Thursday, 27 February 2014

Nappy Rash - Friday Flash

They say every body has at least one book inside them.

Or maybe I just read that somewhere. Not in a book mind, more likely in my baby daughter’s entrails, or rather what issues from them. I snappily browse the latest output from her digestive tract and pronounce myself satisfied with this particular edition; as well as being reapprised with what I had for dinner, now since plagiarised and offered back as part of her own developing opus.     

Unfunnily enough, none of the literature on parenting delves much into the subject of the chromatics of your offspring’s off-loadings. Whether, their off colouring, denotes that she may be off key. The topic crops out barely a pothole, in what is otherwise a mountain of exalted agglomerations of evolutionary know-how. A repository teeming with the species’ collected works on rearing. A clearing house of formative sagacity. With its ante-room periodicals and primers of anticipation; its delivery suite of digests and catalogued consultation; its study of referenced providence. All in all, an abundant library to lend us the abstruse familiarity of our foundlings. But as you pile-drive through the textbooks, the guidebooks, the TV-advertised partworks with free-ring binder, the cribs, monographs and how-to handbooks, clambering towards the pinnacle of human apprehension, the view emerges of the speciousness of this species wisdom. For, despite all the incunabula, you are simply left holding the baby, probably at half-arm length out in front of you, much like you might hold a book. 

So much for the manual. There isn’t a solitary one worthy of the misnomer, throughout the entire damn voluminous paper trail. Me, I’m shivering up to my elbows in droppings back in the pothole. A single little kick amidst the full-of-the-joys-of-being-alive salvo, and my daughter’s nappy pregnant with discharge has slithered across the changing mat and positioned itself perfectly, to catch the down thrust of my elbow as I swipe her legs up in the air to dab at her bottom. Baby shit on my fingers, baby shit on my ulna. Forewarned is not forearmed. 

Once we’ve unerringly pulped all the trees, which might you consider be worse; to have toilet paper but sacrifice books; or to retain the publication of books at the cost of wiping your arse without any intercessional medium? That’s assuming the whole world hasn’t infarcted and collapsed in on itself, under the weight of impermeable, non-degradable, disposable nappies plugging all our landfill refuse sites.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Penmanship - Flash Fiction

The man was lying asleep on his side, his hand tucked under his face for a pillow, when he was shaken awake. His whole bed was aquiver and he suffered that shooting vertigo as the block mattress was shot up vertically. The tethers bound him in place. He knew what was to follow.


The metal probe projected horizontally towards him. Its point was dulled so that there was no spangle reflection to blind his eyes. To help veil him from its unerring assignment. The stylus started cutting into his skin. His wounded flesh responded by filling in the cavities with blood, but the duct mounted beneath the stylus squirted some sort of anti-coagulant to sluice the blood away as soon as it tried to dock with the skin.


He shut his eyes and gave into to the lapping swish of the chemical reagent jets. He had endured the sensation so many times, his nerves had ceased to fire at the trespass of the spike. It was gouging out characters on his skin, some of which he could flick his eyes to read, others which remained beyond his purview. Because of the irregular contours of his body, the words spelt thereon were not arranged in sentences. He was not a flat plane like the leaves of a book. And that seemed to be the very object.


When the stylus had finished its calligraphic furrows, there was the customary pop as the liquid stream was shut off and replaced by a more viscous fluid. Here it comes, as a black ink was sprayed into the scores in his skin, until the trenches were full to the top. The probe performed its shuffling retreat as it was winched back. He leaned his head back against the metal block and turned to one side. He saw the arrayed ranks of others trussed and coloured exactly the same as him, though he could not make out the inscriptions on their flesh. A printing block army. A typeset textual host. And then it began.


In rapid fire, the typebars were launched forward headlong, pressing the composed human monotypes against a giant white canvas of indeterminate fabrication. The letters were intaglioed, incised against the blockish lumps of uninscribed flesh to create the impression of three-dimensional lettering. Not unlike that of graffiti taggers, though this was intended as far more of a formal imprint. For this was the justice system’s record-keeping of its proceedings, or at least the footnote annotations thereof. For this race it was important to have the sentences produced with differing depths and alignments and not just necessarily legible in a linear fashion. Their justice resonated with greater and more intricate profundity in that way.


The impact at rapid velocity against the canvas always knocked the human print stamps immediately spark out. They came to when a sprinkle of water washed over their face. An alert that the cleansing and maintenance procedures were upon them. Now their blocks were positioned to the horizontal and they passed through a vertical plane of some muslin like material ingrained with an astringent that served to flush out any vestiges of ink squatting in skin recesses. A blast of heat was quickly applied to evaporate any surface liquid and scour the flesh prior to silky spurts of an aqueous polymer coated the degraded flesh and quickly flowed to seal it smooth. The fusible skin would harden and set within an hour and the human composite stick would be good to go once again the following day to record the judgements handed down.  

Friday, 14 February 2014

For Valentine's Day...


"I wish I had choreographed it all out in advance. Maybe a treasure hunt of little ditties placed throughout his apartment. Just to keep pricking the scabs. Closet conference to have read: ‘Love lies bleeding, love lies limp. Forehead’s receding, you dress like a pimp.’ Bathroom meditation: ‘Roses are red, violets are blue. Always said you were anal, now you’re flushed down the loo’. Kitchen corkboard, affixed with pins: ‘Love lies bleeding, love lies limp. Get some other scrubber, dirtying her hands in your sink’. Required bedtime reading: ‘Roses are red, violence black and blue. To the pisshole in your prick, figured to add just a few’. You simply never think of it at the time do you? Just as well really. Doesn’t even scan properly."

from the novel "A,B&E" A revenge tale where it is a dish best served "flush across a bloke's cranium"

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Ur, Um - Friday Flash

One morning Patient Zero woke up no longer in possession of his mother tongue. He did not discover this immediately on rising, for as he sung into the bathroom mirror while shaving, he fully understood the words, though they did not scan smoothly with the ditty’s established rhythm. It was only on greeting his wife that the disjunction became apparent. 

She couldn’t quite make out his words so asked him to repeat them thinking him to be still half-submerged in sleep. He couldn’t comprehend her request, so accordingly asked her to repeat herself in turn. His words sounded familiar to her, but didn’t quite accord with anything recognisable. She thought he might have suffered a minor stroke that had afflicted his speech. But listening with sharper focus, she educed his words weren’t slurred but enunciated clearly in their own alien right. Their lifelong marital communication was preserved intact, though somewhat adapted, as he read the confusion in her face, while she gleaned the panic etched on his.

She grabbed a notepad and started writing down her queries, but he snatched the pad and creased his brow in utter bewilderment at the symbols scrawled there. He handed her back the pad and shook his head. She immediately made an emergency appointment for him at the doctor’s and accompanied him as his translator, albeit a non-proficient one. 

The doctor confirmed that the words sounded almost conversant yet remained just beyond meaningful reach. He summoned his Asian colleague who attested to a similar linguistic diagnosis, though when the two compared notes they found significant points of difference in what they had imagined they had almost grasped. The colleague asserted that he was actually bilingual and would attempt to receive this strange speech with both his linguistic portals ready to tune in simultaneously. The other doctor thought his peer a show off, but acceded to the suggestion all the same. The medic now nearly assimilated the man’s peregrine diction in two different tongues, causing him considerable discomfort as his mind was assaulted by a divergent assonance. When he recoiled holding his head between his hands, his associate smirked, even as he picked up the phone to dial the hospital.

The speech therapist was stymied, but had the stoke of insight to place a call with the languages department of the university the hospital formed part of. The benighted man was struck dumb as he was metaphorically prodded and pinched by a horde of eager linguists each trying to draw a bead on his babble that matched their own specialism. He defeated them all, though each felt they almost understood his verbiage but fell just short. Then one had a bolt of enlightenment when he proposed that since the man’s speech sounded familiar to each one of their diverse coterie in turn, his language must be related to them all. That is, the man was speaking the primordial human language, the Ur-tongue from which all subsequent languages were descended. That was why each auditor had perceived the foreign tongue to chime with that of their own native one.

The academics were delirious. A fully dead language, that longest extinct one, had miraculously been resurrected. Those of a less spiritual bent sardonically remarked that here finally was the reverse of the Tower of Babel. What better prospect for the world than if every one of its future citizens all spoke the same linga franca? The Esperanto contrivance had failed for a dearth of authority. But here was the wellspring of all human language, what could be more prestigiously legitimate?

There was the tantalising prospect of an end to all misunderstandings brought on by translation glitches. They still might not agree on ideas and devotions, but at least they could all argue using the same vernacular. Who knows, the linguists felt that in time the Ur-language could replace all languages and that could only foster unity in man rather than the divisiveness of different argots.

They sat the man down to start to debrief his knowledge. They asked him to write down his parlance but he just shrugged at their mime acts of writing. One of the philologists explained that axiomatically the Ur-language had to precede any written alphabet or other symbolic system. There could be no transcribing it into school primers and grammars for ease of transmission across the generations. Not to be outdone, another scholiast interjected that the Ur-language would not make for an efficacious tool for describing the modern world. It’s vocabulary would be extremely limited, lacking in any terminology for much of the extant technology. It would inevitably depend upon importation words from the johnny-come-lately lingos.

And with that the major nations furiously debated which words should augment the Ur-language so as best to represent and capture the world. These nations came to blows over their etymological claims and thus was the planet plunged into ever greater division and strife. Each country vied to bring the most words into the sacred vocabulary and to outstrip those of its rivals. And rather than resort to a dictionary of insult and point-scoring, the countries turned to arsenals of weapons for which the Ur-language would never possess terms to define them. So that the very language which had accelerated evolution immeasurably, ended up destroying all communication unutterably. 

From the flash fiction collection "28 Far Cries" available in print or for Amazon Kindle

Friday, 7 February 2014

States Of Mind - Songs about mental states

The music that was birthed by "The Blues", personal laments of woe, depression and the like, mental states have always been present in rock music. So here's 15 songs around the theme of mental states.

No prizes for guessing the first one-
1) Black Sabbath - "Paranoid"

I was never a fan of Heavy Metal, but this song broke through my natural resistance and affords the grudging acknowledgement that it is undoubtedly a classic. Doesn't excuse hair and clothes though as demonstrated on this video. I own a pair of Ozzy Osbourne style slippers by the way. Oh what has become of Heavy metal? it's become merchandised into asininity like every other music style.

2) Jimi Hendrix - "Manic Depression"
Not great quality I'm afraid, but in a way it only lends to the unsettling nature of its subject matter. Of course mental health experts would insist on the track being renamed Bi-Polar disorder. My father suffered it under its old guise. Not easy to live with, not knowing if he would be bouncing off the ceiling one day, and refusing to get out of bed to go to work the next.

3) Clipse - "Ego"
The heart of it all if you're a Freudian. In an industry dominated by the exaggerated projection of the ego, perhaps Rap projects it the furthest. In this particular case, Clipse's album tracks are littered with song titles drawn from therapy such as "Counselling" and "Life Change" as they struggle with the trappings of their success.

4) Talking Heads - "Psychokiller"
David Byrne is a curious egg, (though not as odd as David "Behemoth" Thomas from Pere Ubu, must have been something in the New York water in the late 1970s) but I've just bought his learned tome "How Music Works" which I'm looking forward to reading.

5) Rolling Stones - "19th Nervous Breakdown"
Not one of my fave tracks of theirs, I prefer "Paint It Black" to be honest and it's such a strong song it even survived a murdering by the band The Mo-dettes.

6) Pink Floyd - "Comfortably Numb"
The shadow of founding member Syd Barret who succumbed to mental illness possibly brought about by drug use, sits large over Roger Waters' composition with other titles such as "Brain Damage" and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond".

7) King Crimson - "21st Century Schizoid Man"

8) The Kinks - "Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues"
Ray Davies was known to have the odd quirk or two wan't he?

9) Cypress Hill - "Insane In The Brain"
Or kids, don't do drugs...
I recently tracked down a book called "Whispers -  The Voices Of Paranoia" for some research, but was very disappointed that although the case studies were interesting stories, most were prompted by drug abuse which wasn't quite what I was after. The author did that to me deliberately...

10) Coil - "Panic"
Coil were a band who actively pursued the lesser known regions & emotions of the human mind in their music. Partly through drugs and also through the occult, myth and ritual. Big Alastair Crowley fans. Still, I don't hold that against them.

11) Sonic Youth - "Schizophrenia"
Their best ever song was called "Expressway To Yr Skull" which I saw them play live and was blown away by and couldn't wait to own on the forthcoming album. And when the record came out, they'd renamed the track "Madonna, Sean & Me" which doesn't quite carry the same impact somehow...

12) Suicidal Tendencies - "Institutionalized"
I first came across this song on the movie "Repo Man" and what a great song it is. But then the band went all stupid skate rock and that was that.

13) Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers - "She's Cracked"
Trouble with Jonathan Richman is that you can't really take any of his songs too seriously with his droll delivery. Still can't disguise how great some of his songs were though.

14) Breeders - "Happiness Is a Warm Gun"
Yeah I know it's a Beatles song but I infinitely prefer this version. So shoot me. Mind you even the Beatles' original is better than U2's version.

15) Nirvana - "Lithium"
The fact that Kurt Cobain put a shotgun to his head probably suggests her knew what he was singing about in songs like this one. My father was prescribed lithium; imagine putting a metal into your bloodstream, well that's what lithium treatment is.