Archive for January 2013

Impulse

January 30, 2013

My friend had started a new job and he had taken to it like a smudge on a Polaroid print. All his colleagues are a good laugh and relations are great in the workforce, he said. The camaraderie is such that they spend a lot of their leisure time together as well. They had planned an evening out at a posh hotel. Eager to meet these funny, interesting individuals I asked if I could come along.

“But you don’t know anyone,” said my friend “ You’ll just be sitting in the corner laughing at all the jokes.”

He was right. It would be hard for me to integrate myself with all these strangers that were well acquainted. Still, I was feeling impulsive.

“I like laughing at jokes. I’ll sit in the corner. Please don’t deny me the chance to laugh at jokes.”

Reluctantly, he agreed and the big night drew closer. It probably wasn’t a wise choice of reading that I did before I went to the rendezvous. I read L. Sprague de Camp’s Conan the Barbarian novella, The Blood-Stained God. This is a sword and sorcery bloodlust tale that makes Titus Andronicus seem like a Sunday school play. There is total annihilation, Conan is the last man standing. (you won’t need to read it now).

With the confidence of a Cimmerian I strode into the hotel. Fashionably, I made sure I was late. A maitre d’ escorted me to the correct table. As I neared I could hear the raucous laughter of my friend and his new work mates; happy at work, happy at play. I announced myself to the gathering. They stopped talking and looked at me. I could see in the distance an empty chair which, obviously, is where I would be placed. What would Conan do? Conan wouldn’t sit in the corner.

An impulse came upon me again. I eyed the dining table. It was populated with all the culinary accoutrements that are customary: knives, forks, spoons, plates, wine glasses- which were filled, glass vases with freshly cut flowers. The first dish, soup, was in the process of being eaten by the patrons when I appeared.

I had to make a good first impression. This would be important if I were to have any future with these funny, interesting individuals. I wanted to do something I’d never tried before and that would bring the house down. The classic pull off the tablecloth trick.

“Everybody get your hands off the table” I shouted.

Grabbing both ends of the tablecloth I prepared to whip the cloth away and prove that Isaac Newton’s first Law of Motion works. The laughter had stopped as I whisked at the cloth.

2.1 The Escalator

January 27, 2013

800px-HK_TST_ISQUARE_mall_interior_UA_IsQuare_long_escalators

At this time in the morning the shopping centre was quiet. Ralph and Jeff walked at medium pace toward the escalator that would take them up to the food court. The escalator was exceedingly long and rose to a vast height. As they were about to step onto the moving staircase a man appeared quickly from nowhere and lunged in front of them. Ralph and Jeff stood behind the young man as they began the mobile trek upwardly.

Standing one rung in front of them the queue jumper had a hand on each of the rails of the escalator giving Ralph and Jeff no room to manoeuvre past him without contact. Ralph opened his palms in a “what the heck” gesture and Jeff pursed his lips while shaking his head. After what seemed an eternity of time and silence, the silence broken only by the driving mechanical noises of the device’s chains the three of them reached the end of the conveyor.

The food court had a variety of different outlets. After choosing their breakfast Ralph and Jeff settled down. Inevitably, conversation turned to the rude man that had jumped in front of them on the escalator.

“What about that man on the escalator?” was Jeff’s opening gambit.

“There ought to be laws and rules enforced on these things. Escalator legislation. Now I know our MPs are busy, still..” Ralph trailed off.

“What kind of rules?”

“The way I see it. Everyone should be made to walk on the escalator. Too many lazy folk just hop on and let themselves be carried away as if they‘re at the fairground.”

“It’s the way they’re brought up,” Jeff was speaking with his mouth full of food. “It’s too hard to change people’s mindset. They step on the staircase and Wa-Hey we’re getting a ride for nothing. Why walk when you can rest?”

“Well they should make these contraptions wider.”

“Wider?”

“Yeah, wider,” the food court was getting busier as Ralph explained his plan for new legislation he wanted implemented. “when you widen the space you can paint lanes. Lanes. There should be lane laws on escalators just like there is on motorways. The inside lane is for the slow-moving lazy vehicles.” he raised his eyebrows in jest at the word vehicles. “And an outside lane for overtaking. This lane is for the walkers. The walkers are the busy ones that need to get to their rendezvous quicker.”

“It’s not going to happen. None of these places has the money or the space to make their escalators wider.” stymied Jeff.

“But they should do it. I mean look at the escalators now.” Both of them looked over at the moving escalators. The up and down coasters were filled to capacity with plenty of bodies going up and down. They were all packed together rung to rung like human sardines and no one was walking.

“At busy times like this the lanes would come in handy for those that have important meetings and have to leave quickly. It’s just a uniform mass of bodies coming to and fro. It will take us ages to get out of here. It’ll even take some time to get on the escalator as there’s a queue of people waiting to descend.” Ralph slumped in his seat.

“There is another way.” said Jeff.

“I’m listening.”

“Now we are big fans of cop shows and we could use this knowledge to our advantage.”

“I’m listening.”

Jeff explained the detail. “There’s always a chase scene in these programmes. I know you love the car chases but forget about a car chase. We don’t have a car. Think about a chase on foot. The bad guy is running away pursued by the unrelenting, focused cop. Usually, these chases take place on the streets and in the pursuit fruit stalls get knocked over and mesh fences are climbed. Forget about fruit stalls and mesh fences. We can be specific and only do the escalator scene.”

“The escalator scene?”

“One of us pretends to be the bad guy and runs down the escalator barging people out of the way while the other one waves a card in the air shouting “let me past, I’m a cop”. The “cop” also elbows his way down the stairs. It would be the best parting of the waves since Moses. You would make a terrific bad guy, you’ve got that look about you. That Rutger Hauer look. I could be the policeman. Once we’re outside the building we just stop and carry on as normal. This is the quick way to exit this place.” finished Jeff.

“You are a genius. Oh no, wait a minute, you don’t have a badge or a card on you. How will the commuters know you’re for real?” fretted Ralph.

“Wait for it. I have my library card with me. In the ensuing panic no one will know what card I’m flashing.”

“I’m done eating. Are we ready to go?”

“Yeah, let’s do it.”

They both inched toward the downward escalator. Clusters of families and couples and single persons and a few pet dogs were bunched in their way. They stood static waiting for the right time. Memories of the school playground and images of the girls chanting as they swirled skipping ropes came back to mind. The remembered angst of the hesitancy of when to find the right moment in time to jump into the ropes and keep up with the rhythm was what stalled them for a moment. Ralph gave Jeff a nod and he was off.

Ralph grabbed an old lady by her shoulders and pushed her to the side. Then he jumped over some young children as their mother screamed. Now he was on the escalator and elbowing his way through the crowd. Frightened travellers cowered as he descended the steps. Jeff then made his move. Holding his library card over his head he followed the devastating trail left by his friend. Jeff shouted

“Everybody, get out of the way, I’m a cop.”

Their little charade was working. Those on the lower rungs of the escalator aware of the commotion above them made a path for Ralph and Jeff to play their game of cops and robbers. Ralph was now on the ground floor and Jeff, putting his library card back in his pocket, said to himself that we’ve made it. Unfortunately, there was an unforeseen circumstance.

The queue jumping man that was on the escalator earlier shoulder tackled Ralph knocking him to the floor. Drat, thought Jeff, a have-a-go hero. We didn’t bank on one of them.

“I’m making as citizen’s arrest.” said the man who was by now sitting on Ralph’s chest. A huge baying crowd had surrounded the helpless Ralph. Melting from the horde of vigilantes and slipping out the side door was Ralph’s friend and would-be cop, Jeff.

Try a little better

January 21, 2013

Video blogs are the height of laziness. The whole thing smacks of not having anything interesting to say and using the videotape as a filler. Some groups pad out their albums with filler tracks, that’s different. Under no circumstances should there be any reason to just post a video on a blog without any kind of text. Chances are if the viewer is familiar with the artist they will already have seen the clip or they might detest the group/solo performer and ignore the upload. It really is a shot in the dark when you think about it. What could entice the casual browser to come a little bit Clouseau? Trying a little bit harder, perhaps.

The punkish P!nk has always been a cut above her contemporary female singers. She is a musician and a songwriter. Not for her the easy way out with a bit of miming. The P!nk rocks! This recent single of hers is a frisky little rock ballad. For some reason I haven’t been able to watch the complete video. I get halfway through it before I, uh… finish. Don’t know what this phenomena is called. Prehistoric examination? Preliminary entertainment? Preternatural inclination? Premat…

Cast a long Silver Shadow

January 17, 2013
 

Bucking the trend in the stationary automobile market, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars made a profit last year. I was surprised to read that they did this whilst only selling 3,575 cars in the calendar year. Yet this figure represented the best sales in the company’s 108 years. Mind you their cheapest car starts at $250,000. No wonder their board members and customers are on first name terms. Valued consumers are invited to luxury days out at Rolls-Royce’s expense.


Rolls-Royce began life when Mr Rolls met Mr Royce in the Midland Hotel in Manchester. Royce was an electrical and mechanical engineer and started his own business. Rolls was a proprietor for a motor car dealership. Rolls got first billing in their partnership. I don’t know about you but it seems to me that Royce was the one that did the hard part yet he’s second fiddle. How much better would it have been to name their firm Royce-Rolls? At least one person not in the know would walk into their showroom, go up to the sales desk and ask for a roll and sausage.

There’s a long list of companies that should have their roles and their Royces reversed just for the sake of it: Decker and Black. Young and Ernst. Gamble & Proctor. Martin Lockheed. Mayer-Goldwyn-Metro (this way they can still keep their acronym) and finally, in tribute to Stan Boardman, Wulf-Focke.

As the luxury car market with its bespoke vehicles flourishes in the Global crisis spare a thought for the poor used car salesman. His lot is a full one. The sweet-talking, charming, snake-oiled, lying, misleading seller of Brand X motor cars is down on his luck. He yearns for the days of milk and honey and lots of money. It must be down-heartening looking at the roads outside his forecourt and seeing long lines of rollers scuttling past while his wares are unwanted. Then again, he is looking at pieces of beauty.

Radix malorum est cupiditas

January 7, 2013


All those 1’s and 0’s have wiped the floor with paper. Nobody writes letters anymore or would have the faintest idea the correct method to address them. E-books are challenging paperbacks in the book market. And diaries have gone the way of the glass milk bottle. The historians of the future will be reading the tweets of today’s makers and shakers. The final redoubt for paper was in that most important of arena: money. Paper money used to be worth its weight in gold. Now even filthy lucre is under attack. The only ones happy about this are the trees.

Before I get to the transformation of cash story I have a few monetary interludes to make. There has been many cases of automated cash machines at banks being faulty (That’s the digital age for you) and giving out more money than the recipient wants. In most cases it gives you double what you ask for. Word soon leaks out as masses of people queue at the ATM for this unexpected windfall before the bank fixes the fault or stations a uniformed officer over it.

I’ve never been in this situation and If it did happen to me when I was at the wall I wonder what I would do? An extra twenty quid would be handy… Still, after an almighty clash of the titans between the good angel and the bad angel on my shoulders I would return the excess cash to the bank. The right side is always right. “You’re the only one who has returned the money” would say the surprised teller. One of these days I’ll get a knighthood.

Another scenario which is a recurring dream of mine -and probably millions of others- is money raining down from the sky. Hundreds and thousands of the stuff is pouring on the populace. In my fantasy there’s crowds of people stuffing the notes into their pockets and down their shirts. I’m in the middle of the throng with a face as happy as days. Good times are now. The cold light of day sobers me up. I imagine Bulgakov’s terrifying Master and Margarita theatre scene where the devil gives the audience free money (and he offers the ladies new stylish clothes to boot) before, Hey Presto, the money vanishes into thin air (as did the clothes). What the Good Lord (or Satan) giveth…

Right, back to the paper money problem. It’s all Australia’s fault. For some years now the Aussies have been using polymer money as currency. This plastic money is more durable than its paper counterpart. The Australian dollar can survive an accidental washing machine incident. This sounds like money laundering to me. The Bank of England are contemplating a switch over. The days of paper are numbered but it is good news for the trees.

This new form of exchange got me to thinking. I have many old plastic appliances that are gathering dust in the loft: Betamax video recorders and tapes, Sega mega drive console, floppy discs, fax machine, fifteen toasters I got as a wedding present. I could melt these obsoletes down and make a fortune of counterfeit money. Oh well, there goes my Knighthood.

Australian tender is no use to me so in anticipation of the new British plastic sterling I will show you how to make some new mint twenty pound notes.

·Pre heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4

·Place the plastic appliance in a metal bucket at the top of the oven for sixty six hours

·Remove and leave to cool

·Beat with an electric hand-whisk until pale and fluffy

·Add sugar (come on, I like sugar) and whisk again

·Let product cool until it is ready to set

·Arrange ten thin paper (good old paper) rectangular cases on a tray

·Using a dessert spoon fill the cases with the melted plastic, smoothing off at the top

Done. The easy bit is filling in all the little details on the notes you’ve made: the security thread, drawing of the Queen and a couple of £20 signs.

It’s a piece of cake.

Lovecraft’s Chin

January 7, 2013

hp-lovecraftRand woke from a tormented sleep. Slowly, his senses awakened. His eyes told him that he was inside an unexplored cave. His mind became a book with pages  being flicked from cover to cover, the shuffling stopped when he recalled Shabbala, sweet Shabbala. His love for Shabbala was the one thing that gave him a will to live.

For days he had been lost in this wild cavern of shadows and cobwebs, wet ditches and inclines, crystal walls that could not be scaled, scents that burned his nostrils and, inevitably, strange creatures. Being chased by a territorial unicorn in such a confined space was a terrifying experience. Only a jump from a cliff into a, thankfully, just deep enough ravine saved him from the horn of antiquity. The water was full of leeches but Rand was happy for small mercies.

Markings on the cave wall were in a language that was undecipherable. Rand’s voluminous library at home, with its manuscripts from the six sides of the world, might have in one of the dusty, long forgotten alcoves a text that could translate the drawings and scribbled words that were fading on the rocky substance. Could the horoscope tomes of Eden or the theological treatise of Van Banner decipher this gibberish? He could not check as he was a long way from home. The signs and logos could only be the traces of an undiscovered species.

Dragging his feet through the bat guano that muddied the floor in a sickening puddle of thick black mucous, Rand scanned the ceiling expecting to see a bat colony. Licking his parched lips that were encrusted with sores a cup of bat blood would be refreshing. Yet the bats seemed to have deserted this sinking ship. Was this portentous? Craving Shabbala he hoped this was a good omen.

Rand saw an opening as a chink of daylight glared like a beacon in one of the upper levels of the cave. Using what was left of his drained strength he pulled himself up the crumbling plaster wall and breathed the air of the outside. The intoxication was short-lived as cries of despair were howling in the valley below. Cries that were inhuman in nature. Rand squeezed through the gap and saw for himself what was the cause of this sonic nightmare.

Below him in the undergrowth were some of the most monstrous creations that a grand designer could ever make. Half-human creatures with anatomies that could not be described shrieked at one another, yet they did not seem to have any mouths. The sounds were coming from within. There were no portals on any part of their bodies. Tentatively, Rand closed in on the inhabitants of this weird plain. To his surprise the devilish beings moved away from him. Something caused them to take flight as they kicked up the dust in a mad stampede to put distance between themselves and Rand.

The gentle flow of a stream was a gift from the gods to Rand. He filled his dry throat. His drinking stopped when he saw his reflection in the pool. He quickly turned away with his hands over his face hoping it was his mind playing games but a second look confirmed the worst. There, staring back at him was the ugliest form that a man could take. His features were completely asymmetrical. Rand’s tears dropped onto the surface of the water. Shabbala? His flower, Shabbala. What would Shabbala think of the monstrosity that was Rand?

Tear your Playhouses down

January 1, 2013

The flames of a wicker man was burning at the side of the road as Long Hair trail blazed along the freeway. He had no inclination to see if there were any human sacrifice taking place in the straw. Necking down on a bottle of Jameson’s he was looking forward to the next three songs on radio 666’s Metal Chainsaw show’s playlist. They would be-

Evile- Cult
Opeth- Folklore
Marillion- Grendel

Before the barnstorming trio could be heard through the airwaves, Long Hair found himself going through the space and time continuum -as can happen to any one, from time to time. He was transported back through the ages and landed somewhere in a stony place in Wiltshire. The grounds were populated by natives of the era. This was dangerous, thought Long Hair, even Dr Who said you had to be careful with time travel. One little minor change can cause the whole of history to be re-written.

“Greetings, stranger. I am the chief Druid” The ancient druid welcomed Long Hair to the bustling nightclub that was Stonehenge. The flowing robes of members of the ancient order were dancing around an arc of stones. The Stones were set in a perfect, circular order. Some of the more adventurous dancing druids had mistletoe above their heads and were kissing their cousins.

Ignoring the rousing family get together that was in progress, the newcomer said. “I’m thirsty. Have you anything to drink around here?”

“Yes, my good man, we have many potions. Try this, it’s our best concoction. We call it Hooch.”

Taking a pitcher of the alcoholic beverage from the Chief Druid, the parched traveller drank merrily like a drain. What goes down must come up and he sprayed the regurgitated mixture out like a stream onto the chief Druid’s face.

“That Hooch is garbage.“ was the visitor’s opinion. “Tell you what, druidy boy, can you make me some of this.” He handed the drenched druids man an empty bottle of Jamesons.

“Of course we can. We can make anything here. Won’t be long.”

True to his word, within minutes a huge vat of Jamesons was produced that was as good as the original. Long Hair dunked his face in the bowl and filled his boots up.

“That Pict can’t half drink.” said one of the partying druids. Long Hair lifted his head from the cauldron.

“Did you call me a Pict?” he asked the innocent lower order druid.

“Yes, I did. You’re a Pict, aren’t you?” repeated the half-drunk partygoer in a pleasant tone of voice.

History was about to be changed. An enraged Long Hair battered the drunken druids one after the other -they were all guilty by association- into submission. Not content with dazing the druids Long Hair became a kind of Samson -he still had his long hair, after all- and he destroyed their nightclub of stones. Not a stone was left untouched. But he still wasn’t happy so he picked a few of the big blocks up and placed them horizontally on two upright blocks to make up a selection of goal posts. Should have brought a ball with me, thought Long hair.

Stonehenge_02

“You’ve ruined our runes.” said the Chief Druid, coming back into consciousness.

“No, I’ve not, I’ve made them better. Only last week I tore off the arms from a statute and I was told it made it more ‘aesthetically pleasing’”

“You’re right. The place does look more distinctive.” agreed the Chief as he surveyed his new surroundings.

Long Hair pulled the robes of the druid and drawing him close to his face, with a fiery whisky breath uttered “How do I get out of here, wise man?”

Using a skeletal hand that had a large fingernail, the druid indicated. “The future is that way.” he said.

Loading the cauldron of Jamesons into the back seat of his car and breaking the axles in the process, Long Hair jumped into the driver’s seat. With his engine roaring he hurtled back to the future.