Competition (Chapter 1) “Happa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead

Not sure the last time I enjoyed a line as much as I did this one: They say they hate capitalism but actually they hate the overwhelming sense of unfair competition that the adults bury them in at the concentration camps called schools.

Storiform.com

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My phone is blasting Skullcage from my lab coat near my pillow. I’ve been spending nights in my Prius at the Beach in Astoria since Grandfather died. There wasn’t money enough for the house plus keeping James in Hawaii with his new shrink. This new guy’s actually helping my brother with his depression. It’s the miracle I’ve been searching for.

Talmage wants me to tell you this like a story, so take a look up through the glass of the hatchback at the stars while I find the phone. We don’t want this novel rejected in The First Fifty Pages for lack of a visual scene… or because I’m “breaking the fourth wall.” I bet there’s a rule against that somewhere.

Check out Orion’s belt in my Universe. It looks nothing like the arrangement of the three Egyptian Pyramids, but I have a warm feeling for the man who thought of the idea: Robert Bauval. That’s him in the picture above. I trust his…

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In Darkness

In Darkness is a Polish film from 2011, which recently premièred on BBC4.

Based upon the book In The Sewers of Lvov by Robert Marshall, In Darkness follows Polish sewer worker, Leopold Socha, and his efforts to conceal 12 Jews from the Nazis in the sewers of his home-town, Lvov.

You won’t be surprised – or shocked – to hear that the story is based on actual events. In other words, it’s a true story.

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, In Darkness received 17 nominations worldwide collecting 7 wins.

In the UK it received a ’15’ certificate  – hardly surprising given the nature of the film. However, certificates are insufficient it seems when a film is broadcast on TV. Detailed synopses plus explicit warnings are required. The BBC duly issued such a warning. And the warning made me think several things in fact, but primarily; why, when a film airs at say 23:00 hours is it necessary to warn viewers about its content? Surely the little ones are in bed? So isn’t it enough to say the film is about the Holocaust and it’s a ’15’?

Are we are so damn fucking sensitive we need to be forewarned at length about the film’s content?

No – I don’t think we are, and yet these warnings become ever more elaborate.

“Strong language now on BBC4 as well as some violent scenes and some scenes you may find upsetting, as an unlikely hero saves a dozen lives…”

I watched In Darkness. I scored it 9/10 on IMDB. It’s as good as Schindler’s List (1993) and The Pianist (2002). Better than The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008).

However, might I be so bold as to suggest a revision to the BBC’s lengthy synopsis-cum-warning for the sensitive souls out there, who cannot deal with all this 2D trauma and unpleasantness

“Strong language now on BBC4 as well as some violent scenes and some scenes you SHOULD find upsetting, as an unlikely hero saves a dozen lives…”

What I Talk About When I Talk About Sheep

Today I want to talk about sheep, not electorally ineligible royal Swedish testicle(s).

I therefore renounce my pledge. It was foolish of me to make silly promises I knew all along I would not keep.

But don’t forget, a lack of integrity is not a hindrance to writing. A lack of original material isn’t either or I would have given it up years ago.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Sheep.

Well sheep follow sheep and people follow people – Ergo – people call people sheep when they follow someone else’s lead.

Even the anonymity the internet affords does not seem to impinge on people’s unwillingness to stick their neck out. How many of us, let’s be honest, speak our own mind rather than ape someone else’s?

Despite large brains we often as not do the sheep thing. Follow. Not lead. Refuse to stand out from the crowd.

Sheep have small minds. Lucky sheep I say. And yet, unlike people they do no suffer from small-mindedness, it’s more that they have no concept of such matters as say, determinism versus free will.

Lucky sheep.

No free will. No option other than to keep their counsel. Play follow me leader no matter what happens.

Sheep might not know much about anything, true, but they know one thing for certain; don’t get separated from the rest of the flock. ‘Shedding’ as it is known in Sheep Dog Trials.

DAMN KANGAROO COURTS YOU ASK ME!

Like dogs, sheep are innocent, too. Neither moral or immoral. Incapable of wrongdoing all they want is to keep themselves to themselves and eat grass.

Shag occasionally.

Stick Together is the number one sheep rallying cry baaaaaah none.

A poor second and third; Keep Grass Legal and (more) Free Love.

The same goes for people I guess – not the grass and free love mottoes – but the notion of sticking together, not standing out from the crowd.

A Wild Sheep Chase is a novel by Haruki Murakami. It is probably a very good book. I haven’t read it, yet. No doubt I will one day soon as I adore Mr. Murakami.

He is a fine writer.

I have read several of his novels. Kafka On The Shore is my favourite to date although the better known breakthrough novel Norwegian Wood runs it close.

I have several more of Haruki Murakami’s novels to read and naturally I concede that there maybe others in his back catalogue I’ll enjoy even more than Kafka On The Shore. However, recently I read Mr. Murakami’s Dance, Dance Dance – the sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase, and didn’t enjoy it one bit.

Everyone, I reckon, should be excused one bum note. One off-key moment in an otherwise note perfect aria.

I excuse Mr Murakami.

I’m sure he’ll be mightily relieved about that.

His latest book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage sold something like a million copies in its first week on sale in Murakami’s backyard, Japan.

I am not the only person, you see, who loves the 65 year old former jazz club owner.

The man is a legend in his own lifetime.

Or lunchtime if in fact you were expecting a punchline.

He is also a very modest man- take my word for it.

Or better still if you doubt my judgement about Murakami’s ego and imagine all this adulation has gone to his head, decide for yourself and read his very readable memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running or alternately read Dance, Dance, Dance if you suspect I have been fibbing all along with regard not honouring my pledge.

That I really am talking bollocks.

The King’s Loyal Testicle

A theme! A theme! My Esso 1970 World Cup Coin collection for a theme!

Invoke Shakespeare (Richard The Third?) with a cringe-worthy parody and no sooner than doth I orate doth I have it.

A theme worthy of such a coveted prize as the petrol station give-away.

Begin new blog where previous blog ended.

Which in this case would be Sweden.

Not as newsworthy a country at present as Scotland but topical enough given that less than a week ago Sweden, too, went to the polls. Returned its first Social Democratic government since 2006, when the Swedes witnessed the end of an unbroken thousand years of Social Democratic rule.

Of course I exaggerate. Nevertheless, the Social Democrats had been in power a hell of a long time and up to 2006 the result of a General Election was considered a foregone conclusion.

As predictable as the fate of any character played by legendary actor Sean Bean.

Sean’s character always dies.

No matter what the role.

They die.

And never of old-age.

Take Game of Thrones if you will.

INSERT JOKE(S) HERE

Sean is cast as Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark. Naturally, Ned’s demise is guaranteed early doors. Sometime during Season 1 the fantasy romp will be over for Mr. Stark.

Stabbed. Bludgeoned. Poisoned. Take your pick, you know the script writers have it in for him.

Hang on a minute. Is it possible that Sean Bean will for once in his life catch a break and survive the opening credits of say, Season 2?

Nah. There really is more chance of Sweden electing Mickey Mouse than ‘Beanie’ becoming a much-loved stalwart. A regular face. An old hand.

I’ll explain.

Sweden’s Social Democratic Party won the most seats in last week’s election. They forge a coalition with like-minded parties. Form a government.

The status quo is restored.

Social Democrats rule.

No doubt for another millennium.

The 2014 statistics.

1,932, 711 of the 6,290, 016 votes cast went to Stefan Löfven’s Social Democrats. He will be the next Prime Minister. Or President. Or whatever it is Swedes call their elected leader.

And yet the result could all have been very different.

I’ll explain.

Ballot papers reveal that Zlatan Ibrahimovic polled 6 votes. Donald Duck (Kalle Anka) weighed in with a very respectable 73 votes, well ahead of Jesus on 11, who nonetheless triumphed over Judas (1 vote) who no doubt voted for himself.

I’ll explain further.

Swedish electoral law allows for voters dissatisfied with the (21 in 2014) parties who stand for election to nominate their own choice. So long as that choice is eligible the nominated ‘person’ could in theory be elected.

The Swedish international football player Zlatan Ibrahimovic – whose genius was sadly missed at the 2014 World Cup due to the simple fact Sweden failed to qualify – was eligible, whereas cartoon ducks are not.

The King of Sweden (3 votes) is also, not surprisingly, constitutionally barred.

As is one presumes ‘The King’s Loyal Testicle’ (1 vote).

Testicles plural or singular are/is not where I would choose to end this blog for obvious reasons, and yet the Royal Gonad-for-PM question might well prove a crowd-pulling cliff-hanger on which to close.

God Bless You Mr. Vonnegut (and Mr. Haglund, too)

Dear Stone, a confession.

I trust you will forgive me when I tell you I’ve secured two more of your kind. Liberated them from Saltburn-by-the-Sea beach. Where you originated.

I see no good reason for this act to be construed as theft. Or any nefarious intent be implied about my motives. And of course it should not go unsaid; there are plenty more pebbles on the beach.

Believe me.

Furthermore, I contend that what I did does not constitute an act of vandalism and that from any standpoint, be it moral, legal, or cultural I am not guilty of any wrongdoing.

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Stone (front left) hanging out with friends old and new

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Stone’s kin awaiting liberation

By the way – in case you were wondering – ‘there are plenty more pebbles on the beach’ wasn’t a metaphor. It was a statement.

Of fact, it could legitimately be argued.

You may disagree, Stone, on the ‘…any nefarious intent’ angle – to which I would respond with a sleight of hand:

Is anything ever a matter of fact?

Rarely, I think. Opinion is diverse – as manifold as pebbles on the beach – perspective is everything.

Is that a fact, perspective is everything?

No, fact is hard to come by. Take middle-age for instance. Can anything be done about it? What age is it exactly? Is it when you reach a half century? Fifty-five perhaps. Earlier.

Why not forty-three?

Or is middle-age when you realise you stopped joking ‘it’s all downhill from here’?

When the slide gathers momentum. Velocity. Ageing goes into free-fall mode. The bottom of the slope looms up to meet and greet.

“Look at you!” it says, “you’re not young any longer. Why, you are middle-aged aren’t you?”

And sadly all you can do is nod your head.

Still, I reckon forty-three is a good age. It was none too shabby a time for one of my favourite writers, Kurt Vonnegut.

God Bless You Mr. Rosewater got published the year Vonnegut said farewell to forty-two.

That was 1965. I was only two in 1965.

Ah bless.

In a later book, Palm Sunday – published in 1981 – a collection of short stories, essays and other writings, Vonnegut graded all his major works.

God Bless You Mr. Rosewater he gave an A. For Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle – my two favourite Vonnegut novels – Kurt awarded himself an A plus.

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Vonnegut awarded himself an A for his 1965 novel about a wealthy man trying to create his own utopia by essentially giving away his fortune, and attempts by those with a claim on his legacy to prove him insane.

I am at present listening to Antonín Dvořák’ Requiem and awarding him an A plus, too.

Requiem = A+

I wonder what Dvořák was doing when his forty-third birthday came around? Did he in fact register the onset of middle-age? Was there even such a concept in the latter half of 19th century Europe? I wonder, too, what life was like in 1884 the year he turned forty-three? Might Mr. Dvořák have treated himself on the occasion of his birthday to a visit to the seaside? Like myself, liberated a few choice pebbles from a secluded shoreline whilst walking the family pooch?

005

The famous Czech composer’s Border Terrier bitch relaxing back at the B & B after a long walk on the beach?

It is possible he did all these things and yet I don’t believe there is a record of any such jaunt.

We will never know where he went on his days off during his stay in England. What I can say though with some certainty – but not authority – his Requiem is quite something. A+ fare indeed.

The rendition I happened upon on You Tube has Krassimira Stoyanova performing soprano and Elīna Garanča, mezzo-soprano.

Another confession Dear Stone. Their names mean nothing to me.

To the millions of Classical music aficionados out there Stoyanova and Garanča are no doubt as familiar as Gus Gus is to enthusiasts of Icelandic Techno/Trip Hop/House music.

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Gus Gus 2011 Album, Arabian Horse

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A packet of cous cous

People like myself.

So I included them.

The history books do reveal that when Dvořák celebrated his forty-third birthday he travelled to England with his wife and was subsequently commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society to conduct several concerts in  London.

Had the Czech composer – on his days off – as we have established is conceivable – ventured north of the capital, it is not inconceivable he would have visited the seaside resort of Saltburn-by-the Sea.
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Yarn Bombing in Saltburn-by-the Sea, circa 1880

As I did last week.
Saltburn is a heck of a long haul from London. Still, had Antonín and his Mrs. got as far as the North East coast, then a mere eight miles or so further north and they would have found themselves – like I did – in Redcar. Famous most recently as the location for the Dunkirk beach scenes in the film adaptation of Ian McKewan’s World War 11 novel, Atonement.
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Sea front terrace used in the making of 2007 award winning film, Atonement, directed by Joe Wright

Redcar or Dunkirk?

In Redcar, unlike Saltburn, I have to report, Stone, there are few of your kind. The area thereabouts being devoid of cliffs, I am hypothesising, does not lend itself to stone and pebble conglomerates at the shoreline?

Neither do sea shell and shingle abound.

Frankly, I cannot arrive at any genuine scientific hypothesis to explain the purely sandy make-up of the beach there, but what I can say with some certainty is that the name Redcar is thought to derive from the Old English word rēad – which not surprisingly means red – or alternatively from the OE word hrēod meaning reed, referring to the low lying reedy marshland. Another interpretation suggests ‘car’ originates in Old Scandinavian. The Icelandic word Kjarr translates to scrub.

Reedy Marsh. Red Marsh. Red Scrub. They all work for me and yet I like the Scandinavian take best. Truth is, I love all things Nordic. Music. Writing. But not exclusively the arts. The Scandinavian way of life appeals to me. The landscapes. The people, too, of course.

Speaking of which I am acquainted through the medium of the internet with a Swede.

Tobias Haglund. A young man some way short of middle age. A writer of short stories, in English. Poetry in his native tongue.

He’s a very nice man is Tobias.

Funny. Thoughtful. Intelligent. Bi-lingual.

Young and handsome damn it!

Essentially, most things I am not or am no longer, or in truth, have never been, and yet, I discovered whilst corresponding with him recently on a popular social media website that I hold one advantage over him.

Just the one that is.

I have seen the TV series The Bridge (Bron/Broen). Witnessed every wonderful moment of series 1 & 2 of the co-produced (Swedish/Danish) TV phenomenon.

Mr. Haglund has not witnessed even one complete episode.

In jokes begin.

Tobias Haglund is not a believer. And that is not Hollow Talk.

In jokes end.

Despite Tobias (Swedish pronunciation he informs me: two – bee – ass) not being familiar with the charms of Saga Noren (Malmo County Police) and her Danish counterpart Martin Rohde, young Haglund assures me he is reliably informed that monologues from the series are to be incorporated into the Swedish national anthem.

Nice one 2-B-Ass.

~~~

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saltburn-by-the-Sea

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1733785/?ref_=nv_sr_2

http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2006/may/24/arts.filmnews

http://gusgus.com/

Dear Stone, Free your mind…

I wonder Dear Stone. I read and I wonder.

Not a day goes by I don’t do one or the other. Of late I have begun to wonder what would happen if I stopped reading? On the other hand I never consider what would transpire if I ceased wondering. That won’t happen. The ceasing of wondering that is. I’d have to be dead to stop wondering. Or in a coma. Or under the influence of an anaesthetic. And I am in none of these unconscious states.

When I wonder what would happen if I stopped reading I always conclude; nothing momentous. Nothing of the magnitude of a shift in the laws of quantum physics such that allows say (in theory) the Earth to take leave of its orbit around the sun.

Naturally, I know that to be the case. I am not a crank. Or a fool. Or indeed a Crankie. Heaven forbid. This is not The Butterfly Effect revisited. No, what bothers me is; if I didn’t read what would I do instead of reading?

I joked to my wife I could become a Pseudo-Buddhist. Sit in a corner all day and chant.

Ommmm.

She didn’t laugh.

I guess I am funnier on paper.

I beg of you: do not hold back on your laughter even if it is ironic in nature.

~~~

I was not reading when I wrote these words. Hard to read and write simultaneously. Wondering, yes, whilst listening to Debussy. One of those ‘best of’ ‘compilations you find on You Tube. An hour and twelve minutes long this one is. And before you accuse me of being elitist citing classical music, let me get this straight; I am a musical ignoramus. I cannot play a note. Or sing. I cannot read music. I know nothing about music. Only whether I like it.

I listen to all sorts but have by and large abandoned the popular music of my youth (seventies/eighties) in favour of what I call contemporary, which is in fact, by and large, stuff released this millennium.

Apart from Debussy et al.

I have a play list on You Tube I labelled ‘Contemporary’ that proves I am not just making this up.

I should say (in case you ever stumble across it) there are exceptions on this list. Not all of the tracks are strictly contemporary. Notably Funkadelic’s Free Your Mind, originated in another era.

Free Your Mind (and your ass will follow) the kingdom of heaven is within.

Ten minutes and six seconds of weirdness during which it is imperative you either, a) wear headphones or, b) sit facing your speakers situated equidistant from your ears, in a perpendicular fashion that is, to fully appreciate the phasing of sound back and forth between said speakers.

Some would argue there is a c) imperative but I won’t go into that.

‘Phasing’ was de rigueur back then, in 1970. I was seven in 1970. And six, too, before I turned seven.

Today phasing is old hat. And whilst everything with the exception of male mullets is potentially retro-fashionable, I am not aware phasing has attempted a comeback. I digress. Every conceivable style of music appears somewhere on one or other of my many play lists including the one I dubbed Contemporary, which is of course the most eclectic of them all as would become evident to you if you saw the others have titles such as ‘Jazz’ and ‘Folky Stuff’ and are not surprisingly less eclectic in nature.

More genres than you can shake a ukulele at. Alas, George Formby fans, nothing on there by the man himself.

I loathe the ukulele and try not to think about it. I do wonder however how the expression ‘shake a stick at’ came about?

What do you want to buy those for! You’ve more pairs of shoes than you can shake a stick at.

Why would anyone want to shake a stick at an inanimate object like a shoe I wonder, unless they are psychotic and then perhaps it would not appear such a crazy thing to do?

I am currently reading a novel by Adam Roberts entitled Stone. It’s an unusual tale. All of Roberts’ books are a bit strange. To say the least. This one however takes the biscuit. Another unfathomable idiom.

The narrator of Stone (who is psychotic and a murderer) addresses a stone.

Dear Stone. Did I mention Stone that…

In another of Roberts books – The Land of the Headless – the protagonist (and narrator) – in what is a first person narrative, has lost his head. I say lost, when in fact it would be more accurate to report his head was removed from his shoulders by force. When he was ‘executed’.

Fortunately for the narrator of the story (and the reader of course) his conciousness (as was his prerogative) got downloaded prior to his execution and subsequently uploaded into some facility grafted onto his central nervous system. A CNS minus the brain and the all-important vessel usually used for storing brains; namely a head.

The headless hero of The Land of the Headless must have saved Mr. Roberts a hell of a lot of writing time describing expressions, hairstyles and annoying ‘stage business’ such as picking his nose.

I should mention Debussy is through. Thank you Sir. It was a pleasure. I’m doing Sergei Rachmaninov now. The best of. Good stuff, but clearly not as talented as Debussy as the Russian’s compilation only runs to an hour and eight minutes.

Later on, as an antidote to these wonderful piano concertos I might just partake in a wee spell of Funkadelic. Free my mind. Observe whether my ass follows. Discover if the kingdom of heaven is within.

I doubt it but nevertheless I am prone to wondering am I not Dear Stone?

~~~

http://www.cduniverse.com/productinfo.asp?pid=6954740&style=music&fulldesc=T

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_%28novel%29

http://www.adamroberts.com/writing/land-of-the-headless/