Monday, 25 July 2016

Signed, Sealed And Delivered - Flash Fiction

He’d been prompted to watch out for a sign. But where? Whither the co-ordinates? Was he supposed to roam outside or to remain embosomed in his room? The exegesis hadn’t been clear. Currently he was stationed in his room, scrutinising the everyday for deviation from the familiar. Was the sign to be something inherently meaningful, or something that only he could ascribe substance to? Would it be a material object, or something based in language. Be it script or runic? Did that perhaps make it more of a symbol than a sign? 

He had never noticed that stain on the carpet before, but he couldn’t accept that ancient spilled coffee or the gravy that broiled his pre-cooked dinners, suddenly became presentimental. An accidental Rorschach pattern somehow transmuted into a figuration of his future, no he doubted that was the likely source. Carelessly slopped aliment was no waters of the Nile turning into blood and somewhat lacked the wondrousness of a burning bush.

He glanced up to the wall and the framed print suspended there. It had come with the rental, left by a previous tenant, or more likely to have been furnished by the landlord. An abstract piece of nothing, though right now its contours were welling and pulsing with significance. He had never previously paid it much mind. Of course the swirls themselves were not in motion, but he wondered if the picture itself had perhaps moved ever so slightly off its habitual axis. He approached it and gingerly rubbed his index finger along one plane of the frame. He examined the dust that coated the pad, like a police fingerprint record, a glyph in itself, but decided this was the wrong type of indicia. After all fingerprints themselves never changed over the course of one’s life. He was on the wrong track there, a hallmark was a permanent symbol not a momentously exigent one. He lifted the frame from its hook, examined the cork backing but found no message welted in there. He stared at the burnished rectangle patch of wall where the print had covered and preserved the paintwork. If it was a symbol it remained opaque to him. A blank TV screen with the set switched off. 

Maybe that was it, the random permutation of TV programme thrown up at him when he first engaged its ignition. An advert for a product, a TV evangelist, the score of a soccer match or the stock exchange ticker tape scrolling a key coded set of numerals across the bottom of the screen, any one of those could hold the key. Hastily he replaced the picture's string over the hook and bounded over to spark the set into life. But a lame comedy series was what first met his eyes, not even one with a star who had subsequently been prosecuted for crimes enacted on the back of his celebrity. His digits played over the remote control, quickly rifling through the channels’ formulaic liturgical burnt offerings. He slitted his eyes narrower trying to detect any subliminals from the quick change from channel to channel but nothing was delivered up to him for revelation. 

A fluttering wrenched his attention upward to the ceiling. A moth was battering at his Chinese lantern shade in its determination to burrow through the red hot light source within. The lantern barely rippled under its bantamweight thrust, but he did notice the shadow of both projected large on the ceiling. Blown up several times their actual size. And yet he himself cast no shadow in the room. Was that the sign? His own lack of a shadow, yet here was an insect larva feasibly from Satan’s own realm cast large in the artificial glow from hell’s fires? He tilted the paper shade to admit access for the moth to the bulb which it obligingly did so and perished with a pleasing sizzle against the scorching glass. He watched its Icarian descent to the floor whereupon it landed right in the middle of the carpet stain, just at the moment when the TV announced a newsflash and the picture on the wall slithered drunkenly to the diagonal on its axis. A multitude of signs, but which one was the true indicator? 

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Architect's Labour Of Love - Friday Flash


The theodolite of his eye took in the topography of her body there on the flat plane of the bed. Her trefoil hair across the pillow, the arris of her arm bent at the elbow as her hand buttressed her head, the twin pale marble rotundas offsetting the tympanum of her navel. Yet for all her natural fluting, the architect decided that she was unworked bossage awaiting his moulded entablature. He calipered his fingers through her hair to carve the tresses into volutes. He cinched her negligé and converted her from hypaethral back into cleithral. He gently tugged her lids to render her eyes into lunettes. He clamped his compassed digits inside her mouth to make a mascaron of her face. As he did so her hand reflexively curled into a fist, bunching some of the bed sheet as she did so. He smoothly unclasped her fingers and distended them one by one to form a loggia giving on to the white linen beneath. He lay down beside her and measured her in toises. Sitting back up plumbline straight, he reckoned that the golden mean in her case was incommodious. He placed a cushion beneath her lower back to sculpt a ribbed vault. The quoins of her pelvic bones were perfectly pronounced to his mind. Then he levered up her legs at the knees to distyle as a portico the entrance beyond. He took out a razor and cleared a pediment above her basal aedicule. That chresmographion from which she would cede her oracle. He began teasing out her ball flower with the pads of his fingers until it was pilastered. In response to his touch she arched her whole body but the proportions were unsightly and he pronounced her gargoyle and gothic rather than of classical order and rusticated himself from the bed. 

Trefoil












Tympanum





Bossage







Lunette








Mascarons





Loggia








Ribbed Vault











Quoins











Distyle (the columns)











Aedicule











Pilaster











Ball flower

Monday, 18 July 2016

Ghost Music

To mark the release of the new Ghostbusters movie I thought I'd compile a music video playlist of ghost songs. Now I am not one who believes in the paranormal or the supernatural, but funnily enough I do believe in the possible existence of what might be termed as ghosts; when a person dies in sudden, stressful circumstances, it is possible they leave a searing energy trace and that is what we pick up and regard as a ghostly presence. Having said that, I'm not that interested so as to go on a ghost hunt or anything like that. I'll just stick to my own ghost sonatas presented her. Enjoy!

1) "Ghost In My House" - R.Dean Taylor
I know nothing about R.Dean Taylor and only came to this song when the Fall covered it, but since I've got a Fall ghost song later I thought I'd check out the original. The ghost of a relationship, yeah that works for me.



2) "The Ghost Of Tom Joad" - Bruce Springsteen
Marc, I'm beginning to worry about you. All your life you've fulminated about Bruce Springsteen. Ever since you grew up in Wembley and came home past the stadium where Bruce was playing a week of concerts to 80,000 folk and you were appalled (and let's be honest sniggering too) at so many British souls wearing a 'Born in the USA' t-shirt. And yes you know Bruce meant the song ironically, not as a patriot rally call at all but a searing indictment of the American Dream, but still all those Brits in stars and stripes left a distaste that has stayed with you. But now Bruce makes his second appearance in one of these playlists. Are you mellowing with age? Has your music tastes changed. Has Britian formally become the 51st State of America (see Chilcot Report)...? No, I still hate him, but well, just, you know... Besides my kids did Steinbeck for their GCSE English Lit and I didn't object to that for being 'American'... Cognitive dissonance I guess.



3) Her Ghost In The Fog" - Cradle Of Filth
It also has to be said this is the first time Heavy Mentallists Cradle Of Filth have appeared in one of these playlists. This ghost theme seems to have got you spooked...



4) "The Ghost With A Hammer In His Hand" - Tools You Can Trust
Ah now that's better, one of my actual you know like favourites... 319 views, 2 comments, 1 of them mine, the other from the singer's son, what the hell is going on here? There is no justice.... Actually Tools You Can Trust were always an odd blend of industrial noise percussion and bass, with surf guitar as here. I liked them though. Sniff.



5) "Ghost On The Highway" - Gun Club
A lover is killed and the ghost wanders the highways and byways of the US. Great swamp rock blues from the Gun Club as is to be expected.



6) "Ghosts Of Ladbroke Grove" - Killing Joke
I have a soft spot for Ladbroke Grove having lived there for a few years and worked there for 15 years. The original Killing Joke song was nothing special, but this dub version is outstanding and has some of the heaviest dub bass you'll ever here. The sentiment is correct I think, in that the area was the run down part of the Royal Borough Of Kensington & Chelsea and lots of creative art and music emerged from it as it played host to a lot of squats which also doubled up for rehearsal and performance spaces as they were free. The Clash and Hawkwind both came from the area. Punk could legitimately be said to have been started there as punk and reggae influenced on another through being in close physical proximity. Dubstep, a uniquely London music genre also had a strong footing in this part of West London. But now the London property boom being what it is, there are no more squats and houses and flats probably go for a million pounds or so (forgive me I haven't checked the property papers, it's all too galling) and the area trades off its artistic past with very little new work being produced. Sad really.



7) "Ghost Town" - The Specials
Now this really does sound ethereal and ectoplasmic and yet it was absolutely rooted in the reality of 1980s post-riot Britain. Ghosts are about presence, something that just won't fade away and die but clings on for dear life, well death maybe. But a ghost town of course is the exact opposite of that, a total absence and this song captures the sensation so wonderfully.



8)  "Spectre Vs Rector" - The Fall
As unlistenable as presumably a full-blown exorcism might sound. Actually the Fall have a brilliant song about ghostly sensations in old buildings, but as it's called "City Hobgoblins" I didn't think I could include it in a playlist devoted to ghosts. I don't want the paranormal genre fiction police on my back for such a crime...



9) "Ghost Ride" - Suicide
In what has been a dreadful few months for rock and roll in terms of deaths (has the relatively recent art form suddenly reached an age where its key players are of such an age that they do all die off?), this weekend we learned of another fatality. Alan Vega rest in peace. A singer and his compadre at a keyboard, flying right in the teeth of punk and new wave, these guys were truly pioneers.



10) "Ghosts" - The Jam
Paul Weller's lyrical prowess to the fore here. Still backing singers and a horn section, we fans knew it was the beginning of the end for this particular power trio.



11) "The Ghost In You" - Psychedelic Furs
I was never a great fan of the Furs, though I did like "Pretty In Pink", but then that did have more of edge than this saccharine number.



12) "Ghost on The Dancefloor" - Blink 182
I never understood why people regard Blink 182 as punk. They are rockers no less than Bruce Springsteen or US. They probably do Pete Townsend arm revolutions but as I'm not a fan I haven't any video evidence to back that up.



13) "Cherché La Ghost" - Ghostface Killah
When you're a rap singer and your name is Ghostface Killah, chances are at some point you'll be doing a song tooting your own horn and name-checking yourself. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you-



14) "Ghost of A Chance" - Rush
I used to quite like a couple of Rush's early albums, but then I discovered they were heavily influenced by the writings of Ayn Rand (there's even a track called "Anthem"). Then I didn't like them any more. Still don't. But I see from videos like this that they certainly didn't get any better musically or lyrically even when they abandoned their Rand fixation.



15) "Little Ghost" - "White Stripes / "Casper The Friendly Ghost" - Daniel Johnston
Prefer Daniel Johnston's for twee mania music but there you go. Daniel Johnston however isn't playing at it









Sunday, 10 July 2016

The River of Time

My rage burned out
My tears dried up
My hope subsided
My despair played out
My enthusiasm frittered away
My joy receded
My anxiety run through
My forgiveness depleted
My tolerance eroded
My judgement dissipated
My weariness exhausted
My anticipation attentuated
My passion desiccated
My bitterness blunted
My indifference evanesced
My hatred ebbed
My endurance decomposed
My disgust petered away 
My trust atrophied
My surprise waned
My shame worn out

My love kissed goodbye

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Unholy Trinities - Friday Flash

him, her
Nina Pinta Santa Maria
mirror signal manoeuvre
jacket waistcoat trousers
chest waist hips
guitar bass drums
thesis antithesis synthesis
fish chips gravy
fish chips mushy-peas
tick tack toe
inch foot yard
rock paper scissors
Clotho Lachesis Atropos
larva pupa imago
father mother child
frankincense gold myrrh
faith hope charity
DNA amino-acid protein
protein vitamin carbohydrate
cereal toast eggs
Doric Ionic Corinthian 
solid liquid gas
knife fork spoon
morning noon night
liberty equality fraternity 
malleus incus stapes
Satan, Beelzebub Moloch
tens hundreds thousands
thousands hundreds tens
Homo Erectus Home Habilis Home Sapiens
id ego superego
bacon lettuce tomato
Charlotte Emily Anne
Eastern Central Pacific
Rachkovsky Dzerzhinsky Beria 
husband wife mistress
Okhrana, NKVD, KGB
pounds shillings pence
robbery assault battery
birth marriage death
Abraham Isaac Jacob
arrest trial sentence



Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Dance This Mess Around - Music playlist of songs with 'dance' in the title

Music is primarily about dancing right? The rhythms get us swaying our hips, nodding our heads, throwing some shapes. So here's a playlist of songs devoted to the concept of dance.

1) Pere Ubu - "The Modern Dance"
David Behemoth Thomas is an odd cove isn't he? As judged by his introduction to the live version here in the video. Still P.U. made some highly danceable if vaguely unsettling music.



2) Toyah - "Danced"
Toyah Wilcox, actress, singer, or with the right contacts both simultaneously. She landed a deuteragonist role in a TV detective series, playing a singer in a band, so got to eprform two of her songs in the show as part of the plot, including this catchy number.



3) B52s - "Dance This Mess Around"
If there was ever a dance party band it was the B52s. But there were occasions such as on this song & "Give Me Back My Man" when Cindy Wilson's vocals hinted at a greater despair behind the fun.



4) Killing Joke - "Wardance"
This is a great song but there are no decent versions of them doing it live, which suggests how much of the song was enhanced by the studio production. None of the energy and menace were ever quite there live.



5) Mos Def - "Pretty Dancer"
Seems appropriate as Mos wrote this song as a tribute to Muhammad Ali.



6) David Bowie - "John I'm Only Dancing"
Another superstar who we've just lost recently. David Bowie RIP



7) Sly & The Family Stone - "Dance To The Music"
Is there any song that screams more for you to just get up & dance to the music? I'm not sure there is. You can't have any troubles when this comes on the loudspeakers.



8) Arctic Monkeys "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor"
Weren't the Arctic Monkeys a thing a few years ago? I never believed the hype, but then I was more likely to heed the words of Public Enemy...



9) John Spencer Blues Explosion - "Lap Dance"
The clue's in the band name, a sort of messed up acid blues-rock, with bass on full distortion, love it!



10) Prince - "Sexy Dancer"
I'm going to have to stop doing these charts as one's musical heroes are popping their clogs at an alarming rate. I guess it's a reflection of my age, growing up and being exposed first to music in the 1970s, but Prince really did go far too early.



11) Abba - "Dancing Queen"
I was never an Abba fan, always seeing them as the immovable obstacle to more interesting bands getting to the top of the pop charts. But now in my dotage I hope I have become a bit more gracious and even though their music still brings me out in hives, I can at least acknowledge their significance by conferring them a place in one of my playlists. Just don't expect me to dance along to it that's all.



12) The Skids - "Scared To Dance"
The Skids were one of those bands whose individual parts amounted to more than the total. Fabulous guitarist, aesthetically pleasing lead singer and yet none of their songs were ever quite remarkable enough to my ear.



13) Ramones - "Blitzkrieg Bop"
Sad how classic pop/rock now gets recycled as music for adverts. This song now promotes a delivery system to rival UPS.



14) The Sweet - "Blitzkrieg Bop"
I have no idea how this song stuck in my psyche all these years for me to dredge up from my memory to end up in this chart. When I was pre-teen, this was the music that was around everywhere in daily life. Before ghetto blasters, walkmans and I-Pods, people used to listen to their transistor radios and so day and night this kind of stuff assaulted our earholes. Now you know just why punk rock had to emerge.



14) Martha And The Vandellas - "Dancing In the Street"
Phew, thank goodness for this. Restores one's faith in music, which is kind of Martha's point too



15) Genesis - "I Can't Dance"
Correct, you can't. When I was in the last years of my schooling, I travelled to school with a guy whose sister was being pursued by Phil Collins who was a total lech. See pop pickers, if you didn't make these people famous, they wouldn't get ideas above their true station.



16) Beenie Man - "Dancehall Queen"
Not to be confused with the similar sounding titled Abba song "Dancing Queen". definitely not to be confused musically... Horrible song, worse video



17) House Of Pain - "Jump Around"
Maybe not strictly a 'dance' song, but then it kind of is. Not Riverdance admittedly...



18) Leighton Buzzards - "Saturday Night Under The Plastic Palm Trees"
This was actually my tenderfoot experience on the dance floors of youth clubs



Thursday, 23 June 2016

Guest Post - Author Jim Webster

I've "met" jim Webster through the Goodreads site and he is that rare virtual beast who is both erudite and chockfull of common sense, so when he puts across a point of view it is measured and demands serious consideration, as against all the other shouty voices you encounter. Jim's blog is always a good read and like me Jim has published books in double figures spanning science fiction and fantasy adventure. He has his latest book just out now-


Available from Amazon for just 98p


I asked Jim to blog about whatever he fancied and this is the question he wanted to explore:


How many voices at one time?


It's a question I have wondered about and occasionally discussed with others. When you're absorbed in writing one particular book, you tend to take on the 'voice' of the characters in that book. (Well at least I do.)

This, at least in my case, can spill out of the book a little. When I was in the middle of writing a number of stories for Tallis Steelyard (a poet who dwells secure within a fantasy world of my creation) a young lady asked me directions. She wasn't entirely sure where she was going and on gentle questioning it appeared that her boyfriend had asked her to meet him at work.

This had involved her in a long train journey followed by a bicycle ride out into the middle of nowhere looking for a particular site. I felt this showed both dedication on her part, and an element of taking her for granted on his.

Thus I directed her to where she wanted to go, and as she thanked me, I, or perhaps Tallis Steelyard, gravely informed her that had she been my girlfriend I would have arranged for her to be collected.

Now we had talked for ten minutes, and it was obvious she had a good sense of humour, so she merely smiled and equally gravely replied that she would keep this information in mind for future reference.

But you see the problem. When you write there is an element of getting into the mind of the characters you're writing about and the blighters have a habit of returning the favour.

Unfortunately this has let me down. You see, I wrote six novellas about a character of mine, one Benor. He's a cartographer, dwelling in a fantasy world with no elves, dwarves, dragons or hobbits, and indeed very little magic. The stories are detective stories, and the cunning plan is that like the Sherlock Holmes stories, you can read them in any order. It's a collection rather than a series.

I wrote them, edited them and got everything set up so they're published at four month intervals. The next one is called 'Woman in Love'

The problem is, I'm 75,000 words into a SF novel, and I didn't want to break off. But the realisation that books don't sell themselves has forced me to. So with a mental crashing of gears I've got to leave one set of characters, and re-enter the minds of another set.

The story? To quote the blurb

"Asked to look for a missing husband, Benor finds that the female of the species is indeed more deadly than the male."

Cheers Jim and best of luck with both the new book and the science fiction work in progress.