Flash Pulp 128 – The Absent Idol: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

10 Feb

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and twenty-eight.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present The Absent Idol: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, the Collective Detective finds itself investigating the loss of an Internet icon.


Flash Pulp 128 – The Absent Idol: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May


The 2nd of January

Welcomebot: Welcome To #CD-Chat, Harrisment!

FrameScalpel: I’m not saying most of her fans were following her for the right reason, but, honestly, her ability to cut clips in a way that fit her music was fantastic. She was like a combination of Thelonious Monk’s sense of timing, and Banksy’s sense of humorous visuals with a message.

MitchSlap: – and there was also her overdeveloped rack.

Harrisment: Stick it, Welcomebot.

Frame Scalpel: Hey Harris. Just explaining to MitchSlap why IdolChan was so great.

Harrisment: I was kind of under the impression it was the amount of cleavage she showed in her video blogging.

FrameScalpel: Screw you guys.

Harrisment: Ha, kidding, kidding. Lady like that wouldn’t continue to have the following she does if she hadn’t had some talent.

MitchSlap: I’m sticking with my theory that she’s actually a fake personality Spike Jonze used, but, seriously, at this point don’t you think the only reason anyone remembers her is because of the mystique of her disappearance?

FrameScalpel: No.

Harrisment: I do think that’s part of it, but Scalps has a point. She’s still the person I start throwing out links to when I find someone who’s under the impression that the vidder-community is all crappy dance music layered over badly edited anime-clips.

FrameScalpel: WTF

Harrisment: Hah – I don’t mean YOUR badly edited anime-clips.

FrameScalpel: …

Harrisment: Joking. You know I’m a fan of your work.

MitchSlap: Whatever – how far into your search have you gotten?

FrameScalpel: Well, I’ve been through all of her email addresses, her twitter account, and her Facebook communications. She had thousands of followers, and chatted with nearly anyone who’d send her something, but everything was routed through an encrypted anonymizer service, which I have yet to break, and I can’t find a single message that I can trace back to a meat-space friend. I still have no leads as to who she really was.

Harrisment: Well, don’t take it too hard, if you did know who she was, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I’m between tasks at the moment, I can lend you a hand, if you’d like?

FrameScalpel: Sure, I’d appreciate it.

MitchSlap: Well, if you ladies are going to spin your wheels on this, I may as well crack the case for you. Send me what you’ve got.

* * *

The 5th of January

To: framescalpel@thecollectivedetective.com
From: harrisment@thecollectivedetective.com
Subject: IdolChan Clue


I think I may have found something. I was watching video #23 – the one in the park? – and I finally caught a break: there’s a moment where she’s busy talking about how little respect she gets from idiots on youtube, and a guy with a dog jogs by. She mentions how cute the mutt is at 2:36, then she swings her phone around to record its passing.

If you look closely, you can catch a glimpse of the city skyline over top of the trees. I know you were thinking she was from New York, because of her accent, but that’s totally the Transamerica Pyramid – she’s got to be from San Francisco!

You weren’t around in the channel, so I passed the info onto Mitch. He seemed to think he could make some use of it, although, of course, he wants to play king and keep his hunches to himself. Still, who knows, that tool might come up with the next piece. I’m going to see if I can figure out which park she was recording in – the timestamp says it was around lunch on a Tuesday, maybe it’s somewhere near where she was attending school?

I feel like we’re getting close.


* * *

The 8th of January

To: harrisment@thecollectivedetective.com; mitchslap@thecollectivedetective.com
From: framescalpel@thecollectivedetective.com
Subject: Just Got Back

Hi, sorry about taking so long to reply.

First the greyhound was late getting into San Fran, then I had to figure out the stupid local transit. Five hours on a bus had me cranky, and maybe a bit confused, and I accidentally got on the wrong trolley.

After I finally got everything figured out, I had to walk another half-hour to her house. It looks a lot like the street view, but it seemed bigger, and a little more run down, in real life.

I’d imagined a lot of possibilities before I knocked on the door – I mean, it’s been years since IdolChan’s last video, so she’d be in her late twenties now – but the old woman who answered wasn’t what I’d expected.

I knew the address was right, I’d been staring at it long enough to have it permanently burnt into my brain, but all I could come up with when the lady answered the door was “Hi, is Lara here?” and she says “Speaking.”

I nearly fell over – but the woman had IdolChan’s eyes, and it was then that I realized that she must have been named after her mom.

We talked, and I explained about the search, and how Mitch had plowed through reams of yearbooks to find her. That’s when I started cluing in to how little Mrs. Dunning knew about the level of fame her daughter had, and has, online.

Even after my story, I’m not sure that she really got it.

Actually, at first she seemed pretty weirded out by my even being there, but, once she realized I wasn’t some crazy from the Internet, she wanted to talk about things. Eventually she showed me around the house.

The last room she brought me to was Lara’s.

It’s a time capsule, really – it’s got all these stuffed kittens on the bed. I admit, we both ended up crying.

The theories are wrong. She wasn’t Spike Jonze in disguise, she wasn’t killed in a car accident, she wasn’t kidnapped, and she wasn’t hired away by MTV to do video production.

Mrs. Dunning explained to me that she’d been sad for a long time after the move from Brooklyn, that she’d never really made any friends once they’d re-located – that she was lonely.

On her 18th birthday, with her ‘net down, and leaving only a short, soggy, note for her mom, she grabbed a bus and jumped from the Golden Gate.

After a while, we both dried up, and I just kind of drifted out the door. As she said good bye, Mrs. Dunning seemed to take a little comfort in the fact that, online, IdolChan’s legend lives on.

I’m going home now, but, if it’s all the same to you guys, I’d like to leave this case open indefinitely.



Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.


4 Responses to “Flash Pulp 128 – The Absent Idol: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1”

  1. bmj2k February 10, 2011 at 23:23 #

    Moreso than the previous one, I really understood what the DC does. In the last one I got it in a general way but in this one it made so much sense it seemed like I felt I could do it too. I’m sure that’s more a commentary on my net skills than the story so take the compliment as I intend.

    With an altered ending, this could certainly be a cautionary tale about how easy cyberstalking is and basic internet security. I absolutely like the collective, I absolutely like the story, the writing is topnotch, in this case I just wonder if this isn’t a case of a bunch of people sticking their nose in where it doesn’t belong. I guess it brings up the whole question (just a bit relevant to people like us) about what people who post things on the internet actually owe to their followers, and what the people who post actually mean to their followers. While I never expect someone to track me down from my blog, would it be fair of them to do so, travel across country, and impose on my family member? In what sense are we public figures? This is long and rambling but I think what I am trying to say is that your tale probably touched on more issues than you think it did, and opens up a lot of room for discussion. and in the end, that is one of the things good writing should strive to do, so Bravo!

    • JRD Skinner February 11, 2011 at 10:11 #

      Hey – Thanks for the kind words, and I have another (real life) tale I’ll be sharing today as a sort of postscript to this episode.

      Privacy is eventually going to become a recurring topic with the Collective, (there’s so much room for blackmail and misuse in the concept), but my feeling on poking your nose where it doesn’t belong will be clarified by my follow up.

      I’ve definitely found the challenge in writing the CD is in making their process clear – I’m glad that this one came across a little more.

      • bmj2k February 11, 2011 at 10:36 #

        I feel ahead of the curve!


  1. Am I A Public Figure? « Mr. Blog's Tepid Ride - February 18, 2011

    […] Just a quick Thank You and shout out to the Collective Detective stories at Skinner.fm, which got me thinking about this subject and I think the best compliment I […]

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