Category Archives: Albeit

Spengler Directory: 4B2

Here are the street and location directories for Spengler, a Canton (neighborhood) in the fictional city of Albeit.

spengler-location-directory

spengler-street-directory

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Spengler Map

This map (see PDF link below) shows a bird’s eye view of Spengler, the Canton known best for the allegedly cultist group that lives within it. Note the grid-like road pattern and standardized building plan for each of the four outer provinces, just one indicator that Spengler is all about standardization and efficiency.

(This map is part of my series on “Albeit,” a fictional city around which I am basing some fictional work.)

spengler-map

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Understanding the Regiment’s government

[This article about the “Regiment” is part of a series on the fictional city of Albeit, a location in which much of my writing is based. The Regiment is a group within a Canton (neighborhood) called “Spengler.” It is one of 11 such Cantons in Albeit.]

Understanding the Regiment’s government

11/9/2008

Kenneth Burchfiel fdHG

The Regiment, based in the Canton of Spengler, is unique from the rest of the city in plenty of ways. One of their most noticeable contrasts with Albeit proper, however, is the unique government they employ. Although every Canton has some form of regional politics, the Regiment has a system all to itself.

Within the Canton of Spengler lie five Provinces, each of which is then divided into nine Regions. The Regiment’s government, then, assumes three distinct Tiers: the regional, the provincial and the “Regimental.” It parallels the Local, Statewide and National system of American government,

The Regimental government and each province and region all have two main government buildings: a Political Quarters, which houses the politicians, and the Political Forum, in which the politicians converse with those below them. Each Political Quarters houses five leaders, meaning there is never one lone executive—even in the Regimental branch. Taking into account the number of provinces and regions, there are 45 regional leaders, 25 provincial leaders and 5 regimental leaders, or “Chiefs.” These 75 people comprise the entire legislative and executive branch of the regiment.

Each group of five leaders has three specific roles. First, they are obligated to listen to the advice of the lower Tier before voting on an issue. For example, if the Southwest province’s group of five is voting on whether or not to change the design of its traffic lights, they are to hold a hearing in the political forum in which Southwest’s 45 regional leaders try to sway their position one way or another. The general public performs the role of advisers for regional issues, allowing them some say in local legislation.

After listening to the advice and opinions of lower-rank politicians, the leaders then vote on the issues at hand. These votes are performed in the Political Quarters, meaning each group of five can decide major issues while eating breakfast or watching television. All votes are decided by majority rule, meaning nearly all issues are settled with just one round of ballots.

Finally, each Tier has the duty of electing the government positions above them. The citizens of a region vote for that region’s five leaders; each province’s 45 leaders come together to vote for the five provincial leaders; the 25 provincial leaders in Spengler vote on the five Chiefs of the Regiment. While this system of elections does not allow much in the way of public participation, it gives each group of five reason to listen to the advice of the lower Tiers; after all, they depend on the Tier below them for votes in the election.

There are more than 75 members of government, of course. The judicial system—independent of the executive and legislative groups—has a final authority in politics. Each group of five has dozens of office workers, secretaries, spokespeople and managers at their service. Nevertheless, it is these 75 executives, legislators and electors that comprise the core of the Regiment’s government. What they say and do makes a direct impact on the condition—and the future—of the Regiment.

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A Canton on its Own

A Canton on its Own

11/4/08

Kenneth Burchfiel

Spengler, as most would put it, is a city within a city. The Canton might be within Albeit’s borders, but for all intents and purposes, the people living within it are in their own town—or country, even. The “Regiment” is to thank for that.

As one Hauraki resident put it, “Spengler’s a little like the Vatican City of Albeit. It’s powerful, it’s prestigious, but you know they don’t have much to do with Rome.”

At the time of Albeit’s foundation, which occurred near the waning moments of the 20th century, a large group—they called themselves “The Regiment”—arrived from the Northeast. They had been looking for a place to establish themselves and increase their membership, and saw the Canton of Spengler as the perfect opportunity. Enough “Regiment Members” were there to fill all the construction, planning and architectural requirements, meaning the whole region was built by—and for—the same group of people.

Many have derided the Canton as a cult, saying the government should look into the practices that occur “within Spengler’s borders.” The fault with this reasoning is that it excludes the 30% of Spengler’s residents who have nothing to do with the Regiment, but who instead found available housing and chose to live there. According to those non-Regiment residents?

“It’s not a cult. It’s not overbearing. They’re normal people who just happen to be part of a society, like lots of Albeitians,” one Spengler resident said.

The Regiment is an independent group in the strict sense of the term; in other words, they do not depend on anyone. Members of the group handle everything from construction to education to financing, making Spengler seem more like a colony than an urban district. Within the Regiment, everyone is given an “Order” and a “Rank” within that Order, similar to what one might find in the military. These two items dictate social life within the commune, though not in the way many Albeitians might expect.

“People criticize us, saying that real families don’t rank people,” one member of the Regiment said. “Well, sure they do. The older siblings are treated with more respect than the toddlers. The most successful uncles command the most conversation at the family reunion. We accept that we’re not all equal, and that we all belong to different Orders, but our ability to accept and cherish our differences is what gives us such a strong family atmosphere.”

Unfortunately, these sorts of explanations rarely make it to Albeit proper. City residents know the Regiment mainly for the parades they orchestrate around Spengler, with many posting the “Cult marches” online and sneering at their militaristic atmosphere. Others might have attended a friend’s Rank ceremony, in which the person in question is promoted to a new level of respect and significance. What Albeitians never see are the humorous game nights that members of the group partake in, or the walks families enjoy around Spengler’s varied gardens. Such experiences are usually limited to reporters and wayward citizens.

The Regiment lives in a geometrically designed area, with four residential areas—named after their corresponding compass points—overlooking a central complex that houses workspaces, social areas, sports facilities, dining areas and utilities. Eschewing the subway, most members of the Regiment travel by underground walkways that connect their houses to the complex. In the winter, some members of the organization go months without having to travel outside. When they do venture into the public life, few Albeitians can distinguish them from the rest of the city’s residents; the order’s members are just as friendly, warm and engaging as anyone else within Albeit’s borders.

Slowly but surely, respect for the Regiment is increasing. The group’s distinct style of living embodies the independence and creativity that Albeit itself is known for. Until full acceptance comes around, however, the group’s members will have to deal with a general public that fails to understand their way of life.

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Type Club

“Type Club”:

Albeit’s Most Common Secret Society

9/14/2008

Kenneth Burchfiel

 

 

 

In the summer of 1987, a group of five college students got together with a primitive computer and a beat-up keyboard. Behind closed doors, they gave themselves a name—”Type Club—” and a goal: to type more than they could ever have imagined possible.

Decades later, with hundreds of similar groups operating in Albeit and increasingly complex membership structures, their original goal has stayed intact.

Of all the secret societies operating in albeit, Type Club is both one of the simplest (at its roots) and the most abundant. Almost every group has between 5 and 26 members, most of whom knew each other from college workshops or other seminars. Skill levels are usually higher than in regular workshop settings, with many groups’ members published by large presses. Other groups comprise members who have just begun to write seriously.

It may seem that such clubs are nothing more than more intimate writing classes. What sets the concept of “Type Club” apart are the traditions and customs that go into every meeting, along with the emphasis on secrecy.

There is no visible leader of meetings. What members of Type Club use instead is “The Board,” an old keyboard that serves as a tangible centerpiece and identifier. When a meeting is created, its new members scrounge around and find the oldest keyboard among them. All of its letters keys are then popped out and put in a bag. One by one, the members pull out the letter keys to gain their “character.” This key serves as their identifier and proof of membership.

At the start of a meeting, each person pulls out his key and sticks it on the board. Once all the keys are in place, someone hooks the board up to a computer, types up the club’s name—a word composed entirely of the said letters—and prints out the page, along with the date. (These print-outs could be considered the minutes.)

    Following the “Opening Ceremonies,” as some Typers like to call it, all members sit down with their keyboards and begin to type. What about? There is no prompt, no advance instruction, not even a requested category. The purpose of coming together is not to learn from the same person, but to experience the feeling of “Mitschreiben,” or writing in the company of one another. Rarely does any form of conversation take place during this period; in more advanced groups, one must wonder if those typing are even breathing. Though nobody would attempt to make Type Club a religion, it could be said that this period of silent, mutual typing has spiritual elements to it.

    Depending on the group, this initial typing phase can go anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours. It almost always concludes with each person printing out three copies of what they produced. The group then comes together, still in silence, and take turns reading spontaneously. One person might start at their first paragraph, then give up the floor to someone speaking from the very end of their own tale. Though this part of Type Club varies in style between group to group, and even within a group’s meetings, a few things usually stay the same: readings cannot just be of a few sentences, but of two paragraphs or more; nobody should ever be afraid to speak; everyone in the Type Club is expected to share; and, perhaps the most divergent from a regular workshop course, no edits, suggestions, compliments or criticisms are to be given a piece during the sharing session; all of that comes after, when everyone switches stories with their neighbor and does edits at home. The meeting, thus, is silent—except for the aforementioned sharing.

    Type Clubs end for the day when each person goes up to the keyboard, drops a copy of their story in an adjacent bin (so that a packet of the day’s work can be compiled and stapled to the Board printout) and exchanges a copy of their story for editing. Once everyone picks up their keys and the main computer is shut down, the group disperses.

    It would be nice to find better concluding words than that, but Type Club offers few. Everything about the system is so to-the-point that it only seems right to give a brash chronology and stop there.

 

    But Albeitians did not stop there. The first college group eventually passed on their idea to professors, who suggested to students that they give the idea a try. Within a half-decade of word-to-ear advertising, Type Clubs had shot up on the Albeit You lawn faster than grass. Within a decade, college grads and perceptive adults had taken the idea beyond the college environment and into everyday living.

    Technology made its own impact on the basic meeting format. Instead of printouts, users read from their computer and e-mailed each other their stories. Some even proposed type club meetings over a video internet connection, though that was ruled down by most groups as not upholding the concept of Mitschreiben.

    One place where technology has made a large impact is in the realm of key counting. Type Clubs are about typing, after all, and many groups enjoy keeping track of how many characters they’ve pounded out over the years. In some of the better established clubs, it is customary to rate groups by their total accumulated keystrokes (TAK), with 1 billion TAK considered the mark of a respectable club and 3 billion a prestigious one. 10 billion TAK will put a club, no matter the quality of its writing, in the league of legends.

    It seems like the most barebones of writing workshops. All editing takes place privately. Most of the class is done in silence. There is no experienced teacher to instruct the class. Why, then, have so many people bought into the “Type Club” system?

    The answer may lie in that very simplicity. Here, writers need not put up with didactic instructors, piles of “more concise than thou” editing instructions and squeezed-in typing sessions. The entire time consists only of writing and sharing, the two core elements of the creative experience. And Type Clubbers, for that matter, write and share like no other seminar or peer group in Albeit.

    There’s always the element of secrecy, of course. Writers can be considered a mysterious bunch, and to have the chance to enroll in a confidential society makes the creative process all the more intriguing.

 

    Needles to say, the simple idea of a “Type Club” geared around silent writing and sharing has gone some distance in its last twenty years. The bearded group of college students that started the idea have logged hundreds of millions of keystrokes, as have thousands of their contemporaries. Not that the fame has affected their original goals. Every Thursday, they can be found in the basement of a Graupel warehouse with keyboards on their laps. Still typing.

 

    

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An Acquired Taste

An Acquired Taste:

An Overview of the Albeitian Climate

9/12/08

Kenneth Burchfiel

 

    In most towns—even those that consider themselves a cold-weather location—the winter coats only come out from late fall to early spring. In Albeit, however, parkas, jackets and fleeces can be seen on coat hangers and seatbacks year round. Not that the citizens necessarily wear them.

    There is one thing especially that surprises visitors to Albeit: just how cold it can be at any given time—not just the winter months, where convenience-store thermometers have been known to “run empty” or drop below their scale, but in the summer, too. The first shopping trip for fall tourists is often the jacket store, if only because they didn’t believe the weather sites.

    Albeit does not have a climate as much as it has an eight-month winter and an “offseason.” Snow has fallen here as late as June and as early as September; even in the months that comprise what Albeitians call summer, temperatures have been recorded in the mid-thirties. These are abnormalities, of course, but not too far off the beaten meteorological path.

    The second thing that surprises visitors, however, is how accommodating the city is to the subzero temperatures. One would expect that Albeit residents have come to despise the cold air that occupies nearly every day of their lives, yet few seem to mind. It’s hard to explain just why, though given that 80 percent of Albeitians have lived in Idaho all their lives, most have rugged enough skin to handle the cold. Besides, anyone with an aversion to cold weather would have moved out by September.

    Temperature is certainly the defining point of Albeit’s climate. But meteorology goes far beyond the thermometer, and it would not do justice to skip over the city’s other climate characteristics.

    One look at a satellite map reveals that Albeit doesn’t get much precipitation. Areas to the south and east appear lush and green, but there is no mistaking from above that the city receives little rain down below. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions. Heavy snow loves nothing more than to track directly over the city, dumping upwards of a foot before disappearing over the mountains. Ski country is some distance away, but Albeit tides themselves over with mammoth sled ramps (meant for adults, too) that thread through some of the city’s byways. For the most part, however, the Globe’s weather section displays many more suns than they do clouds. Enough suns to cause an average of three major droughts per decade.

    Day-by-day weather excluded, Albeit’s weather seems to be twins with Idaho’s as a whole. Winds and pressure are variable, but manageable. The risk of tornados is minimal—and that of hurricanes and volcanoes, all but zero. Local stations in Du Bois and Rexburg often post the exact same readings as does the console at Albeit International; in a portion of the state that’s known more for its farming than for its mountains or forests, there are few microclimates. Rather rarely gets more severe than the occasional hailstorm.

    It may seem pointless to write an article about Albeit’s weather. One need not understand orographic lifting or anticyclones to know that the city is usually cold come July and iced-over come December. What justifies the word count are the citizens’ reactions. These residents, instead of walking around with parkas and quilted jackets burying their features, dare to step outside in minus-ten weather and raise their arms to the sky. For them, the weather is not just a source of snow and rain, but of pride.

There goes an idiomatic saying in the city: “You’re not an Albeitian until you get hypothermia and fail to notice.” That joke goes a long way towards describing the climate here—and how citizens react to it.

    

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Chiyoda Overview

[The first paragraph of this piece was written in the Canton’s namesake, Chiyoda of Tokyo.]

Chiyoda Overview

8/29/08

Kenneth Burchfiel

Mention the name “Chiyoda” to anyone from Denver, and they’ll strike up a glowing conversation about its designer stores and development-rich avenues. Say the same thing to an Albeitian, however, and their response might be less than positive.

“I wish we could just pick the thing up with a helicopter and carry it off to a city that actually wants it. It would look great in Manhattan, or just about anywhere in Los Angeles.”

“You can just smell the jewelry. It’s repulsive. I wouldn’t touch the place with a 10 foot 24 karat, emerald-embossed, cologne-soaked pole.”

“What was that you said? I think you said, ‘football.’ That’s fine. I’d love to talk about football.”

Indeed, Chiyoda—the side of Albeit that fashion designers and celebrities know—has never been quite as popular as the other 10 Cantons. Just where did this Northwest district go wrong? Well, Albeit residents say, it was developed by a very prestigious design company that had gotten its bearings working on hotels in the Middle East. That alone was enough to make poeple wary. Worse yet, the developers gave luxury stores a subsidy on their rent in order to attract the “right kind of people” to Chiyoda.

The biggest blow came when the Globe, in one of its most famous sprees of investigative journalism, revealed that the developers were planning to build a barrier on the eastern side of the city. Why? To make sure that Graupel, then a crime-rich spot, would not leak vagrants into its rarefied borders. The red-faced management team pulled the plans, but Albeit had already made up its mind: this was not, by any means, a welcome part of the city. The only Canton in Northwest had, either from the Chiyoda Wall or the store subsidies, become the most-despised part of all of Albeit.

“Well, it’s honestly not part of the city, as I see it. I’d rather have the dunes to the south be a Canton than that consumer sinkhole,” one smoke-draped Slat resident expressed. “I mean, good heavens! They have an entire street—an avenue—for handbag shopping. Who does that? Who dedicates a street to handbags?”

“And the worst, really,” a woman said through a Noulevac window, “is that they act like they’re the better part of the city. I was just there the other day—wasn’t my choice, but they’re the only spot to get a TV repaired these days—and I hear a woman saying, ‘We’re the core of the city now, you know.’ Why, I wanted to go up to her and say, ‘Core? You’re a bloated Canton on the Northwest corner.”

Indeed, it can be hard to get a sense of the Canton through the less-than-objective mouths of Albeit proper. Perhaps the only thing to do is visit Chiyoda; to decide, amidst the supposedly obnoxious citizens and the supposedly snotty storefronts, if the Canton really is to be shunned.

On the outside, Chiyoda is not an ugly place. Wide, tree-stuffed avenues and sidewalks make up the core of the road network, eschewing frenzied intersections and mind-numbing road networks for a simpler pattern. Though Albeitians decry the Canton as a cookie-cutter development, it’s hard to overlook the colored bricks in the sidewalk, or the brick pedestrian bridges unique to the city. From an architectural standpoint, the Canton lives up to Albeit’s traditions of creativity.

“We’re not evil. We’re not obsessed with money,” a purse-less Chiyoda woman says. She points to the sidewalk. “See? We like art. We like aesthetics. We’re with Albeit on that one.”

Nor does Chiyoda seem to fit the picture of materialism and indifference from the inside. Next to a jewelry importer, there sits a teddy-bear store that regularly donates toys to a thrift store in Graupel. Children with smoothies can be seen running and laughing in front of a financial institution. Residents of Pacfyst might be surprised to know that Chiyoda, too has a block devoted to charities and social services. The department stores are visible, but their presence is not an overpowering one.

“I’ll take some friends from Graupel shopping, and they’ll be like, ‘Wow, that’s not the kind of store you see in Chiyoda.’ But I always try to explain to them that it is. We might have a little more money than the rest of the city, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be compassionate. It doesn’t mean we don’t eat hot dogs, or buy toys for our kids. There are playgrounds here, too.”

Granted, there are still divisions between Chiyoda and its neighboring Cantons—Chiyoda Wall or not. There is not as big an emphasis on creativity here, if only because those who are have since relocated. Very few secret societies have caught on. Neighbors rarely communicate, but not out of a secretive or mysterious streak; they simply have little interest in what those living alongside them are doing. Indeed, many who move here acknowledge that Chiyoda is lacking in some of the themes—independence, originality and mystery—that the city is known for.

Of course, there is some hypocrisy in the “mainlanders'” efforts to debase the Northwest Canton. Albeit has always claimed itself free from the exclusiveness and pompousness of other cities, yet the degrading of Chiyoda would say otherwise.

“How many times do I get someone on the Aluminum Line who says to me, ‘Unlike you people, we don’t judge someone by the clothes on their back?’ And how many times do I reply, ‘Aren’t you judging me by the Canton I come from?'” I love this city—I really do—but the people don’t realize how bigoted they can be.”

The exchange of words between Albeitians and Chiyodians is sure to continue, no matter what plans the developers have in mind. One will always be the cosmopolitan trash heap of fashion stars and business owners; the other will be the defender of originality and free living.

That, at least, is how the divide stands in the eyes of most Albeitians. But it would do the city well to peer out from their apartments and realize that there is no wall between one Canton and the other; that the barrier is purely mental.

Despite their differences in lifestyle, bank accounts and values, it’s not out of the question that Albeit can learn to embrace its purse-toting neighbor. Until then, the crosstalk with Albeit’s wealthiest Canton will continue.

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