“It’s creepy, but here we are, the Pilgrims, the crackpots of our time, trying to establish our own alternate reality. To build a world out of rocks and chaos.
What it’s going to be, I don’t know.
Even after all that rushing around, where we’ve ended up is the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.
And maybe knowing isn’t the point.
Where we’re standing right now, in the ruins in the dark, what we build could be anything.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Choke
“Without knowing it, he had constructed a gigantic vertical zoo, its hundreds of cages stacked above each other. All the events of the past few months made sense if one realised that these brilliant and exotic creatures had learned to open the doors.”
― J.G. Ballard, High-Rise
A skyscraper reflected in a skyscraper.
“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting.”
― George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell 1903-1950
Oblique Strategy: Turn it upside down
Again, I was exploring the depths of my hard drive archives. I found this entry from October 16, 2002. It concerns my youngest son, Lee, who was nine years old.
Lee called me at work – he was home from school and a friend, G. was at our house. He wanted to know how to type on my computer. I gave him quick instructions on how to start up Word, how to save his work, and how to print it out when he was done. It turns out he and G. have an idea for a new sport, which they call Foondball, and they wanted to type out a list of rules.
When I came home I found my desk littered with sheets of notebook paper covered with crude drawings of athletic fields and different dimensions, markings, and goal layouts.
On the screen was their rules for Foondball:
- The game can only be played with 6 to 12 players.
- You may use your hands to throw the ball and your feet to kick the ball and the goalie may use a hockey stick to block shots taken by the strikers.
- The goals are at opposite ends of the playing field the field is 75 yards in length and is about 25 to 30 yards in width
- The winner of the most rounds wins the match there are three rounds lasting 20 minutes and 5 minutes of rest between rounds
- In the case of a tie the winner will be decided by a 10 minute overtime if no winner is decided then it is a draw
- The goals are about- 6 to 7 feet high and 10 to 11 feet wide
- The game begins with the thrower throwing the ball and the whacker hitting the ball the seekers catch the ball if the seeker on the whackers team catches the ball he may keep running to the goal if the seeker on the throwers side catches the ball he may run it back and try to score
- Each goal is worth two points
- If there is a foul the ball goes to the place where the foul was committed and thrown from there.
- If a foul is committed within ten yards of the goal the person whom the foul was committed against gets to take a free shot he can throw the ball into the goal or he can kick the ball into the goal
- If one team wins the first two rounds of the game then they automatically win the game
- At no time during the game is play ever supposed to stop unless a foul is committed
- There is a ten minute half time in between the 2nd and 3rd round
- If a person scores on a foul then the goal only counts as one point
- After a goal the team that scores is to throw the ball and play resumes
- Helmets are to be worn
- For each team – 1 goalie, 2 whackers, 1 seeker 2 throwers
- The goalie may never come out of his 10 foot box
- If a player is on concrete he may dribble the with his hands
- The player may throw or kick the ball to one of his fellow teammates
Someday, maybe, kids will dream of glory on the foondball field, and trade photos, cards, and stories of who their favorite whackers, throwers, and seekers are.
“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn”
― Orson Welles
Oblique Strategies: Don’t be frightened of cliches
I am not their target kind of customer. Even though I’ve lived in Dallas close to forty years now, and spent a lot of time downtown, I’ve only been in the big main fancy Neiman Marcus store a couple of times… and I only remember it once.
That was before I moved here – I was only visiting – so I must have been young. I went in with a friend that wanted to look at the fashions and I followed her. Right at the entryway we were waylaid by a couple of women demonstrating nail care products – some sort of abrasive sanding thing (to remove ridges) and a set of various strong-smelling types of polish. I was the only one without colored nails so they demonstrated on me. I stood as stoically as I could while they sanded the ridges off a couple of my nails and then put polish on them. A good-sized group of women gathered to watch and to ooh and aah at the miracle product. It wasn’t too bad… actually, it was kind of interesting. I was mostly glad that, for once, my hands were clean.
But I didn’t buy anything.
“A new social type was being created by the apartment building, a cool, unemotional personality impervious to the psychological pressures of high-rise life, with minimal needs for privacy, who thrived like an advanced species of machine in the neutral atmosphere. This was the sort of resident who was content to do nothing but sit in his over-priced apartment, watch television with the sound turned down, and wait for his neighbours to make a mistake.”
― J.G. Ballard, High-Rise
Oblique Strategy: Short circuit (If eating peas improves virility, shovel them into your pants)
The city as mirrored crystal.
Here in the crystal city it is more unpleasant to be destroyed by gratification than by pain. The best things are its junk… as long as you understand what is junk. But the most dangerous of all is truth. A mirror can protect you from Medusa but the truth will stone you even in its reflection.
“It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight.”
― Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories
Oblique Strategy: Retrace your steps
Why do we all like creepy stuff? I think it is because to be scared of something creepy – which means odd, eerie, and macabre, without being overtly dangerous – implies that there is at least something else out there. There is something in this world beyond staff meetings, stuck in traffic, and idiotic talking heads blathering on the television.
Because if there is really nothing else – that is really frightening.
“But he said, in substance, to himself that if the earth and moon were about to clash, many persons would doubtless plan to get upon the roofs to witness the collision.”
― Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage