Slaughter’s Big Rip Off

slaughter

Records these days are a rip off.  I get that anything made in ‘limited’ quantities is going to have some sort of sliding cost structure associated with it, but it’s really about supply and demand.  And the worst example of supply without demand is Ebay.  I’m sure that Ebay has deals on certain things, but…wow, even their cd’s are overpriced.  I’m not sure if anyone realizes this, but you can get most cd’s for pennies on the dollar.  Records are a little harder to come by, but when the average cost on Ebay versus other seller sites (like Discogs) is 30-40% more per title, on average…who are these sellers?  If overhead isn’t a cost concern, then sure, leave your record on there forever, but…where’s the logic in that?  I thought the idea of selling something was to, you know, actually sell product.  One problem I can see is that, since shortly after it’s launch, Discogs became the official ‘price guide’ for record stores and online sellers.  Now, instead of pricing something to sell, nobody wants to go below the Discogs minimum listed price.  And Ebay sellers seem to take that and immediately add 20%.  But hey, if you need something now, this minute, I suppose that’s what Ebay is there for.  Otherwise, if you’re already into the hobby, or just getting into the hobby, be very careful with your dollars.  Here’s a nice post about cost aggregating.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to bash on Ebay, but when it comes to their vinyl pricing, yeah, I guess I am.  But that’s not down to the website, it’s down to the sellers operating there.

Do You Want To Know What’s Going On Inside My Happy Head?

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I wasn’t going to post anything today, as I didn’t think I had anything to say.  I then realized that I had an empty head, and an empty head is a happy head.  Ignorance is bliss, they do say.  Of course, I then realized that Happy Head is the name of an album and a song by the band The Mighty Lemon Drops.  The Drops were a mid-80’s psychedelic band in the vein of Echo & The Bunnymen or the Chameleons, and they seemed especially influenced by the 13th Floor Elevators.  They produced some fine tunes, especially their early indie releases and their lp World Without End.  After that they seemed creatively lost, with a redeeming song here or there but definitely diminishing returns.  I did see them live once, headlining a 3-act bill with the Ocean Blue and John Wesley Harding, and they put on a good performance.  Like many things though, they were hitting their mid-period weak point at the same time grunge broke mainstream.  Grunge sank a lot of listing ships.  I suggest seeking out their stuff on Youtube if you’re interested in hearing more.

I also realized that I probably have enough song titles and lyrics in my happy head that I could, conceivably, answer every question posed to me with a song-lyric response.  I could probably hold entire conversations made up of quotes from song lyrics.  Think of it as the musical equivalent of the ‘meow’ game from Super Troopers.

She’s In The Pocket of a Homeboy

ElBowie

Bowie Week continues here at The Fault!

For Bowie, 1980 began much the same way his last few years had – writing and recording a new album.  Eventually appearing in September of that year, Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) was a dark, antisocial, ruminative album lyrically, and musically it was a near-perfect melding of his experimental and commercial leanings.  It sounds very much a new wave album, albeit one with a lot of muscle behind it.  Every song moves along briskly, and this album features lots of guest stars supporting Bowie’s usual core band of Alomar, Murray, and Davis.  Pete Townshend and Robert Fripp both show up to do what they do best, guitar-wise, while Chuck Hammer contributes the relatively new guitar-synth to the proceedings.  Be Bop Deluxe player Andy Clark provides synth (side note:  Bill Nelson, leader of BBD, Red Noise, and a solo artist, started BBD as very much a glam band, and their first album Axe Victim was especially saddled with comparisons to Bowie.  Luckily, BBD went on to produce great, futuristic sounding prog rock albums that probably deserve a post of their own some day).  There was also a member of Springsteen’s band in there.  Producer Tony Visconti was at the helm again, contributing Eventide Harmonizer to the drums.

In many ways, Scary Monsters was Bowie’s response to a world he was starting to not recognize (not surprising, given how he was always writing, recording, or touring – doesn’t leave a lot of time to catch up with the nightly news), as well as his response to the fresh crop of new wave artists that sprang up after punk, taking a healthy dose of Bowie as their main (sometimes only) cue.  It contains big hits “Fashion” and “Ashes To Ashes”, as well as gems like “It’s No Game”, “Up The Hill Backwards”, and the title cut.  It’s my favorite Bowie album, hands down, from lyrical content to musical delivery.  Bowie did at the start of the 80’s what so few ‘younger, fresher’ artists managed to achieve – a perfect album from start to finish.  Speaking of the song “Ashes To Ashes”, within the lyrics, Bowie buries Major Tom, the titular star from his very first hit, “Space Oddity.”  In many ways, it is David Bowie laying his past to rest to look towards the future.  His first album of the new decade, it was also his last for longtime label RCA (although the record company didn’t know that yet).  People probably didn’t think too much about the lyrical content of “Ashes”, but Bowie clearly did, as the rest of the decade would see him change directions fasters than a dog chasing a rabbit.

Bowie also did one other thing in 1980, in that he for a time starred as Joseph Merrick in the broadway play The Elephant Man.  1981 didn’t bring much musical activity from Bowie, unless you count a worldwide smash #1 hit single made in collaboration with group Queen.  There’s been a lot of controversy over who came up with the famous bassline (it wasn’t you, Vanilla Ice, you giant toolbox), with everyone in Queen (except for Brian May) and also Bowie himself at one time being credited for the musical passage.  Whoever really wrote it, I’m just happy Bowie was friends with the band, as we got a lasting, amazing song out of it.  Freddie Mercury was also responsible for Bowie (eventually) signing with EMI Records, Queen’s label at the time.  I am paraphrasing here, but the conversation went something like this:  [Mercury] “David, you may be rich, but EMI can make you Croesus rich.”  Also in 1981, and following up his previous turn in The Elephant Man, Bowie decided to take on the character of Baal, a play written in 1923 by Bertolt Brecht  for a BBC Production.  For this, he recorded his take on five of the songs, again with Visconti producing, at Hansa in Berlin once again.  It’s completely non-essential listening, but it did show that Bowie was stretching his creative muscles.  1982 saw him contribute a song called Cat People (Putting Out Fire) to the film of the same name, with music by legendary disco producer Giorgio Moroder.  He would re-record this song for his next album, but in my opinion, the original single version crushes the remake like a grape.  He also rounded out 1982 with the release of a duet with Bing Crosby (originally from a 1977 Christmas Special, making its first official release in ’82), an update of a classic Christmas tune.  Bowie was unhappy with his original appearance and with the song as a whole.  When RCA released it without checking with Bowie, it was the final nail in the coffin for his relationship with the label.  Oddly enough, it’s become a Christmas classic, and in keeping with my true curmudgeonly attitude, I can’t stand it.  Bowie also took the time to be the leading man in the film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.  Bowie received praise for his work in the film, which would see release in 1983.  Bowie also appeared in the 1983 vampire film The Hunger, which also featured Bauhaus in the opening club scene.  Bauhaus, of course, did a rocking cover of Ziggy Stardust (not in the film, but in general as a single.  No, the song used in the film is of course Bela Lugosi’s Dead, their own vampire ode.  Predictable, but appropriate.  The cover of Ziggy might have been cooler, and a little nod-and-wink to the audience at the same time).  The Hunger is a well done (if only moderately received) film, and Bowie’s performance seems very Bowie…he’s effortlessly acting as a version of himself.  However, before either of his cinematic contributions to the year 1983 would see light, Bowie would release an album that has polarized his fanbase ever since.

Let’s Dance, shall we?  In December of 1982, Bowie, having signed a multi-million dollar contract with EMI Records, went to work in NYC at Power Station Studios with Nile Rodgers, the guitarist for disco act Chic.  The album was supposed to be produced by longtime associate Visconti, who had even blocked out time in his schedule to make it, only for Bowie to decide to go in a funkier direction after meeting with Rodgers and telling him to ‘help me make hits.’  Bowie, tired of being seen as ‘that arty guy’ wanted to be a massive pop singer, and Let’s Dance made that dream a reality.  The songs are very American, very pop, very funk.  It was what American top 40 radio was playing, and that ‘new’ channel MTV helped further sales of the album by playing Bowie’s videos for the new album non-stop.  You know the title track, you know the single “China Girl” (originally from Iggy Pop’s The Idiot album from 1977), as well as the hit “Modern Love” and the new version of “Cat People.”  Apart from Cat People and China Girl, there was one further song borrowed from another release, “Criminal World”, originally released in 1977 by the band Metro.  The band was top notch.  Besides Rodgers, guitar duties were played by an unknown Stevie Ray Vaughan, with drumming by Chic drummer (and future Power Station drummer) Tony Thompson.  It was a popular album, but not a great one.  A few of the tunes just flat out don’t work, and the ones that did now sound dated and trite.  For many, however, this was Bowie’s introductory statement, that of a suit-wearing, smiling, blond man.  Let’s Dance was Bowie’s only #1 single in America, and to support his new sound and image, he went on tour in May of 1983 through December of the same year.  Propelled by hit singles, hit videos, an impressive promotional attack, and Bowie’s own press releases, the tour, which was to start in 10K seat venues (much like Bowie’s previous tours) had to expand to larger arenas as Bowie’s popularity grew.  The tour was a sellout everywhere it went.  It placed Bowie into the upper echelon of mainstream pop stars.  He soon realized it’s not where he wanted to be.  My opinion?  One of Bowie’s worst albums…a sellout, cash-in, boring, uninspired…look, the man’s a genius.  He wants to make American funk music?  Fine.  That was his call.  But I didn’t like the sound then, and I don’t like it now, and putting “David Bowie” on the cover doesn’t make the product any more enjoyable.  RCA still owned the rights to Bowie’s back catalog and put out the live album Ziggy Stardust:  The Motion Picture in October of 1983, partly to capitalize on the massive success Bowie was having with Let’s Dance.  When has a record label not tried to make money off an artist, and to boot, I’m sure they were kicking themselves for losing Bowie to EMI, and all the units of albums he was shifting for them with Let’s Dance.  Of his two releases in 1983, give me the live Ziggy album any time.

For a man used to following his own muse, the massive success of Let’s Dance both amused and confused Bowie.  While on his Serious Moonlight tour, he started the process of writing his next record.  It didn’t go well.  When Tonight was released in September of 1984, his newfound public were expecting Let’s Dance, part 2.  They didn’t get that.  Instead they got strange news from a distant star.  Of the 9 songs on the album, 5 of them had been performed by other artists prior to appearing in Bowie form on Tonight, even if 3 of those 5 were Bowie co-compositions from Iggy Pop albums.  It’s an inconsistent album, with a terrible cover of the Beach Boys (“God Only Knows”), a duet with Tina Turner (the title track), a duet with Iggy (“Dancing With The Big Boys”), and a couple of bona fide gems (“Loving The Alien”, “Blue Jean”).  Bowie now had the mainstreams ear, so a clearly pop-leaning song like “Blue Jean” climbed the charts.  A side effect of having the mainstreams ear was that even a weird song like “Alien” was an unlikely hit.  Tonight is just strange.  It’s like Bowie got the success and adoration he’d always craved, but then decided against it, but was stuck.  Commercial interest or artistic integrity?  That’s what you find on Tonight – a bit of both.  It’s like a lounge act doing David Bowie – if they only knew Iggy Pop’s Bowie compositions.  Bowie really seemed directionless here, and this is only reinforced by the pair of songs he wrote solely by himself.  The album was co-produced with Hugh Padgham, the man who helped pioneer the big gated drum sound you all know from “In The Air Tonight” by bald singing drummer Phil Collins, so don’t blame him.  While time has, in retrospect, been kind to Tonight, it still sounds like a man grasping to re-evaluate his place in the pop landscape after conquering it a year previous.  It was a cash-in album that used a lot of the same band members as on Let’s Dance, and Bowie tried to capture a lot of that ‘brand’ of sound as well, because that’s what his new fans expected.  For a man who was accustomed to making left turns with no forethought, this new pandering to a temporary audience seemed out of place. Be careful what you wish for.  It’s a good thing EMI didn’t saddle us with a cash-grab of its own in 1985.  Dance was supposed to be a remix album of songs from, of course, Let’s Dance and Tonight.  The plan was (wisely) dropped.  A few sleeves were produced, but it was never committed to vinyl or cd, so the world may never know if was good or not.  Most remix albums are not, so there’s my two cents on it.  Lastly in 1984, RCA released their back catalogue of Bowie albums on that ‘new’ medium of compact disc.  The albums weren’t mastered for the new digital medium and sounded garbage.

The world didn’t get a new Bowie album in 1985, a rare first for a man so used to putting out an album every year.  The world did get “This Is Not America“.  Better than most of the Tonight album, this song with Pat Metheny, for the soundtrack of the movie The Falcon and the Snowman, is a much stronger song than almost anything off of Tonight – of course, Bowie only needed to write words, not music, in this instance.  Not so good (and not better than the Tonight album…not better than pretty much anything else you can think of) was his hyper-goofy, hyper-homoerotic, hyper-commercial, boring, trite, ill-conceived cover of the song “Dancing In The Street“, a duet with Mick Jagger.  Bowie had long been a fan of The Rolling Stones, covering “Let’s Spend The Night Together” on Aladdin Sane (and having a lot of the same album get sonic comparisons to some of the Stones’ work), so doing a duet with Jagger probably appealed to him.  The original plan was to have the two performers singing live via satellite from two separate stadiums in support of Live Aid charities.  The satellite uplink would have caused a time delay making the vocal performances seem off-kilter.  Instead, the two met in a studio and recorded their take on Dancing In The Street.  The video, when viewed now, looks ridiculously homoerotic – but it was the mid 80’s, a lot of videos looked that way at the time.  Prince, anybody?  Despite this, the song went to #3 in the US Charts, and all the money raised did go to a worthy charity.  I’m OK with garbage if the proceeds help the needy.

The world didn’t get a new Bowie album in 1986, either.  Well, not really.  1986 was more of an acting year for Bowie, with a little music thrown in on the side.  First up, Bowie appeared in Absolute Beginners in April of 1986, the title song of which is the only good thing about the movie.  You’d think a movie with Patsy Kensit, Bowie, Ray Davies, and Sade would at least be competent, but it was an all-singing, all-dancing mess.  Absolute Beginners might have been DOA, but his next project certainly was…not.  Labyrinth released in late June of 1986 and starred Bowie, a young Jennifer Connelly, and a bunch of muppets.  It’s a ridiculously silly movie, and I’ve only ever seen it the once, so I can’t say how well it holds up.  I know many of the stills from the movie show Bowie (as Jareth the Goblin King) and his massive crotch bulge.  Like I said, the mid-80’s were a homoerotic time.  Bowie also contributed 5 songs to the soundtrack, all of them are utterly terrible, featuring a cream of the studio crop of musicians and slick 80’s production.  It’s the slick 80’s production that do the songs in.  To round out 1986, Bowie contributed another soundtrack song, for the animated film “When The Wind Blows“, of which he sang the title track.  It’s a good tune, and a good film, with additional soundtrack contributions from Roger Waters.  Bowie’s tune was sung by him, with all instruments played by Erdal Kizilcay, a man who would figure prominently in Bowie’s musical vision for the next decade.  Kizilcay first got noticed by Bowie during the recording and producing of Iggy Pop’s Blah Blah Blah record, of which Bowie had a hand in (because of course he did.)

1987 saw the release of the first ‘new’ David Bowie record in 3 years, Never Let Me Down.  It’s also one of Bowie’s most maligned records.  Many felt it continued his brash commercial direction, but I think it’s actually a decent record that suffers from that mid-80’s syndrome known as overproduction.  A lot of bands fell prey to slick, studio-controlled recordings, with no errors,no spontaneity, and no space to breathe in, where the performances were concerned.  Bowie was no exception.  The album is awash with superfluous synthesizers, backing vocals, and drum machines.  The songs themselves are well written and show a depth of character Bowie hadn’t exhibited since Scary Monsters at the beginning of the decade.  “Day-In, Day-Out”, “Time Will Crawl”, “Zeroes”, “Shining Star” (featuring Mickey Rourke)…really most of the songs show sparks of brilliance.  However, again, production (by Bowie and David Richards) really makes everything a dayglo nightmare of excess.  It’s more of this, more of that, no subtlety or nuance.  It prominently features new kid on the block Erdal Kizilcay, with performances from old standby Carlos Alomar, and lead guitar by some guy named Peter Frampton who had an annoying song called “Baby I Love Your Way” become a big hit for himself and a million other people.  He is a good guitarist though.  It sold better than many of Bowie’s earlier records (at the time).  This may be because by 1987, a lot of people had gotten a cd player, and, having familiarity with Bowie as a name, wanted to pick up his latest on that ‘new’ cd technology.  I know it was my first Bowie cd, and perhaps that’s why I rate this album higher than either Let’s Dance or Tonight, because I played it A LOT during my last year of high school.  So, either it grew on me in a way it didn’t for most people, or the songs are strong.  I believe it’s the latter.  That’s not to say there aren’t some mis-steps, lyrically.  Bowie tries to keep up with ‘the kids’ with the line “she’s in the pocket of a…homeboy!” on “Day-In, Day Out”, and the whole pre-song discussion about the Glass Spider (from the song of the same name) is interesting but silly.  Apparently, the vinyl and cd editions feature separate mixes already…I have both (well, I have the vinyl, not sure I still have the original cd).  Later versions on disc have the song “Too Dizzy” removed as Bowie never really liked the song.  “Too Dizzy” was the only song on the album he co-wrote with Kizilcay, and their relationship became strained about the time the first reissues of this cd started popping up, so there might be more to it than ‘not liking the song.’  Parlophone (who now owns Bowie’s entire back catalog) have been providing a new mix of a classic Bowie album on their retrospective box sets that have come out the last 3 years…if they do an 80’s box set for 2018, maybe someone can remix Never Let Me Down and take out some of the superfluous instrumentation.  It might be a new take on a divisive sound.  Bowie embarked on an ambitious tour to support the album in 1988 (appropriately called the Glass Spider tour, named after the album cut and featuring a huge spider as it’s centerpiece on stage), which would see Bowie really mix up his back catalogue in terms of arrangement and presentation.  This did not go over well with reviewers, who already disliked the source material for a lot of the live performances and called the presentation overblown and pretentious.  As the tour progressed, Bowie replaced many of the new songs with older, more well-loved songs from his back catalog.  Still, the tour made money, and was a theatrical spectacle.  It should have strengthened the David Bowie brand.  What happened next would shock everyone, except, perhaps, himself.

 

 

 

Colonies, 3rd and Final Part

Bar pre-call

Part 3

     Perturbed and confused by the odd behavior of Alvis, Lorraine decided to stop for a drink on the way home.  “James,” she said into her wrist-com, which she set to message mode, “I’ve got something I need to take care of.  I probably won’t be home for dinner.  I love all of you.”  With that, she entered her favorite bar, the Unicord.  Walking in, she could see it was a slow night, with only a few patrons scattered about.  She ordered a Snorter from the bartender, Riley, whom she had spoken with many times before.  As she paid for her drink, Riley brushed her arm suggestively.  “Not tonight Riley, I’ve actually got real Ministry work to do.”  Riley ran a pick through her afro nonchalantly and turned her back away from the bar.  “Your loss.  But come see me anytime,” she replied. Lorraine didn’t reply to this, and moved to a booth at the back of the bar where she could have some privacy.  She looked again at the comm code on her wrist-com.  Her fingered hovered above the ‘authorize’ button, while all sorts of odd thoughts went through her mind.  Who was on the other end of the line?  What did they do?  Did they know about the murder?  How?  Was she in trouble?  Only one way to find out.  Lorraine pushed ‘authorize’.  What she saw on the other end surprised her more than all the other strange events of the day.

     “Yeah, who’s this?”  The face on the other end of Lorraine’s wrist-com was that of an older woman, maybe 63, although it was hard to tell.  The woman had dark black hair streaked with gray, cut short, maybe a little past her ears, with a dull brown complexion. Lorraine had never seen an older person except in pictures, which she supposed this was too, but different.  This one she could interact with.  “Hi, I’m Lorraine.  I work for the Ministry of-” at which point she was interrupted by the old woman on the other end of the connection.  “Let me guess.  You’re young, but not too young.  Close to moving up, but still in Twentytown.  Your Alvis shut down unexpectedly, and it won’t answer any of your requests.”  Lorraine looked into her drink, surprised.  How could she know all this? “Who are you?”  Lorraine asked.  “My name is Doris,” the older woman on the other end of her wrist-com said, “and I think I’m going to have to help you solve a murder.”  

     Lorraine assumed that Doris was a member of Sunset – Colony E.  Sunset was the last rung up the ladder of Colonies.  Once you got there, you’d completed your journey. Seeing as how travel between Colonies was only one way (up, never down, and never back), she didn’t understand how Doris could help her in any way.  So many questions. Almost as if she could read Lorraine’s mind, Doris spoke.  “Let me guess.  You know interactions between Colonies is forbidden.  You know travel is the same.  Well, newsflash kid,” Newsflash? That’s not a phrase Lorraine recognized.  “See, sometimes the Babysitters – sorry, the Kasparovs,” Lorraine could detect the sarcasm in Doris’ voice, “find something they don’t understand.  I’m from an older generation.  You might say I’m an outdated model if that makes you feel better.  But I remember the world before the Revolution.”  Lorraine had studied some of the history of pre-Revolution, but it fascinated her.  Animatedly, she spoke into her com “You did?  What was it like?  I’ve read it was a nasty, violent, socially intolerant place.”  Feeling like she was making a fool of herself, Lorraine slowed her speech before she spoke again.  “Everyone says I have an old soul, and I’m really interested in what it was like.”  

     Doris didn’t answer.  Doris figured it best if the kid didn’t know too much.  “We’re not going to be able to do this via com-link.  I’m going to have to come to you.”  Doris said. The look on Lorraine’s face when Doris said this was exactly what she expected, a mix of confusion and excitement.  “But travel isn’t allowed!  Interaction with different ages is forbidden.  How would you even get here?”  Lorraine was all at once animated again. She knew that Citizens understood when it was time to move up the ladder to the next Colony, but interaction between Colonies wasn’t something that was done.  Most people didn’t even think about the reasons as to why, because they were too busy living in the present.

     Doris spoke again.  “I’m scheduled to arrive there tomorrow night.  They won’t let me bring my wife so I’m hoping this doesn’t take too long.  I hate leaving her alone.”  At this Lorraine suggested “The rest of your collective will watch her, won’t they?”  “I don’t have a collective, kid.  One wife, that’s all.”  Lorraine had never met anyone with only a single partnup.  “How…” Lorraine didn’t know how to respond to this.  “It’s ok kid. You’d probably think it was quaint.  I guess in some ways it is. But, I maintain some nostalgia for the old ways.”  At this, Doris touched something on her wrist-com which sent instructions to Lorraine’s device.  “All you need to know is on there.  It tells you when I’m arriving and where I will meet you.  Oh, and you can’t tell your collective any of this. From now on you shouldn’t talk about duty in anything but a perfunctory way to them.” “Doris, why you?” Lorraine needed to know this.  “Because I used to be like you kid.  A detective.  Only back then, we had real crimes to solve.  Plus, I miss seeing young people. Sometimes.  Not often, mind you.”  Doris shut her wrist-com off.  Lorraine had a million questions, but she knew the comm code was probably disabled by now.  She would have to wait to see what happened next.  

 

Colonies, Part 2

Body-2

 A Short Story in Multiple Parts
  Part 2

    When Lorraine and Jenna approached Rollie’s location, they could see the Kasparovs blocking the area, not forcefully, but in such a way as to divert attention from Rollie’s location instead of towards it.  This obfuscation technique was known to everyone who worked for the Order Maintenance Division, but to anyone else (Standard Citizens, Artmakers), it was almost imperceptible, the way the Kasparovs were able to motivate people to look the other way.  Of course, that was also because there was rarely any need to use the Obfuscation Technique, so most people didn’t recognize it when it happened to them.

     Lorraine and Jenna stood on the perimeter of the Kasparovs, received their retinal scans, and were allowed to enter the circumference.  Inside the circle was nothing they were prepared for.  “Rollie,” Lorraine said, looking down at the rookie, who was kneeling over the Citizen, “we’re here.”  Rollie looked up at the two women with something approaching fear.  “Lorraine…” Rollie stopped talking and stood up.  As he did so, Lorraine and Jenna both gasped aloud.  “What the stang?” Jenna cried, “Is that a cease?  That’s a cease!”  Lorraine put her hand on Jenna’s arm to calm her.  Lorraine looked at Rollie for what seemed a long time.  Then she asked Rollie in a firm voice “Rollie, did you move anything?”  “No, nothing” Rollie replied.  The three M.o.I. officers couldn’t help but observe the pooled blood.  “Did you find wounds?”  Lorraine asked.  Rollie was staring at the blood on the ground, wide-eyed.  “Did you find wounds?” Lorraine asked again, more forcefully this time.  “Yeah…knife.  This is a murder.” Rollie replied, barely audibly.  Lorraine turned her face to look at the sky.  The sun was a bright orange ball shining down, glinting here and there off the high-glass towers where most people lived.  There hadn’t been a live-death murder in over 13 years.

     Live-death murder was rare, but Lorraine knew the Medis would be thorough in their review of the body.  Lorraine was happy to have the machines.  She figured this would be easy.  The Kasparovs would take over, like they did with all advanced cases.  They can just organize mindgrabs.  Whoever has the murder in their mindgrab gets questioned.  Lorraine and her team get the satisfaction of having helped put a defective away.  

     Later that day, Lorraine punched up a command request on one of the ColonyVid machines at her station.  The Alvis presence appeared.  “Alvis,” Lorraine spoke into the Vid speaker, “tell me what happened this morning.”  As Lorraine waited for Alvis’ reply, she replayed the morning’s scene in her mind. The blood, the body, and the knife wound.  It could have been accidental, two Citizens playing with knives.  Accidents did happen, but if it was an accident, why weren’t there images?  Plus, most accidentals are easy to catch on a mindgrab, if they don’t come in on their own.  Accidents weren’t a crime.  But this didn’t feel like an accident.  Too much was wrong.  This disturbed her greatly.  “The victim’s name is Chase Millet, 29.”  29, a veteran.  Meant to move up soon.  “Alvis, was the victim killed in that alley?  Were you able to recover any fingerprints from the body?  And why did the ColonyVid not capture the crime?”  Alvis did not reply to Lorraine’s question.  “Alvis, please answer.  Do you need more time?  Alvis?”  Lorraine’s terminal shut itself down.  Lorraine stared at the blank screen in confusion.  Alvis was supposed to be available for commands at any time.  Lorraine reached around the back of the machine and turned it back on, and the face of Alvis appeared again.  “Alvis, why did you shut yourself off?  Please answer my question.” Alvis, the apparitional face on the screen, said nothing.  Lorraine waited a few moments, but the machine then shut itself off again.  “Jenna,” Lorraine said, poking her head up from her cube, “is your terminal working OK?”  “Mine’s fine,” Jenna replied. “Why, what’s going on?”  “I’m not certain I even know,” Lorraine said, slightly angrily.  “I think I’m going to go back to the scene.”
As Lorraine exited the Ministry, she punched up a code on her wrist-com.  James, one of her collective, answered and Lorraine could see his stubbled face. “James, listen.  I’m on my way to a crime scene,” she spoke into the machine, which made it look like she was talking to her hand.  James’ face lit up.  “Ooh, I just love it when something happens,” he said to her.  “There’s so little that ever goes on here.  Is it a big deal?”  Lorraine thought about this for a moment, her face screwed up.  Truthfully, she was still agitated that Alvis had shut down on her.  “Maybe I’ll tell you and the others when I return later.”  Not waiting for James’ reply, she shut her com off.  She didn’t really know why she had called him, since she knew she wasn’t allowed to talk about murders.  She had just wanted to hear a comforting voice.  

     As Lorraine was walking back to the crime scene (it was a beautiful day, after all) she marveled at how easy life was in the Colony most of the time.  All foods were available and free, Citizens were friendly with each other, and entertainment only cost time.  Most of her collective went out just recently to watch a couple of Artmakers perform, and they were thrilled by the musical performance.  One of the Artmakers covered an old standard,  “Luke Cage’s Theme” using only a rhythmachine and a bass module.  It was sparse and minimal, and she had thoroughly enjoyed the performance, although she still thought the original orchestral version was better.  

     She broke from her reverie as she reached the alley where the murder occurred.  It was completely clean.  Shadows were beginning to form off the angles of the buildings surrounding the alley, and one would never guess a crime had happened here.  She punched up Alvis on her wrist-com.  “Alvis, the scene has been scrubbed.  Do you have that information I asked for yet?”  Alvis’ face disappeared from her com at this request.  What popped up was a communications code, but one Lorraine had never seen before.  She’d never received an unknown comm code before.

End Part 2

Colonies, Part 1

New Colony Map

A Short Story In Multiple Parts

     On the day before everything she believed in changed, she remembered that the clouds looked like ice floes seen in old VR image-texts.  The clouds were broken in the sky against the moon beautifully; a natural phenomena not to be awed by, but for some reason that evening, as she sat outside smoking on the balcony, this wholly common occurrence seemed weighted with potential.  

     The following morning, a voice came over the com-link.  “You’d better come see this”, Rollie said.  He sounded flustered, worried even.  “What?”, she replied, sure it wasn’t anything all that out of norm.  Rollie was new and prone to hyper-acuity, after all.  His tests confirmed this.  His inter-com cut out for a moment, then it picked back up and started again.  “There is a…situation.”  Lorraine sat back in her chair, the white plastic with leather contouring to her frame, especially her cybernetic left leg. She didn’t think about her leg often, having been born with a defected one, which was removed and replaced a few times during her growth spurts with fresh, shiny, nerve-connected plastic and metal legs.  Lots of people had better parts.  Truthfully, she barely noticed it.   She absentmindedly clicked off the textreader, where she had been reviewing an old document from the Racist days, something called Combahee River Collective Statement.  It seemed odd to her now that people used to have to live with those types of labels.  Punching up the response node on the com-link, she replied “Could you be more specific please?”  Of course, if something were all that interesting, the ColonyVid would have reported it.  “I don’t know how to describe it.”  Lorraine began to think Rollie might not be a good fit for duties.  “Someone passed out?  Warped?”  Warp overload was common in Twentytown, nothing to be alarmed about.  Just the populace enjoying their new vice.  “No boss.  Something else.  The Kasparovs are here”

     At that Lorraine stopped cold.  This wasn’t a Warp.  Kasparovs meant serious.  The defacto peacekeepers, the standard ‘bots, pretty much ran the policing in Twentytown – and everywhere else.  Karparovs were next level.  Lorraine had always assumed having humans on the job was some weird perfunctory role, people staying calm through duty. Because if the standard ‘bots couldn’t handle it, the Kasparovs did.  It wasn’t until later that she would come to view that idea as bizarre.   

     After the second Civil War of Ideologies, racial and sexual difference had finally been normalized, when it was finally accepted that people were all the same under the skin:  bags of meat, with the same internal organs and cancers, hormones and hungers.  Who you desired and who you connected with became more important than who you hated or feared.  Through a  series of pre-birth modification processes, the drives of humanity were isolated and corrected.  No longer would racial heritage warrant class division, hatred, or jealousy.  Sexual need was understood natural and not something to be feared.  Hatred was isolated and ‘fixed’ through scanning.  Corporate control of the populace was eradicated within a generation.  The human species could now progress free from the old systems of control, because what was discovered was that prejudice and repression weren’t inherited at birth, but through the process of accumulation.  The slogan on the front of each Ministry of Information building reinforced the Citizen Freeform tenet: “Our ancestors dreamed us up and then bent reality to create us.”

     As engineered babies replaced live births, the agreed-upon course of action was to isolate people by age range.  What was found through observation was that people, as they aged, accumulated more responsibilities, wealth, status, baggage.  Once it was decided that prejudices and restrictive laws designed to tell others what to do was a result of the fear of losing accumulated power and status, the Colonies, already an idea before that, were constructed.  

     Within a generation, all Citizens were divided by age.  Those under 20 were kept in Colony A.  Colony A included the birthing pens, developmental zones, and rebellious zones.  Colony A was the most divided of the Colonies, because of the massive shifts that occurred during development.  Most remembered it as 0-6, 7-11, 12-19, with plenty of ‘bot supervision.  When Citizens reached the age of 20, they went to Colony B, referred to as Twentytown.  Here, young adults were allowed to find duties, or be artists, or just hang around with others of their own age.  Auditory and visual stimulation were provided by the ‘bots, and by any humans interested in performing for others, but most people preferred to stay home with their collectives.  

     When it was found that people’s fear of their own sexuality and racial beliefs was constructed by repressive societal or parental teachings, those negative influences were removed.  Citizens became more comfortable in their own sexual desires, with sexuality becoming something to be celebrated, not hidden away for shame or fear.  This eventually led to the collectives, homes where 3,4, 5 or more people all lived together, male and female, and what went on between them was up to them.

     There were, of course, other Colonies after Twentytown, and Citizens could still learn about the past via their VR image-texters if they so desired.  All Citizens were also welcome to visit one of the many Ministries of Information, open all the time, but why?  Most of Twentytown primarily wanted to enjoy themselves.  Lorraine could see the beauty in that concept, but she herself liked duty and knowledge.  “I’m heading to you, Rollie,” she spoke into her com-link, “I have your location from your trackerpack.”  Lorraine stepped away from her cube and poked her head into one of the cubes near hers.  “Hey, Jenna,” she said, looking at a tall mocha woman in her mid-twenties, “Rollie says something weird is up.  It’s not on the ColonyVid but he seems freaked.  Come with me?”  Jenna turned, looked up at Lorraine and smiled.  “Sure.”  At this, Jenna stood up, grabbed her gear, and followed Lorraine over to the lifts.  Lorraine enjoyed Jenna’s company, and thought maybe she’d invite her over to her collective soon.

End Part 1