Thursday, 28 March 2013

Seriously Undead Dude.

                 The above is a sketch from a script written by the horror writer Wayne Simmons. A story I have drawn as a short comic strip with the theme of a zombie nativity. Not something you are likely to see on a greeting card anytime soon. The original script did not call for a buff zombie. Alas few situations do but I thought WHY THE HELL NOT!
                  Wayne is a terrific writer with an impressive back catalogue for a relatively new writer. Theres FLU, FEVER, DROP DEAD GORGEOUS and DOLLPARTS. Read FLU and you will fear the sniffles for the rest of your life. The locations in his book resonate with me as do some of his characters. They feel very real. He is a charming fellow as well. With no airs or graces. I helped with a Halloween signing of his and we had a great time. He zombied up for the occassion because he thought his readers would like it. And they did too. He also has some amazing tattoos. In fact he is the most tatooed writer I know. Way in the future some museum may well have him flayed and mounted as part of a horror novelist exhibit. Er..sorry if that sounds grusome but book collectors can be a funny lot. Completists exist on the borders of sanity.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Monkey In A fez.

I was walking down Pottinger's Entry on my way to the chemist to pick up some painkillers. My arthritis was acting up, a bit of bone grinding on bone and I felt I needed something to take the edge off. Was only halfway through a working saturday too. I had just passed a busker with an amazing voice who was belting out a soulful version of The Town I Loved So Well.and was drawing level with the Morning Star pub. I was just hobbling past a table outside where two girls were sitting downing pints of beer. Both wore track suits and both had mobile phones. One of them had her feet up on the edge of the table whilst she texted with one hand and drank from her pint glass with the other. She had a Noel Gallagher thing going on with her hair and her thighs filled her track suit like she played midfield for United. The other girl was half sprawled accross the table top with her mobile clutched to her chest and the pint glass in the other. She had a twisted smirk on her face and obviously favoured the same hairdresser Brad Dorf did as Grima Wormtongue in those Middle Earth movies. Lank black strands hung down like a lace curtain over an open grave.
              As I passed both barked loudly in disdain.
              The girl with her feet on the table snarled at me with a gravelly rattle.
              I just blurted this out in self defense as her mate cackled like a rusty hinge.
              She swung her feet off the table and got to her feet and I thought for a moment she was going to leap forward and deck me. Honestly, she wore the track suit with the casuality of an olympic boxer.
               I flinched with the sheer violent intent of her response. It felt like she had indeed slapped me.
                And I saw in her angry face a completely unexpected degree of hurt.
                Actual hurt. As though I were the one who had randomly insulted a complete stranger. Her wee chum looked at me with utter hatred in her eyes. She had a medieval quality about her. With the hoodie up she looked like a stone carving hanging from the roof of a cathedral.
                 I hobbled on down the alleyway. In an evil hobbly way. The way people with a limp do. The unnatural gait that invites comment from strangers. Sometimes as I pass strangers I feel somewhat as Richard the Third must have. Incomplete. Misformed. But I am not. None of us are. Nobody is. There is no physical ideal. Humans come in all shapes. Its just a limp.
                 I did hope she was not going to sprint down the alley and give me a severe bashing outside the Doc Shop. I did not want to die so close to the Inn Shops. I still feel I have some little to give.
                 She did not. I risked a glance back and saw they were both still glaring in my direction. Just lounging in their loose ensemble of sports casuals awaiting fresh orders from Mordor.
                   To be the object of their disgust felt unfair to me. Surely they should not dish it out if they cannot take it. And there something in the way she reacted to my response to her comment. Had I judged her? She certainly felt I had. I felt bad. In the chemists I checked out some bottles of herbal rescue remedy for panic attacks and briefly considered buying a bottle and leaving it on their table on my return to work journey. Then I considered where that bottle might end up and I took a different street on the way back.
                   Maybe from a certain perspective I was dressed like Charles Chaplin. I wore a shirt and bow tie and baggy trousers. I thought it was more like Lee Thompson the Madness saxophonist . As he looked in the Madness video for ...Baggy Trousers. A great favorite for me and my mates back in the day. Post punk nutty dancing wearing a fez to Night Boat To Cairo on the Shamrock dancefloor.
                    Happy days.
                    Have a set of bookends at home. Two monkeys in waistcoats and fez. Picked them up in a closing down sale of a store that was an early victim of the current world recession in retail in the high street. Very fond of them. They support between them the books I have yet to read. Thats the books I own I have yet to read not all the unread books in the world. Everthing between them changes regularly.
                     Monkey in a fez.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Who is this Who is coming.

Half a century of Who. Holy smoke that is a long time to be traveling in time and space. Different times, different places, even different faces.Splendid chaps. All of them.
                  A while ago the Belfast Telegraph did an article on the return of the show to television. Way back in 2005 when the Doctor wore Christopher Eccelson's excellent head. They somehow found out I had a full size replica of the Tardis in my home (not as weird as it sounds. I saved it from being skipped). Up they came, pictures were taken, words were written and my face ended up as chip wrapping.
                   About a month after that I was out for the night, getting drunk in The Grand Old Duke Of York. I was at the urinal, doing what one does at the urinal, when I became aware of the bloke standing at the urinal next to the one I was using, staring intently at me. Or is it staring at me with intent? Whatever. He was staring at my face not at what I was holding in my hand. A piece of my anatomy I have always felt is altogether more impressive than my ugly mug. I heard him step away and mumble something to his mates who were loitering around the hand dryer, mirror and sink.
                    Now I reasonably thought OH HERE WE GO. It would not be the first time I was cornered in a public place by unsubs hellbent on breaking me for some perceived slight or offence my very presence engenders. I have been at some point insulted or assaulted in almost every possible public place. As I say it is probably my ugly old mug. An unspoken invitation to abuse.
                    I hoped I could give a good account of myself and live to fight another day. It is my mantra in such situations. Part Libertine part musketeer all dodo.
                     YES.YES I AM.
                     WHERE WOULD YOU WANT TO GO?
                     ANYWHERE BUT HERE.
                     HA!FAIR DO!
                     There was much laughter and I even got an affectionate slap on the back.
                      Much preferable to a not very affectionate slap in the face.
                     It was not a big article in the Telegraph. Just a bit of light relief amongst the usual gloom and doom. I marvelled that anyone who did not already know me would even know me from the piece. Especially in such a random fashion in such a random location.
                     I found it oddly moving too because the request was put in such a wrenching fashion as though the weight of where they were in this life was a hard weight to bear.
                     TAKE US AWAY.
                      Is this a clue to the enduring popularity and longevity of the man from gallifrey?  The ability to be anywhere. To go any where and any when. To live in an old battered blue police box that wheezes and groans but whizzes and flies with no limit to the endless horizons.
                      ANYWHERE BUT HERE.
                      Is it also possible that more people identify with the assistants and companions than the Doctor himself? Basking in the knowledge that in his company you can go anywhere. However he looks.
                       Someone recently asked me what I would like to see in this the 50th anniversary year.
The return of past Doctors? A multi-Doctor crossover? The Time War? A fully functioning Tardis that materialises in Belfast?
                        I have to say I would really like to see the return of Alonso Frame. I would really like to see Alonso properly on board the Tardis. Travelling through time and space as a proper full time male companion. The time was never better for a gay male companion for the Doctor.Not neccessarily as an object of affection for the Doctor just as a component of the companion's character.
Handsome brave Alonso. An alien himself who just happens to look human. As played by the amazing Russell Tovey. As George the Werewolf in Being Human he was not afraid of baring his bum either. And what a lovely bum it was too.
                          I am not discounting Captain Jacks sojourn in the Tardis. In character and acceptance terms he was a massive leap forward. Jack was omnisexual though which throws out a net the universe wide and actually diminishes any possibility of offense  as he is practically pan-dimensional. Time for a modest wee gay bloke on board the Blue Box.
                          You could actually have a scene that shows the Doctor in shirt sleeves working beneath the Tardis console when he hears the distant refrain of music thudding from the depths of the Tardis. He wanders down the labyrinthine Tardis interiors following the strains of Electric Six' Gay Bar!Gay Bar!He pauses outside a door with a note pinned saying IF THE RELATIVE DIMENSIONS ARE A ROCKIN DONT COME A KNOCKIN. But since he owns the place he pushes open the door to reveal Alonso, Captain Jack and Alexander the Great getting it on.
                         ER,WHATS GOING ON? asks the Doctor.
                         Thats not being rude by the way. If you are familiar with classic Who it has context.
                         It probably also explains why no-one will ever hire me to write Who.
                         It will survive without me. It will outlast us all. It has run for fifty years and if that be the humor of it it will run for fifty more.


Saturday, 2 March 2013

The man with the Winnie The Pooh Tatoo.

Had a great night out recently.It was a pal's fortieth birthday.Joseph the tatooist. We had a suprise birthday party at an after hours session when the Hungarian liquers flowed whilst the night flew the way only the truly good ones can.Was very taken with his studio.The way you are when you see an artists workplace. The place where the alchemy occurs. The walls are decorated with examples of past work. Examples of his own and others artwork. Inspirational pieces that stir the mind and for me quicken the blood flow. Artistic visions that bleed over into the workshop onto the skin of the customers becoming indelibly inked and linked.Existing in this world only as long as the person who got them done does. Everone who was there  had work of some description done. Some beautifully crafted inking from the four corners of the world. Some subtle some not. Flowing down necks,torsos, arms legs. Bursts of colour like ink dropped in a flowing stream. Formalised masculine oriental sleeves to medieval vinework creeping about the thin forearm of a young lady. I stare too much I know I do but it is hard not to when art is everywhere. I asked this lovely spanish lady why she kept passing on the offered shots and she sighed in a most worldly fashion and told me she knew what they would do. And she was quite right too. I woke up in my garden with a winter wreath of dead leaves in my hair and a stabbing pain in my chest. Quite literally. My mortice key was sticking me in the chest through my shirt pocket.
                    Joseph is a magic inker. A real artisan.I have seen all manner of tatoo work over the years. From homemade indian ink jobs to the most exqusitely rendered body sleeves. I have some work done in different places with different degrees of skill but none that I regret. There are studious everywhere now and people from all walks of life getting themselves inked. I have seen some wonderful examples and want to see more.  Was recently wowed by an upper body sleeve based on a specific series of manga characters. Also an intricately scaled gecko lizard perched on a slim ladies upper back bone, skillfully framed and highlighted against the milky paleness of her skin.Not every one is done for the eyes of others. Not so long ago I watched a squaddie straddle a chair and silently and stoically endure a heavy gothic script inking of a fallen friends name etched between the most perfectly proportioned shoulders I have ever seen. As though someone had written their name on the back of Michealangelos David. A memorial to a friend that will last as long as he does.He had a wound. A jagged rip in his flesh that speaks as a reminder of the terrifying randomness of violence.A scar he will always bear.The deepest wound he marks with a design by choice. It takes a degree of trust to place your skin in the hands of someone who will mark it forever. Try as best you can not to misplace that trust.
                    There is a sensual impermanence to all this work. Human life is so fragile in some ways and so ferociously determined in others. We build and make things we hope will last forever but we know they never will. Ink in skin, painfully rendered. Celebrating mortality, the breathing canvas, its a wonderful thing. 
                     Just watched the american version of the Girl With The Dragon Tatoo. Thought it was well cast and beautifully made. Some of the best opening credit sequences I have seen in years.Like a big scary hand reaching out of the screen and slapping you about the head. Its not a still for still remake of the original movie based on Stieg Larsons book. It departs from the original in a way that attempts to serve the american version. Its still similar though. Perhaps in the way an icepop is similar to an icicle. I like the Lisbeth Salander character. As a fictional character I mean. In real life I would not want to be in the same room as her.She is not an immediately likeable or sympathetic character. Nor does she look for these responses in others. She is not some needy self obsessed modern heroine who talks like she has a permanent head cold and whos every utterance sounds like a question directed at herself. Lisbeth is a ballsy survivor in a very hard cruel world who understands that world and which buttons on a keyboard to press to keep it at bay. Nomi Rapace embodies all the complexites of Lisbeth's character. Managing to hold it all together. Even transmitting that world back to us in a steady eye-ball gaze that borders on blackly reptillian.
                       Lisbeth Salander should have been an iconic character for our time. Off late her likeness has been hijacked by all manner of PR and advertising corporate vision makers. People who serve to turn all  aspects of rebellion into commerce. She has been converted into a sillohuete and projected onto the mainstream and used to sell backpacks,designer hoodies and footwear, Ipads and smartphones adnaseum. Its a cosy subversion. In this version of the matrix there are spoons everywhere and they are mostly urban hipsters. This type of cultural desperation is not new. Read Oscar Wildes Sphinx Without A Secret. A short story from a previous century. The reading will yield insight into a phenomenon most consider modern which is anything but. The desperate need to remain thoroughly modern is really just a need to remain thoroughly distracted. A cushion to the blows of everyday life. Everone needs a cushion now and then but we should not get confused by the cushions function.
                       One man who never gets confused by the function of a cushion is my friend Big John Little. I mention him because he has the most amazing tatoo on his back. It is of Eeyore the Donkey from the Winnie The Pooh stories by AA Milne. Its actually based on one of the illustrations by the artist EH Shepard and is quite stunning to look at. Big John says he got it done because all his life he has asked the same questions Eeyore has. WHY? and sometimes WHYFORE? and sometimes even INASMUCH AS WHICH.? I think it is also because he has spent much of his life chasing his own tail.
                         And when all is said and done who has not.