Wayne Clarke : The Candy Store

It was four blocks from the shelter, I used panhandle near it. How strange it seemed, standing out against the grey smoky backdrop of the misty streets, the billboards, uniformal chain-stores and the distant high-rises shrouded in heavy smog. Here was an idealist, tardisian traveller from another age, an age of wonder. It had an aqua-green door, and jubilant crimson walls, the colour of apples. It had that Grimm fairy-tale look about it, wooden criss-cross window frames with red velvet curtains, and through those windows I saw a view of another world. Candy, all the colours of the rainbow, chocolates, toffees, all home-made. How my mouth did water. How I envied those spoilt, buxom, rosy cheeked children skipping in holding hands with their mothers. How friendly the little old man behind the counter looked. He'd talk to his customers smiling and I'd stand watchin' as the kids sauntered out, gorging themselves, with lackadaisical smiles under chocolate smeared mouths. And I wondered why they deserved them any more than me. History books say the actual Crash came on April 1st 2029, almost a century after the Crash of 1929 that so profoundly changed the political geography of that time- as the Second Crash did our own. This was the date of the Doomsday Virus. A computer virus of such complexity and sophistication that it managed to completely halt almost all global telecommunications, media broadcasts and network traffic for precisely six hours, six minutes and six seconds. The resultant mayhem earned it its curious name. Nobody can yet prove who the culprits were. Although, initially the AU claimed it to be work of the Californian hippie-hacker gang the Killer Bees, or Kaybees as they became known. The Kaybees were formed in LA, and spread to San Francisco, and from there pollination continued. From city to city, state to state, propagating like a newly engineered super-species, exclaiming their pro-freedom, anti-exploitation convictions. They were unlike any group that had come before. Highly organised, highly regimented, highly secretive; almost Masonic. Their technological prowess was formidable and their political austerity, exemplary. They rapidly gained support, particularly in working class areas but also among campuses, the pockets of wealthy intelligentsia, and had somewhat blurry ties with anarchic militias, as well as the kingpins of many ghetto crime syndicates. They seemed to carry quite a lot of hidden muscle, solid and electrical. Fiscal and Fisty. Their methods could never be labelled brutal as such, and it was discovered that their basic policy is that of manipulation, rather than coercion. Basic Kaybee protocol is that of using the force of your enemies against them, pitting one against the other, using their leverage, toppling their balance. It was almost a Taoist or Zen approach. A modular being of infinite patience and a keen, agile, strategically-orientated group-intellect. An ever-growing hive of minds, a fusion of skills and knowledge into one highly adaptive organism. A fully functional, communal, bio-electric think-tank, each pulling puppet strings, moving arms and legs, not to attack, but to deflect and defend, reversing all thrusts like a master of the soft Chinese martial styles. The threat they actually posed was nothing like the threat that was felt by certain individuals. They were a perfect scapegoat. However no known Kaybee operatives were ever convicted. On the contrary, many sued the government- and won. Europe had their own scapegoats. It claimed the Virus to be the work of a small, strategically diffuse far-left group known as the Economic Armageddon Cult. These were a different kettle of fish. They believed that people were slaves to the god of economics, too wrapped up with material things and awaited for creation of a New World; free from it all. They were, in fact, nature-freaks, Greenies if you will. An obscure, and quite bizarre brand of pagan proto (*paganist)s, who believed that Armageddon would soon some. When the Earth spirits would at last rise up against those who perpetrate the rapine of Gaia. However the name carried a certain amount of social and commercial consternation. It was quite easy to convince the public that these were the people responsible for the attack. The cult was quite primitive in outlook, almost reminiscent of the Hommish. They had no P.R. man, and no outside support. If Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder; then Innocence is in the Eye of the Jury. Murderers are frequently innocent, while martyrs are often found guilty. So when one member fled to the ABN {Allied Baltic Nations}, while many others took their lives in bizarre fashion, it only helped cement the publics opinion on the others. Therefore, unlike the vindicated Kaybees, the E.A.C., became villains. And it wasnt until the eventual leak of Interpol files and dossiers on members, that the public began to question the case. Once again they guessed and guessed, now the AU blamed Iran, Britain blamed Europe, Europe blamed the ABN, the EAC said it was the wrath of Gaia. While others, considering the exact duration of the crash, claimed it was the work of Herr Beelzebub. In reality, there was no Stock Market Crash. Just a rapidly sliding recession. The Virus was just the catalyst for disaster. There were other factors, each contributing to a global loss of market confidence. All congealing in the centre, blocking up the delicate funnel of financial bandwidth like a global tumour. The oil crisis, the alarming but inevitable fact that it was soon going to run out, the resultant "Scare", the inevitable "Sandstorm", the Japanese adoption of hydrogen, the European bio-engine. These were, in particular, nails in the American coffin. Another of the more important, and often neglected factor was that of the predictions of a top New York computer-economist and Wall Street Journal columnist, Sheldon Weiseman. Who predicted that, at the current rate, even taking into account current nanno-technology, mankind would reach the "Moore Saturation Point." Whereby computer processing speed and capacity could no longer improved upon. Moore was a 20th Century computer scientist who claimed that year after year the speed, capacity and capability of computers will become better and better each year, doubling, tripling, multiplying. Eventually, of course the ride will stop. Perhaps derail. Meaning manufacturers would eventually reach a wall that cannot be passed. Moore could never have guessed that his law would cause such controversy, or accurately guess when such a limit would be reached. But Weiseman did. He set a date for it, sometime in the middle of 2029. Weiseman commanded global respect, when he spoke the multitude listened. It was no surprise there was a savage tilt in market confidence. Computer Economics was a strange, relatively new science. A funky power-jive hip-speak for the marketing elite. Combining what we knew of Old World economic trends, and how they have gradually accelerated by faster and faster communication and transport. Notions that now that as networks become faster and faster so too must business. Exponential growth and the never-ending need for advancing processing velocity are now a grim reality of the 21st Century. Whereby development is incessant, the need for re-education is constant and technological obsolescence is death. It was more than a fad, it was a lifestyle. Dripping with the fat of the corporate model. Laden with the poetic idiom from the higher echelons of Nouveux Americana. Such arithmetic maxims included Time = Money, Transmission = Time, Speed = Power. Of course not everyone shared Weisemans vision. The King, as he was known, Orville Bates, the legendary PR man for Hanover-based company, Grieber Integration Systems, referred to Weisemans theory as; "cyber-quack scaremongering Just another unwelcome, unwarranted second helping of Millennium Buggery" And he was right for one reason. He knew something the others didnt. Grieber had broken the Moore barrier and given the world a new product. A second generation nannochip made from sub-molecular strands of a meta-conductive compound, encased in a doped polymer similar in composition to Carbonex. Grieber ploughed thru the corporate carcasses of fallen multinationals to become the definitive leader in industrial computers. Only one man stood in their way, or should I say child prodigy, the infamous Arthur Coine. It seemed that just when Grieber developed the hardware, Coine was waiting, with just the right software. STANdard script. The eventual language of AI. And boy how they sold us that red herring! Ours is a consumeristic society, a shrine built to the gods of capitalistic overkill. A man's car comes first; job security, love, stability, happiness, a home, a family- just extras. It's the American dream. As a child on the streets I once heard the great urban myth of a Tennessee redneck by the name of Curtis McCall. His wife died, his children had grown up. He wasn't a rich man, but he owned his own home- he had inherited his parents' ranch, acres and acres of real estate. He had grown up there and lived there his entire life. But he was past the fifty mark, and he had held a clerical job in a commercial bank for twenty years (this was all, of course, prior to the Crash). With his wife dead, and no other obligations, he decided to fulfil his lifelong dream. He sold off his possessions, cashed in his pension, sold the house the land- everything. When he pooled it all together, he had a few hundred grand, he paraded into an auto dealership with a suitcase full of cash, he always dreamed of owning a Lamborghini. He bought one. He still worked his bank job, but he slept at the shelter, in hostels, or on the street. He paid a meagre thirty dollars a week for warehouse storage, home of his precious chariot. Eventually he got smart, he slept in daytime and at took the nightwatch job at the warehouse, with a paycheque and a gun- guarding the cargo with his life. As I grew up daddy an' me moved around. Daddy was a drunk, he was good to me in his own unique way. But I always remembered that candy store. Daddy an' me eventually settled down, it was the most horrible rat infested fire-trap on the South Side. The water was brownish, it stunk of cabbage and at night I fell asleep to the lullaby of sirens and gunfire. But it was home. And in that neighbourhood I made some real friends. Clancy was crazy from the very beginning, he never knew his dad, his brother was in jail, and had got a job to help his momma. She had some sickness, some disease- at the time I was too young to guess what it was. Clancy was only the same age as me when I met him; eight. That didn't make any difference, even the older kids were scared of him, he always got the run of the ball court, and he never got pushed around. Most kids never went near him; I used to often wonder why. But he had his crew. I used to hang with him, and at the start the others thought I was a tag along, but I proved myself in time. One Summer night we was drinkin' out back by near where the abandoned factory was, daddy caught me. He dragged me home and beat me senseless. Soon after, Clancy's mom died. We decided that we'd never become nothin' if we hung around here. And that we should never return to these chumps until we made somethin' of ourselves. Clancys momma never cared that we smoked, wed keep the ol block tradition alive, a 40 anna blunt. Maybe some Domino's. And a lotta bored channel-hoppin. One night in his house we were chillin like that and there was a documentary on about the "Moguls of the IT Era". Midway, before I got the chance to change channel Clancy started off into one of his now-famous monologues "Id like to live ly thah Billy, would you? Yknow, ye takin a shit n ye makin a billion while ye doin it? Thas the life man, those muddafuckiz, they dont even know ow tenjoy id! Thas the real fuckin tragedy of it all. Whad they need is someone like us to show em how its done. Luggat that mothafucka Bill Gates. If I woz bill Gates, ythink Id give a shid about fuckin Windows, fuckin doohs, fuckin holes inna wall!" I began to laugh. "Heyal no! Id be widda 40 anna blunt, as always! Cept Id ava car for every day adda week, Merc onna Monday, Jag onna Tuesday, Porsche on Wednesday, Vette for Thursday anna Ferr-ari Friday! An Id ava harem, like inna movies, like tha toweleds! A big harem fulla smoke, and fulla pussy, from aawl ova the World! Auditionin tha bitches for mown private porno movies!" There were tears in my eyes from laughin. "An Id git me wunna dem Scorpion Glidiz I seen on TV? An Id turn id into a Club! The fuckin Mile High Club! And bwoy? If you wanna go up there? You gotts to git mii-dy high!" We were always in trouble of some kind, drink, drugs, stealin cars, breakin an enterin. I done lots of jobs, mostly solo, and I never enjoyed one as much as my last one. I told Clancy about the place. He said it was fate, somethin' I had to do. So we done it. Cleared it out, took all the cash from the till, any money or valuables, and I helped myself to as many candies as I could fit in the bag. We got caught, but we were too young for prison, they sent us to "Sesame Street," a juvenile correction centre in upstate Michigan. They fed us sloppy oatmeal and burnt toast, cold beans and gritty hamburgers, foul smelling stew, lumpy mash and stale bread. They punished us, they whipped us, they tried to teach us useless crap; like the Bible an' shit. All about AIDS and the evils of drink and drugs. How to carve wood and solder by hand. We never listened to what they told us. But we learned shit, learned to play poker, learned how to survive, Clancy an' me learned shit we never thought possible. We learned to be men, how to stand on our own two feet; and we learned how to put others on their knees. After doing time we ended up in another shelter. There we met the man who changed our view on life. Bobby Powell. He was a streetwise old timer with a sterling smile, mischief in his eyes, and love in his soul. He wore tattered Chinese-style sandals, torn flannels and big, baggy, old-skool jeans. He laughed out loud and talked with his hands, waving, waving, BIG expansive expressions. A flip-flopping, hunchback, parading loudly down the drab, soaked streets. In one hand he carried his Bourbon, in the other was his "bag of tricks." An MS Infinity console, Lucent cell-com, doctored call cards, pocket scanner, Phillips HDU, Pioneer mini-op quad-deck, Coine EPROM tray, a fossilised flash-drive, his impressive arsenal of DIY "magic boxes" and numerous connectors, wires, and gaudy antennas. He was a salesman. He was a conman. ("Ain' much 'va difference!") An electro-trickster. He'd managed to swindle thousands of dollars off on-line auctions, manipulated numerous important, rich people with telemarketing gimmicks. His cons were elaborate, high tech, and oh so cheeky. But they didn't come along that often. He had numerous asides, he cheated at cards, set up shakedowns, sometimes he just conned people out of small change or new clothes. Now that the winter is fast approaching he's gearing up for the Christmas rush. At a scrape Powell could get his hand on fake watches, pornographic screensaver-discs for HDU's, imitation VB-boy keyrings, (you might just remember the things, the little sound-sensitive LCD breakdancers) Nintendo Holoboy cartridges with over six thousand games, hot Casio notepad computers complete with Hewlett Packard stylus and X-RAM add-ons with celebrity voicemail messages. Elvis is the top seller: "Aw-haw-haw! Hello this is Elvis Presley, there's no-one here to take your call, so leave your message after the tone Thankyu-very-much!" Tacky electronics were his speciality, cyber-crap, hi-tech didn't amount to shit in his world. We passed by a Zorro-masked street performer, he was convulsing in a bizarre, blinding, aerobic Kung-Fu ballet. Something like that shit they do in Brazil, but with a lot of chopping and boxing. Trodes gelled to his dome, rainbow braids of ribbon cables and slimline coaxial wires running from head to foot. On his silken suit were silvery conductive threads criss-crossing the thousands of multicoloured LED sequins; all blinking in time with the music. At first I thought he was just dancing and hitting things, but he wasn't, he was performing. The evolution of the human beatbox. A bizarre array of drum machines, samplers and Nu-MIDI sequencers, wired straight to his noodle . The free-form, pneumatic breakbeats were coming from those pads he was hitting in a lightning blur. His crazy legs, as they whipped around a grid of infrared beams were in fact the biological aerials of some thundering thermin that pummelled us with subbass harmonics. "Dig tha' keeyid! See that's what I mean, it ain' high tech, bud it's original! Next mon' he might be the half-time show faw tha 'Wings. Aftea that? The Jessie Thomas show, MTVN, Who knows? See the big companies sell what they tell the people they need. Sure you can get a console that matches tha' black lacquered shelf system ya got in the Brick. Get yaself an Ikea min-op rack and a subscription to Music Lover America, every month a new volume of American Rock'n'Roll history delivered to you home. Get a matchin' AKAI Blue-Range console, about yeay big, widda hundred watt credit-cahd speakas to listen to id on. But I know not every house wants one. 'Cos I sell crappy Cambodian ones that look like an antique gramaphone- complete with fully functional record player!" And he was right. I've seen the shit he sold. Compare a grand's worth of a Remington Laser with his product; the Cut-throat. The thing has all these sensors inside, turn it one way it goes, "oh-oh!" another it goes, "whoops!", "sorry about that buddy!" etc. And if it actually does manage to cut you, it starts shrieking, "OH MY GAAAAAWWWD!!!!SOMEBODY CALL 911!!!!!" The busker follows us along the street, prancing along like a homicidal Energiser bunny- Powell continues, "Christmas howeva, thas tha gold-rush! Yu star t'unnastan awl tha' shit about this here country bein' tha land a' oppuh tu-niddy. 'Cos it can be, Ah-mer-ee-ca!!!", he begun to sing. "Where tha' streets are paved with gold- and suckahs, which amounts tu tha same thang lemmie tell ya. Aye give you boys an example. Rememer lass yeer? Dem whatchamacallit's, Bibikis? All ova tha siddy, parents tramplin' each other, fighdin' ly rabid dawgs. Ova whad? A piece 'a Japanese fluff. Some whyde muddafucka inna dee-zy-nah suit steps up to my stall an axed me did I have any 'a them Kiwi's or whadeva, 'you know whad I mean, he sez, furry green spikey thing, big googley eyes? Shu' do ma man! Soul' fah hun-red dollas! It wasn't exactly what his kid wanted but whad the fuck difference it make tu me? Twenny yeahz along when they ass' why d'e shoot awl them people from up in that bell towah? He sez it's 'cos he wanted a Bibiki fah Chriss-miss bud 'is dadday got 'im a Taiwanese Bibuki, m'I gonna give a shit? Hehyal no!" It started small, and you could say it was almost legit. I was the business man, and Clancy was the expert jive-talkin' salesman. They called us the Hood Samaritans. We were given saint-like status. In a world where telecommunication devices are fashion accessories and every technological vogue adored like a clothes-designer's new season collection, why not surf the lucrative wave. Piggyback the profits of brand-name profusion. We'd seen billionaire geeks on TV and wonder what, besides the money, they had that we didn't- a company, simple as that. We saw a number of gaps in the market that needed to be filled, we filled them adequately. Where we were, Hi-tech wasn't exactly par for the course. But we delivered Hi-tech at low cost and set up our own ghetto monopoly. Anything you want, talk to Clancy. "Recession's a bitch huh? Inflation, cripplin tha nation as Duck'n'Cova once sed. Yeah I hear yu ma brotha! Gotts to keep it real, yeah I get you a copy, you name the names an I kin git cha da choons" The Washington Netcops had failed to secure the networks. And the big record labels and movie companies had failed to completely monopolise them. Many independents were bought out by the majors and their output was fed into the corporate meatgrinder. Their databases were full to the brim with digital recordings, shelved, never to be released. All password protected, locked in corporate e-vaults. It was all in the name of economics. The entertainment industry was a carefully regulated sector dominated by a regimented set of guidelines. Under the AULC, {American Union Licensing Committee} who controlled output to protect market saturation, certain demographic, financial, racial and cultural markets were mapped out, and each company were allowed a certain share. Legal and administrative bigwigs were hauled in to deal with the surplus of media, and the slate was wiped. The rest of the world followed the trend. Most compensation and anti-trust lawsuits were lost, and the lightspeed marketing of sub-cultures began. Music was a perfect example. Due to the system revolution the economy of the 1st world had slowly but surely shifted up several gears over the past number of decades. Once upon a time an artist might have a hit album, go on tour, and still, years later live comfortably on his/her royalties. Today the artist might have a hit song one day, sell billions of copies worldwide then be forgotten the next. Most of the pop music that comes out is, like everything else these days, a product of our instant, pre-packed, ready-mix, disposable society. Pop singers generally make it on the strength a single song. That song played non-stop for one week. Then a new sensation is thrust forward, while another is incubated. An assembly line for hyper-fashions, mass-produced trendiness; cute, thin girls, pretty, muscular boys. The heart-throb master race. And it's BIG money. In the AU alone over two billion dollars a week is spent on developing new copyright protection systems- but 5 times that is made in piracy. When we set up the studio we decided to avoid trying to hack the bitchy MMCS copyright systems and instead went straight for the jugular. We were originally on the mailing list of The Rig. In fact toward the end we became one of its biggest financial contributors; tax free and shrouded in 'Bee subterfuge. The Rig was the pirate joint back in the day. The last virtually impregnable fortress of free digital transmission. It took the multinationals' labcoats an eternity to figure out how they were doing it. They never coded their signal in a sense. They simply disguised it and transmitted worldwide on a low frequency microwave, from an abandoned oil rig off the coast of Alaska. It simply piggy backed the legitimate data highways with the appearance of sunspots or polar magnetic noise or what have you. And reached your home having passed thru numerous secret stations that received, boosted and re-transmitted before finally going thru extensive wave filtering software on your receiver. There was no MMCS with these fuckers, their agenda was philosophical and subversive. Veterans of the underground scene. Data guerrillas, defending independent production from the majors. They gave the people what they needed. A choice. They gave generously and we burnt it, duplicated it and sold it. Of course the Rig would never ever bow to convention. They were Alter-net B4 the term ever became a corporate buzz-word. For the more mainstream we had to look elsewhere. Popular media was a much bigger headache. A headache we simply avoided. We just used the same digital editing and vocal synthesis techniques as the majors. So for example when a new plastic, test-tube, boy/girl band came on the scene we simply fed in the relevant data and re-synthesised the entire song. The software had numerous basic templates for creating the music. It was simply a matter of entering the key, length of the piece, the type of song {Lovesong/Ballad, Dancefloor, etc.} The style, {Latino Soul, Hillbilly Ska, Tech-Metal etc.}. The target market, the sex, age, size, along with sexual and ethnic orientation of the "singer." Then the sound presets, melody and lyrics could be filled in later. Oh it was bad shit, no doubt about it. It was enough to make you ill; Rainbow Greenie-pop, Industrial hip-hop, bitch-bands like Jailbait (Clancy ended up married to one of them!) or the caustic squeaks and screeches of sexy feline Hong-Kong punk temptress Miss Meow-Meow. I could never bow to the notion that I was uncool, kids told me this all the time, naw man, DucknCova, till I die man, thats music. They could play, they could rhyme, they could paint soundscapes and take you to new worlds. Me an Clancy had all their albums. To hell with Tech Metal, DucknCova were rougher! Fuck your Beat and Crash- they were doin that shit ten years before. Purists reckon they were the killers of rap, the death of RocknRoll. I agree, yes they were, they killed it, obliterated it, and when they did they made sure it didnt die with a whimper- but with a resounding apocalyptic Big Bang! I was just old enough to remember the block parties, when the brothers once rocked to the sound of hip-hop. Milking it to the end, getting their last few kicks while the machine-men gradually castrated it, bleached it, and re-packaged it for a new generation. In the immortal words of DucknCova; "Streamlined, streamlined for tha Mainstream. Lo-Phat beats, remove tha Cream" They made it lo-phat, they took out the cream. The beats that went from blocks to cubicles. Gangstas to accountants. Oreo OGs to CEO MCs. The black flamingos of Ma Microsoft. {and her sister companies MicroMobility, MS-South, MS-Canada, MS Inc., MS Home Systems and Apple Computers.} Righteously pledging to address all non-MS product incompatibility issues and toiling to fix all bugs with future upgrades- Respect bwoy! Plaguing housewives with requests to register their refrigerators, bringing technology to the illiterate and tears to the eyes of androids. But the way they said it Like poetry! Oh it was everywhere. Infectious. The Business of doing Business. The Evolution of the Professional. The Men with Armani faces. Pin-up lawyers and supermodel salesmen. The New-Speak. The Nu-Skool, New Jack Yuppiez. The laws and principals of Weiseman Disciples dogma carried with them the dynamic swagger of a true player. A "cyberpunk" bad ass with a Mac Explorer 1250 stead ova Mack 10. Representin for the demographic study of inner-city uneducated African Americans. Keep id real G! My Daddy was a country boy. Used work on a farm for an old whitey called Thomson. Thomson used to say how much rap music sounded like a cattle auction. My memory recently afforded one subsequent glimpse back thru time at the mega hip macrocosm of MTV. Its laconic legacy of angst-ridden sound-bytes and feral, viro-visual debauchery. A crude electronic, barbaric canvas of blood-red brutality and artless white noise. Black leather and cold steel chains, pretty hate machines, teen spirits and acne cream commercials. I couldnt but agree with Thomsons notion. Instead of selling cattle it was safe sex, cosmetic drugs and loud RocknRoll. Bitches and guns, attitude and image- records and over-priced concert tickets. Its only a primitive manifestation of the pop-art movement. Strobe selling, disco bass-thumping pumping marketing. The flashing, neon coloured, cherry-flavour gum-bubble, forever inflating without managing to pop. The expansive evolution of the trans-media consciousness. A stepping stone for the next generation of trendy culture-sculptors. The people who shape our perceptions, document our era with fashions, fossils and other such vacuums of material strata. Who give us the definitive version of not whats right, or wrong, but tell us whats Cool, and whats Essential. Who give each generation its structure. Without a mind and a backbone what are we? Jellyfish junkies, formless, translucent and soft. Consuming and digesting all flotsam without thought or action. Aimlessly wandering in the seas of addiction, lost beneath the waves of ignorance and impotence. Waiting for the next fix to float by. Another lollipop to suck on, another soluble drug for rapid absorption into our social bloodstream. Looking at it this way one begins to see a similarity with the ol Wild West hawkers of the travelling patent medicine shows. The true pioneers. Men who had skills. Who projected a sharp-edged wall of rhythmical eloquence. A snake charmers syreen aria, catching their prey in the hypnotic, hyper-sensual coils of perpetual prose. Now can you see how the seemingly crazy coalition between Wall Street and the Hood was founded. Two very different worlds. But the basic principals stayed the same; make em buy your lines, outbrag your opponents, crush em with your verbal flair, dont stall, dont stutter, dont miss a beat. Push em harder, faster, make em sweat. Break it down, rise it up, roll, rock, freak and fly. Make the bitches want some, make the men want what you got. Let your people talk to my people- and they can suck my motherfuckin dick! And you can guess who learned the lingo. Oh yeah, Clancy had it. He didnt learn it from MTV either, he had it in his bones, in his heritage, in his blood. The Talk, the Walk, the Act, the Look- The pitch! But it was small-time. A sponsorship, that's what we needed. We got a no hassle deal, we do whatever we want, it's our show, just a 15% cut of future profits for them and they'll supply the capital for now. Thanks to Kaybee intervention we were now in the luxury market- brand names, designer labels, we'd contract out our workers for big time suppliers. We had it made, you could say we ran things. We was the only guys on the block with a colour TV. I drove a Cadillac at a time when a tricycle was a big investment. We had tailors, software pirates, hackers, circuitry wizards, forgers; you name it, we had 'em. Cut out the middle man, cut out the front man- direct to you. "Yeah, well my good man, what if I said I could get you a tailor fitted Armani suit delivered to your doh by this time tomorrow. An' nobody an' I mean nobody's gonna think youse a cheap ass sonova bitch, cos our product is I-dentical to the real deal." The cops came, the cops left- with bargains It prospered, we grew, we expanded "What tha fuck you think this is, a junkyahd? Dayam! We oooh-nleh gots the best, best shit here my palefaced brotha! For onlay five gran', in less than two weeks, you can find yawsel' 'fron-ova brayn-new Toshiba LX425 enner-tainmen' console. Supa high definition liquid crystal, 50 inch wyde-screen, most kickin' sirround sound on this here planet, cable an' satellite de-scramblez; anny channel you wan- Worldwyyde! You let me know I can get you the bible-bashin' hillbilly channel, or some serious kickin' hardcore shit straight outa Amsta-dam or Bangkok, whateva' floats yaw boat, whatever you wann. Cos wid us, you GIT what YOU wan! An' I know yo gonna wan the most ultra-fast mini-op drive on the market, it's all in the package- an' for no extra cost a Mitsubishi\Capcom Omega card for da keeds. Is it hot shit? Yeah it's the hottest shit in town ma-man! But it ain' stolen; see I ain't no crook, an' you look like the kinna man that wouldn't deal with a crook. See these models ain' even got a tracer circuit in 'em. Technologically impossible?! Dat whad you think? Ain't no such shit as technologically impossible, 'cos were just the kinna mothafuckas whose job it is, is to everyday achieve the impossible! C'mon now, this is the Hi-tech age, an' we's a bunch a Hi-tech niggis!" We were providing a service, we were supplying the people with anything they wanted, and we were supplying the establishment another service. We became the yardstick for which other undesirables were measured. We were renegades, we were scum; we were rich and carefree. The operation multiplied a million-fold. And the 'Bees decided it was best to go online, hidden behind their world-class Network Defence Technology. They helped us on the industrial espionage side of things, even managing to help us get access to Coine processors. However, a processor is only as good as it's software, and that was even harder to get a hold of. We decided to span our operations. Consumer electronics were all fine and well, but this was the age of STAN-dard software and nanno-technology. We went deep underground and set up our "R&D" department. Our R&D boys were superbly pro, top of the line. Crack safes, evade security, snap the specs on the retina cam and get out. We'd hit in the blink of an eye, and be gone. The big companies would have to go down on their hands and knees with a magnifying glass and meticulously comb the gutter to find even the slightest trace of us. Anything they did manage to dredge up would be unwelcome information. A little message, understood, we know a lot more than you think so back off. Working with R&D were a multitude of hackers along with scores of inside operatives. We also had an analysis team, their job was to descramble codes and acronyms. Often even a printout from a wastepaper basket could provide invaluable data, and be the missing piece of the puzzle. The Pandora was our first real success. Available thru Globex subscribers. Globex subscribers meant either the 'Bees, or more numerous wasps. Bad fuckers. Net-pimps and pirates. Sharks and eels, you want to see XK-rated porno or hire a bounty hunter from Armenia go onto Globex. You'll invariably be approached by some shifty surfer and called into a room and asked if you want the hippest new designer drug, LNS with anomalous molecular tails, or imitation Asashi cocaine. You may even find a P.E.S. dispenser. And refusal to buy such highly illegal chemicals (they're much more lenient on Plutonium traffickers) can be just as terminal as being caught with them when the he knows too much shit hits the fan. And that, is only the tip of the iceberg. Its a different world down there in the cyber-slums. A crackly world of noise and static. Low fidelity, low lives, hi-stakes and hi-times. Because there ain't nothin' like getting' low down and dirty- and goin' analogue. Logging onto Globex is like walking into a real tough bar. The sight of an outsider immediately triggers bit-streams of bad vibes. The place hushes itself and the people crawl back into the shadows to observe you. And you know there's tension in the air. Around each table sits some global heavyweight, and if you're seen to pry, or simply lack the street etiquette you're a threat, and you'll be dealt with. Globex is the electronic favela, the Netcops never could establish order, and indeed even the top N5-O's that tried now lie in comas. Therefore on Globex you maintain, you watch your back, you keep quiet, you keep out of other peoples business and they keep out of yours- etiquette. If your going to make any moves then you better have a serious crew behind you. And be ready for a synaptic firefight to the death. Not that we needed to worry. Because we were tight with the 'Bees. And nobody on Globex was ever foolish enough to try take on the Killer Bees. We were seen as an umbrella faction. A subsidiary. Selling our wares like ol' Powell on the street corner. Selling in bulk to global distributors. Selling things like the Pandora. Wow! Our enemies never could link us to that, never. Some baby-faced lawyer from the Jonathan French Agency took care of that little copyright faux pas. The Pandora was a black box about twice the size of an old 5x3 mini-op tray. The box opened up like a book, and on one side were the slots for cards, nanno-SIMMs and EPROMs. On the right were the I/O connections, a skeleton key for data, catering for every type of cable and transmitter from the latest nanno-dish relays right down to prehistoric COM cables. And then, under all that were the brains. And oh! How sweet they were. You see the amount of processing you need to run software thru any generic operating system is tiny compared to how much is used in practice. Firstly the hungry old MMCS monster and secondly? Ever since the primordial circuits of the early nets people fought for the power that comes from the System Revolution. How to get into your data but lock you out of theirs. Strip this away however and it frees you up to load it with other things. Your average domestic console has a direct and open tracer line with the manufacturer, despite the Orwellian overtones the reason, besides market research, is that when a new version of the software comes out it can upload it without you even realising it. And so murdering the notion of backward compatibility. These were back in the days when OSOL-8 {Operating System On Line} was popular. An insane attempt to wean away the technically inept Microsoft users. And until the aforementioned put it out of business with its own pre-Synotech uber-net mallet, was a cheap and cheerful voice activated service that managed your files, linked all sloppy software pathways, watched your house, answered your calls and done everything that your average, technically illiterate housewife would ask. In essence it was the ultimate in user-friendliness at the expense of real control. It's selling point, and for many its most nauseating feature, was that it turned the info-superhighway (to use a vintage term) into a leisurely stroll down Sesame Street. But the Pandora didn't do that The Pandora was what I like to call hardcore-ware. It didn't stick tracers up your ass or fuck you with credit transfers and censor-guards. It got you what you wanted, and it got it five minutes ago. It could run anything from old Sony Buddy hacks to the latest Synthasium conversions. It could grab any cable or satellite for free, and, it was the best system out there if you wanted to catch Mojo Malik's Crash-Hop hour on The Rig. And that's when it all started to change. It became immediately apparent to all involved in the venture that we would eventually have to take our technology to the masses. We had the style and oh man, we had the talent. And rumours started to fly around the organisation from our techs to the Kaybee overseers, everyone was buzzed into a state of frantic silence. It was that same type of hushed murmur that blows thru a company when a take-over is not announced. But take over wasn't the term, oh no, the term was going legit. And at the beginning it was, in fact, Clancy who disliked the notion. He didn't want to leave the cosy but barbaric Globex bunker. We had our own turf there. Nobody could get in, and there were just too many people who were prepared to wait for however long it takes for us to come out. If we were to legitimise then it was certainly inevitable that the 'Bees would not only drop us in a flash, leaving us defenceless against both the authorities and our numerous rivals, but they too would disapprove strongly. And it was this that made Clancy so uptight. The Kaybees were known as terminators of terminals. They could fry your buffers like an egg on the Alamain Airdock. "No, no, no, no!", was Clancy's mantra, "I've made a deal with the devil, and good demons stick together. No fuckin' way m'y gonna fuck widda Kaybee, ahm cray-zee, but I ain't STU-pid!!!" What we didnt realise was that the Bees were on the same tip. Course thats the way the Bees worked. Theyd been preening and polishing our public image. Devising our gameplan. Shaping us up for a corporate coup detat, silently waiting for the right moment. They wanted us out there, competing, creating trouble for the big-leaguers, stirring shit, mixin it up with the Micro-Macks. And making them a little cash on the side. Venture Capital to adventures on Capitol Hill, man it was all there for the takin. We grew stronger, richer, and the Bees loved us for it. Hi-Tech, Lo-Cost. Ghetto Industry- In your fuckin face! We made clothes, our own label- Gangsta Gear- the kids took it seriously. We produced our own records, movies, zines. Our own brands. Any time we were criticised for our dubious past it only made us more credible. More disreputable, meretriciously marketable. More bad-ass than ever! We had some pleased Bees man! They were beamin Bees, we were their knees! The industries fleas. They didnt think itd last that long though. Then again, neither did I. I decided to do the smart thing, went to niteskool got my high school diploma, went on to college, got me some education. Broadened my horizons. Took me a few years. Clancy, meanwhile, had superseded everyones expectations. Going from strength to strength. He made the Bees proud. He made me proud. And he too, was proud of me. When I returned, following my graduation, Clancy hired out the function room of a fancy New York hotel and threw a huge party in my honour. Some of the biggest names were there. Hotshots, photo-ops, journalists "I didnt invite them fuckers, they juss gate-crashed ypardee! Donlay two people, otha than aw-selves thad-re invited are these two gennel-men" He gestured toward the stage, and the curtains opened. There, standin there, mean as fuck, Cover-up Carl, and Joey the Duck. MY band! The only band! DucknCova! Playing a gig just for me!" I could have kissed him, Clancy knew, his eyes were as bright and excited as mine. He shook my hand again, hugged me, congratulating me with teary eyes. And as the first few chords of When the Skudz Fly rang out over an incredulous swarm of cocktail-drinking suits, he whispered in my ear; "You feelin ah-igh?" I nodded, tears wellin up. "Good. So lets wreck this fuckin place!" Only I knew when hes being genuine, and that night he was more honest and kind than I could ever imagine. For me, it marked the end of an era. The last night of the Old Clancy. The following day he called a conference with the Bees proposing to terminate the agreement. Clancy had ideas. He told them to us all, while we sat there- dumbfounded. One such notion was that he decided to venture into multimedia. Clancy wanted to set up his own software firm. He decided to give it a smart name, a parody, a one finger salute to the establishment Today Microdot is one of the world leaders of Alternative software. Bringing ol' Powell's philosophy and Lo-Fi legacy to the masses. We made designer viruses and whoopie cushion bugs, peddling the electronic equivalent of rubber dogshit. We invented and perfected the trade of novelty operating systems. Our best seller is Merlin. A cheeky magician that talks in some "Awrigh' Gov'na!" English accent, laughs at you, insults you, when you enter your name it develops some irritating nickname for you, makes all your files disappear every Friday the 13th, has databases that play April Fools jokes on you and an intelligent word processor that jumbles the words into new meanings that are quite obscene to say the least. You can send this document to you're friends, who won't be able to read it correctly without Excalibar, our Merlin decoder. It was all Clancy's idea. He commented that one of the most popular urban myths that exists in society today is the belief that all operating systems, be they Coine, MS, Synotech or whatever, display some sentience, and exist with the sole purpose of pissing you off. So, he thought, why not design one that comes right out and says it. I am the almighty machine, you are an asshole and I'm going to make your life absolute fucking hell- It sold billions worldwide. But where do we go from here? Clancy had toyed with the idea of gen-eng. Selling pet perversions like Mini-Mammoths, pink piranhas and polka-dot tarantulas. I've seen many disturbing sight in my life. But nothing so unnaturally ominous as one. The eerie Amazonian star of many a nightmare of mine. Clancy's most perverted achievement; a towering malevolent green Martian; the 7ft Venus Rat Trap. It lasted a day outside its vat before it's own gastric cocktail managed to eat through, volcanic boils grew to the size of fists, bulging and popping in a lush chloro-mucus Blitzkrieg of toxi-plasm and acidic vapours. I saw those sharp teeth-like hairs oscillating wildly, puppet head thrashing, that enormous jaw flapping uncontrollably, I could smell its enzyme-heavy, sour, rusty breath. And I could swear I heard it screaming. Within minutes we were scrubbed down as the bio-janitors scattered around in protective suits, hastily mopping up. He became a kind of Freaky Frankenstein, fuckin with DNA like a kid with a chemistry set, obsessed with the creation of hyper-hormonal, gene-spliced abominations. Mutated lizards with abnormal stegosaur and dimitroden growths on their backs. Cats that go woof and dogs that meow, he put both prototypes together in an enclosure. The shareholders hadn't arrived yet. Hairy Hiroshima, they devoured each other, the Ottawa Riots with teeth and fur, and claws. The cat killed the dog, and seconds later the cat, its wounds exposed, convulsed, snapping its own bones as its immune system kicked it. The animal rights fuckers protested- Big time. They said it went against AU animal rights laws, the GEN-EC charter, and the most important of all; the law of nature. He threw a tantrum when the message was relayed to him. They wouldn't dare take on him! Clancy immediately went to DefCon 4, as his workers called it. He summoned his lawyers (he called them his High-Flying Monkeys) to the War-room, and sent them on their seek and destroy missions. But it was just a phase, that sort of thing happened weekly. Those who worked with him knew that they had to grin and bear it. He forgot about it the following week and got his mind snagged on another scheme. Another stroke of genius Clancy's starting to believe the hype. I think he's becoming what the media tells him he is. Or maybe he's just playing the game. Maybe he's fuckin' with them. You never can tell with Clancy. Even I cant no more. Nothing is as it seems. One minute he says he's going to set up a news network that tells you fictional news, alien invasions, the six-headed woman, all that kinda net-tab shit. He came close to it, but when the development team showed him the pilot he screamed on their ass, ranting, raving, fired them all on the spot. It wasn't tacky enough, it was all done with "gay" digital terragon graphics, it "sucks cock!", he would do it all himself. But he never got around to it. One of the team sold the idea to Fox, who warped it into their own diluted comavision soup News-squad; fuckin' lame ain't it! One thing you can't fault about Clancy is his philosophy, he's consistently cheesy, and he still has the vision. He steers the company in a way that has made it a household name, but never, ever, have we become stale, never will Clancy let us become predictable. The company mirrors him now. His personality, his eccentricity. I rarely see him anymore, perhaps at the AGM, or some emergency board meetings. Most the time I see him is when he's in the papers; the rich playboy, the rockstar entrepreneur, the owner of the Mile High Club. Husband of ex-Jailbait star Kandi Kain. Teen Idol to the masses. He actually was on MTVN once, perhaps a fitting arena or perhaps its way too easy to forget that we used burn pirate disks and steal patented electronics. Surely Wall Street has. But I know he hasnt. He went to some sombre award ceremony dressed in a white tux, red alligator shoes, Cuban cigar in his mouth, Martini in his hand, flocks of beautiful women on his arm. He started talking to all the reporters, buttering them up, charming the shit outa 'em. Talking all this intellectual shit, ah! This must be the new mature Melvin Clancy, I could imagine him, waiting Yeah it got 'em alright, hammered drunk, down to his boxers, breakin' on the table of some fancy French restaurant, bustin' a rhyme about the McCoys. "Hey Mr. Prezzi-den, ydaught-da gawd ass! I had the first lady but she wont be tha lass!" Clancy is the personification of the, "no such thing as bad publicity" maxim. The master of self-promotion. The Candy Store is his baby, an extension of his crazy creativity and colourful persona. I'm a billionaire, a fucking tycoon, in charge of the A&R dept., loonies, jackasses, freaks, sluts and space cadets. I know what Clancy likes. I deliver. He lines 'em up for his shows like dominoes. Then he'll send me a voice message, something like, "Yeah man, yeah man, that's IT. That kid Rodja?! He had IT. That's what I'm after, crazy, crazy. That muddafucka, he was GONE!!!" Then he'll regress into a more business-like tone. Somethin' like, "Keep up the good work, Billy." It don't bother me, I have more important shit to be doing. Three years ago I set up the Robert Powell Memorial Foundation, helping inner-city kids with problems learn proper shit, that'll help 'em. I work down there myself. The kids think Im cool and they always ask about Clancy. I tell 'em we grew up together, we're tight. He's my boy. It's bullshit. But I tell 'em anyway. Whatever you want to be go for it. Thinking if just one of you skinny little bastards can make it to 21 without spraying some gooks brains all over a liquor store window. If just one of you, in your baggy shorts and scabby knees, can keep that pipe outa you mouth, that needle from your veins, that slow, demoralising killer that took Clancy's mom from your door; then maybe none of this would have been the waste of time I feel it has become. I use his name as a lesson, a fucked up Walt-Pepsi, American Dream; sickly sweet like Aunt Jemima pancake syrup. Powdered faith. Instant optimism. Cheez Whizz philosophy. Manufactured, synthetic, fake. Marx called religion the opiate of the people, and according to Clancy MTV and the Home Shopping Network was their crack. He decided to prey on the gullibility of the world. If they bought 5 billion hectares of "talking" Bibiki action figures and three-hundred and 77 episodes of "Everybodys People" then they deserve to be insulted. And for him the ultimate insult is one youre willing to pay for. Willing to showcase your absolute materialistically blindfolded ignorance by handing over your hard-earned cash to be framed by a "black Motown grease-monkey." To make a "nigga from Detroit" a billion dollars richer each time he takes a shit. And to go home, with an expensive designer product you know was deliberately manufactured not to work- smiling from ear to ear. Its poetic, hell say. "Im like Coine, n Gates n all them otha fuckas we used to see on TV," he once told me, and I couldnt think up a reply, much as I wanted to. Clancy is what Clancy sells, he sells the world nothing but their own stupidity, I seem to be selling hope in a can. And I wonder if either of us should bother, for who else is really going to profit from it?