Monday, December 31, 2012

RIP Davy Jones, Whitney and Donna Summer - but Keith Richards is sill alive

2012 once again demonstrated the brittleness and fleeting nature of human existence. You can be a once time diva with the world at your feet like Whitney Houston and still end up dead in a bathtub.

You can be the queen of Divas and hot stuff like Donna Summer and still miss a beat on the big disco dancefloor.

You can wear the world's tightest pants like Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees but fail to wrap up your own mortality.

You can even transcend the Earth itself and walk on the moon like Neil Armstong, but the earth will get you in the end.

The death of Davy Jones of the Monkees caused quite a stir stateside. I had always been indoctrinated by my parents into the notion that the Americans created the Monkeys as a transatlantic rival to the Beatles. While it's true that the Monkey were one of the first manufactured boy bands, and as such have a lot to answer, for I just found out Jones was actually British.

Other high profile deaths included Andy Griffith, who I confess didn't mean much to me, but appears to have a cult following in sections of American society. I've since watched a few clips and am scratching my head about what's funny about this guy.

The older you get the more depressing the death list seems to be become because you find yourself losing cultural icons that made up your past. Dallas may not have been high culure but few Saturday nights in the 1980s were complete without the garish theme tune and the wide gates of Southfolk Ranch populated by evil oil magnate J.R. Ewing.

A large part of my adolescence seemed to go south west with the death of Larry Hagman.

Still it's not all doom and gloom. Despite ingesting every harmful substance known by man and quite a few yet to be discovered, Keith Richards of the Stones remains alive.

Happy New Year.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Flash Fiction - the Human Touch

I've never written flash fiction before... thought I'd give it a go anyhow.

Captain Jarrold Barnes lay back and the cyolene embraced him. He sunk deeper into the chair, there was a mechanical noise as its fine adjusters moved to meet his body. He breathed out and in, encapsulated by the moon - and then another.

Lo hung closest in the heavens, a brilliant orange sphere, half in darkness and half in brilliant light, stars twinkling around its dizzying circumference. Europa was smaller but less gaudy. Its pinks were subdued and paradoxically it was more attractive. Although pink from a distance, Barnes knew it to be a world of howling winds and blue ice. Barnes flipped through the pages of the feasibility study. Perhaps a colony all the way out there was not so far fetched.

"Beautiful," breathed the voice of the girl in his ear. He fell more deeply into the cyolene, a warm sleepiness moving over his features and he spoke back to the girl. "It's my favorite time of night."

And then he switched off the small speaker that hung on a long stem by his ear and the girl's voice was cut off. Sometimes he wondered about that voice. Had it ever belonged to anyone?

The pod was warm and he dozed close to the window, the craters and dead seas of the planet, sweeping away in all directions from the sweep of glass. Sometimes the idea of venturing out there seemed abstractly appealing. It didn't look like it was -480 degrees. He swatted away an image as if it were a speck of alien dust; the day Corporal Lizard walked out there and tuned to powder. Poor chap's odd utterances had been rattling round the base camp's usually silent walkways for weeks beforehand.

Barnes realized he had slept fitfully. A bleak, flat light was slanting across the bare plains revealing the nakedness of the land,. It was refracted from a distant sun. It was multiplication day. He would dutifully walk down to the clinic and help ensure his chromosomes were used to build the next generation. There would be a blast of high sounding flute music and the probe would come out of the wall, prick his finger and the cloning machine would do the rest.

He heard it was a much more painful and messy business in times gone by. Nobody cared to elaborate.

After his appointment with Docktor Anality, a buzzing and flashing machine that barked out instructions in metallic little soundbites, he received a neuromessage that informed him to go to the delivery bay. He'd almost forgotten about the shipment of belongings from his great uncle Arthur who had died a couple of years ago on Mars.

Barnes had little perception of Mars or desire to go there. All he knew it was close to the old place that perished and his uncle had a reputation as an eccentric who researched the old ways and spent a good deal of time in a reeducation program that wasn't entirely successful.

Even picking up the package could be deemed as subversive. In the delivery bay Barnes sighted another humanoid form behind a frieze of plastic swirls. Such proximity was unusual. He checked himself a couple of times and considered leaving before he engaged the dark little girl in conversation.

"I'm picking up a package from Joseph Arthur," he said through the barrier.

The girl giggled.

"You find that funny?"

"No. Just a quaint sort of name," she said.

"Can I have the package?"

A door opened and a ragged box moved down a conveyor belt.

Barnes took the package and moved off quickly to avoid suspicion.

When he opened it back in his pod, a series of strange paper bundles trapped between pieces of cardboard with words on them fell out.

The dust between the covers immediately aroused Barnes' suspicion.

The line drawings alarmed him even more. Men and women entwined in the most curious and unthinkable of ways. It was entitled "The Human Touch."

The cycolene creaked and he fell further into it. A cold, cruel and haunted light crept around Europa in its freezing swathe of space. The images of the people entwined caused a tiny pain deep within him, so small it was closer to an itch than a pain. There was a germ here of a memory and suddenly it was gone. He willed the lights to go out above him and he was in high lunar darkness again.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tips for a Homicide Free Christmas Y'all from Skunktown, Alabama

Hope y'all's having a cool Crimbo. Darn South we have a few tips to make share ya have a Cool Yule. Fixing for a Christmas when noone gets shot this year. Nor poisoned by the raccoon pie neither.

  • Douse the Pop Tarts of the most troublesome relatives with Bud before serving breakfast. Failing that go upscale and use Miller Lite.
  • Seat Flatulant Uncle Dwain in a place where he can't harm noone or ruin lunch. If ye don't have a mud room, shove im in the Pit Bull pen.
  • Make sure the kids' new shot guns aren't loaded when Santa shoves them in yall stocking.
  • Don't repeat the mistake of last year when ya drank too much hooch before making Christmas dinner, couldn't find the cat but found the turkey outside 3 hours later next ta a glass a milk.

Yall have a great Christmas now....

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Orange boy disappears on a blue day

I woke to a clean, crisp Saturday of peerless blue skies. I thought it was cloudless until I saw a small benign puff of cotton wool to the west that failed to pierce the purity of the azure. It was cold and dazzlingly pristine.  it was perfectly formed and sculptured like a river of ice. Nothing could go wrong on this day.

But the idea of the blemish was at the back of my mind. I felt like a priest who looks into the turquoise, ice pool eyes of his most beautiful and devout churchgoer armed with the rumor that she works as a courtesan when the sun goes down.

What bothered me was not the heavens but the earth. The ragged street scene, the cheapened houses of flimsy wood with their rotting roofs, a bloated bag of trash, the grass now smeared with brown, the patched up car next door that rattles round the streets on drug deals. And there are worse neighborhoods in town.

More worrying still was the thicket figure of S. who was ambling toward the door. S is the flip side of the three wise men. He isn't wise and he ambles from the west. Invariably he brings bad tidings, or failing that, he traps you into a tedious conversation about how he'd rather be hunting bear.

He's at the door and in my face. Wide and bristly. Eyes with no color or substance or form. The clear blue sky is vanquished.

After my usual key fumbling act (The chain is too crowded. I should be a jailer) the barrier is removed.

"I hear your cat has gone," he tells me.

"Yes." Gigs vanished on Wednesday. At first I wasn't so concerned. Just like the neighbors' kids have sleepovers with my daughter at times, Gigs has sleepovers. But already I was getting worried. The boy had been hanging close in recent months and now there was no sign of him. He's a big, old dependable boy who has been around such a long time he's sometimes overlooked. He's always placid and friendly, apart from the time he bit my mother.

"Just three houses up they just lost two cats," he said. "Smokey and Tigger. Just gawn. They called the police."

It was three days ago. Just five days ago Smokey had a standoff with Gigs, a wailing affair that went long into the night. They had both vanished at the same time.

I sought some reassurance from S. You need that sort of thing at Christmas.

"A guy up by Seven-11 a couple of years ago was kidnapping um. He used to torture them," S tells me.

"God. Thanks."

The blemish grew all morning as we called the shelter and the police. It ate itself into a filthy, grasping black hole that turned itself inside out and showed us the foul entrails of the world or, more specifically, the dirty works of man. And while the world may not have died with the Mayan Calendar, we die a little every day.

The disappearance of a couple of cats on a day of breathtaking blue skies is small in the grand scheme of things but it once again makes me think of how the beauty around is soured by the ugliness of so many earthly souls.

I have never been to Eagle's Nest but I have heard it's breathtakingly beautiful. It overlooks the picture-postcard beautiful town of Berchtesgaden. Adolf Hitler stayed her when he wrote Mein Kampf, his sinister manifesto which would throw all of Europe into darkness.

Overlooking these snow covered mountains in Bavaria, he plotted World War Two and the destruction of the Jews. There can surely be no greater contrast than the clean and dazzling air of the Bavarian mountains and the dead end railroad line that led to the gatehouse and the towers and the satanic and foul smelling building that housed the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

This post has become far more profound than I meant it to be, and runs the risk of belittling the greatest horror of the 20th century by linking it to the disappearance of a couple of felines.

This is not the intention. Still it puzzles and disturbs me that mankind can dream up such mean schemes when such beauty is all above and around.

On a lighter note Blogger has this cool new feature in that all you have to do is press the + button and you can link to another blogger instantly like +Jennifer Bhargava or +Mina Lobo or +Tim Riley or +Lisa Vooght or +Betty Manousos or +David Macaulay - well I could certainly get into this...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Introducing Marty the Brittany Spaniel

I've always thought people fall into two categories - dog people and cat people.

I've always placed myself in the latter category and not just because I spend most of my life putting out fires with gasoline.

Cats are cool and self sufficient. Dogs are yappy and annoying. The last dog foisted on me, Yoda, a neurotic Chihuahua, was a nervous and extremely yappy, snappy man hater who would cozy up to women and go crazy when men entered the room.

I used to have this odd recurring dream that Yoda was a football but best stop before PETA stages a naked protest on the front yard. Yoda died and you can read about his demise if you trawl through the bowels of this blog, not something I'd recommend anyone does lightly.

Now I find myself the partial owner another dog after Marty, a Brittany Spaniel pup was given to us. At least he's from sort of British/French descent which was a plus in my book.

I was rather reticent about the whole spaniel thing, recalling vague memories of a friend who had one that would jump on me and slobber on my pants (as ya do). Indeed the fear of Slobber Dog became so great I gave up visiting. They were also dull friends.

Marty is a bit hyperactive and I recently found myself cursing a lot when I took him for a walk around the reservoir when he kept getting under foot.

But I do find myself thinking he's rather cute, even if he has that unpleasant, nose curling dog smell about him which I'm told is typical of dogs and the once pleasant back garden is now a minefield of puppy poo. He also has a disconcerting knack of delivering dissected slivers of squirrel on the doorstep, testimony to his breed's efficacy for hunting, although I can't believe he has actually killed them himself.

For all his downsides the boy seems to have a rather friendly temperament, shows no sign of being a yappy  man hater and is rather partial to a tummy tickle. Say no more.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hugh Grant is outed by Jon Stewart as a right Royal pain in the ass

Ever since Friday's tragic events I have been looking for an issue to blog about that's not at all serious or thought provoking and I think I have finally found it.

The Guardian reports Jon Stewart, the host of The Daily Show, has labelled the British actor Hugh Grant a "big pain in the ass."

I can't tell you how happy this report makes me because Grant has always frankly got on my tits, for want of a better expression.

For years Grant's foppish characters were projected across the Atlantic as the ideal British gentleman; a bit absent minded, lovable, dashing, silly haircut, upper crust and sardonic. There was the pratt in Four Weddings who fell for an American and the pratt in Notting Hill who also fell for an American (quel coincidence).

The movie annoyed me on a number of levels, not least because someone who ran a bookstore for travel books, wouldn't be able to afford to live in a tent in Notting Hill, let alone a terraced house with a blue door.

Of course there was this persistent rumor about Grant that he was actually not so lovable. The not so lovable idea gained some credence when he was arrested with a hooker called Divine Brown in LA. At this stage we were a tad shocked because we still clung to this lovable fop idea; plus there was his girlfriend Liz Hurley and that be considered. And reconsidered...

But slowly the rumors that Grant was a bit rude and a bit stuck up started to surface.

Still Grant managed to retain much of his British dignity, going on to be the Prime Minister in Love Actually, the cad in Bridget Jones, not to mention a few instantly forgettable things as well as his role in About A Boy that suggested Grant could act, before he reverted to type again.

He may have got his career back on course but he failed to win over Stewart who said he would "never" have the actor back on is show after a 2009 appearance. Stewart said Grant was his least favorite guest adding "And we've had dictators on the show."

Grant was apparently promoting a piece of dubious garbage masquerading as a film called Did You hear About the Morgans?

No I didn't nor do I ever want to thanks.

Stewart said the actor constantly moaned about being there telling staff he had better places to be.

"He's giving everyone shit all the time and he's a big pain in the ass," Stewart said.

When Grant complained about the clip being used to promote the film, Steward replied: "Well then make a better fucking movie," according to the Guardian.

Perhaps this can spiral into a series called Brits I Hate

And next week .... Jeremy Clarkson.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Unfinished Novel is Finished - What Shall I Call It?

I'm rather surprised to utter these five rather inconsequential words but it appears I HAVE FINISHED THE NOVEL.

To understand the import of these words you'd have to understand I've had a "great unfinished novel" in the works for about 20 years. In most instances I haven't made it past the second chapter. To give an idea of how long this forlorn project has been in the pipeline, on one occasion I lost all my three completed chapters bcause a clutter consultant threw away the floppy disk I had stored it on from the electronic typewriter. Yeah.

Usually I've had the genesis of an idea but haven't known where it was going. I had convinced myself I would never finish a novel and had almost given up on the idea that we all have a novel in us.

Ethiopia (Giustino)

The strange thing was I didn't have much of an idea where I was going this time either and I just kept writing. When I hit a dead end I drank brandy or any other nefarious substance I could get my grubby mitts on. Perhaps I should revisit these chapters. Oddly enough thoughts appeared to me at random intervals and I'd run with them.

I'm not deluding myself it's a masterpiece, but it's certainly better than my previous attempts and the plot goes somewhere. Given that I wrote it piecemeal while juggling it with freelance work and a day-ish kind of job, I was surprised it took me only about six months to write 96,875 words. But who's counting anyhow?

I can rely on the folks at writer's group to help me with inconsistencies. One guy pointed out I hadn't given the narrator a name, another girl pointed out the time frame of the meeting at the British Museum is inconsistent. Actually I'm aware I suddenly added two characters in the middle of Africa, who I should in all good conscience go back and introduce.

The other rather glaring omission is the lack of a name for the novel. So I hope my good blog friends can help me out here by suggesting one for me if I provide a synopsis.

I'm trying to avoid the inflated expectations so many writers have before their spirits are eternally depressed by two million rejection letters. But maybe one day I'll be doing book signings in a book shop near you if they haven't all closed down by then.

The life of Philip Brown, a listless 30-something paralegal, is inexplicably changed after he plays a game of squash with Paul Moriarty in suburban London.

His squash partner's taciturn and withdrawn manner hides a colorful past as a decorated former soldier.

A high speed car ride through London to take Moriarty to a rundown part of the city where his ex-wife is staging a suicide attempt from a balcony, brings Brown closer to Moriarty but the ex-soldier remains a mysterious figure.

Finally illness persuades Moriarty to tell his story and divulge his dark and terrible secret that will change Brown's life forever.

xx is a tale of adventure, love and lost civilisations that moves from England to Arizona and the heart of war torn Africa as its characters desperately try to get to grips with the meaning of life, death and war.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Saturday Morning Rant : This is what concerns me about kids today

"What are you doing?" I ask Zara.

"I am playing a game."

"Well obviously." (If you hadn't been playing games 24/7 since the dawn of time, I would not have ended up spending $500 to rebuild the hard drive!!)

And I don't use exclamation marks lightly, and have a deep distrust of people who do.

"What game?"

"It's called Pappa's Hotdoggeria - you make hot dogs for customers."

"Sounds fascinating. Is there a game on there in which you can watch paint dry?"

And I check myself because I am almost getting all misty eyed for the days of Monkey Kickball and Angry Birds.

Then I start to realize I am becoming like one of those middle aged, cross people who stood at the garden fence when I grew up and grumbled about "kids today." The same types will normally tell you how life was better when they were growing up. You left your doors unlocked blah blah and there were no child murderers - apart from Ian Brady and Myra Hindley who killed kids on the moors etc.

Am I becoming like them? That is like most of them apart from Mrs Mills who dismembered my football when it landed in her garden.

There's a great piece by Michael Chabon about this, so rather than me banging out a pale imitation, I suggest you go and find it. I'd lend you mine but I've lost it.

Essentially it argues "kids today" live sanitized lives. They live vicariously through computer games. They don't live the adventure anymore, they do it in an airless room where they are safe from predators.

Whenever I suggest to Zara we might want to head into a state park the standard response is "why?" And can we stop off at Bouncy Castle World or the video gaming arcade. Why should our perfect virtual day be sullied with a slice of reality?

There's also the self analysis piece which is never good on a Saturday morning when one wants to just loll around in bed and shut out the world.

If they're capturing Aztec temples like pint sized modern day Cortezes - without the colonialism and needless bloodshed, I'm hoping - they are not in my face asking for interactive play time. It means I can spend most of my day on the laptop.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lame Post Tuesday - top images from London, Paris etc.

I've been too busy and pooped to post recently so I have been desperately looking for copout ideas that border on larceny, although not the kind that involves climbing into a transformer and stealing copper.

Gosh - where did that come from? Being a crime correspondent for a couple of years has some uses.

Idea one was stealing stuff from my Google+ feed that I seldom read because I've got more feeds going on that the local foodbank at Christmas. Here's one gem.

"John Taylor is my Mom and I's favorite guy from Duran Duran! Even though they are all hot!"

And British too Izzy.

So here's the idea. Enduring images of your town. Shove the name of the city in Google images and see what image comes up first. I guessed Paris and Rome correctly but failed miserably on London.



That wasn't predictable
A fail - I assumed it would be the big pointy building
A fail on grown men wearing teddy bears on their heads...
It had to be the world's biggest McDonalds
Another fail- This is a University campus, I assumed it would be that flat mountain.
Fail again - what about the pyramids dude?
So ends possibly the lamest blog post I have ever written. This does give me an idea for a blogfest, though - what was your lamest post?

I Don't Queue : Does That Make Me Unpatriotic?

I'm bemused by the scenes from Westminster today. People are queuing for 24 hours to see a wooden box. OK, it's a fancy box surround...