled briefly with librettos at one time too. For those of you just tuning in now, you can find my works through my “mini-operas” tag because linking to them apparently makes WordPress believe that I am actually commenting on the post directly and that just plain feels weird.

But speaking of standing ovations and conclusions, I’m going to be Graduating tomorrow. It is my Convocation Ceremony at York University at the Rexall Centre at 10:30 in the morning (I do wish my section had been given the afternoon time-slot and was closer to campus–I’m not used to as early mornings these days though I am working on it). Of course, I will have to be there much earler to wear a bunch of rental robes and then help my guests get their seats and all the fun that entails because I was only able to get three tickets in advance: again making something that should have been simple into rocket-science. So I want to get some writing of various kinds today while my time is still my own. I am kind of nervous, but it is one day and I will get through it. And I get to wear robes and a strange hat legitimately too.

What else can I tell you? I am very proud of finally getting my Master’s. But I also very proud of the Master’s Thesis that got to this point: a paper that used Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Herodotus, and their works as its basis. I finished off my first year of Undergrad reading American Gods for the first time and there is some symmetry in ending my Graduate Program with a paper on a good portion of my favourite author’s work as well. There is something really satisfying in that that I can’t explain except to say it is. I think of all the books and articles I used as old friends or collaborators. We all came together, sometimes procrastinating, sometimes arguing, and constantly moving around to make this paper. We’ve been together for a long time, some of us, but we really worked together for two and half years: perhaps even longer. Now some of them are back in the libraries, others still roaming on the Internet and quite a few more back on their respective shelves having said goodbye to one another. We don’t know when we will meet again, but I know that even if I don’t always hold them in my hands, they will always be with me: them and the work that I did.

It’s been a long ride and I am glad I got to tell a little of the story.

Mini-Opera Aftermath

So, after the events of the Impromptu Mini-Opera Escapade I undertook with only three days to spare, I came up with two small supposedly five to seven minute operas. Like I said before, this is something I’d never done before until this point and, quite frankly, I didn’t really know what to expect. This was one of the great challenges of doing something like this: basically showing the judges my writing skill through a form which I was almost completely unfamiliar.

I came up with one concept and then after sleeping on it, I came up with another that ended up superseding it. So because I really want to talk about my recent works, here is something of an outline about what I did in writing them and what I learned.

Words on a Screen: A 16-Bit Opera on an 8-Bit Track was the unexpected piece of the two that I made. It was derived from the seed-story On Paper by A.L. Kennedy: a story about two lovers that maintain a long-distance relationship by letters across the world. It was a very interesting story that talked about how people can touch each other perhaps more intimately through correspondence and words than even face-to-face, but I didn’t really know what–if anything–I could do with it. I was more interested in doing something with Neil Gaiman’s “The Sweeper of Dreams.”

Then I read an example opera taken from this seed-story entitled Facing the Truth by Tamsin Collison: the English National Opera’s librettist. She took what was in Kennedy’s short story and expanded on it into an interaction between two Soloists texting each other and debating whether or not it would be a wise idea to meet in the flesh. The irony is that as they interact and contemplate their decision, they are already in the same coffee house but are completely physically unaware of each other. It really struck me just how much that reflects the human condition: how we are an inherently social species yet at same time we are separated by space and our own heads.

“Words on a Screen” was something of a response to both Collison and Kennedy. I thought about a scenario where two geeks meet on the Internet, fall in love, correspond through different media and then actually plan to meet and follow through with it. I also wanted it to deal with the themes of human communality verses isolation, and distance and connection as well. Some of the verses just seemed to flow into place, but for the most part the entire opera–such as it is–struggled with me and it took a day indoors, and a food and Calvin and Hobbes break to finish what I started. The aesthetic of the thing–resembling an online chat room transcript–was inspired once I finished typing the thing on this site. For all it was an unintended piece, I was very pleased with it and saw a lot of ways it could be used to challenge what the operatic form can actually be.

Then there was my intended piece that turned into something else: The Sweeper: A Teardown Epilogue. Like I said before, the story-seed for this miniature opera was Neil Gaiman’s The Sweeper of Dreams: a story about a being that cleans up the detritus of dreams once dreamers awaken or are finished with them. I have read this story before in Neil’s Smoke and Mirrors collection, and then on the Mini-Opera site and got to listen to Neil read it on there as well: which is always a pleasure. Tamsin Collison’s own libretto of the story, What Dreams May Come, was also really intriguing in that it was specifically from the point of view of the dreams themselves.

Reading the seed-story and Collison’s creative example made me really think about my very intricate idea. Unfortunately, I didn’t spend as much time on it as I wanted to and my original idea would have been much longer than the five to seven minute duration we were given. I also realized that I needed more research on certain details and I wasn’t as qualified in my own mind to use my idea in the way I wanted to as I thought at the time. I will pursue this outside of this context, but let me just keep on track here. Although Neil’s story dealt with the Sweeper on a purely distant third-person level and Collison created her libretto from the first-person collective perspective of the dreams, I started to ask myself a question: how does the Sweeper of Dreams feel cleaning up the dreams and nightmares of others? Isn’t it a lot of work to keep being on teardown duty? Doesn’t it get tiresome after a while? Would he get tired of the long hours between sleep and daydreaming and absolutely get fed up by harassment and abuse? And does the Sweeper of Dreams dream?

In the end, the libretto that I wrote ended up dealing with exactly these kinds of questions. I looked at a possibility as to what it would be like to be the Sweeper of Dreams. In retrospect, I am not sure how well this piece turned out. There are some elements from my first idea that I couldn’t resist adding in there as an example of what happens to those who refuse to have their dreams cleaned away, but I don’t know how well that meshes and flows in there. Also, I think the piece ended up being more like a Musical than opera material.

But hey, they were both ad hoc experiments: done on the fly and with only the examples I looked at. I got to make some new things and experiment with a new form. In addition, although I am not a musical expert or creator, I could almost “hear” something in the almost poetic verse rhythms that I ingrained into both pieces to some extent. This Challenge really made me think and I am grateful for that. It was totally worth doing and definitely worth being the first creative works to end up on my Blog.

May there be many more.

ETA: I just found out that the Script Entries have seemingly been all posted up on the Mini-Opera site here. Unfortunately, it seems as though “Words on a Screen” didn’t make it, but The Sweeper: A Teardown Epilogue did. It also seems a few few other people are making their librettos from the Sweeper’s perspective as well. It’s a pity about “Words on a Screen.” I really liked that one, but I will say that my “Teardown Epilogue” has its moments as well. I don’t know how I will do–the judges have to choose ten entries out of all the ones that are posted there–but you know I’m just glad that I will get some reading.

ETA: ENO added my Words on a Screen script after all. Hurray! 😀

As they might say in the opera business, may the best fat lady sing. 😉

Mini-Opera: The Sweeper: A Teardown Epilogue

Notes: Basically I visualize a grey stage with a grey man–the Soloist– and a broom. He is sweeping away a pile of bodies: some monstrous, some beautiful, or alien. I can also see him sweeping up flowers, gemstones, coins, bones, computers and various other strange things.

It’s a thankless job

though I couldn’t give less a damn about being thanked.

Some call me the Sweeper:

like it’s something special

like I do something sacred.

But I’ll tell you, now, since you are here

that every good foundation is judged by its plumbing.

Cleaning the bodies of monsters and fairies,

lost memories clogging the arteries of the brain:

the backlog of  secrets crammed up to make someone

topple over.

A dreamer is a hazard

an accident waiting to happen

if you don’t clean them out.

It’s easy to get caught up in their garbage

in their filth

and no matter much you do

how many fairy-tales you wash away

or props you take apart,

they always leave you stained:

in some way.

That’s why I can’t stand them.

I’m a glorified janitor of the unconscious

and people pay me no mind

which lets me see all of their

mysteries and secrets

all day and every night.

Yes, that’s right.

Unicorns are a hazard

try surprising one sometime.

Zombies are a mess

to get out of the cracks in the mind.

Vampires wear out their welcomes fast

and gods really don’t know when to die.

I won’t even go into the sex dreams,

but I’ve seen worse.

Whether dream or nightmare, neither smells like roses when the dreamers are done,

when they throw them away.

It’s the lucids that make it annoying:

always getting in your way,

trying to change the scenes you’re already cleaning

and they think they’ve got so much to say.

I don’t care if they can fly or how many wishes they’d like.

But the strangest thing I’d ever seen:

was from a man with a Kaiser mustache

who dreamed of a World-Tree and a ladder:

of flying women in armor and wings,

of blond-haired, blue-eyed heroes with swords and rings

all wearing Swastikas and killing dwarves with yellow stars

on faded coats.

Add the women drinking and ripping men apart

and a dark spirit chasing the white-robed Kaiser-man and you see what I mean.

You see?

He called himself Zarathustra: though I know that wasn’t his name.

He claimed he separated good and evil and then united them again.

I bet he regretted what he called when they all came.

What a mess.

He even asked me to clean it all up for him,

that it wasn’t what he dreamed for

I could have just said nothing, but instead reminded him that he didn’t want my help

that, “God is dead.”

Then I left up the ladder.

because I don’t get paid nearly enough to kill overgrown weeds, Nazi gods

and drunken cannibals.

In fact, I don’t get paid at all.

I don’t even remember how I got this tattoo–

this dragon-tattoo like from some book in a drugstore–

though I hope it was from something fun.

The truth is

I do not remember much

except for one thing.

Because I know

that for all the sweeping I do here

all the time I spend in your daydreams

and your sleep,

I never dream.


And I … never will.

Mini-Opera Contest: Words on a Screen: A 16-Bit Opera on an 8-Bit Track

Notes: The aesthetic of this script as looking like an online chat forum is more than intentional. I visualize two Soloists. This can be an animated 16-bit cartoon with pixelated sprites or even an interactive basic video game. I can see a male and a female character sitting in front of their computers: with their heads to us, but we can see their faces as icons on each other’s screens. For example, the boy’s face would be on her screen and her face would be on his.

I can also see them playing a video game RPG with basic pixel characters: especially when they talk about “epics of epicness.” I also see their dialogue appearing in blue boxes over their heads when they sing.

In addition, I can hear the music as being synthetic and electronic like the soundtracks one would find in old Nintendo video games or old-style arcade games.

These are obviously just suggestions though and live-performers and stagecraft can be used as well.

<<Him>> They say this isn’t real.

<<Her>> They tell me not

to waste my time.

<<Them>> She/he’s not flesh or bone enough

to hold me.

<<Him>> A keyboard is not the texture

of her skin.

<<Her>>  My headphones aren’t his lips at my ear.

<<Him>> But I can look at her text and feel her grin.

<<Her>> I can hear his voice

both deep and


<<Them>> These are the games we play

when the medium is the message

of connection.

<<Him>> Words on a screen.

<<Her>> Touch on a phone.

<<Him>> Our love can be seen.

<<Her>> But we are forever alone.

<<Him>> But are we?

<<Her>> Are we really?

<<Him>> We live trapped in our

blood and bone.

<<Her>> We put on our social

masks, our created


<<Him>> You can walk among people

all alone.

<<Her>> We live personal space

where only silence falls.

<<Them>> Background chatter

white noise

to lose yourself in

a distance of static.

<<Him>> So I played the game of life

where you can’t beat your bosses

<<Her>> because you work for them.

<<Him>> Where you can’t find coins

from floating boxes or the bushes

<<Her>>  The money runs out.

<<Him>> And your princess is never in another castle.

<<Her>> There are no extra lives

and few second chances.

<<Him>> Each day lags.

<<Her>> Each day an epic battle of


<<Them>> Until we played the games we play

where the medium is the message

of connection.

<<Him>> Words on a screen

<<Her>> Touch on a phone

<<Him>> Our love can be seen

<<Her>> But we are forever


<<Him>> But are we?

<<Her>> Are we really?

<<Him>> I used to hate two-player games.

<<Her>> I’d not be some fanboy’s

“girl-gamer” trophy.

<<Him>> Devolving into

player vs. player

<<Her>> Disgusting words and


<<Him>> But just when the Flame Wars

seemed to never end

<< Her>> I’d just about given up …

<<Him>> We met on a Fan Site

<< Her>> Looking for an 8-Bit

Convention Flight.

<<Him>> And on the Internet

<< Her>>  something

<<Him>> was

<<Her>> finally

<<Them>> Right.

<<Him>> We planned to share a room

with friends as our cash

was tight.

<<Her>>  We talked on the forum

about our 8-Bit tracks

<<Him>> exchanged e-mails

<<Her>> chatting deep into the


<<Him>> We got to talk

about martial arts.

<<Her>> I got to pick his brain.

<<Him>> I told her in the Matrix

I’d side with the Machines.

<<Her>> I told him about my art

in different fanzines.

<<Him>> Until the glass of the screen became

a permeable thing

<<Her>> As we Skyped

our voices rang with


<<Him>> Until

<<Her>> After exchanging pictures

<<Him>> wireless electricity crackled

<<Her>> just as Tesla had intended

<<Them>>  And we

exhaled …

pixelations ….

For we played the games we play

where the medium is the message

of connection.

<<Him>> Offline they still say this

isn’t real.

<<Her>> That passion and pain

are just words on a


<<Him>> Sound and fury flying across

digital space,

signifying nothing.

<<Them>> On our 8-Bit Convention Day

we plan to meet

<<Him>> Face-to-face

<<Her>> Flesh-to-flesh

<<Him>> Text-to-text

<<Her>> and brain-to-brain

<<Them>> Even if they think we’re insane.

<<Her>> Perhaps it could be a


<< Them>> For words on a screen

connect pure and clean

and Offline can be messy.

<<Him>> I think

<<Her>> Yet I believe

<<Them>> Yet we know

in this 8-Bit Theatre

this 16-Bit Opera

our epics of epicness

will unite past blood,

bone, sex and continents

to make the greatest

multi-player role-playing

game of all!

For words on a screen

and touch on a phone

make love visible

and we are not alone.

Our medium is our message.

We are our medium,

and we are … real.

A Challenge

I’ve been very busy lately with a few things. This is going to be a short post. A day or so ago, Neil Gaiman’s Facebook profile informed me of a Contest he contributed a story to called Mini Operas. Essentially, the object of this competition is to create a script for a 5-7 minute opera using a “seed-story” contributed by one of three writers as inspiration. Neil himself sent in his “The Sweeper of Dreams” short story.

The challenge for me here is three-fold. First of all, I have never written an opera script before. I have barely even seen sample scripts of this kind. I am operating with a basic structure in mind: a story summary or idea outline followed by dialogue or script placed in creative or poetic stanza arrangements. I also know it will probably have a soloist and a chorus. The second difficulty is the idea for this impromptu mini-opera. I do have at least one idea, but it will take time to do it: assuming it is not still evolving. Then there is the final aspect of this challenge: I have approximately five days to develop an idea, evolve it, write it and send it in.

You might ask yourself why it is I’m doing this. What do I hope to gain from it. The answer to this question is weird. One reason is that Neil is involved in this Contest and he is one of my writing influences and inspirations. But another reason is very simply this: I want to see if I can in fact do this.

The Contest link is:

We will see what happens.

ETA: Sorry, I just have three days to make something. My bad.