Monday, 24 October 2011

Sunken Foal

A Sea Shanty

We are sailing on the Sunken Foal,
Washed-up men with shrunken souls.
The ship, in truth, is very, very old
And its ghosts have long deserted.

But what's this creeping about the nest?
New ghost in the making, body soon to rest.
But no-one knows what's about to manifest
Except for Constable Bursted.


Gentlemen, please stop what you're doing. A crime is about to be committed on this vessel.

(Disquiet, hubbub, mutter mutter)

I realise this may sound peculiar, but I assure you gents that all shall become clear momentarily, for if you would just raise your eyes up to the crow's nest, you shall see... in just a second... your fellow crewman Crod Popples toppling over the side of the nest, then falling wordlessly to the deck (note that he's not mobile, his body is completely limp), where he shall land head-first, just a few feet to my left. On impact, the top of his skull will crumple, leading to a severe trauma with intercranial bleeding (you may have noticed part of his brain splattering the deck in a wide arc, some of which is about to land on my shoe - there!). At the same time, the force of the impact has pushed his head up into his ribcage, causing the neck, spine and ribs to fracture in several places. Subsequently, the body comes to a rest on the deck. Not a pretty sight, I'm sure you'll agree.

Gentlemen, I have come aboard - I do hope you'll forgive the intrusion, I boarded without invitation, though as you will no doubt appreciate, purely out of necessity - to solve this crime. But how could I possibly know that this man's death was the direct result of a malicious act on the part of another, as yet unidentified?

Well, the textbook response would be to say that in my line of work, it would be more appropriate to ask whether I can be at all certain that this man was not murdered. For instance - why did he not flail or struggle on the way down? We must be open to the possibility that he was either unconscious or unliving before he went over the side of the nest. Secondly, he received injuries on impact which we cannot simply ascribe solely to the impact itself (for example, a broken neck, which would also be consistent with strangulation; the investigator must keep his mind open, never drawing conclusions where questions might remain).

That would be the textbook response. In this case, however, I can tell you that I do indeed know that this was a murder, and furthermore know who the murderer is. And I know all this because I solved the crime before it happened.

(Disquiet, hubbub, mutter mutter)

Quite so. And I understand your confusion. I shall reveal my methods in due course. But first, a word about death.

What is death? This is a nonsensical question and you should be ashamed for asking it, even though it was me, because death is nothing. It is a state of nothingness. And how can nothing be anything? Hahaha! Fools. A more instructive line of inquiry would be to ponder, instead, the nature of life. For many have argued - and I am inclined to agree - that death is merely the negation of whatever it is that that is.

But it has meaning beyond this, does it not, for the negation of a life does not simply render void the entire existence of the life in question. Indeed, death has far greater and more troubling implications for the living, those left behind. But I mean no slander against death. It is a beautiful thing, and why should it spare a thought for those of us caught in its wake? Death deals in the infinite. On such a scale, haha-why, we are utterly meaningless! Death need not be aware of any of us until such a time as it comes for us.

And it is coming for us all, whether by accident or by design. Yea, we spend more time dead than we do alive. Is life, therefore, not the aberration? The error which must be corrected? And is death not the stabilising force, the restorer of equilibrium?

Death came for Crod Popples just minutes ago. But I have already concluded, you may remember, that death's visitation was not unsolicited. I promised to explain my method, and I am a man of my word.

My conclusion was already drawn and placed, as an invisible layer, upon this ship a long time ago. Long before any of us came into being - even the ship itself, ancient though it is. And just why do I employ this method? Theatre, gentlemen, I am not ashamed to admit. For the thrill of spectacle, I solve crimes in this manner. Some of my colleagues insist that spectacle has no place in the fight against crime. I disagree quite strongly. Spectacle, theatre, they have a place in all things. For what is the world of men without poetry?

And - it gets better! - my modus operandi is not mere poetry. As you will all no doubt attest in light of today's events, there is also the benefit of efficiency.

Poetry and efficiency. A powerful combination. Too powerful, indeed, for many to wield responsibly. Could one not argue that this very combination of quite disparate forces fuelled the intellectual engines of 20th century fascism? A cold, ugly political philosophy, so brutally prosaic... and yet with a sense of childlike wonder, utterly in thrall to the almost mystical promise of the future. A cult of progress, you could say. Even monsters recognise a need for magic.

But I digress! We have established that Crod Popples was murdered. I have announced that I know who the murderer is. I shall now reveal to you my findings.

Crod Popples, good sirs, was murdered by... Crod Popples!

It is true, your colleague took his own life by diving head-first from his post. If he did not appear to struggle - well, there was the serenity of the man who has chosen his fate (if, that is, any of us could ever really be said to have any influence over such a thing). He knew what I have just told you, that death is not the destroyer that we, in our ignorance and fear, have deemed it to be. Rather, it is the maintainer. The keeper of a grand cosmic order that not one of us could ever comprehend.

I know that he knew these things, because I learnt these things from him, in the minutes before he died. Because I am him. Or at least, a part of him.

Gentlemen, I have not been clear about this up until now, and I hope you will soon understand why that is so, but now is the time for me to confess that my purpose in joining you today has been twofold.

Number one! Solve the mystery of Crod Popples' death. That can now be put to bed.

Number two! I have come also to introduce myself to you, and I do so humbly beg that you will welcome me into the crew of the Sunken Foal, for I am, sirs... the ghost of Crod Popples!

Let's have a party!

(Cheers, merriment, mutter mutter)

Monday, 17 October 2011

Lewis Carroll

In this fifth and final part of my thesis, I'd like to focus on my good friend and mentor, the musical comedian Lewis Carroll.

When I first met Lewis in 1970, he was a cheeky, voyeuristic window cleaner, and the wit for which he became famous was apparent even then. With his polished repertoire of bon mots - such as, "oi-oi!" and, "come on, luv, show us your knockers!" - he was always the life and soul of the party.

Lewis loved his work, so it came as something of a blow to him when, in 1977, second-wave feminism finally strangled the life out of the voyeuristic window cleaner market. All of a sudden, young ladies were no longer content to lounge around in see-through nighties as randy gentlemen in jaunty-angled caps leered at them through their bedroom windows. (Some even had extra-large windows installed to accommodate more of them. You could sometimes look up and see as many as seven window cleaners peering into a single bedroom.)

Lewis fell into a deep depression for five days before deciding to enter the world of showbusiness. He struggled at first to get his act off the ground, but after years of toil, he finally broke through to the theatre circuit in the early 1980s, alongside the likes of Dermot O'Leary and Slavoj Žižek, and the two boys from Arab Strap (who, you may remember, were accomplished magicians before stadium rock and roll fame beckoned). It was during this time that Lewis' salt song brought him to the attention of the televisual producers...

Keep the salt flowin', m'boys -
Lovely, brown salt.
It's warm and smooth,
And it keeps me satisfied.


(Pop quiz, hotshot! What do you think 'salt' is a euphemism for in this song? Answer at the bottom of the page...)

Having secured his own televisual show, Lewis started to branch out, styling himself as a Lenny Bruce-esque figure, with shades of Les Dawson. This was, of course, a ratings disaster, and the show was cancelled in 1987 after just eight series. But he was simply ahead of his time. Lewis spoke truths that contemporary audiences just weren't ready to hear...

Music, please. Some smoky midnight anecdote jazz, if you don't mind.

So you're on the train home. It's been a long day, and you're in the grip of peristalsis. Painful spasms wrack your dirty regions. Oh, it's agony. Is that something coming out? Are you touching cloth? No, it's okay - it's just a bit of pressure. And that damp feeling? Just sweat, perhaps a little mucus, but no lines have been crossed just yet. Don't worry. You never shit yourself before, you're not going to start now.

Then you get home, rush to the toilet, drop your pants and sit down. And that's when you see it, staring up at you from the seat of your trousers: a great, stinking, curling mound of your yesterdays. In this moment, a horrible realisation dawns. All those people you passed by, the people on the train, they really were recoiling in horror. The man sat next to you who moved to a vacant seat - it was your faecal stench that drove him away. Those attractive students... they're faxing their friends right now: "omg this dirty old prik on da train shit himself lol!!!!"

And other realisations. All those years. There was no paranoia after all. Everything you feared had been true. Whenever a crowd of people outside a bar burst into laughter at the precise moment you walked by, it wasn't bad timing. You hadn't just entered the scene at the climax of a joke, or the delivery of some unheard witticism. They were laughing at you. At you. They were laughing at you. People see you and they laugh. They just can't help themselves. You're ridiculous.

Strange looks from pretty girls. People who seem nice at first, then suddenly turn hostile halfway through conversations. Shop assistants who were chatting pleasantly to customers in front of you then greet you with contempt as you approach the till. These things were real.

Falling over in a busy street. Chewing gum stuck to your trousers. Saying 'expresso' for three years before realising your mistake. Splashback from a poorly-designed urinal. "Look, he's pissed himself!" No, I haven't! Well okay, yes. Yes, in a sense, I have. But not directly!

Lewis Carroll died a year later, penniless and hopelessly addicted to caffeine, in a branch of Wimpy at Sandbach services. He was survived by his wife, Carol, and a sort of giant maggot called Keru-Gwa.

(Salt Euphemism Quiz: Well done if you spotted the trick in the question! The word 'salt' is really a recursive meta-euphemism, itself representing chocolate pudding, which is, in turn, a euphemism for salt!)

Monday, 10 October 2011

µ-Ziq

I would like, if I may, to present the next part of this thesis loosely in the form of a treatment, for a film, perhaps, or televisual play. But why? I can only answer, why not? Because I felt like it. You might think this answer insufficient. To that, I say, pah! Embrace insufficiency. Make a friend of it. For like it or not, it will be your constant companion through life. You will then look sad and I will tell you to stop being so pathetic, then get up and walk away. Close up on your stupid face as a door slams somewhere out of shot. Fade to me talking about this treatment.

This film or televisual play should be viewed as a question. Far too much emphasis is placed, these days, on answers, particularly in cinema and television. No-one is willing to figure anything out for themselves. Viewers go in with questions, expecting them to have been answered by the time the end credits are rolling. Critics demand resolution. They want narrative sense. Why does this woman resent her own children? What relevance does this detail have to her story? How is she going to deal with this?

But why do we insist that this aspect of her experience be relevant to whatever slither of her existence on which the storyteller has chosen to focus? And why on earth do we expect her to resolve it? Maybe she never will. Perhaps it's just there, and will remain so, for the rest of hers and her children's lives. Perhaps their children will feel the ripples, too. Fate is cold and arbitrary.

Look at scene 2, 4'12" in - she's eating granola. I think we can say, therefore, fairly safely, that this woman likes granola. But why does she like granola? What has happened in her life to bring about this attraction? How will this inform the choices she will make throughout the rest of the film? Is this why she put on her dressing gown at 0'44"?

Do you see now how foolish such questions are? The world does not work this way. Reality does not demand conflict and resolution. It does not insist that, for example, a person's extraordinary skateboarding abilities play any part in their existence beyond the skating arena...

When I skate, I am very good at it. People watch and they say things like, "warm!" and, "carefully executed!" or even, "dickhouse!" (Author's note: these are examples of youth slang)

When I'm not skating, I do things such as online banking, smashing windows, eating granola. I once chased down and accosted a mugger, but I did it on foot. My skateboard has no significant function or meaning in these other areas of my life. Now, leave me alone.

So why do you bring your questions to me? What do you think qualifies me to answer them? I have no interest in doing so, nor do I have any interest in you. I am interested only in those with answers. I want my audience to walk into the cinema auditorium, or turn on their television sets with heads full of answers, and I want to present them with questions. I want to shatter their certainty. As the closing music plays out, I want them to leave their seats and go away, blinking, into a world clouded by ambiguity and confusion. Some of them may be crying. I hope so.

I think this film or televisual play will never end. We will film and release it as the audience watches it, continuously, and our children will take over its production as we all wither and die, and their children after them, and their children, etc. I shall be aiming it at the date movie market. We have a PR firm which promises 360-degree promotion, deals with the likes of McDonald's, a series on the Disney Channel, an album, action figures, branded erotic playwear...

Monday, 3 October 2011

A Certain Ratio

Rediscover The Beast In You

How many of these statements do you agree with?
- "I feel I'm held back by my own conscience"
- "Every time I hurt another human being or beings, I suffer from guilt"
- "My problem is that I'd rather spend my free time with my family than pounding a hot 20-year-old in my city-centre bachelor pad"

For years, you've lived a life of cowardice. You've lived meekly, defensively. "Why should my desires take precedent over others'?" you've asked. This is why you're a loser. It's why you're reading this under a naked lightbulb, eating Spaghetti Hoops in your pants. You're pathetic. I think about you and I chozz my fucking guts up out of the hole in my face.

Well, today, all this can change. Today, you're going to learn how you can Rediscover The Beast In You.

Empathy is an unfortunate by-product of socialization. For millennia, mankind has sought to suppress his most useful instincts. Rage. Jealousy. Violence. Hatred. Why do you feel these things? Because they are a part of you.

I don't want to be kind, I don't want to be compassionate. I want to succeed. I want to conquer. I want to feel a man's life seep away through the cracks between my fingers.

These are the words of a winner. Look behind the mask of civilization. Look behind all the culture and the manners and shit and see the horrible truth. The human is a tame animal, a dichotomy of refinement and raw, bloody instinct. But all along, mankind's development has been driven by one thing, one ugly thing, the same thing that drives everything else: competition, the urge to dominate, to control resources.

Society is an effort to maintain a certain ratio, a perfect balance between the socialized man and the animal within. It seeks to harness and tame those wild instincts - the instinct to kill, fuck, conquer - yet all the same, it uses them for its own ends.

At the dawn of the civilized world, mankind discovered it was easier to acquire resources through agriculture and trade. Kill a man, take his food and his women. You eat the food, the women get old and die. No more food and women.

Why not persuade him to build a farm, produce a theoretically endless supply of food and women, year on year? And instead of killing him, why not persuade him to give them up through other means? By swapping resources less valuable to you? Or, in time, with tokens that could, in turn, be swapped for goods and services of his choosing? Soon enough, other agents arrived to profit from the very movements of these goods and services. Upon this system, societies were founded and laws passed, ostensibly to protect human beings - though ultimately, to protect the commodities and capital that they generated.

But what happens when a man's land becomes fallow? What laws are there to protect him? Well, why would there be any? He is no longer useful. As in any economy, as human life becomes more plentiful, more durable, so it becomes less valuable. Life knows this, and it isn't happy. Now Life, worthless Life, is at war with Commerce, the very arbiter of worth.

So which side do you choose? Do you follow your 'conscience' and join the losers, in their overalls and their rice fields and their semi-detached houses, sitting there hoping everything will turn out alright, all the while chomping away at whatever's left, signing their own death warrants in the process? Or are you going to become a winner, proactive, aggressive, a hunter, hungrier than the hungriest mouth, devouring everything that gets between you and your prize - the complete annihilation of all things - all things in the pursuit of the only thing that matters anymore - the thing that exists beyond the realm of things - the thing that represents things - the symbol of things: the sexy chodrah?

Nature is a constant battle, and you - stupid twat - are on the losing side. So be the best that you can be, place your faith in the dream of constant growth, embrace the virtue of excess, slaughter your family - they pretend that they love you, but they are only keeping you down - invite destruction, fuck everything... and Rediscover The Beast In You.

Our logic is flawless, try not to think too much about it.