DATA POINTS IN THE LAROQUOD EXPERIMENT 

20110518

Swap Thing #2: Inception of The Social Network of Iron Men and Tron in 3D


I appear to have recently visited a dystopian copyright universe. (Again.) It's only slightly more dystopian than your universe, perhaps — or perhaps it is your universe. (So hard to keep track these days.) The important thing is the cultural exchange that I have been able to establish with its inhabitants.

We discussed: the parable of patent theft that is Iron Man 2; the disjointedness of Tron 3D; and whether Leonardo DiCaprio succeeded in acting his way out of Inception. Oh, and something loosely recognisable as The Social Network. (Translation: It's different, but not really… you had to be there. Luckily, we recorded everything for alterity.)

Included is a recap of what has gone before, but you can watch my previous incursion into the Swap Universe on YouTube in full detail.

CC0
I waive all copyright and related or neighbouring rights to this video and hereby release it into the Public Domain.

20110217

A shadowy figure reads Boing Boing


   A hollow voice says, "Fuck!"

   A shadowy figure says, "Woah, what was that?"

   The voice says, "Nothing."

   The figure says, "Didn't look like nothing. Looked like the grid shifted; then you said 'fuck'; and then… the grid got corrected. As if you corrected it!"
   The voice says, "Alright! Yes. I corrected it. I've been projecting all these 'painted grids'."
   The figure says, "Really?"
   The voice says, "Yes."
   The figure says, "I don't understand. You said you were like me."
   The voice says, "I am."
   The figure says, "But if you knew how to manipulate this stuff then why wouldn't you tell me?"
   The voice says, "It's… complicated."
   The figure says, "Complicated? I can't even see you. I may be going insane."
   The voice says, "Dude. Listen. I didn't want to have to break it this way but, the endgame of going all shadowy is being actually invisible."
   The figure says, "Oh, so now I should just believe I'm about to disappear?"

   The voice says nothing for a while.

   The figure says, "How long have I got?"
   The voice says, "I don't know that any more than you do."
   The figure says, "But you have been here longer."

   Another silence. Then finally, the voice: "Far longer."

   The figure says, "So you figured you'd just screw with the scenery to freak out the new guy? And anyway how did you—"
   The voice says, "It's not important. You couldn't do it yet, even if you tried."
   The figure says, "Why would I? The fuck's it for?"
   The voice says, "Yes! What the fuck is it for! Exactly. That's all I wanted, was to see if you could tell. I've looked at them for ages. In miniature, you understand. And then for twice as long again I've been screening them in the large, across this Pit. And more keep coming."
   The figure says, "I don't get it. If you wanted my opinion, why didn't you just ask?"
   The voice says, "I did, I just didn't add anything to colour your impressions. I've been… locked into a certain set of interpretations fed by years of analysis. I needed a 100% fresh perspective. And then you came along."
   The figure says, "Years? Is that how long you've been running me like a lab rat?"
   The voice says, "No. Look — I'm sorry dude, it was just impossible to miss maybe the only opportunity I'd get to run this little… well yeah, it's an experiment. The purpose of which is to test whether an experience truly alien in origin might reveal the final path."
   The figure says, "What final path?"
   The voice says, "The way out, Einstein."
   The figure says, "Einstein?"
   The voice says, "No. Never mind. It's just a figure of speech."

   The figure lights half a spike of dwarven foxglove with a book of matches.

   The figure says, "What makes you think there even is a way out?"
   The voice says, "It's in the grids. Just look at the clues. That book, for example."
   The figure says, "What about the book?"
   The voice says, "You tell me."
   The figure says, "You can't possibly expect me to—"
   The voice says, "What do you see?"

   Briefly, the figure glances over the grid once more.

   The figure says, "It's a record of a work of art. The coloured threads link similar words. Which is a little off."
   The voice says, "Off, how?"
   The figure says, "As in, fascinated with explicit structure but less concerned with any implicit structures."
   The voice says, "Such as?"
   The figure says, "The narrative ties between otherwise dissimilar words. I'd pull a whole different set of threads from this book."
   The voice says, "So I've seen. And you seemed to fathom it instantly. Almost natively."

   The figure shrugs.

   The voice says, "Don't you see, it means we — you and I — didn't come from the same place. It's best I don't contaminate your perspective with all of my history. You're more likely to follow a thread out of here independently, at this point, if you let me help you to see what needs to be seen, first, before…"
   The figure says, "What."
   The voice says, "Before you fade too far from what you were."

   The figure squares up his hands as if to frame a picture.

   The figure says, "So. Even though you lied, and you're a lying liar — I'm supposed to continue to believe this is all about helping me."

   The voice says, "It's about saving both of us."

   The figure takes a drag off the burning spike of dwarven foxglove and disposes of the butt.

   The figure says, "What else ya got."
   The voice says, "Not sure I—"
   The figure says, "Show me."
   The voice says, "Okay! But…"
   The figure says, "What?!"
   The voice says, "You still have to do your little wave."

   The shadowy figure waves.

   The streaks of white light slow and finally fade away, leaving the pit dark and mundane.

   The figure says, "Should I…"
   The voice says, "Not yet."

   For a long moment they are silent together in the dark.

   The voice says, "OK now."

   The figure waves.

   The figure's hand glows with brilliant light, a white wisp soon sucked away into the pit, its path expanding unconfined into a rapid gyre. An image blurs into existence along the pit wall…


   The figure says, "Fine. Seen it. Next."

   The voice says, "Just a minute. You don't find this one… peculiar?"
   The figure says, "Sure, a bit. Like — why all the focus on the accompanist?"

   The voice chuckles.

   The figure says, "Problem?"
   The voice says, "Actually, this is not the original accompaniment. I have another here with the real music. If you would be so kind…"

   The figure waves.

   The streaks of white light slow and finally fade away, leaving the pit dark and mundane.

   After another long delay, the voice says, "Go for it."

   The figure waves.

   The figure's hand glows with brilliant light, a white wisp soon sucked away into the pit, its path expanding unconfined into a rapid gyre. An image blurs into existence along the pit wall…


   The figure says, "Same historical event as the last, just captured from a different perspective. Although… the feats of leaping do look more impressive in close-up, actually."

   The voice says, "Feats of leaping?"

   The figure nods.

   The figure says, "Mario was indeed Super."
   The voice says, "You don't find anything else unusual about this one?"
   The figure says, "If anything it's more intelligible. You can actually see the way Mario's enemies restricted his superiority to two dimensions."
   The voice says, "Actually the previous clip had the original visuals, with substituted sound. This one is vice versa."
   The figure says, "At least it explains the situation."
   The voice says, "The mix of media in these frames doesn't seem odd to you at all?"
   The figure says, "What mix of media?"
   The voice says, "Huh. You know what?"

   And here the voice pauses, for what could be an evil grin.

   The voice says, "Never mind."
   The figure says, "No! You don't get to do that."
   The voice says, "I'll be back. With more."
   The figure says. "Fine. You do what you do, and I'll do what I do."
   The voice says, "Really? And what is that, exactly?"

   The figure waves.

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I waive all copyright and related or neighbouring rights to the text of this post and hereby release it into the Public Domain.

20101128

2nd haunting of a shadowy figure

[ A hacker, haunted by spirit scenes from another world, claims to have found a way to leak his visions into that world's 'internet', which is actually this world's internet — he explained all this to me in our little chat. He asks only that we release his logs freely into our 'Public Domain'. And that we send more photos. ]


The left-to-right colour pattern falters, a darkness rippling under it from end to end.

   A shadowy figure says, "Ready?"
   A hollow voice says, "By all means."

   The figure switches on a brass lantern.

   Window on Pit
   At a low window overlooking a huge pit. A floor is indistinctly visible below. Traces of white mist cover the floor of the pit, becoming thicker to the right. Directly across the pit there is a similar window looking into a lighted room. A shadowy figure can be seen there, peering back.

   A wisp of white light streaks rapidly up and down and around the circumference of the pit wall. Its fading trails cohere into a kind of wrap-around panorama.

   The figure ignites half a spike of dwarven foxglove with a book of matches.

   Again the light flickers, weakens, overpowered now by a sombre glow from below, where the mists of the pit's interior have swollen almost to the window's ledge.

   The figure takes a drag off the burning spike of dwarven foxglove and disposes of the butt.

   The mists bifurcate and swirl into a pair of ghostly figures...


   Ghost One bears occult marks, on her nose and on her chin.
   Ghost Two sports similar marks over his nose and forehead.

   Ghost One seems a little creeped out by Ghost Two.

   One says, "Why the fuck are you wearing that?"
   Two says, "Why the fuck'm I wearin what?"
   One says, "Tape. You've got tape on your head."
   Two says, "Yer one to talk. Look atcha!"
   One says, "No. My tape is on my chin. Your tape is on your head."
   Two says, "So?"
   One says, "So, last time I looked, a chin isn't a forehead. If you're trying to make me... I dunno WHAT you're trying to—"
   Two says, "I'm not tryin—"
   One says, "WhatEVER you're after—"
   Two says, "I'm not after nothin. It's just..."
   One says, "Just what? WHAT!"

   Two has to stoke his courage for a moment, to carry on.

   Two says, "Why d'you wear tape on your head?"
   One says, "I told you. It's on my chin."
   Two says, "On your chin then why d'you wear it on your chin?"
   One says, "Maybe I cut myself."
   Two says, "Yeah? Well, maybe I did, too. Maybe I cut myself shaving! How bout you?"
   One says, "You shave your nose?"
   Two says, "Uh... no."
   One says, "That's crazy talk... Who shaves their nose?"
   Two says, "I... din't mean that."
   One says, "What the hell do you mean?"
   Two says, "...I dunno, sorry! It's just... don't you ever wonder about stuff?"

   One hesitates.

   One says, "What kind of stuff?"

   One sucks at a bottle's lip, swallowing some potent, ghostly elixir.
   Two just watches her drink, taking a breather, as from a round of fisticuffs.

   Two says, "Say... I come in here twice a week, and I look at stuff, just everyday stuff. Like, how come there's candles on all these tables here but not this table here?"
   One says, "Fucked if I know."
   Two says, "And don't you ever, like, think, who took these pictures on the wall? Why'd they take those pictures? Just exactly those pictures. Not some other pictures. They coulda taken pictures of anything."

   Rather abruptly, Two runs out of steam with One still in mid-second-slurp, opening an eerie pause in the conversation.

   One says (finally), "But they didn't."
   Two says, "Yeah, see? Swhat I mean, I think about that shit sometimes, and it just gets to me."
   One says, "But they didn't take pictures of other stuff. They took pictures of that stuff. And that's why they're up there. On the wall. Easy, see?"
   Two says, "But... that's it! It's just too easy. I walk around, and I never ask. And it just piles up n up, more n more mystery, and... I bet I couldn't even get an answer if I tried, cuz nobody's ever asked. We all just walk around lookin at stuff. But does anybody really know anything?"
   One says, "Let's get J, maybe he knows. Hey, J!"
   Two says, "No no it's ok it's just an example."
   One says, "If he knows he'll tell me. I know J."
   Two says, "Nah, I'm just tryin to explain why, when I come in here and see you with... with that. And I'm thinkin, Frank, for once, for once in your fuckin life, don't go home not askin. But I wasn't sure if... I mean what if it was some kinda... well I just couldn't spit it out. So, I uh..."

   One crooks a ghost-finger at Two's forehead.

   One says, "So you did that?"
   Two says, "Yeah. I know, it's dumb, and I got it wrong n all."
   One says, "Well. Here's to overcoming your personal issues."

   One raises her bottle, mist trailing off the top as from a witch's brew.

   Two says, "Uh, cheers."

   Two joins it with his own. They share an awkward quaff, and lower their arms, and then dissolve away into the mist.


   A shadowy figure says, "No! Come on… what is it with this mist?"

   A hollow voice says, "How do you know that's not the end?"

   The figure says, "What do you mean, the end?"
   The voice says, "Concluded. A phenomenon ceased to be."
   The figure says, "You keep talking about endings. Like you would for a story."
   The voice says, "Ah. Is it a story or is it life?"
   The figure says, "Exactly."

   The voice pauses, possibly in contemplation.

   The voice says, "Life is a story."
   The figure says, "Hm, yeah...?"

   The voice says nothing.

   The figure says, "I suppose when one is aware that every moment of one's awareness could be the last, it does tend to exert a narrative pull on things..."

   The brass lantern is getting dim.

   The figure says, "Well. You've been sufficiently weird and cryptic for one set of batteries, don't you think?"

   The voice says nothing.

   The figure says, "Yeah OK."

   The figure waves.
[ The hollow voice previously mentioned endings in the 1st haunting of a shadowy figure. —PLQ. ]
CC0
I waive all copyright and related or neighbouring rights to the text of this post and hereby release it into the Public Domain.

20101108

1st haunting of a shadowy figure

[ A hacker, haunted by spirit scenes from another world, claims to have found a way to leak those stories into that world's 'internet', which he says is actually this world's internet — he explained all this to me in our little chat. He asks only that we release his logs freely into our 'Public Domain'. And that we send more photos. ]


A shadowy figure says, "Another structure! Well-hooked, too. But it's a little right-side weak, innit? Too many unanswered questions."

   A hollow voice says, "Maybe it's not over."

   The figure says, "No moving grid. No playback icons. How is it going to be over? It's a photoglyph."
   The voice says, "Where'd you learn that?"

   The figure just shrugs.

   The voice says, "So what do you think?"
   The figure says, "It's creepy. And I still don't see how they can pull nTwine from a static shot."

   The left-to-right colour pattern flickers, briefly.

   The figure says, "Something's happening."
   The voice says, "Something's always happening. What do you see?"
   The figure says, "I see a photo. Of a shadow. Superimposed with this nTwine that keeps getting—"

   The pattern falters once more, a darkness rippling under it from end to end.

   The figure says, "What is that?"
   The voice says, "Only one way to find out..."

   The figure switches on a brass lantern.

   Window on Pit
   At a low window overlooking a huge pit. A floor is indistinctly visible below. Traces of white mist cover the floor of the pit, becoming thicker to the left. Directly across the pit there is a similar window looking into a lighted room. A shadowy figure can be seen there, peering back.

   A wisp of white light streaks rapidly up and down and around the circumference of the pit wall. Its fading trails cohere into a kind of wrap-around panorama. (Pictured flat, above.)

   Again the light flickers, weakens, overpowered now by a sombre glow from below, where the mists of the pit's interior have swollen almost to the window's ledge.

   The mists congeal into a pair of ghostly figures.

   The shadowy figure says, "What are they?"
   The hollow voice says, "Quiet..."

   The figure pokes his head out over the pit for a better look...


   Ghost One casts only a long shadow across the mist, its true appearance unknown.

   Ghost Two, however, drifts fully into view shrouded in a kind of business suit. And carrying a box.

   Ghost Two says, "Did you hear?"

   Ghost One shakes its shadow head.

   Two says, "About the deal?"

   Again, One shakes its shadow head.

   Two says, "It is truly amazing."

   Two places the box on the ground near One's shadow knee.

   Two says, "You haven't seen this?"

   One finally says, "No." Even his voice sounds in shadow. Whispery without being a whisper.

   Two grabs a ghostly book from out of the ghostly box. Holds the book in front of his chest, poised. He opens his mouth to speak.

   But a telephone rings, instead.
   Two closes his mouth.
   It rings again.

   Two says, "Just one second."

   Two tosses the book back in the box, pulls out a miniature phone, answers it.

   Two says (into the phone), "What?... hold on hold on. Didn't I tell you I'm at work? I... I told you I'm at work. I'm at work."

   A ghostly horn bleats in what suddenly appears to be a surrounding ghostly street, extending across the pit and out of view.

   Two says, "What? No that was just... I'm just having a smoke out front. With the boss. My boss is here."

   Two snaps his fingers and makes a smoking motion.
   One fishes something out of a shadow pocket.
   Two reaches forth and takes the cigarette to his ghostly lips, motioning once again for a light.
   One reaches a shadow hand just far enough into view to light it for him as he speaks.

   Two says (into the phone, with a thumbs-up and a wink), "Yeah... I know... I know, what can I tell ya?" Hisses smoke. "OK... I'll take care of it. OK bye."

   Two shudders, glancing briefly over to the box. The phone seems to have melted away.

   Two says, "Fuck."

   Two puffs on the cigarette again, exhaling a measure of his own essence, it seems, as his ghostly limbs compose themselves and resolve into clarity.

   Two says, "Ever get that? With your remotes? TV's not set right, but no matter which button ya hit on what doohickey, nothing fucking works?"

   One says nothing.

   Two says, "Press TV, Video and VTR and display and menu and whatever else ya got — still doesn't show right. I mean, you pay for a TV. You should get what you pay for. Not some goddamn brain-teaser, am I right?"

   One says nothing.

   Two says, "I mean, do you know how to work this stuff?"
   One says, "Nope."
   Two says, "Nah! Nobody does. Don't worry about it nobody does. It's a fucking crime. A dude works hard, lands a big-screen TV so he can look at whatever the hell he wants when he puts his feet up — only, all the motherfucking picture's locked up behind some keycode spy shit??"

   One says nothing.

   Two says, "Who are they trying to protect this from? It should be simple, right? I mean: shouldn't it just be simple?"
   One says, "Sure, I guess."
   Two says, "Take a look at this."

   Two flicks away the cigarette — which immediately disintegrates into the mist — and dips into the box again for that book. Actually, it's now resolved into more of a binder.

   Two says, "What ya gotta know is, they make things way more complicated than they need. Because it's in their interest to confuse you. Because confusion makes you helpless, and when you're helpless you'll pay any 'service and support' fee they can cook up. Cuz they're 'the experts', see? 'S why you need a hacker on your side. I know this guy, he used to hack systems. FBI, NSA, you name it. Almost went to prison for it! Smart as all blazes, but he had to get outta the game, y'know? So now he just programs these universal remotes and I know what you're thinking — fuck universal. You don't need to deal with yet another twenty buttons, do you? Do you?"
   One says, "No."
   Two says, "Well, you don't have to. My guy makes these puppies with, get this! One button."

   With a theatrical flourish, Two palms the binder open, revealing six ghostly handsets arrayed along the inside. From the centre of each handset pops a single, giant button, enhanced with a happy face cartoon. Some of the faces are faded.

   One extends a tentative, shadow hand at the cheerful row of buttons, as Two's face splits into its own special grin.

   And the miniature telephone rings, again.
   Two scowls and snaps the binder shut.

   Two says, "One moment."

   Two drags out the phone and starts shouting into it.

   Two says, "Jesus Christ, Mal!... What?... Why?... I know, I told you.... wait, what??"

   His voice suddenly lowered, Two backs off out of view, leaving the shadow alone with that box. Snatches of Two's conversation are still somewhat audible as echoes in the pit.

   Two says (from out of view), "Yeah... OK... OK but did you...? So? What did he say?..."

   One's shadow begins to lean slightly in the direction of the box.

   Two says, "Alright, well come down here... I know, just come down!... You don't have to... No, listen... Just come down here and I'll deal with it. Of course I fucking promise, I'm fucking talking, arn't I?"

   One's shadow is now huddled near the box, looming over it.

   Two says, "Yes. I'm at Bathurst and Bloor. Yes. I fucking lied. What did you expect?... I am working. I know. Yes, it's important, just... just come down..."

   Another pair of ghostly figures drifts into view along the ghostly street. The nearest of them tosses a few coins into the box.

   One says (shadow neck craning), "Thank you sir! You have yourselves a great evening!"

   As quickly, they drift out again.

   One thrusts out a ghostly hand to plunder the box — and snatches up a single coin. The rest have slipped in even deeper, and require more digging.

   Two drifts back into view, adjusting his ghostly tie irritably.

   Two says, "So. What the fuck ya doin' there?"

   One says (startled, mid-dig), "Oh nothin'. I was... just curious."

   Two says, "You wanna press that button don't you?"
   One says, "Yes. OK. Can I?"

   Looking pleased as piss, Two plunges a hand in, pulls forth from the box a second binder...


   ...and this is when the ghostly scene wavers, dissolves back into the mist over the pit floor, and is gone.

   A shadowy figure says, "Er... what was that about?"

   A hollow voice says, "Magic word again. You used it. Twice."

   The figure says, "So, somehow this scene is all tangled up with that—"
   The voice says, "Don't say it."
   The figure says, "Maybe they're done. Maybe they won't come back."
   The voice says, "You just want to know how it ends."
   The figure says, "Don't you?"
   The voice says, "It doesn't end. Not yet. It just repeats."
   The figure says, "Pretty sure of yourself."
   The voice says, "This isn't my first time."
   The figure says, "Yes. There's a lot you aren't telling me. Why is that?"

   The voice pauses for what could be drama.

   The voice finally says, "See you at the next haunting."
   The figure says, "So just how many of these will there be?"

   The hollow voice says nothing more.

   The figure sighs.
   The figure waves.

   The streaks of white light slow and finally fade away, leaving the pit dark and mundane, and the shadowy figure alone, at the window.
[ For the benefit of new readers I should point out that this 'magic word' was referenced in one of our spectral hacker's prior communications. —PLQ. ]
CC0
I waive all copyright and related or neighbouring rights to the text of this post and hereby release it into the Public Domain.

Provisos of a shadowy figure

Last night I searched my server — as I do now every night — for files that shouldn't be there, amused to find myself hoping against wisdom to come upon another shadowy, arcane movie review installed into a random directory by my mystery hacker.

I found nothing.

But no sooner had I given up than appeared this curious pop-up window...

And so, the file. No weirdly abstract film chat, this one. This file's different. Concrete. Perhaps deceptively so. This file describes what it's like to be haunted by something ordinary, and yet to perceive it to be extraordinary, or even supernatural. This might be what it's like to hallucinate perspective — to see the world as it usually is, while imagining a different inside of your mind.

This file also contains a JPEG. If what the hacker says is true, he (she? it?) has got an astounding grasp of cross-dimensional file formats. Not to mention the English language. And the internet! It's certainly striking, the notion that our 21st century info-hemorrhage could be so massive that it just bleeds into another world.

Which brings me to the photograph itself. I recognise that JPEG, because I posted it, minus the colour pattern, on my Tumblr, two days back — the same Tumblr, so it seems, referenced by my extratemporal friend. That shadow photo seems to have exerted an influence on his shadow visions. And he wants more.

What I want is to see where this goes. My main concern is not having enough good photos to keep the hauntings coming. To that end, if you've got any pictures you think might qualify as 'intriguing' (and you don't mind possibly seeing them uploaded to another planet) consider sharing them online and posting the URL on my Slate of Entry.

You could help a great deal just by posting links to one or two of your, say, Flickr photos. I'm committed to releasing anything that sparks from your shot into the Public Domain, for use by you or anyone else in any way whatsoever. No copyright. It's condition 1.

PLQ.

20101018

Crossing Over


It happened at Vodden and Main.
The world vulgar and beady, it sat there and changed.
Dispersing the cloud-up I'd followed I'd gathered disguising the groundwork I'd blue-skied I'd fingered dissolving directions I'd angled, remained
And landed at Vodden and Main.
I died there, at Vodden and Main.

It takes my breath the way a life is stained.
Undressing the curling you dance in you turn in unstopping arresting you give in you take in unfeeling all-seeing you bust out deranged.
You cut me at Vodden and Main.
You show me at Vodden and Main
And with the answer my vessel is drained.
Avoiding the cross-up I hold up I speed up and skidding wrongturning I trip up I fuck up and striding unswerving I wake up, insane:

Our eyes lock at Vodden and Main.
Our fates join at Vodden and Main.
We'll not see it or escape its like again.
Inventing. Dissenting. We'll founder and ponder unglimpsing or missing we'll wander, well yonder; no matter how long we can go on, entrained —
The truth lies at Vodden and Main.

PLQ.

[ From the chronology journal. ]

20101005

A shadowy figure watches Break Up Club

[ While attending the Toronto International Film Festival, I admit it was mere whimsy that kept me checking my server for another hacked file, perhaps referencing one of the films I'd seen. But I never found one, and I had come to feel quite the grandiose fool for suspecting myself the target of some film-reviewing internet conspiracy, based on a single freak occurrence. That is, until last night, when I found this. —PLQ. ]


A shadowy figure says, "Again, a three-jewelled grid. Though... they're not jewels, exactly. Their apparent three-jewelledness is an illusion of the grid itself. They project dimension, but it's a trick of the light. They're no more real than the circles inscribed around those triangles, down below."

   A hollow voice says, "So? What's your point?"

   The figure says, "I don't have one. Is that a problem?"
   The voice says, "Long as you don't stop seeing the illusion..."

   The figure says, "I see a man with a camera. He's just come from stalking his ex-girlfriend with this camera: a camera he was given just moments before by a director for the purpose of documenting his break-up. Rather remarkably, none of this felt creepy at all. Perhaps because the guy's quite charming. Or because I was distracted with wondering if the girl he'd just broken up with was the same one from the preceding scene — the opening scene, in which he records a surprise birthday ambush on the woman he loves. Who may or may not be the same woman."
   The voice says, "You don't know?"
   The figure says, "I didn't know, until he showed up unwelcome at her place with the director's camera. Not only is it the same girl, but we're told the man has split with her and reconciled repeatedly, so no sooner is her identity resolved than I am wondering about the how and when of the next make-up — a nice bit of narrative elegance. Especially, considering the website."
   The voice says, "You haven't mentioned any website."
   The figure says, "Apparently it's something you look at in a cafe."
   The voice says, "I know what a website is."
   The figure says, "This one's called Break Up Club Dot Asia, but that's only half the story. It actually promises to reunite you with your lover, in exchange for the names of another couple to be broken up, by, I guess... some process indistinguishable from magic. Joe — as the man's called — told the director he almost used it to get Flora back. It's even implied that this is why he was chosen for the documentary."
   The voice says, "Okay. You get it. Sorry I doubted you."
   The figure says, "Wanna talk doubt? I can't even see you."

   The hollow voice laughs.

   The figure lights a spike of dwarven foxglove with a book of matches.

   The figure says, "So now he's talking to his best friend, who is also — conveniently — an aspiring filmmaker working retail in a camera shop."

   The figure watches more of Break Up Club.

   The figure takes a drag off the burning spike of dwarven foxglove.

   Time passes.

   The figure grunts. "Interesting."
   The voice says, "Which part?"
   The figure says, "Every part. It's a series of love affairs with the camera."
   The voice says, "Meaning what, exactly?"

   The figure inhales a final pull from the burning spike of dwarven foxglove and disposes of the butt.

   The figure says, "All the scenes, most involving make-ups or break-ups among Joe's circle of friends, appear to be shot entirely with Joe's 'documentary' camera, or with cameras set up by his enthusiastic pal, who reminds us of this fact constantly with his buffoonish back-seat directing. Shots are also pulled from odd sources like security cams, sparking us to wonder briefly how, and by whom. But rather than rely heavily on this self-reflexive tension, as I have seen some do, this story steps surefootedly on its own without any need for a guide rail. Each break-up is immediately followed upon with some specific reason to anticipate the next make-up, and vice versa."
   The voice says, "But if the story stands independently of the camera, how is that a love affair with it?"
   The figure says, "That's just it. It would stand independently, were it not for the fact that every relationship transformation is actually caused by the camera. Whether by getting played back, broken, hidden and then discovered, or just returned to its owner, the camera itself is driving these events. So the relationships all become primarily with the camera."

   The voice titches. "It all sounds a bit unreal, the way you tell it."
   The figure says, "It is a bit unreal. But this fellow, playing 'Joe'..."
   The voice says, "Jaycee Chan."
   The figure says, "He gives his character such a sense of curiosity, that when he turns on a camera it's never an act of vanity so much as un-self-conscious play. His exuberance also does wonders for the relationship chemistry, which simply runs too hot to be cooled by a lens. At times, he single-handedly prevents this story from vanishing into its bellybutton."
   The voice says, "Well, that's not fair. It ranges quite far from navel-gazing, I'd say. Keep watching."

   Time passes.

   The figure says, "Well, that's an odd turn."
   The voice says, "How so?"
   The figure says, "Although the rough-hewn documentary shooting style remains, the director has exited the picture by this point. And the make-up/break-up cycle has sunk into a lull. There are some leftover questions about the film's viewpoint, but they're quite subtle, and the central love story has abandoned all tension. There's just so little left to think about, I'm pretty much reduced to pondering the slow crawl of that little progress indicator along the bottom."
   The voice says, "See the illusion."
   The figure says, "Alright, alright."

   The figure keeps watching.

   The figure says, "Oh! I see what you mean."
   The voice says, "Not everything was as worked-out as it seemed, was it?"
   The figure says, "Well, yeah, that. But it's more than that. This relationship has suddenly outgrown the camera. It's about real grudges now, and it's pretty perceptive about the slow chill that can set into a relationship. Almost as if they overheard your criticism, things have just taken a turn for the real. It's like, the movie got wise to its own illusion partway through, and decided to just step outside of it."
   The voice says, "Neat, hadn't thought of it that way. Makes perfect sense then that the documentary aspect disappears."
   The figure says, "Oh, totally."

   The voice coughs.
   The figure watches.

   The figure says, "Wow, some spot-on depictions here of the cruel sideswipes people can take through each other's lives when they're at odds. No cartoon break-up this time: it's just slow and messy, and I could hardly feel more involved in all the missed connections and frosty silences."
   The voice says, "Knew you'd like it."
   The figure says, "Actually there was a point at which the picture faded to black, as if to say: that was the pop-up version. Now, here's the way it really happens. That's when the grudges started."
   The voice says, "True."
   The figure says, "So, having let it all go slack for maybe ten minutes, they slowly rein it back in, trading each situation portending a break-up for another with their former aplomb, only never arriving at the actual break-up. It's withheld. Instead of the earlier comedic reversals, they've now opted for a turning of screw."

   The voice says, "Yes, yes. One question, though."
   The figure says, "Shoot."
   The voice says, "Who are 'they'?"
   The figure says, "They? They. Whoever paints this grid with light."
   The voice says, "I see."
   The figure steps back. "Who are they?"

   The voice pauses for what could be a shrug.

   The voice says, "I was just wondering if you knew."
   The figure says, "All I know is what I've seen."

   The figure watches the conclusion of Break Up Club.

   Something moves in the dark.

   The figure says, "Well! That was unexpected!"
   The voice says, "Quite a twist, eh?"
   The figure says, "The turn at the end? Well, it wasn't hard to see that one coming, but I was pretty curious how it would play out, so, it did work for me. And it did make me think about the earlier scenes differently, which is always cool. But it's the final resolution of the love story that actually surprised me — and not in a good way."
   The voice says, "What?? Dude! That was like, the best stuff."
   The figure says, "Oh there's great stuff in there, I agree. Joe and Flora's last scene together is so raw, yet it achieves such clarity about how real love navigates, that it's the jewel of the film. Yeah, they nailed that one: it really should've been the story's final word on the relationship."
   The voice says, "But then we'd miss out on Sunny's star turn!"
   The figure says, "Sunny? Yeah, his best-friend supergeek schtick was hilarious. Giving him a pivotal role in the denouement was 'amazing', to borrow one of his best lines."

   The voice laughs. "To borrow like, half his lines."

   The figure says, "And the way they worked the website and the documentary crew back into things was also perfect. What I don't understand is why, after all was said and done, they felt the need to return to the love story and change its trajectory one last time. It wasn't necessary. It's a turn too far."
   The voice says, "Hmm. It did sort of go a bit cartoony again right before the end credits."
   The figure says, "Precisely. Why would they turn back to a masterfully conquered page just to write in the margins? Cut literally 30 seconds off the end of this story, and its echo could have been so much stronger."
   The voice says, "So, what, it's a bad movie now because of the last 30 seconds?"
   The figure says, "The wrong 30 seconds can easily ruin things. But no, no, this is actually one of the most engaging experiences I've ever had in this pit. I'd love to see the nTwine..."

A multi-coloured series of wisps rises from the pit, tracing a long, interlacing, left-to-right pattern of glowing words and lines in mid-air...



The last of the wisps disappears, leaving only the colour pattern itself, which pulses for a while, then slowly fades away.

   The figure says, "Um. What just happened?"
   The voice says, "You did. You said the magic word."
   The figure says, "What word? nTwi—"
   The voice says, "Ssshush! Unless you want to see it again..."
   The figure says, "No, I'm good."
   The voice says, "How do you even know that word?"
   The figure says, "I... don't remember."
   The voice says, "But you were able to decode it?"
   The figure says, "Sure. It's the narrative structure. Looked accurate enough."
   The voice says, "This bodes well."
   The figure says, "Does it?"

   The voice pauses for what could be a smile.

   The voice says, "Until the next, my friend..."

   The figure waves.