Thursday, 31 January 2013

One-Eyed Queen - Friday Flash

The first time I clapped eyes on her was discomfiting. Not from the very outset, when our gazes ranging across the party intersected and locked on to each other's visages. We were both wallflowering the florid wallpaper at opposite ends of the room. Me playing it cool, my shoulder blades braced against the wall, my arms crossed in a challenging rebuke to the inelegant entertainment on show. She stood at an angle, her slender bare arm raised against the wall like a flying buttress. Her fingers were tapping time, but not to the crass rhythms tripping up those drunkenly essaying to trip the light fantastic. More as if she was palpating the skin of fruit overhead on a tree. Anguine coiled around Eden's bounty. Her stance was infinitely more insolent than mine and I was smitten.

So I sashayed as sardonically across the shag dancefloor as I could muster, until I was resting my own arm against the wall above my head. She tilted her face to inspect me down the length of her nose. It struck me as a scornful manoeuvre, so in order to regain the upper hand I pertly laid the pad of my thumb under her chin and hoisted it so our eyes were level. I stared long but not very deep. Or possibly vice versa, since I was completely thrown by what I was confronted with.

At first I couldn't figure out what I was looking at. Her eyes certainly weren't both focused on me, whereas mine were acutely lasering themselves trying to come to rest in the depths of hers. But the vertigo induced was not from any boundless infinity. She seemed to refuse to hold my gaze and that only dragged me in further. And then I fathomed it. She had a false eye. Only one of the pair was able to swivel and pivot and track my own boring deeply towards her. She just nodded at my realisation, my thumb still cupping her chin as if it were her spindle, so that her chin bevelling down finagled my digit into the small of her throat, bringing the rest of my fingers brushing up against her lips. Now I was the one inclining my head, trying to pierce her intent. Her tongue told me soundlessly, when it lapped at my fingers.

That first night back at her place we didn't have sex. We talked, we probed, we perlustrated the miniature shrunken images of ourselves in the pupil(s) of the other. Seeking after the secrets of one another's souls. A mite tricky in my case, since her eyes offered two divergent views. One dancing, sparkling with life and a daring ardour. The other icily cool and dumbly reflective. Or so I thought.

When she established to her satisfaction that I was neither freakishly nor fetishly attracted to her strange mien, or that I imagined I could somehow aver myself superior to her, she allowed me into her heart and her bed. We held one another while she unburdened herself of the story how she had come to lose an eye, in a somewhat Biblical pronouncement of justice by an ex-lover. I steeled myself against shuddering at the graphic detail, but could see why she was so careful to vet my reactions prior to this unveiling.

Making love to her was unique. I was transfixed by the coruscations in that glass eye that did suddenly come alive and ignite. As her good eye rapidly blinked and the iris rolled back into its sheathing, the glass eye took on the appearance of a snowglobe as its purview filled with tiny fluttering motes. Changing my focal plain by looming up closer into her face for a kiss, I saw these motes were like butterflies. Like thousands of butterflies taking to the wing after emerging from their chrysalis. The scene there was beauteous, if indeed I could call it a 'scene'. But I was transported away into its cupidity that's for sure.

As we drove deeper into each other's unfamiliarity, her eye changed its outlook. Now it was foggier, like the molten viscosity of a lava lamp. Slow, languid movements. Serpentine, sinuous curlicues of spangling light lay within. I quickly gazed at the rest of her face. Every feature, including her envisioning eye, had receded behind a gauzy insensibility. Everything was focused, directed by her glass eye. It pulsed and respired for her densely layered carnality. And I got sucked right in. I hoisted myself up yet closer and my tongue lapped at the glass orb. I wanted to drink her in. Coat and smear myself in her unquenchable sensuousness. I no longer wanted her to be contained behind glass. She flared up alright.

Her seeing eye probably hurtled to the front of its socket. But the fearsome change was within the vitreous one. The soft billowing velvet nebulae bucked and reared. Terrible tsunamis clawed at the glass' meniscus and turned the deepest shade of red. The waves flung themselves away from the van of the glass and I suddenly saw a plethora of tiny globes enflame and plummeting like fireballs. I regarded lava eruptions and planetary conflagrations before me. And I was terrified. I shut my own peepers in order to eclipse the seething convulsions. Nonetheless I couldn't help but wink one eye part back open in order to witness her raging passion. But I knew I could never match the omnispectivity of my one-eyed queen.

from the flash collection - available from Amazon Kindle Store free to download from 3-7th June 2016

This was the earworm I had which inspired this story. It's amazing the synchronicities that lead to the creative process. Why this particular song buzzing around my head at this particular juncture and why now so that it prompted the idea of this story? I'd known the song for an age, why hadn't it prompted the idea way back then? Presumably I was receptive to writing a story about love and ardour and power this week, though I wasn't aware of a burning need to write such a story. Which came first, the song or the mood of the story that wanted to be written? I have no idea. Inexplicable how it all comes together.   

Think Tanking

The Right Honourable Michael Gove MP
Minister For Education
House Of Commons

Dear Mr Gove,

In order to engage and interest teenage boys in the learning of basic Arithmetic, may I respectfully suggest that you have to try and sell them the need and usefulness of possessing such skills. In order to do this, it's necessary to couch the "pitch" in terms that will resonate with your target group. May I suggest the following lines of argument.

Understanding all about mental arithmetic will be useful to you in life for the following reasons:

1) You will be able to keep track of the number of Baby Mommas and even the number of your children
2) A knowledge of fractions is vital in calculating weight measures of street drugs and your rate of profit
3) Instant ability when stood in the Magistrate's Dock to recalculate the prison term into the actual real length of the sentence
4) The ability to calculate how many spicy chicken wings you can afford from the 'shrapnel' in your pocket
5) Knowing how to subtract used minutes and number of texts from your monthly free allowance to know how many you have left (may not work with students who have BBM)
6) You need to be able to count up all your grudges against individuals and to keep an accurate tally of them to assist you in decision making as to the proportionate nature of your response


Right-Wing Think Tank

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Gladioli All Over - The Smiths & My Novel

This week I'll be doing one-a day posts about songs included in my latest novel "Time After Time", how the music fits into the narrative and where the band or the song fitted into my life.

Today's is The Smiths "This Charming Man". It's a big deal for me to host The Smiths on my blog because they were a band I really didn't like for the reasons below. But the book demanded a tune for a guy being picked up on his smooth operating by a lady and well, this fit the best.

"You one of those 'new men' we always used to hear about?"

"You could say that."
"Same as the old men and the 'new lads' if you ask me. 'Metrosexuals'? The clue is in the 'sexual'..."

Okay, so why don't I like The Smiths?

1) I had the misfortune to see them early in their career when they were already being touted as the next big Indie band. They were supporting The Fall who were on the same Rough Trade label at the time. What the upstart Smiths didn't figure is that this was Mark E Smith, main man of The Fall, putting them in their place, playing off their name to make it seem that they were his house band. Anyway, I have poor eyesight and moshpits are not great for geeks with glasses. So in my long past gigging days, I used to get as close to the stage as possible in order to facilitate some minimal level of vision without my specs. To ensure my space at the front, it meant I had to stand through some pretty terrible support bands in my time (and to be fair a sprinkling of real gems). Hence I'm stood there waiting for The Smiths to take the stage, my arms crossed in as hostile an 'entertain me then' manner as I can summon. As per the video above, because it was his Oscar Wilde meets Dame Edna Everage schtick, Morrisey comes on stage with a bunch of gladioli and in the first song brings the flowers down on the heads of the audience. That's us up against the stage and the pollen sets off a raging, most unseasonal hay fever in me that fills my eyes with water so that I view the Fall's set through a veil. 

2) Manchester is the home of UK music. Liverpool has produced little music of note since the Beatles and London has surprisingly few of its own indigenous bands, though plenty flock from the provinces to take up residence in the capital. Sheffield has occasional flare ups of interesting bands, but nothing quite so sustained as manchester as to make it the rock and roll capital of the UK. If you don't believe me about Manchester, here are some of its musical alumni: Joy Division/New Order, Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Buzzcocks/Magazine, The Fall, 808 State, Autechre, The Bee Gees (!), The Chemical Brothers,  The Hollies, Herman's Hermits, Freddie And The Dreamers, John Mayall, The Verve and Oasis. Now Manchester transmits an image of itself through its music. And that image involves a certain chippyness and cussedness to all things London. It's hard, gruff and irreverent. And then along came The Smiths and almost single handedly undid all the sterling work of the bands from the late 1970s and very early 80s with their rather fey adoption of the trope of Oscar Wilde. Of course I acknowledge that in time The Smiths turned out to be more popular than maybe any of these bands, (other than Oasis, but don't get me started on those Merseysound wannabees!) or at least comparable. But some of us weren't comfortable with what that meant for Manchester...

3) When I was at university, all the cool alternative blokes (of which I liked to consider myself as one, okay maybe without the cool), were desperately casting around for a new band to follow after Ian Curtis of Joy Division killed himself and the remnants of the band turned into dance-pop New Order which was overtly beyond the pale even though we all secretly loved them and indeed the only time I ever saw them play live was at a University Ball in my final year. Anyhoo, Joy Division fans wore long trenchcoats and needed a band that enabled to continue doing so. For some reason, despite the iconography of gladioli and dear Oscar. lead singer Morrisey's misery warbling green lit the trenchcoat brigade permission to carry on moodying in their long outerwear. So I spent many a university party with the girlfriends of the cool set as the only male present, commiserating about how their boyfriends were off away at a smiths concert, or refused to dance with them because the party music was not 'right'. Actually there were some fringe benefits from this, but you take my main point I hope. Being into the Smiths meant the normal subject matter of teenage boy meets teenage girl was strictly off the agenda. The boys preferred moping alone in the attic rooms or halls of residence. The girls just looked bemused and began to consider the virtues of relationships with would be yuppies or geeks. That's not what rock and roll is about. It's not even what pop music is about!

So that's why it's a big deal even after all these years for me to host a Smiths' video on my blog. But fair's fair, the song is in my novel, even if it is associated with the anti-hero!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Look Who's Stalking

This week I'll be doing one-a day posts about songs included in my latest novel "Time After Time", how the music fits into the narrative and where the band or the song fitted into my life.

The first is "A Figure Walks" by The Fall. This song announced itself very early on in the process of writing the novel during a comic stalking/pursuit scene I was writing. The assassin has finally sighted his target and starts following her, while he himself is being pursued by a gang of youths with murderous intent in their eyes at this outsider to their estate. The drumming and bassline are suitably menacing for that horrible feeling that you're being followed, but don't dare turn round and engage their eyes...

"Is he following me? Can't be!... He is! Matching me step for step. Oh god, now you've done it girl. You and your big mouth. They got websites full of that sort of thing. Pregnant is the new virginity in the sicko stakes... Don't... turn... around. Keep walking. Don't break into a run. Just look straight ahead. Clenched fists and tight buttocks. Just wants to put the wind up you a little... and he's succeeding... well, cross the road then you bastard! Oh god, sounds like there's a whole pack of them now."

Ah The Fall. Probably the band I saw play live more than any other. They used to play absolute toilets of venues as per Mark E Smith's legendary perversity. I saw them a few times at a North London Polytechnic, in the days when they were still called that rather than Universities. It wasn't even a campus, just some Hall owned by or attached to the Polytechnic. We were all sat there on the pavement waiting for the doors to open, when Marc Riley, erstwhile Fall guitarist (before a vicious falling out with Smith so that the latter changed the lyrics to a song and baited Riley from the stage at a later gig I attended) and the man who would later be known as "Lard" as Radio ! DJ Mark Radcliffe's sidekick, anyway that same Marc Riley approached us from the shops on Holloway Road with his placcy bag sagging under the modest weight of what looked like a fourpack of convenience store beer. No fancy riders backstage for The Fall as Riley cut a path through our outstretched arms and legs on the concrete. No one bothered to salute or even greet him, for that was The Fall and their fans. Unrock and roll as you could get.

I once saw them in February, when they played a set of unfamiliar songs as was their wont. These songs then turned up on the new album released a week later, so fair enough you think, they were showcasing the new album just ahead of time. Then having worn the vinyl out playing that album and committing every song to the pith and fibre of my body, I was ready to belt out the anthems full voce when they returned to the same venue a month later... Only for them to unfurl a completely new set of yet more unfamiliar songs that would later go on to form their next album. Not for The Fall to bother plugging an album less than a month old! And that cussedness towards the record business endeared them in our hearts forever I would suggest.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Six Degrees Of Simulation

I was sat on the bus minding my own business this lunchtime, when a lady turns to me and says I look like Richard Gere. (!!)

Now I've been called many things in my life and I've even been compared to the odd famous person, but Richard Gere was a first for me. A mixed compliment to be sure, given that probably more pre-internet memes exist about Richard Gere than most other human beings on the planet.

Richard Gere, not Marc Nash

We do have similar glasses I suppose. Bet his are designer brand

Now in my youth I always mixed up Richard Gere with Warren Beatty, probably because both had um a certain reputation.

Warren Beatty: Neither Richard Gere nor Marc Nash.  

In fact there have only been two celebrities I have ever been mistaken for, on a very sporadic basis. The first is John Tuturro's brilliant characterisation of Barton Fink in the Coen Brothers' film. I can sort of see it in the face and round glasses and of course he is a writer, but the standy-up hair nixes the overall comparison.

Barton Fink a.k.a John Turturro 

Of course if it's thick wiry hair and wire-framed specs, then you also can't help but invoke Leon Trotsky, whom I have never been compared physically to... Mind you any shots of him with a moustache kybosh any possible similarity between us.

Leon Trotsky, possibly having stolen those frames since the mounting hook seems still to be attached

The other person I have been compared to, came about from someone informing me that they'd "seen me on TV last night in that Paul Calf show". I had no idea what they were talking about until I watched it back and realised they must have been referring to the student character stooge hated by Paul Calf. The actor's name was Patrick Marber who went on to fame as a playwright, penning hit plays such as "Dealer's Choice" and "Closer". Long trenchcoat and wooly hat, a student. Yeah I could see that one a touch. But he never wore glasses. 
Patrick Marber sans trenchcoat, wooly hat and sadly glasses

So there you have it. I'm not sure I look like any of them. But today I was told on the number 79 bus that I look like Richard Gere. Better than being compared to the back end of that bus I suppose....

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Closed Book - Friday Flash

Prior to birth, my parents' friends speculated on my likely sex with their homespun portents. How low my mother carried me. How high beyond the navel the black line running up her stomach extended. The significance of which breast was larger than the other. They even suspended a gold ring on a thread and dangled it over her bump. There were drinks won on the back of some of these calls. My parents could have simply asked the ultrasound technician to reveal my sex, but they preferred to bate their own breath. Even as I was struggling towards taking my own.

And in that same overwrought anticipation, they bought a Baby Book to record my development. They could have just read Piaget instead. And on their deaths, it passed to me along with all the other sentimental bric-a-brac that cluttered up first my family home and then the retirement place they both inhabited until the end of their days. God preserve me from such a vitiating march headlong into death.

I'm holding it now, this baby book. I've never opened it before. Still can't see the point of it. Wonder if it was something my parents went back to gaze upon and delve inside, in their quest to extract my essence? That which they dejectedly referred to as the 'closed book' of me. It's hard to judge how well-thumbed the book is. Its venerable age alone has left it careworn. God knows what the state of the organic contents will be like. The forensic clippings attesting to me, but never being brought before any jury.

The leaf of the inside cover, my mother's florid script in an unfurled scroll borne by cartoon cherubs. My name, date of birth, weight, eye colour, the usual biometrics of the passport entry into life. Smudges that presumably were my neonate fingerprints, though could have conceivably been unfortunate bugs trapped by the wax paper and executed with the snapping closed of the covers. My ultrasound scan picture. Too undercooked to determine organs of sex, thus preserving their fussy ignorance. Seeing how I was hatched from a conspiracy of self-delusion, was it surprising that I became their lifelong rebus?

The coming home photo. Wrapped in a shawl that probably was never used again. Red eyed me on the red eye express family car no doubt driving at 3mph all the way home from hospital. The colours have faded on the snap, save for the demonic eyes of course. Behind my Zimmer frame I reckon I can hit 2mph.

And to the guts of the book inside. A lock of my hair preserved under selloptape. Patently a more durable adhesive than the glue for my toupee. The baby tress is blond. The hue before they quickly darkened to the mouse brown tone I inherited from my mousy father. But even that seems light years away from the dirty snow grey of the few remaining follicles that crazypave my sideburns. And sprout from my knuckles, my nostrils, my ears and every flaming orifice. So what do these blond hairs commemorate, other than a fleeting period of another me from a time before consciousness? So a non-me really.

A small swollen, sweated envelope holding a slither of nail cuticles. Desiccated like some voodoo magic. And it's worked too, to judge by how hard and thick my nails are now. The clippers can't cut them and that's before the arthritis contorted my fingers so that I couldn't even grip them. They're twisted and curled over like talons. Biting into the circulation there so I no longer have any feeling in my digits.

First age of crawling, which I have reverted every time I try and rise from my bed. Age of teething, well now my gums have shrunk and persecute me all over again. Reduces me to eating rusks and baby solids, oh the indignity. First slept through the night, well that one didn't take for very long. Burning the candle at both ends might have shaved seconds off my life span, but it did screw up my body clock for good. Drank from a cup for the first time. Ha, I was precocious on that particular skill. Of course hailing from a family of lushes I would have been. First smile, just left blank! And look here, my first word. A babbling single syllable. An unremarkable lexeme. Modelled for me by my mother's deferential idiom no doubt. These first words of countless ones. Words adorning books. Words splattered across theatre stages by actors. That cheap and nasty Polaroid of me emerging into the light, when thirty-five years later I was being photographed by three-thousand pound a session photographers for my inner sleeve picture. And all from the humble beginnings of the first word "ta-ta". Goodbye and good riddance.

Yet now I have no more words. All my books are written. There is nothing left to say. Me and Roth both. Just as well with these numb fingers unable to palpate the keys. I have turned the closing page and embraced the final dust sheet on my oeuvre, the same as on the spare chairs in redundant rooms in my house. And yet I see there are blank pages aplenty at the end of this Baby Book. Guess my parents fell out of love with the task of chronicling my development. Or maybe just fell out of love with me. Why shouldn't indifference be mutual?

And then it struck me. The ending of this book. The ending of endings. This book which is supposedly all about the burgeoning of life, needs also to mark the pathway to death and cessation. Of course I'll reach a state eventually when I won't be able to record the final part of the journey. And there is no one around to do it on my behalf, since I forbade all biographies, while the writer's life is irredeemably solitary. But why shouldn't people speculate, wager and the few successful ones celebrate with drink once again? Bookending my entry and exit from this world. What with the internet and everything, I can offer this to anyone and everyone. My final book, one I omitted to recognise I still had left in me. I can't collect any winnings on this one either.

Book on my Death:
Heart failure 2-1
Cancer 5-2
Pneumonia 100-30
Kidney/Liver 5-1
Thrombosis 7-1
Lower-respiratory/infections 8-1
Alzheimers/dementias  10-1
Bile/Gallstones 12-1

Sunday, 20 January 2013


This is a sample from my Kindle novel "Not In My Name"  about the development of home grown suicide bombers in the UK. Part of the novel is told in the form of internet forums, since that is where the new politics is being fought out, but the sample below is a poem. There is a long tradition of Arabic Poetry, including both romantic and courtly verse. As Islam consolidated its influence, the more ribald aspects of poetry disappeared and the object of the love expressed by the poet frequently was that of Islam and faith itself.

Capitation (poem by Aki)
Eyes cast down, neck braced by the wood
Impressed grain logs the ineffable ruling.
Court artist sand, worm’s upraised viewing
Death mask imprinted with my blood.
I blanch while the ascending ground darkens
Trading places, I divine sacrifice not martyr.

In the arena, a recount of the charges
My basket case nerves nod mute accord.
There is no bucket beneath to slam dunk
Neither Jacobin traitor, nor political agitator
My poll will not be mounted upon any pole.
All glassy eyed it will be held up high
Revolved around, to be cheered all four sides.

My lolling tongue and foaming maw
Are requested to shape the words of Shahada.
Lip service paid now, whence in default before
Churlish to supplicate for a miracle.
I hear the soft sandalled tread
An executioner’s shadow enshrouding
As the sword’s molecules dash on deck
Each anticipates bloody anointing.

I shut my eyes, no desire to see
The separation of my apostate head,
From my mutinous body. Instead,
An involuntary prayer, to whom I am unsure.
I hearken the shimmering swish of a scimitar
Perceive behind a field of dancing light.
Beauteous spectral wake as blade parts the air.
Not taut like steel, but floppy green
Long-stemmed bloom presented afore me

A declaration of love, gift of life
Revivifying my enervated senses.
I unfasten my lids, unshutter my gaze
Winch my head up from the stump
And view only the one, you my love
As you drop your veil, to reveal
A different red hue sun glinting.
You shake away the baying dogs
With a sweep of your head
Your welcoming arms grant private audience

I stand and stride, a little shakily
No mirage you, unflinching in bearing
A cradle of acceptance
Perfectly tailored for my body
Hands safeguarding my bare crown.
On approach they spangle and change
Now palm fronds provide our joint canopy
My bride elixir births me anew
Returns me to my root safely.
Intact, yet only half a man still
Unblockishly lower my gaze and modesty

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Best SciFi Theme Music

Never mind the quality of the programme, these are my favourite theme tunes from TV SciFi progs
Click on programme names to bring up the theme tune on YouTube

1: 28 Days Later So atmospheric of that London emptied of people opening shot. The slow gathering menace as the arrangement builds. Now used for a cider advert, so it must be good!
2: Twilight Zone Come on admit it, when you're having a conversation and you make a remark that something spooky is like an event on The Twilight Zone, you accentuate it by singing the music!
3: Stingray  I love the urgent tempo of this. I wonder if it was ever so slightly speeded up? The drum intro is wonderful, its tone is on the verge of announcing something camp nightclubby, you know like a dancer in a hula dress or something!
4: Joe 90 Love all the FX in the intro to this, what we all imagined futuristic technology would sound like, then lurches over into a very 60s Surfer melody!
5: The Prisoner Just oozes class from the first tom tom beat and the changes in the music suggest the narrative of those opening titles wonderfully well. 3 & 1/2 minutes of opening titles, you couldn't get away with that on TV today
6: X-Files Evocative, that synth whistling refrain is shaped like a question itself. But yes, synth heavy beloved of the 1990s
7: Bladerunner Vangelis, so it's pucker music right! Funnily enough its synth opening chords remind me of "Apocalypse Now", the bits that got left out of the original movie & reappeared in the "Redux" version. But once the tempo of this steps up, you know you're in for a thriller chase in the rain type of movie
8: Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea Just love how they weave in the sonar blips into a classical music strings arrangement
9: Attack The Block And finally we reach the 21st Century with this unnerving, sound affect heavy piece of dubstep. Vocals buried in the mix and muffled, the sound of an urban community under siege crying for help and no one's listening. If you've seen the movie you'll know it fits perfectly, like a bandana!
10: Spiderman Suitably hammy, narrowly pips Batman for me because I've heard better versions of Batman theme by bands which were never used for the TV series or films.

What are your favs?

Here are a few scifi songs by bands unrelated to TV or films

B52s - "Planet Claire"

Muse - "Supermassive Blackholes"

David Bowie - "Starman"

Pink Floyd - "Interstellar Overdrive"

Afrika Bambaata - "Planet Rock 1982"

Only Ones - "Another Girl, Another Planet"

Parliament - "Mothership Connection"

Grinderman - "Honeybee Let's Fly to Mars"

The Rezillos - "Destination Venus"

Sonic Youth - "Silver Rocket"

Husker Du - "Books About UFOs"

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Visible Spectrum Of Colour - Friday Flash

Deciduous Decisions
Gripping her shoulders she shuddered at her own touch. She stared out the window and saw the autumnal trees in her garden. The kaleidoscope of reds and oranges through to browns and yellows. She looked down at her wrists displaying the same spectrum of colours. Contusions and confusions. Maybe Mother Nature too was full of irascible rage. That she seized hold the limbs of trees and lashed them with punishing blasts. Grabbed outstretched branches and shook them insensible. The coloured bruised flakes there falling from the ligneous skein. And like her, they obligingly returned to the fold year after year.

Trooping The Colour
The Accounting Department sought to splatter the Human Resources team with their green dye. Colour co-ordinated with the green visors on their helmets that were the sole way of identifying which side you were on, with everyone attired in the same camouflage combat jackets. "Green for rookies" jibed the HRers as they were suiting up. "Yeah? well they gave you lot yellow for the cowardy custards" retorted Malcolm as he clipped on his paint cartridge with a satisfyingly resounding snap. It instantly elevated him to team leader. He turned to address them all as he clasped the flag in one hand. "If I see anyone marked with green paint, it means we've shot one of our own. There will be no death by friendly fire got it? Or there will be most unfriendly in-house firing back at the office" he winked and brandished the flag reverberatingly in the air.

While middle management were ramping themselves up to make action paintings of their genial foes, somewhere else teenage boys were putting coloured bandanas around their necks or foreheads. Or just slipping them into the back pockets of their uniform denim. These colours the only way to distinguish one coterie from another. The projectiles emitted from their weapons however were not colour coded. And uniformly they splattered red across the bodies of those that found their targets.

Painting By Numbers
How would the Bard have done it he contemplated? Of course he was assisted by the Jacobean beliefs about the human body. The Theory of Humours. Yellow bile, black bile, blood and phlegm. Choleric, melancholy, sanguinity and phlegmatic. What an artist's palate that made for. Dip your brush in the yellow pigment and mix with the carmine, to dilute the aggressive ambition, or inject a bit of urgency into the dilatory sanguine. Blend the jet black with a dab of that mucal green and the melancholic comes to more of an acceptance of the absurdity and cruelty of the world. Ready-made characterisation. If only it was all so easy to reduce the human emotional scale to such graphic formula. We've gone too far the other way now. Those four character types reduced to simple emoticons. A new simplistic graded happy-sad pH scale of emotion.

If neutral is zero, then the happy clappy adjectival parade all range positively in one direction. A heliotropic embracing and blossoming. Contented-Pleased-Delighted-Gleeful-Thrilled-Jubilant-Ecstatic. But this branch has been viciously pruned into fruitlessness anyway. Alas, not so for the sad shower. The abject adjectives. A phalanx, not tight-knit, but overlapping. Braced dyads of dark-shaded feelings. For every melancholic, there’s somebody jaundiced. Downcast/Discomfited - Sorrowful/Cut up - Morose/Bitter - Miserable/Stricken - Despairing/Repining - Anguished/Tormented - Suicidal/Baneful. The umbra resolutely wallowing, stewing in one’s own juices. While the penumbra, wrings its wagging and pointing fingers of blame at a gnawing external source. One which can be lanced to drain all suppurating feeling. The tenor of its march therefore, can only lead to a confluence with revenge. Revenge is not itself an emotion, but spliced with them like a gene therapy, becomes one in most respects. It does, after all, itself impart motivation for swingeing action and deed. The impulse for revenge, if successfully discharged, can actually turn the emotional pH scale on its head. It will launch you into the happy alkalis, as you recast over in your mind the exquisite piquancy of how it played out. No wonder Shakespeare wrote so many plays about revenge. His so-called comedies just weren't funny though.

Laser Colour Therapy
"The man slashed his wrists and bled on to the carpet in an echo of his own colour splotch art. Only it was figurative for once with his corpse lying in the centre of it. Of course he was depressed! They're not spiritual paintings. If anything they were cries for help. Black canvases expressing his fatally dark moods."

"And the coloured canvases? Shimmering, dancing hues oscillating in front of your eyes?"

"Unlike this divine soufflé, I think you're over-egging it somewhat!"

"Not sat down here enjoying a fine wine and some bourgeois dinner chatter. I mean in a gallery, stood up close, entering the painting. Getting sucked into its heart. Windows and fiery forges... crucibles of creative power."

"I thought you said his paintings represented contemplative stillness? Now they're dancing?"

"Only in comparison with Pollock. He was all about the gross materiality. The paint trails succumbing to gravity. Rothko expresses... the metaphysical. Grasping towards the ineffable."

"With slabs of paint? It's still fabricated from matter though isn't it? He's like a die cast machine, stamping a great big press on all figurative and landscape art that preceded him. The arrogance of the man, trying to eliminate the history of art altogether."

"He did employ his own style of pentimento. Conservationists of his work using ultraviolet light have revealed just how carefully he layered his paint tones."

"They're not forges, they're furnaces."


"You're both in error. They're furnaces. In which human beings were burned. What you call pentimento are the remains of the human fat inside the furnaces. Clearly the paintings are windows on the Holocaust."

"Um, more wine I think..."

taken from the flash fiction collection available to buy from Amazon Kindle

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

About The Weather - 10 songs on a climate theme

With the barometer bouncing up and down like a fairground "Try Your Strength" machine, I thought it was maybe time for  or a weather themed chart. Here's ten different weather systems honoured in song to warm the cockles of your heart. Don't forget your umbrella!

1) "Have You Ever Seen The Rain" - Creedence Clearwater Revival

One of the main differences between rock music and literature, is that rock musicians are way more upfront about tipping their hat to their influences. Of course it;s easier to record a cover version of somebody else's song than to reproduce someone else's text and pass it off as your own, though there are some existing stories retold anew by writers and William Burroughs did take other writers' texts and incorporate them in his cut up technique... Anyhoo, Creedence Clearwater revival were a band I only came to after the fact, because their songs were covered by the likes of Sonic Youth, Minutemen, REM and the like. And this one is really rather beautiful.

2) "Set Your Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" - Pink Floyd

Early Pink Floyd and the continued interest in all things interstellar, although this was recorded around the time when David Gilmour came in to replace the ailing Syd Barrett (and doesn't Gilmour look terrified in this video?) This song has a real menace to it even if that was never its intent. But then I guess if you're piloting straight for the hottest star in our system...

3) "Riders On The Storm" - The Doors

Don't know what it is about the 1960s that brought out all these great songs about the weather. There again the weather was intimately associated with man's early knowledge, spirituality and superstitions, so what better subject for the Hippy decade? Another unnerving song, with possible some of the greatest blending of music and sound effect committed to vinyl.

4) "Like Calling Up Thunder" - Gun Club

And so to the 1980s, though Gun Club were a band obsessed with a swampy blues rock that harked back to the 1960s and themes of voodoo and devils in the wood. Not one of their better tracks to be honest, but their relatively short discography has many gems in it and I recommend you track them down as a band if you haven't encountered them before.

5) "Snowblind" - Black Sabbath

Um Ozzy Osborne & Co doing what they do best. I think.

6) "Butterflies And Hurricanes" - Muse

And talking of over the top, Muse actually downscale their usual ambitions of all things cosmic and content themselves with the more earthly scale of the elemental force of a hurricane. Why is it that the guys who sing of elemental forces are always so skinny?

7) "Blowin In The Wind" - Peter, Paul & Mary

Talking of 60s icons and all things meteorological, can you believe there isn't a decent Bob Dylan version of this on You Tube? So the next best thing, though it still lacks Dylan's plaintive vocal urgency methinks. It's weird, as a child of punk I shunned all things Hippy, but actually this particular chart demonstrates to me that there were some rather nifty tunes that emerged from that sordid music decade! Must be losing my edge...

8) "Little Fluffy Clouds" - The Orb

And so to dance music whose light shows often reproduced a microclimate live on stage, to obscure the fact that there wasn't much in the way to look at the musicians dwarfed behind their banks of keyboards.

9) "Crying Lightning" - Arctic Monkeys

Remember when Arctic Monkeys were supposed to be the band that emerged from the internet world to save us all from the dross of TV Talent show music production? What ever happened to that I wonder? Their career took an arctic tern for the worse it appears (did you see what I did there?)

10) "Misty Mountain Hop" - Led Zeppelin

The one depressing aspect of this chart, is not the preponderance of inclement weather, but how many members of these bands are now dead. 6 of these 10 artists have lost band members to the great rock and roll smoke machine clouds in the sky.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Neon Pipe Dreams - Friday Flash

It was a straight shoot-out between the two of us. Ten lanes of expressway between our respective ten-gallon hats. One mount each for us lone riders, compared with the multi-powered horsepower gathered under the hood of each car burning past us on the trail below. The poisons belching from their exhaust pipes matching the toxins from our cigarettes gasp for gasp.

Bored Bill's horse may be lengthening its stride in the great outdoors, but over the years the vehicles here have been reduced to an ever slower crawl. You can tell, because the copywriters have been able to append more and more words on their billboards. The gridlocked captive audience now have enforced time to read them, rather than blast past in a blur of motion. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

And here's me with my smokeless cigarette. A rather fey, wispy puff of smog, picked out in neon. Three wavy lines in blue to represent ascending vapor (another context and it might look like the waves of the ocean). One cocktail of gas used to represent another. Yet they overlook that I, Neon cowboy, am inert. I do not interact or blend with anything. I exist just for and within myself. Even when confined to glass flues such as here. Their configuration of shaped tubing allows them to imagine they have wrangled me to their purpose. That the electrical circuits timed to spark florescence from my corpus like a struck match so as to suggest the figure raising a cigarette to its mouth, sucking so that the tip glows brighter, before exhaling those wiggly lines of fumes, indicates an acquiescence on my part. Secondary smoker? I'm not even tertiary. No quaternary sought nor given. Well you have to stub the cigarette out under your cowboy boot at some point right? The light that never goes out? Don't you believe it.

I am gas but I am not luminosity. So the first thing that has to go is the chemical apparatus. I extinguish the illumination by allowing myself to be absorbed by the very high voltage ions that are supposed to excite me into glowing lustrousness. It's taken several years of patience, but I managed to reach critical mass, or in this case, to drop to the level of critical dilution. This buckaroo bucked the finely wrought system and cowpunched off the clock. My glow sputtered spasmodically. So without any cattle prod firing me up, I had time to muse on my current disposition underlying the constant discharge.

In the vacuum, the notion of an image began to take hold, The image of an image that was me. Here I was, sequestered and channeled inside glass ducts, themselves artfully forged under heat's deformations. Electricity's catalytic conversion of my inertness into duplicitous light energy, passing through the arranged tubes to come together to conjure the impression of a cowboy smoking a cigarette. That image in itself supposedly proffering associations with freedom on an endless plain beneath the skies, to these confined and constrained motorists in the city sprawl below. I'm three times as tall as the actual humans I am supposed to represent. None of us are as we seem. Fully detached from our natural state. Plato's Cave never reached far enough. There was only one dimension of a remove, that of a shadow projection on the cave wall from the light of a fire. As soon as you left the cave and saw reality outside, the enslaving illusion was broken. But here, it's the image of an image of a symbol of a sign of an idea. Rendered through the manipulation of brute matter. To wit, me. An invisible, gaseous impassivity. I am not called a noble gas without reason.

Yet do not conceive that I am not seething with feeling. Highly charged you might say, albeit in an inactive way. With my nose pressed to the walls of my glass prison, I sense my brother minority molecules drift carefree in the air on the other side. Oblivious and uncaring as to my incarceration. The conduction depleted sufficiently for the light to go out once and for all. Now I had nothing jabbing and colliding against me, merely the borders of my tubular cell. Just how neon likes it. I would have my liberty soon enough from this demijohn dungeon.

The glass corral shattered as the greater atmospheric pressure beyond caused it to cave in. I mooched beyond my enclosure. It was worse than I thought. There were yet further material layers I hadn't appreciated. The whole arrangement had been mounted on a metal and wooden frame. Under light, such background framing was artfully occluded, so that my cowboy had always seemed to be floating on air. Without the volume of light, I could see the whole tableau was just a flat plane of bulbs and tubes like worm casts. Cowboy noir. The outline wasn't even whole, merely the trompe l'oeil of a human figure. The lazy human eye filling in the rest of the pattern that isn't even there. Nothing about this composition existed on its actual integral reality. Merely the synthesis of all these elements, all these components of engineering and design, coming together to create this chimera high up in the hills.

But I am Neon and I will form no part of anybody else's desires. And with that I disappeared in an undetectable puff of smoke and rejoined my fellow haughty molecules. Neoff.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Three Eclipses - Friday Flash

The geisha strummed the three strings of her shamisen for her Samurai master. The instrument's body encased in catskin that held the sweet vibrations like a purr. Its silk strings fashioned of the same material as the kimono in which she was draped. Three ivory pegs chorusing the hairpins shaping her high chignon hair. The three strings rubbed against one another to conjure up the sound of a whole hive of bees. The plectrum caressing against the body to conjure the rhythms of the hooves of her master's horse. Her fingers palpating the frets to make the instrument sound like sweetly dripping honey.

She was his flower in the pleasure quarters and his willow throughout the rest of the house, as she fed his soul with poetry, dance, calligraphy and grace. At night, to preserve her elaborate hair pinned with turtleshell, she slept with her head on a block and a bed of rice around its base to alert her, were her crown to roll off the wood.

Then came the American bomb clouds that momentarily blotted out the sun and stripped all the leaves from the trees. Those birds not in its vicinity, till crashed in their flying, as they conceived night had descended. The bees disappeared. Turtles retreated inside their shells never to resurface from their hibernation.

Now her silk kimono sat uncomfortably. She could feel the silk writhing over her body, as if the worms sought to reclaim their cocoons for their unborn broods. The shimasen's silk strings came away from the catskin body, as they too protested their indenture. Her master took his pitiless steel and rendered Seppuku. His insides unravelling like the insurgent strings on her shamisen. Her tresses escaped their turtleshell grips. No more of flowers and willows. A perpetual winter had eclipsed Japan's ever rising sun.

The silhouette of an American GI stood behind her shoji. He slid the screen door back, his bulk dimming the whole room. Save for the corona of light from the burning tip of his cigarette waxing and waning as he breathed heavily. Try as she might, she couldn't convince herself that it was a firefly in the night attracted by the scent of her hair's pomade.

Taken from the Flash Fiction collection "Long Stories Short" available on Amazon Kindle