Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Undulatory 'n' Celebratory

The 200th post is done and dusted, and with it, the associated prize draw.

I’m pleased to announce that the first name to be drawn out of the official Abysswinksback beret was...

[insert sound of bugles, 140dB grunge riff, massed didgeridoo grunts — or some other fanfare of your choice]


So — the crappest of crap crap crap crap crap prizes will be winging its way to you as soon as I can find an unmothballed Post Office.

In the meantime, here’s the poetic tribute you somehow managed to wheedle out of me...

Oh Oh Oh, It’s Scarlet*

Far from ginger,
oozing smut —
of alors, zut.

Ever may your
vistae twinkle
and your Smeg
all things enpinkle.

* Whatever happened to Pilot? Or Sailor? Or Smokie? Actually, I do know what happened to Smokie — a few years ago they released a Christmas album which I foolishly own. It’s vileness could shame a Lovecraftian demonspawn.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mr Do Something

I don’t know what the rules are for walking down the street with your dog. All I know is, some people break them.

As you may be aware, I’m an ardent perambulator, and can typically be found wandering up and down the street for no good reason, simply to perambulate. When I’m not bumping into One-arm Barry every five minutes, there are plenty of other people who brighten my day as they gad around my tiny corner of the planet inadvertently proffering the best and worst of their accumulated habits, characteristics and weird noses before me like gifts bundled free with my precious mortality.

From The Mock Rick Wakeman to Leggy Watson to Mrs Waiting To Be 47, I have a cast of thousands ready to leap out at me from their semis and entertain me with their gay wherewithal.

Mr Do Something, however, is in a class of his own. Ruddy cheeked like he grew up in a freezing cold farmhouse, and slight of frame like said farmhouse had no animals or crops and was 25 miles from the nearest supermarket, Mr Do Something is a treat to behold. I normally encounter him walking his overenthusiastic sheepdog in the lane where Maurice lurks. Maybe they have a thing going, I don’t know. You never can tell with Maurice.

Anyhow, the point is that although I don’t know Mr Do Something’s name (because, yes, that’s not actually his name), we’ve passed each other often enough to cotton on that we’re both

a) locals
b) not assassins
c) conscious

so the option of passing each other by without any sign of acknowledgement is a no-no. The neighbours would talk. Then they would form a lynch mob. Then they would most surely beat us.

So what happens when he comes round the corner with his dog? And we look up to see one another over a 20 foot expanse of tarmac, knowing that we must pass and have some sort of inane conversation? Or a loaded nod?

There’s a frisson to this, sometimes, isn’t there? When to nod, or when to say hello — and the whole sorry business of varying the peurile nonsense you said last time.

‘Nice out.’
‘Yes, it is.’

‘Decent weather.’

‘I can’t wait to find out what Santa is bringing me this Christmas.’
‘Rubber liederhosen, if I know you...’

Okay, so I made up the last example. But you get the point.

The rules for this (as far as I can see) are Apprehension-Perambulation-Greeting. But Mr Do Something can’t help himself. He has to do something between the Apprehension and Perambulation stages, like he can’t bear the long wait till the Greeting. So we’ll encounter each other between a couple of modest front gardens, and the moment he sees me, he’ll start whistling — not a tune or anything sophisticated; just a few notes of twiddle to cover himself till one of us nods or says hello. Or maybe he’ll call to his dog, or fiddle with his belt, or cough, or adjust his hat, or pretend to be looking somewhere, or do up his coat, or take something out of his pocket and look at it, or cough again, or anything anything anything that’s something; and though I’m a pleasant and respectable person not given to random acts of violence in the street, sometimes I just want to grab hold of him and shake him till his bones either fall apart or fuse together and shout, ‘for fuck’s sake, mate, why can’t you just walk down the street normally and simply say hello or nod? Why the hell do you have to engage in this extra, unwanted, supplementary activity that serves no purpose other than to annoy me? Why do you have to DO SOMETHING???!!!

Maybe, if we both moved to Italy, with its passion, romance and pasta, I’d be allowed to savage him with an uncooked linguine birch, but hey, this is England.


The competition announced in the previous post is now closed. I'l be alerting the lucky winner shortly.

Note 2

I'm pleased to reveal that it's now possible to locate this blog on Google by typing in "extract semen from goat"

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The 200th Post Of Joy And Wonder (Includes Prizes)

Stalwart enthusiasts of this blog (and yes, I hear you chanting my name in my dreams as I tango with Morpheus’ hamsters), will remember that I ran a quiz for my 100th post.

A quiz with prizes.

This time round, the deal is similar, only without the quiz. And before you start foaming at the mouth wondering what wondrous treat I have lined up for you in place of a quiz, I have to confess that I’ve got my hands full this weekend with (metaphor alert) a multitude of juggling balls which I am struggling to keep in the air in an entertainingly polyparabolic way (simile alert) like the seat of the unicycle I’m riding has morphed into a rhino’s horn. So, no abyss-goer fodder this time round.*

Yes, I am that awful party host who lays on no food, no drinks, no nibblies, yet still has the audacity to demand everyone come in fancy dress.

So here’s the deal. Quick, simple — like having your ears syringed by Mike Tyson.

To be eligible for an unspecified crap crap crap crap crap prize, simply check into the comments to register a cheery hello. The only stipulation (and what a shame it is that this word came to mean ‘stipulation’. Could have been much better deployed as a medical complaint, like putting your hip out; or a word for describing that thing ants do to each other with their antennae as they’re raiding your larder for globules of damson jelly) is that you must include the word UNDULATE in your comment. No need to incorporate it into a witty sentence (though you know I want it, aaaaah, I want it baby). Just leave it dangling if need be. Dangling like a sloth.

This opportunity to fulfil your potential as a waste of cyberspace will remain open until the next post appears, whereupon I will select a winner by drawing names from a hat. De-lurkers get two tries. Previous prize winners may be treated to something especially crap if they get lucky again.

Meanwhile — have a fun weekend.

* And no hotline.

Monday, September 21, 2009

On The Couch With Sock Monkey

SM: So, how are you feeling today?

WO: I could murder a cheese sandwich, if that helps.

SM: Interesting...

WO: In what way?

SM: I’ll come to that in a moment.

WO: No, no. Spill the beans. Is this like a tarot card thing? Where I pluck a card from the deck, say, the hanging man, and you interpret the meaning?

SM: Not exactly, But now you mention it...

WO: What? The cheese or the murder or the hanging man? What are you insinuating?

SM: Insinuating? Why, nothing. As ever, I’m merely providing you with a vehicle for the carriage of your innermost thoughts into the examinable consciousnesscsape—

WO: Leaving aside the absurd phrase consciousnesscape—’

SM: Revealing, in itself...

WO: Shut your trap. My point is — are you suggesting that without the assistance of your metaphoric bicycle, my innermost thoughts have no meaningful expression in the world?

SM: Why not hovercraft?

WO: Does it matter?

SM: As far as the outward expression of your inner life is concerned, yes, it jolly well matters.

WO: Like a cheese sandwich matters?

SM: Yes.

WO: And a hanging man matters?

SM: Yes, now you mention it.

WO: But that’s ridiculous. I could say anything. Waitaminute. Let me think. I know — rumbustuous pelicans hovering over a sunset of...mystery galoshes...and...Elton John is in the nude serenading a browned photograph of Princess Di.

SM: There. I knew you were going to say that. Maybe now we can move forward with things.

WO: Maybe now I should punch you in the face.

SM: But how, precisely? With the grim resignation of a hanging man? The swoosh of a hovercraft on the ocean blue? The calculated swipe of a knife through cheddar?

WO: What about a smack in your consciousnesscape?

SM: Okay, okay — if this session has been too challenging for you, I’ll knock ten quid off...

WO: Up your crack, you novelty primate...

For reasons of decency — and also confusion regarding how to spell agonised cries of such expletives as wauuuuugh, muaaaaaaaaaurgh, eaaaarrrrrgh and away with your violent alter ego! I summon the protective shield of the High Monkey Lord, Oolamaboobramtheulis! — subsequent details of this analytical transcript have been seized by Cophouse Central, pending investigation.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fanciful Whimsy From The Deck Of The Good Ship Buggered (Or “Participial Phrases R Us”)

This morning, I reminded myself that this is supposed to be a writing site. I mention this because my original intention for this post had been to dress my feet up in hand-knitted costumes and with the aid of some trick photography, flag up a thesis condemning the practice of palm reading to the dustbin. Then I got distracted and ended up scanning one of my buttocks. That, I think, was the killer stimulus for the thought that perhaps I might be better off chancing my arm at something a little more serious.

I’ve held off from posting something like this for a while, mainly because the internet abounds with sound writing advice from individuals (and occasionally alien gladiator hordes) who know far more than I do. Added to this, of course, is the dilemma that in all things writerly, the dividing line between Gospel Truths of Form and Function, Subjectively Rendered Quirks that Work and Tosh Exasperating Tosh is often as blurred as Shane McGowan’s vision first thing in the morning.

I was, however, taken by a couple of recent posts over at Edittorrent about the thorny subject of participial phrases. Ever the ignoramus (and if you’re a fledgling goth/grunge crossover band, you may use this for the title of one of your songs with my pleasure), I’d never heard of this until I read the posts, but now I’m familiar with the term, I realise my writing is littered with these. Disheartening, then, to discover that in many circles, participial phrases are regarded as amateurish.

The problem for me is that I like concurrence within a sentence — the juxtaposition of ideas/themes/thoughts/whatever in a succinct self-enclosed bubble of the active present. Sure, things can pan out as and while other things are occurring, but since these words assume the mantle of conjunction, any sentence or phrase united by their merry dance might easily be split in two without too much loss of harmony. Most times, I think, it’s better if they are.

Those -ing modifiers, however, are a great little tool, and brilliant for chopping out what might otherwise be an overabundance of ands and a tendency towards turning the cinematic filmstrip of the prose into the stoccato flash of a slideshow. This, then this, then this. Fine — but I like my looks of horror to coincide with the emergence of the demon beast from the fireplace and not as a post-full-stop afterthought.

That said, so many of my opening sentences take the form something and something.

For instance:

The mouse plucked a whisker and threaded it through the needle.

No need here to go with

The mouse plucked a whisker. (Then) he threaded it through the needle.

And the following simply wouldn’t work:

Plucking a whisker (mouse-modifying adjectival participial phrase (of doom)), the mouse threaded it through the needle.

Clearly, the mouse can’t thread the needle at the same time as he’s plucking it from his cheek (unless he’s a very bizarre shape-shifting mouse, in which case it might be permissible. Hey — if you’re a shape-shifting mouse, you can get away with anything). Rendered like this, the sentence messes with time and action in a way that makes no sense: bad writing.

But doesn’t this form open up a world of possibilities that the simple and cannot? Does it not provide a cunning solution to the union of linked ideas within a sentence? That has infinite scope for variety? I certainly think so.

I may be hanging myself here, but here’s a sample sentence from my WIP that I’ve thought about many different ways, and which always cries out to be written using a participial phrase. Briefly, the scenario is that the protag has emerged from his apartment clutching an arsenal of hastily assembled weaponry in order to confront a powerful interloper. He is unprepared and time is against him. Here’s how he fares:

Gripping the wok handle between his teeth, he powered up the flamethrower, flipping every turbo charger and cranking the Hydrazinometer till the propellant pump blew off.

So, he’s having to hold an object he intends to use as a shield (the unwieldy wok) while he uses both hands to ready his weapon (the flamethrower). The gripping of the wok in this way, as an activity concurrent with the business of the flamethrower, (I think) flags up the nature of his predicament far better than:

He gripped the wok handle between his teeth and powered up...

Presenting this part of the scene in this sequential way suggests he’s more in control of things than is actually the (intended) case. And As he gripped... is similar (though probably indicative of slightly more control on his part).

Another option might have been to introduce words like flustered or sweating, or to engage in some blatant telling, but I think it’s fine as it is. To my untrained eye, it appears to do the job pretty well.

So — any thoughts? About concurrent activity within a sentence? Participial phrases?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Morning Music

This is how I want my Monday mornings to be.

Not that I’m prepared to change sex just yet, mind, in spite of all that has been said about my pre-op transvestite status.

But I could go with the hair.

And definitely the legs.

Anyhow — it’s the start of the week again (unless you’re one of these weirdos who consults the Dwarven Cheese Cycle calendar and believes it all kicks off on a Wednesday), so take care what you do this morning as it will undoubtedly form the bedrock of the rest of the week, and the last thing I want any of my visitors to experience come the weekend is a heartfelt regret that if only they’d done something different around 10am today, they’d have avoided being solely responsible for the strife, misery and sense of impending doom colouring the street riots and multiple threats of nuclear attack all around them.

Or something like that.

So clamber aboard your Alvas and get riding...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pimp My Knobs

According to the two brain training games I have installed on my phone, my powers of logical reasoning are diminishing fast.

The in-depth analysis shows this quite clearly.

On the left hand side of the graph (the past), I see the wobbly line of relative mediocrity; on the right (about ten minutes ago), the line gives way to a droopy parabola reminiscent of a floppy cucumber.

Shapes and patterns I can visualise all day, and no missing number, object or bunny-shaped icon is ever truly missing as far as I’m concerned. The problem is — why am I wasting my time training my brain in the first place? And training it for what exactly? Maybe it’s up the black hole of this particular conundrum that my logical reasoning has been so abjectly sucked.

Surely (he conjectured, rallying), the whole point of carrying this ten pound lump of stuff around with me all day is not so I can count up the various men, women, children, dogs, cats, iguanas and dinosaurs that zip between floors in imaginary lifts when prompted so to do, but so I can arrive with some regularity at workable conclusions drawn from questions concealed by the morass of distracting stimuli whizzing all around?

That said, I need a cup of tea and some cake...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Indoor Fountain Heaven

Nothing beats the sound of running water to calm your spirits — unless it’s coming from under your kitchen sink.

Flashback to 2005, when Twatface Arseholebrain the plumber lay wrestling with ungainly oddments of plastic piping beneath my dream-kitchen-unit-to-be like a desperate Formula 1 mechanic negotiating a Big End Nightmare...

‘So you’re sure you know what you’re doing?’

‘Relax, mate — I’m the best. When I were training, I fitted a bog for ‘arry bleedin’ Secombe, so you’re safe as houses with me...’

Two plumbers later, and the obscene tangle of tubing stretching from beneath the drainer to the fridge could have set me up for life as an adventure theme park magnate — but for the fact that devil-may-care hobbits don’t actually exist.

I’m no expert on plumbing, but my understanding is that the surest guarantee against leakage has everything to do with sealing the connections between the pipes rather than relying on gravity not to pluck the entire water conveying structure from its moorings every time the hot and cold taps are run simultaneously while the washing machine is rinsing a load of woollens and someone’s in the shower. Like it did this afternoon.

No stranger to getting down on my hands and knees and wielding the odd tool, I managed to shore everything up with a trio of cleverly arranged coathangers and now consider myself potentially indispensible in the event of nuclear attack.

But, yes — I missed both goals.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Becalmed, Engruzzled & Thoroughly Up The Spack Pipe

I had high hopes for this morning — an itinerary of worthy deeds including edits, correspondence and phone calls, plus an all-important fifteen minute break to peck at a bar of chocolate and wash a huge mug of coffee round my gullet.

Sadly, all promise of exhilarating craft has withered from view like Keanu Reeves’ once boyish look of innocence.

I can usually put my finger on the source of any such mayomalaise. An irritating buzzard, perhaps; blown in by a late summer storm and hungry for rodents or bird sex. Or maybe a scene from an old John Wayne film, fleetingly glimpsed as I channel hop for the BBC news, which prompts me to holster up and hop round the living room with a cushion gripped between my legs like a proud stallion. Or then again, there’s the distracting army of postmen, meter readers and kumquat salesmen who beat a path to my door to hoover away my precious time with their array of prehensile snouts.

No such luck this morning. I’m at a self-inflicted loss, it seems, pacing idly between rooms with the demeanour of a haunted phantom.

Even my Manual of Bizarre Grunting offers no solace, in spite of the 1001 whoops, shrieks and growls outlined in detail on its pages.

I am as a go-go dancer drained of go — oozing ennui, emanating bluest funk, and ready to be put to the sword.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Two Brown Legs Don't Make A Summer

I’m fairly used to witnessing disturbing sights here at Whirl Towers.

Either Son of Whirl will have trodden half a packet of Bourbon biscuits into the carpet, or Girly of Whirly will have discovered him and soundly smitten his bare bottom with her Vengeance Bat, or Geoff will have hunted down and rent asunder a helpless rasher of bacon.

But bathing trunks? Hauling themselves from the laundry bin? With cries of, ‘I’m not needed any more...’? Surely, you jest.

To be honest, when I first saw them, I wondered if the evil hordes of the Underworld had begun seeping through the cracks in the plaster as dark shadows. They do that, apparently. But no — just the black satin(esque) sheen of my trunks, flibbling o’er the wickerwork.

‘What’s going on?’ I said.

‘Summer’s over. I’m not needed any more.’

I glanced out of the window at the late summer berries hugging each other for warmth, the brown leaves gathering on the trees, and the snowmen.

‘It’s true there won’t be any pools or oceans for a while, but that doesn’t mean I can’t don you. That we can’t still have a little fun.’

My trunks curled the hem of their left leg into what looked like a feeble smile. ‘Can we pretend the bathtub is a flume?’

‘Hey,’ I replied, running the tap, ‘we can have deck chairs, a parasol, everything...

So I painted the bathroom orange and got some sand from a builder. Plucked a few long-haired teenagers off the street and equipped them with surfboards and a lexicon of drawled enthusiastic gibberish. Made a crab shell for Geoff out of an old cereal packet and one or two Blue Peter annuals. We had the kids from down the road in hulas. An tub of ice cream in the sink. And I set up the shower to hose us down with diluted Factor 30, just for the atmospheric odour.

I tellya, it was a great afternoon in.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Casting Off Of Albatri 10

the tricks

we teach dogs
are not new,
but old;
and the dogs,
not old,
but new

this is why progress
is terribly slow
in everything we do