Google+ A Tangled Rope: 09/01/2008 - 10/01/2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Louise, Naked In The Woods

Louise eased her hands back down inside my pants and smiled at me. "Are you sure it's all right to do this here?" she said.

"Oh, yes," I answered as her hands began to move, slowly.

She licked her lips. I could feel the sweat beginning to bead my own upper lip. Her hands stopped moving. "Is this going to get pornographic?" she said.

"Well…." I smiled and half-shrugged. "I was hoping." I looked down to where she was lowering my pants with one hand, while the other hand resumed its slow caressing.

"It's just that I… I don't usually get this explicit, not on the first page," she said. “I usually like a bit of character development, a bit of exposition and plot setting, before I… well, y'know."



"You know what it's like these days."

"Do I?" She was nibbling my ear now, while her hands moved slowly.

"Yes… I…. Oh…."

She stopped. "Go on," she said. Her hands still held on to me, but they'd stopped moving now. She squeezed. "Go on."

"Well, it's just that there is so much competition these days."

She nodded slowly, thoughtfully. She stroked the tip with her thumb, slowly, carefully.

"Er…." I glanced down at her hands. "The written word, these days it has to compete with everything else in the market place. It has to attract attention; people are much less likely to spend time on something that takes up too much of their time without something happening. Do you see?"

She smiled. "Should I take my top off?"

"It might help." I smiled back as she pulled her pale yellow top up, over her head and off. She shook her thick curly hair, letting it fall back over her shoulders.

"Go on, then," she said, taking hold of me again.

I reached out with both hands. She took a step back, still not letting go of me. “No, not that. Not yet."

"What then?"

"Don't you think a bit of description might help?"

"What you mean your… er?" I made vague breast shapes in the air with my hands.

"Well, yes. After all - as you said - this is a written medium. Think of your audience… your readers, you owe it to them." She moved her hand, slowly, rhythmically, reflexively. "You could try describing me. All of me." She let her one hand fall to her side; she then moved it up slowly, caressingly, over her hip.

I swallowed hard.

"There is one thing?"

"Oh, yes," I said through suddenly dry lips.

"Just a suggestion."

"Go on."

"Fewer adverbs."


"Use fewer adverbs. They are supposed to be a sign of poor writing."

"I know that."

This time she stepped right back out of my reach. She stood, hands on hips, glaring at me. "I was only saying - that's all. There's no need to snap like that."

"I'm sorry," I said. I would have said it contritely, but then I remembered about the adverbs. I took a step towards her. She was looking down at the ground between us. I lifted her chin with my crooked finger until I could look into her eyes. With my other hand, I smoothed her hair back from her face.

"You do realise," she said softly - smiling ironically at yet more adverbs. "You do realise this has changed. It started out as a quick tumble in the woods. Now, by doing that with your hands, touching my face, you've changed the whole tone of the piece."

"I know." I could hear the apology in my own voice.

"Don't be sorry."

"But this is wrong," I said. "This was supposed to be a bit of action, something to get the whole thing off with a bang… er… as it were. Sorry."

"How do you know I don't prefer it this way?"

"I… I don't." It was my turn to look down at the ground now.

"After all, I am a woman… well… duh… obviously." She looked around at the trees. "You'll have to do something about this dialogue in the re-write. I'm starting to sound a bit corny, if not clichéd." She kicked at a few leaves and twigs. "Where was I? Oh, yes. Maybe, I - as a woman - feel better about it this way. You know, a bit of context. Like I said back at the top of the page, and I quote: I usually like a bit of character development, a bit of exposition and plot setting."

"But," I said. "Aren't we in danger of slipping into a genre there? The whole clichéd done-to-death Romance thing?"

"Don't say Romance like that."

"Like what?"

"Like as if it is in italics, a dirty word. Next thing you'll start going all Post-Modern on me, and start talking about the text with that in italics too. I know how much you despise that genre, and the kind of woman who reads that hackneyed tripe and the rest of that proto-feminist, pseudo-Marxist gobbledygook."

"Oh, come on. I thought you knew me better than that."

"Oh, yes. You're an Artist, aren't you? You wouldn't want anyone to think of you as just a mere critic would you?"

"Well, yes. I do have some pride, y'know."

She laughed.

"What? What?"

She pointed with one hand, while covering her mouth with the palm of the other hand. "You standing there, talking about pride with your half-limp knob hanging out. Talk about irony."

I resisted the impulse to cover my genitals with my hands. "What about you?"

"What about me?"

"You've still got your top off, remember?"

"So what?" She stood up, straight, proud and tall, her arms akimbo. She shook out the long black mane of her hair, so it tumbled down over her full, ripe, dark-nippled breasts. I have to admit she looked magnificent. A true Amazon goddess if there ever had been one.

She smiled, despite herself. "A bit… verbose… over the top… effusive even, I suppose. But still. I can't help but feel flattered. An Amazon Goddess? Really?"

I nodded. "Really. More than that, in fact."

"More than that, in what way?"

"Goddesses are just myths. You are real."

“Hang on. Remember where we are?"

"In the woods?"

"No, idiot, the story. How can I be more real than a mythical goddess? Take the page away and I disappear too."

"We're starting to get a bit po-mo again, don't you think? Characters becoming aware of their own fictionality?"

"Oh, that sort of thing has been around for centuries, and you know it. There's loads of it in Shakespeare, for just one example." She stared at me. "What?" She stepped forward and picked up her shirt. "Oh, I see. Getting a bit above myself then, was I? Knowing too much for the role I'd been cast in. I can see what you were really up to now." She shrugged her top back on, pulling her hair out from under it with some force and anger, until it was spread over and down her magnificent bre…."

"And you can stop that," she snapped at me. "I'm not going to fall for all that bollocks again. Amazon Goddess - shit. How naive do you think I am?"

"What? I don't understand."

"I can see it all now. This was never meant to be the opening for anything was it?" This isn't a first chapter. It isn't even a bloody short story either, is it? Is it?"

I looked away, through the trees. "No."

"What was it going to be then?"

I didn't answer. I just stood there. I realised my knob was still hanging out, but I suddenly lacked the energy to put it away again.

"Come on tell me, what were you going to do with this?"

I mumbled quietly.

"A what? A blog posting! How bloody low can you get? I thought it would be well, if not exactly art… that it would be… meaningful. That it would have some artistic worth… some merit. But instead, I end up in just a posting to a blog for you and those other no-hoper keyboard wrist jockeys in their sad little blogosphere to have a quick one off the wrist over, in-between reading yet more of the endless self-important deluded rantings of all the other petty-minded obsessives who hang out in there."

She turned to walk away. After taking a few steps, she turned to look back at me. "I'm glad I never took all my kit off for… for them. I'd have felt so dirty, so soiled." She sighed and shook her head. "Oh, and you can put your cock away now. It wasn't that impressive before. Now that it's wilted, it just looks so pathetic. Good-bye."

I did as she had said while she walked off down the path that led out of the woods.

"Bugger," I said, scaring a grey squirrel who had just ventured down from a nearby tree. It scampered back up the trunk and was lost in the foliage.

After a while, though, I could feel a smile forming. Maybe, I thought as I too began to walk out of the woods, maybe I'd call Louise up during the week. I'd just had a rather good idea for a one-off TV drama script, and with a body like hers, I knew she would be a big hit on the small screen. I began to whistle as I walked.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday Poem: Remembering

[Every Monday (until I run out of them), I’m posting a poem of mine that has fallen out from the submission process for some reason. In most cases, it will be one where I’ve received no response to my submission for at well over a year or more. Maybe the magazine I submitted them to has folded, the submission was lost in the post, or whatever. So, these poems can be seen as lost, orphans, of uncertain status, or something like that.]

These poems are also posted to ABCTales.


I remember such younger days,
and how beginnings were made to grow
out of what could be found nearby,
left within easy reach of childhood.
and what small clever hands could make
from adult loss and forgetfulness
with imagination still unlimited by the world.

I remember how big it was.
How large our small world became to us,
and how long it took to walk back
through long humid summer-hot evenings.
Returning slow through stilled twilight
with sore scabbing knees and filthy hands,
and a head full of endless possible tomorrows to come.

Friday, September 26, 2008

From The Archive: Community Service

From The Archive is a special Friday feature. It features posts from my earlier (now-deleted) blog: Stuff & Nonsense and a few items from previous versions of A Tangled Rope that I feel deserve reprinting here, mainly as a way of archiving them. The dates are only approximate, I’m afraid, and there is a possibility that some links may no longer work (although, I will try to remember to test the links before republishing the piece).

Community Service – 14-07-2005

A few thoughts inspired by all the discussion around the 'reasons for' the recent London bombings.

There is a lot of talk about the 'Muslim community' as if it is some kind of homogeneous mass. Of course, it should go without saying, that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are decent folk who just want a good, safe life for themselves and their families. The attacks, however, will probably cause a backlash, making these 'good' Muslims retreat further into their communities for protection - which, on the face of it, seems eminently sensible for them.

However, this is just what the radicals want.

The radicals exploit the naivety, the fervour, the 'wanting to be someone', 'wanting to make a difference', the youthful naïve idealism of those who they use - exploit - as suicide bombers, glorifying them as martyrs and other romantic images. There is an irony in the notion of the romantic hero - which is a staple of western popular culture - the western, maybe becoming an 'eastern' one too, where these 'outsiders' see themselves as a sort of Muslim Eastwood, Willis, Schwarzenegger or suchlike.

The radicals operate in the gap between the 'Us and Them' that this increasing polarization of even more 'communities' - which is the result of multiculturalism fragmenting societies into more and more (mostly mythical) 'Communities'. Not only that, each community is encouraged to see itself as a victim of some or other - real or imagined - slight or exclusion or conspiracy or vendetta or pogrom.

In order to get to grips with this problem it would probably be more fruitful to look at things like the Columbine shootings, European 'terrorism' of the 70s and the many other examples of young (almost invariably) men taking arms against society. Usually this is for reasons of self-identity rather than any real political stance, despite the justifications - if any - they themselves claim for their actions. Quite possibly, too, there is a link back through the drunken fights outside pubs, clubs and bars at closing time and football hooliganism too.

By turning their backs on Enlightenment values, the western democracies have squandered all the tools that can counter this nihilistic self-pity, leaving the field open to any quasi-religion or pseudo-philosophy, any half-baked notion. Turing our backs on the search for truth, on meaning, means that anyone can claim to speak 'the truth' from the established religions or anything else right down to the nuttiest conspiracy theory. They can all make their claims to be the 'truth' and cannot be countered in any meaningful way if 'all is relative'.

People desperate to find meaning will look for it - and often find it - anywhere. Without the tools for distinguishing what is good, what is real, what is true, it is hardly any wonder that so often so many fall into believing what they want to believe, or what seems to fit their unexamined assumptions and prejudices.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Remained Always Here

Look out across these wide-open spaces to where the horizon blurs the land into the sky. It is as far as seeing can ever go; to see the place where the earth meets the sky. And, one day, we will go there and touch the clouds that rest against the hillsides of distance and faraway places.

We have heard stories of faraway places from those who have walked such foreign streets and have worn the dust of distance upon their feet. We, though, have remained always here, where familiarity has seeped deep into our bones, so that our feet know every road, path and lane as well as we know the lines in each other’s tired faces.

We never took the chance to go to those faraway places, so now I can see that far away look in your eyes as you long for something to take you somewhere new. A place away from the familiar wearying routine and a place where you can find out what it means to be alive again. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Review: First Lady – Michael Dobbs

[Fiction - 2006]

The brooding shadow of that magnificently Machiavellian creation Francis Urquhart seems to hang over all of Michael Dobbs subsequent fiction, with nothing he has written since the House of Cards trilogy coming close to matching it. Despite that, this novel is still a great page-turning read.

With Ginny Edge, the central character of First Lady Dobbs returns to those corridors of power within Westminster once more. This time though we see it all through the wife of an MP, rather than the MP himself. This allows Dobbs a slight distancing from the machinations of the politicians themselves.

Dobbs never bothers that much with ideology, political theories, philosophy, or any of the dubious reasons politicians usually give in interviews for why they are doing what they do. For Dobbs, as we always suspected, for the politicians it is all about, power, ambition, corruption, backstabbing and political manoeuvring between so-called colleagues for momentary advantage rather than the great seep of historical events.

To Dobbs it seems that not only, as the old adage has it, does power corrupt, power also - in David Brin’s famous quote – ‘attracts the corruptible.’ Furthermore, the innocent are never entirely safe from this corruptibility. Ginny, a more or less innocent at the start of the novel is altered the closer she gets to power, as is her husband to a lesser degree. Even the novel’s only real innocent, the Somali refugee, Ajok – in what at first appears a sort of tacked–on social conscience sub-plot – is used quite blatantly by others to further their own particular purposes, often at her expense.

It is interesting that Dobbs doesn’t – as far as I can recall – ever mention which party is which, Edge is in the opposition party, probably the Conservatives, and the government party is – we assume – the Labour party because of its involvement in the Iraq war, but this is never made explicit. It is as though Dobbs - like the rest of us – now sees the parties as more or less interchangeable, without any great ideological divide between them, unlike back in the heyday of Urquhart. These days too, we don’t seem to get the great characters in politics, that Urquhart was meant to represent, now that the party machines work so hard to eradicate anything human from the personality-free androids and clones they put up as candidates.

It is a relief in these times when so many readers apparently want characters they ‘can identify with’ and other such puerile imbecilities, to have Dobbs’s nasty people running amok in the corridors of power like this, and to even get away with it to a greater or lesser extent on occasions. The only disconcerting note about this great read is that one cannot escape the feeling that deep down we do really know that this is no fiction. That we know the people who would wish to rule our lives are really – at least - this nasty, self-serving, egotistical, power-mad, venial and corrupt, but we still allow them to get away with it all, whilst claiming they are the servants of the people. But, as the history of every revolution has shown, any attempt to replace it with something better will only make it a great deal worse. So, all we can really do is keep an eye on those in power and expose them when they get up to no good, which is why it is not only good, but perhaps essential, that there are people like Dobbs around to open it all up for us.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday Poem: Stain

[Every Monday (until I run out of them), I’m posting a poem of mine that has fallen out from the submission process for some reason. In most cases, it will be one where I’ve received no response to my submission for at well over a year or more. Maybe the magazine I submitted them to has folded, the submission was lost in the post, or whatever. So, these poems can be seen as lost, orphans, of uncertain status, or something like that.]

These poems are also posted to ABCTales.


You stood there, in front of me
still with a desire I didn't deserve,
or understand, but only shared.

Your head bowed down
staring hard at threadbare carpet
where we had come together.

An insignificant damp stain,
so small for all it said.

You erased it completely
with one bare-toed foot,
before telling me to leave.

Friday, September 19, 2008

From The Archive: Staring Up At The Stars

From The Archive is a special Friday feature. It features posts from my earlier (now-deleted) blog: Stuff & Nonsense and a few items from previous versions of A Tangled Rope that I feel deserve reprinting here, mainly as a way of archiving them. The dates are only approximate, I’m afraid, and there is a possibility that some links may no longer work (although, I will try to remember to test the links before republishing the piece).

Staring Up At The Stars - 06/06/05

Alun in - the relatively new to me, but so far seems very good indeed- Archeoastronomy (old link no longer valid – newer site here) says this:

the people who are interested in Astrology are not likely to answer something that’s overtly scientific. What I’ve done is start a new vote on Mister Poll, Astrology and You which reads more positively to encourage pro-Astrology voters to take part. I’m interested in seeing why people take it seriously.

My guess is that it’s a narcissistic pleasure. It’s nice to think there’s a bit of the paper that’s about you, even if it’s badly written. *

Recently, I read somewhere - I can't remember where - that people who have just bought that particular model of car are the ones who pay most attention to the specific adverts for that car afterwards. Personally, I have no idea about that as I find cars only marginally more interesting than the people who are interested in them and I loathe all adverts on principle. But I do know that when I used to buy albums I would nearly always dig out the NME, or whatever, review and see if the reviewer thought the same as me about my recent purchase. The same applies - but to a lesser extent - with books, TV programmes, even films for many of us. I think we are looking for something like confirmation, agreement, approval even.

Maybe it is this sort of existential fear that things like astrology, and by extension, all superstitions - up to and including religion - are tapping into. There is an increasing realisation, as we grow older, of the tension between our individual self-awareness, and self-consciousness, which put us all at the centres of our own individual universes, and our actual contingency in an indifferent and unknowing universe. Rather than coming to the realisation that this means that each individual life is a precious thing, these superstitious folk try to create a meaning, a system out of the arbitrary, the contingent, the unconnected. They attempt to use this construction - either one of their own making, or more usually, bought off the shelf - to create a sort of extension to their own individual universe, by incorporating (necessarily arbitrary) aspects of the universe as a whole into it, using such spurious connections as the positions of planets and stars. So, they, like the car adverts, the reviews, the how much 'celebrities' lives are - at heart - much like our own nonsense, and so on create this illusion of meaning, purpose, direction.

I have the feeling that the rise in the irrational, the anti-scientific, the anti-western and this self-loathing guilt of the 'caring' liberals in the developed west, can all be tied - if only rather loosely - together.

The rise of the (everyone is a) victim culture has grown up alongside, and off, the self-help, self-esteem industry in a sort of symbiosis. The rise of our contemporary shallow culture is an escape from the difficulties of true self-exploration into the trite banalities of psycho-babble of the self-esteem we are all a victim pseudo-culture we now inhabit.

We now live in a world where the utterances of intellectual lightweights like rock stars and film stars are taken seriously, treated seriously - while true artists are ignored and scientists dismissed as nerds - for if film stars are, as Hitchcock avowed, cattle, then rock stars must be seriously dim sheep.

So we have the trivialities of celebrities and their inane lifestyles treated earnestly instead of any awareness and appreciation of those prepared to take part in the constant struggle to go deeper into the nature of the universe and deeper into humanity itself in search of real understanding.

Instead of taking arms against this sea of outrageous trivia, the intelligentsia, and the academy, has abdicated from its time-honoured responsibility into Post modernism et al, and its rather trite banal obsession with superficialities. Its mollified infatuation with the shiny surfaces of the products of the increasingly over-hyped but also increasingly hollow ephemera promulgated by the global entertainment mega-corporations, while also marinating all its glib pseudo-profundities in an over-whelming indulgence in empty rhetoric (purely for surface effect), makes it all tumble into self-parody and irrelevance. Just more tenured bores at the 'cutting edge' of nowhere taking nonsense to no-one but themselves and congratulating themselves for their 'courage' to do so.

They are no different from the astrology, alternative therapy, crystal-gazing believers. All of these things are just strategies for avoiding having to face the big questions. That is the purpose behind all these superstitions, a form of comfort in the face of a complex world. Personally, I have always seen religion as a cop-out like this - that there are things these people see as the business of the gods and it is not for us to poke our noses into it. But I believe ignorance is never the answer and to abrogate moral responsibility to abstract entities is to avoid the question of ethics almost altogether. A form of denial.

Religions, and the other superstitions, are not only a denial of wonder and a denial of meaning, they are also a denial of responsibility. So, being religious makes you less moral than not being religious, because like all these other superstitions, religions take the agency for decisions away from the individual person and gives it to some other 'more powerful' and 'mysterious' force. In which case even something as abhorrent as blowing up a bus full of schoolchildren can be made morally 'justifiable' because the voices from the sky (or the alignment of the stars, or your spirit guide, or your person crystal, or whatever you want to believe in) said it was all right.

So, excuse my snort of derision when you claim that the Your Stars column in you daily paper is 'just a bit of harmless fun'.

*I did look for a link to this original article on the new Archaeastronomy site, but couldn’t find it – sorry.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Secret Places

It is not quite what could be expected of us, so we do not go down to those places we still occasionally remember. They are not the places we hope to find again. We pretend there are no such places to find and that it is all lost and forgotten.

Anyway, the undergrowth has grown, covered those places we used to know. Those places have taken their secrets with them to other newer places for other younger ones, like the people we used to be.

We do not need the secret places any more; we can create our own world without secrets. But, looking back, we can see the vague shape of something we lost, and some choice we made that robbed us of those secret places where we first shared our own secret places with each other. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fragments: An Explanation

I often post pieces here that I label as Fragments. I used to divide these fragments up into fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose and label them here as such. However, such is the… well… fragmentary nature of these pieces that it is often hard to decide if they are fiction or non-fiction, or even occasionally poetry or prose, they are both and neither, all and none. Fiction and non-fiction and poetry and prose.

So, now they are labelled just as Fragments.

Consequently, if there is an ‘I’, a ‘me’ or somesuch in the piece, it should never be assumed that that person is me, or that the people, etc are real and the events depicted ever happened. On the other hand, it may all be true. Or, as is often the case, it may reside somewhere in that no-man’s land between the trenches of truth and fiction where we all seem to wander shell-shocked and confused, no longer knowing which side is which or who is really the enemy.

They are just half-completed semi-thoughts and observations that seemed important enough – for whatever reason – to write down at the time. If then they do have a purpose then it is as signposts, suggestions and ideas on the journey to somewhere, not final destinations, and should be best seen and understood in that spirit.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Review: One Good Turn – Kate Atkinson

[Fiction – 2006]

A road rage incident is witnessed by a queue of people outside a lunchtime show at the Edinburgh Festival. The novel weaves together the seemingly disparate stories of some of the witnesses, all increasingly interlinking as the narrative unfolds.

The characters themselves at first, each in their seemingly disjointed and episodic narratives, all seem like typical thriller stereotypes. There is the wife of an unscrupulous and unfaithful property developer, a wimpish crime writer, a single-mother policewoman with a son on the verge of villainy, and Jackson Brodie: ex-army, ex-police, ex-private-eye and – at first – almost a walking cliché.

However, Atkinson, with deft touches of characterisation, breathes life and credibility into these various characters and weaves together the stories wittily and masterfully, akin to the set of nested Russian dolls that feature in the narrative. Atkinson creates a novel here that succeeds both as a thriller and as a study of character through emotional drama that would put many a so-called ‘literary novel’ to shame.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday Poem: The Open Road

[Every Monday (until I run out of them), I’m posting a poem of mine that has fallen out from the submission process for some reason. In most cases, it will be one where I’ve received no response to my submission for at well over a year or more. Maybe the magazine I submitted them to has folded, the submission was lost in the post, or whatever. So, these poems can be seen as lost, orphans, of uncertain status, or something like that.]

These poems are also posted to ABCTales.

The Open Road

The silence of the night, so quiet
you can hear every tremble of your heart.
And the whisper of your wheels
on the rain-wet road are secrets
that just have to be shared.

Outside the car, the streetlights
flicker by like recalled dreams
and the half-remembered faces
from too many lifetimes ago.

Watch the lights from up ahead
as they weave through memories,
and stray thoughts falling down
slowly, but not as slow as the miles
that take too long to pass by.

Destinations, always travelling on.
A restless feeling, a searching
for something you cannot name,
or picture, or describe to anyone.
But deep in your unquiet dreams
you fear it could be called home.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fundamentalism and Freedom

Recently a few feminists have begun to question the status of women in societies where Uttabollux is the majority religion. Acting, they claim, according to the Holy book of the Uttabollux, Ladhifeah, the Holy men of Uttabollux (the Dhaftghits) state that it is the duty of all Uttabollux women to live their lives, from puberty until death, inside a cardboard box. A Uttabollux woman is only ever to emerge from her box if there is no man within a Farhahwahy

(roughly two miles) of her, and then only if it is the middle of a moonless night.

The men of the Uttabollux claim that this is because the mere sight of a woman would be enough to send a man mad with desire, or Lhoophifroot (literally: blind to the delights of his goat flock). Nohbrahin Re-Actshunahri, the Hibossmahn (High priest) Dhaftghit interprets the crucial chapter in The Ladhifeah this way: ''Other domestic appliances like washing machines, vacuum cleaners and fridges come in cardboard boxes, so why shouldn't women? Women are - it says in our Holy Book Ladhifeah - God's domestic appliance that he built specifically for men."

Some feminists claim that this treatment is degrading to women - making them little more than chattels or domestic slaves. For example in Uttabollux holy law - the Mhahdehupstuff (supposedly the direct words their God, Skhighhibhoss, dictated to the prophet Nhighel as he waited in a Post Office queue) the word of a women is granted less authority in a Mhahdehupstuff court than that of a man's premier goat.

However, other - more militant - feminists claim that rather than degrading women, life in a cardboard box is essentially liberating. Harpi Braindrain, a noted Harvard feminist professor of Cultural Studies, said recently that:

'living her entire life within the confines of a cardboard box frees the Uttabollux women from the tyrannies of the male-dominated hegemony. Unlike in the West where a woman is paralysed by having to live up to the so-called freedoms of choosing motherhood, career, independence, her own life, husband and so on, the Uttabollux woman is free within the confines of her cardboard box to be a total absolute woman, free from interference. True, her husband is free to beat, kill, rape, sell or mutilate her anyway he sees fit as long as he can claim that the Skhighhibhoss says its fine by him, but that is far better than the so-called 'freedoms' of the so-called 'liberated' West.'

Then our reported pointed out that as a woman Harpi Braindrain would not even be allowed near a university in an Uttabollux country, nor would she be allowed to have an education, a career, or even freedom of speech, movement, and association with men not of her husband's family. In response, Harpi Braindrain then called our reporter a fascist racist warmonger in the pay of the male-dominated Western media hegemony and called for security to escort our reporter from the premises.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Beyond Reach And Control

Can all those times past be left and lost as we are left alone and lost? Here, holding on to memories, the flotsam of a life left wrecked and torn apart by the savage storms of an indifferent world, we know better than to believe, fool ourselves, any more with design and purpose. But still we look for meanings and portents; a way to twist the future into a shape suitable for us.

The world lies outside of us, beyond us, out of our control, shaping us more than we can shape it, no matter how we try to make it bend to our separate or collective wills. The world will always evade our grasp, be beyond reach and control. We can only walk the paths of the world, while it gives us life and will take that life from us whenever it wants. 

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A Chance To Make Mistakes

The day begins and we try to stay hidden, out of sight, from the dawn. Here in the shadows we try to cling onto the night that brought us together, out of the crowds and indifferent strangers, here to this point. The place where we have learnt so much about each other’s bodies, but still remain slightly tentative strangers as the day reveals us to each other in its unforgiving light.

It is – of course – not the kind of thing either of us would normally do. We try to persuade each other of the uniqueness of a situation we both wished happened to us more often. Especially now, as youthful folly has long gone beyond regret into a more profound longing for any chance to make such mistakes, even just once again.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Monday Poem: How to Fall

[Every Monday (until I run out of them), I’m posting a poem of mine that has fallen out from the submission process for some reason. In most cases, it will be one where I’ve received no response to my submission for at well over a year or more. Maybe the magazine I submitted them to has folded, the submission was lost in the post, or whatever. So, these poems can be seen as lost, orphans, of uncertain status, or something like that.]

These poems are also posted to ABCTales.

How to Fall

I now understand how to fall
so that I can land gracefully.

I have perfected the small art
of how to lose with dignity,
and walk away with ease
without needing to look back,
not even once.

I had hoped that these talents,
however small and uneconomic,
would be enough to see me through
right to the end of this wasted life.

Friday, September 05, 2008


Here it is, another day. Well, I must admit, we were all quite surprised. None of us expected it. For quite a while now all the old certainties have been collapsing - as you well know. After all, none of us is ever likely to forget that day when it was realised that gravity was merely a part of that Social Construct of the Western Male Patriarchy called 'Science'.

Now, things no longer fall to Earth as they used to in the bad old unreformed days and everything floats as freely as possible. We are no longer bound to the Earth by the patriarchal dictates of the White Male Industrial-Military-Scientific Hegemony and all float free in perfect equality, whatever our gender, race, creed or political beliefs. True equality is ours at last.

However, I have heard malicious rumours that there are still some aeroplanes up in the sky, caught out on that day. Their crews and passengers - of course - all long dead as they circle the endless skies. Of course, they claim, no-one dares go up there to get them down, in case they too suffer the same fate. But, I think we can quite easily dismiss such talk as counter-revolutionary, and - equally - dismiss such notions of so-called 'proof' that 'they are clearly visible up there' as an unfortunate hang-over from pre-enlightened days. After all, what is 'proof', but yet another manifestation of the pervasive way that the old 'scientific' hegemony corrupted our natural - and therefore - pure and good right to see things the way we want to see them? Just yet another manifestation of that whole corrupting notion of alleged evidence, which is - as we all now know - little more than so-called science's ideologically corrupt propaganda.

It - of course - also has become a fair bit colder since the Earth began to wander off its orbit, and - as I said - days these days do tend to be a bit of a hit and miss affair. But there is no way any of us would go back - want, or need, to go back - to those bad old unenlightened days of The Dominant White Male Hieratically Imposed Semi-Fascist Ideology Of Science that so corrupted us all back in now what seems like another Dark Ages.

Now - at last - we are truly free, as free as the Earth is to wander the solar system and beyond, free to make up our own equally valid personal realities, and to never again suffer the indignity of occasionally falling over that once so distorted our self-esteem and growth potential as full, free and equal human beings.

[This also - I'm very proud to say - appears here]

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Entangled Histories

Now, here we are walking through the place where memories are hiding around every bend in the path. This is a walk through our history, together and apart. Live in a place long enough and it grows around you, entwining itself into your life until the world and you are together and inseparable.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Review: The Steep Approach to Garbadale – Iain Banks


A British family company, the Wopulds, built its fortune on a board – then later a computer - game called Empire. Now they are considering selling it off to the Americans. This can be seen as Banks building a sort of elaborate metaphor for Britain as the faded former imperial power and the world’s policeman, with that role now being taken over by the Americans.

The main character of the novel – Alban Wopuld – seems a typical Banks character, a person getting older but seemingly incapable of growing up, begins in a form of self-imposed exile from the family business, but is bought back into the bosom of his family to help decide whether they will indeed sell out to the Americans.

Alban’s obsession with a brief fling with his cousin during his teenage years is another sign of his inability to let go of his idealistically naïve teenage years when it all seemed so simple to him – us against them. Alban’s cousin – surely a link to the British/American special relationship where both countries regard each other and even call each other ‘cousins’ – Sophie, eventually moves to and becomes American. Plastic surgery is hinted at as her way of becoming even more American. The more American she becomes, the wider the gap between Alban and Sophie becomes. He loved her and believed that she loved him – a sort of special relationship, indeed.

The British Empire theme is further explored by having Alban wandering the globe and fetching up in various outposts of the former Empire, especially Hong Kong.

Alban is a self-proclaimed lefty. However, one who took business studies and then the corporate shilling - an analogy of ‘New Labour’, perhaps – working for the family firm, before resigning in a fit of moral indignation. Finally working as a lumberjack – maybe as a form of atonement – before damage to his hand forces him out of that and back to confront his family.

Alban is – of course – deeply suspicious of the Americans, the potential buyers of the family firm - and their claim to understand the ‘culture’ of the British company/Empire and to be standing for the same civilising values that the British once claimed for themselves. For example, near the end of the novel his rather trite anti-American ranting that would be embarrassingly skipped over when come across in a Grauniad CiF comment. It is the sort of behaviour typical of the teenage/young adult rant given by middle-class students who want to adopt the pose of the left-wing radical. Alban also spouts some of the left wing always good, right wing always bad, banalities that almost – at times - turn him into the clichéd middle-class lefty.

Many of the other characters seem crudely drawn too. For example, Win, Alban’s grandmother as a crude caricature of Margaret Thatcher seen through from a distorting left-wing perspective.

Maybe Alban’s failure to prevent the literal ‘sell-out’ to the American’s and his empty futile and cliché-ridden diatribes against the American’s are Banks’ acknowledgement – consciously or unconsciously – that the Left is dead - a complete failure, as philosophically and moral bankrupt as it is politically.

The novel features some brief first person interludes, at the beginning and end, by a character called Tango with whom Alban seems to spend his time, maybe represents the society created by Alban’s beloved Left in Scotland, welfare dependents existing in a drug and takeaway fuelled nihilistic squalor.

[Possible spoiler]

By the end of the book, Alban no longer lives in the squalor, sleeping on Tango’s floor where we first found him. He lives off in the posh part of the town, alone, but in a vague relationship with his academic girlfriend, which is another sign of the character’s inability to mature into something more substantial. The connection with Tango and his pals, has not entirely been severed, though, but Alban only occasionally visits, or is visited by Tango and his cronies (only on their best behaviour), which in the end is quite symbolic of the relationship between the remains of the Left – middle-class and insular – and the people they once purported to represent.

[End possible spoiler]

Not one of Banks’ best novels, but, however, that still puts this head and shoulders above a great deal of contemporary fiction and is – I think – well worth a read - recommended.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Monday Poem: Six O’clock

[Every Monday (until I run out of them), I’m posting a poem of mine that has fallen out from the submission process for some reason. In most cases, it will be one where I’ve received no response to my submission for at well over a year or more. Maybe the magazine I submitted them to has folded, the submission was lost in the post, or whatever. So, these poems can be seen as lost, orphans, of uncertain status, or something like that.]

These poems are also posted to ABCTales.

Six O’clock

All distance is a sweet lie
now the world is mere electrons
beamed from there to over here,
and disaster is only a switch away
where the world is always ending.

And those same dark eyes stare
into the camera and understand
just how fast the channels change
while they stand in cold mud
that was their only wheat field
before it became one more battlefield.

But this is not what is wanted.
We all know how the world suffers.
It is time to move on, and talk
about the agony of computing
and gridlock in the morning,
and how each paltry pay rise
collapses under the weight
of so many more bills.

What is the price of one more
bloodied dark black hand
raised towards the TV screen
when we already have troubles,
so many troubles of our own?