Monday, 31 March 2008

Monday 31 March 2008

I bought galangal
like bits of dragon spine, and
shrimp paste, like squashed shrimp

The A-Z of Rationalism

H is for Heretic (n.) Basically, heresy is the opposite of orthodoxy. This can apply to other systems of belief other than religion. Isaac Asimov distinguished between two types of scientific heretic: "Endoheretics are appropriately credentialed scientists. If the person is outside the scientific community or at least outside of his specialty, he is an exoheretic. If a person is an endoheretic, he will be considered as eccentric and incompetent, whereas if the person is an exoheretic, he will be regarded as a crackpot, charlatan, or fraud."
I imagine this makes me an exoheretic.

We had a quiet weekend. As is usual on Saturday morning I got up, blearily switched the coffee-maker on and settled down to listen to the CD review on Radio 3, which this week featured Philip Glass. The Ugly One snorted derisively at this as he considers Glass to have written the same thing for the last fifty years. He laughed out loud when the Philip Glass expert described repetition as being central to Glass’ work, and, to be fair, the UO has a point, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s anything wrong with developing an idea or concept for most of one’s working life. Chuck Close is an artist who is very much the visual equivalent, having painted vast passport-photo like portraits since the early sixties, starting as an extreme photorealist and developing into almost a human printer, building up portraits via grid sections, sometimes employing layers of cyan, yellow and magenta to produce the photographic colour process in layers of paint. One of his subjects in fact was Philip Glass.
‘There’s nothing wrong with repetition,’ I said to the UO as I sipped at my coffee.
‘Humph!’ he replied.
‘In fact, Philip Glass is the Columbo of the Classical music world.’
This also applies to Goren, of the US Detective series, ‘Law and Order: Criminal Intent.’ Goren and his female sidekick spend an hour investigating a murder with white gloves, q-tips and a hi-tech forensics laboratory, but inevitably, Goren, a man so tall that he has to put his head on one side to avoid bumping into light fittings, corners the suspect in the last ten minutes and psychologically bullies him or her into confessing.
‘It must have been tough,’ Goren might say to an initially calm suspect, ‘growing up with everyone calling you Fat Lulu and being abused with twiglets by the man at the sweet shop…’
The suspect’s lip will start to tremble at this point.
‘And so,’ Goren will continue, ‘you could not stand to watch your wife stuffing twiglets into her face day after day and that’s why you did it, didn’t you?’
At which the suspect will leap to his feet and scream ‘Yes! Yes! I killed her! I had to! All those twiglets! She was getting so huge! I thought she was pulling the moon closer with her gravitational field and endangering the Earth! She had to die! She had to die!’
The suspect then gets carted off to the cells and Goren and his lady sidekick exchange morbidly witty remarks.
Saturday evening I cooked Kung Pao Chicken (with peanuts) and we watched Saw II.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Friday 28 March 2008

the unbought present
and card glare at me somehow
from inside the shop

The A-Z of Rationalism

G is for God (n.) The generic name for a mythical being believed by some to have created the Heavens, the Earth and, well… us. These claims don’t bear very close scrutiny in the light of recent scientific theories regarding the age and beginnings of the universe, and numerous treatises on evolution. Irrational belief persists however, mainly due to the indoctrination of children at a very young age, forcing them to believe something that – any rational person has to admit – may or may not be true. As children grow, they learn that Santa Claus and The Tooth Fairy are mythical figures, but God (society insists) is real. This is a practice which, like child abuse, compels the then grown adult(s) to mirror this practice with their own children. Sadly, this is a cycle which shows no signs of being broken.

On the Tube the other day I sat opposite a father and daughter who were engaged in a heated debate over which Mummy was the better, Boris Karloff or Arnold Vosloo (who starred in the 1999 remake with Brandon Fraser).
‘But the new ‘Mummy’ has such fabulous graphics!’ said the daughter.
‘Boris Karloff didn’t need graphics,’ countered the Father. ‘He used acting.’
‘But didn’t you think the relationship between Brandon Fraser and Rachel Weisz was wonderful?’
‘What? ‘George of The Jungle’?’ said Dad, with a dismissive sneer.
I imagine it’s a generational thing. I’m getting to an age where I feel frustrated by the inability of young people to see what quality is. Maybe it was always thus, but I have a sneaking suspicion that things are getting worse. I have friend who refuses to watch black and white films because ‘they’re boring’ and I suspect she’s not an isolated case.
The question remains, however, who is the best Mummy? Is it Boris Karloff or Arnold Vosloo? there’s only one way to find out….


Thursday, 27 March 2008

Thursday 27 March 2008

rejections arrive
like unwanted relatives
with depressing news

Last night saw the return of ‘The Apprentice’, the show in which Sid James look-a-like, Sir Alan Sugar, searches for an apprentice to work in his multi-million dollar business empire.
Already there is at least one candidate who is causing me annoyance. This is Raef Bjayou, a man whose hair is as strangely arranged as the letters in his name. According to his CV he has ‘faced death many times’. With hair like that I imagine just walking down the street would be taking his life in his hands.
Thankfully, Sir Alan sacked the other general annoyance, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, not for the fact of his ridiculous name, which would have been suitable grounds, but because he priced fresh lobsters at £5.00 each. I suspect Nicholas is so encumbered with degrees and O levels he has never been shopping in his life, certainly not for fish anyway.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Wednesday 26 March 2008

i'm learning shorthand
again. it takes a long time
to learn to write quick.

Coronation Street has been somewhat lacklustre lately, but has been enlivened somewhat by young David Platt pushing his mother down the stairs. Sadly Gail suffered nothing more lasting than memory loss, but I imagine she’s used to this sort of thing by now, having had one husband murdered, another turning out to be a serial killer who drove the entire family into the canal, and now a son who appears to have sold his soul to the devil and who is continually forgiven and excused by his mother and grandmother.
Another strange storyline is that of the Connors (who all have hair so raven black that it sucks light out of adjacent rooms, even the sister-in-law, who isn’t related by blood at all), particularly Michelle – the one from Hearsay – who has lost her mind over the son who was swapped at birth in the hospital and has now returned, having grown up to be an irritating twat.
Everyone sees that side of him except his mother. I see a disturbing pattern forming here.
Other than that, the weather is depressing me. It is morbidly grey outside, rather like Audrey Roberts’ hair.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Tuesday 25 March 2008

getting out of bed
i carry dreams down the stairs
to feed to the birds

Our Festival of The Goddess Estra went quite well. The Wise Woman of Wigan came over to visit on Saturday, having given the SF Eastercon at Heathrow a miss. One of the featured authors there was a Ms Paigan Stone, a name unfamiliar to me. Having googled her, it seems she was sacked from a Christian School for writing vampire novels and selling them on t’internet, which seems a trifle harsh. Christians don’t really seem to have got the hang of this Christian thing at all, even after two thousand years.
Ms Stone is also a singer (a soprano, no less) and has performed in such exalted venues as the Gracie Fields Theatre and the Rochdale Classical Circuit, so I’m understandably well impressed by such credentials.
This suddenly brought to mind Nicholas Cage, whom we watched last night in ‘Ghostrider’. I’m wondering what first attracted the director to the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola as the lead role in this movie, but I guess it’s just the sheer overwhelming talent of the man.
‘Ghostrider’ is the latest in a long line of Marvel adaptations, although I don’t recall ever seeing the original comic.
Anyhoo, the Devil, played with rather apathetic menace by Peter Fonda, is looking for a new Ghostrider, i.e. someone who will sell their soul and become the Horned One’s messenger boy, courier and assassin.
Young Johnny Blaze (played by an actor who looks like he will never grow into the horse-faced bat-eared Cage) signs the Devil’s contract in order to cure his father of cancer, which he does. Unfortunately, his father – an Evil Knievel type stunt rider, fails to get through the hoop of flames and dies, leaving Johnny so full of angst he drives off and leaves his girlfriend standing under a tree with all her worldly goods in a circus bag.
Years later, Johnny (now with fully grown ears and the stretched face) has his own reputation as a stunt-bike rider and is now called upon to do the Devil’s bidding. He is told to hunt down Blackheart (the Devil’s son) and his elemental henchmen, who have escaped from Hell and need to be sent back.
Johnny can now transform at night into a skull-headed burning beastie riding through the night on a skeletal chrome motorcycle which sets fire to the road as he drives over it.
It’s not a bad film, although it would probably have improved immeasurably if a lead actor with some concept of energy had been cast. Cage seems to spend the film looking either confused or stoned. The character only seems to come to life, ironically, when he transforms into the CGI burning-skull-head biker.
Sam Elliott’s very good though.

Monday 24 March 2008

david pushed gail downstairs
but failed to kill her, so no
soap award for him.

Sunday 23 March 2008

walking the park is like
scraping chips from the freezer.
a touch desperate.

Saturday 22 March 2008

and tonight the cold
walks with us uninvited
to the restaurant

Friday 21 March 2008

I can get my
entire smiths and leonard cohen
collection on my mp3 player.
it makes me feel
like a suicide bomber.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Thursday 20 March 2008

holland park women
red faced, wearing camping gear
often with children

Easter is upon us again, and is, as I relentlessly point out to deluded Christians but usually and sadly to no avail, a Pagan festival, celebrating the Feast of the Goddess Estra, which is where the chicks, eggs and rabbits come in. Christians aren’t usually so fond of such potent symbols of fertility.
It is, I suppose, fairly logical that early Christians would seek to base their ‘Easter’ around the existing religion’s festival of rebirth, since the resurrection, symbolically, fits into that slot quite neatly.
Here in Britain, Easter is generally a quiet – and for the most part non-religious – break. We have the Friday and Monday off either side of the weekend which sees many people loading up their cars and heading off somewhere. The Ugly One and I have no plans as such. The Wise Woman of Wigan is coming over on Saturday to take us out for a meal to the Connie Francis Memorial Chinese Restaurant where we will raise a toast to Arthur C Clarke.
Otherwise I will be catching up with ‘Days of Our Lives’. Evil Rolf has fired up the machine which will activate the chip in Hope Brady’s brain, awakening the personality of Princess Gina, international jewel thief.
Meanwhile, Bo Brady’s cousin, Dr Colin Murphy (from Oireland) has arrived in Salem with his fiancée, Elizabeth, who is (and I use term loosely) British. When Dr Colin first arrived he was a chubbyish man with dark curly hair and an accent that migrated from Scotland to Ireland, past India and back via Birmingham. Elizabeth’s accent is even more difficult to pin down. Let’s just say she comes from the Stepford end of Chelsea.
Suddenly, overnight, the Doctor has – without the aid of a Tardis – regenerated into a spunky young spikey-haired man with another accent altogether.
‘What is that accent?’ asked Mary Wesley, enchanted as she is it seems, by fresh blood from abroad.
‘I’m Irish!’ said Dr Colin, ‘but I grew up in Britain and spent a lot of time in Austrarl-ya.’ There was no mention of Gallifrey, but then, no one seems to have noticed the Doctor’s remarkable antipodean make-over. Not even his fiancée, who spends her time whining about how unlike Bond Street the Salem mall is.
To add to the weirdness of it all, John Black’s son Brady, and the opera-singing high school student, Chloe, spent an evening singing and dancing selections from ‘The Sound of Music’ in
Mrs Wesley’s garden.
Salem is indeed, a far more mysterious place than I had previously realised.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Wednesday 19 March 2008

the trains keep running
despite people under the train
at seven sisters

I was very sad to hear of the death of Arthur C Clarke yesterday. A rationalist to the end, Arthur was a scientist, writer and hope for the future for many. Many years ago he envisioned the turn of the millennium as being a time in which organised religion was falling apart and the Vatican had gone bankrupt. Unfortunately, Arthur was an optimist and, like many of us, underestimated the stupidity of human beings.
‘Childhood’s End’ is probably my favourite Clarke novel, although I’m also very fond of ‘Rendezvous with Rama’ and ‘2001 – a Space Odyssey’ (actually my favourite film as well).

Friday, 14 March 2008

Friday 14 March 2008

a thin man looked up
from where he cradled thin air
like an empty child

I am glad to say that ‘Days of Our Lives’ has returned to British television, after having been so rudely dumped by Channel 5 just as Princess Greta von Omberg was the victim of an assassination attempt at her own coronation.
Unfortunately, the British ‘DOOL’ is seven years behind the episodes currently showing in America, so I was understandably confused when I recently visited America and discovered that both Belle Black and Shawn Brady had sprouted new heads. Unaccountably, Philip Kiriakis, who last time I tuned in whilst in the States had grown a whole new hunky body, head and marine haircut, has now morphed back to the same wet-lettuce body (albeit seven years older).
What are they thinking of?
For those of you were keeping up before, Hope Brady has a chip in her brain, implanted by Rolf, the evil German henchman of Stefano Dimera, which makes her think she is Princess Gina von Omberg, monarch of a small European province whose name escapes everyone, but is probably something that sounds like Moldovia.
Hope is now Hope again, but evil Rolf is planning to awaken the implanted chip again in order that she will be so confused that she will cease to investigate whether her baby was swapped at birth with the baby of a transient prostitute who was adopted by Stefano Dimera’s daughter.
Meanwhile John Black’s Golden Globe winning eyebrows are, I am glad to say, as mobile and expressive as ever.
I hope that when he eventually dies they will be surgically detached and placed on show in some prestigious soap museum.

Thursday 13 March 2008

outside sainsburys
he caught me. security.
snared with my own eyes.

I don’t know whether this happens to everyone, but life seems to get far more complicated as you get older. I blame choice personally. Human beings as a species are given far too much of it.
If I ruled the world, as Harry Secombe might have said, I would turn back the clock and restrict TV viewers to just four channels which might prompt the channels that do exist to actually produce quality programming rather than the cheap dross that passes for entertainment today. I’d also ban anyone from publishing an autobiography until they’re at least forty-five years old.
Last week, I went into WH Smith as I often do, just to check if their book selection is as abysmal as it was the last time I went in. Sadly, it was worse. Next to their biography section they now have a section entitled ‘Tragic Life Stories’, which must be a popular genre since there were at least four shelves of grim reading, penned by people who feel it necessary to share their life of abuse or their tales of being locked in the cellar and made to eat shoes, or how they faced life having had to hack off their own genitals when they froze to the side of a glacier hundreds of miles from the nearest human habitation.
Who reads this sort of thing? I don’t mean to denigrate the genuine suffering that many people have experienced in all countries and at all levels of society, but really, once you’re released from the cellar with the bootlaces still hanging out of your teeth, do you really have to rush to the nearest word-processor and write everything down for the benefit of the rest of the world. Surely all that will do is encourage more people to lock their relatives in cellars and feed them on trainers.
However, glancing along to the adjacent biographies section I could not resist taking copies of Jordan’s autobiographies and placing them on the Tragic Life Stories shelf.
It gave me a strange sense of satisfaction. I suggest you all do the same. I also regularly take The Bible from the reference section and put it under Fiction.