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Today, nobody believes in reality. Fiction remains stronger than fact. All stories are true - satires in particular. Imaginary heroes are more dependable than the other kind, living or dead. Whatever you need is unavailable, so choose the brighter new tomorrows that you want instead. FAX 21 is a muse (news) blog-fest of science fiction concepts and fantasy ideas for genre enthusiasts. Paradox free since next year!


Thursday, 1 December 2011

ARAB SPRING -the board game.



Close followers of the hit Iraqi sit-com “Dictators” (see Fax 21 review here) may remember Saddam Hussein’s four loveable look-alikes playing a board game called “Arab Spring” in episode 7 of series 3. What started out as an in-joke on the part of the scriptwriters of the cult series, has now apparently materialised into a real board game made by Wadiingtons and available in the shops this Xmas.


Traditional board games seems to have taken something of a back seat in recent years due to the explosion in computer games sales, but Wadiingtons are hoping that the festive season will remind people of the wholesome social benefits of “real interaction” where children, adults and dull visiting relatives alike can find something in common to titter about, for a few hours at least while waiting for the turkey. Did I say Turkey? The designers have modelled the new game on old family classics like Escape From Colditz, Monopoly and Risk, and emulating the latter, have opted for a board which is a rather educational map of the middle-east/north African area. Each player gets to “go” a dictator, whose face-card is modelled on the original “Cluedo” avatars of Miss Scarlet and Professor Plum etc, except that this time the smiling faces above the black polo-necks belong to the likes of Bashar al-Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Controversially, Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is also there, and the deluxe party-pack version of the game includes full costumes that each player can dress up in. One for the younger kids perhaps, but what adult wouldn’t also relish the prospect of impersonating Colonel Gadaffi for an afternoon?



The aim of the game is to build up oil reserves, buy arms, exclusive residential properties in London, nuclear technology, and WMD (in that order). Like Monopoly, players must roll the dice and progress around the region (using little gold statuettes of themselves) and collect $200 every time they pass Mecca. The “chance” cards that one is obliged to pick up every turn include amusing eventualities like “Mossad commando raid, your nuclear assets are voided”, or “UN Weapons inspection, 50% arms reduction”, or “Pro-democracy riots, your assets are frozen by international banks”.


The ultimate goal is to achieve a critical mass of WMD then win the final asset of “Delivery System” and blow-up Israel, by means of a “Buckaroo” style Heath-Robinson gantry (the Arab Spring of the game title) that fires yours WMD spectacularly across the room while everyone wets themselves with laughter.


Like “Escape From Colditz” (remember that one?) there is even an equivalent of the “Appelle” card, the “Armageddon” card that instructs everyone to line up their pieces at “Megiddo”, a specially enlarged section of the Israel map and roll the dice for a sudden-death play-off.


Arab Spring isn’t as easy as it sounds, and players will need many hours of practice to become truly adept at hoarding power and subjugating their populations through misdirecting them towards hatred of their neighbours. My own favourite chance cards were “Geo-political shift, CIA commando team arrive to help bolster your regime against communists”, “Amnesty International report, lose three points of international standing due to evidence of torture”, “SAS team make botched landing, gain 2 points covert support from China”, “Three Kudos points: interview with Jeremy Bowen”, or “Four Kudos points: Hello Magazine wants your wife’s recipe for pizza”.


Many players will become overwhelmed by the all-too-frequent Pro-Democracy Riot cards, infiltrated by Al-Qaeda, crippled by international sanctions or a mixture of all three. Festival of Eid and Ramadan cards compel the player to miss a turn (Passover and Yom Kippur for the Israeli player). If Netanyahu wins, he gets to hurl his WMD at Iran.


Early signs indicate some negative press reaction, with accusations of poor taste levelled against Wadiingtons, but their marketeers have been quick to point out the US Military’s erstwhile use of a “deck of cards” to identify member of Saddam Hussein’s regime targeted for capture. “What’s the fuss?”–their spokesman Wal T Al-D’sni told me, “Every guy of a certain age still fondly remembers playing with his toy soldiers, even as wars still rage in the world. Life on earth is a sick joke, and until we admit that to ourselves, how can we hope to change it? The first step to recognising a joke was laughing, last time I checked…and ridicule in many ways has been the first nail in the coffin of each middle-eastern despot. These are the guys that execute you for laughter or spraying disrespectful graffiti over their portraits, remember, humour should be our weapon of choice…” he smiled then his eyes flared in a sudden flash of unexpected rage, “but who are you to criticise me anyway, who d’you think you are, dictators?”

Monday, 26 September 2011

Grain Trade Pegs

Even Before They Begin
Grain Trade Pegs

Prognosis Records PRA-158739

This final ‘chapter’ in the Single Currency trilogy approaches concept album theatrics just like the marketing–friendly publishing phenomenon of those overblown fantasy–novel sagas which influenced its origination five years ago. Grain Trade Pegs have not outdone themselves here, or done their pop career any favours - failing to commit like a kamikaze veteran. In a musical medium where common sense is as rare as rocking–horse shit, this album boasts gibberish lyrics, about proverbial goodness knows what, in such a freeform hypocrisy against visionary composition that deciphering meaning of any sort is problematic at best, an inducer of apocalyptic headaches at worst. 

New drummer Fatality Conundrum (formerly with Postcode War Zone, and Ultimate Restorative), brings her veritable cacophony of electronic percussion to a rock ‘n’ roll rhythm section that’s driven to distraction by nuke powerhouse bass guitarist Johnny Parallax (once upon a time acerbic front-man of Glasgow’s legendary ecto-punk outfit Indomitable Sprites), new champion of the indefinite riff and zinger of the lost chord. Lead guitarist and singer Roxbelle Dozer (whose twin sister Roxbeth, former guitarist with Blingdom Cum, owns Prognosis Records), is ably supported by keyboard player/ backing vocalist Goldie Commencement, maestro of hairy monster piano and bastard accordion, onetime Alternative Eurovision winner for composing the world’s greatest piano dirge, a noise later used as the theme tune for short–lived TV series Uruguay’s Got Talent.
 
Even Before They Begin is a Faustian compendium of broken promises, and reneged upon pacts, almost as ethically dubious as serving curdled milk preschoolers. Ground breaking as the proverbial pneumatic drill, first cut Reassuring Architecture is made of ore sum. Apostle Logic results in spreadsheet evangelism of mercenary preachers, highly reminiscent of the mostly agnostic band’s earlier antireligious material Still In Transit or Dog Almighty. A sporty cover version of Reckless But Pretty’s millennial #1 hit, Twizzlestick Delights marks a departure for the ’Pegs, going against the grain, so to speak, in more ways than one. Languid humour is not their usual musical mode, but here they trade-up from morbidity to mirth with a tremendous skill.

Airmail Viva Java is lyrical waffle; a companion piece to Maladroit Intellectual from the ’Pegs first Single Currency album - the much reviled Merely Beloved. There’s not a lot to be said in favour of salty tongue-twisting bayou jive in Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda, Rudder Judder Shudder, but energised pomp of Shot For Mooting offers a cautionary tale cataloguing the dangers of presenting legal problems in kangaroo courts. Raised By Wolverhamptons, could not possibly be any worse than it is, I suppose, but that’s hardly the point, really. It’s Easy To See Why lambastes any simple-minded reviewers who frequently assert their opinions as if such individual viewpoints are the only way to interpret a work, critically.

Venerable Forecast, Terrible Whispers contrasts markedly with Commodity Hugs & Thumb Sucking in the pandemonium stakes, much like the ’Pegs own alternative jazz foray, Vituperative Extracts. A firm favourite here is Dreaming Up, Dreaming Down - a gem of delinquent whimsy about the “fantasy of nosebleeds” and “myths of obesity,” which parallels this band’s all-time-great ‘signature’ classic, Ask Willy Wonka (heard at its very best in the ‘ta-ta 4 now’ remix). Waylaid Horizons is juicily funky, with its staged conversational exchanges of movie dialogue quotes embedded in the lyrics.

There’s certainly no mistaking the gruelling churn of Snogged To Death (Death Snog III, reprise) for any kind of love song, even of the sparkling vampire variety. No One Currently Likes This, offers a tirade against the faceless vacuity of social networking websites, bringing the ’Pegs assumed technophilia into question. Fiendishly complex or just a load of old cobblers..? Temporary Password is another track about people’s online presence and website activities – a largely satirical diatribe on impermanence, anonymity, and cyber–bullying. In the dark end, Even Before They Begin is wayward creativity unleashed.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

National Looto Live!




I’M SOCIALLY DISADVANTAGED, GET ME OUT OF HERE!
The government have today announced a new money-making scheme to get the sluggish British economy going, whilst simultaneously clamping down on recent civil disorder.

Teams of looters and protestors, and gangs of disaffected youths, are to be organised, trained and armed, then pitted against each other in televised pitch battles, the television rights for which will be sold to BskyB and CNN Sport.

Prime Minister David Cameron elaborated on the scheme at a press conference outside parliament, inexplicably dressed in a Batman outfit, with Nick Clegg attired at his side as sidekick Robin. As Cameron spoke, Clegg slapped his gloved hands together eagerly, exclaiming “Holy loopy looters, Cam Man, that’s dynamite!” Cameron explained:

The world-wide media interest in Britain’s recent rioting and looting has been overwhelming, and part of our “Big Society” ethos is to look for ways to make fresh opportunities out of everything, but particularly out of human stupidity, which is of course an even more reliable and inexhaustible resource than wave or wind power. Nick and I, as the lead caped crusaders of this government, have drawn up a scheme for a national three-round rioting tournament. 

First round is hand-to-hand combat, second is sticks, stones and bottles, the third will be light firearms and explosives. All play offs will be sudden-death and the final will be fatal, not a single man to be left standing. Instead of National Lotto, this will be National Looto, and the stakes will be life and death. Live mega-violence, the ultimate reality-TV experience, beamed into a billion homes around the world. Britain will become the live looting violence capital of the world, second to none. Just look what happened to Las Vegas when it legalised gambling. This one’s a sure-fire winner. 

Teams will include Tottenham-Molotov and Salford-Sackers, pitted against old favourites like G8-Renta-Riot and Ulster-Bigot-Boys. The winners in each round will win a chance of a pitch battle against mounted police units with water cannons.

 
Quizzed over possible venues for these spectacular events, the Prime Minister smiled broadly and produced a list of the nation’s football stadiums, while his excited sidekick floated the possibility of rioting and looting becoming recognised as Olympic sports events in time for the 2012 games in London.

"Easy chum….." Cam Man grimaced behind his black face mask, hand on the shoulder of his eager young crusader. "Isn’t that Commissioner Boris I hear on the big red telephone…?"

Monday, 15 August 2011

The Future Grave Detector

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Using the time-bending qualities of nechromatic rays, I am able to pin-point the precise funereal location of any man or woman on this planet currently on this side of the veil. When I have detected this terminal plot, I shall (for a modest fee*) at a time appointed by my client, stride back and forth across said deathly sward. By this means I can induce in my target that uncanny sensation we call:
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Our Founder
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Sunday, 26 June 2011

Thomas Jerome Newton - exclusive interview

The Scary Creep Who Fell To Earth

He was here way back then, he’s still here now.
The alien who fell to Earth, and stayed. So what
happened to THOMAS JEROME NEWTON since
DAVID BOWIE played him in the biopic
‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’?
At last, ANDREW DARLINGTON can reveal the truth
in this interview exclusive to ‘Fax 21’

‘There are secrets and lies. Then there are bigger lies. There is reality, and there is truth. Then there are scary monsters and super-creeps.’ In a darkened room, temperature at low chill-level, he folds his angular frame neatly into Louis Quinze velveteen-upholstery with all the grace of a long-legged flamingo. Behind him, a wall of silent TV’s swarm collages of squirming movement in a low-level luminous glow that outlines him to black. This figure is unable to see the colour red. But he can see X-rays. His exotic air of androgyny and his near-transparent ‘snow-white tan’ combine to betray his alien origins. He was the nazz. Now he’s below the radar. But he’s still here.

‘Yes, I am Thomas Jerome Newton, the Thin White Duke. On good days, my life is tolerable. I live by the ocean, and watch its endless rhythms. It’s something I still find wonderful. All that water. The stuff we hoard and ration on drought-stricken Anthea. So much of it here. I walk the beach, 198cm-&-a-bit tall. But I have long thin fingers with no natural fingernails, which makes it awkward, it necessitates prosthetic implants like translucent coins. I can also blend in by wearing false nipples. But having four toes means no sandals, and some degree of concealment. And my retinal membranes conceal screwed-up feline-eyes. There are traces of accent I work to disguise, the tendency to enunciate too precisely, too formally. Then there’s the weight of this place. The pain in my gravity-sensitive joints and the bird-frail bones at the small of my back. Caused by gravitational pull on my own slight weight.’

He has the sickly appearance of a consumptive poet. Look into his eyes and they are blue, but no-one’s home. For his pensive gaze is detached from his surroundings. And it took a long convoluted search to track this Cracked Actor down. His visibility is deliberately negligible. As though he’d like to come and meet us, but he’s afraid of the consequences. On both parties. He works by stealth, learned by cruel experience. ‘They say you can never be too thin, or too rich. I’ve been both’ he comments softly, in hazily dismissive cosmic jive. ‘There’s this idea about a twenty-first century person thrown back in time to the Paleolithic, and revolutionising Cro-Magnon society into premature techno-geekery. Except of course, it wouldn’t work out that way. Far from churning out proto-versions of micro-waves, iPods and Blu-Rays he wouldn’t cut it with the most basic survival skills. Without a lighter he couldn’t even make man’s red fire. He can’t program the DVD timer without the manual anyway, never mind build one from bits of sharpened flints. Cro-Magnons might take pity on him and toss him the occasional bit of Mammoth, because he’d be lost without the gastro-Pubs where he usually grazes. It doesn’t work that way. It works this way. You adapt to your environment before you can begin adapting it. Same with me. I’m here. I’m the twenty-first century person thrown back into Cro-Magnon society. Washed up on the reefs of space. Like Icarus, the boy who fell from the sky. And it takes time. I began with existing technology. Rudimentary baby-step patents, such as self-developing photographic film. That’s the way it had to be. I couldn’t leap directly into digital because the infrastructure wasn’t there to support it. So instead I tweak TV antennae and transistors, cheap junk-trinkets to amaze the natives. Ten-thousand years of Anthean technology to draw on, but I had to introduce it gradually. Through my ‘World Enterprises Corporation’ conglomerates. But that takes time. And time inflicts other changes.’

‘Trouble is, you can adapt to your new environment a little too far, making it less easy to begin adapting it. I live among clever, devious apes. A man surrounded by animals long enough becomes more of an animal than he should. Have I ‘gone native’? There are moments I think that’s so. I had Earthling pets, lawyer Oliver V Farnsworth who first negotiated my entry into marketing, Betty-Jo Masher who – loving the alien, introduced me to the numbing intoxications of Beaujolais and Gordon’s gin. And fuel-technician Nathan Bryce who was smart enough to work out my extraterrestrial origins. They age. I don’t. How human have I become? I’m not human. But human enough. Where do I belong? I no longer know for sure.’

This Space Oddity sips from a glass of clear water. His biographer, Walter Tevis, attempted two novelisation of his story, with ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ in 1963, then revised in 1978. More high-profile there’s Nicholas Roeg’s movie-interpretation (March 1976) with the ‘starman’ who whirled the soul played by David Bowie, and the novel’s plain Betty-Jo prettied-up as Mary-Lou in the luscious guise of actress Candy Clark. There’s even an MGM-TV pilot by David Gerber (1987) featuring Lewis Smith, Will Wheaton and Robert Picardo. They all cover the same span of years from slightly altered perspectives, but they all end with Newton’s extraordinary-rendition ordeal at the hands of FBI & CIA government agents. Hitting an all-time low. Since then, there must have been changes? He gives little more than an enigmatic smile. ‘I now realise how much brutality lurks beneath the face of your liberal democracy. I’d been too trusting. Too open. In time, my eyes regenerated. Slowly, over a painful period. But they did regenerate. For years I assumed the guise of ‘John Dory’, a reclusive hermit. A man apart. A Greta Garbo, Howard Hughes, or a JD Salinger. Now, chastened, I find it’s more efficacious to operate through shadowy behind-the-scenes manoeuvres, using entrepreneur front-men. So ‘World Enterprises Corporation’ operates more covertly, through avatars. I’d come so far. Achieved so much. But I was impatient, so impatient for more. These smart-chimps are so slow. So mired in their social-inertia. So intent on looting, plundering and irresponsibly over-breeding Earth into premature-extinction. Not all humans are insane. But many of you are. Enough of you. It’s also become apparent that, within the political dialogue about asylum-seekers and illegal-alien migrants, that I’m far from alone in my unfortunate predicament. The ‘Men In Black’ movie (1997) and its sequels – for which I acted as adviser, played it as comedy. ‘Alien Nation’ (1988) treated it slightly more sympathetically. Now there’s NBC’s on-going ‘The Event’ with its aliens interned in a kind of Alaskan Guantanamo. But yes, there are other extraterrestrial scary monsters and super-creeps here with their own agendas, which sometimes conflict with my own. Sordid details following… at least one totalitarian dictator I know for certain is a Sirian shape-shifter. A devious secret clique of Kreggari pod-people engineered the financial credit-crunch meltdown for their own acquisitive motives. My objectives are more benevolent.

‘For me, stage two of my project began with searching out Steven Wozniak. As with Bryce, I intuited potential. He was a high school drop-out employed by Hewlett-Packard, dabbling in computer-design, but with guidance, with nudges and prompts he had potential to inch it further. Yes, he would suffice. My networking also turned up his high school buddy Steven Jobs. He was with Atari, another project I’d nursed into being with low-grade gadget-toys. Through one-to-one tutorials they became my fine-tuned tools. With me as the third corner, the invisible partner injecting fairly basic Anthean upgrades – user-friendly interface, windows, drag-and-drop file moveability, and plug-in-and-play compatibility, evolving into velocity-engine and simple 128-bit-wide architecture, we went hot-tech start-up April 1, 1976. A slow development curve for me, revolutionary for the newly wired-world I’m stranded in.’

Behind him the wall of silent TV’s blare their chaotic news-feeds from around our troubled globe. Can he be trusted, can the words of this strange Man-Insane be believed? ‘That my initial mission failed is a tragedy, for us all. Now, it might be too late. Together we might have saved the Earth. I’m closer now. Closer to the next phase that will prod this monstrous, beautiful, terrifying planet another paradigm step towards my objective. If only things hang together long enough for me to complete. That’s what I’m most unsettled about. I fear this is a race we might lose. It’s a race between time… and time-out.’ He waves his hand dismissively. A pale ghost now, ethereal. Obviously tired by the exertion. Signaling that he’s winding down. He’s talked so much. Time for just one more shot.

So why are you divulging this now? Why grant this interview after so lengthy a silence? ‘Why not? Who will believe it? No-one will accept that this is not a spoof contrived to amuse. That this is not the desperate fabrication of a hack with an Apple lap-top…’

BY ANDREW DARLINGTON

For the full Thomas Jerome-Newton back-story check out the helpful DVD review of The Man Who Fell To Earth on the excellent VideoVista website…

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Dictators !

Dictators –Series One, -reviewed by Alexander Stark.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised about good television coming out of Iraq, after all its neighbour Iran has been a producer of award-winning films for the last decade. But who would have thought that the world debut of Iraqi creative talent in the post-Saddam era would be a sit-com? And what a sit-com!

The writers of “Dictators” seem to have avidly watched and digested the soap operas and situation comedies of America and the UK through years of repression and now their belated response is an eruption of free speech and irreverent humour.

The plot for “Dictators” is genius in itself: a household of four uncouth young men living together, “Young Ones” style in 1990’s Iraq, except that these men all share one unusual profession: they are each identical body-doubles for Saddam Hussein himself.

Current affairs, the invasion of Kuwait, Gulf War One and in the next series Gulf War Two: are all seen to take place casually in the background, as the constantly bored stand-ins watch television and compete and bemoan over who will be next to be given a public engagement role. The four characters, Hassim, Ali, Tariq and Youssef, all wear different outfits about the house, Goodies-style, expressing their wildly differing and ill-matched temperaments: Hassim is hugely patriotic but a bit stupid, Ali is obsessed with the secret police and conspiracy theories, Tariq is effeminate and lazy, lying around the house painting his nails like a supermodel, while Youssef longs to pick up girls but is conflicted over his parents Muslim faith, and more to the point basically shy.

Needless to say, hilarious and excruciating scenarios constantly unfold between these four, like when Hassim is selected to meet Gaddafi (making a special guest star appearance as himself in episode 7), but being too stupid to remember his lines has to take Tariq with him disguised as a woman. Tariq then gets embroiled in a lesbian scenario with one of Gaddafi’s butch female body-guards, leaving Tariq hopelessly exposed as the cameras start rolling. All works out well in the end of course, because Gaddafi is out his face on mescaline and totally bonkers.

Ridiculous schemes to blow up Israel using super-guns get repeated airing, Ali taking on the role of mad inventor among the group, his best shot seeing the four of them landing in The West Bank in light aeroplanes made out of toilet rolls and getting loaves thrown at them by Palestinian women in a bread queue.

The boys get roped into assisting at a biological weapons plant and end up growing extra limbs and heads, one of which looks like Dick Cheney, and spouts right-wing psycho babble.

Youssef, constantly sexually frustrated goes out on an urban babe-pulling mission with Saddam’s sons but is too embarrassed to buy condoms. On the strength of a television story about American troops using them over their gun barrels, he crosses the desert to negotiate and inadvertently brings about a ceasefire, on his knees, weeping, with his shoes off. The cameo role of Robbie Coltrane as General Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf (episode 9) at this point, is worth the DVD price alone, and rumours that Jack Nicholson has been contracted to play Donald Rumsfeld in Series Two are appetite-whetting to say the least.

Not since Father Ted, has there been so much fun to be had the expense of figures of dubious authority. Our four Saddams are never less than loveably dumb-assed, but always full of hilariously ill-founded hope, standing up at public gatherings and getting their hats shot off, and trying to score Speed off Chemical Ali.

The theme tune and end-titles are a joy in themselves: the tune from “Neighbours” sung in Arabic with subtitles: Dictators, everybody loves Dictators, with a small misunderstanding, you can meet a sticky end… That’s why Dictators don’t make good friends…

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Fly 3sum

Spoiler Alert!
After the final credits have scrolled, there's a teaser-trailer for the next cross-franchise movie... as cobwebs fill the screen, and the shadow of Spidery-Men appears.

Monday, 23 May 2011

It's the End of the World as we know it (and I feel fine)


A Pop Song on the radio? The prediction of a
deranged prophet? Or a new condition pervading the
multiverse? A special report from the CERN Large
Hadron Collider by ‘FAX 21’ correspondent
ANDREW DARLINGTON

A strangely volatile atmosphere pervades the plush PR suite of the CERN Large Hadron Collider. The kind of hush the tabloid hacks usually refer to as ‘expectant’, as the assembled multi-platform representatives of global media gather in feeding-frenzy mode. In truth, they’re mostly technical correspondents from academic journals and dedicated sites, anticipating the long-awaited announcement. High-profile in their limited fields, their numbers are swelled by popularisers from the more mainstream titles hoping for a sexy angle. As they sip complimentary wine, monitors and wifi’s are given fine-tuning tweaks and the panoramic glassed-in walls overlook the tranquil Franco-Swiss border countryside, with a few high white clouds in the sharp still air as dusk falls over Geneva. The first stars just visible. In every way, it seems very much a normal evening. The tall bespectacled Dr Harold Camping of the facility’s theoretical physics discipline opens proceedings with the deceptively simple prepared statement that the most recent particle acceleration sequences have finally yielded evidence of the elusive Higgs Boson, with data-files recording the creation of the nano-particle – and the release of related phenomenon, a condition existing for a billionth-of-a-second, yet confirming the twelfth-dimensional quantum nature of Einstein’s final enigmatic equations, and the teasing enigma of the Mass of elementary particles.

Invited questions follow the rapturous reception of the news, as events take a stranger turn. From the display of eagerly raised hands Camping stabs the air with his pen to indicate Ms Persson of the ZEN website, perhaps expecting an easy ride. She stands, brandishes her iTablet, and asks ‘in the statement, you refer to the ‘release of related phenomenon’. What is the nature of these phenomena?’ Camping hurriedly confers with his colleagues. ‘Dealing with highly exotic particles there’s an integral element of indeterminacy. What occurred happened within the same billionth-of-a-second time-frame, but involved the creation of spontaneous bubbles of micro-singularities that nevertheless set up a ripple-cascade of consequences percolating across, and annihilating a series of parallel or alternate continuums.’ There was a pause of perhaps ten long seconds of perfect silence. Then a low hum of confused comment. Camping makes as if to move along to the next questioner. But Ms Persson persists, ‘would these alternate continuums have been inhabited, and if so, would they have been aware of what was happening to them?’ Camping squirms in his seat, obviously agitated. ‘We are entering highly conjectural terrain here. If I can hazard theoretical data I’d suggest yes, each parallel universe is both superimposed on, and separated from each other, by the slightest step apart, like layers of an onion. Certain individuals are more sensitive than others, it’s not impossible some may have picked up advance tremors of what was happening. In all likelihood they would fail to understand what they were sensing, and interpret it through some simple superstitious belief-system. Now perhaps we can move along to another questioner…?’

There’s a scuffle at the back of the hall. Camping carefully removes his spectacles, and cleans them with a precise circular motion. But attention continues to focus on the tall ZEN scribe. ‘Dr Camping, if these parallel continuums duplicate ours so exactly, how can we be sure they’re not also carrying out particle acceleration experiments that will leak over and annihilate our universe?’ ‘Ms Persson, we can’t be sure. In fact, this might already be the case, and even now we are existing in a highly attenuated echo-state, which will only continue to become yet more tenuous.’ ‘You mean, as in the movie ‘The Sixth Sense’, we’re all dead but don’t realise it yet?’ ‘To a lay-person, yes.’ ‘And what can we do to stop this happening?’ ‘We can’t. It’s already happened. The Higgs Boson data is time-coded 18:00hrs on 21st May 2011. So it’s already happened….’

There’s a strangely volatile atmosphere pervading the plush PR suite of the CERN Large Hadron Collider. Outside, the stars are winking out…

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Apocalypse Postponed


Well, it’s official. It’s all over, folks. The supposed “End Of The World” and “Rapture” as heavily advertised by fundamentalist Christians, failed to happen on 21st May, and disappointment is palpable. Human beings and deadlines just don’t go together. Look what (nearly) happened with the Millennium Dome and most other Olympic stadiums constructed by third world countries… time ran out and we cocked it up. So why should Divine Beings be any different?



Usually as notoriously taciturn as Clarence House and the Vatican, The Press Office Of God was yesterday moved to release a statement, by the heartbreaking sight of thousands of disappointed Christians waking up to find themselves still alive:



“God wishes to express his heartfelt apologies to patient and long-suffering followers who were eagerly waiting to be obliterated on the advertised date of May 21st 2011, but due to excessive pressure of work we regret to announce that the Final Apocalypse has had to be delayed. This has already been a busy year, with Fire, Flood, Famine and Locusts (Yes, they’re back, a homely old-fashioned touch, hope you’re enjoying them? –G) all to be rained down on my disobedient and wayward children, and something just had to give. There’s also been a lot of so-called man-made disasters such as exploding nuclear reactors and massacres of political protestors, and it’s easy to forget that as Supreme Being, none of these can happen either without considerable logistical support from The Office Of God. It all takes up time. Nonetheless, God wishes to reassure the public that He remains fully committed to an ongoing programme of spectacular and wrathful demonstrations of Divine Power, and endeavours to meet all His deadlines on time, as regulated by the independent monitoring body “Off-God” who currently rate His efficiency on catastrophe delivery at 87%. Customer satisfaction is continually monitored under the Worshiper’s Charter, and heavy penalties will kick in for every ensuing week in which God continues to fail to deliver the Apocalypse. Of course, prayer rates are falling, and these penalties could eventually become spiritually crippling, at which point the contract for the Apocalypse would have to pass to another Catastrophe Provider, such as Lucifer. Customer complaint forms can be found at all local churches…”



So there you have it. The press has been rife with rumours recently, that with the discovery of habitable planets within the Gliese 581 star system, God may be being lured or head-hunted, for a new more lucrative position on a planet with more promising spiritual assets. Leaving Jesus in charge of Earth as an unelected despot unrecognised by Jews and Hindus would be likely to leave him with all the popularity of one of Gaddafi’s sons, and a recipe for unrest, so we’re on the horns of a dilemma.



The Archbishop of Canterbury, never one to steer clear of controversy, weighed into the debate over the weekend:



“I can fully understand the disappointment of Christians waiting for the end of the world yesterday, at finding themselves still alive. I know fresh air, good food, and the sound of birdsong in the morning, can be of little comfort to them, at this difficult and testing time. I can only suggest that they seek out other means to relieve themselves of their burden, and while suicide of course remains a sin, today’s world presents countless opportunities for putting yourself in harm’s way, for instance by becoming evangelists in Islamic Fundamentalist countries. Failing this, of course, in just a few decades in most cases, Nature will take its course, and can be hastened somewhat I believe by chain-smoking or living and working near a Nuclear fission reactor.”

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Bun Laden !



No sooner has the white-shrouded body of Osama Bin Laden, the bête noire of the West, “slipped” (they make it sound like a careless accident) off an American aircraft carrier into the Arabian Sea, than his image has been re-born as a marketing brand. Yes folks, you heard it here first.

New Pakistani burger chain “Bun Laden” look set to announce a major expansion of their highly successful franchise next week, with numerous new outlets opening in middle-eastern economies over the next six months.

Fax 21 caught up with their CEO Alza Wiri, during a rare break in his packed business schedule, over lunch at one of their flagship “Fatwa Food” restaurants in Islamabad.

Was expansion into America, Europe or the UK on the cards next, I wondered?

“Why not?” –He smiled broadly from behind his disarmingly vast Ray-Ban sunglasses, in white casual polo T-shirt and jeans. “Sure, Americans have problems with French Fries or Freedom Fries, but our chips are labelled Friendly-Fire Fries, and make an excellent side to go with our Jihadi Burgers and Semtex Quarter Pounders…

I wondered aloud if issues of taste would be a problem, as I admired the two life-size fibreglass statues of Bin Laden flanking the entrance, Planet Hollywood style: one in camouflage mountain-goat look, the other in white-robed prophet mode, both toting plastic AK-47s.

“Taste?” –he puzzled, thinking I meant flavour, before the penny dropped. Then he laughed: “But isn’t ridicule and high cholesterol food the best possible aid to stress-relief after a hard day at the office fighting the global War on Terror?”

For Dessert, he went on to explain (labelled “Operation Dessert Storm” on the menu boards), Bun Laden serves Afghan Opium-Browns (Hash Browns are seasonal and have to be imported from Lebanon apparently), or glow-in-the-dark Depleted Uranium Flurries, washed down with a large Coke Bush-Puppy).

“Think of all the work involved (any graphic designer will tell you) in establishing a new brand on the world market, but with Bun Laden all the legwork has been done for us already by a deranged mass murderer. Isn’t everybody happy? Why not just take something horrible like this and divert it into good food and fun, where’s the harm in that?”

“Relatives of the victims?” –I reminded him, as a little boy ran by kitted out with a sherbet-shoe-bomber pack and full-body suicide-burger vest. Or maybe he was just overweight.

“Okay, okay. Our flame-grilled Smokin’ Twin Towers double burger deal might have to go, but the Rumsfeld Rum Babas are here to stay.”

It was hard to argue with Alza Wiri, particularly when he pulled out a chocolate hand-grenade and lobbed it at me. Instinctively, I ducked, but the man behind me from CNN caught it in his teeth. “Man down” I joked, but everyone seemed to be cheering up already...



Saturday, 16 April 2011

Summer Of Guff


Summer Of Guff
The Paedophile Priests

Polymorphous Pervert Records

Review by Alexander Stark

The well-known phrase ‘difficult third album’ might well have been invented for the much awaited new release Summer Of Guff from controversial Swansea cult indie rockers the Paedophile Priests, but for all the wrong reasons. Just before Christmas, iconoclastic front-man ‘Bald’ Archie Canterbury was rumoured to have left the band to concentrate on his new side-project Joan Bakewell & The Tarts in collaboration with Des Lynam, Julian Assange, and a broken lawnmower, and drummer Tutu Bishop was arrested on drugs charges during a charity concert in Timbuktu. With guitarist Ike Davis in much-publicised rehab for model addiction after his public split with girlfriend Kate Moses, the Priests’ disarray and disintegration seemed complete and completely dismal.

But in characteristic style they have returned just in time it seems to re-take their place at the apex of Brit pop, enthralling fans and virgins alike with their usual blend of acerbic lyrics and ear-ripping aural bricolage. But did I say ‘usual’? Of course, nothing is ever usual with the Priests, and that is the essence of their power to shock and spring eternal from the jaded and dusty fountainhead that is the flagging heart of the British musical scene. Indeed, with the whole country on its knees economically, Summer Of Guff feels like the morale-boosting breath of foul air that we’ve all been waiting for.

As ever, instrumentation runs the gamut of invention: from detuned violas and retro-wrecked harpsichords, to eviscerated goats guts miked-up to back-firing motorbikes, didgeridoos and recordings of NATO night-time bombing raids. Particularly topical as events have subsequently unfolded, is Muammar Gaddafi (now how did they pull off a coup like that?) providing guest vocals on two of the tracks Oil, My Ass and: I Fly Pariah International. Despite numerous attempts at imitation over the last few years, no other band have even come close to the originality and influentiality of the Priests since their seminal release Father Tolled Me Off With The Bells, and its astonishing follow-up Get Behind Me, Satan.

The heart of every song is still Canterbury’s hauntingly ecclesiastical vocals and wry observations on the world, like a sermon from some sort of drunken Jesus who survived the cross, sold his story to The Sun then got busted by Interpol on his way over to Al-Jazeera. “There’s always time enough to repent/ Time enough to tell you what I really meant” he laments in the stirring Tony B. Liar’s Confession Cubicle, and after an appealingly vile zither solo from Ike Davis, he rounds it off with “Nail me to your floorboards/ I’m so sorry I made you cross/ Vote me a penance baby/ I’ll take the street and a dodgy doss.”

But the Priests save the best for last, with the last three tracks on the album amounting to an impassioned lampooning of all things Royal and British. Patriots beware. Prince Andrew Junket Junkie blows us sideways with coronation trumpets overlaid with the sound of yelping corgis (“No royal family members or equally dumb animals were harmed during the making of this record”, the sleeve notes helpfully tell us). Duke Of Anywhere But Here, mercilessly berates the Queen’s Consort with a meticulous list of diplomatic gaffes over the years: “Slanty eyes and golly wogs/ Swiss cuckoo clocks and Dutchman’s Clogs/ Prejudice ’gainst nations diverse/ I get my views from Taxi Drivers/ Closeted, moi?”

The Paedophile Priests are the urban troubadours of our troubled age, bringing an inane smile to even the most inane of our kingdom’s weary serfdom. Archibald Canterbury is a true poet of the modern world. I’ll leave you this from the magnificent closing track Organise Your Own Street Riot, in which we encounter the edifying spectacle of BBC Royal Correspondents Jenny Bond and Nicholas Witchell being entombed alive with the Queen Mother in the manner of an Egyptian Pharaoh:

In patriotic royalty haze
Street parties in the good old days
Were timed to set the minions free
To celebrate the Jubilee
Or even better when a wedding
Tabloid froth and see-through bedding
Diana’s fringe and Charles’ bald pate’s
Been swapped this time for Wills and Kate
Let’s all forget the nation’s fate
To watch two people copulate

Blessed by God as from above
He pours down cocktails Molotov
A recipe from Jenny Bond
Right royal advice to correspond
To Nick Witchell’s prime hot air
We wonder what he sees up there
Gazing up the royal pudenda
To postulate the day’s agenda
Two silly poodles we should have smothered
The day we lost the old Queen Mother
Sealed up like Pharaoh with her slaves
Alive inside the Dowager's grave
Endless commenting on putrefaction
We’d hate to miss out on the action.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Strange Currencies


STRANGE CURRENCIES
By Jake Elliott

Something is apparently happening to money. Not that we will notice overnight changes in the actual cash we carry, however, for the shift is occurring in the rarefied world of abstract economics. As Professor M.B. Drapier of the London School of Economics explains, "While there have always been alterations in the form money takes these are usually so slight as to give the illusion of stability. What it is suggested we are seeing now is quite different."

The earliest money is understood to be electrum coins issued in Lydia in Asia Minor around 4,000 years ago. The practise of substituting a representational artifact for all goods and services spread as the system of bartering became impractical due to increasing complexity and population growth. Precious metals - notably gold, silver and copper - became the accepted standard for hard currency (or 'specie') because of their durability, manageability and their steady use value which maintained an equally steady exchange value. This hard money became standardised sometime in the 7th century. By the Middle Ages 'credit currency' arose to obviate the need to move large quantities of coins involved in major transactions. The system of credit currency developed into paper (or 'fiat') money initially in China before France introduced it to Europe in the 18th century.

Standardisation did not emerge without alternatives to metal and paper being tried out along the way: more diverse types of money have been recorded at various times. Primitive cultures sometimes used a system of coloured pebbles as a rudimentary currency. Similarly, marked stones have been excavated in Egypt. The 18th century radical pamphleteer Noah Mounte describes an area of Bohemia in the Middle Ages using dog’s teeth as a form of currency, although this failed after the infiltration of other animal’s teeth into the supply, in an early example of Gresham’s law which states that bad money drives out good. Possibly the strangest type of money was the ‘dhun’ circulated by a Viking tribe: this was actually made from animal dung baked into bean-sized ingots. The tribe was apparently virtually wiped out by disease. "A possible etymology of the term 'paydirt'," says Professor Drapier, smirking.
What is changing with money now is a result of two recent innovations. Firstly there is the introduction of electronics into the money supply in the form of credit and debit cards, which means that the distinction between real and nominal money is superseded by the new category of 'virtual money'. The second, and more important factor, is the move away from the gold standard. When the dollar, the dominant currency after World War 2, was severed from the gold standard under Richard Nixon’s economic policies in 1971, international currency values became linked by a system of floating exchange rates. This decoupling from a real-world equivalent is the core of the problem.

Economic deconstructionist Galia Devoto suggested recently in her essay Buy By Cash? on postmodern perceptions of money, that “the unhitching of money from even the most symbolic of ontological manifestations may bring us to a point where money itself is ultimately abstracted out of the economic exchange cycle.” Others view this extremist speculation as of little value. Canadian economist Daisy Garside, a former colleague of Devoto’s who is now one of her fiercest critics, responded to this claim with an abrasive article called Love Your Money, in which she accuses Devoto of “scaremongering with scant regard for real facts and figures.” Garside asserts “we will always need money in our hands, whatever form it takes.”

Drapier concedes that the break with the gold standard has led to some curious and unforeseen effects that have only recently come to be addressed by researchers. He likens the upheaval to the inflationary crisis caused by the Romans’ sudden circulation of cheap money, or the similar problems experienced in Europe by over-issuing when paper money first became common. “There is more to discuss than observe,” he says.

Most widely acknowledged is the ‘black hole effect’. This controversial theory, first proposed in America over 10 years ago, operates in an incredibly complex area of purely abstract economics which some, such as Garside, claim is entirely illusory. The ‘effect’ suggests that as a consequence of the floating value, exacerbated by EU attempts to draw members’ currencies together, all money is gradually moving towards parity. Writers such as Devoto have elaborated the theory, postulating that eventually the hyper-liquidity resulting from virtual money, whereby finances can be whisked around the world and pass through numerous currencies in a matter of seconds in an effect called ‘fiscal osmosis’, will have a potentially catastrophic effect. As Devoto warns, “The inherent instability of virtual money, an effect of the white heat of technology and the instantaneous nature of electronic financing, has forged a sort of persistence of vision. The global economy rests on monetary values that are simply not there.” The prediction is that all currencies will become aligned in such a way that monetary value will become subject to rampant entropy and, in effect, buy itself out.
Professor Drapier responds to the idea with a smile. “Even advocates of the theory state that it can only happen imperceptibly slowly. Even if it is accurate it will be many years before we see substantial evidence of such a phenomenon.” Could it be true though? “Personally I don’t go along with it,” Drapier says, shaking his head. “I don't buy it, you might say.”

Monday, 4 April 2011

Portilloo

After years of extensive research, covering everything from cheek tendons and Botox-2 tests, geneticists of LabCentral’s biotech division, working with other experts at the famous Lightman Institute, have found a ‘definitive’ cure for Michael Portillo’s sneer. Now, with a special DNA treatment, the British politician (a Tory shadow chancellor) turned broadcast TV media pundit is expected to make a full and lasting (if not quite permanent) recovery from his unsightly and - it must be said - rather annoying facial condition.
On the mend after a successful psychic surgery in Wackhampton’s Clinic, in the heart of Wessex, Portillo himself was unavailable for comment (other than one disgustingly slurred ‘uhm’), but a spokes-flunky confessed that “everyone associated closely with” ‘RH Portaloo’ (the man who admitted that, since Conservatives lost the 1997 election, his name was “synonymous with eating a bucket-load of shit in public”), was pleased, at last, to finally be rid of his “insufferably smirking disfigurement.”

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Listening to Music and Silence

Album review: M.C.T.U - Listening to Music and Silence
RCA, 2011
CD, Download, Vinyl, pianola roll, braille



Alt-folk punk art rock collective M.C.T.U are reticent even by the standards of their beardy, duffle-coated skinny jeans and trendy shoes wearing genre. Early in their careers, they were known for playing with their backs turned to the audience, such was their disdain. Later they took to playing in another room from the audience altogether, and then in another room and with their backs turned, just for good measure.

Their first album – Owls (Murk) – was a critical hit in 2005, but largely ignored by the public, much to the band's relief. Their second album – 2006's Jeff's Nuthatch (Murk) – reached number 79 in the charts over the summer, and the band were signed by RCA. However, the band's creative powerhouse, Graham Sibley was still unhappy with their direction, and told NME in 2007 that recording and writing music was limiting to the band's musical potential.

This signalled the beginning of a hugely experimental period for the band beginning with their controversial Silent Album (RCA), released in the spring of 2008. While critics were initially unsure how to take the album, the public embraced it, helped along by the DJ Shadow remix of the track “Track Six”.

The follow-up - Second Silent Album (RCA) - was a product of the same sessions as Silent Album and is in many ways a companion piece, embracing the themes of lack of communication, alienation and stillness. The agony behind these tracks betrayed the creative rivalries that would finally destroy the band.

Saxophone player Doug Roper left the group and put out a solo album – Dreams of a Reed Player (Geffen) – of recordings of him asleep dreaming about playing the songs. It was a commercial hit, but critics and hardcore fans claimed that Doug had betrayed the M.C.T.U. ethos by snoring on several of the tracks, and at one stage loudly shouting “Not me Rover!” several times in his sleep.

Third Silent Album was recognised by critics and the record buying public alike as a failure, as if what had initially seemed such a deep and vibrant sound was suddenly just a blank CD or empty space on your iPod. For all his creative fire, Sibley somehow needed Roper's popular instincts to keep the music on track. The group fianlly disbanded in 2010 and Sibley is now rumoured to be a children's TV presenter in Canada or Australia (or perhaps an Australian/Canadian co-production).

This live recording captures them at their mercurial best, during their campus tour of the US in 2008 when they played in entirely different venues from the audience. The rocking energy of Sibley, Roper and the others resonates against the apathy and murmuring boredom of the crowds. This catches one of the most innovative bands of the noughties in their full, silent glory!

Bushfire Season

Supposed To Be Contagious
BUSHFIRE SEASON 

Agglomerate Music
bfseason.com
Review by Chris Geary

The band’s previous album, Let’s Not Do That Again, was a complete flop, even in those overseas markets where kitschy or awfully dated pop music styles are often successful. Now, under new management, and reduced from a five-piece to just a trio (their other band-mates having returned, perhaps disconsolately, to their respective day-jobs), Bushfire Season are very much in downsizing/ turnaround mode – but it’s clear, right from the opening track, that the process of reconsolidating/ artistic transformation still remains on-going... 

Synthetic Oysters is a rather twee composition awash with cutesy tones in a song that’s purportedly about virtual sex. Is it aimed squarely (and I use the word ‘square’ only advisedly here) at the Japanese salary-man end of the Asian market? Who knows, or cares? Myth Of The Good Cop concerns itself with amusing little pokes at stuffy academic texts: recently published intellectual diatribes against formulaic American TV shows by snobby critic Jandy Hutchbliss. While it’s patently obvious that “big city detective series as broadcast entertainment” are not actually causing the downfall of all US societies, there’s really isn’t much to be said in favour of them, either.

Just Chirrup, And We’ll Come For You, My Wee Bonny Lassie appears to be a spoof of M.R. James’ spooky fiction. However, it seems like the lyrics are inspired mostly by watching old BBC adaptations, not by reading the ghost stories. Oh, and it probably doesn’t help much that atmospheric rumblings in the background overuse echo chamber effects. Industrial grade pseudo instrumental Where The Fuck Art Thou? has - perhaps thankfully - nothing at all to do with Shakespeare.

Power Gossip is this obscure band’s contribution to a current barn–dancing revival in Wessex. Quaint jazzy riffs on Deficit Empire lambaste the British coalition government’s mismanagement of economic recovery from a grim double–dip recession. New Labour instigators of an almost nationwide ruin are further damned yet with faint praise, in Consumer Society Breakdown. It’s anyone’s guess what Butter My Iceberg is really about. Mentioning the ‘crystal magician’ of a ‘toffee republic’ applying ‘sardine brakes’ to a ‘piano coronation’ evokes only the absurdities of nonsense verse...

The lead ‘singer’ (well, the only singer, nowadays!) of Bushfire Season is one Daisy Pimples, who boasts a voice that can melt earwax at 50 metres, and grate even the hardest cheese known to man. For the band’s previous album, she bought bloody teardrops to many a listener’s eyes with some direly graceless warbling on tracks like Kitchen Zebra and Hairy Dolphins. Here, in solo control of the front–channel microphone, the sound is likely to provoke terminal migraines for any unfortunate sods in hearing range. What utter madness drove this particular Miss Daisy to the belief that she could actually sing? It is most perplexing. I hope this strange madness is actually not contagious.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Vermeer In Mirrorburgh

(The Search For The Last Unfamous Man)
“During the 1960s, I think people forgot what emotions were supposed to be, and I don't think they've ever remembered”. -Andy Warhol.


When an anonymous caller tipped-off the Mirrorburgh Herald, I eagerly agreed to join the press pack on their next big manhunt: the search for the last nobody. The word was out, a sighting had been made, the location vague but the media bloodhounds were onto a still-warm trail and it could only be a matter of days or hours until our helpless quarry would be run to ground.

Rumour was, he was some kind of intellectual, a classical music freak, a reader of books or maybe he wrote them. Who cares? He was odd and that was the point. Maybe he really would turn out to be the last weirdo that hadn’t had a documentary made about him. Well, we’d put that right soon enough.

There was all the surveillance footage to go through from the cameras in every shop and on every street corner. I mean the guy had to buy milk or drive to the corner shop now and again didn’t he? His fingerprints, his iris-scan, his DNA, his bank cards, his store transactions, driving licence, passport, health care – he had to need a doctor or a dentist from time to time, right? We’d find him, everyone was sure of it.

Andy Warhol. That’s as far as my Art and Culture go by the way. Saint Warhol said that in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes, and now that day has come. I’ve been on TV, you’ve been on TV. Hell, even my mum’s been on TV. Quiz shows, focus groups, street interviews, Big Brother, House Swap, Wife Swap, Changing Rooms, Property Ladder, A Place In The Country, pet swap, job swap, semen swap. Reality-TV-Presenter Swap. I’ll trade you Lawrence Lewd Bowen and some bad curtains for a diminutive dietician to rake through your faeces with a fork. Even my hamster’s famous. He has his own talk show. He lets all his guests just be themselves and really let their hair down while he runs around on his wheel and looks interested. My sofa’s famous, its photo is all over eBay. My penis is all over the internet too, but let’s not go there right now…

Back to our manhunt. The Search For The Last Unfamous Man had gone national and now there was a big clock ticking and bets were being taken. Pundits and precision-wafflers had been drafted into all the news studios to waffle precisely about precisely nothing, just as they’re paid to. Johnathan, you’re an expert on unfamous people, or at least you sat next to someone on a bus once who you overheard say they were an expert on unfamous people, so who do you think this guy might be and where he might be hiding? Well David, I was talking to someone off the record about this yesterday… Uhhhh… who were they Johnathan? Err, I can’t say David, they were off the record. And what did they say? Well I can’t remember David, because I didn’t record it. Well what can you say Johnathan? Well David, I can say that I was talking to someone off the record about this yesterday…

I could go on. They did. But we had our first lead on the second day. Story went our man had bought ten copies of The Big Issue from a homeless gentleman then burnt them all in front of him. The stunned vendor had asked him why and apparently he had said because you’re bloody irritating and now you’ll have to do something else all afternoon. It sounded like classic, un-mutual and free-thinking behaviour, the trademark of an eccentric. One of our reporters had been informed and an attempt duly made to follow and interview our subject, but when approached he had said he ‘shunned’ publicity – a dead giveaway that, using an old-fashioned word like ‘shun’, obviously a closet-intellectual. A TV reporter then caught up with him a block later and our fugitive had pulled the Reporter’s trousers down and shoved his microphone up his anus, quite literally. It had made great television for a rival station arriving on the scene, but in the general confusion and excitement our man had got away again.

But fortunately he’d let slip a vital clue before he disappeared: he’d said to someone that he didn’t even have a television. Absurd? A ridiculous claim, or a shocking admission? In any other case we would have presumed the first explanation but the more we learned about our man the likelier this sort of thing seemed. Now it would be a simple matter to turn the TV detector vans on his neighbourhood and flush him out.

Problem was, we discovered that TV detector vans don’t exist, they’re just a ridiculous story made up by the BBC to scare students into paying their licence fees. In fact they’re a plotline even more far-fetched than anything in EastEnders if you stop to think about it. So we had to invent a TV-Detector van, which delayed us for a full two weeks.

But sure enough, once we had built one and tested it we did a sweep of the whole neighbourhood of Mirrorburgh he had last been seen in, and after a couple of false alarms breaking into flats where lonely old people had been partially eaten by their own dogs, we stumbled in on our subject.

The room he was in looked very old-fashioned and stagey, but weirdly familiar even to an ignoramus like me. Chequered black and white floor, tapestries for curtains. Our intellectual fugitive, dressed in medieval costume, was seated at an easel with a paintbrush in his hand. He greeted us casually, scarcely looking up never mind getting up, then proceeded to enlighten us all without the slightest encouragement.


Is this a…? - I began to ask.

Vermeer Painting, yes, a perfect re-enactment of one of his compositions, in a replica of the studio in his house in Delft, circa 1668. Come in and sit down, I knew you’d all catch up with me in the end.

I would have sat down, but all the ornate Dutch chairs in the room were currently occupied by women in period costume who were suspiciously static: a milkmaid, a procuress, a maidservant, a woman in blue, a girl interrupted, a laughing girl, a girl reading a letter at an open window, and a girl with a pearl earring.

Are they…? I began again.

Dead, yes quite. – he drawled calmly, without stopping painting. Stuffed, taxidermied. I did it myself in the next room but only once I’d put down a lot of newspaper and got my parents permission.

Your parents…?

Yes, that’s them in the corner dressed as an Officer and a Lady At A Virginal, they’ve held that pose for the last six years.

Why do you keep…?

Finishing your sentences for you? It’s a cheap directorial device contrived to condense retro-narrative, but your copy editor will love it, especially if there’s pressure on feature length.

No I mean, killing, you’re a…

Serial killer, yes of course, and one of the best around, though I say so myself. We’re all on the government payroll these days. A good state-sponsored murderer can earn anything up to £150,000 a year.

That’s almost as much as the prime minister…

Well, he’s one of us, in a manner of speaking, and maybe the best of the bunch since he goes on getting away with it. You see, after the 2012 attacks and the introduction of biometric identity cards the murder rate fell to dangerously low levels in the UK. They hushed it up. The Great Entertainment Crisis it was called. You see, we humans like to pretend that murder is a really bad thing but 80 percent of our nightly televisual entertainment of choice is based around murders and ageing socially-dysfunctional police detectives trying to solve them. Don’t you see? These dramas are called gritty, but how can they go on being gritty if there’s nothing like them happening in the real world anymore? And of course serial killers have to be acting out pages of the bible, or moves on a chessboard or some such other far-fetched bollocks. It’s a tradition. I’ll let the police catch me next week and then British television will be good to go with another ten years of ludicrous-but-gritty serial-killer drama-porn. You’ll see. And you’ll thank me. I guarantee it. Face it, murderers have a socially indispensable entertainment role in human society. You’d be lost without us.

Then he eviscerated my friend and colleague Bob from the Daily Mail with a palette knife. I should have expected this, all the subtle clues were there in his little lecture, and after 30 years of watching crime dramas I should have seen him rising towards the chillingly gentlemanly denouement scenario. He was half way through taking my other colleague Philip from the Guardian’s left arm off, when Peter from The Sun shot our serial killer straight through the head with a harpoon gun.

Whoooah. What are the chances of that?! –I wailed, dripping with second-hand blood and brain tissue. Were you on the way to a Sub-Aqua Club or something?

I know, Peter grinned, admiring his handiwork (ear to ear) and throwing up simultaneously. It just goes to show you… He stuttered… – that maybe God himself is a really poor screenwriter and a cheap hack.

It was hard to disagree.

Before the police arrived, we went through Vermeer’s address book and found the names of the government’s other Entertainment Agent-Provocateurs: undercover commandoes sent out to cause weekly riots on inner city housing estates to make episodes of The Bill seem less ridiculous. Bisexual models sent out to insinuate themselves into the affections of engaged couples in order to precipitate last-minute cold-feet scenarios on wedding days, essential for soap-operas. Secret sociologists sent to train even menial hospital staff in stress-counselling and intrusive psychology so they can pry into their patients’ private lives in a style reminiscent of Casualty.

So don’t worry readers, we’ve got our teeth into something really big this time (our own tails/tales?) and this story is going to run and run until it drops from exhaustion and we all tear it to pieces. Your favourite bloodhound, you can rely on me.


*For the benefit of readers from foreign shores or the future: The Bill, EastEnders, Casualty, Holby City etc are long-running soaps or semi-soap dramas on British terrestrial television. Conceived to accurately portray real life, they have in fact each digressed over time, in pursuit of higher viewing ratings, into their own patronising parallel realities. Constantly discussed by every socially-acceptable adult under the age of 35 in buses, trains, and offices, they are thus a self-enforcing, self-fulfilling corrosion of all cultural values by the power of cliché. Their only conceivable ultimate outcome is the complete reduction of the populace to couch-morons robbed of the language with which to articulate their own emotional lives.

On the other hand, I have for some time harboured the hope that through some kind of televisual short-circuit the worst of our television will begin to overlap and consume itself in creative and spectacular ways. For instance while that American-spoken ‘House Doctor’ woman is busy tearing some family to shreds for their poor choice of sofa fabrics, Trinny and Susannah might burst in and begin attacking her for her lack of dress sense. The cat-fight moves out into the street where Chief Inspector Meadows from The Bill is driving by and accidentally runs over Trinny. They all adjourn to the accident and emergency wing of Holby City where a junior nurse turns out to be one of the miserable cast of EastEnders who overhears a private conversation about Meadow’s drink problem then begins to entrap Meadows into a miserable blackmail situation he can only solve by visiting the miserable Queen Vic pub and being leered at by everyone. Fortunately and as usual, the entire staff of Holby City appear to double-up as freelance social workers with time to burn who take to counselling everyone about everything, including sofa fabrics. (I first made this projection last year but it was then almost instantly pre-empted by the announcement of ‘Holby Blue’ an expansion of the hospital drama into a police side-series. Life imitating art indeed).

Thursday, 24 March 2011

ProFraction

Most Responsive To Change
PRODUCIBLE FRACTION

Condensation Records
profraction.com
Review by Chris Geary

Recorded in a hailstorm, this fifth clamorous album by uncivilised but semi-confident Uzbek bagpipe and cello rockers Producible Fraction, offers a sinister compilation of auditory pratfalls led by Barbary Flannels, whose reedy vocals are basically stand-up comedy routines instead of proper song lyrics, with only an unrequited attachment to tunesmith melodies, orchestrated largely by vagabond composer Kirks Pumpkinseed on the pipes.

Devilishly handsome drummer, Lobs Slantwise, makes his presence felt even in your transplanted bone marrow on the first track, Resentfully Yours, which peters away to impish tapping while the warbling choral arrangement of backing singers surges back into screeching range with fruitful indulgence. Thenceforward, this certifiably barmy Asian band’s piercingly abrupt tempo changes dominate typically Turkic rhythms and truculently off-key jingles. Further musical mayhem essayed with Flannels’ stuttering alliteration ensures that single release Fluttering Vindication presents its catchy bass guitar and fluid keyboards with something approaching blasé impudence.  

There are fine tweaks and expostulations to be enjoyed in both Aquaplane Uncoiling, and Shiny Misconception, while Benchmark Wheeze boasts a glorious epic structure. Tallyho Wherewithal is a monumental abstract of pulsating synths but underscored by resounding industrial blasts from Lobs, with Kirks’ uniquely squelching pipe-work as a wholehearted counterpoint. Unobjectionable Credo ends this bellowing rebellion of sublime intransigence with a highly quotable heehaw chorus, ghost-written by that legendary bobble poet Buttons Morden (of Calcified Flange and Slang Muckrakers).  

Most Responsive To Change is not quite a triumph, but its acidic swelter of atrophied bleeps and bloats with collusive binges of bifurcated cello playing manage, somehow, to comment, albeit obliquely, upon the philandering upswing of recent developments in Uzbeks toady rock scene.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Slow death

Ponderous but mighty, the gigantic mutant spawn of that nuclear accident on the Galapagos Islands continue to wreck havoc across South America. As you know, the infamous Great Tortoise Invasion began in Ecuador, shortly after the crash of half a squadron of USAF atomic bombers in 1951 made an entire chain of Pacific islands uninhabitable. But when a batch of irradiated eggs hatched into gargantuan beasts, vast swathes of tropical territories in the southern hemisphere were overrun by a new species. 

Gigantortoise menace in 1950s

A veritable army of unstoppable semi-aquatic reptiles with heavily armoured shells and a penchant for carnivore feeding habits that soon overwhelmed their placid herbivore cousins, whilst breeding with giant sea turtles resulted in the population explosion which dominates the Caribbean and many regions of central and south America, today. Slow but deadly; these flightless gameras have bought a new reign of terror to citizens of every nation from Belize down to Paraguay.

Monsters are still a threat in 21st century
US military efforts to corral and contain the fierce creatures have intensified in recent years, but their conquests of Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and Venezuela, their occupation of central Brazil, and most of Argentina, and the bloodthirsty monsters’ increasingly frequent ‘surfing’ appearances along beaches of the Baja peninsula, alarms strategic authorities in Mexico and California.