Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy House.

 Looking through old sketch books can feel a bit like time traveling without a Tardis or any  other form of adequate protection to save one from the buffeting endured by such hazardous hindsight. The experience can throw one into a minefield of memories one has long ago discarded the maps to navigate in relative safety. One wrong step and BOOM! you are back somewhere you thought you had long left behind. Off course the good memories are not a problem but this form of travel entails taking the rough with the smooth otherwise you end up editing your own past and losing all sense of perspective in the here and now. For instance I remember one night way back in the day being attacked in a bar after dancing to the Siouxsie And The Banshees song Hong Kong Garden. An exprisoner who had only recently been released from jail after serving a long sentence and who was celebrating being free by getting very very drunk flew into a rage and decided to take a swing at me. He later sought me out and apologised explaining that when he had gone to jail everyone wore bell bottoms,gatsby jumpers and had long hair and now he thought everyone he met dressed like they came from Mars. He said he had never seen anyone like me in Ardoyne before and when he saw me up dancing he panicked and lashed out. I was so disarmed by the very idea of someone apologising to me after an attack(it just never happened,never,ever) that I accepted it with as much good grace as I could muster. Apologies were so thin on the ground back then I grasped for it like manna stumbled upon in the most barren of deserts. You would have thought that since Ardoyne was such a constant source of such moments for me that I would have developed a better functioning set of street smarts but I never really did. As such those streets remained a sargasso of red brick back to backs I endeavored to circumnavigate despite the warnings glaring from the gable walls HERE BE MONSTERS and I do not believe that a single day passed without incident. The prevailing wisdom with regard to life in Ardoyne was this: you did not need to leave your house to find trouble, it will come looking for you. Sometimes it just waited for you at the bottom of the path...
One night I was just leaving my Ma's house heading over to Mountainview and my mate Morelli's to listen to what new musical gems he recorded from John peel's radio show when I walked into a British Army foot patrol. It was not even remotely unusual for this to happen in any working class catholic area anywhere in Northern Ireland.You could be stopped two or three times in one night. These were the times we lived in.Yet there probably not many terrorist suspects who wore red tarten bondage trousers,a Marlena Dietirich Blue Angel tee shirt,DM boots,huge overcoat and a scarf and orange spikey hair. As I said, these were the times. As usual I was asked who I was,where I was coming from and where I was going,then unusually the soldier who had stopped me asked me to take my coat off so he could search me. It was absolutely freezing with frost glistening on the pavements and the steam of our breath visible in front of  our faces so I thought this was not necessary and even a bit demeaning. I felt he was asking me to do this just because he could. So I said no. Now usually I was so mousey I would be as compliant as it is possible to be.Maybe it was because I had just left the warmth and laughter of my ma's house,our own Happy House, and had barely reached the end of the street where I lived that I felt so emboldened. Whatever it was that pushed the button I just said no. Before I knew what was happening the rest of the foot patrol had gathered round me and were discussing the next thing to do which was to radio for a police landrover. Some kids gathered to watch what was going on. Even the moon seemed to looking down with a frosty interest. When an RUC van pulled noisely up and the doors banged open an officer explained to me that I could allow the soldier to carry out his stop and search or they could take me back to the Old Park Police Station and search me PROPERLY. I totally caved at this, terrified of what a PROPER search might entail. So I took off my coat and allowed this soldier to pat me down, with my arms out stetched, there on that frosty pavement, shivering in my blue angel tee shirt, like some camp scarecrow. Stop and searches were a most common event and they were mostly just a bit of a nuisance which you went along with but which have been known to escalate into all sorts of things, from a feeble protest such as mine to a full scale riot. Just another sign of our troubled times. Back then I tried to catch the moment in a comic strip and I see Siouxsie Sioux managed to find her way into one of my sketches. Why not, back then there were many pictures of her pasted to my ceiling and taped to my attic bedroom walls, in my Gothic Bordello between the roof beams. Happy house, Christine, Spellbound. Siouxsie was my Venus In Furs. Not some Narnian Witch whose kingdom could only be entered through the back of a haunted wardrobe. Siouxsie was a real world sorceress whose kingdom was the late night streets of the city inhabited by the fringe citizens who made all things nocturnal their own. The Queen of The Bromley Contingent, punk pioneers (Some of whom were present at the Infamous Bill Grunday Today interview which sort of propelled cultural awareness of the Punk Seditionaries to a national level.OH,THE FILTH AND THE FURY!)and the toast of the New Elizabethan age, did'nt half sound grand, well to me in my trench in Belfast, it sounded like the court of King Louie, (only the french aristocratic king  not so much the singing monkey with coconut boobs.) I did think Siouxsie was a stunning vision. Her looks so flawlessly achieved it had to be the real thing which at my age back then seemed so very important. You had to own it. And yet ,truthfully, such talk is a load of wiffle waffle, I doubt that Siouxsie would consider herself the queen of anything, not part of any fashionable movement or chic street thing, just a striking being who would not be shaped by the world she grew up in but determined to shape herself as she chose.So many people speak of the glamor borne from the streets as akin to the feathery plumes of a peacock, a bird I had no time for. A bird I find almost vulgar, a bird that sycophantically guarded the homes of aristocrats from the unwelcome attention of the filthy filthy poor, a shrieking showoff not unlike an xfactor winner yodeling pointlessly for the indifferent masses. Some people stood in the gutter with a Wildean view of the stars but some knew how to drag the stars down to our level and wear them in their hair.
               That was the Ju-Ju of Siouxsie Sioux.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

The Silver Terror.

My lovely niece Reinette being menaced by a clanking old CyberMal. When I say Run,Run!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Never Mind The Sex Pistols.

Was asked the significance of this Pistols artwork from an earlier entry. This was the first piece of artwork I had rejected by the then editor at Fortnight Magazine in what I took to be a lapse in their otherwise good judgement. He just did not feel the Fortnight Readers would see the Sex Pistols as the catalyst for social and political and cultural change that I took them to be in that time long ago at the tail end of the seventies. I thought this was a shame really as it was one of my favorite pieces I submitted for publication in my time with that magazine. I do believe they underestimated how sussed their readership was. They would have got it, even if they did not necessarily agree with me, they would have got it.
Dum Vivunt In Anarchiam!
                                                               (well...When in Rome...)

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Fightin' Irish.

(From My Sketchbook) Conor Mc Gregor/Irish Mixed Martial Artist and Ultimate Fighting Champion.The first professional Irish fighter to hold two world titles in two seperate divisions(Featherweight and Lightweight Champion.)

Thursday, 12 December 2013

There Was Just No Room At the Inn.

According to the lush mercurial grapevine upon which Oscar Wilde lived and breathed a King was about to be born in the Little Town of Bethlehem. A King whose grandeur would illuminate the world for all the ages to come. Oscar, desperately fashionable as ever, determined to be there at the birth, so that he might enjoy something of the warmth of that grand glow even if its rays might be thought by some to be second hand. No matter, thought Oscar in his singular fashion, it would remain the heat of the son. How ironic was it then that he arrived in Jerusalem just as the Holy Lands current owners, The Romans, had decided to enforce a census of all who lived there. So they might properly tax all to the point of distraction. Which meant The Great and The Good and The Not So Great and The Not So Good had gathered together in order to register for these tax burdens to weigh all down further. This also meant that every major and minor town was filled to capacity and a good room in which to rest a weary head was not to be had for love nor money (two things Oscar adored more than anything else) Worse still no one in town had heard anything about this rumored New King, everything was Roman This and Roman That, no one had time for any parochial nonsense. It was often the way with these unfashionable little back water towns, the locals were often the last to know about the noteworthy social events taking place in their area. Oscar, being Oscar, then decided to visit the notorious Herod Family whom he had heard whispers about on that same wisteria laden grapevine. He had heard they knew how to throw a party. Oscar rode off into that Bethlehem night resigned to the fact he would not make it to this New Kings Birth Day but he felt somehow sure this New King would one day turn up for one of his.

Monday, 9 December 2013

We Are Led By Fools Who Waste Our Lives.

Found this piece of art I did for a cover of an old Belfast Zine from back in the day.I believed this to be true back then and I still believe it to be true.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Day After The Day Of The Doctor.

Gallifrey Falls No More,Elizabeth The First,John Hurt,The Zygons,Kate Stewart and Unit,David Tennant and Billie Piper,Peter Capaldi's Eyes,Matt Smith and Three Tardis',fifty years of time travelers,some familiar faces that never get old and off course the Curator himself Tom Baker...
                Holy Smoke!
                It has been a long and winding road and now we know that road goes on forever.
                Special thanks to The Prince of Coalisland Connor for the Who Celebration photo.(A Thank You for clearing up a misunderstanding involving his fiance and a Zygon...well,it could happen to anyone...).

Thursday, 21 November 2013

November 23rd 2013 To November 23rd 2063.

November the twenty third in the year of our lord twenty thirteen. The Day of the doctor. It is his universe we just live in it. Actually that is nowhere near the truth of it. The Doctor does not need to own the universe, for him it is enough to just see it. With us as his ever changing companions, we lucky few who get to see it with him. In the very coolest of company, our Hero with A Thousand Faces. There we go, taking in the unknown and unseen wonders of space and time then off we go again never ever sticking around to clear up the mess his presence generally leaves behind. Some friends may well run away when the bullies have us cornered.
              The Doctor never will.
              On the greyest days of my life I have peered through the dirty windowpane of reality at the threatening vague blur of real life and secretly longed for the familiar wheezing and groaning signature sound of The Tardis materialising OH DOCTOR TAKE ME AWAY FROM ALL THIS GREY. I wait and I wait for him to really arrive.
               The Doctor never will.
                Yet there is something so reassuringly solid and dependable in the truthful blue of that wooden space craft. The most fabulous time and space ship ever created.Bigger on the inside. Smaller on the outside. However you wish to describe it. It is the ultimate half empty glass that is always half full. A magic blue box. A box of delights. With its faulty chameleon circuit that I hope no one ever repairs.
                 The Doctor never will.
                  November the 23rd 1963 signaled the birth of my two best friends. One is my pal Fergie and the other is every bodies pal The Doctor. (One came into the world a screaming bloody mess on a cold night fifty years ago in The Mater Hospital. The other appeared almost unnoticed on television because on the same night a world away the president of America was assassinated. Guess who Fergie was named after.) One is a very real human being and the other is an almost certainly fictional character. So off course Fergie has always taken second place to my favorite alien. That is where my broken brain comes in.
                  So happy birthday to both of you in this very special 50TH Anniversary year.
                  I have been very lucky to have known the two of you. The thirteen of you. My Heroes With A Thousand faces.
                  Sorry old chum I know you will understand this and accept the tragic truth of it because I know you are not threatened by a thousand year old super genius who will outlive us both. I know that you will forgive this weakness on my part.
                  The Doctor always will.
                   On a cold and dark 23rd of November 1963 the BBC switched on a  light that has shone so brightly for half a century...
                   Mark that;Half a Century.
                   You better get ready because the next fifty years should be even better.
                    The story never ends.
                    See you back here in fifty.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Web Of Friends.

Just look at this superb illustration. A page plucked from the notebook of the famous stellar cartographer Donby Galloway, who is at present completing an update on an earlier entry on The Ood Homeworld somewhere in the vicinity of The Sensorite Sense-sphere for the newest edition of the best selling Donby's Galaxies. It is a hand drawn copy, done by Donby himself, of a fresco found on the wall of a long abandoned temple on the now uninhabited planet of Vortis. It is believed to be a visual representation of one of the original natives called a Menoptra. Donby Galloway is a researcher who's achievements within the field of space exploration and stellar cartography have never been..
              Actually it is just a lovely drawing of a Menoptra by my good friend Mark. Up until now it has only been seen by my eyes but it is so lovely I decided to share it in this week of weeks.
              And dedicate it to the memory of Bill Strutton and John Wood who between them produced for Target books the second Doctor Who novelization I ever read;Doctor Who and the Zarbi(The Web Planet). An endearingly sixties English vision of an alien world. It actually begins with Ian Chesterton putting on his old school tie, quite literally.
               A little book I still have and even after all these years still has the power to fill me with a sense of joy and wonder at the sight,touch and even smell.
               And to think some people believe time travel to be impossible.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

An Unexpected Regeneration.

All afternoon at work I had listened to a gannet like gabble of excited gossip regarding a Doctor Who Webisode the BBC had posted on-line. Social networking being what it is the chances of avoiding spoilers are not good but against all the odds I managed to get through the day and early evening without the surprises it contained being ruined(mind you; I grew up in a house without a phone and I own neither a mobile communication device of any description or a laptop,so I am practically Edwardian). All I knew was that this was a prequel to the Doctor Who Anniversary Episode The Day Of The Doctor which is to be transmitted Saturday next. So the day passed at a painfully slow snails pace as the hours ticked down to locking up. Emails came through at work asking if I had watched it. Regulars who knew me phoned the store where I work to ask breathlessly had I sat down to see it and all avoided the bane of our age; Spoilers. Thank you to all for that. I tried tactfully to explain the notion of delayed gratification, holding off a a pleasure in order to appreciate the climax all the more. And the fact that I would not be able to relax and properly enjoy it until I had completed my days duties.
            Then one of my colleagues ,Connor, announced how much he was looking forward to the close of the working day so that we could sit down together and watch this wee treat which had fallen into our collective Whovian laps. Once I had completed said duties. This joyful announcement threw me and I felt compelled to make a weird confession. You see I have never watched an episode of Doctor Who in the company of another human being since its big return in 2005. Truth be told I am easily distracted and not great company. Yet there was no way for me to just burst the bubble of his very genuine enthusiasm. So come the end of the day I had resigned myself to brave the company of another and catch up with this mysterious little short and whatever could be achieved in six minutes and forty nine seconds..
              ..which is to say a little miracle. It is that good.
             Out went the lights and on went the show.I almost fell out of my chair when I heard Paul Mc Gann's voice.NOT THE DOCTOR YOU WERE EXPECTING indeed.What followed was just sheer Whovanna. One of my favorite moments since the big return in 2005. The Doctor I had hoped for following the television movie in all his wounded glory. Young, powerful and every inch the Galifreyan Renegade. This is the character I see when I listen to his wonderful adventures on Big Finish productions. Again and again pounding on the anvil of genius and he even name checked his lovely companions(Although he did travel with Mary Shelley for a short but fantastic time and she so deserved to be remembered) before bursting in a blaze of light; heroically sacrificing himself once more on the alter of the needs of others. This ranks amongst the absolute highlights of the series for me and all the more welcome for not having seen it coming.
               The Doctor is my Hero of a Thousand Faces.
               And it turned out to be a pleasure to watch it in the company of a friend who also liked it, oohing and aahing in all the right places. The pair of us beaming and even a little teary by the end.
                Thank you my friend. It was a pleasure to share this moment with you.
                Way back in the nineties I caught my first glimpse of Paul McGann in character. I still have that picture as you can see. Just look at this haunting character study of an immensely talented young actor at the height of his powers, lost in thought, about to become lost in space and time. I still remember a feeling in the pit of my stomach. When I thought about all the new stories ahead for my dear old friend with a brand new face. They came in forms I would never have predicted; in books comics and audio adventures. A broad canvas that stretches as far as my imagination will allow, now all rounded in a sleep, the many threads and loose ends entangled in a spell cast by  some Prospero that will keep me in stitches for some time to come..
                  I never wanted to stop traveling with this incarnation of The Doctor. His time and travels with Big Finish are amongst the most ambitious and exciting moments produced by this wonderful company of artisans. They more than full filled the promise in that character study below. Wish I could credit whoever took this inspired informal but dazzling photograph. They will certainly always have my thanks.
                  With this new end it starts all over again.
                  PHYSICIAN HEAL THYSELF.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The First Question?

I do not know the answer to that but I have off late gave some thought to answering another question which has surely crossed the mind of any long term fan of the television series Doctor who;Who On Earth Is Tom Baker? And like the first question perhaps it is best left unanswered. Why take the Baker out of Baker anymore than the Who out of Who. Except to the rational mind it might occur that one is a fictional character whilst the other is a Liverpudlian actor of infinite charm. Tom baker's biography Who On Earth Is Tom Baker attempts to answer that very question and what a bitter sweet series of possible answers are given to this Galifreyan riddle. It is a wonderful book. One of the most honest and rewarding autobiographys I have ever read. It is really quite unlike any other I have ever read and I suspect it will always remain so. No one else would ever be so tough on themselves. If you are so inclined treat yourself to a copy of Tom baker reading his own book. It is laugh out loud funny in places and completely heartbreaking in others. The writer so reveals himself to be utterly human after all. Not an alien at all. Mister Baker's editors must have had a few eye popping moments the first time they read through the original text. It is a joy and you will love him all the more when you get to the end and the darkly playful coda that draws a conclusion to the book.
               Found this old comic strip from back in the day. From an old Shiver and Shake annual(there is no credit for the writer or artist or I would mention them accordingly). This was from a time when you only had to pop on a floppy old hat and a long scarf and everyone in the world knew who you were pretending to be. Such was the cultural impact of Tom Baker's Doctor in the UK. An almost instant cultural icon. I had a go myself with a mix of old clothes our neighbours were kind enough to donate to the Coney kids jumble. Such was the genorosity of the times and the random nature of second hand clothes. I did not have a sonic screwdriver but I did have an old cake whisk which I liberated from a bin in Etna Drive alleyway. I never even had to mimic the sound of the sonic in action, the whisk turn key on the side did that. I never opened a door with it but I did diffuse a Silurian Viral Bomb in the grounds of the old egg factory.
                Saved the world I did.
                As an adult human being it is not something I indulge in much. I do believe I have quite lost the knack of it. Although I am still quite a dab hand with a whisk.
                Its all in the wrist action you know.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Bloody Musical.

Was feeling a little down in the dumps the other night(post Halloween blues.) so I put on Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street to cheer myself up and it worked a bloody treat. One of the great Burton/Depp collaborations, I wish more people would give it a shot. Johnny has never looked better; so haunted and heart broken( although I will always have a soft spot for his Mad Hatter. I am convinced that Top Hat of his was a Tardis which had a functioning chameleon circuit.) And although it does not exactly have a happy ending Sweeney does get his revenge on those who wronged him;in sprays of arterial blood inbetween seventies Bowie Impersonations. Helena Bonham Carter makes a great Mrs Lovett The Human Pie maker. She just about gets the best exit in a musical ever. It is eye-poppingly gruesome.
               Enthused; I dug out a few other bits and pieces related to the dark tale of Sweeney Todd. My house is a bit like Steptoe and Sons. You just never know what you are going to find. I was not even aware I was so keen on the story of The Demon Barber and its various incarnations. Amongst some other bits and pieces I found a dvd copy of the stage play, with Angela Lansbury(yep, Old Jessica Fletcher herself). To me Landsbury will forever be The truly sweet and truly doomed tragic figure Sybil Vane in the film The Picture Of Dorian Gray. I also found a version of Todds tale starring Freddie Francis in a totally bonkers Hogarthian nightmare version for a seventies horror show Mystery And Imagination. Each version dipped in blood and its own originality. Bringing something different to the table to be served with gravy.
                I even found a replica cut throat razor blade as the one used in Depp's version which I store in a drawstring red satin pouch. What gentleman does not carry one of those?
                Now all I need is someone who trusts me enough to give them a really close shave.
                And to think my favorite musical as a child was Oliver. FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD!There is just something about the cobble streets of Olde Englande that lends itself to musical fantasy. Maybe it is time I finished my Jack The Ripper musical The Scarlet Fandango.
                Wonder if Ryan Kwanten can sing and dance.
                 He can walk on his hands.
                 Which is pretty close.
                 OH FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Olivers Back.

Here is a doodle I did to celebrate the return of the most perfectly formed back on television; none other than Stephen Amell on Arrow!Season two has just started and will no doubt hit the spot.Let us see Ryan Kwanten As Barry Allen The Flash.Please.Or as Hal Jordan The Green Lantern.Oh yeah that would be good. Or as Ralph Dibney The Eloganted Man. Oh boy he would be all bendy and pliable and stretchy. Or as J'on J'onnz the Martian Manhunter, Seven feet tall,Green and Australian. Oh Christmas!

Friday, 25 October 2013

The Ghost In My Pocket.

You just never know what you are going to find in the most unlikely of places.Early one Friday morning I had been down at Saint Georges Market hoping to pick up a winter coat, around the second hand cloths stalls. Back when second hand clothes were actually second hand clothes and not "vintage"as they have been re-branded by the terminally middle class. Anyway, whilst poking around in an old cyprus banana box I came across a very attractive old leather wallet which really caught my eye.It was a quite fancy looking old thing with broad stitching around the edges and what appeared to be a Celtic design carved into it. It was basically brown colored with gradations running through it that gave it a richly textured aspect. I had no idea what the design or symbol meant but it gave the wallet an ancient quality which made it attractive. I thought it was lovely and asked the woman who owned the stall how much she wanted for it and she only asked for the princely sum of a pound coin. Only a pound! A bargain I thought. She even old me she thought it had been hand made by an interned political prisoner back at the height of the troubles. Hmmm. What a heart warming story I thought. I had an impression of the heart broken and slightly mental cobbler imprisoned in the Bastille in Charles Dickens a Tale Of Two Cities. 
It was not until I got home and opened it I discovered the name Malachy carved into he leather of the inside. I could barely believe my own eyes. I have never seen my name on anything and now I find it cut into a leather wallet I had found in such a random fashion. I thought THIS IS THE WALLET FOR ME! This is a magic wallet. I thought if I keep money in this it will multiply, like the magic buckets in Micky Mouse's The Magician's Apprentice. A fabulous new life was about to begin for me with this magic wallet and I knew anything connected to its use will become imbued with magical properties and their value increased tenfold. I was very pleased to put it on display on the mantle of our fireplace. 
My ma, who was partially sighted at that time, threw it on the fire and burnt it. When one of my sisters had explained to her what she had laid hands on and was told the unlikely story of how I had come across it, just by chance finding a personalized wallet, she came to the decision I would be better off without it. She thought no good could come from an object found in such a way. She was like that, my ma. In her world there was magic everywhere and not all of it good. I was gutted but it was burnt and no amount of whining was going to un-burn it.
Maybe she was right. I will never know. Maybe thanks to her canniness I dodged a bullet.
A magic bullet.
p.s. Happy Halloween. From myself and Lil' Micheal Myers.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Going Underground.

I am still pinching myself, this is such a dream-like fugue state for a Doctor Who fan to find themselves in. Two Second Doctor Patrick Troughton stories recovered from storage in Nigeria; a complete Enemy Of The World and an almost complete...Web of fear. Oh my giddy aunt. it is almost as unlikely as a complete Tomb of The Cybermen being found in Japan. Oh wait, did'nt that actually happen?
               Was watching a feature on The One Show on Friday night on this historic find. And there it was, a scene from a story I have never believed I would get a chance to see. Scenes which had only played out in the run down theater of my mind were suddenly unfolding on the television in my living room. Yeti in the London Underground. The return of The Great Intelligence and the first appearance of one of the Doctor's very best friends Alistair Lethbridge Stewart. A crackling alien web spreading across an abandoned capitol city suffocating anyone it rolled over. Patrick Troughton at the height of his powers and on top of his game with Jamie and Victoria ably assisting him. Did I mention Yeti in the London Underground? Oh Boy, the Hartnell and Troughton eras of the Doctor's life have a mythic resonance for someone like me who came on board with Pertwee. A quality that still gives me goose-bumps whenever I am lucky enough to be treated to one of their stories on DVD. No matter how creaky it might appear. I am altogether quite creaky myself these days. I still cannot help but think about how the world probably was beyond the viewers front door whilst watching these stories on the original night of transmission. Was the world truly all black and white and mad all over? I first gained a proper awareness and knowledge of this three-faced hero through one of the first books I ever owned. The Making Of Doctor Who by Malcolm Hulke. My Rossetta Stone to a subject not a single other person, child or adult, knew or cared about the history of. Then came the greatest single publication I have ever owned and read(for the seismic impact it had upon my empty brain); The Radio Times Doctor Who Tenth anniversary Special. My poor Ma and Da never had a spare penny to spend on treats for themselves or us so I can only imagine the job I must have had to convince them to buy me a copy. They did though and it has turned out to be a gift for life.
                   Hats off to the man who went out there into the unknown and brought these treasures back. The Raider Of The Lost Tapes.
                  Philip Morris I love you.
                  The Web Of Fear would have been more than enough,thank you, but to also bring back The Enemy Of The World! A swinging sixties future retro epic with a double whammy turn by Troughton as the Doctor and the evil Salamander. I cannot help but think this story will suprise everyone with a fabulous glimpse into a period of the show no one ever expected to have the chance to see. Oh Happy days.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

A Haunted Bookshelf.

                     So begins chapter one of The Haunting Of Hill house by Shirley Jackson. After reading this how could anyone possibly not wish to read further. A classic novel tracing the supernatural experiences of a team of ghost hunters in a house that was just plain born bad.It is quite a subtle novel given its subject matter; one that has been turned into a movie adaption twice. Once quite honorably, the other less so. I remember seeing the first as an impressionable child and then watching it again as an impressionable adult. Both times it quite gave me the willies. Whatever it is that stalks the halls of Hill House is a thing without empathy or mercy but possessed of a cool calculation that devours the unwary. It is a remorselessly evil entity that obeys no known laws that make sense of the flukey randomness of existence.It is very old and very wiley and very much should not be.
                     There are some wonderful books out there that explore that dark territory, monstrously cruel things rooted in bricks and mortar; it is a rich vein of horror which is enjoying something of a revival in literature, television and cinema.What about Hell House by Richard Matheson orThe Turn Of The Screw by Henry James. Books reprinted many times by many generations of readers. Both contemporary at time of publication, each successfully moving from decade to decade gaining appreciation as the years pass. And for the sheer joy of a tale about the power of tales what about The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washinton Irving. Ichabod Crane is a timeless literary creation, one who captures the spirit of this time of year as no other.
                     Just setting the mood for the beginning of a journey into the heart of the October Country.
                     The only maps being the ones we write ourselves.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Samhain vs The Great Pumpkin

Yesterday I caught the smell of wood burning smoke in some freshly lit hearth in a home nearby.It is that time of the year. The days are getting shorter and the nights are drawing in. Full sail into the heart of The October Country. Halloween is just around the corner. All Souls Night. The Great Pumpkin is rising from the pumpkin patch. And there are not many of those in Northern Ireland. I have just finished reading A Stir Of Echoes by Richard Matheson to aid somewhat in getting in the mood. Written and first published in 1958 it still holds up well. A book with good character writing as well as a good thoroughly modern, for 1958, Haunting at its core. A good jazz score written by Miles Davis would be the perfect score for a moody reading. With a finger snapping theme tune song effortlessly by Bobby Darin to set the tone.
                I used to have an October ritual where I would read The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. It is the perfect mood piece for the autumnal shades that turn to winter. Full of rusty Halloween Hues as familiar as the lop sided grin cut into the face of a seasonal turnip. In Belfast we used turnips for Halloween lanterns not pumpkins. And we ate what we carved out. Hmmm.Turnip. I must admit the novel has lost some of its otherworldly and historic charm for me as I find the older I get the more like Ichabob Crane I become. Same reason I find it difficult to watch the David Lynch movie The Elephant Man.
It has me reaching for my pillowcase with the single eye hole cut out.
                 I am going to dig out The Legend Of Hell House by Matheson. I am going to once more seek out the company of The Roaring Giant Belasco and his hateful house. I know I have the film version somewhere at home too. With a hipster turn by Roddy McDowall being tormented by a weird electronic soundtrack in a house full of nauseating camera angles. Oh boy, cannot wait.
                My Da used to say YOU ARE NEVER ALONE WHEN YOU ARE READING A GOOD BOOK  and you know; the whole time I was reading A Stir Of Echoes I could not shake the feeling I was being watched....

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Orpheus In The Underworld.

The old Orpheus Bar in York Street has been pulled down. Saw the bones and rubble of it from the bus on the way to work the other morning. The newly adjusted bus route took us past its dusty skeletal remains and I do not believe another person on the bus batted an eyelid at the sight of its demise. I noticed the old Co-Op Building is coming down as well, stage by stage. That end of York Street, just past The Art College, seemed to me like a fixed point in time where nothing much ever went up or down. I used to think The Great Void began just beyond The Orpheus. Off course it was just the beginning of the motorway but it always seemed to stretch off into an electric over lit nothingness to me. For all I knew it was the rainbow bridge to Asgard.
               I do remember way back in the day a couple of buddies and me(see photos above) put together a band and that we made our stage debut in The Orpheus. I say debut but it was in truth our one and only stage performance. SEVENBASTARDSSUCK we called ourselves, after a Virgin Prunes song. The Prunes were a Dublin grown band we worshiped and thought Elder God Like. We were a support act for a band that could actually play. There is no other way to put it. Such was their generosity they allowed us to use some of their equipment. We did three songs which we stretched in our naive incompetency into a set. A song I wrote called The Devils(which was based on the Aldous Huxley story the Devils Of Loudun). As the lead singer I had this great spoken intro line HOW SHOULD A MAN PROFIT IF HE SHOULD GAIN THE WORLD BUT LOSE HIS SOUL before the guitars and drums came crashing in. At that point someone switched on a rented smoke machine and we vanished from view. Did not stop us though. I wailed and raved and my buddies slashed and bashed. We went straight into our second song. A cover of Dark Entries by the band Bauhaus. I believe I managed not to quite mangle Pete Murphie's punk toasting though I am probably wrong. We finished with a Siouxsie And The Banshees song Israel. LITTLE ORPHANS IN THE SNOW WITH NO WHERE TO CALL A HOME START THEIR SINGING. I thought it was heaven. An illusion no doubt reinforced by being shrouded in an artificial fog. Unable to see the faces of those unfortunate enough to hear us. Until I turned and saw someone else from the other band was playing for us. Our drummer had remembered he had left a bottle of cider hidden in the toilet cistern in a cubicle behind the stage. He had gone in to sit on the bog and finish it off.
               I thought we were a triumph. The bar manager described us as the second worst band ever to play there. Which I thought was a crashing insult. To be the worst would have been something but to just be the second worst was just to be rubbish. I thought we were stars. Indeed I thought it was already time for me to be thinking about my solo project with Siouxsie Sioux and Robert Smith. A concept album about Oscar Wilde dinosaur hunting.
               Leaving the Orpheus that night we were chased by skinheads. We fops scattered into the darkened Belfast side streets. Me and my mate ran up Royal avenue. This proved to be a mistake. The City Center in those days was ringed by security fences of very high steel that were locked up at night. If you were already in you could get out through a turnstile but not the other way around. My mate flew up that fence with the agility of a spider monkey. In truth he was just propelled by adrenalin and terror. In that state he could have climbed up a jet of water. Even at my very best I was less agile. However fear is a great spur to achievement and I somehow managed to go up that steel fence.On the way over the kilt I was wearing snagged and I fell forward and just hung awkwardly from the metal spike on top. When the skinheads reached the fence they just laughed and mocked. Which I suppose is better than a kicking. Thank Goodness there was no such thing as a phone camera then. Off the skins went on their not so merry way looking for some other victim on that dark Belfast night. I had to tear my kilt to get off that spikey top. All the blood had quite rushed to my head and I felt giddy and odd. I have often felt that way after escaping a kicking. Like my brain turns to chewing gum.
                 We never did take to the stage again. SEVENBASTARSUCK did indeed suck. My buddy Denis died. The first of the gang to die. Precious mate he was too. We were stupid and funny together. It is still unbelievable to me that he is gone. And now even the old venues are disapearing as the world gets ready for new peoples stories. Buildings cannot talk so we must speak for them. I am sure Belfast and beyond is full of people who have their own wee yarns to tell about evenings spent in pubs that were probably never all that good. I do not think that is an imminent qualification for a good memory though. Often the most vivid memories are not necessarily the best. Or even the worst.
                 Like moments lost in time.
                 Or Orpheus in the Underworld.
                 When the worst possible thing you can do is look back.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Whats Up Ke-mo Sah-bee?

You know, the original writer on The Lone Ranger Radio Show created a strict moral code that the masked man would live by. They are an utterly charming series of suggestions for how to lead a life of good character. Whole Religions have been formed on less.One of these rules and the one that all men who are a bit shy and possessed of low self esteem, such as myself, should read and take to heart is;
           Hmm. I think he was saying do what you can with what you have. Que a short burst of Wha..Wha waaaah !
           Anyway, think the most recent version of the Lone Ranger (with the always amazing Johny Depp)might have found a wider audience if they had used my script. In my version he not only used silver bullets, he wore the most amazing silver moon-boots.
           Someone recently snarled at me during a conversation and declared they found it difficult to make new friends because these days everyone is so phoney and self obsessed. I replied in a Rich toned Clayton Moore Stylee;
            Heaven knows what Tonto would have made of his response to me.
           Hey-Yo-silver! Away!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Abominable Me.

Lay awake last night reading a fantastic new book, so good I could not put it down, promising myself every chapter I read was going to be the last of the night but each one drew me on and on. Until I got so close to the end I had to go with it. Had spent the best part of most nights this week reading it, trying not to devour it too quickly, savoring the quality of the writing and even the company of the fictional characters. This last night was a Sunday and I was still reading it in the early hours of Monday morning. I could hear the wind outside my house moving the very full leafy branches of the trees in the park across the road from my house. It is the tail end of summer and the trees are still thick with greenery. Soon those same branches will begin to lose this years growth of green leaving the stick thin branches tap tapping against each other. For now though all you hear is a calming shooshing noise. Good conditions for a good read. And this is a damn fine read. The Abominable by Dan Simmons. I was so looking forward to this book since I first heard about it. So when I was given an advance proof copy of the book I felt as though Christmas had come early(which is saying something coming from a good Irish catholic who celebrates the wee baby Jesus' birthday every year..actually I am a rubbish Irish catholic but all the big holy days remain bullet points for me. At this point it feels like a race memory.)The Abominable is a very ambitious, very detailed and sprawling epic about a journey to the very summit of Mount Everest in the year 1925. A team of expert climbers from very different backgrounds attempt to discover the whereabouts of a seemingly lost rich boy and all round fop who went up the mountain but never came back down. The story begins in the here and now. The author describes his meeting with an elderly resident in a care home who has his own story to tell regarding an undocumented attempt to best the highest mountain in the world. This elderly man the world does not even know about has the most wonderful story to tell. A magnificent story about courage in the face of danger, loyalty and friendship, the thirst for adventure and exploration, of a world filled with mystery and places where the bravest men have not set foot. There is the mother of all mountains, There are nazies and bandits and holy men,There is Tibet and There are Yeti.
                 What more do you need for a close to perfect read.
                 Dan Simmons has created a cast of characters who feel close to real. I will never forget The Deacon, Reggie, Jean-Claude and Pasang. In transposing a series of journals belonging to the main character Jacob Perry(Jake to his friends) he brings them alive in a narrative feat of magic. Jake is an adventurer and a mountaineer with sky blue eyes and Forearms like Popeye. He is brave, decent and intelligent and it will take every ounce of character he possesses to survive the trials and tribulations his journey presents. If it is possible to develop a crush on a fictional character then by golly I think I developed one.
                   Everest is a cold hard mountain cloaked in mysteries and the weight of its own immense presence. Who knows what strange demons haunt its silent heights. Never mind the sound of wind in the trees. Imagine the noise the wind makes as it howls around a remote mountain monastery which conceals a wall mural depicting Yeti devouring the entrails of a still living victim. This is just one of the otherworldly visions Jake Perry must contend with. A haunting vision by flickering candle light as he attempts to get to sleep the night before the sky burial of a deceased friend.
                   I did not want this book to end.
                   I did not want to say goodbye to these characters.
                   I suppose now that I have read The Abominable I never will.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Black is the new Black.

Was listening to the radio last night. A balmy evening with street sounds drifting in through my open bedroom window. Amy Winehouse's voice came drifting from the gently vibrating speaker. The song she recorded with Tony Bennett. Body and Soul. A dedication to a smokey kind of love. Lovely song. It was sadly a reminder that there would be no new recordings from that frankly amazing woman. That a powerful humanely soulful voice was lost to the world when she passed away. I put on Back to Black and one of the tracks that holds special meaning for me. OVER FUTILE ODDS AND LAUGHED AT BY THE GODS.  AND NOW THE FINAL FRAME,LOVE IS A LOSING GAME. Oh,the lovely Amy. If she only knew just how beautiful she was. A luminous talent that struck like lightning. A flash of raw primal energy that flared all too briefly, illuminating everything in sight before the dark closed in. If you have never believed in demons then just what was it that assailed this complex and fragile young woman. I do not know nor understand the decisions and events that may have driven her down a road best not traveled. I just marveled at her immense talent and the genius wrapped up in her recorded output. And the dizzy spell cast by her on form live appearances. And that singing voice. My god, that heaven sent voice.Was there ever a songstress who managed to convey through her vocals and the way she used them to show her understanding of the dangers that come with daring to love the big love. The 3rd or 4th time I listened to her second album and masterpiece Back To black I truly believed I was listening to one of the finest albums ever recorded. That nothing I ever heard so captured what it is to be an adult and believe yourself to be in love. Young love is celebrated widely and ultimately falsely. Grown up love is not always something worth singing about as it is close to madness. Few performers inhabit the world they sing about the way Amy did. Like a diver swimming with sharks who does not use a cage. Few performers are able to look the world in the eye, wink and tell it I TOLD YOU I WAS NO GOOD. All that wistful longing, the great sadness and joy, the masochism of heartache, the narcissism of need.
             Her work seems so impossibly fresh and alive it is hard to remember she is not. Yet that is the awful truth. Twenty seven years. It was not a long life. Filled with as many ups and downs as it is possible to imagine in a lifetime. I then watched I TOLD YOU I WAS NO GOOD. A DVD recording of one of her live appearances on stage in London. The whole thing is just electrifying. So many highs. I love Hey Little Rich Girl. I see and hear a great unmade kitchen sink English drama that just breaks your heart but in her hands also makes you want to dance. It is like a finger with a broken painted finger nail pointing at a dying sunflower turning one last time to catch the rays of the rising sun on its face. We are all desperately hoping to feel that familiar warmth on our faces, to remember what it is to be young and alive. To energize our lives and lift them out of the mundane and the ordinary. As Amy managed to do on so many occasions.
               But maybe there is a price to be paid for catching those rays of light and trying to hold on to them. The brightness blinds you to the pitfalls of this life. The tragedy is that the bright lights never look brighter than when we are falling into the darkest of places.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Drawn In.

Took a comic book scripting class on Monday night past .Or perhaps I should say I gave a comic scripting class in The Crescent Arts Centre. In a lovely airy classroom with wide french windows along one side and ballerina mirrors along the other. The event was the brain child of Sean from Cinemagic who invited me to take the first night. To get the ball rolling on a month long project with a view to producing an on-line comic which is all the work of a new wave of young writers and artists from the province. The hope is that each participant will contribute a piece of their own work, the theme uniting them being SEE ME, NOW. We are making our own little time-capsule, saving this moment, and we are going to bury that time-capsule on the internet. I have done workshops before and each one is a very different experience. Sean handed the class over to me and I did my best to inspire and inform. To try coaxing the student into breaking the tyranny of the blank page and produce a stand alone piece of work. In the beginnings it is always very basic. Pens, pencils, erazers and sharpeners all rallying to combat the glaring emptiness of a page resisting being filled. Hopefully we have made a good start. Everyone in the class rose to the occasion and after a short break to draw breath and collate our thinking we got down to the nuts and bolts of telling stories. The breadth of their stories was impressive. Everything from the very personal,to the political,to the fantastical. I was most pleased with their efforts and do hope each one completes the projects they have begun. It will be an interesting compilation come the upload.
               You know I remember back in the day when I used to go to the Crescent Arts Centre when it was a nightclub. An old run down church venue where I used to dance til the early hour. Swinging a sweaty head full of dreads. Busting my scarecrow moves. I got jumped and beat up one night by some blokes who thought I was a complete freak. The person I was with ran away in fear and left me to get a punching and a kicking. Later that same night I challenged him about this and he started crying and said IT IS NO GOOD DEPENDING ON ME.I AM SORRY. I HAVE NO COURAGE. He was so pathetically honest I remember bursting out laughing. Such was the generosity of our young spirits we both laughed long and stupidly. Despite my bruises and tattered nerves. Or maybe because of them, who knows.
               Who would have believed that many years later I would be taking a class in a refurbished version of that sticky floored venue. On a subject that has brought me so much joy..
                Certainly not me in my Haysi Fantasyzee Days.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Time Lady,The Tramp And The Robot Dog.

Oh dear, Leela has left, but the moment has been prepared for. Enter Romanadvoratrelundar..or Romana(although the Doctor was all for christening her Fred). Her first appearance on screen was jaw-dropping. Long,tall,beautiful and majestically Gallifreyan, she walked around The Tardis like she owned it. Not that she would want it. A wonky type-40 would have been beneath her. This incarnation of Romana first appeared in The Ribos Operation, the first part of The Key To Time sequence. Check out the expression the Doctor shares with K9 the first time he lays eyes on her in the Tardis console room. For a brief moment the ghost of Harpo Marx plays across his features. It is a lovely moment and shows the intimate regard he has for his second best friend. It is great that K9 is still traveling with his master at this point, still doggishly loyal and dead-pan as ever. They are a funny dysfunctional pretend family are this Tardis crew. Grown up but utterly child like. The perfectly pitched performance by Mary Tamm as the aristocratic time-lady allows for a very special dynamic between the pair. She is so patient and grown up while he is allowed to play the gifted lost boy. The Key To Time was an epic quest with a different episode every Saturday tea-time at the tail end of the decade now remembered as...the Seventies. Long thought passed we have ended up there again thanks to the good people at Big Finish. Seven new episodes detailing what came next after their escape from the Black Guardian. After he almost tricked them into doing his dirty work for him. The retrieval of an all powerful artifact to be put to some nasty business by an all powerful evil entity. An epic quest with a twist in its tail and a truly startling glimpse of a demented Tom Baker on top form. Oh how I love Old Who! Yet here are seven more wonderful stories in a season gifted to us by people who are producing some of the best Who ever. 
Here are seven new stories which possess cross-over elements rather than a linking story arch. The first is a wonderful PGWoodhouse inspired comedy of terrors that just lends itself so perfectly to this particular Tardis crew. Its a great start and hits the ground moving in the most charming fashion. The wordplay and the comedic timing dazzle under confidant and joyful direction. Just listen to the extras following for greater insight and appreciation. Next we meet The Lann and the barmy but brilliant Cuthbert who is more than a worthy rival for the doctor(played by David Warner..yes,I know only bloody David Warner!). after that the Tardis crew face the Justice Of Jalxar and we see the sublime return of Jago and Litefoot(Hurrah!For me thet represent Doctor Who's finest spin-off. Yes I said spin-off. Go and investigate. Treasure awaits!). It is just Who at its finest. You can practically smell the pong of Olde London Towne. From there the Tardis takes us to a watery Abyss where Alice Krige(yes, only bloody Alice Krige!) leads  a scientific expedition into very dangerous waters indeed. And just as you are coming up for air who should reappear but Cuthbert and his private security guards The Daleks(Yes!Only the bloody..well,you get the picture.). It is an epic conclusion to a season that was surely televised in some other dimension. Actually that is not fair to the incredible things Big Finish achieve on their own terms. They are just the best at what they do.SNKT! Two special mentions for the wonderful John Leeson as K9 and the equally wonderful Toby Hadoke  as Mister Dorrick. I do hope we meet them again in other stories. Not jus for what they bring to the stories they are in but for the fun they bring to the extra material. 
There is an added poignancy to the proceedings with the sad passing of Mary Tamm. Another victim of that terrible disease cancer. He performance is so informed with a lightness of touch and a gentle joy that is hard to imagine how ill she was to become. Her time as Romana in these stories is just as lovely as her onscreen time all those years ago. Better written in some ways. She seems to draw an impish quality from Tom Baker who obviously found Mary to be utterly charming. The last line of the series belongs to her and will bring a tear to the eye of the listener.
There has been much talk of late about the possibility of a female incarnation of the Doctor. We now know that at least for one more incarnation this is not to be. however way back in 1990 that very notion was put to Mary Tamm in an interview. Would she consider becoming the Doctor and her reply was a resounding yes. It was even suggested that it would perhaps turn out that Romana was The Doctor all along. I do not know about that but I cannot help but imagine how classy the interior of the Tardis console room would become with her as the pilot. 
Time and its relative dimensions would never look better.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

You Are The Quarry.

It was earlier in the year 2013 that the author Ian M Banks let it be known through a statement that he had an inoperable cancer and the chances were not good that he would see out the year. This sadly proved to be true and he passed away on Sunday 9th June. It was such a short time between the wider world becoming aware of the seriousness of his condition, gall bladder cancer, and him succumbing to the disease. I can not imagine how hard this must have been for his loved ones and those close to him. Friday past I finished reading his last completed work The Quarry, released the month of his passing. I did not know what to expect from that book. I Certainly not the smallness of the world it takes place in. The quiet, and at times not so quiet, intimacy of the enclosed world of Willoughtree House, decaying and crumbling, perched on the edge of a quarry readying to swallow it whole. In that house a group of old friends gather about a friend dying of cancer. They are also looking for a mysterious video tape from their shared past that throws a shadow over all their futures. This is not the whole story. This is an Ian Banks novel after all. The dying man Guy and his young son Kit rail against the fate their lives together has brought them to. Their situation feels heart achingly real, like two candle flames flickering in a wind that threatens to extinguish them both.
             I read The Wasp factory ,his first published work so very long ago. Probably around '85 or '86. I remember how even in my know it all youthful arrogance I was a bit taken aback by some of its content. How I was even a little shocked by this artsy looking paperback I picked up in Harry Halls Bookshop in Gresham street. A couple of years later I read Consider Phlebas  for the first time. It sort of became the yardstick by which I measured my enjoyment of epic science fiction writing. You know IT WAS GOOD BUT NOT AS GOOD AS CONSIDER PHLEBAS. That lasted a good wee while. Until I read Use Of Weapons. Which then became my new favorite Ian M Banks. I think I was a shallow reader lacking wider references or sophisticated tastes. I just knew what I liked and The Culture books were so damned good. I even got to meet him a couple of times. At the readings he did at Waterstones Bookshop in Royal Avenue, Belfast. He was very personable and always chose interesting and entertaining excerts to read for the amusement of those attending. This was off course many years before there was even a glimmer of the purple hues of geek chic so the whole evening may have appeared terminally dull to the cooler eye. Yet we were more than happy in the cloistered trappings of the freshly published Banks. We were not friends. I was just a fan who would attend his readings given a chance. Just the Face From Space in the back row looking with utter admiration at this worldly wise whisky lover with a brilliant mind gifted to the world for a short time. All twenty seven of the books he had published in his lifetime are scattered about my house in different places. All of his books are worth seeking out. All of them worth keeping and sharing. The Quarry is a worthy addition to that remarkable body of work. The twenty eighth book is about to join them.
               There will be no more.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Come And See Now.

Got some new ink done by Joseph at his Lost Souls studio. He had also got some astonishing work recently which he had traveled to Russia to get done. At the hands of someone he respected. Who does watch the Watchmen indeed. The hands that have decorated his skin are some of the best in the world. He knows this. He works very hard to pay for the travel and the expertise. It as though the canvas of his time on this earth is right there in front of you. I had something done which has haunted my imagination since childhood. I do not remember its origins or why it should have affected my imagination as it did. I read a book recently which suggests the origins of such notions but it was a series of explanations I am not altogether comfortable with. The book dealt with the insights of one Cesare Lombrosso and I do not wish to take on board the broad associations his theories bring to the surface. I found some of his ideas deeply repellant and have since learned in later life he believed in even goofier things if that is even possible. Lombrosso suggests a desire for tattoos is indicative of a criminal pathology. A inescapable desire rooted in the very bones of those born to be criminal. That we are not shaped by our experiences or the homes or class we grow up in. We are what we were born to be. It is not even destiny. It is just bone, blood and birth. Lombrosso was an Italian criminologist who held the belief that crime was an inherited trait. Passed on by human nature. THE SEEDS OF MORAL INSANITY AND CRIMINALITY ARE FOUND IN MANS EARLY LIFE. He is considered by many to be the father of modern criminology. FORENSIC MEDICINE SHOULD RECOGNISE THAT IN THE CASE OF THE CRIMINAL MAN WHO IS IN CONSTANT STRUGGLE AGAINST SOCIETY, TATTOOS-LIKE SCARS ARE PROFESSIONAL CHARACTERISTICS. For me it all comes across as a series of Eugenics based sound-bites. Turin in the eighteen hundreds..what a swinging scene. RELIGION, WHICH TENDS TO PRESERVE ANCIENT HABITS AND CUSTOMS, CERTAINLY PERPETUATES THE PRACTICE OF TATTOOING. Oh Cesare, with these insights you are spoiling us.
              Also read three Chuck Palaniuks. Lullaby. Haunted. Damned. Feel like a spring has burst out of the top of my head, with a diseased cuckoo calling the hour, like something out of a Looney Tunes short, only with actual blood and gore and brain and bone matter. He is a powerfully affecting writer of stories that can shock and cause you to despair at the monstrous banality of modern culture and the demons that stoke the engines that drive it. poor man. To see the world as he does even for one day. Must be awful. His hell is right here on earth. Staring back at him from the side of a milk carton. I was brought up a catholic so my vision of hell is your basic Bosch Nightmare with glowing autumnal skies, medieval torture equipment, screaming demons ,fiery wyrms chewing at your go-gos with an ever lasting chorus of wailing and gnashing of the abandoned and forgotten.Hell for him does not seem to be a place of painful retribution but a place where the Damned endure poor lifestyle choices. Ah well, in the scheme of things America is a relatively new thing so it is no suprise a child of that fabled country should see hell as such. A thoroughly modern hell. Something has scrambled his genius so that it spurts out of him in these bookish orgasms. I think he is quite brilliant at times and appalling at others. Reading three of his books back to back made me want to take a a hot shower to wash all the neurotic fear sweat away, only I cannot. My immersion heater is busted. No hot water.
              Three Chuck Palaniuks followed by a cold shower.
              No thank you.
              That is too old school Irish catholic a response even for me.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Kindness Of Strangers

WHOEVER YOU ARE,I HAVE ALWAYS DEPENDED ON THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS. So said Blanche Dubois in the Tenesse Williams play Streetcar Named desire. And poor Blanche was as nutty as a fruit-cake. I myself am something of  a fruitcake. There is no denying it. My own experiences of the random reactions of strangers being along the common lines of WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? or WHY ARE YOU NOT ME? Although I share the ache of fictional characters sadness at the lack of empathy at broad in the world I try not to get too hung up on it. Indeed, every now and again I am pleasantly suprised by the actions of others and when this happens I feel rich with life. Take this for an example. I am not the fastest human being in the world. In fact I am a rambling tangle of uncoordinated limbs that at times seem to act independently of each other. When I tried my hand at waitering my nickname by the other waiters was Lightning. For I was anything but a lightning bolt. These days I am worse than ever, my circus days long behind me. One morning I was ambling along in an attempt to get a bus to work. The driver had seen me but was not prepared to wait and started to pull off leaving me in my usual state of embarrassment and abandonment. I sighed trying to feign indifference. I DID NOT WANT TO GET ON YOUR STUPID BUS ANYWAY. Then it stopped and a figure leaned out and waved me forward. C'MON She said with a wide friendly smile. I speeded up and hobbled forward(part of my brain was saying PLEASE DO NOT SHOUT RUN FORREST RUN as all the bus passengers press their faces against the bus window and howl with laughter. I have history after all)actually managing to get aboard dignity intact. She had kindly asked the driver for a little patience and that is what he demonstrated. I was so grateful and it even caused a ripple of smiles amongst those seated.     
            Anytime we saw each other after that we would always say hello and chat. Just about the ups and downs of life in general and particularly the minefield that is retailing. I learned she was from Poland and that she and her husband were both making the most together of a new life in Northern Ireland.
             I asked her name.
             MAGDALENA she replied.
             I babbled a load of comic related gobblydegook in suprise. A few years back I had worked for an American Comic Book Company called Top Cow. Amongst the things I had done whilst working for them was to create a character called The Magdalena. And this was the first time I had ever met anyone with that name. That is her in the photograph with a copy of the re-released graphic novel of the origin story of the character. I felt she had to have a copy if only to prove I was not some looney she had unwittingly encouraged with a simple act of kindness. I mean it was not as though I had claimed  to have visited the moon (although in truth I have, in all its many phases.)
             MAGDALENA meet THE MAGDALENA.
             The most recent comic I have worked on is about North African Pirates making slaves of Irish people.
              I think if I was running for a bus and a Swarthy Swashbuckler leaned out beckoning me forward I might now pause.
              Wait ten minutes.
              Get the next one.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Woods Are Dark And Deep.

Just look at this tree. Is it not magnificent? I had been down in the country staying with my sister Anne, working on a script for another issue of Noe The Savage Boy. In my mind I felt as though I had spent weeks at sea on a nightmare journey on a North African Pirate Ship called The Issabella. (Not because my sister was mistreating me but because that is what the next part of Noe's story involves.) Feeling a bit stir crazy I decided to go for a hobble around The Black Island. My own Island of Adventure. As a boy I had stumbled across a downed Sontaran war Machine and only just managed to foil its pilot Field Marshall Soldar's attempts to conquer the Earth. I did so by jamming his breathing tube with a Peggy's Leg cola flavored stick of rock. A top tip if you should ever find yourself face to face with a lone Sontaran warrior. Also, it is not widely known but beneath the dark waters of Lake Muckno which surround The Black Island are a Zygon spacecraft (Who's crew rest in suspended animation) as well as a colony of Sea-Devils/Silurians (Who also sleep in suspended animation). Someday both sleeping crews will emerge from their deep sleep and that will truly be squeaky bum time. I feel connected to The Black Island. I always have. Even on the worst of days I have been able to draw some strength from it. I have sat beneath the spreading branches of ancient trees as rain of biblical proportions has fallen to earth. The trees never notice I am there. They rarely notice us as we move through our lives so quickly. To a tree man-time is like the beating of a humming-bird's wings. I have sat with my skinny legs dangling off Lake Muckno Bridge feeling the night draw in. Watching tree tops sway in a breathing motion as the wind explores its branches. Dark water below mirrors the darkening skies above as twilight spreads. Like a curtain falling signalling the end of one act and the beginning of another. A hunting man armed with a shotgun and a brace of Coneys passes me following an excited springer spaniel who's nose vacums the ground. The grass has stories to tell and a good springer can read them all. A sublime night is meant for walking on the water...And a tree like this is why this place is so special to me. I even scrambled about its rooty mossy base looking for a Carroll-like entrance to a world beyond this one. The kind of entrance a waistcoat wearing rabbit with a fob-watch might use. Alas no such Coney showed. No magic rabbit bounded by. No magic entrance or exit revealed itself that day. The day it does will be the last day this world sees me. 
                   ...Now if I can only remember where I found this tree...

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

A Night At the Museum.

I was gifted a copy of this wonderful book by the author whom I had the pleasure of meeting and eating with at dinner the other night. I had been to the Ulster Museum for a talk by the author Jeffrey Deavers. A night organized by David Torrance of the No Alibis Bookstore in Botanic Avenue. It was a lovely evening with the sun splitting the trees and the choice of venues was just great for a talk by the creator of Lincoln Rhyme. I was there by invitation of my boss John Mc Mahon who knows  I always have an appetite for good food and good company. The evening was a sell out, loads of the authors new hardback The Kill Room were shifting and the craic around the dinner table afterwards was as they say up to ninety. We walked from the museum to Connors for a late evening meal. Afterwards we strolled to where John had parked his car, down in the holy Land. It was as I said a really lovely evening and the campus grounds around Queens University were balmy and oddly quiet. Just ambling along with these two fine mystery writers who had travelled so far to entertain their fans. They were obviously good friends who brought out the best in each other conversationally. Jeffrey's voice seemed deep and precise. John's danced for joy. John gave me a copy of his book refusing to personalize the signature as it would devalue the book in the event of his death. A Poe like modesty that endeared him all the more. Anyone who knows me will know that MR James is one of my favorite authors and antiquarian ghost stories one of my favorite genres. I am not keen on pastiche. I like authors to just go for it. To write as though they are the first and only authors to write in this vein. And that is how John Connolly allows this story to unfold. It is a one sitting read that demands an almost immediate reread. Just as I reread A Christmas Carol every December I now think I shall reread the Wanderer in Unknown Realms every...
              ..well,every time I feel like it.
              Special mention must go to Emily Hall for her disturbing black and white plates that punctuate the text. They really are quite haunting. The product of some Ghostly Edwardian nursery.
               My momento of a lovely evening is a book that gave me disturbing dreams.
               Just wonderful.