Sunday, 28 September 2014

Ex Nihilo

Sample of Abandoned Lines/Thoughts from my Nearly-Finished Oscar Wilde Notebook:

We all have some pretty strange ideas at three in the morning.

All buildings are monuments to the second law of thermodynamics.

A caramelised shopping trolley in the Stygian gloom.

The t-shirt reads ‘Proud to be Bland’.

The Existential Bicycle is leaning
against a wall, attempting nonchalance.

Songs of Independence? Revenge of the Untalented.

Childhood: everything is either forbidden or compulsory.

I try to persuade the next-door-neighbour’s cat to become a jihadist.

‘The pointless enthusiasm for useless knowledge’ – Seneca

The Vital Importance of Frivolity.

The point isn’t 'Is war ever justified?' but 'Is war avoidable?'

I stand in the kitchen and shout illegal exhortations to violence. 

Existential despair at not knowing how or why or when it all started is a little like.

‘It was very ghost-like.’
‘You mean, it didn’t exist?’

Beware the virtue of the sentimental.

'You’ve got your whole life ahead of you, and if that isn’t enough of a curse, I don’t know what is.’

Be a scholar not a bore, to misquote Seneca (‘make you appear more a bore than a scholar’ which, I think, sums up pedants rather nicely).

Do not lose the day in waiting for the night.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Step Forward Gods of the Heavy

‘Rock journalism is written by people who can’t write for people who can’t read’ 
                                                                                           – Sir Frank of Zappa

Just what is it about the Midlands and hard rockers?

Is it something in the air?

Is it something in the water?

Is it something in the air and in the water?

Maybe it’s the accents?

Until science shines its all-seeing light on the matter, we’ll never know for sure, but in the meantime, there can be no denying that the Midlands is the birthplace of the highest form of human artistic achievement outside of the Sistine Chapel.

I refer, of course, to Heavy Metal.

All that is needed to prove this bold statement is to name check a handful of bands who have so enriched the metallic life our nation.

They’re all from around here.

Here goes:

Black Sabbath, and if that’s not enough evidence for you then there’s…

Judas Priest, and if you need further proof then how about…

Diamond Head? and if you haven’t heard of them…

there’s always Slade, who were so important that they even named an art school after them three-hundred miles away in London, of all places.

If all of that that wasn’t enough to convince you, then the coup the grace, the clincher, the absolute final word on the matter belongs to a Midlands band that has had massive commercial success everywhere in the world.

The band that stands at the vibrating and vibrant heart in the pantheon of all things authentically leather-clad, rifftastic and screechworthy; the very apotheosis of the heavy musical experience.

I refer, of course, to Duran Duran.

Wild Boys! You betcha.

Or, as their best-selling biography, ‘Make-Up is for Boys’, should have been called, ‘The Toughest Band the Midlands Ever Produced’.

I mean, have you seen the video? Turn this one up to 11, eh, boys?

Who’s with me?

Long Live Synthesizers!

By Len Zebbelim

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Monk Joke

Three monks walk into a pub.

The first one goes up to the barman and asks for a pint of bitter.

No, that’s wrong.

Three monks walk into an airport lounge.

The first monk goes up to the information desk and asks if they have any duty-free porn.

The barman says, “Hop it sonny Jim; we don’t serve Muslims in here.”

The second monk explains to the barman that his Benedictine habit is not a burka and tries to enlighten the barman by embarking upon a protracted theological explanation about the sartorial differences between Muslim women and Benedictine monks, which takes longer than it should have done, seeing as it can be summed up in two words: no mask.

Where were we? Oh, yes.

So, these three strippers walk into a monastery at the end of their shift.

The first one knocks on the imposing wooden door.

The door slowly creaks open, seemingly of its own volition. Although, thinking about it, ‘volition’ is probably too fancy a word for this joke.

The door slowly creaks open, seemingly all by itself. Mind you, the phrase ‘all by itself’ is a bit ambiguous, don’t you think? As if by magic? As if it had free will? As if… what’s the word for when you do something voluntarily? It has the same root. Volition. That’s it.

The door slowly creaks open, seemingly of its own volition, and a voice calls out.

‘I’m not sure there’s such a thing as duty-free porn, but you could try WHSmiths,’ says the woman at the Airport Lounge Information Desk, because she has been to a Politeness Awareness seminar (although, you do find yourself asking, ‘How likely is it that it was a real seminar?’ don’t you?) and has learnt the importance of being polite to all customers/clients, irrespective of whether they actually deserve it. ‘Think of the customer as a terrorist,’ the Politeness Awareness seminar leader, whose background was in biscuit-tin marketing, had said.

So the first monk goes to WHSmiths and buys a copy of Hello magazine, which is apparently the closest thing they have to duty-free porn.

The second monk finishes his protracted theological explanation about the different clothing habits of, respectively, Benedictine monks and Muslim women, and orders a pint of bitter.

‘I thought you Muslims weren’t allowed to drink,’ says the barman.

‘Why are you naked?’ asks the voice.

The three strippers had become inured to their nudity and had forgotten to dress at the end of their shift.

The first stripper spies a dress hanging from the branches of a tree, pulls it down and puts it on. It’s hardly Versace but it does the job.

Now, at some point in the joke, there is a ‘reveal’, where we learn that the strippers are, in fact, male strippers, and you sit there thinking, ‘Ah! So I’m not as reconstructed as I thought I was,’ and you go for a top-up of cultural Marxism at the BBC’s new shopping channel, which is being hosted by the Dream of Scottish Independence’s still twitching (nice oxymoron) corpse, but I can’t remember at which point the ‘reveal’ comes because, as you may have gathered, I’m not very good at telling jokes.

Where were we? Oh, yes.

Two Muslim women walk into a monastery.

‘Welcome home boys!’ says the short-sighted Abbot.

No! Sorry, wait.

Two nuns in a car.

One says to the other, ‘Where’s the punch line?’

And the other says, ‘Why? Is this a joke?’

It’s all in the delivery, folks.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Clear the Room for Painting

I look at all the fucking pointless clutter
amassed upon my ever limping journey
towards that cold-dark-buried-wooden box,
and, on a whim, decide to give my books
away, now, each one, to my sons; a tiny
foretaste of what’s to come. Blank walls look better

than overcrowded shelves. I stare at nothing,
and feel a freedom from the slavery
of ownership. I listen to my breathing,
the only thing that’s here apart from me.
Is this, I think, what life is all about:
acquire, use, discard, gather dust, clear out?

February 2008

Saturday, 13 September 2014

A Ballad to the Immortal Memory of Rabbie Burns

by Fergus "William" McGonigal

Ay! Hearken to some lines aboot
   Scotland’s best luved son.
For a’ ye caddie’s gathered here,
   Some scrievin’ has been done.

Ah! Rabbie Burns, the nicht we do,
  Salute ye and your work,
Ye Bard of Ayrshire, Ploughman’s friend,
   (Rebuked in Mauchline Kirk!).

Afore I spak anither line,
  There’s something ye should ken:
These words are nae original,
   They’re frae an English pen!

(Enough then, folks, of dialect,
    Both tricky and obscure,
Let’s stick to stick to Standard English,
   Or be a dreadful bore.)

Though born to wretched poverty,
  In Seventeen-Fifty-Nine,
Young Rabbie’s literary talent,
   Saw one day he would shine.

But not before he’d spent his youth,
   Labouring on a farm,
Work which left him with a stoop,
   Which did his health great harm.

One harvest-time, aged fifteen years,
   Young Rabbie spied a girl,
Nelly was the creature’s name,
   She’d put him in a whirl.

“O! Once I loved a Bonnie Lass”
    Our Rabbie did declare,
In writing down this poem, folks,
   He’d laid his talent bare.

One Ritchie Broun encouraged him,
   To make it as a bard,
And Rabbie’s work was subsequently
   Held in high regard.

His Scots-based verse was bought en masse,
   And lauded everywhere:
From Gretna Green to John O’Groats,
   From Aberdeen to Ayr.

To Edinburgh he took himself,
    Where those who knew all said,
He was the match of any scribe,
   (And far more widely read!).

His standing in society,
   Belied his humble birth,
The rich, the poor: all understood,
   His true poetic worth.

Our Rabbie had worked wonders with
   The state of Scottish poesy,
But in the world of Scottish song,
    Things were far from rosy.

A passionate supporter of
   This quickly-fading art,
He wrote a song or two or three,
   But that was just the start.

Hundreds of songs in all he wrote,
   While others he preserved.
Was triumph as a lyricist
   Ever more deserved?

But Rabbie saw such things atop
   His lofty reputation,
Which led him to a revolutionary
His bosses and his friends agreed:
    They didn’t like his stance,
But Rab’s support lay squarely with
   The goings-on in France.

As if he hadn’t done enough,
   In poems, words and song,
He stood beside the downtrodden,
   Denouncing what was wrong.

Which sealed forever, Rabbie’s place,
   As Scotland’s favourite son:
Now loved at home and loved abroad,
   Loved by everyone.
The gloomy night was gathering fast,
    Despondency now ailed him,
At thirty-seven, Rab breathed his last,
   As health completely failed him.

And so, tonight, let’s drink a dram –
   Though there’ll be no returns –
On this the day that he was born:
   Mr Rabbie Burns!