Monday, 25 February 2008

danse macabre

someone shouted 'oi! jonathan creek' at me in the pub only last night. uncanny.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Whatever Happened to Ruby Kipper?

Quite excited to be invited to this project and hope to offer some useful contributions. My contribution is a monologue and I gladly welcome any feedback on this piece. Apologies for the length, but when read out loud it flies by.

Whatever Happened to Ruby Kipper?



Ruby's refrain:
“I held my heart within my hand
to give to my true love, but
he declined 'neath April skies
for fear of staining his cream shirt"

“Ere I'm arf kippered I am, I won't tell you why, but I will introduce me self; Ruby Kipper (pause) and Angelica, pet lamb side kick and conductor extraordinaire. Used to tread the old boards did me and her, sing and zing for our suppers - which usually turned out to be sprats on bread. Gawd, awful little devils, they'd lie on the bread looking like tin-soldiers in a grave and the smell didn't arf stick to Angelica's fur – lucky for me she liked them, would proper wolf them down. But, times being 'ard and all that, we had to take what we was given.

Now, I'll tell you about me and Angelica and the uvver acts we became acquainted wif. We was the electric act, see. I'd get on stage, do a little tap dance; but it was bleedin' 'ard sometimes to hear anyfing never mind me taps what wif all the hullabaloo going on. So anyway, I'd be tapping away, singing me song, sweet as a nut and then Angelica would trot on...and then...

Oh, listen - never mind that, I've just remembered sumfing, sumfing that's going round the 'alls at the moment that I want to tell you about and that I fink would tickle your fancy, that's if I'm not being too previous. It seems Dora the Dummy isn't the only one missing her partner in the world of entertainment. Dora's uvver 'arf Elsie, did a runner, leaving Dora to carry on the act just as a dummy on the stage; quite 'eart wrenching really to see her propped up on a chair donated from the local Sunday school; they took pity on her see, fort of 'er as like an orphan. Apparently what had happened was Dora had nipped to the ladies after a show only to come back and find a powder puff squew-whiff on Elsie's seat and the message: You can handle yourself without me – I'm sorry poppet! Written in lipstick on the dresser mirror! Rumour has it that she did off with Charlie, Mr Shandy's dummy. Charlie, the little teaser, was spotted the night of the trouble hanging round the stage door, fort he was hidden behind all the leavin's from the restaurant opposite on the other side of the alley. As a consequence, Mr Shandy has had to change his act now: Handy Mr Shandy. He makes his hand talk to the audience, makes 'im look like a proper little gentlemen wif his Tux on and drawn on face and little toupee, I fink it was made from Griselda's fur after she passed away (Quietly: She was Mr Shandy's 'amster). Mind you, I fink Mr Shandy takes a bit of lip from 'im, started getting above his station the uvver night. The gent started to back chat Mr Shandy, saying he'd be nuffing without him and that he was a better class act than him. Well the punters didn't like the gent givin' Shandy the old what for, they started getting rowdy and challenged him to a Paper,Scissors, Stone contest – the loser being frown out with the dregs from the barrels. Don't fink it's gonna last, Mr Shandy and his gentleman, could be anuvver split for poor Mr Shandy. But I don't fink the gent will have a leg to stand on, if you get me meaning.

But anyway, I was telling you about me and Angelica. There I'd be on the stage, I would tap and sing, as you do in this business, just to get the audience in the mood for a bit of light enter-tain-ment. You'll see what I mean. So, Angelica would trot on to the stage, being careful not to get her little 'ooves caught between the boards or slip on sumfing that had been chucked on earlier, and then I would sing:

Ruby had a little lamb its fleece was soft as ash;
And everywhere that Ruby went, the lamb went like a flash.
It followed her to work one day, which was a stroke of luck;
It made the punters laugh and play, to see a lamb of pluck.
And so did Ruby do a dance, and still it lingered near,
And waited patiently about till Ruby said “Cum'ere”.
"Why does the lamb love Ruby so?" the eager punters cry;
"Why, Ruby loves her lamb, you know cos she lights up the sky”.

So, at this point I would stroke Angelica quite vigorous like, showing my happiness at seeing 'er and then the sparks would start flying the more I stroked her. The crowd would go all of an-hush as Angelica lit up the atmosphere, looking like one of those accumulator fings I'd read about that would crackle and spark and make your hair stand on end.

Well, we made quite a name for our selves, bright lights of the big smoke. Nowhere to go but up in lights, living the high life for a time. But, of course, you soon learn that you can't keep going on up, because how would you know you were going up if you didn't go down? But we knew we were going up because how could you go down from where we was? And we knew we was going down when we didn't go up any more because we went up from being where we was which was down from the up we went to and then the coming down except it was quite a different sort of down...more like a stop than a down, so perhaps you could say we didn't go down but stayed up, but then how could we say we went up if we never came down? But it doesn't really matter now.

The last show we did was a real cracker. I came on, did all me lah-di-dah stuff, got to the point of stroking and cooing over Angelica which I did, when POOF! We went up in flames, quick as you like, a crackle and a bang before smouldering on stage rather like those fire-crackers that maime first before paffetically fizzling out, and all before a stunned audience. I knew I shouldn't have had that cheap gin off of Miss Parkin of Miss Parkin and her Perks, before the performance. The rest as they say is history, a story, herstory...erm, well, after that final curtain, we became post-humourously known as Kippered and Chops.

A voice interrupts: Excuse me...'scuse me...You've dropped your Coco Pops.

I beg your pardon? I'm recounting my contribution to the cultural life of London, and don't take too kindly to insolence and ...

The voice again: But you're in Tesco's.

I think you're quite misguided in your observation and should kindly refrain from interrupting Ruby Kipper, that's...who I am, who am I? Don't cha know, now look hear, see, chappie, (Ruby's voice fades out) have a banana, maybe it's because I'm a Londoner...

Grim Reaper

Here's a site with horrible design, embedded music, and over 400 classical images of Death. I guess the Grim Reaper is the ultimate 'dead person who never lived'... if you consider Death to be dead, that is. I suppose by most standards of Death, he's actually very much alive.

The Grim Reaper's like the AntiSanta - we've never seen him, and we know one person could never logically serve so many people... and yet part of us sees the evidence of his work and longs to believe. There's something comforting about making Death a chap. I guess that the Reaper has been so appropriated and commercialised and parodied that he actually feels safe and familiar. When you cheapen something, it doesn't hurt so much.

The Dance of Death

trans. Peter Low

Zigger-zigger-zig tapping on a coffin
Death has got a beat and a toothy grin.
At the stroke of twelve plays a crazy polka
zigger-zigger-zag on his violin.

The night is dark, the winter winds blow
the tree-branches creak in the stormy clouds
and off the whitened skeletons go
they skip and they leap in their flowing shrouds.

Zigger-zigger-zig how they frisk and toss
dancing to the beat rattling every bone.
Now a lustful pair sit down on the moss
hoping to repeat pleasures they had known.

Zigger-zigger-zag Death is keeping at it
scraping out the tune on his violin.
Two have lost their veils they are dancing naked
he gives her a squeeze like a carnal sin.

The lady they say is of noble race
her partner a lad from the market town
but oh! she welcomes his embrace
as if the young boor had a royal crown.

Zigger-zigger-zig hand in hand a-dancing
what a host of dead risen from the turf
zigger-zigger-zag in that ghostly party
is the king himself romping with a serf.

But hush! all at once their hands let go.
They jostle, they flee they've heard the cock crow.
How lovely that night when poor folk are free!
So all praise to Death and equality!

Hitchhikers Wiki to The Universe

Carrying on from earlier notes about wikipedia, anyone else find it really interesting that so much of wiki myth becomes wiki truth? Not only tabloid tales but actual biographies...

Technically you can kill someone with a wiki; details can be updated by any computer literate information junkie. You can even hit that all important delete button and kapow instant annhilation. You could even raise someone from the dead...

Wiki is supposedly a self correcting growing living document of the world; imagine it in the wrong hands, the censorship and revision of history? China already blocks wikipedia from most of the mainland isps. What does this do to supposed free speech: we are given the option to write our own history but ultimately could it be edited to serve a very different purpose?

Isn't it tempting to see what one very bored teenager could do and the consequence on a thousand poorly researched gcse papers?

Wikipedia itself purports to be the 'free online encylopedia' but I'm always amazed by how much trust is put into it. When we click on a blog, we generally know not to take everything as verbatim but when the word 'encyclopedia' is invoked; well I've even fallen into the trap of 'hmm could go to the library...could wiki it...oh that was easy...' It's easy to believe something right in front of your face.

Since Wiki is written by real life people, emotions are going to be present and considering the blogtastic role of people like perezhilton we're in for trouble. When the death of Kenneth Lays (endron dude) was reported last year on wiki he was instantly reported as commiting suicide due to intense guilt over the scandal and couldn't face court... he actually died of a heart attack but in those few hours millions of people wiki-ing to find out the who the hell Kenneth Lays was made an instant decision based on inefficient research and hot-headed reaction.

Wikipedia has also spawned a million bastard wiki's; all devoted to seperate genres, sub-genres and even a Second Life almost makes me shudder. Wiki's for tv shows or games, well fair play; fansites have existed for ages and it's actually good to see what happens in the next episode of heroes or whatever. It's harmless.

So I don't think I have a point but thought I'd flag up the option of character death by wiki as a subject (possibly with a candlestick but definitely not in the library)

Gathering Place of The souls

The Bible's psalms are named after consonants from the Hebrew alphabet. The first is 'Apleph.'
Imagine the names of the consonants eg; 'Aleph,' Tzaddi,' 'Koph,' 'Teth,' as the names of souls . They are between incarnations, waiting in the 'Gathereing Place of The Souls,' a place where the souls in the psalms go to wait for their next life. Some souls have clear momories of their past life and and a clear idea of what they want to choose to be in the next life. some are hazy, or have no memory of a past life at all. If you take a name and write from its point of view as if it were in the 'Gathering Place of the Souls', reflecting on past or pondering future life, it can sometimes spark some interesting ideas.


My Nan is a professional footballer.
She dribbled her way to the Premiership
and is a legend called Dwight Mitchell.
She doesn’t know she’s my Nan.
She lost track when she dribbled
into a twilight she no longer remembers
where a dancing man lurked behind
netted windows, winking at her under
a peaked cap that shone in the rain.
I laughed when she told me about him;
swanlike and starched in his uniform
and the doll as her baby
warm and plastic in her bed.
‘It’s only a doll,’ the care worker said.
‘You know - I know - but does she know?’ My Nan said.
When the priest as tall as a steeple sent her off,
she knew she wanted to be Dwight Mitchell;
a roaring rich success.
Not like the last time,
when she thought it would never end
each time she fell,
stumbled or bruised.
An ancient child.
The real girl sometimes clear
in the blue of her favourite sister’s eyes.
The one who would not come to hear her
life cut short by the tall priest.
Now she bruises her way to other sending offs
and can’t remember fifty years of
stagnant talk with mouthfuls of porridge
to a man like a breath of stale air.
Or the son who trampled her
to throw fists at his father
or the daughter creeping into wall paper
like a cautious cat.
Now she’s linked romantically to Chelsy Davy
(Prince Harry’s ex), according to ‘Hello’ magazine,
which she used to read at the hairdressers
and now reads when she’s having her back waxed.
I met her in a night club and said; ‘Hello Nan.’
Her eyes were shot with vodka and she punched me in the head.

(Copyright Tess Hudson 2008)

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Dead Man Trekking

Beep... Beep... You Have Mail... Beep Beep... You have mail...

I’m just going to ignore it and it might just go away, I have had these messages before. They sit there like a spitting cobra waiting to strike and I am not stupid enough to open it.

Beep... Beep... You Have Mail... Beep Beep... You have mail...

“Assigned to landing party...Contact the bridge immediately.” It says, I mean how dumb is that? It should have said something like “Free holidays” or “You have won the lottery” then someone dumb idiot on the cargo decks might have opened it but “Assigned to landing party” it’s a death sentence.

Beep... Beep... You Have Mail... Beep Beep... You have mail...

I have worked on the USS Enterprise for three years and in all that time I have never seen an Ensign who went down on a Landing Party come back, sometimes they don’t even make it out of the Transporter before some alien brain sucking mutant gets them. Captain Kirk, Mr Spock even that dumb chief engineer Mr Scott comes back but the rest of us are burnt up on re-entry, blasted in the subatomic particles or eaten alive by a predatory space mammal. I tell you its murder and no one seems to care.

Beep... Beep... You Have Mail... Beep Beep... You have mail...

I am just going to ignore it. I know the Space Core directives tell you that you have to do these things but it’s the modern equivalent of going over the top in the First World War, in fact it’s worse than that because at least some of those guys came back.

Mind you, there is something worse than being “volunteered for a landing party”

Beep... Beep.. You Have Mail... Beep Beep... You have mail...

I am just really glad that Captain Kirk isn’t gay because if he was I for one wouldn’t make any sort of eye contact with him. If you are a woman and he gets the hots for you then its curtains, not only is your career over but you have the life expectancy of a fruit fly. It’s the talk of the canteen, some little hotty from computing with a heaving chest and a sassy arse walks past him and gives him the eye, then its Goodnight Vienna.

Beep... Beep.. You Have Mail... Beep Beep... You have mail...

We take bets on how long they will last and even when you warn them about what is going to happen they tell you “This time it will be different”. Bollocks, this time it will be the same as the last time. At some point he will have to choose between his sex life and his ship and he can get another woman anytime but there is only one USS Enterprise and he isn’t going to get another one of them. He could of course just dump them but it never seems to work out like that.

Beep... Beep.. You Have Mail... Beep Beep... You have mail...

They have to go off and marry some three headed, six legged bug creature from another dimension in order that we can get new Dilithium crystals for the warp drives or so the Federation can bring about a new alliance with the Romulans. Either way you never hear or see them again, they’re just another notch on the Captain’s tricorder.

A door glides open and a security officer enters.

“Ensign Smith the Bridge has been trying to contact you for the last hour, report to the Transporter now and prepare to beam down with the Landing Party.”


Monday, 18 February 2008

Andy Lippincott 1945-1990

Andy Lippincott 1945 –1990

Eighteen years ago your death filled me full of sadness and on the morning I opened the Guardian and read about the last moments of your life, I cried. I had followed the last tragic weeks of your life as AIDS overwhelmed your ability to resist the inevitable. Every time you fought back it just got stronger and still you faced it all with a stoicism I couldn’t understand. If I had been you I would have been so angry. I would have spat out my frustration and railed against the world. Instead you checked out listening to the Beach Boys playing “Wouldn’t it be Nice”.

A lot of people, real people that I actually knew have died since that day in 1990, some I expected to lose like my Mum and Dad and others got ill and died. One got a lift from a guy, travelled a few hundred yards and hit a tree. Death is like that, it comes to all of us but when it does we seem surprised. We know when we drink too much we will get drunk or if we eat too much we will get fat but we never seem to come to terms with the fact that if we live too much then we die. I remember your death because it was the first that actually meant something to me and although you were a character in a cartoon strip that didn’t seem to make much difference. Today AIDs is still a killer and science is no nearer finding a cure. If you live in the developed world, drugs will keep you alive for a lot longer than in your day but for the rest of humanity it still rampages mercilessly onwards devouring the poor, uneducated and the unfortunate.

You also might like to know you are the only fictional character with a panel on the AIDS quilt. Your citation reads "In Loving Memory: Andy Lippincott 1945-1990. Community leader, conservationist, author, olympic medalist, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize!"

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Killed By Your Own Non-Canon

Looking at the Don Rosa drawing of Scrooge's grave and the cosplayers staging Aeris' death got me to thinking about canonical and non-canonical deaths within fictional worlds. It seems to me that the primary motivations behind writers of fan fiction are sex and death - either they want to get two characters together who never got it on in the 'official' universe, or they want to kill someone off. Killing off a character is the ultimate act of authorial control - it gives you the last word on who they were, in a way that resonates back through everything that came before.
Don Rosa went through a lot of pay disputes as a cartoonist. I think the Scrooge's grave picture was his way of asserting his ownership over Scrooge, a kind of two fingered salute at Disney and their greedily litigious licensing arm. A lot of FFVII fan fiction centres on the return of Aeris - indeed, for all the creators' insistence that she's actually dead, the movie, Advent Children, brings her back as a ghost, with American Beauty's Mena Suvari providing her voice.
Oh, and as a slightly weird coda to this whole digression, Aeris and Scrooge McDuck appear together in the hugely popular Disney-SquareEnix collaboration, Kingdom Hearts II.

I include here for your perusal a piece of particularly moving piece of fan fiction based on the death-heavy first-person shooter Doom, entitled: Doom - Repercussions of Evil. Watch out for the twist at the end.

John Stalvern waited. The lights above him blinked and sparked out of the air. There were demons in the base. He didn't see them, but had expected them now for years. His warnings to Cernel Joson were not listenend to and now it was too late. Far too late for now, anyway.
John was a space marine for fourteen years. When he was young he watched the spaceships and he said to dad "I want to be on the ships daddy."
Dad said "No! You will BE KILL BY DEMONS"
There was a time when he believed him. Then as he got oldered he stopped. But now in the space station base of the UAC he knew there were demons.
"This is Joson" the radio crackered. "You must fight the demons!"
So John gotted his palsma rifle and blew up the wall.
"HE GOING TO KILL US" said the demons
"I will shoot at him" said the cyberdemon and he fired the rocket missiles. John plasmaed at him and tried to blew him up. But then the ceiling fell and they were trapped and not able to kill.
"No! I must kill the demons" he shouted
The radio said "No, John. You are the demons"
And then John was a zombie.

The Daily Express: A year of Diana headlines

• WHY DIANA WOULD HAVE LOVED KATE by her most trusted aide (29 December)

• DIANA: Princess predicted her own 'murder' Time and time again in the two years before her death, says the official report (18 December) [In other news: ROSEHIPS: THE NEW FOOD TO BEAT AGEING]

• DIANA SENSATION: US Spies confess to bugging her calls hours before she died (11 December) [In other news: SACKED BECAUSE WE ARE BRITISH]

• DIANA: Police tried to make me change my evidence, says key witness (6 December)

• WHO IS THE BRAINIEST OF THE ROYALS? [Picture options: Zara, Wills, Diana] (16 October) [In other news: While you'll have to mow your lawn all year round]


• The day Diana helped bury a baby's body in the palace garden (12 September) [In other news: House prices hit new high]

• DIANA WAS SO MUCH IN LOVE (11 September) [In other news: How you can wish yourself a better life]

• He called himself Diana's rock, but look how the rock in Paul Burrell's ear has grown¿ by selling her out (6 September) [In other news: THE AMAZING PROTEIN DIET]

• HOW THE BUTLER HAS BETRAYED DIANA'S MEMORY (5 September) [In other news: THE NEW LOOK FOR BRITAIN'S HOSPITALS - They call this the 'inter-faith' gown]

• DIANA: We reveal the truth about her wedding plans in the days before her crash (4 September)

• THE DIANA DOSSIER- The witnesses they tried to discredit (1 September) - [In other news; CAR INSURANCE UP 40%]

• THE DIANA DOSSIER: Her summer of love that ended in tragedy (31 August):

• THE DIANA DOSSIER: Chaos, mystery and cover-up (30 August) [In other news: DIET THAT KEEPS THE BRAIN YOUNG]



• Heather calls in Diana lawyer (9 August) [In other news: KNIFE CRIME SOARS BY 73%]

• DIANA: A mountain of new evidence but they can't find a judge who will hear it (4 August) [In other news: HOW CAN BLAIR JET OFF ON A JOLLY HOLIDAY?]

• The truth about Diana's amazing wedding dress (3 August) [In other news: BANNED: THE SECRET KILLER IN OUR FOOD]


• DIANA DEATH: BODYGUARDS FACE QUIZ (17 July) [In other news: Win a new Campervan!]


• LOOKALIKE WIFE OF DIANA AFFAIR CAD (13 July) [In other news: Government can steal YOUR property but Tony Blair's property is exempt]

The inquest into Diana and Dodi Fayed's 1997 death is due in May






• DIANA DEATH DOCTOR MADE TO TELL TRUTH (17 April) [In other news: The robot that can cut out cancer]



• One year after wedding Duchess still can't replace Diana (6 April)




• DIANA'S DEATH: 'DIRTY TRICKS BY MI6' (9 March) [In other news: Chocolate milk is the secret of longer life]





• DIANA INQUIRY CHIEF'S LAPTOP SECRETS STOLEN (7 February) [In other news: Why we're too lazy to chop a lettuce]

• DIANA DEATH: Spies flashed laser beam at crash driver (6 February)

• CRUEL ATTACK ON DIANA (3 February) [In other news: Why our food is NOT as good as it used to be]



Saturday, 16 February 2008

Hamlet's Final Fantasy

After watching Ross's youtube link to the death of Aeris in Final Fantasy VII (as someone who has at least 120 hours on the FFXII game clock, currently - and certainly well over 500 on the series in total, I consider myself something of a fan) I was struck, first by the rather obvious similarity between Aeris' watery cadaver and Ophelia's (particularly the fetishisation of the slain angel), but then, by the actual manner of her death, which recalled another part of Hamlet - the scene where Claudius is praying, and Hamlet sneaks up behind him, ready to do him in. Then Hamlet (I call him MC Hamlet) decides not to, because Claudius has just confessed his sins and therefore will go straight to Heaven if he's killed straight away. Of course, Sephiroth, the superpowerful super-soldier, is a bit more decisive, but the way the two scenes are classically portrayed in our culture seems really, really similar. Here's some pics from stagings of Hamlet and from nerdy cosplay recreations of FFVII.

Scrooge McReDux

Sorry for taking up another blog post with this, but I couldn't work out how to embed pictures into the comments. Here's the closest-to-canonical evidence we've got of what happens after Scrooge McDuck's death:Huey, Dewey and Louie are made sole heirs to the McDuck fortune. It's not clear if, split three ways, his fortune would make them the three richest ducks in the world - fellow Scotsduck Flintheart Gloomgold was the world's second richest duck, but he was so miserly it's not clear if he'd bequeath his money to anyone or simply be buried with it like a pharaoh. The triplets seem pretty tight, but I wonder whether so much filthy lucre would strain their relationships. I'm actually not so cynical that I think they'd spend most of their adult lives in tortuous legal battles... actually, I am. That'd be a classic plot device, √° la getting three wishes. (which they actually received in the Ducktales movie) We flash forward to see what happens to the triplets when they're rich beyond their wildest dreams - they begin to squabble over what the money should be spent on. Wily lawyers pour poison in their ears (do ducks have ears?) about each other. Litigation starts. Rapidly they squander the massive fortune and their relationship falls apart. Eventually, on the roof of the courthouse, almost broke, they fall into a massive three-way brawl. It intensifies, they struggle this way and that, then a punch sends Dewey reeling, almost over the edge of the building. The shock snaps them out of their rage. Panting, dirty, the triplets look ruefully at each other.
Huey: 'What are we doing?'
Louie: 'We nearly killed each other!'
Dewey: 'All because we wanted our own way!'
All: 'I wish we never had the stupid money!'
The boys pull off their torn suit jackets and battered top hats and red, green and blue bowties and hurl them over the side of the building. Then they take their remaining money, which they each keep in a carpetbag in bundles of dollar bills, and they begin flinging it over the side of the courthouse. 'Take it!' We don't want it anymore!' Their lawyers burst onto the roof, and see, with horror, what's going on. They try to stop the triplets, but are rebuffed. Rushing to the edge of the roof, they look down to see people in the street jostling, grabbing handfuls of cash. At this point, it is revealed that the lawyers' real concern is not for their clients, but their clients' money - they dash down to the street and join in the melee.
At last, Huey, Dewey and Louie grab their respective carpetbags and shake the last of the money out off the roof. A gust of wind catches the huge flurry of bills and send it riffling back into their faces. 'Ugh!' 'Agh!' 'Get off! We don't want you anymore!' 'We don't want your money!'
Transition to the triplets snoozing in a heap of cushions at Scrooge's Duckburg mansion. Scrooge's loyal butler, Duckworth, (who, despite his name, is an anthropomorphised dog) is trying to wake them by gently brushing their faces. They are kids again. Duckworth has a silver platter of milk and cookies. Louie lashes out: 'I said: "We don't want your money!"' The tray is knocked flying, Duckworth is soaked, hilariously.
He says something mordant and long-suffering like: 'I'll come back later then, young masters.'
The triplets rouse.
Huey: 'What?'
Dewey: 'So we're not rich?'
Louie: 'Then the whole thing was...'
All: 'A dream!'
They start leaping round and cheering, then they embrace. Then Dewey looks confused.
'Hey wait. We all had the same d-' [CUT TO END CREDITS]
Okay, this was drawn by Don Rosa. (the other major Scrooge cartoonist was Carl Barks, but it's Don Rosa who wrote the epic The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck) It's Scrooge's grave. The inscription says 'Fortuna Favet Fortibus' - fortune favours the brave. Those old timers are Donald and Daisy (apparently married), and at the back their are obviously Huey, Dewey and Louie. So, at least Rosa's aged them. Also, it's quite a humble grave, which is either sweet or sad, depending on how you look at it, and what you think old Unca Scrooge would've thought.
I know I'm overthinking this, and clearly overinvesting in thinly-sketched characters owned by a gigantic media conglomerate accused of questionable business practices, but, for me, it's a kind of deliberate trick. I really resent it when a poet or artist tries to manipulate me through their choice of subject matter, especially since the quality of the art is often in inverse proportion to the perceived weightiness of its message.
With something patently idiotic like Scrooge McDuck, I know that neither I nor my audience have any investment in him, aside from perhaps a weak chuckling recognition at the fact that he liked to swim through money. Ho ho. How unlikely. So that provides a weird kind of blank slate to talk about mortality and vulnerability and acquisition and regret, without ascribing any spurious import or cultural value to them. I'm not saying: This is a piece about my granddad, who I loved and was close to me. I'm not saying: This is a piece about historical figure a, who was culturally significant.
And of course, you can write superb, moving, important poems about real people or big events, and that kind of poetry is important and vital and can help us think and feel. But I like the challenge of trying to make people care, just a little, not just about someone who didn't exist, but about a character who did exist, but is firmly ensconced in the portion of our brains marked 'frivolous' and 'not worthy of compassion'. I'm not asserting I particularly succeeded, just that maybe my MO with this kind of poem is 'compassion for pop culture'. Or something.

Friday, 15 February 2008

The Day The Building Ate The Plane

I have been thinking about the last VWC project and how I could contribute to the next one. I am trying to combine death and martydom together in a modern way. I confess, this posting has recycled lines, I think four, that were in my last VWC piece. But it is only a frame at the moment which I'll build on. All thoughts welcome and thank you.

I saw a plane in plain sight fly into a butter building.
Honed and droned in like a bloodhound following a finger print stink,
And the building swallowed it, hole, gobbled its load


Belched back flames into the blue,


I know they’ve been hit before
But this is twisting black.
This is a shatter smack.
The emotion ripped through tear ducts
Travelled through lens and fibre optic flux


Breath was held.
Are their more?
Are you sure?

The people stood straight as it melted
Down and Down and Down
Down into pyroclastic snow
Covering earth, trapping bone.
But I can wind it back, back it winds
Up it goes, watch it again
I can freeze it.
I can see them now.
He has blue eyes, a yellow tie,
A wedding ring,
An Archimedes swing.
They are waving.
They are falling.
They are sunk.

Hello Fellow Undead Very Much Alive Artists

Dead chuffed to be part of this blog for Voodoo Word Circus: The Dead That Never Lived in June 2008. VWC is the brain child or Monkfish Productions are we delighted to be working with Ross as our poet in res on this piece.

MMM....You guys are well ahead of me in your work already. I think that the idea of dead soap stars in parallel with events in the real actor's lives is really interesting and I think this would be a really interesting idea to germinate....

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Huge McFuck

I fully admit that at least eighty percent of my copious, perhaps damning, knowledge of Scrooge McDuck comes from factual crapshoot wikipedia. The great thing about wikipedia is that, unlike a conventional encyclopedia, where a team of academics assemble to decide what society needs to know about and to what degree, on wikipedia it's chucked out to the masses. The upshot is that the length of a person, place or subject's wikipedia entry acts as a rough index as to how much the world at large cares about it.

And daaaamn if the world at large don't care lots about Scrooge McDuck. His wikipedia article is longer than the ones for William Wallace, Robert Burns, or indeed actual ducks.

But who can genuinely say they're surprised? Uncle Scrooge's appeal to modern audiences quickly surpassed Donald's - after all, Scrooge swam in a lake of gold and travelled the world on adventures. What did Donald do? Get pissed off at a fly, or something.

But alas, this sainted canard had a flaw built into him from the start. His creator, Don Rosa, had committed to a birth year - 1867. In the infinite, magical kingdom of Disney, here was a character who, by dint of being born in a specific time, had a built-in expiration date. In a cast of deathless archetypes, Scrooge was mortal.

I'm not sure how canon his death-date of 1967 is. It would mean that the events of popular Scrooge-centric spinoff series Ducktales happened sometime between 1947 and his death - given the fairly static ages of Huey, Duey and Louie and Webigail, probably a span of no more than two years.

What were final days like? Who came to his funeral? Is there an afterlife in the Disney world? And, you know, in the last analysis, is there much difference between calling out into the void after a fictional character like Scrooge McDuck, and calling out after our ancestors, after the countless humans who've become no more than text and hearsay? Do we care whether it's God or grandpa or Yorrick's skull that calls back, just so long as somebody says something, dammit.

The Impossible Deathbed Lament Of Scrooge McDuck

Is like a hurricane
Spend long enough
In its cosy eye
And soon
You come to think the whole world
Turns round you

Behind Killmotor Hill
The sunrise is fresh minted sovereigns
But the last son of Clan McDuck
Lies gasping for water in a golden bed
His grasping fist recalls young Donald, that
Apoplectic Hornblower
Who taught him the politics of rage
Age has Ebenezered his vigor
In its counting house of days

As a youngster, Scrooge rose early
Even then, he carried himself
With a certain avuncular aplomb
His gimp leg gifting him a tick-tocking surliness
His shinebox
Like an unexploded bomb

Lately, he cannot parse fact nuggets
From fool’s gold fables
He views his past
Through an astigmatic haze
A blurry tartan of
Fourth quarter forecasts
Tax havens, FTSE broadcasts
The jangling slang of ancient registers
Diamond money pins stabbed through
Bill folds like pioneers’ flags
Some pharaoh’s curse, a
Flash of bandaged paw,
This shapeshifting necromancer in Borneo
And the unholy rumble of Niagara
As he dangles
By his cane
From a frayed rope ladder

These days
He can no longer sort
The stupid angles of his brain
Nor even tame his bladder

But still
Clearest of all
He recalls
Gem-sharp dreams
Where he swims through a gleaming cash lake
In a twelve-story Futurist cinderblock
Chock full of heaped tender
A bright Mammonite cathedral

He can taste the aroma of Rands, Francs and Kroner,
Heft each swan dive like a Faberge egg
Let the sure weight transport him to way back when
A butterfly stroke through a bluff of doubloons could
Cause an imbalance in the Yen

He has drowned his best years in that corpulent silo
Midased his own heart
Then set it to cool behind bulletproof glass
And a laser-web
There was always one more dime to covet
It was never money
It was the love of it

Now that lucent organ burns in the furnace of his chest
A lone piper gurning
Forcing a requiem down silted arteries:
Here’s the tree that never grew
Here’s the duck that never flew
Oblivion unhinges its dull, dull maw

Some mysteries are best left unsolved
Uncle Scrooge,
You cannot rewrite history.
There’s no recasting Custer’s busted pride
No tugging the bayonet
From Crazy Horse’s splendid back
And sewing shut the split
How many Bible black afternoons have you squandered
Staring into an open fridge
Wishing it was a time machine?

Step away from the collection plate, old man!
You can’t buy back your misspent youth
This is simple needle’s eye economics
Soon those bold grandnephews
’ll be straddling your cold carcass
Levering each gold tooth
From the final vault of your lockjaw rictus.
Ever the coin-biting pessimist
You missed the long con
This limited flesh was the true wooden nickel
Its obverse engraved by the reaper’s grim sickle

Caches to ashes
Boom to dust
In the golden calf
We antitrust

This is the big crash, McDuck,
The culling of the sacred cash cow
The Money Bin going molten
Billions in bullion
An ocean of faces, dates and franked slogans
Converging in meltdown
The merger
To end all mergers
It’s 1929 all over
Taking you so far into the black
You can’t breathe

And your heart trots out
Its last bland iambs
De dum
de dum
de dum
de dum
end stop

O there’s no asset-stripper
So doughty as Time
But friends,
We know the freedom of liquidity
For the wages of sin is death an a’ that,
But a wage, well, that means dignity.


you wild you
kept on going you
truly weren’t I think -
stifled yourself
half to death
and died
muddy clogs off
in the dark
borderless yard

Your life so polar
spat and snarled yet
never whole
was wasted land
a mouth of soil
and broken neatly
down the middle-
yr breasts
got eaten
and kept
and corseted
in thorn and title
while fold-dark skies
kept on and splashing on
for what?

And it comes
to this-
kicking at the walls
like a
muzzled halfling-
you don’t know
or even fancy
the landscape in a man
full of hate- this
drawing room of sexless
like nothing else could do-
are you disabled?

in hills and crinoline
to love only man
or man-
would the real live space
of moorless you
go empty without

He made couches out of commas

The boy in the book
fucked his fist out,
took to making letter lists
sleep slicked himself with digits
and cubed bits and centimetres and pixels
and the scrits of kerf that lolled off the cover lip.

He knee waded deep to the pylon spine
and grout gripped as the arms all Ceilidh made moving,
the fist that fucked him, a footnote.
The scapula smuck of edit
got him at the edge of that Blackpool Penelope,
always he’d seen a signpost to the common,
but actually turned out it was a death wedge
of more story coming.

The dead good

Hmmm, interesting theme. So what do I have to say about it? I suppose writers are all going to come to this from their own interests and obsessions- which is what makes it so nteresting. But when I think death ,I think legend, and how people make sense and construct the departed with all their own seperate pieces. I think of Edgar Allan Poe

' There is nothing so poetic as the death of a beautiful woman'.

As a woman this pisses me off a bit, and yet it also rings true of society. There is a weird fetishisation of the dead when it comes to women- the women of paintings, film, and tabloid- which disturbs, and yet continues to fascinate. Don't all of us Know Marilyn died in the nude? Of course, we can't only blame Elton John.

How many paintings of Ophelia before the lake have we seen? Whether fictional or real the death of a beautiful woman intrigues, worries, presents is cautionary tale in picture book form; whether we want to or not we continue turning the page.

Here are a couple of my poems about the death of Marilyn from different points of view.

I'm also working on some monologues- but haven't finished them yet.

The Embalmer’s Wife

Truth is, I haven’t thought of her in years.
Remember his care reducing the swelling,
and after asking me to lend an eye.

Of course the movie make-up still had to be applied.
The partners nodded, said he’d done good;
it was only me who mentioned her chest.

Rather, the lack of it,
something the procedures took away.

I woke with the birds, snuck down
to cradle what should’ve been in my hand.

The enhancers just didn’t seem right.
I searched the house to find my children’s first socks,
a baby’s stuffed rabbit, powder puff,
small things, to stuff in
till she looked herself again.

These things that had been everywhere,
road trips, the coast, picnic, a wedding night,
seemed to make her complete.
As if I had taken her missing chest with me
to show it everything I thought it should see,
got to know it as it said goodbye.

The Undertaker’s Wife

The library book on de-cluttering
says everything you don’t use must go.
The house keeps its hands in its pockets,
I sneak up to find things I’ve never seen before.

An orgy of birthday cards, Christmases,
those lines of crosses in different colours.
Firing lines of kisses, I’m not sure if I claimed,
neat as sutures on the back of her neck.

An old white sheet her body somehow used
to create alps covered in snow.

In his bottom desk drawer, a lifetime later,
a small piece of brown paper,
the tag that looped round her big toe.


Each day a little less left. She waters down her eyes

and turns up her smile so loud it’s white noise.

All that’s left is waterfall.



roars applause

as all eyes follow the perpetual

motion of her hips.

Her mouth moves on and on, as if cut

from a movie he hasn’t seen and spliced in.



conspires, won’t let her forget.

Her laugh like busy hands, exaggerated

for a dull husband in the wings.

A man with one word on his face

shakes the sense into her; his slap

like a tuning fork that makes her face sing.



just falls.

Her look that could kill as he sleeps, keeps on

breathing, breathes in deep, as if it was love.

Waterfall in her ears

as she goes back to the house, something left behind,

searches room by room, like he moved into her

taking anything of value, closing doors,

turning out the lights.


That year they didn’t sing anything
when the wife brought in the cake.

My son blew out the candles,
wax dinting the icing like snow prints,
when we asked the boy to make a wish.

The cards flapped when the door opened
or shut, seemed to sigh their greeting in my ear.

My daughter’s doll was naked on the birdbath.
The birds came and went
until night crept in.

The way those last days
she swapped her sentences for Hallmark verse,
Made her body stone by stone into sculpture,
sparkling rhinestones like the fossils of rain.

The Cellar

Old Joe never to spoke to Harry again
after he opened the cellar door.

His boots shuffled out
the pads of her toes,
her footsteps
no one knew were a tip toe in heels.
Rain prick of stiletto’s
like buried children’s toys in sand
on the dust on his floor.

Twenty years since a decent bottle of wine.
The white gloves where she left them,
folded one on top of the other in repose,
etched grey by years, waiting for a posy.

A light hand on his arm for that second

First steps...

Always been a bit apprehensive about doing one of these blog things but I'm getting involved tentatively. From what I can see death is on the cards and I found the first six pages of this Kisteva book on amazon today. Some of you may have heard me bang on about abjection before and I don't profess to really follow this essay but something about the wording of it makes it compelling. It definately resonates with me, it is a piece of psychoanalytic writing (lit crit, whatever) but I don't really consume it in that way. It's only the first six pages or so (which is probably about as much of it as I read when I was at uni).

Die, Di

At the risk of upsetting a thousand lonely satellites, I propose The Death of Diana, Princess of Wales: A Tragi-Comedy in Three Parts.

In all seriousness, I would like to explore this bizarre period in recent British history - the accident, the aftermath, the very public, nauseating grief, the strange, failed attempts at civic memorials, the conspiracy theories, et al.

There's an excellent little pamphlet released by a think tank a few years ago called Conspicuous Compassion, which takes the Diana phenomenon as its prime example. I will use this is the basis of a piece of writing, perhaps.

aerith dies

Probably the most controversial death in a computer game, the death of Aerith Gainsborough in Final Fantasy VII has become one of the most seminal moments in videogame history.

The fact that it caused such an uproar is interesting, to me at least. Probably because we believe that video games work to a very well-defined framework. We dont expect them to obey a moral code, but we expect them to be fair, in some sense. Therefore, when the story kills off a team member you had spent 70 hours training up, it breaks the frame. Cue grown men crying into their joypads.

An additional gripe is that Aerith's death pretty much removes the team's ability to use the 'Phoenix Down' magic option. Therefore, characters can no longer be revived if they get mortally wounded. All-in-all, its a big bony slap in the face from the grim reaper.

Is the reaction is a genuine outpouring of grief, or just a feeling of being swindled and pissed off? Maybe the reactions aren't so different anyhow.

Here's an extract from the wikipedia page:

In early planning stages of Final Fantasy VII, Aerith was to be one of only three protagonists. Before this, Yoshinori Kitase and Tetsuya Nomura decided that one character would have to die, and after creating the three characters, decided on Aerith after a long debate. Nomura stated in a 2005 EGM interview: "Cloud's the main character, so you can't really kill him. And Barrett... [sic] well, that's maybe too obvious". This was not changed after other protagonists were created.

While designing Final Fantasy VII, Tetsuya Nomura was frustrated with the "perennial dramatic cliché" where the protagonist must dramatically sacrifice herself to express her love for someone. He found that this appeared in both films and video games from North America and Japan. "Is it right to set such an example to people?" Director and scenario writer Yoshinori Kitase concludes:

"In the real world things are very different. You just need to look around you. Nobody wants to die that way. People die of disease and accident. Death comes suddenly and there is no notion of good or bad. It leaves, not a dramatic feeling but great emptiness. When you lose someone you loved very much you feel this big empty space and think, 'If I had known this was coming I would have done things differently.' These are the feelings I wanted to arouse in the players with Aerith's death relatively early in the game. Feelings of reality and not Hollywood." —Yoshinori Kitase, Edge Magazine, May 2003

While reflecting on the game, Tetsuya Nomura claims that "Death should be something sudden and unexpected, and Aeris' death seemed more natural and realistic," and "When I reflect on Final Fantasy VII, the fact that fans were so offended by her sudden death probably means that we were successful with her character. If fans had simply accepted her death, that would have meant she wasn't an effective character." Rumors have circulated that Aerith can be resurrected in Final Fantasy VII or that the possibility was removed in development. "The world was expecting us to bring her back to life, as this is the classic convention". A lengthy petition asking for Aerith's revival by Japanese players was sent to scenario writer Yoshinori Kitase. However, Kitase states that "there are many meanings in Aerith's death and that could never happen"

off the air

I wrote this a few years ago after the death of the actor Raul Julia. In particular, Julia's last on-screen role as M. Bison in Street Fighter the movie.

At the end of the film, Bison is roundhouse-kicked into a wall of televisions by Jean Claude Van-Damme. He is electrocuted and dies. As it happens, Van-Damme quips: "You're off the air. Permanently".

Julia was survived by his wife and two sons. I wanted to write something about how strange it would be to watch your dad die like that. This train of thought led onto feelings about my own dad, and that led to the poem.

I don't know why I changed it from Van-Damme to Rutger Hauer. I guess I wanted to distance it from Julia and make it seem like the events were happening inside a more generic action film. Anyway, here it is-

Rutger Hauer

My dad hijacks a nuclear missile
and threatens to launch it
at the Statue of Liberty
if his demands are not met.

He salutes a wall of televisions:
sallow-skinned agents are activated in Honduras,
followed by Washington, Rome, Peru…
Each with a briefcase handcuffed to their wrist

and a scorpion tattooed on one buttock.
Codes are scrambled. Intelligence suggests.
Manic laughter brings down a chopper, whilst
fresh ammunition is shuttled to the coast.

Dad puts a bullet through his general’s eye.
There are reports of a life-sign inside the perimeter.
Guards are found naked or not at all.
Torture chambers flood with blood.

The adventure ends. His army crushed,
my father stands alone on his secret island,
staring into broken radar screens, sparks
raining off his trim, well-decorated uniform.

I pause the video less than a second before
Rutger Hauer rolls out of the darkness, then
edge the film on, frame by frame, until
the image closes in like hands around a neck,

and my Dad’s eyes dilate for the last time,
lips dribbling scarlet plasma.
And then I get down on my hands and knees,
press my face against the television set,

and tell him that sometimes
it’s OK to lose.

Buy antichrists / sell red heifers

Thought I would get things rolling with a few links to radio programmes.
Both of these are old episodes of This American Life:

(Stories of people's last words before death. Their one last shot at figuring things out, summing things up. One last moment of asserting the fact of our existence- at the moment of our annihilation.)

(Stories of the end of the world. More people believe it's more imminent than you probably realise.)

Finally this:

Its a stock exchange for the impeding apocalypse. Always worth keeping an eye on, especially if you're planning to take a holiday soon.