Friday, 28 December 2012

Lord Of War - Friday Flash

The warlord took the hem of his hanging animal pelt and wrapped it round his bloodied sword. He drew the blade through the furry fistula. His sword re-emerged purged of gore, but still dull in its silvery lustre. He resheathed it in his girdle. A tear escaped from the levee of his reptilian scaled eyes. He swatted it away. If any of his Generals noticed, none dared remark on it.

But the tears continued to stream. They ploughed through the soot and grime on his face, washing away to reveal the pink flesh beneath. His confederates had never witnessed such a sight of their great leader.

"Noble Lord, has perchance some shrapnel flown off into your eye to make it water so? In a clash of swords, a fragment snapped off and lodged there in the flesh?" The man immediately stepped back from the enormous reach of his superior, but the warrior didn't move a muscle. Save for the discharge slithering down his face, his mighty frame that had been known to eclipse the moon when he was addressing his troops on the eve of battle, now utterly frozen.

"I weep... I weep for mine enemy".

His comrades were shocked as they looked round at each other for verification of the evidence of their ears. Had their all-powerful champion lost his voracious appetite for blood?

"W-w-w-weep for them in pity? Just imagine the atrocities they would have wrought on our clan and nation had we not overcome them." The belligerent nodded even as he brought the heel of his hand to his eye to dam up the tears. "Sire, we had to demonstrate our intent. A certain ruthlessness of power, did you not teach us that? Does our Lord believe we went too far perchance? Perhaps in the campaign across the first continent, when we slew their host even after they threw down their weapons and sank to their knees, hands clasped together in entreaty? We agreed with you their weakness was undeserving of being honoured by mercy."

The pugilist shook his head.

"Perhaps it was our exacting experience on the second continent? We simply couldn't take their women folk with us into our clan, for our supply lines were already overtaxed. We absolutely couldn't carry them, we had no other choice. We had to cull them."

Again the chief shook away the suggestion. His throat rattled with some strangled emotion, but no words were forthcoming. This was embarrassing, when every officer here had steeled their own men to remain undaunted even when lying mortally wounded on the battlefield. None of them ever moistened around the eyes. Breaking into sobbing and pleading for clemency at the end of the point of a sword, was behaviour confined to their adversaries. The indomitable Emperor himself had insisted on this mark of election.

"Could it be that almost fatal error we committed on the third continent? Constructing that everlasting pyre of their animals and to slaughter their livestock so they slowly starved to death while we advanced on to continent four? We almost cut our own throats with that decision, marching and fighting on empty stomachs."

It seemed as if the commander was considering that recollection for a moment, until he balled both fists and rammed them into his eyes. "Continent four was a bitter pill to swallow Majesty, but we had to admit such medicine to those bandits, else they would never have submitted. Poisoning their wells and springs was very much a last resort after all other tactics had failed to snap their will. That their children also died is almost certainly a good thing, since they won't be able to draw up future armies to confront us behind the lines."

The eminence nodded his head in tentative agreement, even as he let out a sonorous wail. "It must have been this last continent then, the one that allowed us to cincture the whole globe? This straitened populace who were unfortunate to be remote enough to be our final conquest, yet not sufficiently far away for our reputation not to precede us. They knew surrender would yield them no leniency. Therefore they would have fought like beasts. We had to forestall that. We had to burn every inch of their land. Their farms, their towns, their homes. It was the only way to bring these savages to their knees. We had to eclipse their austral sun behind smoke. To extinguish their gods. Make them bow down to us in the ashes."

"But that's just it, don't you see?"

"What, that we have dared ascend to the status of gods?"

"No. I weep for mine enemies... because I have no one left to conquer..."

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Declaration - Friday Flash

I stand in your courtroom accused
Arraigned in the dock abused
By a pack of jurisprudent hacks
Non-cognisant of the possibility
Of artistry, denied dead in its tracks
Chiding it unholy blasphemy
Condemning me to years on the rack
Of prison locks and visceral fears
Well I don't recognise your pedantry
Nor your arid linguistic savagery
Your juris-diction is a legal fiction
Plodding plotlines prefiguring the conclusion
Of my inevitable conviction
For being a person of conviction
Forked tongue and serrated diction
Mauling and maiming rids you of me
Constricts my corpus of poetry and simile
Makes you sole practitioners of larceny
Carving simulacra of language so moralistic
Hollow statues and statutes so autistic
They cannot support your glass ceilings
Shrouding our citizens' surging feelings
You bring the Philistine pediment down
Shattering your own bewigged crowns
To support truth one has to be free
You can inject limitless penthanol into me
I still continue to compose verities
As an artist striving for complex sublimities
My rhyme take wing and soars
Beyond the clutches of you prosaic whores
I shall never be coeval with your version
Chockfull of inane and vitiating assertions
Piloting my own dauntless latitude instead
Remaining unbowed inside my head
While you lexigraphic manglers
With strangler's hands around language's windpipe
Bearing along angular longitudinal meanderings
Overlook language's rich shading of meanings
Not just two sides to every story
But a relative veritable potpourri
Of parallax perspectival points of view
Tear up you law codex, start anew
Doubtless you will deny me pen and ink
Intending for me to baste in my own stink
Yet I will utilise my own parings
Collocating couplets from insect husks
Finger stylus to impress the dust
Communing with those others sat here trussed
As they too in the past were confined unjust
Yet established our proud literary tradition
From the inequities in the underbelly of a prison
Sentenced, I will pour out my sentences
Venesect the soul of our people's transcendences
In this shed skin I will quarry veins of feeling
Arm them with verbal ordnance to send our foes reeling
See how they will dance upon your ordinance
Ergo I deny the authority of this court
So I readily permit you to transport
Me to the cells for some welcome solitude
In order to ferment my rhymes brewed
For fomenting an organic uprising from lowly mold
A storming of our own Bastille with me in the hold
Restoring words to their full free expression
Reclaim their regressive compression
From beneath your Judge's hammer
Drumbeat accompaniment into the slammer
Where I will compose a new liberating grammar
To sustain the reverberation of our clamour
I tender this tribunal my tribune declaration
May it engender the rebirth of our nation

Russian punk band Pussy Riot jailed for "Blasphemy" in Russia. This poem is dedicated to them.


Don't forget to go to My Xmas Pressie for you, which starts today Friday 21st December. With your prompts, I'll write you your own flash story here on my blog.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

My Xmas Gift to You

Hi peeps and festive greetings to you all.

I'd really like to give presents to my loyal blog followers but I don't trust paypal, e-Bay or the Xmas post.

So instead I'm going to give gifts right here on the blog!

If you just tweet me or comment in the box below a story prompt, I'll write and post here your very own flash fiction, between 100 and 500 words. The prompt can be a picture, a title, a theme, 3 words that have to be worked into the story. You can suggest genre too if you're feeling really evil!

I'll try and get the story up as soon as possible in response, so it'll be good to tweet me that you've put in a request. On Twitter I'm @21stCscribe as if you didn't know who was gumming up your timeline already!

I'm going to throw this open from this Friday 21st December and keep it going until the 27th December.

Look forward to seeing what you throw at me!

Happy Crimbo

Marc x

Couldn't fir this one in the comment box for Elly. Her prompt was "Killing With Kindness"

She answered the front door.
"Someone just walk over your grave?"

"What the hell-? But - But, I threw a flower on your coffin this morning you bastard!"

"I know. It bounced off... Like a rubber cheque"

"Who on earth did we put in the soil then?"

"Search me, I wasn't there. You gonna invite me in?"

She turned and went back inside. He followed her into the lounge. He studied the peeling wallpaper and damp under the windows. She was stood at her hostess' trolley where sat bottles of spirits with no such signs of mildewed age. She mixed herself a tequila sunset, as her hand fumbled over the order. "Hair of the dog..."

"Drowning your sorrows... or toasting mine?"

"Look. I’m not even interested in how you faked your own funeral. Cos you sure as hell aren’t gonna be sympathetic to how I survived these past twenty years you've been banged up"


She slumped down into the sagging nap of the armchair. Some liquid spilled over the rim of the glass and stained her dress. She didn't seem even to notice it. He strode over to her and bent down to inspect the stain. "I think that's beginning to burn a hole"

She raised her glass in mock toast. "You gonna buy me a new one then? With your ill-gotten gains?"

"Setting up my escape cost me every penny I had". He walked back over and parted the curtain with the flat of his hand and gazed out. He let the curtains flop back. He moved over to the mantlepiece and picked up a coloured glass figurine. He held it up to the light and revolved it around in its dim corona. The smoked glass was too opaque to admit the light through it. She coughed. He spun round to regard that she was trying to light a cigarette. Her hand was trembling. He grasped it with his and steadied the lighter to the tip of the cigarette. He flicked the lid back down releasing her hand. Her fingers went straight up to cradle her temple. He flicked away a loose tress perilously close to the cigarette tip. She took a drag and exhaled loudly.

"Some of your clobber is still upstairs if you need a change of clothes"


"Look like you haven't put on a pound in all that time. Should still fit"

"Expect they'll be moth eaten by now"

"Only kept them so they'd have something to bury you in. I should have twigged when no one came calling". She dabbed at a leaf of tobacco on her tongue but couldn't locate it. He lobbed the figurine into the fireplace. The glass smashed leadenly against the grate.

"You can have a bath as well if you want to"

"You come and join me? I don't mean- Just come and chat"

She shook her head as she exhaled, jagging the smoke as if she was casting a smokescreen to efface herself. " She drained her glass and held it up and waggled it. "Couldn't mix me another one?"

He took the glass and mixed the ingredients. He bent down to study the sunrise taking shape. Its colours were dulled by the scratches in the glass. He handed it to her and returned to study the trolley. "Knock yourself out. When in Rome-ford and all that!" She giggled and lost herself further in the depression of her chair. She resurfaced to wipe a dribble of tequila from her chin. He pirouetted away from the trolley and walked over to the sofa. There was a magazine on the cushion. He lifted it up to inspect the title.

"'Style' magazine?" He cast his gaze around the careworn room.

"Whatever you do, you gotta do it with style. That’s what you always taught me"

"So I see"

"Yeah, well takes a bleedin’ budget to have style"

"Always got to be in there with the last word"

"Get to have the first one too when you’re living on your own"

"See? Doing it -"

"But -"

He placed a finger over her lips. Her top lip moved to enfold the tip of his finger. He tapped against her teeth for release. She complied. He went and sat down on the sofa. With difficulty she raised herself from her chair and almost fell back into its maw. She shuffled over to the trolley. She picked up one of the bottles and tipped it upside down. "Shit. We're out of syrup". A thick dribble of liquid finally ended its slow slither down the bottle's neck and plopped to the floor. She staggered back to her armchair and fell into it face first. She didn't respond to his queries whether she was okay or not. He rose from the sofa and flipped her round in her chair. Then he left the lounge and started rooting around in the drawers of the kitchen. When he'd located what he was after, he returned back the lounge, now reverberating to her thick snores. He pulled down her sweat pants. He yawned her panties down just to expose her thatch. He worked off her wedding ring and then carefully applied the glue's nozzle to coat the white gold in adhesive. Then he sunk to his haunches and precisely gaped her open with his fingers. "Still moist... still fermenting havoc after all these years". He inserted the ring. "This ought to have served as a chastity belt first time round"

He stood back upright and leaned over for a cushion from the sofa. The oblivion she was in, she wouldn't feel a thing. He would grant her that kindness at least.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Why Humanity Needs A Dissolve Function To Convey The Passage Of Time - Friday Flash

He emptied the sachet of packet soup into the jug of boiled water. The powdery clumps sunk to the bottom of the Pyrex, where they maintained their integrity. He jabbed the point of a spoon at one, but it squirmed away as the spoon thunked against the thickened glass bottom. He began stirring, the clumps lapping around like an underwater camera capturing the convolutions of a shoal of fish avoiding a giant predator. Eventually the liquid was clear, all the granules having dissolved. He removed the spoon and the solution gradually ceased its eddying.

She raised the tumbler to her lips. The lemon's acidity stung the chapped skin. She winced, but her interlocutor either hadn't noticed, or wasn't taking it as her judgement on his interminable prattle. More's the pity. Damn, now her mouth felt all gritty, as if somehow the dry skin had flaked off and lodged itself inside. The rum couldn't purge it clean either. It was only serving to give her a headache, or maybe it was the guy's blether. How could she break off the conversation? She was wedged between the fridge and the sink unit, so there was no way of sidling away casually. He was prattling on about his passion for newts and salamanders. Beam me up Scotty she thought to herself. Her lip was really sore now. He was rhapsodising about the salamander's ability to cast off its tail to distract predators and to secrete a toxic liquid over its body when backed into a corner. She wished for the same gifts. But one thing she did know, salamanders were reputed to be immune to fire. When she needed to melt away from this stagnant party.

The sex had been unremarkable. Clumsy, fumbling, faltering. Pretty much what you expect from two bodies that have never encountered one another before. Where both topographies are strange continents and remain so when charted under cover of darkness. Her thigh was throbbing where his haunches had accidentally landed on her with all his weight. While his ribs had a swelling contusion where her bony elbow had clipped him hard while trying to manoeuvre herself clear enough to breathe. Both instinctively knew there was likely no real future in it. That their mutual need had not engendered being complimentarily met. They had given it a go, really put their back into it, but for all the sweat neither had melted into the other. Nobody was to blame and at least nobody got hurt. A couple of flesh wounds, rather than wounded flesh.

But for now they were each consumed not with the despair of failure and renewed loneliness, rather both were contemplating the propriety of how to break their current physical conjunction. He had a hand cupping her shoulder, though his other was implanted between his own head and pillow, as if he was concerned with not shedding any forensic trace of himself there. And while her head was lying on his chest, she too had an intercessional hand between her cheek and his hairy torso. Her other hand idly curled his follicles, but she had no sensation of doing so. The lumpish pair were no longer even involved with themselves, as they maintained a vigil for the first crack of dawn to crawl under the door jamb and dissolve their clinch.

The man was down, nevertheless his assailant was still kicking him. Even when his victim's body had stopped recoiling under the blows, the aggressor was still blinded with furious perspiration running into his eyes and a wounded sense of pride. "I'm gonna pound you so bad!" Finally the lack of response penetrated his steaming indignation and he reined in his jackhammering leg. Blood had started pooling by the man's head. The pugilist hopped backwards to avoid its tarnish. But the insult was still vorticing within his clouded mind. So he advanced once again and landed a dropkick. It relieved none of the roiling in him. He stamped on the sitting duck, bringing down all his weight. That had felt more cathartic, as his boot plunged into the receptive flesh of the man. He felt the deep impression of bestowing that blow. That would do it for now. As he reclaimed his foot, he almost lost his balance and tipped over. He lurched his body backwards away from this human quicksand. So irate that his adversary had just seemed to have snatched a last tiny chink that denied him the claim to being pulverised, he again hurled himself into another leathery wallop. He was about to turn away for absolutely the last time, when he decided one more punt for good measure was in order. Then he stepped back, straightened his rumpled clothes and made to move off. Yet still there was something unresolved about the foe's pulpy mass. Completeness was all. But how to define and measure it? He didn't yearn after killing the geezer. Notwithstanding endangering his own liberty, he wanted the man to come back round and appreciate who had crystallised this unimpeachable message. He ran full tilt to deliver another flying kick at the prone form... He suddenly felt very tired. How long a beating was long enough?

When he had been erect, he had needed to tilt backwards as he walked. Else his feet sunk into the sand as it gave way beneath his weight and they ended up travelling further in a downwards direction than actually impelling him forward. But this had only served to lever his head up towards the sky, forcing him into a dazzling confrontation with the mocking sun. Shining like a warder's flashlight, illuminating his open aired captive status here in the relentless desert. It felt like he was clambering along a ziggurat, preparing to have his heart ripped out all of a piece. It certainly seemed to want to escape from the collapsing cavity of his chest.

Now he could no longer stand upright. Crawling on his hands and knees. It was only muscle memory keeping his arms churning, since the scorching sand had burned the skin on his fingers and blunted his nerve receptors there. The sand was abrading his skin, shaping him for one of its own. His deadweight body felt like the sediment immersed in the liquid sand as it subsided around him. He really couldn't tell if he was making progress anymore. His body no longer had the definable compass points of his limbs. There was nothing to orient him at all. He ceased his motion and flopped over on to his back. His eyes were watery, but he managed to clear the mist with his bandana, if only to replace it with fiery grains of sand that scratched the lens of his eyes. The air to the side of his head was shimmering. It was as if was dissolving before him. He raised his eyes to the skies. A buzzard was languidly lapping in and out of his vision. But then the very air melted and wrinkled in the heat haze and the solidity of the buzzard disappeared beneath the waves. He shut his eyes, yet the sun illuminated the blood vessels behind their ineffectual shutters.


Taken from the flash fiction collection available on Amazon Kindle

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Songs For The Days Of The Week

Many of us work 5 days a week, have fun over the weekend. And yet Sunday offers less opportunity for going full throttle because you have to be fresh for work Monday. Mondays are always tougher to stomach than other weekdays because of the changeover from your leisure time to work time. Fridays are full of expectancy for the weekend ahead. Wednesdays are blurgh nothingy days in the middle of the week.... So since many people's weeks are so rhythmic, I thought I'd look at the music associated with them.

I've already done 7 songs for Monday and the return to work feeling here. (It's proved to be my most popular musical blog post yet, other than my scorecard for Joy Division cover versions post) So below are 2 songs a day for each of the other 6 days of the week.

Velvet Underground - "Sunday Morning"
New York, Andy Warhol, Avant Garde, Cale's viola, Tucker's drumming, Nico's inhuman, sexless delivery, 'the most influential record of the late 20th Century' etc etc. And while the Velvet's self-title debut is a truly great record, this track sees Lou Reed in wistful mode as with the later "Perfect Day", rather than the deeply unsettling "Venus In Furs" or "All Tomorrow's Parties".

U2 - "Sunday Bloody Sunday
U2 getting all political? Were they calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into events in Derry in 1972 Don't worry, carry on drinking your mango and peach smoothie and rest easy. Bono's wooly, vague lyrics call for nothing more than all coming together and joining hands to seal the victory claimed by Jesus. You can almost here the sound of his hackles rising here as his back raises up against the wall...

Cowboy Junkies - "Sun Comes Up It's Tuesday Morning"
Cowboy Junkies offered the chance for Country Music to become more palatable to a rock audience, with their Canadian sensibilities and a beautiful voice in the form of Margo Timmins. Even I liked them. But the meme didn't quite stick and we ended up with Garth Brooks and Billy Ray Cyrus instead.

Rolling Stones - "Ruby Tuesday"
Either you respect their Bloated Satanic Majesties as they pound on into their 50th year, or you yearn for their Blues tinged early days from which this song emerged. This version makes htem sound like Flowered Up!

The Undertones - "Wednesday Week"
This is more like it, love marked out by the number of days without the phone call being returned. (Of course long since disappeared now with instant texting and the like). The true rhythms marked out by tiny signs and tokens, received or missed. Whole days at work lost to mooning over some object of improbable desire. Or phoning your mate to forensically dissect the previous evening's eye signals in the pub... This si what Pop Music was invented for!

Simon And Garfunkel - "Wednesday Morning 3 AM"
The sound of their voices is so tentative that it really does sound like 3am and not wanting to wake the face on the pillow next to you, even as you go through the mill wondering just what the hell it is you've done rolling over a liquor store to get money. Cops will be there with their battering ram in a couple of hours...

David Bowie - "Thiursday's Child"
I've said it before, for all his longevity, you can count the number of decent tunes Bowie's produced on the fingers of one finger, sorry hand. This isn 't one of them, but Thursday turned out to be the hardest day of the week to find tunes for.

Rollins Band - "Thursday Afternnon"
Our 'enry does even less singing on this track than on most. But he's not shouting either, so this must be one of his more mellow ditties. A peaen to love or something? Search me... Love the cocktail bar chitter-chatter in the mix! You just know two seconds after the tape cuts out, Henry is berating them for not keeping the noise down!

Nancy Sinatra - Friday's Child
You gotta love Nancy. The scion of the King of Crooners himself, it was always going to be hard to forge her own path through the 'Middle of the Road' music world, but by taking a slightly sinister and off-kilter slant she managed it alright. This is a perfect example of it I feel.

The Cure - "Friday I'm In Love"
Robert Smith, the boy who never grew up. In fact he actually regressed, from the student who wrote a song based on the novel he studied for French O-Level, to someone who seemed to want to exist in the world of Charlotte Sometimes. Is that a long-sleeved shirt or a straitjacket?

The Jam - "Saturday's Kids"
Ah the weekend, freedom, time away from the weekly grind right? Not with these two songs about desultory Saturday youth. The V-Neck shirts and baggy trousers might have changed, but not the sentiment.

The Specials - Friday Night, Saturday Morning
The B-Side to the epoch defining "Ghost Town", Terry Hall's vocal sounds even more desolate than on the flipside track. Brilliant. Wonderful Jerry Dammers keyboard solo in the middle too!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Death Serenade - Friday Flash

I was accustomed to singing when lying prone. Usually counterpointing the hissing bombination of bullets as I hit the deck. Since my stomach was usually pressed against the ground, impulsively trying to burrow into it, I only sung from my throat. It may not have been loud, but it was powerful all the same. Talismanic powerful.

For in firefights I perpetually sung to myself and perennially emerged unscathed. Whereas my foes and comrades alike who didn't sing, paid the price with everlasting sleep. Even those who absurdly raised their voice in song to Heaven, managed to escape with their life intact. But it had nothing to do with summoning any numinous saviour. Same as I wasn't serenading my supposed natural ally the Devil. There was no such thing as Lucifer, other than what resided in our own psyches. Still as I brushed myself down and reloaded my clips, they claimed I only survived because the Devil wouldn't collect on me and thereby allow one of his crack troopers to pass over from the mortal field of combat. I always countered that couldn't be the case, since intoning towards god after a lifetime's unholy behaviour, they themselves couldn't in all conscience expect true absolution and redemption? Yet here they stood safe and sound.

There were no bullets flying around me now in the quiet of my house. And I was recumbent on my back rather than my belly. Yet my warbling was scarcely audible. I possessed scant energy to inflate my ribcage with silent breath, let alone pushing out fluctuating air jangling against gravity. My throat rasped dry, drier than the rest of my desiccated body. But I could not allow myself to stop singing. For not to sing was to beckon death with a bony finger.

I didn't know how it worked. But singing had always kept Death at bay. My mother had demonstrated that to me as a child. How she was always singing to herself, blazoned in bruises and welts. It didn't head off the violence, but it helped steel her to hang on until I was old enough to kill her fucker of a husband. Relieved of him, she had no more reason to descant her songs of affliction and clearly she didn't know any upbeat numbers. So she wasn't singing when I killed her for her deficiencies.

Unlike her, I expected to meet death at every turn. And that was before I actively made it part of my professional life. Cashiered from the army, I sought to continue a campaign of decommissioning of my own. Undertook bespoke stealth missions, paid to hunt down one man to another. I always endeavoured to get in a little pre-emptive singing. The sole thing with which I could get the jump on my adversary, if he heard me coming right?

Yet strangely the singing turned into a weapon. I developed a reputation as the triller killer. A male banshee. My signature solo which didn't just presage your death, it announced it. The sound of an air froze them dead in their tracks. Like a cobra hypnotising its prey. Made it easy for me. Their mouths too busy convulsing to be able to hold a tune of their own.

Every night in front of the bathroom mirror I used to take roll call of my tattoos. The names of every one of my victims inscribed all over my body, turned inside out by the reflective glass. Fitting, seeing as I had despatched them to the other side. All present and correct, they could rest easy in the repose of the dead and I too was safeguarded a peaceful night's sleep. No need for self-lullabying.

Maybe it was because singing reverberated your whole body. Set all your bones and cavities aquiver. Maybe Death was a touch short-sighted, or perhaps just lazy and faced with a vibrating target indicative of life and vitality, would instead plump for the easy option and snatch the guy next to you. How else to account for the cull of innocents and bystanders?

Except that only worked when you were operating in a crowd. When someone else could stand in for you by falling to the ground stone dead. Here I am exposed by being alone. Isolated in my death bed. I raised the effort to increase my volume, just so there could be no uncertainty on Death's part. Myopic, indolent, or not.

Death in all likelihood was sat perched at the end of my bed. Bating his breath, waiting for roll calling me off his list. Palpably my body was failing me. My skin hanging loose from the armatures of my skeleton. Was I actually singing, or more like a set of bagpipes being palpated? I rubbed the skin of my forearm. The tattoos there no doubt now stretched along the sagging canvas. Faded ink leached beyond its wrinkled up border. The names of my marks no longer legible, distorted beyond my own recognition even as they had vanished off the earth at my hand. This was an ineffable body clock counting me out. If I went, I would take them all down with me for a second time. Their fates were ineluctably still bound up with mine. But I didn't owe it to them to keep their memories alive, only that of my own.

God I was so tired though. My eyes, milkily unseeing anyway, just wanted to lid over. But I knew if I fell asleep now, I would stop singing. And if I stopped singing, then I would never wake again. The dead used to be buried with bells which they could ring in cases of being mistakenly buried alive. Perhaps it was as simple as that. If you were still vocalising for all you were worth, then Death knew you weren't actually dead and ripe for collection.

I knew I was in a struggle to the well, death. That again only one of us would stride clear of the detritus of life and despite the ruin of my body, I had to make sure it was me. It had to be possible. I may have harvested bodies in return for payment, but Death willingly cropped souls for nothing other than their own reward. That doubt caught in my throat and my singing stopped momentarily. I choked it back and roused my singing once again. Not yet Death you fucker. You're not stripping me of my body and whitewashing me for fresh canvas just yet.

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

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Internet - An Example of Adam Smith's Market In Action

I use Google Blogger. In fact I've used it right now as you are reading this very post on it. Me and millions of others. And then there's those who use WordPress , Tumblr and other platforms. 156 million publicly viewable blogs in 2011.

There's a court case in the UK, a man is suing for being libelled on a blog. One of the parties he is trying to sue is Google, for providing the blog tool in which he claimed to have been libelled. The argument runs that as soon as the potential libel had been reported, Google should have taken the offending blog down. Google's case is that it is not a publisher, therefore it has no causative association with the libel. I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me these two arguments do not quite address the other head on, because they are battling over words and definitions; a publisher can be included in a libel claim. A company that is not deemed a publisher cannot. If Google is providing a universal software, is it actually a publisher or a facilitator?

Leaving these finer points of legal definition behind, the thought struck me that in washing their hands of any responsibility, yet providing a worldwide platform for anyone who wants to give their thoughts to the world, Google is approaching the status of the market as outlined by the Eighteenth Century economist Adam Smith.

Smith posited that buyers and sellers each trying to maximise their own gains through trade, creates a market that maximises benefit for all society. His famous quote is that such a market functions "as if by the operation of an invisible hand". That is the intricacies of the myriad of interactions are beyond the analytical conception of any one individual; quite simply, the picture is too big to see.

There are many criticisms of this concept, from the fact that it is clearly a metaphor and that is no literal guiding hand of the market, through to its complete amorality that takes no account of things like social costs, both physical and human. What it suggests to me is that economics is a bogus academic discipline and with guiding concepts such as the invisible (unknowable) hand, is it any surprise that economists and bankers in particular are about as effective as long-term weather forecasters?

But returning to the Google case, their defence seems to me to be akin to the Invisible Hand of the free market. Google seem to be saying they help service the online market by providing platforms, but are powerless to control what is transacted online between bloggers and blog readers. I'm not sure what I think of their argument, but instinctively I am suspicious of the Invisible Hand because it allows its adherents to throw their arms up their arms in helplessness and deny any culpability. Google is saying it isn't an individual and only individuals make potentially libellous statements. But then equally corporations cannot claim to have been libelled and had their feelings hurt when they are accused of various things, because only individuals can have their feelings hurt, not corporations. What corporations mean is they have their brand image damaged. They can't claim to be an individual or a corporation depending on which suits them.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Review Of "The Sweeney" film

I loved the original "Sweeney" TV series which ran in the mid-1970s just as I was entering teenagehood. Hard living, hard loving, hard punching Detectives with prodigious sideburns and kipper ties, drinking with criminals, paying 'snouts' (informers) and ready to dish out a bit of strong-arming on their suspects. With the added unalloyed pleasure of viewing parts of London I'd never seen, since it was largely shot on location.

So it was with trepidation that I saw a new film version was coming out this year. There had been two spin off films from the original TV series with the same cast back in the 70s. But this was an updating with Ray Winstone playing Jack Regan and Ben Drew (Plan B) as George Carter. And the names are about the only nod to the original. In fact there's more of a nod to the film "Scum" in which Ray Winstone launched his acting career, while incarcerated in a Youth Offenders Centre he loads a sock with pool balls for an assault; in "The Sweeney", DI Regan finds himself in prison and loads a sock with batteries from a radio... Winstone has been interviewed saying that "The Sweeney" film closes the circle for him, since as a young actor he had a minor role as a tearaway in an episode of the original TV series.

This film has almost nothing to do with the original. It doesn't even bear the same theme tune, but then I guess police sirens too have changed in the last 35 years. The guns are not signed in and out but seem a de rigeur part of the Flying Squad's everyday uniform. Their office in New Scotland Yard is very high tech with panoramic views over London and no manilla files anywhere, as everything is neatly arranged on computers and the wall display only seems to have mounted the case in question during the film. Regan's immediate boss Frank Haskins, played by Damian Lewis, has none of the fragility and dignity exhibited by Garfield Morgan in the original; a man torn between his politicking superiors and his action men detectives out in the field, both of whom look down and despise him for being in the camp of the other, knowing full well he was equally despised within that very camp. In one TV episode, Haskins was suspended pending a corruption inquiry, while Regan had to locate Haskins' mentally unravelling wife. Damian Lewis is afforded no such depth to play here.

Times have changed, no longer can the detectives socialise with villains in dodgy boozers, slipping their 'snouts' a twenty (the one in the film accepts Krugerands!) And no longer can they beat up suspects since we no longer do that in these times of the Court of Human Rights. So when Regan 2.0 brings in a suspect and ensures to bang him to every wall and projecting glass surface on the way into the interview room, it just comes over as totally unacceptable to the modern viewer's eyes. The film seems to want to suggest that  though Regan is a dinosaur, he gets results (Think Gene Hunt in "Life On Mars"). But the high tech & design office works against the notion of him and his team being from another era. Jack Regan in the 70s hated to lose a single innocent life in the crossfire. Winstone's Regan barely bats an eye at the fatalities in the very public firefight in Trafalgar Square.

I tried to weigh up whether I would have enjoyed this film on its own merits, if I disassociated it from my love of the original. The following plot loopholes informed me that no, "The Sweeney" really isn't that good a film at all. There is one very realistic firefight scene in Trafalgar Square in which hundreds of rounds are fired on the run without a single one finding its intended target. But that's about the sole redeeming feature throughout. I didn't want to see the London I live in now, with it's towers devoted to Finance. I yearned for the look of the London of my teens, the crappy box cars and spit and sawdust pubs. Oh well.

Warning: Contains Spoilers.

1) The plot concerns a criminal with a grudge against Regan. It's unclear if he means to humiliate him by pulling off a huge bank robbery under Regan's nose, or whether he aims to kill him. If the latter, there is a scene where Regan is trapped in a wrecked car, his female partner (in both senses of the word) Nancy Lewis lying unconscious on the concrete in front of him. One of the bad guys deliberately kills the helpless Nancy, but doesn't take up the chance to finish off Regan who is out of ammo and a sitting duck. Is it done to hurt him even more, killing his lover? Unlikely that the crims would know of their relationship, since even Carter remarks later that he didn't know.

2) So this ex-Serbian paramilitary who has hooked up with the criminal with a grudge, has a proclivity for not leaving any witnesses alive. A man being very careful to cover up his tracks. And yet he allows himself to be photographed with a woman he executes in the film's first armed robbery that straight away leads the police on to his trail. Also it was clear to my eyes that it was an execution style slaying, yet took Regan a third of the film and some antsy post-sex meditation on the problem to come to come to the same conclusion. A film is usually lost when the audience are ahead of the characters.

3) During the firefight, a male Flying Squad officer is shot from close range, but saved by his body armour. And yet Nancy Lewis during the same pursuit isn't wearing any? Also, the paramilitary executed the women in the back of the head during the first robbery. Wouldn't he have also opted for a head shot with his prey backed into a corner here?

4) Now Internal Affairs (or whatever it's called in The Metropolitan Police) want to investigate the Flying Squad over its darker practises. Such as paying your informer out of the gold and Krugerands they prevented from being stolen in the film's opening. An investigation seems reasonable enough to me, it's theft and handling stolen property. The head of Internal Affairs just happens to be married to Nancy Lewis who is a member of Regan's Flying Squad and is of course cuckholding him with the very same Jack Regan. So the investigation gets personal when Regan's gung ho pursuit in Trafalgar Square get Nancy killed.  Hardly credible, even if most affairs are with a work colleague. Regan is banged up in jail, but his trusty sidekick Carter manages to find the evidence to get him released and they go on to catch the criminals and leave the widowed IA officer glowering at how Jack has outsmarted him. It's just preposterous plotting to be honest. I immediately was put in mind of Scooby Doo cartoon endings, 'why if it weren't for that pesky George Carter kid, I would have got away with nailing Regan' or some such.

5) So as said, Carter goes in pursuit of the one criminal wounded in the Trafalgar Square shootout, knowing he must be laid up somewhere after being operated on. He finds him, establishes that there are 4 guards on him, yet he doesn't call for back up and manages to pacify all 4 guards single handedly; this after we've had a massive firefight where not one intentional target got hit in Trafalgar Square; or, if he's just put them out of action, none come back at him for the duration of his interrogation of the wounded man. What are they doing, filing their nails? And while we're on the subject of crackshots, the final bullet that kills the criminal bisects him in the middle of his forehead, which again makes a mockery of the inaccuracies demonstrated in the Trafalgar Square shootout.

So let's count the cliches. 1) Maverick Cop 2) Maverick Cop loses his gun and Badge 3) Internal Affairs are doing an investigation 4) Criminal has a grudge and makes it personal on our Hero 5) From what I took to be a realistic portrayal of a shoot out in a very public space, we lapse into impossible shots and defeating overhwelming odds and firepower. 6) Car chases, but that's okay, we can allow car chases... Even if they're not terribly interesting

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Back To Work Music - 7 songs about Mondays

Sunday morning, it's freezing outside. I'm stretched out in the warmth of my bedroom, central heating blasting away. Don't have to even step foot outside today. And in 24 hours time, I'll be ensconced in an office where the temperature is either too hot or too cold, there will be 100 emails accumulated over the weekend to sift through, someone's purloined the coffee maker again... Ugh!

So here's a week's worth of seven songs all about Mondays, our favourite day of the week right? Take it away Sir Bob...

1) Boomtown Rats - "I Don't Like Mondays"
The song that suggested the Rats had come a long way since such punky titles as "Mary Of The 4th Form" and "I Never Loved Eva Braun". Similar vibe to "Mad World" which I have to admit I prefer.

2) New Order - "Blue Monday"
Another song that launched the band on to a new level. They had gone over to the USA and experienced the burgeoning Club scene there and worked with legendary producer Arthur Baker. They came back to the UK, helped set up the Hacienda club in Manchester and released this wondrous track that purged all the associations with Northern gloom that hung over them from their Joy Division days and Ina Curtis' suicide. They became a good time band and very badly behaved too! I saw them play at the New Hall College (Cambridge) Summer Ball and the rumours were that 2 of the band's leading members spent the day going around that all-women's college offering £50 for a sh*g to anyone they came across... From mere mortals, divine music

3) Stereophonics - "Bank Holiday Monday"
If only. Only 22 shopping days until Xmas bank holiday...

4) The Carpenters - "Rainy Days And Mondays"
The only records (& 8-Track cartridges, there that gives you an idea to my age) that were in my childhood house were my Mother's Classical, Opera and a few middle of the road artists like the Carpenters. Hence I associated all the above with years of ear pain in that oh so tolerant way of boys. But now that I've matured a tad, I've come to appreciate how great the Carpenters really were and Karen's astounding voice. This song perhaps doesn't show that voice off to its zenith like other songs, but it's still gorgeous and sumptuous, rather than easy, listening.

If you've never seen the amazing short Todd Haynes' film "Starlet - The Karen Carpenter Story" made with Barbie Dolls rather than actors, then here's a sample

5) The Bangles - "Just Another Manic Monday"
I was never a huge Bangles fan, although I did like "Walk Like An Egyptian". Still "Manic Monday" pitches the right sentiment. They look way better today without all the "big hair" I have to say!

6) Death Cab For Cutie - "Monday Morning"
The band with the best name in music, with a suitably elegiac song for the first working day of the week.

7) Billie Holliday - "Gloomy Sunday"
Yes I know it's not titularly a song about 'Monday', but in effect it is. According to TV Quiz Show, more people have been driven to suicide by this song than any other. And I think you can see why. I haven't listened to Bjork's version. Somehow that too I feel would be sacrilege.