Thursday, 29 March 2012

A Life Lived In Outline - FridayFlash

He began life as we all do, an almost indeterminate blob. Ultrasound sonar plotting his outline on screen. The echo chambers of his beating heart dispelling the ectoplasmic impression of mere ghostly existence.

His rudimentary drawings of human beings, tenderfoot oblation to carers, guardians and educators, were of three-holed bowling balls perched atop triangles. While the outsized halo-suns shone down on them approvingly.

The first acquaintance with his own shadow caused him to jump out of his skin. The fractional computational time permitted in panic, transmuted the shade as an eyeless ravening giant come to devour him. Gradually he came to understand why the dark plane had no depth or detail. Why its angle of arrowing jag towards him changed with the position of the sun. He grasped that the shadow owed its transitory existence to him rather than the other way around. Indeed, when it lay astern of him, he liked to imagine that he spun his shadow like a dark web from spinnerets in his heels. He who fights monsters.

He had three fittings for his wedding suit. The first resulted in the tailor taking his measurements and cutting a likeness of his body in paper which he assembled on the floor like a jigsaw. He himself had done similar at primary school when making a stuffed animal toy. The second fitting was conducted with him sheathed in material, itself encased in menacing looking pins that for some reason put him mind of comic convicts' broad-arrowed uniforms. This way up. Fragile.

For their honeymoon on a beach, they were serenaded by all manner of barkers touting their wares. He couldn't bring himself to opt for a caricature, for fear of it accentuating his more outlandish facial features. He settled on sitting patiently while an artist rendered him in silhouette. It hung above his wife's side of the bed, while her full-bodied line drawing perched above his pillow.

Came the day when somebody else's shadow monster broke free of their shackles and claimed his wife. The Police drew a chalk outline where her body had fallen on the bedroom floor. He tried to fold himself around her wispy form and spoon her as was familiar. But her body had bent into the most unnatural of positions and he found he was unable. With his face pressed into the recapitulation of her head, his steady drip of tears began to erase the outline of her featureless face. He was left only with her caricature up on the wall.

Thirty years on, he steps out of the bath. He regarded the tidemark around the enamel. A plimsoll line marking the level of his body wedged in between the sides. No matter that he faithfully wiped it down after each hot soak, somehow the stripe still agglomerated itself incrementally. A moraine of pared skin, the glacial pace of his unpeeling.

A further decade and he felt completely hollowed out by loneliness. His bones had lost their former density, his skin sagging on their tremulous armatures. He needed to sit down, to ease the burden of his weight. As he grabbed on to both arms of the chair for support, he noticed the burnished material confronting him. The shiny imprint in the shape of his body. Darker, unsullied parts lay beyond the boundary of his torso. Marking forever as a creature of habit. He looked around at the rest of the lounge furniture. Tried to recall which had been his wife's favourite roosting place. He concluded that she never possessed one, not because she was snatched from life prematurely, rather that she was always on the move. Always fussing and servicing him. He hangs his head in shame. Accordingly his neck began to scuff and polish a new fragment of the back nap of the chair.

His body wasn't found for months. His muscle and sinew had largely evaporated under the blistering sun pouring in through the windows. The liquefied juices formed their own indelible outline of his prone form on the bedroom carpet. Bodilessly reunited with his beloved wife amongst the fibres and twill.

Friday, 23 March 2012

The Atomised Herd Mentality

Last Saturday a football crowd of 35,000 people all united and reacted and behaved as one when a professional athlete collapsed on the pitch in front of them and medical teams fought for an age to restart his heart. The crowd were hushed, concerned, rooting for him, respectful, distraught and behaved with utter dignity. All of this was visibly captured by the TV cameras there to cover the match. All parochial differences between the fans of two competing teams disappeared, any thought of the game needing to continue to an end slipped away instantly as this drama of the stuff of life and death unfolded before their eyes. There were no dissenters, all were linked by their common humanity. 35,000 empathic people.

Last summer there were some seriously destructive riots in the UK in which lives were lost. While the fires were raging for several nights, the mass reaction as gauged through social media was very different from the above. I have attempted to reproduce a slice of that in this week's Friday Flash story off 999 words called "Riotous Assembly". Here the voices were as diverse and disunited as it is possible to conceive.

While there were informative tweets about the rapidly shifting scene on the ground, with helpful tweets about areas to avoid, and towards the end appeals for people to come out and clean up the wreckage of their communities, there was also a cacophony of voices just pitching into the 'debate' which only served to cloud the issue. I can't help feeling that they should have watched on in shocked and horrified silence like the football crowd, unless they were passing on useful information rather than their opinions.

For even as the arson, destruction and looting were raging, people were tweeting their political solutions; curfews, military intervention, or berating an end to the government cuts in education and youth opportunities, the gross inequalities in our society etc. What did these people expect to achieve? Did they really anticipate someone from authority (most of whom seemed to be away on vacation anyway) reading their tweets and acting on them? People just want to opine. To sound off. From the safe place of their house. I just don't get any sense of empathy emerging from such actions. Such people may claim that their voice isn't being heard, which is why they felt the need to offer it. Well many of the the rioters claimed the same thing for themselves when they tried to justify their actions. How can you hear any voice when it is submerged in a cacophony?

Then there were pictures and testimonies posted from the streets during the riots. Some by the participants goading, boasting, showing off their ill-gotten gains (and in doing so raising the chances of them being arrested on their own evidence). But in fact many were snapped on the phones of bystanders stood there observing the mayhem. Not professional journalists, but ordinary citizens who weren't looting, weren't starting fires, rather loitering there with their camera phones and generating 'content' for their blogs, Tumblrs or for YouTube or other means of sharing. Condoning the riots by accumulating material from it, albeit of the virtual and digital rather than stolen sports or electronic goods.

In my piece, by being relayed in reverse order of 'newest' tweets first and oldest tweets last, I hope I have conveyed the building crescendo of voices determined to have their say. Representing so much of a bombardment of the virtual airwaves, that it all just becomes white noise. Any vital information is obliterated by the deluge.

I hope my piece gives a sense of the welter of divergent voices that ultimately just seem to like the sound (look) of their own words on screen. While some treat the issue with great seriousness, others look to derive humour from it. Gallows humour? I might believe that if it wasn't done for self-aggrandisement, to make the person look clever. People are of course entitled to their opinion, but the time for that was probably after the riots had simmered down. This wasn't any real debate. No one was listening to anybody else. Besides, when has anyone ever had their views changed by online shouting? What could be more preposterous than online trolling of people over their views on the riots, WHILE people were having to flee their homes that had been set alight?

Two very different crowd behaviours. One showing the best commonality of humanity. And the other what happens when any such unity breaks down into a free-for-all. Be it one on the shopping high streets, or out in virtual reality.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Riotous Assembly - FridayFlash

(If you want to read my commentary on the thoughts behind this piece then click here)

broodboy: Same time next year yeah?

Meta_Lurgi: @GeneralCustard Do you mean out on the streets or here on Twitter?

Carly: Bring your broom tomorrow to clean up Clapham. The community to reclaim our streets from the thugs

GeneralCustard: It's a free for all. There's absolutely no control whatsoever

GeekChic: Flash mob rioting 2.0. This is the future folks!

sicpuppy: @eBaying4Blud Bravo dipshit, your ugly guilty mug now all over Twitter for the Police to identify you. You're going down

HoarseWhisperer: a building has just collapsed. I saw people jumping from it earlier. Just pray no one else was still in there?

eBaying4Blud: Electronic Booty @twitpic All offers?

EveHo: nuffink 2see here world jog on

TiddlyWink: To @skpollard Have you got home okay? Please just let me know

shabbashanks: Croydon's getting a facelift! Burn it down, can only look better that way

Under8: Police car on fire! BBQ pig!

VoyErr: I'm so frightened, I can hardly tweet straight

AJWheeler: Have just been threatened by a thug in a balaclava. it's really ugly out here. Don't know how I'm going to get home

BrapBrap: this aint no egg twitter mongs, its a molotov bomb an its coming your way

SkipJackTuner: <3 LOL and disorder

policeuk: Please RT to get @UK_blackberry to shut down #BBM till riots end #BlockBBM let's get it trending #LondonRiots

RTRT: RT fuzz are in full retreat! #Hackneyriot

RayLeeOtter: So apart from that Boris, how was the holiday? #LondonRiots #WhereisourMayor

RationList: If it's mindless to steal plasma tvs and smartphones, who emptied our minds with drooling over that shit in the first place?

smileyculture: we're all in this together right? U R now mothafuckas!!!!!!

SinNic: whatever can have possessed the dispossessed to take power for themselves?

R_Cane: Avoid Clapham Junction. It's a warzone

HighHeelDrifter: Why isn't there a curfew in place?

gangstar: U say were scum? What about police? Killed another innocent man. Shot him dead in his car

OscarBravo: we need the water cannons to clean this SCUM off our streets

QuantumAl: Stealing blackberries to organise riots to steal blackberries by...

FlimFlammable: That'll be the Wembley, Harlesden, Hammersmith posses. Window shopping now all the windows are kicked in

Trinny: What about Ealing? that's nothing to do with anything from the past. This isn't about deprivation or political protest

memememe: Why not? Nothing's changed since the last lot. Still Tottenham and Hackney gone up innit?

AliciaQ: I can't believe the police are letting it just happen

Nikos: I can't believe this is all happening. Again! #LondonRiots

CitizenSmith: Anyone looting in Tooting?

policeuk: incitement to riot is a serious criminal offence and carries heavy punishment tariffs

Gash: fancy me an upgrade on ma teevee. may roll down to ealing

topboy: keep the party going. keep getting more boys down and at it. They can't stop us. No police. No government. it's all ours for the taking

HistoryMan2.0: @StringVestTheory The Chavnots living the dream!

StringVestTheory: JD Sports? Truly this is the uprising of the Chavs

CarlSBerg: Broken Britain? it is now! #LondonRiots

RagandBone: #NottingHill shut your shops early and pull the shutters down. We're hearing rumours we're next #LondonRiots

clevertrevor85: there's something rioting in the state of Primark

Haughtense: They're breaking into all the shops. Clothes, mobile phones, hulking great tellies

Mash_Yeti: Come to Catford Bluds. No 5-0 down here at all. Make it happen. Mobb rule

OldMaid: There's people breaking into houses here #Ealing

ProfPlum: How many pairs of nicked Nikes equates to the education maintenance allowance? #youdothemaths

Brittstick: too few coppers to enforce order #cuts

SimonShelley: Bunch of about 50 hoodies gathering at Clapham Junction station #LondonRiots

gangbanger: Bluebottles lost their bottle. Oh no wait found it. Crashing down on their tit helmets!

dentedStu: rioters & police playing kiss chase down Peckham back streets

policeuk: Parents, do you know where your children are right now tonight? #Londonriots

sansculottery: Arab Spring, London Summer. Finishing what Guy Fawkes started but we're not lightweights like him #LondonRiots

MCShitehawk: No hype, we own the streets. Feds just standing back watching us. They bare scared

TriggerFinger: Dap @twitpic of mi boys. Took it on mi brand new phone rinsed bout 10 minutes ago #londonriots

2Wheeler: Yeah our riot vans in convoys not police ones! We're cleaning the high streets out

PithHelmet: I've seen vans pull up and collect stuff looted. This is organised #Londonriots

TomCollins: Ppl are stashing their loot in front gardens under bushes & going back 4 more gear #Clapham

HighPilbrow: Can someone tell me what a shooting in Tottenham has got to do with the thuggery in Clapham? Just looking for any excuse

SoldierTru: An fuck snitches too

w7fyt: Fuck da police

SallyArmy: OMG ppl jumping from the flats above and people on the pavement are catching them. Where are the fire brigade? And the Police?

Crunk: Police vans heading to Clapham Junction, roll on to Lavender Hill and Battersea

RayWhittle71: There's shops on fire with people leaning out the windows in the flats above. They're trapped

Links: Fire sale in Clapham. price is right, come on down. everything must go #LDNriot

Mash_Yeti: no we're gonna burn yours!

PlanC: What, you going to burn down your own communities again?

pinhead: smell of petrol and smoke. Uncle says brings back sweet memories #Tottenham

DisU: Endz beef ends tonite

streetfighter: Its ours. its all fuckin ours. Not one Fed in sight

DeadEnds: Feds getting a beating. Bring your bottles and bricks

Tricksy: Bruv this aint about ends right now. Were together against 5-0 cos of Duggan and weve got the streets

SnareDrum: Heard that someone protesting the Mark Duggan killing was beaten by police. Don't they ever learn?

M16N17: Edmonton got no bizness being out of their ends. Lets smack em back down

IWitness: Bus on fire in Tottenham. Police being pelted with all manner of stuff

ghettofuck: Edmonton? Those tards dont even got no proper postcode

hoodboy: enfield? Those pussyoles got no boys. gotta be edmonton

flyboyagaric: its all kicking off tottenham & enfield an i dont mean footy seasons started early

Monday, 12 March 2012

Four Dirt Trails

This is the word cloud for my contribution to Games Perverts Play's theme of "Dirt".

Games Perverts Play is a website curated by Quite Riot Girl, which has submissions on a different theme each time. The submissions range from essays, through erotica to literary and experimental fiction in the realm of the sexual.

My contribution to "Dirt" was titled "Four Dirt Trails" and was exactly that; four stories examining the different contexts and meanings of the word dirt as exemplified in the diversity in the word cloud about. I don't really write erotica, but I do write about language and power and of course, the bedroom is one particularly salient demonstration of the two going hand in glove. The four have a different tone, one is a sort of fairy story, another more of a deconstuctionist mini-essay on talking dirty/ sex talk and so on...

If you click on the link, you can download "Dirt" for free as a PDF. There's some wonderful writing there by the likes of Penny Goring, Dan Holloway, Mark Simpson, Jonathan Kemp, Magda Sullivan, Betty Herbert and Quiet Riot Girl herself.

There is a content warning for the material.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Mirrorball - Fridayflah

It was like a silver sphere in the cosmos. A giant globule of mercury, but it didn’t bulge even though the temperature was clearly rising in here. If I tilted my head, now it was as if viewing the ball of cells from which we all stem through a microscope. I seemed to be having trouble regulating the scale of my perceptions.

And then the light started back up. I could see its spectrum trails above people's heads. As they moved and threw their arms in the air, they sliced up the colours of the rainbow. They were juggling colours and that hurt my head.

I raised my eyes above the dancefloor for relief. The windows on the orb weren’t letting the light through at all. They were bouncing it straight back, return to sender. Like a dandelion clock shedding its seeds of time. Viral protein chains beading the air. Efflorescent effluent sliding down the walls. Puffball mirrorball. So the very opacity meant that they weren’t windows. They were more like doors. Hundreds and thousands of tiny doors into the heart of the revolving globe. A planetary accommodation block. Where none of the inhabitants could talk to one another.

I'm drawn to their atomisation. The silver moon loomed large, just like it had outside my childhood bedroom window that one time. Close enough to imagine I could reach out and touch it.

Phase change again. For as the light struck like a rap at the door, the portal spangled and its resident cell yielded in response. But before he could emerge to greet any visitor, the light was expunged, plunging him into darkness, even as his neighbour was summoned and drawn to the threshold in the same way. The doors were all tilted away from one another ever so slightly. Just so the light was out of phase. Could any of the residents run into one another? Could they share anything of their lives at all? Or were they condemned to live out their unknown existence behind their doors in isolation? Entirely like me, amongst this throng of people with faces blotted out behind dancing colours. Where are you? I've been here for hours. I've seen every single silvered door open and shut.

And then you arrive. Finally. Armed with a bottle of cool water. To rehydrate me. I love you. I love you for that water and I love your own flow too. I can feel the water pulse through my veins, pushing back the cotton wool that has blocked them. Draggletail clouds dissipate through my arteries. Reinflating, rising to the surface of my wrists, the blues and the reds. Crossing over one another, intertwined. Communicating. Communing. I look up at the ball, but am dazzled by the nimbus of light shards. Still no one up there on that lonely planet is talking to a neighbour. The doors open and slam shut one after another, whisked away one from the other as the orb spins on its axis. So much motion just to remain in place. I pour a rainshower of water over my beclouded head. The music thunderclaps from the speakers. What was merely damp now become sodden.

The water settled my eyes, clearing the coruscations, but it couldn't shift the fog that lay behind them.

You are kneading the bony ball at the top of my spine. Unfurling the tendrils of the knot there as the Ecstasy was supposed to do, but only served to twist it tauter. Your action gently levers my head back down, where I want to raise it up again. I shake you off. Not as rejection, please understand. I just want to see that it is possible for two of the tiny beings up there to emerge from their doors simultaneously and meet. Or else you and I are both wasting our time.