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, 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

Agglomerate Music
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


Most Responsive To Change

Condensation Records
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.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

4D Hits Cinemas!

As 3D hits the high streets and the digital airwaves, movie makers are moving with the times to add another dimension to the cinema going experience for those willing to make a drastic change to their look. A third eye made out of the revolutionary 4D Matter© uses quantum entanglement to allowing viewer to not just see the movie, but to see all the other movies that the film makers might have made if they hadn't been working on this particular movie.

Julie Designerjeans enjoys the inifnite alternative endings to the latest Harry Potter movie

“This really takes movies to the next level,” chronic early-adopter Julie Designerjeans told me after a screening of James Cameron's latest sci fi epic, Megalomania 2. “Oh, the movie was rubbish, but in another version of reality, the catering company was involved in this really terrific drama with Helen Mirren as a feisty, no-nonsense Queen and Christopher Lee as a wise-cracking robot. It was amazing, the best movie Cameron never made!”

The 4D technology works by wiring an extra eyeball that's been constructed entirely from exotic 4D Matter©, into the viewer's optic nerve. The process has been developed by high tech start up company, Godel-Escher-Bark Enterprises.

GEB's head of marketing, Jeorg Wensleslas explains: “4D Matter© picks up photons emitted by light sources excluded from our universe by quantum wave collapses. Every time Tom Cruise agrees to do a film, he has to turn down another film. In another universe, however, the decision went the other way, and he was in – say – Inglourious Basterds instead of Brad Pitt. Wouldn't you want to see that? Of course you would! Well now the 4D Matter© viewing system allows you to see all these movies at once!”

On the small matter of having a third eye implanted in one's forehead, Wensleslas is dismissive. “A public that can accept wearing those silly 3D glasses is surely ready for major brain surgery. It's not that big a step.”

Julie Designerjeans agrees. “It's quite a fad, and all the girls want to know about it! On the other hand, it does make choosing dinner a nuisance. I'm never quite sure what I'm going to get.”

So far, movie studios have been lukewarm on the idea, but legendary cult film director Geezer Weinberg has high hopes for the new technology. “Look, I don't even have to make a movie at all anymore. Just hire a bunch of nobodies sitting in an empty room for two hours and release it uncut. The audience get to the see the movie I might have made if I gave a crap. Let some schmuck in another universe go to all the trouble of actually making the movie!”

Friday, 11 March 2011


Remember the recent social craze for ‘mobile phones’?  

They were such tiny little gadgets that were always getting lost – just like all those silly remote controls for televisions (before LabCentral’s patent voice-recognition circuits forever changed the way that everyone channel surfs on their new hi-def widescreen home viewing sets!), and clamshell fones were always beeping off, or buzzing so annoyingly like pickpocket flies – to interrupt your important business meetings or social occasions and conversations that you would prefer to enjoy with real people…
Wow! That 3D looks great!
Now, all of that’s going to change very soon, and for the better, thanks to LabCentral’s greatest technological innovation yet, the INTEROCITOR!  

Global video communications at the flick of a switch and the turn of a dial

No more of that fiddly web-cam nonsense to bother about. Interocitor is a sturdy home appliance that will be a magnificent addition to your designer furnishings 

Interplanetary conference calls are free with every premium package
It's not my fault!
 LabCentral’s Interocitor* 
– in touch and in tune with tomorrow’s world, today!
* Some easy home assembly required

Monday, 7 March 2011

Exclusive Montana Wildhack interview

To Tralfamadore And Beyond:
The Montana Wildhack interview
by Andrew Darlington

She’s a legend, the subject of Kurt Vonnegut’s highly-rated novel Slaughterhouse-Five, portrayed on film by Valerie Perrine, this is the first attempt to get at the truth behind the legend, and talk to her direct…

‘What really became of Montana Wildhack…?’
(– title of a feature in Midnight Pussycats magazine)

The continuum-link from Tralfamadore is, at best, liable to glitch-ups and wavelength dropouts. So it’s a fortunate alignment-configuration of planets that gifts the station with a degree of clarity this night, of all nights. Because our guest is simply out-of-this-world! As the static clears we can see that Montana Wildhack has her auburn hair retro-styled in a Jane Fonda bob, and that when she flutters her eyelids, which she does delightfully, her lashes resemble buggy-whips. Around her neck there’s a silver chain with a heart-shaped locket. She wears nothing else. Inside the locket is a faded grainy old photo of her mother. Her mother was an alcoholic. On this direct link from distant Tralfamadore, she smiles and waves ‘hello’, and adds ‘isn’t this a nice moment?’ Then she leads off directly by enquiring “Are you guys into astrological signs? The zodiac and stuff? Me, I’m a Moonchild, a Child of the Moon. That says a lot about me. The moon rules tides and changes of the season. Although, you could say, I’m way higher than the Moon out here.”

So first, is Montana Wildhack your real name? She giggles both absurdly and derisively. “Of course not, that would be stooopid! Once you’re up for this game, it’s like the 1950s’ pop stars who became Fury, Eager or Wilde, you have to assume a new role-identity that’s expressed by your screen-name. Remember ‘Dirk Diggler’ in Boogie Nights?’

So who were you prior to the movies? “I was born California Wildhack,” she divulges.

When you say ‘game’ you mean working in soft-core porn? “Watch that potty-mouth if you very much don’t mind. There’s a difference, you know. I prefer to be called a ‘B’-movie starlet. I’m happy with that. Think, say, Valley Of The Dolls. Did you happen to see me at the drive-in as Messalina – the promiscuous wife of Emperor Claudius? One thing’s for sure, they didn’t spend a bundle on the costumes for that movie! But that’s just the way it was with them rascally ancient Romans. And anyway, like the Tralfamadorians say, morality is a quaint Earthling illusion.”

Many porn-activists, as well as participants in the wider media-domain, have enhanced their er, physical charms. Has Montana ever indulged in cosmetic tweaks? “That idea, especially out here, tends to be a little creepy,” she explains. “‘There are silicon-based life-forms in this galactic sector, which adds disturbing implications to actually having silicon injected into your tits!” she shudders in a quite delightful way. “If you catch my drift? It’s a kinda creepy idea. Anyway, I’m big up there already. Guys tend to appreciate that about me.”

Her expressions changes, like the tide, to become a little more thoughtful. “Of course, my career didn’t quite work out as I planned, I’ve got to be honest with you,” she reveals. “This, I didn’t expect. This abduction. But when you’re a Moonchild, you play the hand fate deals you. There’s a story I was rubbed out by the Mob. Obviously, I wasn’t. Although they say there’s what they call a time-dilation effect. All this science – I don’t understand, but it seems you can be away from Earth for years, yet it only takes a microsecond of time. It was 1967 when I was kidnapped, lots of people took strange trips around then. I was twenty. I was toning up for my next movie at the home of a producer friend of mine in Palm Springs, catching some all-over rays by the pool – no halter-marks you know. Next thing, there’s this flying saucer, and it’s got purple lights in kind-of port-hole things all around the rim. Big it was, at least a hundred-feet across. And it hums at me with a sound something like an owl, a melodious owl. It emits a purple light that comes in all around me, and I get this overwhelming compulsion to walk up to this snakey Ferris-Wheel kind-of ladder and climb aboard. I guess you know about them, the Tralfamadorians, they don’t speak like you and I do, they use a kind of computer hooked-up to a voice-box organ. They talk to us – to me and Billy, through that box. And I was brought here, with Billy, and we’re exhibits in this-here galactic zoo. We can’t leave the dome, ’cos they breathe cyanide out there. Can you credit that? And there’s no real night – just something like one hour of dark in every 62 hours, so they sometimes simulate night for our benefit, what they call ‘the night canopy’. But there’s nothing tacky, no sireé, we got furnishings direct from Sears & Roebuck. Colour-TV and stereo. The TV didn’t work at first, until they fixed up the continuum-link, now I get all the channels. There’s a pool table, issues of Life magazine, nice clothes – I take a ten. We’ve got mint-green bathroom fittings, a home bar with two stools, and wall-to-wall federal-gold carpet. Except, there’s no walls of course. The better for them to see. They even got tour-guides who lecture about us to the crowds. But hey, back home, could I afford stuff like this? I could not!”

Billy – that is, Billy Pilgrim, was also kidnapped to be part of your geodesic-dome zoo-lifestyle. Whatever happened to him…? “Billy was a babe. A kind of gangling six-foot-three tall funny-looking guy shaped like a coke-bottle. He was twice my age, 44, and he was working on his famous Dresden book. Come a little closer. Turn up the volume so you can hear me breathe. Like Jean-Luc Godard says, for Billy there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. But not necessarily in that order. Tralfamadorian books also have no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no morals, no causes or effects. It’s like that for me, yes, I’m the time-traveller’s wife. Or non-wife. He was here, and then he wasn’t. Time-tripping is a bitch. I guess we ‘mated’. Billy has a tremendous whang, incidentally. But he was a gentleman. You don’t meet many gentlemen in the entertainment business. We waited a full week. So it goes.”

Do the Tralfamadorians ogle porn? Do they enjoy your work? “Hey, everyone enjoys sex, after all, they’re only human – well no, in actual fact they’re not human. More like kind of green two-foot high toilet-plungers. With a single hand stuck on top. And an eye, just one green eye, set into the palm of the hand. They hold up their hands so their eye can see better, and clench into a fist if they don’t like what they’re seeing! But you know what I mean? Even species that reproduce by cellular-division have prurient imaginations about who does what to whom, and I know, ’cos I’ve met them. A dirty mind is no bad thing in this business. People like people who like sex. Look at Silvio Berlusconi. Trouble is, they – the Tralfamadorians, they see in four dimensions, and they have five sexes. So they know stuff about human sexuality we don’t even know about ourselves, and they know all this stuff before we do.”

On questions of porn past, what do you – the real Montana Wildhack, think of Valerie Perrine taking your part as her role in that 1972 Slaughterhouse-Five biopic? “There’s this game people play – who would you most want to play you in a biopic. Well, in an ideal world I would not have chosen Valerie Perrine to play me. But Tralfamadore is not an ideal world. Nothing like. So I gotta take what I can get. Instead I was thinking, maybe Lady Gaga. She could do me, do me good. A tad more attitude. A bit more out there. But don’t get me wrong, the movie was OK. If the movie told lies it told sweet cosy cupcakes of lies, so no, it was a total trip. It did me no harm. And that’s a natural fact. I saw Valerie Perrine in an episode of Burke’s Law. I really did. And did you know she was in the May 1972 issue of Playboy? That coulda been me, if things had worked out different. If things that happened to me, hadn’t happened.”

As the time-window winds down she pauses, considering her strange extraterrestrial situation. Behind her, across the alien sky, there’s the static orb of a planet that very closely resembles Jupiter in our own solar system. Finally, she concludes “Listen, think about this, sure, things didn’t work out as I anticipated, but this thing I’m in now – it’s like the biggest Reality-TV show ever, with the biggest audience on the planet. Not what I’d intended maybe, but not so bad. I’ve come out of it pretty good. So it goes…!” The continuum-link from Tralfamadore finally succumbs to interplanetary glitch-ups and wavelength dropouts. She waves goodbye. The real Montana Wildhack – ladies, gentlepeople and children. Nevertheless – don’t reach for that remote, another fortunate alignment-configuration of planets gifts the station with yet another out-of-this-world guest! Stand by, we got Jedi-Master Yoda up just after this word from our sponsors…!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Trees and Time

It's an obvious thought, I know. So obvious that I ought to look it up and see who's said it first before I make a prize arse of myself. But why can't we catch flies?

And how come you feel a light bulb blow just a half-second before you flick the switch? How come the cat hears the phone ring and jumps up before it actually does? How can I look at my alarm clock, drift off into an hour long dream. then wake up again to find that not just very little time has passed, but no time? That's right, not a minute, not a second, nothing?

And what the hell does all this have to do with trees? Well, time is the common factor, and the philosopher Martin Heidegger got there first, just before he started sending fan-mail to Hitler, but that's another story. And Physicists have got there last, rather recently, with a little help from Albert Einstein.

You see, the head-hurting news is that Time does not actually exist. This can be proven now in the realm of particle physics, but Heidegger reasoned it out using, well: just reason, actually. And he expressed it like this: Time has no being and therefore beings have no time.

Oh shit, did you see that last bit? Just when the time thing was looking bad enough, I've thrown something else into your mental microwave. Let's clarify, let's grab a lifebelt before we drown, I'll cut to the chase:

We can't catch a fly because to it we are moving incredibly slowly. But trees, which are also alive, also appear to be moving incredibily slowly to us. Perhaps a fly concludes about a human therefore, what we conclude about trees, namely that they are not even sentient? Oh God, scary, scary... let me re-read that. Thought so. Totally logical but entirely insane. Would we know if trees have consciousness?

Well, the fact that I can dream for 14 years inside 3 seconds of the real world, and even the cat can see into the future, rather suggests that consciousness is not bound to time therefore is not measurable or existent in any normal sense. Thoughts in the brain are conveyed by electrons and electrons are exactly the particles, along with photons, which physicists have found travelling around in time like there's no tomorrow. Ho, ho, ho.

It gets worse. If slower means smarter, then the trees are a higher consciousness than us, but what could be higher than them? We begin to move towards evolutionary and geological time, and then the planet itself. Gaia as James Lovelock named it (with some help from the ancient Greeks) becomes a candidate for consciousness. Since Gaia created us, it is by definition our God (or Goddess), but even more so if the concept of sentience is considered.

So using only science and logic and philosophy, we have just proven the existence of God, time travel, ghosts, premonitions, and sentient trees. You thought those things did not exist. But it was only time that was blinding you, and it's time that does not exist, remember?
Interestingly, this also means we cannot die. Plenty of "time" to get your ahead around this post then...