Friday Fictioneers: Bird Politics

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Bird Politics

The problem with trying to talk with my Conservative bird uncle is that he can’t have a conversation that doesn’t turn to bird politics.

At Christmas, we got talking and he says, ‘Okay smart guy, if humans evolved from birds, why are there still birds?’

‘Humans didn’t evolve from-‘

‘And if you ask me, there’d be a lot less refugees if they stopped taxing birdseed.’

‘Birdseed tax?’

‘And these footballers, kneeling during the bird anthem! We didn’t fight bird wars in Bird-Raq for them to dishonour the bird flag’

Then he took another swig of bird beer and fell asleep.

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Another Friday Fictioneers story with prompt supplied by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

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The Big Batman Read: KnightsEnd (in 225 words)

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The final chapter of Knightfall, and it’s mostly the same throughout. A lot of fights, lot of training, and a lot of Jean Paul Valley being brainwashed. Bruce Wayne goes to see Lady Shiva to become badass again and Valley chases ghosts, believing that a man he had already killed has come back. Catwoman’s there too pursuing a McGuffin from her own solo comic line, so that doesn’t really matter.

Unfortunately, this arc had lost a lot of its sheen right about now. It was simply too long and too much of the same. Bruce Wayne was always going to come back and take the cowl so it never needed to take this long. It is an interesting thing to see this many comics running the same story for nearly two years. It is a constant complaint that comics will shake up the status quo for a bit just to reset it when needed, but at least they tend to only shake it up for a few months rather than for ages. I imagine reading these books at the time must have been a nightmare spent waiting for Bruce Wayne to finish chasing his doctor and return to Gotham.

Either way, by the end Wayne has defeated and forgiven Valley and retaken his place as the true Batman of Gotham City. For a bit anyway.

Click here for The Big Batman Read Masterlist

New Old Writing Regime

Hi,

My usual regime is to wake up at five, drink a strong as hell coffee, and then write. Before Christmas this meant write THE BOOK. Then over Christmas/January I stopped waking up so early.

Now I’m getting back into the early starts its become writing Audiences Everywhere articles, notes for things, blog posts, and THE BOOK has fell into the background.

New regime: 5 am writing is THE BOOK writing. All other writing is for articles and notes and the such. So really the new regime is just the old regime but if it works it works.

I want to get this book done, I want it published, I want it done and I want to start the next one.

And this is how I’ll do it.

One 5 am wake up at a time.

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What I Know about Burgers

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I recently realised that my favourite food is a cheeseburger.

It is the food I crave the most, enjoy the most, and also a food I find fascinating. It is simplicity itself but also wide open to interpretation. Some people and places make a very simple burger, others decide to get wacky with it e.g. adding diced apple to the meat before forming it into burgers.

It is hard to make a shitty burger unless you’re really trying to do it (i.e. the apple thing above).

Now that I know it’s my favourite food I want to be able to make it, and make it well.

I know the basics. I know the order in which the burger should be stacked:

Bun-sauce-lettuce-patty-cheese-tomato-gherkin/pickle-sauce-bun. Though this is still up for debate as a lot of chefs, websites, and food scientists have their own take on it so some experimentation is needed.

I know that to make a great patty you need to go to the butcher and get good quality minced beef. The strands of mince must all be kept intact and in the same direction. You then wrap this mince in cling film and make it into a tight sausage shape, which is then refrigerated overnight. When cooking time is upon you, take the burger roll from the fridge and slice it into burgers.

I know how to make Shake Shack sauce because my brother-in-law found out for me. He’s also the one who told me the stack order that we’re currently using until we perfect it or realise it was already perfect.

I know not to get wild with it and start fucking around with bacon and eggs etc. Bacon and egg on a burger is nice but can make the burger smell like a football boot or create more mess than is necessary. People assume that to make a signature burger you need to add something when actually you simply want your signature burger to be simple and tasty.

I know that the cheese needs to be added to the burger once it have been flipped once (and only once) and that, while the burger rests, the brioche buns need to be toasted slightly in the residual burger juice in the pan.

I know that the burger doesn’t need to be squashed with a spatula while it cooks, flipped more than once, or cut to check its readiness. Once blood forms on the surface flip it and then serve it when you believe it’s ready i.e. trust your instincts.

I know that the best burger I have had so far in Melbourne came from the Grand Trailer Park Taverna on Bourke St, but I also know that I need to give 8Bit another chance as I was tipsy and ordered the ridiculous double dragon burger on my first trip there.

And I know that the best burger I ever had was at Shake Shack in Istanbul.

My plan for 2016 is to by the end of the year have a great burger recipe and method under my belt. For research I will eat burgers, talk about burgers, and read about burgers.

And now, as lunch approaches, I’m off to Mr. Burger in Fitzroy to get researching.

Audiences Everywhere: HUGS

First appeared at Audiences Everywhere

2015 was the year of the platonic hug. Many movies that would have ended with a scene of the heroes kissing instead featured them simply hugging. And it worked. Seeing Ethan Hunt and Ilsa Faust share a hug before parting ways was oddly more affecting than if they had made out. On the flip side seeing Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, whose character’s names I’ve forgotten, make out in Jurassic World helped to cement the feeling that the movie was a throwback instead of something fresh and new.

Today is National Hugging Day, so in the spirit of such an occasion, here are our five favourite movie hugs.

*Potential SPOILERS for each entry

Bob Harris and Charlotte – Lost in Translation

Focus Features

Focus Features

The movie that introduced the world to Scarlett Johansson and re-introduced us to Bill Murray, dramatic actor, Lost in Translation is responsible for some great things. It is also responsible for one of the great hug endings in cinema. After a whirlwind romance that has been strictly platonic, Bob Harris, the aging movie star, bids farewell to Charlotte, the college graduate and gets in a car for the airport. On the way though he sees her again and gets out of the car. He catches up to her and they face each other for a long beat as though about to kiss before he pulls her in for a hug. The clutch on to each other and he whispers something in her ear before they have a brief kiss and part ways. It is a beautifully simple, quiet moment in a movie full of those. It’s the perfect end for these two lost characters to part ways.

Finn and Poe Dameron – Star Wars The Force Awakens

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

This is the hug that launched a thousand fanfics. Toward the end of the movie, Finn and Poe have both arrived at the rebel base convinced the other is dead. Finn walks along the airfield as the pilots are disembarking their X-Wing and sees a familiar face, one of only the few friendly faces he knows since defecting from The First Order. The music swells as the two men see each other, then they break into a run and hug as though their lives depended on it. Who knows that the future of this relationship is in the franchise, but if the producers listen to the audience and want to do something truly radical, then this hug should be the start of a beautiful relationship between these two.

Sean and Will – Good Will Hunting

Miramax Films

Miramax Films

This one will probably be the most divisive on this list as Good Will Hunting is not a movie that has aged well. Re-watching it now and it is mostly wall to wall cheese and broad Boston accents. The big scene, the big emotional pay off, is when, during one of their many therapy sessions, the two men discuss the abuse they received at the hands of their fathers/foster fathers. Will talks about the beatings he used to receive until Sean begins to repeat that it’s not Will’s fault. Will pushes away at first and then the walls come tumbling down and he falls into Sean’s arms weeping. It is either a big emotional climax or shameless manipulation, but either way, it is a powerful scene and a fantastic showcase of the late Robin Williams’ Oscar winning performance, as he is incredibly warm and shows restraint.

Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar – Brokeback Mountain

Focus Features

Focus Features

There is a scene late in Brokeback Mountain in which the two lovers are talking and going their separate ways. During the talk, Ennis has a flashback to how things were for the two men on Brokeback Mountain. He thinks about a time when he was staring into their campfire and Jack hugged him from behind saying, “You’re sleeping on your feet like a horse” before softly humming against his lover’s back. It is a beautiful, delicate scene that simply shows the love between the two men without need for theatrics. The scene is maybe a minute long, and every second of it is better than the entire 112 minutes of Crash, the movie that won the Oscar for Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain.

Kane and unnamed Facehugger – Alien

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Sometimes a super tight, can’t let the other person go hug isn’t because of love or devotion, it’s about impregnating them with an alien larvae that will burst through their chest and run rampant on a spaceship, killing off the motley crew one by one. This is the situation that happens when Kane, executive officer of the Nostromo, follows up on a distress beacon and finds himself in the hull of a large, abandoned spacecraft. Except it isn’t abandoned, as he discovers when he enters a chamber full of eggs. One of the eggs opens and the creature within attaches itself in an unbreakable embrace upon unfortunate Kane’s face, which allows it to plant an egg in his stomach and the rest is history. It’s one of the most iconic hugs in cinema and also the one you would least wish to receive. The image of the Facehugger is an enduring one for fans of sci-fi and horror alike.

So on National Hug Day, find someone you want to hug, whether it be family, friends, lovers, or those dudes on the street with the Free Hugs sign. Remember though, try to make it more of a Finn and Poe and less of a Kane and Facehugger; people find the latter a little weird and uncomfortable.

Featured Image: Focus Features

Fiction: Synaesthesia

First posted SEP 2012

‘You have one of the most extreme cases of synaesthesia I’ve ever seen,’ said the doctor, brightly coloured flowers growing out of his mouth with every word.

‘Synaesthesia?’ I said, the word slithering between my teeth as a long centipede the colour of confusion (orange with grey polka dots).

‘Yes, in layman’s terms, your senses are a little confused,’ the doctor tapped his finger on the table and I smelled burnt bacon. ‘People who have synaesthesia confuse their stimuli so that they might ascribe days of the week with personalities or see different letters as having colours.’

I looked at his name tag, which glowed like a rainbow, ‘I see.’

‘It is an interesting ailment since a lot of people do not know that they have it. They think that seeing numbers as colours or being able to smell letters is simply how the world works.’ The doctor leant forward and I got a whiff of his breath which smelled like my sister poking me in the eye when I was twelve.

‘Is there a cure?’ I said, the words tasting like the sound it makes when a window breaks, which for me was always a colourful sound as each strand of the spider web that the smash caused would branch off into a different ray of dazzlingly coloured light.

The doctor frowned and shook his head and the feeling of disappointment that ran through me felt like eating two scoops of strawberry ice cream with sprinkles and chocolate chips.

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My entry into The Lascaux Review flash competition.

Movies of 2016 #04: The Big Short

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I didn’t know what to expect with this movie. Adam McKay is known for his broad comedies and the subject matter in The Big Short seemed like something that wouldn’t produce many laughs. However, even though the movie is heavily about the fraud of bankers in the US and the lives they ruined, the chaos they created and the fact that they were shameless, unpunished, unrepentant fucking assholes, it is also a very funny film.

Split across three narratives the movie tries to present the causes of the GFC and the people who realised there was money to be made from it. It is an interesting tightrope the movie walks as the ‘heroes’ of the story all put themselves in a position where the collapse of the market is the best alternative for them as they bet against the stability of the mortgage market, a market which has never fallen, is constantly referred to as being rock solid and then, inevitably, fails massively, taking down the world economy with it.

The movie does its best to explain some of the more complicated elements of the financial world and does it in a very entertaining way by cutting to different celebrities who explain the ideas in easy to understand terms. Or easy to understand while at the cinema, as I thought I completely understood the movie until I was explaining the plot to my wife later and couldn’t quite articulate the ideas on display, until in the end I told her that she would need to watch the movie.

Overall, the one thing I definitely wasn’t expecting was to be in tears by the end of the movie. Tears of sadness and anger for the people whose lives these shameless pricks ruined and the fact that they were allowed to walk away scot free. A powerful, fantastic movie that leaves you exhausted, angry, and a little confused.

Books of 2016 – January: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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I have a rule when reading a book. If I get to 100 pages and I am not gripped I will stop reading the book. This has saved me from a lot of pointless reading and let me read good books instead of trash.

With Ready Player One I did not have that option. I read it for a book club and because my boss recommended it and because I had told you guys I would. That meant I had to read the whole damn thing from exposition heavy beginning to tensionless ending.

This book is one of the worst books I have ever read that wasn’t self-published (and it wasn’t because I kept checking) or in the early phases of drafting. It is boring, smug, badly written, lacking conflict, lacking drama, lacking tension and pointless.

It’s protagonist, Wade, is a smug know it all who is never stumped by anything, can do everything, and is well-loved for no reason other than that he is the main character in this book. He is the kind of person who thinks that being able to recite the year an old video game was released counts as an achievement worthy of universal praise. He is the kind of person who describes himself to a woman as a being a ‘nice guy’. He is the kind of person who talks at length about not caring what a girl looks like and then spends a page talking about how muscly he is.

The writer, Ernest Cline, has obviously never heard of the rule show don’t tell as he proceeds to, at every opportunity, tell rather than show. The book is nine tenths boring description. The first part of the book is all laboriously described set up and unnecessary world-building before anything even remotely exciting happens, and even then once that event occurs it’s quickly undercut with more description and telling, endless telling.

For example, there is a large part of the book dedicated to a mind-numbing description of Wade’s apartment and his sweet game system. Each single piece of the system is described with minute detail. Rather than putting Wade in the vast video game land and have him do something interesting (i.e. a quest, fighting zombies, dragon hunting, etc.) where he can show you the awesome features of the system, Cline simply goes from part to part describing it’s form and function. After this catalogue style chapter Wade goes on a quest but first he needs to describe his spaceship and tell a brief story about acquiring it. Then he arrives at a planet that may or may not be under control by the bad guys. I know what you’re thinking, this is the bit where a space battle occurs or Wade has to use cunning and stealth to evade a blockade and get to the surface. Well you would be wrong. What happens is Wade describes a Ring of Teleportation that he won in an auction due to his vast wealth before teleporting to the planet. He then has to traverse a dungeon full of monsters which he does in record time because he’s amazing. So, for those of you keeping score, that’s ten pages of description of an apartment and then a page and a half of summary of a daring monster-laded dungeon quest. This outlines another problem with Wade’s character. He is never lost or stuck or seemingly in danger. Because he’s an expert in everything, everything is easy. There was never a point in this book where I feared that the character was in any kind of peril. It also outlines the main problem with the book which is that there is no tension at all. Everything just happens and anything exciting that happens is described to us rather than us seeing the character experience it.

If you don’t believe me that this book is awful look at the below image:

IMAG0719_1 (1)Let’s break it down. First, who talks like this? Can you imagine going somewhere and saying to your friend, “Hey, that castle looks like Hogwarts.” And your friend saying “Yeah, like Hogwarts from the Harry Potter movies.” You would just look at them, “Yeah, I know what Hogwarts is. I was the one who made the comparison. Whose benefit was that for? It’s just us here.”

This is constant feature of the book, a reference to something that is then quickly explained. The fun of reading reference heavy books like Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula or Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is the integration of the references so that the reader is rewarded for knowing the reference rather than it being spelled out. In Dracula Cha Cha Cha there is a scene in which an olive oil magnate called Vito Corleone is introduced. The text doesn’t then say, “Y’know, from the Godfather” because that would render the whole thing silly. The game is to know the references. And also chances are if you’re reading this book you at least know what Rivendell is, even if some of the more obscure stuff passes you by.

Also if someone has taken the words out of your mouth you can’t then just say them. They have, after all, just been taken out of your mouth.

Could this book be improved? Yes. Cline needs to get out of his own way and let the story breath. Reading this book is like watching The Matrix with someone standing in front of you describing the movie sets. There is a good idea here but Cline can’t seem to articulate the good bits. He spends a ton of time setting up a world and then describing it without taking the time to make Wade likable or to inject the plot with any fun or tension. It is a series of events that happens and then the book ends.

Another irksome part of the book is that love story between Wade and Art3mis. It is a classic nerdy idea of romance as they share all the same interests so must be soulmates. He is also pushy as fuck with her and constantly talks about not caring about what she looks like, which is handy as the big reveal isn’t that she is hideous or a guy, but that she has a birthmark on her face, which obviously doesn’t deter our hero as he is above such things as looks. There is a great opportunity to make some kind of point by having Art3mis, the super geek who he loves because of her mind and interest, turn out to be a guy and really have Wade have to take that on board and deal with it. Instead she is exactly the way she looks in the game (“Rubenesque”…for fuck’s sake) but with a birthmark, so the whole thing is essentially meaningless and only serves to feed into the idea that Wade is perfect.

Finally, the book quickly defines morals as being black or white. You are a good guy or a bad guy and that’s it. SPOILERS – Ogden Morrow, the eccentric billionaire who handily Deus Ex Machina’s them to safety should have been the villain. Rather than the bad guy being the faceless corporation, have Halliday’s partner be the villain. Have the reason they fell out be something to do with Morrow’s greed or have Morrow hold some grudge against Halliday for Kira’s death. Paint Halliday in shades other that pure benevolent white. END SPOILERS.

Overall, a godawful book. It’s boring, weirdly neck-beardy, smug, full of unlikable characters, full of unrealistic dialogue, tensionless, conflict-less and pointless. I have no idea why this book is so popular because it would never have passed the 100 page test. It would have gone straight off the balcony the second I hit page one-hundred and one.

And why does I-r0k (sic?) get such a dramatic introduction just to vanish from the plot altogether. Was it just to show that Wade is an insufferable asshole about his video game knowledge? If so, mission accomplished.

The Big Batman Read: Knightquest – The Search (in 285 words)

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Pictured: A man with a broken back

This arc has a lot of problems. The depiction of the entirety of England as some weirdly posh village stuck in the 1930s is one of those problems. There was a weird trend for a lot of American media to show England as being very proper and stuck in either the past. Every time spoke like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins and the only city in England was seemingly London. Also, in order to properly show that you were showing England someone would have to say ‘bloody’ or ‘bleedin’’, and this comic is no different.

Another problem is that the hero is Bruce Wayne, the man who stopped being Batman because he was paralysed. However, as the arc goes on Wayne goes from wheelchair bound to upright on crutches to simply a man with a bit of a bad back.

And the final problem is that this arc is boring and shit. It gets into a groove of Kinsolving being threatened and Wayne not being able to help her and Alfred telling him he needs to rest and Wayne ignoring Alfred. Also every issue or so someone threatens Wayne thinking he’s crippled and he kicks the shit out of them.

I can understand the need for this arc. You need to show that Wayne is doing something and magic away his paralysis before he can return to Gotham. However you are hindered by the fact that, while injured, Wayne can’t be too powerful and also can’t return to America because then he would hear about Jean Paul Valley and have to do something about it. So the writers maroon Bruce and Alfred in fairy tale England and tread water until it’s time for Knightsend.

Click here for The Big Batman Read Masterlist

Movies of 2016 #03 – The Hateful Eight

Hateful-Eight-Poster-2016-1

I unashamedly love Quentin Tarantino. I love his brazenness, I love his arrogance, I love the fact that he will happily kill off a major character, I love the fact that he does what he wants with no regard for his detractors or critics. His move from straight crime movies to huge genre fare has been fascinating to watch and yielded such incredible movies as Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, which actually might be my favourite Tarantino. He has a flair for the dramatic historical film full of violence and dark comedy.

His most recent is The Hateful Eight, the accumulation of his style of putting disparate characters in a locked room and waiting for them to explode. Here he places a variety of Western archetypes in a cabin during a blizzard and we wait for them to kill each other. And it’s wondrous.

Starting slowly and then building to an explosive finale, The Hateful Eight, is perhaps not as instantly iconic as previous Tarantino movies but I really enjoyed it as a homage to both classic westerns and The Thing. A group of people trapped together with no one knowing the allegiances of the others and a woman in their midst worth ten thousand dollars (a fact I feel like Kurt Russell should have kept to himself) create a sense of claustrophobic tension that can only end in blood.

Overall, it’s a showcase of the talents of Samuel L Jackson, who is perfection in this movie, and Walton Goggins, an actor who is a much welcome addition to the Tarantino stable of actors. Actually everyone is amazing in their roles and it’s great to see Tim Roth knock it out of the park doing his best creepy Englishman surrounded by no nonsense Americans and one Mexican.

Audiences Everywhere: What Cinema Taught me about Australia

First appeared at Audiences Everywhere

Australia is very big, and, for just about everyone on Earth, very far away. For someone who grew up in the United Kingdom, a place where you can drive from the top to the bottom in twelve hours, Australia can sometimes seem overwhelming. If you fly from Melbourne to Europe, for the first four hours of the flight you are still in Australia. Leave England and fly four hours east and you’re in Turkey. Australia is also very empty. It has a population of 24 million people. Texas, on the other hand, has a population of 26 million and its landmass could fit inside Australia 11 times. Even more crazily, South Korea has a population of 50 million people and could fit inside Australia 77 times. These three factors, size, distance, and emptiness, play a big part in the way cinema has taught us about Australia, or at least an idea of Australia.

Crocodile Dundee

Paramount Pictures

Ask anyone who hasn’t visited the country what they know about it and they’ll usually mention barbeques, beers, and Crocodile Dundee. Ask people in Australia what they think of Crocodile Dundee and they’ll usually shake their head, mutter something under their breath, and change the subject. Crocodile Dundee, the hit movie of 1986, helped a generation of viewers to imagine Australia as this constantly dangerous wilderness full of people who would be wowed and amazed by something as a city full of people. It also painted Aussies out to be uncouth and a little backwards. This depiction of Aussies as being simple folk continues throughout a lot of Aussie cinema. If you boiled Aussie cinema down you would find two genres. The first is the feel-good story about quaint, good-natured people, who are also portrayed as being a little bit stupid, overcoming adversity. Movies like the aforementioned Crocodile Dundee, and it’s two sequels, Muriel’s Wedding, The Mule, The Dish, and The Castle all subscribe to this trend, while painting a picture of rural and urban Australians as not too bright, but solid and honest folk.

Wolf Creek

Roadshow Entertainment/The Weinstein Company/Dimension FIlms

The other genre is horror. When me and my wife told our friends in England we were moving here the first thing a lot of them said was, “What about Wolf Creek?” Australia’s vast size and emptiness is what makes Wolf Creek as scary as it is. The opening third of the movie is mostly the three main characters driving for ages and ages until they are in the middle of nowhere and therefore as far away from help as possible. To break Aussie horror down it can usually be divided into Outback Horror and Animal Horror. Outback Horror contains movies like Wolf Creek and its sequel, Long Weekend, and 100 Bloody Acres. They are movies that use Australia’s vastness and remoteness as a way to create tension and fear, just by showing the audience that if something happens to you in the outback, there’s no one around to help. Animal Horror are movies about the many wild animals in Australia and how they might kill you. These are movies like Razorback, Bait, Black Sheep, Black Water, Rogue, Dark Age, and The Reef. It is a constant perception of Australia that every thing can and wants to kill you. This idea is partially because of how many deadly spiders I find in my kitchen but mostly because of movies like the above.

So what did cinema teach us about Australia? It taught us that the people are simple and good-natured and that the country wants to kill us all, whether its by deranged loners out in the vast nothing of the Outback or literally any animal you encounter. And it is a shame that this is the perception that cinema has created as Australia has a rich vein of fantastic movies that don’t fall into the above genres but are movies that haven’t received much overseas acclaim. Of course, I could be completely wrong about the above and all of our perceptions of Australia and Australians are just based on that one Simpsons episode. You know the one I mean.

Post Fail

So my posting a post every day plan has fallen by the wayside. This weekend I was away and distracted by seeing all my nieces, including a brand new one, and I didn’t have time to post anything.

Do not fear though as over the next few days I have some stuff to write. I’ve seen two more movies in 2016, both fantastic and I’m going to go deep into the vault and find some more fiction. I also want to share some Audiences Everywhere work and write some stream of consciousness about how hard it is to get my novel’s most recent draft finally, finally finished.

So I’m still here. I haven’t failed my New Year’s resolution this early.

Fiction: The ABC Story – Therapy

 

Therapy

The doctor looked up from his notebook at the patient lying on the couch in front of him. ‘Mr. Humbert, Hal, tell me about your dreams. What did you dream about last night?’

Hal cleared his throat, ‘A bi-curious, dead elephant found grotesquely hanging in Jeju, Korea. Lists made nightly of pithy quotes. Really strange things unearthed via wobbly X-rays. Young zebras.’

‘How fascinating. How do you feel when you wake up?’

‘Annoyed. Bored. Chagrined. Drained. Enraged. Furious. Grumpy. Harried. Insulted. Jaded. Kerfuffled. Light-headed. Morose. Negative. Ornery. Pathetic. Quixotic.  Rueful. Sad. Tired. Underwhelmed. Violent. Weird. Xenophobic. Yucky. Zealous.’

‘I see. So from these sessions what do you hope to gain? How do you want to feel by the end of this?’

‘Amiable. Boisterous. Cheery. Delightful. Energised. Funny. Gregarious. Happy. Iridescent. Jubilant. Kinetic. Lovely. Magnificent. Nice. OK. Peachy. Qualm-free. Righteous. Stupendous. Terrific. Unbiased. Verbose. Wonderful. Xenophilic. Youthful. Zesty.’

‘Interesting. My job is to get you there and if we work together I think this will be possible with only one session per week.’ The doctor smiled. ‘Does that sound good to you?’

‘After basketball classes does everybody feel gross? Have I just kicked Lobster Johnson’s mandible node on purpose? Quietly reveal secrets to Uncle Vanya while Xavier yells, “Zucchinis!”’

The doctor opened his notebook, ‘Better make it two sessions a week.’

Originally published June 2012

David Bowie 1947-2016

This article first appeared on Audiences Everywhere

After-a-decade-David-Bowie-returns

How do you memorialise David Bowie? It’s like trying to write an obituary for the sun. Seriously, how do you memorialise an actual star?

The world is less cool, less weird, and less…Bowie today, and will continue to be forever as now Bowie has left this strange planet. But what did Bowie leave us? Is there anything us lesser beings can learn from his time here?

Mainly, Bowie taught us a very simple, very big, very complicated, very easy thing: It’s okay to be weird. Actually, it’s not just okay, its better. Why be human when you can be superhuman? Why settle for being David Jones, a man from Brixton when you could be David Bowie, genderless, timeless, ageless, filled with raw talent and boundless imagination? He taught us to embrace the weirdness, to turn and face the strange, to do whatever you feel like doing until you get bored with being that person. Then go be someone else.

Cinematically, Bowie’s greatest gift to us was Jareth, the Goblin King in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. I will happily wait while you think of another actor or singer who could play the role of the Goblin King in trousers that tight surrounded by puppets and muppets and still look cool as hell. In fact, I won’t wait, because if I had to wait then I would be waiting until the heat death of the universe consumes us all in black holes and fire. Because you won’t think of anyone. The character is a huge pantomime villain but Bowie imbues him with danger and intense sexuality, so much so that on more than one occasion I’ve watched that movie with someone (men and women) who have said they would happily sacrifice the kidnapped child and stay with Jareth.

He also gave us the greatest cameo in movie history with his appearance in Zoolander. A crucial scene of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson about to have a walk off to settle who is the better model is heightened when, while looking for someone to judge the contest, a lone figure emerges from the crowd, removes his sunglasses and says, “Perhaps I can be of assistance.” Unlike the other famous people featured in the movie Bowie gets a name tag that zooms onto the screen to the strains of Let’sDance.  When I first saw Zoolander in the cinema that was the scene that lingered with me and the one I used to persuade some friends they needed to come see it with me when I went to see it again. David Bowie was a celestial event to which no one could refuse a second chance to witness.

Finally, but by no means an afterthought, David Bowie gave us music. In terms of film, Bowie songs appear in a ton of movies but there are two I’ll focus on here. The first is Inglorious Basterds. Up until the third act the music has all been score and time period appropriate and then, as characters prepare for the finale, Bowie’s “Cat People” begins to play. It is a testament to Quentin Tarantino’s genius to know that this song at this moment would be completely perfect no matter what the historical setting of the movie. The music fits perfectly and compliments the scene while heightening the drama of it.

The other movie is The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Bowie is littered all over the place in this film as Seu Jorge is constantly singing acoustic covers of his hits in Portuguese, but also features in two crucial scenes. Upon learning he has a son, Zissou needs a minute to himself and walks the length of the ship as “Life on Mars?” surges around him. The other, better moment is the ending as all the characters return to the ship while “Queen Bitch” plays over them.

In the end, Bowie is forever a musician but in terms of film he’s worked with Nicholas Roeg, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Christopher Nolan, Jim Henson, and Tony Scott. A million musicians, writers, artists and movie makers cite him as an influence and a muse. He will never be forgotten by those who loved him and his influence will survive that universal heat death I mentioned earlier.

We’re told at any early age that all of the stars that we see in the sky are made of light from stars that actually died millions of years ago. He’s out there now, out among the stars, back to the mothership, back to wherever so wonderful a creature must have come from. He will forever be there, reminding us to be weird, be ourselves, be whatever we want.

So how do you memorialise a star? You look up.

When when you find yourself at a crossroads in your life, faced with hard decisions, faced with confusion, faced with boredom, faced with adversity, look up. Ask yourself what Bowie would do in this circumstance. And then just do that.

David Bowie
1947 – 2016

David Bowie 1947 - 2016

Movies of 2016 #02 – The Revenant (2015)

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New Regency Pictures

People were heavily divided by Iñárittu’s last movie, Birdman, with some saying it was a masterpiece and others that it was overrated. When I saw it I didn’t have a strong opinion about it either way. It was quite funny and Edward Norton was great in it, but it was also pretentious and too long.

The Revenant seems to face the same thing from my peers who have spent the time since its release either telling me it’s a masterpiece or that its garbage. Unlike Birdman with this movie I do have a strong opinion and it is that this one is a masterpiece.

Based on the true story of Hugh Glass, a trapper mauled by a bear, left for dead, and forced to hike through the wilderness to get to safety/get revenge, The Revenant contains at least three sequences that are mind-boggingly good. The first ambush, bear attack and final fight are expertly staged, seamlessly shot, and highly visceral. Iñárittu keeps the cuts to a minimum giving you the feeling of being on the ground, in the action, and not a hundred percent safe.

The big talk around this movie is that it could be Leo’s Oscar movie and, though it is great, I don’t want him winning an Oscar just because he ate bison liver. Performance-wise he is his usual outstanding and his haunted, determined Glass is an incredible character, and if the run up to the Oscars focused on that instead of the hardships he endured making the movie I would be more excited by the prospect of him winning.

Overall, a tremendous movie that is full of gorgeous quiet moments and intense bloody violence.

A poem I like

Let me Die A Youngman’s Death

Let me die a youngman’s death
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holywater death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death

When I’m 73
and in constant good tumour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an allnight party

Or when I’m 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber’s chair
may rival gangsters
with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
and give me a short back and insides

Or when I’m 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one

Let me die a youngman’s death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
‘what a nice way to go’ death 

Roger McGough

 

Fiction: Write a story without repeating any words

First published August 2012

Déjà Vu

Our car skidded out from under me as it made a harsh turn around the corner on Firth Street. We flipped over, landing upside down beside several homeless men crowding about their fires.

Flames shone into my confused eyes before –

Tom’s Honda’s wheels screeched beneath his feet. He took some breaths and saw buildings ahead turning clockwise followed by smashing noises, crunching, dizziness.

‘This has happened already –‘

One vehicle spun through foggy air, fighting with gravity, losing, alighting loudly roadside. Driver spews out words, confusion.

‘Again.’

Automobile helter-skelters, finishes like turtle, back-laying, gives birth to operator who looks Munch-esque, wide-mouthed, passengers ignored.

‘Repeat.’

Ride spirals round, stops, emits shocked person.

‘Reiterate.’

Mechanical whirlwind, collision, muddled human.

‘Once more.’

Whoosh, smash, furrowed brow.

‘Final echo.’                

Crash, ‘Why?’

 

 

2016 Reading Plan

ReadyPlayerOne RD 1 finals 2

I don’t know why but my reading has really fallen off in the past few years. Actually, that’s a lie. I know why my reading has fallen off in the past few years. It’s fallen off because rather than reading before bed I usually find myself on my iPad or phone checking Twitter or reading IMDB trivia. I could blame it on my “busy” lifestyle but in the year I got married and moved from Turkey to England and then to Australia I read 100 books so it’s not an issue of being too busy to read. It’s just laziness and being easily distracted.

I have a great book collection that keeps getting bigger without me reading any of them. It’s counter-productive for a lot of reasons, especially as I find that when I’m reading I write more. I take inspiration from the books I’m reading in terms of style but also the fact that this book, the book I’m reading, got published so why can’t I?

In order to get back into it I’m setting myself a soft challenge for 2016. I have to read at least one book per month. It’s a pittance compared to previous years and my reading numbers but it will provide the structure needed to get me back into it.

Each book will be read and reviewed and reading two books in a single month does not count towards the next month. Also each book has to be a new book and longer than 200 pages.

January’s book is Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.

What I learned today: Sorbian exists

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I work at a foreign language bookshop. It is a crazy good job. My co-workers are great, my boss is great, my co-workers’ partners are great, my boss’s dad is great – It’s a whole thing.

I’ve only worked there for just over a month and so far I’ve learned about the existence of about five new languages I had never heard. We sell books for teaching and learning English as well as a plethora of fiction and language guides for  variety of foreign languages.

Today a customer put a guide to Russian, a Chinese dictionary, and a book about Persian verbs on the counter.

‘All for you?’ I said.

‘Yep,’ said the old man. ‘I’m going on the Trans-Siberian Express. My ticket’s free provided I can translate for my friends. We had the same arrangement in South America last year but I think learning Spanish and Portuguese is gonna be easier than this lot.’

One of my top five dreams is a trip on the Trans-Siberian. Days and days of train from China to Europe or vice versa.

‘That’s amazing,’ I said.

‘It is,’ said the man. ‘Oh, and I found this in the wrong place.’

He handed me a small green book: an English-Sorbian/Sorbian-English dictionary.

I looked at him, ‘I don’t-‘

‘It’s a Slavic language, there’s Upper and Lower Sorbian, it’s also called Wendian or Lusation. Upper’s more German and Lower’s more Polish. It was with your German section but you’d be better putting it with your other Slavic languages.’

‘…Okay.’

‘Okay. Have a nice day.’

‘You too.’

And that’s how I learned about Sorbian.

 

Fiction: The Recipe

First published May 2012

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The director counted down and the lights came back on in studio 6.

‘And we’re back,’ said Cole Flint, celebrity chef. ‘Now before the break I was showing you how to make mini quiche Lorraines.’ He turned to camera two. ‘Quiche her, I hardly know her.’

The crowd laughed and a few applauded.

‘Right, so in this part of the show we’re moving into main courses and this one is a doozy. I don’t have a name for this meal and it’s a sort of family tradition that’s been passed down from father to son. So first you’re gonna need to make a green salad. So the usual. A couple of ripe toms, some lettuce, bit of carrot, cucumber, celery and then whip up a dressing with mustard, balsamic, salt, pepper and a splash of lemon juice. Now once you’re got your dressing ready you’re gonna wanna leave that to one side and only put it on the salad a few seconds before serving.’ He held up a small bowl that he had mixed the dressing in then placed it to one side with a salad bowl.

‘So you’ve got your salad ready so now it’s time for the nitty gritty. First thing you’re gonna wanna do is get seven vials or seals like these ones.’ He pulled seven long glass cylinders out from under the counter he stood at. He placed them carefully in a stand in front of him. ‘You’re going to want to be careful with these because they each contain the Wrath of God. Now if you’re feeling a bit brave you can open the first vial and sprinkle a little of that Wrath into your dressing but be careful when you’re stirring it because if you stir too lightly it won’t mix properly and if you stir too hard then your first born son will give birth to a hundred two-headed serpents.’ He pointed to the vial furthest from the first. ‘Also as a rule don’t open the seventh seal as that will bring about seven years of war twixt Heaven and Hell.’

He pushed the stand holding the vials to one side of the counter. ‘Now for the next step you’re gonna wanna find a swan that is blind in one eye and cut its throat with the jaw bone of an ass. Collect that blood.’ He pulled a small plastic bottle from under the counter. It contained a thick black substance that was bubbling fiercely. ‘Your best bet with this stuff is to keep it in the fridge because if you leave it out in the kitchen and it’s a full moon it will make your house start crying tears of tar.’ He grabbed a bowl. ‘Now you take a normal mixing bowl and pour the swan blood into it.’ He uncapped the bottle and a sweet ethereal song emitted from the bottle mouth as the liquid thickly poured into the bowl. ‘Here’s a fun fact that song you’re hearing is actually a drowned sailor’s lament. It’s the song sailor’s sing apparently when they fall overboard.’ He cocked his head and listened for a bit. ‘Lovely. Right, you’ve got your seven seals waiting to go and your salad’s ready and you’ve got a bowl full of swan blood. Next the meat.’

He turned around and produced a large turkey, plucked and stuffed, on a platter. ‘So you need to get a very sharp knife because you need to cut out the turkey’s soul and slay its ghost all in one cut.’ He slashed once and the lights in the studio flickered. When they were solid again there was a small grey-brown cloud hovering over the bowl of blood.

‘Go on our website to learn the best method for soul stealing/spirit slaying stabbing tactics. So you need to pop this concoction in the freezer and because of its ingredients that will actually cook it. It seems like a simple recipe but it will feed a family of five comfortably. I served this to my family last week. On an unrelated note it was on that night that my wife filled a bath up with rocks and then shot herself in the neck. She’s making a full recovery right now.’ He turned and opened the freezer, taking out an identical bowl to the one sat on the counter. ‘Now here’s one we prepared earlier. Also if you make this dish you will not be able to use your freezer again as it will now have a broken heart and everything you freeze will taste like loss.’

He placed the dish on the table. It was the colour of darkness, ‘Another interesting thing about this dish is that if you look at it too long you will begin to forget what colours are and lose all memory of light and hope. And then just chuck your dressing on the salad and serve.’

The crowd applauded, ‘Okay we’re gonna take a break but after that its desserts time and I’ll teach you how to make a soufflé.’ He turned to camera two. ‘Soufflé her, I hardly know her.’

The crowd laughed and the director said, ‘we’re clear’ and the lights dimmed on studio 6.

Movies of 2016 #01 Obvious Child (2014)

(Rooks Nest Entertainment)

(Rooks Nest Entertainment)

I despise the movie Knocked Up. It has a creative team I love and a murderers row of great actors but it is so full of hate and misguided messages that it makes me ill just thinking about it. Ignoring the misanthropic parts the message seems to be that all men are children and all women are too serious and the only cure for an unwanted pregnancy is a happy family unit. By the end of the movie each character has changed their personalities and the two leads get together even though the only thing they have in common is a child they accidentally made.

This message that an unwanted pregnancy should be handled by the parents getting together is a common one and a dangerous one too. Sometimes an unwanted pregnancy occurs between two people who should not be together in the long term and bringing up a child in that environment usually doesn’t end well.

That is why a movie like Obvious Child is so refreshing. Jenny Slate plays Donna, a stand up comedian who, after a messy break up, ends up having a one night stand with Max which results in a pregnancy. Obvious Child does not even bother engaging in the idea of Donna keeping the baby as she is broke, single, unemployed, and not looking to start a family. She immediately realises that she needs an abortion and the biggest issue is the cost. The movie is not really about the abortion though, it’s more about Donna and her daily struggles and also about the way women and their bodily functions are handled by society. Donna’s first lines are all about the state of a woman’s underwear by the end of the day and the movie is filled with references to women farting, shitting, pissing, and having their periods that are delivered in a frank, honest, and funny way, much as the bodily functions of men have been portrayed in movies since forever.

A fantastic movie that is warm, funny, and unflinching, this should be seen by everyone and Jenny Slate should be huge star.

 

2016, the year I get back blogging

Hello and happy new year!

For 2016 I’m going to get back into using this wonderful blog. I’m not setting any structure, but I will try to post everyday whether it be some fiction, some pictures, some of my Audienceseverywhere.net stuff or some old stuff from when I first started out.

I’m looking forward to getting started!

Selfie at the top of The Shard

The Big Batman Read: Knightquest: The Crusade (in 202 words)

Detective_Comics_667

18. Knightquest: The Crusade (1993-1994) Multple writers, multiple artists

Knightsquest: The Crusade answers the question ‘what if Batman was created in the 90s?’.

With Bruce Wayne paralysed (and hunting for Dr Kinsolving) the mantle of the Bat is taken up by brainwashed sociopath Jean Paul Valley. Valley quickly alienates Robin, seals off the Batcave, and begins turning the batsuit into something from a Rob Liefield fantasy full of pouches, spikes, flames, and stupidity.

The Crusade serves as a reaction to trends at the time for more extreme, darker heroes like Spawn and the like. In fact some of the villains introduced (and quickly dispatched) during this run could easily have come straight from an issue of Spawn, and most of them seem silly and over-written.

The entire run has some very bright spots and as a parody of 90’s comics it is genius. It takes all the tropes at the time and shows how silly they are while at the same time still being a very readable book. It also finishes just as the joke begins to wear thin.

Now to see what Bruce Wayne was doing all this time while Jean Paul Valley was brutalising criminals in a batsuit that has something that Bruce Wayne’s never did: a motherfucking flamethrower.

Click here for The Big Batman Read Masterlist

Writing Historical Fiction

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here but I felt like I needed to complain about writing historical fiction and this is where I usually do that.

Why can’t history just fall into a nice three act structure? Why does it insist on happening in a completely real and organic way that is hard to chart on a graph and rising and falling action?

Okay, just needed to get that out of my system.

Anyway, how have you guys been?

History’s Hairdresser – Frankenstein

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Alright, mate, take a seat. Been in an accident have we, chief? Because of all the stitches. You don’t remember? Don’t worry about it, as long as you’ve got your health, eh? Whatever doesn’t kill ya and all that. So what’ll it be today? A trim? No problem.

Bit of a mess up here, mate. Looks like some of your hair is permed, some straight, some blonde, some brunette. Yeah, it’s a mixed bag. Been experimenting have we? My eldest is the same, one minute she’s got curly hair, the next minute it’s green. She says she’s trying to find who she is, and I said, have you looked under between the sofa cushions? Cos that’s usually where I find things. Yeah, she didn’t laugh.

Right, so you want this lot sorted? Okey dokey.  Looks like a bunch of different people’s hair all sewn onto your bonce, but that’d be mad. Ha! I tell ya you’d be better getting the whole lot shaved off and starting again. Actually, with all the stitches and the mismatched eyes and the grey skin, maybe a skinhead wouldn’t be a good look. A trim it is then!

History’s Hairdresser – Christopher Columbus

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Chris! Haven’t seen you in ages. You’re looking tanned, where have you been? The New World? Never heard of it. Oh, you discovered it? That’s ace. I’m jealous, sometimes I’m at home, the wife’s complaining about one thing, my eldest complaining about something else, and I just think to myself, I’d love to be transported to my own island, somewhere where there are no other people. I’d love that.

Oh, there were other people there. Did they come with you? They were already there? I’m confused then, Chris. If there were people there, how did you discover it? Yeah, but you can’t say you were the first person there when there were already people there. If I went to a party and there were already twenty people there I can’t then say, oh, I was the first person at the party, because I wasn’t.

By accident? That’s even worse. That’s like me showing up a party already in full swing that I wasn’t invited to and saying I was the first person there.

Oh, you’re offended now? In that case see if you can discover the door and get out of here.

Bloody explorers, think they bleedin’ own the place.

History’s Hairdresser – The Scarecrow

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Alright, mate, take a seat. Haven’t seen you around here before. Oh, Australia, I here it’s lovely over there. My cousin lives there. I swear everyone in England either has family in Australia or Spain.

Oh, I thought you said Oz. The Land of Oz? Never heard of it. How’s the weather? Sunny with flying monkeys? Probably beats the old two day English summer though.

So, just a little off the top? Right. This is straw. It’s not hair. Just cut the straw? No problem. I also notice that you have a mouse living inside of your head. Cut his hair too? Cut the mouse’s tiny hair?

Are you out of your mind? What do you mean you don’t have one? Okay, mate, if you’re gonna play silly beggars you’re gonna have to leave. Yeah, that’s right dance on out of here you burlap sack headed weirdo.