I really don’t want to write on the election. I mean, I will, next week, but I really don’t want to.

Because this election has, as I predicted a few months back, been horrible, been awful, been dreadful. And I’ll write about some of why next week.

Today, something less awful. Something on memory.

At some point in the past few years, I forgot who I was at school with. Oh, I can remember the odd name here and there; I can remember my close friends from school, and I can remember the names of the bullies. And I can remember my teachers.

But I used to remember the names of kids in my class. And kids I went to VI Form with, and young adults I went to uni with.

Now? No idea. The names just aren’t there. Seeing photos with names on the back… nope, I don’t remember them at all. I’ve got more pics of students with whom I studied at Manchester Poly. I can barely remember any of them. Some of them, obviously close friends from the photos, I have no memory of them at all.

I mean, take my senior – what’s now called secondary school. My school years between the ages of 12 and 16 were spent at Denbigh High School, in Luton. When I went there, there were 8 forms of roughly 30 children per form, over five years.

So 240 kids per year, roughly 1200 children in the school. I can go to virus sites and message boards and look at the names of people listed for my year, children I must have known – and liked or disliked – very well… Last time I checked, there were 177 listed, from the roughly 240 kids in my year. I recognised under 20. And I can picture maybe six of them.

I’d lay even money that ’20’ has shrunk to half a dozen now.

Now, ok, there’s not a one of them with whom I’m in regular contact.

Same applies to my time at Sixth Form College. Looking back at pics and online records of the time. Less than a dozen whose names I remember, and only a handful of mental pictures.

There are days I feel every bloody day of my fifty-five years…

As for uni… well, as I say above, I have more pictures. You’d think it’d make a difference. There’s someone who, from the photos, I was very close to, physically I mean. Nope, I have no idea of her name. There’s a photo of a fella named Paul who I kind of faintly remember being there, But his surname? What he was studying? Our relationship? Not a clue.

I wonder how many of them remember me.

I’m not sure what it says that I hope very few do.

(Of course, the schoolmates wouldn’t have a clue about ‘budgie’, while those at uni would only remember me as ‘budgie’…)

 
 
Something else, tomorrow.

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

And after yet another week when the only sensible reaction to the news is to answer Twitter’s ‘What’s happening?‘ with a groan, a shrug, and a wince, here’s some much needed silliness.

 
 
Let’s start this week with some utter silliness, some unfettered silliness. Have some Road Runner.

 
 
Here’s some Emo Philips, just because why not…?

 
 
And here’s some Steven Wright, for the same reason

 
 
Rare that the opening scene of the first episode of a sitcom tells me I’m going to be hooked. Cheers managed it. Finest sitcom pilot I’ve ever seen.

 
How to keep a clean conscience in government? Sir Humphrey advises how

 
 

Mitch Benn has some advice for American families this week. How to talk to your pro-Trump relatives this Thanksgiving

 

See you tomorrow, with something else.

As with last week, I’ve had a week this week, a not particularly pleasant one, and…

Yeah, well.

As I wrote last week,

With a few other things that have happened today, I’m genuinely too irritable and irritated to write it again, so I’m expressing author’s privilege and taking the bloody day off.

See you tomorrow with… something, at least.

It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when going to comics cons was an important, regular, and ever-present part of my life. My year’s calendar was, if not planned around it, then at least the dates were written in as soon as I knew them.

Partly of course this was because for a dozen years I, together with Dave Gibbons, ran the hypotheticals panel, which so many people were so kind about over the years.

I haven’t been to a comics con for some years, now. Oh, there are lots of different reasons for that, including but not limited to my occasionally-referred-to pretty much complete nervous breakdown earlier this decade,

But I do have to admit that the past year or so, I’ve started feeling an ‘itch’… and a growing wish… to immerse myself once again in that culture.

Why now?

No bloody idea at all. But it’s there, it’s definitely there.

An easy get-out would be to give credit to/blame (delete as appropriate) to the fantastic comics now being produced; so many incredibly good comics are being created by supremely talented artists and writers.

It’d be easy… but inaccurate.

Because there were as many very good comics being created and released and talked about and promoted last year. And as many the year before as well. And the year before that.

One of the best comics of the past few years – Kieron Gillen’s and Jamie McKelvie’s The Wicked + The Divine – is wrapping up now after five years or so. It didn’t suddenly become good in the past year. I didn’t suddenly discover it in the past year. It was superb from the very first issue, and kept being good. And their earlier collaborations were also very good indeed.

Greg Rucka’s and Michael Lark’s Lazarus started in 2013 and has been flat out amazing since the very first issue. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Criminal has been going since 2006, when I was still attending comics cons. It’s still going, and it’s still incredibly good.

And yet the last time I went to a comics con, actually took part – either to do something there or just as a paying punter – was 2012, the year of the final hypotheticals panel.

So, what’s changed?

I’m not sure.

OK, I mean, yes, all right; I’ve changed, to a certain extent. As alluded to above, there’s a chunk of 2011 – 2016, very roughly, in which I wasn’t.… well, take your pick. I wasn’t well, I wasn’t ‘me’, I wasn’t that together, I wasn’t… well.

And the thought of being in a large crowd – and thankfully, comics cons are much busier these days than they were when I started going – wasn’t something that much attracted me, It still doesn’t, to a large extent.

Bu that’s not it. Because although I’m ‘better’ than I used to be, I’m not ‘better’ than I was a year ago, or 18 months ago.

So why now?

Perhaps it’s social media. Yes, that thing so often referred to disparagingly, has led to me seeing in real time how much fun people are having at events in which I used to have so much fun. I get to see video clips of people I know having a blast.

Maybe that’s something, because the only reports you used to get back in the day were – at best – decent reviews after the event of con reports, and they were so much a part of the con experience that even I wrote some.

And one at least that people seemed to like.

There are half a dozen UK comics cons these days; from the very small to the enormous, but there are a couple of in London, and one in Leeds, the wonderful Thought Bubble, that I’m starting to get itchy feet for.

We’re coming up to the end of 2019, and next year will be 20 years since the very first hypotheticals panel. I doubt Dave and I will do anything publicly to mark the occasion, although we’ve not discussed it, to be fair.

But if I’m going to return to comics cons, to get my feet wet again, that seems as good a reason as any to do it.

huh. 20 years. I really ought to do something to celebrate. I wonder what.
 
 
Something else, tomorrow…

Dealing with some stuff today, so I’m afraid you get another ‘fiction from the vaults’ post. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow, hopefully

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

Two stories written for friends, today, in 2010.

Both darker than my usual fare, but both were immediately suggested by the titles given to me. Blame the titles, and the challengers, not me. You might recognise the name of the second challenger. We were introduced by a mutual friend with a talent for putting people he likes together with a “you should know each other…” I was very grateful he did, and wil was kind enough to provide an introduction for the second collection of fast fiction stories, in which he wrote:
 

“There are two hundred stories collected in this volume. They are funny, they are thoughtful, they are romantic, they are frightening. To me, though, they are more than entertaining. They are inspiring.”

 
Wasn’t that nice of him?

There are, as it happens, two volumes of The Fast Fiction Challenge are available in ebook (.epub or .mobi for Kindle) format from the author. Volume 1 (180 stories) is £4.00, or equivalent in local currency; volume 2 (200 stories) is £5.00 email for details. Print copies also available if required.

Anyway, on to the stories.
 


 
Title: Right On The Money
Word: lackadaisical
Challenger: Vix Allchurch
Length: 200 words exactly

 
 
He’d worked on the communication for some time, turning phrases back and forth in his head before committing them to paper… It took him twelve attempts until he was happy with the content, and a further six before he was satisfied with the look of it.

Appearances were so important, he truly believed, whether it was the clothing one wore, the style of haircut one showed to the world, or even as in this case, a written missive.

And yet, he lazily acknowledged, how this would be read would depend upon the words themselves, rather than how they lay on the page.

Thirty two words in total, yet they conveyed the message he wished to send to her, part plea, part demand, but wholly clear. She’d be in no doubt as to his resolve.

He stretched in what he thought of as a languid manner, his entire demeanour lackadaisical, then paused, arms outstretched, considering the sum he’d mentioned. Too large? Possibly, but he thought not.

He looked over at the baby, sleeping peacefully next to him.

He’d chosen well. Much better for the kidnap victim not to be able to talk.

He wasn’t about to make that mistake. Not again.

© Lee Barnett, 2010

 


 
Title: A Long Way Down
Word: exalted
Challenger: Wil Wheaton
Length: 200 words exactly

 
 
I beat my first woman to death at twenty-three. She was forty-two, full of hate and prejudice, but that wasn’t why I killed her.

My brother… now he thinks I kill for the money. That’s a contemptible view: I worked hard to learn how to kill and I feel exalted by my success.

The woman was my fourth killing. Since then, I’ve killed many more, learning efficiency and brutality go hand in hand.

My father… is ashamed of me. He discovered I kill people but curiosity gave way to disgust when I was honest and enthusiastic about it.

Sixty-eight people. You were wondering, I could tell.

They all deserved it, you understand. They deserved it by costing the state too much. They died because they were… inconvenient.

As I strap on thick leather gloves provided by the prisons department and hit the old man in front of me, I wonder what it was like, executing people back before the electricity ran out. When the next punch lands, I wonder when others ceased to be proud.

We stood on top of the world… then we fell. And as he dies, I know everyone else is still falling.

Everyone else, except me.

© Lee Barnett, 2010
 


 
 
Something else, tomorrow…

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

Two stories written for friends, today, in 2009.

Both tales took some crafting, because with each, the story I had planned resisted where I wanted to them them. And so, obviously, I stopped writing the stories I’d intended to write, and wrote the stories that wanted to be told.

I thought ‘well, they must know their story better than I do.’ And, reading them again, I still do.

 


  
Title: Buggered By The Moonlight
Word: relativistic
Challenger: Dan Curtis Johnson
Length: 200 words exactly

 
 
Now he could hear things, although he knew that was impossible.

Voices. His mother telling him telling him how proud the old man was of him. Then his father, explaining in graphic detail how disappointed he was in his son.

And below that, the soft hiss of his oxygen running out.

He’d switched off the alarms some time ago, both audible and visual notifications, so he no longer knew precisely how much air he had left to breathe, but he’d decided he didn’t want to know.

He idly wondered how the news media was describing his situation. “Floating in the stars” or “drifting in space”, probably. If he had the strength, he’d laugh. You didn’t float, nor drift – you continued in whatever direction you’d been propelled, subject to the same forces that drove planets through their orbits. He was just going faster, much faster, the force of the exploding experimental drive pushing him close to the speed of light.

He wasn’t aware of any relativistic effects, but then he wouldn’t be, he thought.

The fastest man in the universe, he mused, never once realising that he’d ceased to be human several thousand years ago.

Dying was beyond him now. Forever.

© Lee Barnett, 2009

 


 

Title: Fast Road To Nowhere
Word: idiosyncratic
Challenger: Alan Porter
Length: 200 words exactly

 
 
The police and criminalists had come for him once; they’d even arrested him, walking him out from his office through the trading floor, his arms behind him, the black and silver of the handcuffs visible to his staff. But the next morning, he was back in his office, released without charge, his face challenging those who’d dare to express astonishment at his presence.

And still there was no sign of his wife. Hadn’t been for months, since she’d apparently just not returned from a shopping trip to an all night market, a trip taken at two in the morning, despite never having done so previously.

His staff never said good morning or good night to him now. They just arrived and they left, wondering when the police would return. They knew he’d work until ten, then hit the running machine in the company gym, in the basement, his only company security guards who tolerated his idiosyncratic choice of time to exercise, night after night.

And then one morning, he didn’t show up. No call, no email. He’d just not turned up.

And everyone knew that he’d confirmed his guilt.

Everyone except the security guards, who’d eaten well that week.

© Lee Barnett, 2009
 


 
 
Something else, tomorrow…

With more details about the tv adaptation of The Sandman, and having listened to an interview with Neil about how it’s planned to bring it to the small screen, it seems as good a time as any to do this.

I’d always planned to redo this at some point, as – as I’ve mentioned before – we all change through our lives, and it’s never a bad idea to revisit opinions you’ve expressed to see whether or how you’ve changed, and whether or how your views and answers have.

It started when I was reminded of a question I was asked when I did an #askbudgie hashtag on Twitter. Possibly knowing of my friendship with Neil Gaiman, I was asked

If you were one of The Endless, which one would you be?

My answer at the time was, as far as I recall, entirely truthful.

I think like most people, I feel like different aspects of each of The Endless at different times… As a general rule though, I don’t ever really feel like a character created by someone else. I’m more of a self-made person who has a healthy disrespect for my creator.

I think it still applies, in the main. But only in the main, self-deprecation and all.

But, just for fun, why not, budgie…?

So, what do each of The Endless mean to me? What elements of them do I recognise in my own character? Or at least, do I have anything to say about the concepts?

(At this point it occurs to me that some reading may not have the slightest clue what I’m talking about. OK, very quick explanation. Neil Gaiman wrote a book entitled Sandman, in which he created The Endless, seven characters that embody universal aspects. So, Destruction does not represent destruction; Destruction is destruction. Dream is the concept of dream, and rules over a realm of dreams, which is where we go when we sleep.)

OK then.

Destiny
I actively dislike the idea of people having a ‘destiny’ or a ‘destined fate’, set in stone long ago, and with an unchanging end, even if the journey isn’t planned. And no, this isn’t a claim for ‘free will’, unfettered and unreserved. I’m a product of my own life and experiences. I’m the sum of my own experiences, for good or ill. I could, I suppose, choose to do lots of things that I wouldn’t normally do, that would astonish poeple who know me. That I don’t do them, because ‘that’s not me’… is that a conscious decision not to do it? Or am I merely acting on social and life learned programming? A bit of both, surely.

I once heard some philosophy students discussing ‘free will’, and when learned habit supersedes it. Is it truly an expression of free will to, say, flush the toilet, or to turn off the light when you leave a room?

If it’s inconceivable to you to do Thing X, can you ever claim that you’re exercising free will when you don’t do Thing X?

So, individuals have some say in their own decisions, but habits and societal constructs restrain many from actions which other societies might encourage. And freedom of action does not mean freedom from the consequences of those actions, anyway. But no, I’ve never thought that my life, nor my eventual end, was destined to be whatever it ends up.

Fiction enjoys the concept of a couple being destined to meet, or there being a ‘soulmate’ for everyone. Given the above, it won’t surprise you that I have nothing but mockery for such concepts.

Death
Ashkenazi Jews are traditionally named after those who have died, so you grow up knowing that you were named for someone who’d died.

So, yeah, I was aware of the concept of death from a very, very early age. (In my case, I was named after my mother’s maternal grandmother, Leah.)

On the other hand, I can’t remember the first person I heard of who’d died; not celebrities, but someone I knew, or a relative of a friend. Certainly – while I was still very young – I learned that this friend or that friend had ‘lost’ a grandparent.

And while I never knew my dad’s parents, my maternal grandfather died when I was 17, my grandmother when I was 19. On neither occasion, though, was death was a foreign concept by then; I’d already been to ‘the grounds’ (a colloquialism for a Jewish cemetery), and had attended funerals or stonesettings from the age of about 14 or 15.

There used to be a convention in Judaism, by the way, that you didn’t go to the grounds while your parents were alive; largely, that’s been abandoned now, for the better I’d argue. No one’s first funeral should be for your parent.

As for what happens after death… I have no idea. Not a clue what happens to you ‘after you die’; to you, I mean. Not your body, not your remains, but to you, as a concept. If I had to guess, I’d say… nothing. My own preferred option is, also… nothing. Your body stops, you stop, you.. end, and the world goes on without you, goes on quite well in almost all cases.

It’s one of the things I do like about my religion. Yes, ok, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but basically it comes down to ‘we don’t know what happens after you die… and what’s more, we can’t ever know what happens.’

I like that.

I choose to think nothing at all happens. I can’t know, obviously, but that’s what I choose to believe. Nothing happens. To you, again. Your relatives, and friends and loved ones will miss you, of course. Of course.

But life goes on.

Your work might continue to matter, especially creative works, but you? Nope. You’re gone. And life goes on.

As it should do.

Dream
I rarely remember dreams; nightmares, yes, but dreams of the less unpleasant, less horrifying, less nightmare-y, type, no.

Occasionally, yes, of course. But only very rarely. And even then, they’re the ‘puzzling’, mystifying type, not the genuinely ‘nice’ kind of dreams.

I have no idea whether I never have nice dreams, or whether I merely never remember them. I’n not sure which would be better, and which worse.

However, I wish I did remember nice dreams. I wish I did occasionally wake up, and think ‘oh, that was nice…’

Instead of waking up covered in sweat, heart racing, suddenly shocked back to reality. (Why yes, I do sleep alone, why do you ask?)

It’s the nightmares I remember, clearly and in detail. Yeah, I’d rather not, to be honest. 

Destruction
While nature destroys tangibly on a daily basis, the destruction of intangibles, like hope, and wishes, and rights, and democracy around the world, does far more damage in every time frame (short-, medium- and long-term).

It’s a constant amazement and continually impressive to me just how people survive such destructions, and what’s more some thrive in resistance to it. Their bravery and determination is a never ending source of inspiration to others. I use the word ‘others’ advisedly; their bravery doesn’t inspire me, which says more about me than them, and nothing good.

What has struck me more and more over the years is that destruction doesn’t have to be complete to achieve its aim. What’s almost worse to me – as a concept – than unfettered destruction is when destruction stops short of absolute, when something is permanently maimed, damaged for all time without complete extermination.

Complete destruction at least allows for the cauterisation of a wound, perhaps. Stopping short, allowing a faint ember of hope that will forever be denied? That’s when destruction becomes malicious; that’s when destruction becomes… cruel.

And that can move me to tears.

Desire
I read some beautiful writings about desire earlier today and it reminded me once again that it’s something I don’t understand properly, and never will. Desire is overwhelming. It’s neither a want nor a wish, but a need.

I’m genuinely in awe of people who are that open, that honest, and that authentic, to admit their desire for a person (or people), or a lifestyle. And equally in awe of people who admit to others, especially to those who desire them, that they are both desireable and desired.

I don’t understand it properly.

I can, just about, understand the desire for others, both physically and otherwise. But a desire for me? Again, either physically or otherwise, but especially physically? No. I not only don’t understand it, but I’m always mistrustful when I’m told it exists. And that mistrust is seldom wrong, in my experience.

Oh, I understand it in theory, how it’s written about, how it’s overwhelming, and more than once have written about it in a story convincingly enough to fool people. Or at least they’ve been kind enough to say that it has, that I nailed it.

But the true idea, the concept of being desired, properly…. physically or otherwise? The idea of being desired to the point of monopolising someone’s thoughts and dreams and wants, and needs?

That must be wonderful to experience. It must be fantastic to be a part of. It must be great to enjoy and revel in.

I bet.

Despair
The flip side of desire, and I’m equally in awe of people who are that open about Despair as well.

Again, I don’t think I truly understand it. But in a wholly different way than when it comes to desire. For what others describe as ‘despair’, true despair, I regard as… Tuesday.

And that’s not wholly an exaggeration. A small one, maybe, but not really. It’s not the despair of thinking nothing can ever get better, but the certain knowledge that it won’t, the utter and complete knowledge based on life experiences and your own past. I’d never suggest that what people go through isn’t despair, merely that from the outside, you never, never, know the truth about someone else’s despair.

Delight/Delirium
What was once delight is now delirium, at least in The Endless. The latter is more appropriate for the 21st century. It’s impossible not to be at least slightly delirious if you’re attempting to truly understand global politics nowadays. Global politics? Hell, any politics. I mentioned on Twitter the other day the old line about “if you’re not confused, you don’t understand the situation.”

The comedian Mark Watson chipped in with a suggestion that surely that applies to the entire human condition; it’s a fair observation. Politics was never simple, but, now, too many regard you as delirious if you try to acknowledge complexity, let alone highlight it.

Here are The Endless, drawn by Bevis Musson, in the order they’re written about above.

Something else tomorrow..

A friend of mine used to work for an accountancy recruitment firm. Like all of us, in any job, he had his own rules, developed from years in his chosen trade or profession, and two of them were almost articles of faith to him.

One of them was why people stay at a job, and why they look for a new one.

He maintained that there were three attributes people cared about regarding a current job:

  • Your prospects – what you can reasonably expect if you stay: better pay, title, job, promotions
  • The benefits you currently get: who you work with, the extras you get from working there, the clients you have
  • A genuine vocation for the work.

He insisted that if you had none of them, you’ve already been looking for an new job for a while

If you had only one of them, you’re similarly already looking for a new job

If you had two of them, though, you’d probably stay at your job:

He suggested that people will put up with ‘no prospects’ if they like the job and have a genuine vocation for the work.

Also, even if you’re not crazy about the specific job, if you’ve great prospects and enjoy the work, you’ll stay.

And, obviously, if you’ve good prospects and have a vocation for the work, you won’t mind not liking this specific job for a while until those prospects are met, or you realise they won’t be.

Oh, if you claimed you had all three, he’s recommend you call The Guinness Book of Records. Because he’d rarely come across someone who genuinely did.

The other thing he viewed as aa certainty was: the worst question to ask – or be asked – in a job interview.

He had no time for the “how many dentists are there in London?” type questions. He viewed them – correctly, in my opinion – as merely examples of the ‘how would you approach solving this problem?’ type. That’s all, no more no less. They weren’t trick questions, nor impossible to answer impressively.

No, the absolute King Bastard Of Questions, he insisted, was:

If you don’t get offered the job, what do you think will be the reason why?

He recommended it to employers to ask in only two specific circumstances: when you knew you probably wouldn’t offer the candidate the role but there’s a small voice at the back of your head pushing you to, or when wanted to offer them the role, but that small voice voice is warning you not to… but you don’t know why.

And the reason why it’s such a bastard of a question is because there’s no right answer. (Well, there is, he suggested, but more about that in a moment.) But since no one in an interview wants to blame someone else, it forces the candidate to examine their own history.

And whatever they say reveals what they think are their weaknesses as a candidate.

If they mention their spotty job history, never staying long at a job, then they’re worried about that; if they mention their less than stellar exam performance, the same.

The only ‘right’ answer, my friend maintained was to walk a line between confidence and cocky, between assured and arrogant:

I don’t know. I hope I’ve done enough in this interview to convince you that I am the right person for this role.

For some years, I’ve been quietly irritated that the same question isn’t asked of politicians seeking our votes. “If you don’t win the election, what do you think will be the reason why?”

Not that I expected any politicians to answer it. In fact, on the rare occasions when they were asked something similar, the usual answer trotted out by politicians of all parties is ‘I don’t answer hypotheticals; I think we will win.”

And that’s an answer that infuriates me. A manifesto is, at its very heart, something that relies upon a hypothetical. And politicians have no problem at all with predicting the future will be golden under their policies.

They have an equal lack of issue with trashing the other parties’ manifestos, usually involving and creating or relating ever greater and more ludicrous hypotheticals, offered with even greater claims of calamity.

Any politician commenting on their [main] opponents’ manifestos will always assert that their opponents’ fiscal policies, if put into practice, will crash the economy.

Predicting, whether it’s the effect of ‘your ‘own’ sides’ policies or your opponents’ inherently relies upon hypothetical scenarios.

As I say, I’ve been frustrated that this question isn’t put to politicians, on the national scale, and at local hustings.

However, I’m neither irritated nor frustrated that the question isn”t being asked this time.

Because, unlike that job interview above, and unlike most previous elections, were the politicians to have been honest… this election, this time, every main party running for Parliament would – and will – blame other people and other things for them losing.

The Tories both overtly and by whispering campaigns, both at the national leadership level, and from their supporters, will blame the ‘enemies of the people’, will blame the EU, will blame the broken parliament that ended weeks ago. Not their leader, not their policies, but everyone else.

The SNP will blame the fact that they’re not independent and Brexit. Again, not their policies, but the system.

The Lib Dems will blame both the voting system, and the other party machines.

Labour? Well, the leadership will blame the media, and the gullibility of the voters. And the ‘centrists’ and the Blairites. Except for a large portion of Labour’s membership and suporters. Because, well, yes, we all know who they’ll blame.
 
 
Something else, tomorrow…

Yes, it’s Saturday, so a Saturday Smile

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

And after yet another week when the only sensible reaction to the news is to answer Twitter’s ‘What’s happening?‘ with ‘How the hell do I know?‘, here’s some much needed silliness.

 
 
Peter Cook, with Experiences Down The Mine. I’d forgotten quite how clever, and good, this is.

 
 
And since we’re back in history, Bob Newhart goes even further back with a call from Sir Walter Raleigh, Introducing Tobacco To Civilisation

 
 
Here’s Rowan Atkinson, with How Shakespeare Should Be Done…

 
 
Want to know why the government will never ban smoking? Yes, Prime Minister explains why…

 
 
Two from Mitch Benn this week.

Mitch’s favourite film was, and indeed is, Blade Runner. Mitch was more than slightly worried about the sequel

 
Then he saw the movie…

 
 

See you tomorrow, with something else.

“I like to reminisce with people I don’t know. Granted, it takes longer…” — Steven Wright

I didn’t write about my brother a couple of days ago, even though it would have been his 60th birthday. Mainly because I didn’t have anything to say that I hadn’t said before.

Every year, on the anniversary of his death, I’ll put something up here, in the blog. This was what I wrote in January 2019.

I’ve rarely written what it was like to have him as a brother though, what was great about him as a big brother. Occasionally, but only occasionally, like here, in 2016.

But maybe because it would have been his 60th birthday, with everything that implies – birthday party, get togethers and the rest – Mike’s been on my mind a lot the past couple of days.

I have no idea what he’d have made of British or American politics right now. For all that we chatted about world affairs and stuff, every so often, he died in January 1998, less than a year after Tony Blair took office. Bill Clinton was still President back then, Bush Junior hadn’t even really started running for President yet.

So many of the people who are now ‘in charge’ of weren’t even in their respective legislative chambers back then, and I suspect that had you or I at that time predicted that Donald Trump would be President, that Boris Johnson would be Prime Minister and Jeremy Corbyn the Leader of the Opposition, Mike’s reaction would have been to look for whatever the hell we was smoking, and to remove it from my grasp.

And I wish I could go back through the memories of Michael, with Michael.

I can’t.

He’s dead. He’s been dead for almost twenty-two years.

But, since he’s been on my mind the past 48 hours, here are two short memories of Mike, stories I don’t know whether I’ve told before, but that I want to tell today.

1975
I started at secondary school, aged 11, what was called ‘senior school’ in my day. I was in the most junior year, obviously; Mike was in the most senior. I’d obviously told Mike, my big brother, that I would walk home by myself; I didn’t need, nor want, to be treated like a baby who needed his hand held.

Some lads from his year, four years older than me, decided to have a bit of fun with the new kid, and. I guess, have a vicarious pop at Mike as well. I remember being genuinely terrified at what these 16 year olds had planned for me when they surrounded me as I came out of the school. Whatever it was, it was likely to be painful.

I was shaking, almost crying from fear. My nose was running.

There was a loud cough. And they turned to see Mike, never the weightiest of builds, leaning against the wall, apparently completely relaxed. Five lads, all of them his size or bigger facing him.

“On your way…” Mike says, almost bored.

For a moment, I don’t know who he’s talking to, me or them. But then. As I start to move, Mike shoots me a look and barely but definitely moved his head from one side to another. I stay there.

“On your way, lads…”

The bullies look at me, Then at mike, figuring out their chances.

They fancy their chances, obviously.

“You think you can beat us?”

Mike laughs. “Of course not. There are five of you. I can’t beat you.” He stands up, from the wall, holding half a brick in his hand. “I can just break a nose or two, poke out an eye or two, maybe fracture a kneecap, before I go down, though. Now leave him alone. And fuck off.”

First time I’d ever heard my brother say that.

They swore at him. They shouted at him. They even, if you can believe it, cast doubt on the validity of our parents’ marriage.

But they left.

Mike walked over to me, handed me a tissue, said “wipe your nose, then come on…” And we walked home, me now almost crying from relief. He never mentioned it again, never blamed me for being tearful, never did anything other than convince me I’d always be safe while he was around.
 


 
1982
In 1982, I went to Manchester Polytechnic to study accountancy. I lived in a self-catering hall of residence. The ‘hall of residence’ won’t surprise anyone; the self-catering bit might. But I moved in not because I enjoyed cooking my own food; I didn’t then, and I don’t now. But no, but mainly because I wanted to eat when I wanted to, not when someone else wanted me to. And it was fun; I loved my time away from home. Mike came up for a vist after I’d been there a few months.

Now I was living, at that time, with 8 other people, from all over the UK. A fella from Derby, a couple from the South Coast, a lad from Northern Ireland, one lass from Leeds. And me. And I never ‘heard’ my accent. I never even really considered I had an accent I mean, ok, if you’d have pressed me, I guess I’d have reluctantly acknowledged that I must have had an accent, but I never ‘heard’ it. I never thought about it.

Then Mike came to visit. But hearing him talk to my friends, and the contrast between every word that came out of his mouth and theirs, between his accent and everyone else’s… Yes, I heard his accent, but again, not mine, not really.

Until one evening, when we were chatting with friends and one of them commented how similar our accents were, mine and Mike’s, how almost identical they were, in fact.

And then it hit me. Of course I had an accent, and of course it was the same as Mike’s.

And I appeared to be the only one in the room to whom this came as a surprise. Because my brother, my dear sibling, was wholly on my friends’ ‘side’ on the matter. He couldn’t believe I’d been in Manchester, had lived with these people, for months… and the penny hadn’t dropped.

But I had, and eventually… it did.

And there followed, of course, the requisite amount of mockery and silliness.

And at one point, I stopped dead, noticing how Mike had effortlessly fit in with my friends. They were my friends, and that was all he needed to accept them fully, and without reservation.
 


 
1993
I’d felt an itch to write, and was doing something about it. I’d started writing for the BBC, a topical weekly radio comedy show entitled Weekending. My younger brother had no interest, which was cool; he never had much of an interest in current afffairs. My mum was similarly uninterested. I could have told her I was writing Doctor Who, or writing sketches for a student rag. Mum’s reaction would have been the same: ‘tha’s nice, dear.” No interest in what I was writing, who it was for, or whether it was any good.

My father had far more interest, and was delighted for me, and even – very occasionally – listened to the show. He was very pleased for me, but had no actual interest in what I wrote.

Mike, on the other hand, was fascinated by every bit of it. He listened every week, if not to the original broadcast, then always the repeat. And he’d call me up to congratulate me, and ask about how I wrote this sketch or that gag. he never tried to rewrite it or suggest ‘better’ gags; he was always respectful that this was my writing, my gig.

And he eagerly read the prose I wrote, asking me ‘what’s the next thing? What are you writing next?’

He took great pride that his brother, his younger brother, was writing, was creating, and was good at it.
 


 
The bullies were long ago. It’s been a long time since I’ve needed Mike to protect me from them.

The friends from Manchester Poly are similarly long gone; I haven’t spoken to any of them in decades. But the friends I have now? I wish Mike knew them, and I wish they’d have got to know him. Comedians I know, writers… friends. He’d have liked them, and they’d have liked him.

I’ve written more the past year than I’d written in the three before that.

I wish he could read it. I really, really wish he could.

And I wish I could reminisce with my brother once again.

 
 
Something else, tomorrow.

Had a planned blog entry today, but like the dew on the dawn… it evaporated when I forgot to hit ‘save’ after writing 1100 words, and closed the composing screen.

Damn.

With a few other things that have happened today, I’m genuinely too irritable and irritated to write it again, so I’m expressing author’s privilege and taking the bloody day off.

See you tomorrow with… something, at least.

Oh, there’s so much about this election that needs serious, sensible, rational commentary.

It’s a pity there’s so little of that present in the punditry and commentary we do get, though.

And though I’ve commented previously about elections, including this one, and was even foolish enough to make some predictions, and will no doubt write some more before 12th December… something a bit lighter today while not completely leaving the subject alone.

This post was occasioned by the news that the Tories have today suspended a prospective parliamentary candidate for previously made antisemitic remarks.

They suspended him, and won’t be spending any more money on the campaign, and various people have rightly praised the Tories for doing both.

However, others have read far more into those actions that the actions themselves warrant.

From that reportage and those social media posts, you’d think that the Tories had “dumped’ the candidate, that the candidate will no longer be standing in the general election. Maybe that either another candidate will be selected in a hurry to stand for the party in that constituency, or even that no candidate was standing in that constituency representing the party.

Problem is, that none of that is true.

The final date for candidates to be formally – legally – nominated to stand for parliament was last Thursday, 14th November. From the moment nominations closed, no additional candidates can be added to the election for that constituency, nor can the ballot paper contain additional names.

What’s often missed, or less well appreciated anyway, is that from the moment nominations closed, no amendments at all can be made to the ballot paper.

Whoever were the nominees the moment nominations closed, their names are on the ballot when voters vote.

So, let’s take an example.

The constituency of Somewhere in the county of AnyWhere.

Mr Jones, Ms Smith and Mr Whatdjamacallit are, respectively, the nominated candidates from The Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems.

Mr Jones? The day after nominations close, he’s found to have worn blackface and dressed up as a nazi. The party suspend him.

Yeah, he’s still on the ballot paper on 12th December, with the words “Conservative party” next to his name.

Ms Smith? Oh, turns out she claimed all jews have hooked noses and only love money, oh and they’re all paid by israel to fiddle with kids. She’s duly suspended from the Labour Party.

Yep, she’s still on the ballot paper on 12th December, with the words “Labour party” next to her name.

Mr Whatdjamacallit, on the other hand, get caught with his hand in the till, ripping off the small charity she helps run. Police are called, he’s suspended from the party.

You guessed; he’s still on the ballot paper come 12th December, with the words “Liberal Democrats party” next to his name.

Ludicrous? Possibly, but that’s how elections run in the UK.

Oh, by the way, if any of them had died, ah, that might be different. Because then sometimes the election for that constituency is suspended… until a new candidate can be selected, after the general election. Most recently… Thirsk and Malton in 2010, where the election was suspended after the UKIP candidate died.

But no suspension if the party has just picked a racist, say.

Now I can understand there being a cut-off to the period for nominations; of course there needs to be one. I can certainly understand there being a cut-off before the election to allow ballot papers to be printed correctly, checked and verified.

I can’t understand, however, why those two dates are absolutely the same date, four weeks before the election.

Apart from anything else, it tells the parties,

“yeah, sure, suspend them formally, but you know in safe seats that the candidate will be elected no matter what. You and we both know it doesn’t matter; a [suspended] Tory candidate will still be elected in a safe Tory seat, a [suspended] Labour candidate will still be elected in a safe Labour seat.”

And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if, after they’ve won, the suspension is quietly lifted.

(And, literally, while I was typing this, it happened again; this time an antisemitic Lib Dem candidate. the Lib Dems have said they’ve removed him from election material and won’t campaign for him… But as above, he’ll be on the ballot paper come 12th December, with the words “Liberal Democrats party” next to his name.)

OK, so given the above, and that most people don’t know about the ‘no amendments from the day nominations close’ rule, I wondered what other arguably things, what other odd facts and figures about British elections, that people might not know.

Here’s a baker’s dozen:

Largest winning vote share in any constituency:
George Currie, Ulster Unionist, North Down, 1959: 98.0%

Lowest winning share of the vote:
Alasdair McDonnell, SDLP, Belfast South, 2015, 24.5%

Smallest Majorities (since 1945):
2 votes:
Stephen Gethins, SNP, North East Fife, 2017
Mark Oaten, Liberal Democrat, Winchester, 1997

Most recounts:
7: for both Brighton Kemptown in 1964 and Peterborough in 1966

Highest Turnout %:
Fermanagh and South Tyrone, 1951: 93.4%

Lowest Turnout %:
Lambeth Kennington 1918: 29.7%

Most candidates:
15: Sedgefield in 2005 (PM Tony Blair’s constituency)

Fewest candidates:
The last four seats to be uncontested at a general election were Armagh, Londonderry, North Antrim and South Antrim, at the 1951 general election. The last seats in Great Britain to be uncontested were Liverpool Scotland and Rhondda West, at the 1945 general election.

Three seats were contested only by Labour and Conservative candidates at the 1979 general election: Birmingham Handsworth, Dudley West and Salford East.

Most unsuccessful attempts to get back into The House of Commons:
Robert McIntyre, 1950, 1951, 1955, 1959, 1964, 1966, 1970, Feb 1974 and Oct 1974

Longest break from the Commons:
A contender for the longest gap prior to returning at a general election was possibly Henry Drummond (1786-1860), who returned to the House of Commons in the 1847 general election as member for West Surrey, after a near 35-year absence, though aged only 60. He was previously MP for Plympton Erle from 1810-12.

Shortest period between general elections:
7 months: November 1806 – June 1807
7 months: November/December 1885 – July 1886

Longest period without a change in government:
The longest continuous Conservative government was in office for eighteen years, between May 1979 and May 1997.

The longest continuous Labour government was in office for thirteen years, between May 1997 and May 2010.

Leader or Deputy party leader losing seat:
Always an event when it happens; most recent occasion was the constituent of Moray in 2017, when the SNP’s deputy leader, Angus Robertson… lost his seat.

 
 
Something else, tomorrow.

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

The first story below was from ‘The Art of Fast Fiction’, but without the art, as I’ve been unable to track it down. If I ever find it, I’ll redo the post. However, remember once again that while it was written to work as prose, it was also specifically written to be drawn as well. 

The second story is from very early on when I was playing with the format, seeing if I was comfortable with it. A darker tale for once, but a story that still works, I hope.

 


  
Title: Our Lady of Artillery
Word: pub
Challenger: [Whitechapel user]
Length: 200 words exactly

 
 
She slapped another ammo pack into the firearm and emptied it at the moving targets. A shout to her left and she shifted around quickly, but a flash of red obscured her view, and then she felt an impact and the rifle fell out of her hands.

Before she could find another weapon, there was a klaxon and then —

GAME OVER.

The two words insulted her in their bluntness.

There was a discreet cough behind her and she started, before she said quietly, “just a moment.”

“Of course,” came the reply and she heard the door shutting.

She stood up and stretched. She needed a drink. She smiled at the thought of leaving the office, walking until she found a pub and… no. The smile faded. Never again. She’d never be able to do that unaccompanied.

She sighed, and walked through the connecting passage from her private office to the large room with the curved walls. Her aide was patiently waiting there, and as she took her place behind the desk, she barely even noticed the seal in the heavy carpet, thinking instead how much simpler it would be if getting legislation passed was just another level to complete.

© Lee Barnett, 2012

 


 
Title: Twelve Hours
Length: 200 words exactly
 
 
Ten minutes to go.

No one’s called.

I look at my watch again, minutes after the last glance.

I used to have a watch with hands that made discrete movements, clicking their way around the face on the minute or hour. Not this one; the minute hand sweeps across the dial in a series of tiny, undetectable movements.

I look around the room, seeing the detritus of an existence.

No one’s called.

Envelopes containing bank statements. At least I think they are. I haven’t opened them in three months. Magazines still in their wrappers, a week’s worth of used crockery piling up in the sink. And as my eyes scour the room, finally pinned up, photographs. Family photographs, a final joke on me.

I pick up the telephone receiver just to check and I’m not sure whether or not I should be pleased at the reassuring dial tone. The weight in my other hand finally registers and I look at the black shape. Another look at the watch and I realize it’s time.

No-one’s called.

I look into the barrel and as I pull the trigger, the last sound I hear isn’t the gun, but the telephone start to rin‪—‬

© Lee Barnett, 2095
 


 
 
Something else, tomorrow…

Heh. I did it again.

From the opening to 55 plus 44: [further] Politics ponderings

Small amusement to start today’s entry. One of the things I like about iOS, have liked since the very first iteration of it, is keyboard shortcuts. They’re basically a way of typing a combination of letters which will then automatically resolve into a pre-written word, phrase or sentence. I have a few, but the three I’d always recommend to set up are: your email address, your phone number and… well, I’ll come on to that in a ducking minute, ok?

Being able to type ‘bbbb’ and have ‘budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk’ automagically appear saves so much bloody time, I tell you.

I set up ‘::’ (two colons) as a shortcut for my mobile phone number and ’44:’ as the same number but in ‘international format’. Which is fine and dandy… right up until you need to type “55 plus 44:’ as the title of a blog entry. Heh.

Oh, and the third? Since I rarely need to type the word ‘ducking’, I set it so if I do type the word ‘ducking’, it resolves instantly to ‘fucking’. Which is great until I sent a tweet during a session of Prime Minister’s Questions asserting that ‘David Cameron was fucking the question’. Which may well have equally accurate, now I come to think of it…

And i just did the 44: thing again. And it still amuses me.


I’ve had some entirely unexpected customer service disasters recently, from two companies with which I’ve previously associated only excellent customer support.

It’s been less than delightful.

But rather than whinge about those two companies, here’s some customer service that I didn’t know existed, and which blew me away.

A bit of history first.

Anyone reading this is likely to know or remember that I used to be married to a very lovely lady named Laura.

We’re no longer together, obviously, but it was no-one’s ‘fault’ that we didn’t last. We’re still very close friends, and she is, and remains, one of my favourite people on the planet. And she’s Phil’s mum, a brilliant, superb mum at that.

Now, I’d say this post isn’t about her, but it kind of is, in a way. At least to start with.

When I met Laura – back in the Stone Age, clearly, since our lad is now 24 – there was the initial fun of discovery: of each other, of what interests we shared, which interests we definitely didn’t share, of each other’s families.

And the different things our families did. Not only the obvious – Laura’s family was undoubtedly more religiously observant than mine – but the family traditions each had.

Laura was fairly astonished, for example, that I didn’t own a pen-knife, a Swiss Army knife.

Actually, having written that, I’m not sure “fairly astonished” quite covers it: she was flabbergasted. Mainly, but not solely, because everyone in her family had one. Whether the tiny one she had in her purse, to the absolute monster her late father had owned, everyone had one.

Not me; my dad didn’t like knives, other than for eating food, and although I kind of faintly remembered owning a cheap pen-knife at university, I certainly didn’t have one now. Or rather then, when this tale takes place.

And so Laura bought me a pen-knife. A very nice one. A Swiss Army knife, obviously, The Workchamp.

One of these.

Yeah, it’s a big pen-knife, isn’t it?

Well, no, not really, not when you compare it to, say…

But The Workchamp was certainly big enough for me. Felt lovely in my hand and I ended up using most of the functions at one time or another.

(The Workchamp officially has 21 functions, compared to 82 (!) for the big bugger above.)

Which was fine for years and years… until I pulled it out of my pocket at one point while out at a coffee shop, and a very nice policeman who happened to be at the next table very politely – but firmly – informed me that it was illegal for me to be carrying it in public.

Oops.

No, not the length of the blade, in case you were wondering, but The Workchamp has a lockable big blade. And you’re not allowed to carry a knife with one of those in public.

The police officer realised I genuinely didn’t have a clue, and pulled out an envelope,. He dropped the pen-knife in it, sealed it, signed the back, then returned it to me. Then he said words to the effect of:

“Take that out when you get home, and not before. And don’t ever take it out in public again.”

All of which advice I followed.

However, if I wanted a pen-knife I could carry around, and I’d kind of gotten used to carrying one by then, I needed one I could carry around without running the risk of, y’know, being arrested.

Anyway, cutting a long story short – far, far too late – I picked up one of these:

Not quite as heavy, not quite as many functions, but also, not illegal. Which was nice.

I have no idea when I bought it. (And I’ve replaced it once after I had my bag stolen.) But I’ve had my current pen-knife for years… at least a dozen or so.

And, yeah, it shows its age: the red plastic bits either side are chipped, the spring in the scissors snapped a long time back, and it’s a bit stiff. Still works, but yeah.

Anyway, I was in central London today – following a hospital visit about which I might talk… another time, ok? – and wandered past this place in New Bond Street.

Now I genuinely had no idea how much it would cost to get mine repaired (probably too much, but thought I’d ask anyway…) So wandered in, had a look around, blanched at some of the prices of the luggage, then spoke to a lovely chap named Daniel.

Remember: I have a pen-knife bought years ago. I have no idea from where I bought it. Could be from them direct, could have been on Amazon or ebay, or from another shop.

I show him my pen-knife, fully expecting a wince at this battered old thing, the sort of look you’d get from someone into whose very nice snow-white carpet you’d trodden wet mud.

“Oh, we can certainly service and repair that for you…” says Daniel, with not the slightest wince.

“And how much…?” I ask, preparing my own wince.

“…for free.”

Pardon?

“Oh, we wouldn’t charge for any of the work needed on this,” continues Daniel, and then – after a quick play with the pen-knife, he lists out what needs doing, including replacing the cracked ‘scales’ – the red bits attached to either side of the knife.

It’s not a short list.

“Give me 20 minutes…?” Daniel asks.

Sure, I say, and wander off, wondering what just happened.

Came back half an hour later, and the pen-knife looks like new. All oiled, blades sharpened, scissor spring replaced, brand new ‘scales’ attached.

He recommends some accessories (a small container of oil, a specific blade sharpener) but doesn’t attempt at any point to ‘push’ them to me. Oh, and he mentions “if you lose the toothpick or tweezers, just pop in; we don’t charge for replacing those.”

So, yes. Sometimes, unexpectedly, you get it: fantastic customer service that you didn’t even know you could get.

Huge thanks, and the heartiest of recommendations to Daniel, at

Victorinox
95-96 New Bond St
London
W1S 1DB
 
 

The usual ‘something else on a Tuesday’… tomorrow.

No, sorry, if you’re looking for lots of nice things in here, I’ve misled you. Oops.

Not entirely my fault, but yeah, given the Saturday Smiles and the occasional “here are some nice things” posts, it wouldn’t be unexpected that there’d be below this paragraph some YouTube videos of hedgehogs stretching. Or puggles, baby echidna.

Or even a cute video of babies on trains going through tunnels.

Ok. I don’t mean that.

Although it is really cute.

Anyway…

(I mean, they are cute, aren’t they? Really cute.)

No, moving on.

My English teacher hated her pupils using two words: “nice”, and “lots”.

She figured it was lazy to use those words and that when writing her pupils should exercise and express their vocabularies in order to find better, more accurate words.

At the time, I didn’t think she was correct. There are times when nice and lots just work, particularly in dialogue, because people use those words, whether or not you want them to.

As I got older, I kind of saw the wisdom in what she was forcing her pupils to do.

And now I’ve reached the age of 55 and hope like hell she wouldn’t still caution against using “nice” as I’ve come to appreciate that it’s a much underrated attribute. I can’t wholly define niceness, but I absolutely would apply it to many people I know, and many people with whom I interact.

My local doctor is professional, courteous, friendly and… just plain nice. Part of the reason I continue to have her as my doctor is, of course, the professionalism and courtesy and friendliness. Part of the reason I like her, however, is because she’s nice.

But “lots”? Yeah, there I have some sympathy with her, especially when you consider its brother: many.

What does many actually mean?

As always, best to start with the dictionary:

Right, so no bloody use at all.

Hmm.

What sparked this was seeing, lots (naah), many (naah), ok, several (better) uses of the word.

Primarily, in the “many Jews support Jeremy Corbyn” claim offered by his supporters.

Whichever definition you use above, it’s not true. Hell, a survey suggested that 87% of British jews actively think he’s personally antisemitic, while only 6% actively think he’s not. (Whichever you go by, while there are undoubtedly jewish people who support Corbyn, they equally unquestionably form an entirely unrepresentative sample of the Jewish population in the UK.)

But the ‘problem’ is wider than purely political.

If it’s number based, and you say anything over, I dunno, 1 million is “many”, then you’re saying that “many Americans” could apply to ⅓ of a % of the population.

If it’s solely % based, then you’re saying that – using America again – that 10m Americans (only 3% of the population) aren’t “many Americans”.

What would “many Londoners” mean? There are roughly 10m people in London. Is 1m Londoners ‘many Londoners’? Is 20% of them? 40%?

There are 200 countries in the world.

Are 150 ‘many countries? Is it solely the absolute number?

Or are 30% of countries “many”? Only 90 or so.

I don’t know. And the ambiguities of language, while something I ordinarily like, sometimes piss me off.

Can something both be “many” and entirely unrepresentative sample of the population?

Can something be both “many” and “few”? Apparently so.

I’m forced to conclude that yes, it can. To both.

There are, according to reports, almost 19m millionaires in the US. If it’s numbers alone, then “many Americans are millionaires”. But also, given that 19.m is only 6% of the population, also fair to say “few Americans are millionaires”.

For clarity’s sake, I’m obliged to a journalist friend of mine, Stu Nathan, who when I posed the above to him, suggested “proportionately few Americans are millionaires”.

I’m obliged, Stu. Genuinely.

But it does rest upon the intention of the writer to be… clear. Rather than asserting a point which they believe rests upon its own weight, rather than the mere assertion of it.

The only things I can, fairly, conclude I think are:

  1. ‘Many’ has to be a combination of numbers and proportion

  2. I should use ‘proportionately’ if I’m using %

  3. people bullshit a lot.

Oh bugger it, have some cute puppies.

Lots of them.


 
 
Something else, tomorrow…

Oh, it’s Saturday, so it’s a Saturday Smile

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

And after yet another week when the only sensible reaction to the news is to answer Twitter’s ‘What’s happening?‘ with ‘How the hell do I know?‘, here’s some much needed silliness.

 
 
Michael Spicer does ‘The Room Next Door’. Watch the attached and you’ll see what I mean. Gloriously original, and clever as hell.

 
 
Here’s Kate Lucas again, on dating…Not For Me

 
 

Here’s Rowan Atkinson, with The Three Wedding Speeches

 
 

It’s been done before, but here’s Yes, Prime Minister on who reads various newspapers…

 
 

I shouldn’t enjoy this The Blacklist as much as I do.

 
 

Mitch Benn has some advice for you, or rather for those who throw out one particular name for someone they don’t like: Shut Up About Hitler

 
 

See you tomorrow, with something else.

Ah, the joys of winter. Have a throat that feels like it’s been sandpapered, and a chest that is more that a little wheezy, so I’ve stuck the past I was working on – a Ten Things post – into drafts and you’re getting a quickie today.


All over Twitter today has been a video clip of Boris Johnson being asked a quetssion he obviously didn’t expect, and then blustering his way through… well, it would be too kind to call it an answer.

Not the first person to blag his way through sometihng, though most of the people who’ve tried aren’t currently, and hoping to continue to be,The Prime Minister.

But it sparked a conversation online about how he’s not asking people to vote for him because “he’s relatable”. well, no, but that misses the point somewhat.

He’s just crap at answering questions he doesn’t know are coming his way, or dealing with people who aren’t fawning over him.

Corbyn is the same, but he usually responds not with bluster but with irritation, as if the message is ‘How dare you have the effrontery to ask such a question of me? Who the hell do you think you are?’

For a long time I maintained that we had the worst politicans in a generation. I now think I was wrong on that.

Whatever you think of Farage – and let’s face it, who doesn’t? – you can’t deny that he had an ostensible political aim, and again ostensibly, got it.

I stress ostensible because I don’t believe for a second he ever wanted the UK to leave the EU. What he wanted, what he really wanted, with all his heart and soul, was to be able to continue whingeing for decades about how the establishment wouldn’t let the UK leave.

And, despite so many promises from Brexiters at the time of the referendum, somehow over the past few years, The Only True Brexit has switched from

“a brilliant deal, where we keep all the advantages without being tied into the political project’

to now being

“we leave with the harshest possible No Deal”

And I’m not entirely sure how it happened.

But that’s for another day.

Today, it’s just noticeable that politicians in the UK (and in the US, to be fair) think we’re back in the days when interviewers’ only questions should be of the ‘have you anything you wish to tell the nation?’

Problem is, that with many of those interviewing, we’re not that far from it..

Something else tomorrow…

I did say yesterday that I had other questions, but limited my post yesterday to one question.

Here are some more, less serious, questions that I’ve never been able to answer satisfactorily… or at least to my own satisfaction.

So, a dozen thoughts and questions, to which I want responses and answers. Yes, after several months of writing this blog, you do some work, dear readers:

  1. What’s the best current reasoning why the US moved to mm-dd-yy format from the British dd-mm-yy. I’ve heard lots of guesses, and many suggestions, but what’s the latest theory? (I once called the Library of Congress because this was bugging me. And received four different suggested answers, including the suggestion that at one point the current US method was what the British used, and it was we who swapped…)
  2. I wonder what the NRA’s equivalent would be in the DC or Marvel universes? I know that both in Marvel’s Civil War (the comic book storyline at least) there was a Congressional impetus for the Superpowers Registration Act, but would there be a well funded – by various supervillains – campaign that “powers don’t kill people; people kill people”?
  3. What is the oldest cliché in the book?
  4. And what is the oldest acknowledged trade or profession? (Excluding sex workers which is, frankly, a lazy answer.) What was the first invoice for?
  5. Having recently thought about it, Dez Skinn was right; a far better title for the John Cleese co-written “True Brit” (What if Kal-El’s rocketship had landed in England?) would have been Fawlty Powers. What other classic works should have had better titles?
  6. If a doctor had a heart attack or a stroke while doing surgery, would the other doctors in the theatre immediately – until backup arrived – work on the doctor or the patient?
  7. How does hair know which length to grow to? (i.e. why is the hair on my hair longer than the hair on my body? And similarly, what’s the evolutionary reason for underarm hair?)
  8. How come refrigerators have little lights in them but freezers don’t?
  9. When undertakers dress a corpse for viewing, do they put underwear on the corpse?
  10. How often do ‘crime reconstruction’ tv shows receive telephone calls identifying the actors as the real purpetrators of the crime that the police are looking for? And do the police investigate them [at] all?
  11. Also, when there are photos of the previous victims of a killer – in a ‘criminal of the week’ show like CSI or Criminal Minds – who are they? And do they get paid for the use of their images? (Just to make it clear- these people do not appear in the show other than as ‘previous victims’. No lines, no appearance within the show, no flashbacks… just a set of photos on a wall.)
  12. And finally – one that’s always bugged me: the invisible woman is in a room with no windows and non-reflective walls. The only light is a single bulb. She turns the bulb invisible. Does the room go dark? What if the walls are reflective?

OK… go.
 
 
Something else tomorrow…

Not sure how long this will be; I want to write something on this, but I don’t honestly know how much there is to say.

There’s plenty to ask, though, so let’s start with a question.

I’m only going to ask one question today. More, perhaps on another occasion. I’m not expecting [m]any answers to this questions… for several reasons, including that the days of people responding to this blog seem to have passed.

However, that question:

What does it take to change your mind?

I’m not using ‘your’ here as a shorthand for people in general, but specifically you, who’s reading this blog.

What does it take to change your mind?

One answer might reasonably be to respond with your own questions: “About what? About what subject are you asking me to change my mind?”

Alistair Cooke, quoting a friend of his, suggested that while you can be educated as to the merits of art, or music, there are three subjects on which you should never attempt to change someone’s mind:

  • whether something is funny
  • whether something tastes nice
  • whether someone else is attractive

But even leaving aside those matters, (I’d also add these days ‘whether a movie or tv show is enjoyable‘) there are plenty of things where the reasons that you might change my mind depends on the circumstances, i.e. it’s different for each.

A matter of fact? Show me, in the words of my old audit tutor, independent, arms length, third party, verifiable information.

If I’m convinced that, say, ‘defenestrate’ is a synonym for ‘eviscerate’ (which I shamefully did for too many years), point me at a dictionary.

If I assert that Luton Town Football Club play at Anfield, show me where they do play, not from their website – ‘Independent’, remember? ‘Third party’, remember?- but from a newspaper report, or website, or from the Football League themselves.

A matter of opinion? This is where the ‘independent third party arms length’ bit falls on its arse. Because too often, when it comes to matters of opinion, especially in politics, the commonly held view is ‘no one’s independent’.

It often, but doesn’t always, comes down to ‘if they agree with me, they’re right; if they disagree, they’re not only wrong but obviously biased.’

Or what’s worse ‘prejudiced’ which implies, suggests, bad faith on the part of the person with whom they disagree.

More on this in a moment.

But going back to the original question: What does it take to change your mind?

If someone makes a statement, a matter of opinion, mind, about the merits of a candidate, or the demerits, with which I disagree, how do you change my mind?

I’m not sure, to be honest.

I don’t think I make up my mind quickly. I consider and balance and make a decision. And yes, once that decision is made, as far as I’m concerned, the decision has been made. And for me to change my mind thereafter, there better be a damn good reason to do so.

Before I’ve made up my mind, the burden is on everyone, defending or decrying each ‘side’ of the matter. Once I’ve made up my mind, the burden of proof is on someone wanting to change my mind.

So it’s not prejudice, but conclusion based upon my knowledge (which could be lacking), experience (which can only be personal, subjective) and – the crucial bit – other information which informs not my prejudice but my post-judice, my judgement.

But let’s go back to politics for a moment.

take just four things in this current election that people have to decide upon when casting their vote, things which will inform their vote. (I’m specifically referring to those who’ve already made their mind up.)

  1. whether the Tories can’t wait to are going to ‘sell off the NHS’
  2. whether, now, the best we can hope for is a Brexit Deal or whether we should revoke the whole damn thing
  3. whether Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite, and Labour now, sadly, institutionally antisemitic
  4. whether the Lib Dems should do one or more of the following:
      – stand down parliamentary candidates in Tory/Lab marginal seats even if Labour won’t reciprocate in Tory/LD marginals, and
      – despite election pledges, get Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10 if the only alternative is to let Johnson back in.

Now, whichever side of the line you find yourself on any or all of the above, what would it take for you to change your mind on the matter?

I suspect, to be brutally honest, that nothing would, with the possible exception of 2 above.

If you currently believe that the NHS is going to up for grabs to the highest bidder if Boris Johnson gets his way, then I genuinely doubt that anything, any evidence, any promises, any pledges, from anyone, will change your mind on that.

And if you disagree with that conclusion, ask yourself the question: what would it take to change your mind on that?

Because likely as not, if anything could change your mind, whichever ‘side’ you’re on, then it would probably already have done so. It’s not like we’re short of the arguments right now, or as if they’re not they’re, and regularly offered to you.

If you’ve concluded, say, that for whatever reasons, that Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite and the party he leads is institutionally, or indeed that he isn’t antisemitic and neither is the party… what would it take to change your mind on that?

Right now? Again, I doubt any minds can be changed on the matters.

Me? I’ve said previously that I didn’t think he was personally antisemitic, but that I had changed my mind on that as time passed and I saw more, learned more, as more was revealed.

But my mind was changed on his motivations and character, not his actions. I always thought that he was – at best – supremely indifferent as to the antisemitism of his friends’, supporters, and those he campaigned for. So I switched some time ago to believing he shared their antisemitism.

(What could change my mind on that? Lots of things… that could and would never happen, including a genuine repudiation of his previous behaviour and actions, and his taking full responsibility for the antisemitic actions he’s taken, and the antisemitic tropes he’s promoted. Failing that, nothing.)

So, what could change your mind on any of those four above?

One final point, on the assertion that the Lib Dems should, reluctantly or otherwise, support Jeremy Corbyn to prevent Boris Johnson… My only observation is that it’s both striking and bemusing just how many Labour supporters, who’ve spent almost a decade utterly and genuinely, furious with the Lib Dems for breaking 2010 election pledges… now advocate a position that the only moral thing for the Lib Dems to do is… break their election pledge.
 
 
Something else, tomorrow…

Back to the usual ‘two stories from the vaults’ on Tuesday’s for a bit. 

The next couple of weeks, though, will be the stories from ‘The Art of Fast Fiction’, but without the art, as I’ve been unable to track it down. If I ever find it, I’ll redo the posts.

But just stressing that these these, as well as being fast fictions, written to work as prose, were specifically written to be drawn as well. 


A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

These were enormous fun to write, and even more fun to imagine the art that would result.

The second of the two stories below is probably one of the odder tales I’ve written. And one I regard with great fondness.

I hope you enjoy reading these two as much as I enjoyed writing them.
 


 
Title: The Indecisive Backpacker
Word: marinate
Challenger: [Whitechapel user]
Length: 200 words exactly

 
 
The gun lay there on the ground, black and ugly, a nasty, horrible necessary thing..

Next to it lay the remains of her companion, his head thankfully covered by a small towel, entirely disguising the damage the .38 bullet had done.

She’d waited until the small hours of the morning, when he’d been sleeping; despite everything, she hadn’t wanted him to suffer, not as she’d suffered over the years.

She was no longer sure when idea had turned to intent, and intent to plan. But when he had suggested the trip away, travelling over hill and dale, she had instantly agreed.

He’d only hit her once on the outgoing trip, but it had only increased her resolve that it would never, ever happen again.

And when the night was clear, the clouds were absent, and they were alone, she had killed him and cried afterwards for while external bruises on her skin always faded, the scars inside never did.

Hours later, she watched the pot boil and had trouble deciding: he had been a vegetarian after all.

So now, as she smelled the meat marinate, she stared at the two bottles of wine and tried to decide: red or white.

© Lee Barnett, 2012
 


 
Title: Deadlines and Breakdowns
Word: spork
Challenger: [Whitechapel user]
Length: 200 words exactly

 
 
Report by chief psychiatric officer, Earth V.U. One, 27th September 3312.

Re: Final decision regarding patient X3R7 [anonymised under privacy regulation 3518]

As per previous medical reports (see attached), patient was revived on 1st September inst., shortly before the limit set by the Hibernation Revival Authority. As numerous medical tests have shown, despite some discredited trials suggesting otherwise, patients not revived within 800 years of hibernation are likely to have suffered irreversible brain damage.

In patient X3R7’s case, this cut off point was rapidly approaching and although no permanent cure for the condition which had led to his hibernation was yet available, the decision to confirm viability of the patient was taken.

As with other patients, however, matters did not proceed in a manner advantageous to the patient. His memory and cognitive functions appear to have suffered irretrievably during his hibernation to the extent that he could not even recall his name or identify a simple food utensil, referring to it using a meaningless syllable, i.e. “spork”.

As with the other humans, I arranged for the painless cessation of life. It was the kindest thing.

[pawprint attached]

Fido Johnson, MD
Chief Psychiatric Officer
Earth Veterinary Unit One

© Lee Barnett, 2012

 


 
 
Something else, tomorrow…

About six weeks ago, I put up here, for posterity, my answers to the 30-Day Song Challenge.

It’s started with:

Well, that was fun…

It’d been ages since I’d done one of these, and seeing various friends do it, and my missing #ThisIsMyJam, I figured why not.

The rules were simple.

Basically, this:

And then I put up all the videos from the run in a single post: this post.

After that ‘thirty day’ run, Al Kenendy suggested another thirty days’ worth and I was having such fun doing it, I completed that as well.

So, as before, since it’s kind of nice to have a permanent record of such things, here is what I chose:


DAY 31: a song you first heard in a movie or tv series

Well, I first heard THIS as the theme tune to the tv series COVER UP, which – given the credits below – was probably just as bad as I remember the show being.

Holding Out For A Hero | Bonnie Tyler


DAY 32: a song with a place in the title

I’ve heard many versions of this song (most recently at the end of Good Omens, sung by Tori Amos) but I always particularly liked this version…

A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square | Rod Stewart


DAY 33: a song that gets stuck in your head

Oh, this one – after I first heard it – got stuck in my head for months.

Suddenly, I See | KT Tunstall


DAY 34: a song that refers to another song or artist

I was very so tempted to put one of half a dozen of Mitch’s (particularly ‘Victoria Did’), but there’s more of his coming.

So here’s something else, an old favourite.

America Pie | Don McLean


DAY 35: a song from the year you left school

Lord knows what ‘when you left school’ means if you did A-levels then uni; I’m guessing it means ‘doing your O’levels, GCSEs’, age 16, so… 1980.

And in 1980, I loved this song.

Geno | Dexy’s Midnight Runners


DAY 36: a song you know the words to off by heart

I’ve been a fan of Flanders and Swann as long as I can recall, especially of the lyrics of Michael Flanders, who created some of the best ‘stunt rhyming’ around.

Friendly Duet | Flanders and Swann


DAY 37: a song that reminds you of winter

Well, it says “winter” not “Christmas”. Hmmm.

OK, this one then.

Hazy Shade of Winter | Simon & Garfunkel


DAY 38: a song without any guitars

I suspect Al will think I’m cheating to go fully a cappella, but I’m going to anyway.

Only You | the Flying Pickets


DAY 39: a song that sounds best when listened to through headphones

Best listened to through headph—? Oh, I see: one you’re embarrassed to let other people know you like.

It didn’t mean that?

OK, here’s a song.

Me and Charlie Talking | Miranda Lambert


DAY 40: a song featuring an unusual instrument

Oh, I think there’s one obvious response to this request.

Lady of Spain | Marvin Suggs


DAY 41: a song you always make other people listen to

Distinct from the earlier ‘a song you think everyone should listen to’, presumably?

Well, I was sending everyone this at the turn of the year. It’s still a good aim.

Happier New Year | Mitch Benn


DAY 42: a song that got you through hard times

I don’t think a song has ‘got me through hard times’. I don’t tend to use music for that. But this is one that could do it for me…

In My Mind | Amanda Palmer


DAY 43: a song about a real person

I was delighted to learn a while back that this song’s about Don McLean. Originally written and performed by Lori Lieberman but I prefer the cover attached.

Killing Me Softly With His Song | Roberta Flack


DAY 44: a song about a breakup

Oh, I think this one does the job quite nicely.

I Will Survive | Gloria Gaynor


DAY 45: a song with food or drink in the title

Was going to go with Sundae Girl by Blondie, but everyone would shout at me.

So, instead…

Strawberry Fields Forever | The Beatles


DAY 46: a song with lyrics in a language other than English

Doesn’t say whether ALL the lyrics have to be in a language other than English, or just some of them.

I’m going for the former, since the original was in German…

99 Luftballons | Nena


DAY 47: a song you would sing as a lullaby

Well, obviously this one.

Lullaby For The Real World | Mitch Benn


DAY 48: a song best listened to late at night

Late at night for me means they’re on in the background while I’m writing, or working on something, or just… thinking.

Just… there.

I put this album on the other night.

The Boxer | Simon & Garfunkel


DAY 49: a song that grew on you

There are half a dozen already in this thing that qualify.

But here’s one that definitely did. Never particularly liked it. Have grown to like it more over the years.

Year of The Cat | Al Stewart


DAY 50: a song that gets you psyched up

Huh. Genuinely don’t think there’s a song that does this. I don’t think there is, anyway.

But there’s this, which always makes me walk just a little bit faster…

It’s Raining Men | The Weather Girls


DAY 51: a song that reminds you of someone you miss

No comment, just the song.

Pretty Flamingo | Manfred Mann


DAY 52: a cover you heard before you heard the original

Oh, an easy one. One I remember hearing, and then being told ‘oh, you know that’s a cover…?’

Tainted Love | Soft Cell


DAY 53: a song featuring at least two vocalists

An easy one. I’ve heard several version of this; Liz Ryan’s is particularly good. But the original? Perfect.

Joyce The Librarian | Richard Stilgoe and Peter Skellern


DAY 54: a song you would use as your entrance music for a sporting event

Heh. I don’t care that everyone would be confused and wondering why…

THIS:

Magnificent Seven Theme | Elmer Bernstein


DAY 55: a song about behaving badly

Ah, the amazing Kirsty Newton, with a song Mitch Benn wrote very specifically for her.

(Intro first; song starts at 1:15)

Now He’s Gone | Kirsty Newton (with Mitch Benn, and Ivan Shepherd)


DAY 56: a song by an artist you don’t otherwise like

I’m glad this says merely “don’t… like’ rather than “actively dislike”. Plenty of the former, fewer of the latter.

Never really liked anything else he did, but:

The Last Farewell | Roger Whittaker


DAY 57: a song you’d use to get a party started

Depends on what kind of party, I guess.

But how about this?

Brown Eyed Girl | Van Morrison


DAY 58: a song that makes you laugh

Oh, where the hell do I start?

(In the original run of this, I somehow used a song of Mitch’s I’d already used: Lullaby For The Real World. Oops.)

So, here’s another song:

Fifty States | John Oliver and a load of kids

 


DAY 59: a song with a day of the week in the title

Well, since I couldn’t use it earlier, let’s use it today.

Sunday Girl | Blondie


DAY 60: a song you want played at your funeral.

Pshaw. Obvious, really, for many reasons.

4’ 33” | John Cage

Extra note: when I originally put this song up, a couple of people thought I was just being, well, just being me. As in, ‘Budgie doesn’t want any music played’. No it’s not that. Well, ok, it’s not only that. I’m Jewish, and you don’t have music at a Jewish funeral. Hence the ‘for many reasons’.


 

 

Well, that was fun…

I’ve taken a short break doing a ‘something a day, every day’ on Twitter, but come December, I’ll kick it off again with something else. So you can either follow my choices, usually posted about 6pm UK time, on Twitter at @budgie, or wait and I’ll probably put them up here when completed.…

 

Meanwhile, the usual something else tomorrow…

Genuinely unsure how long this post will be. Could be a short one as I run out of steam and ideas, but I’m going to write it anyway.

Because something’s been bugging me for a few days and it’s got wider implications for how we view political campaigns, and pranks, and stunts.

No, I’m not about to have a pop at the people who dress up as chickens. You’ve seen the pics, right? Campaign central offices send these people out to harry the other parties, because that other party won’t debate them.

I mean, I don’t have to, do I? Everyone acknowledges that the people dressing up are just people earning a crust and it’s those who send them out who are the idiots.

No, it’s another kind of idiocy I’m irritated by.

OK, anyone reading this is likely to already know my views on Jeremy Corbyn, and the Labour Party that he leads. (If you don’t, take a look here. There’s a good primer.)

So, I feel I have to stress this upfront: I’m about to be nice about Jeremy Corbyn. Well, maybe not ‘nice’, but I’m about to say that something is not his fault, that he’s not responsible for something, that he’s not to blame for something. That he is, in fact, on this occasion, entirely innocent of any wrongdoing.

It’s ok if you need to sit down.

I know.

Yes. Me. I’m saying that.

I’ll give you a moment.

OK, we’ve all recovered from that shock, yes?

This week, someone asked Corbyn to sign something and then… well, look, here’s the story.

Teenager tricks Jeremy Corbyn into signing poster saying ‘I am an anti-Semite’

That’s from The Metro. But it was similarly reported in other newspapers and media.

You can guess the story from the headline, but basically what happened was that some lad asked Corbyn for an autograph while Corbyn was campaigning at Gloucester University.

The young man offered a folded bit of paper, Corbyn signed his name. All good. Happens every day, I”d imagine.

But then the young man unfolded the bit of paper to reveal that Corbyn had actually appended his name to a piece of paper that – unfolded – proclaimed, now with Corbyn’s signature underneath: “I AM AN ANTI-SEMITE”.

Cue uproar, cue ‘well dones’ to the lad, cue ‘isn’t Jeremy Corbyn stupid to sign that?!?’

Well, no, I don’t think he was.

It was called a trick, it was called a stunt.

What it was, as Mitch Benn accurately identified, was a prank.

Corbyn was pranked.

And whether or not you like it, whether or not you approve of it, whether or not you think it was clever, or smart, or stupid, or puerile, depends on the main not on your views of Corbyn but on your views of pranks.

Me? I think it was stupid, and puerile, and achieved nothing, proved nothing other than “famous person was asked for his autograph, and obliged.”

I don’t think it says anything ill about Corbyn. I don’t think it shows his stupidity.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying it shows his kindness. I don’t know any politicians who, when asked for their autograph while campaigning, would say no.

Not right now, anyway.

But if this was repeated, I dunno.

I could easily imagine similar stunts for loads of other politicians:

Boris Johnson – I’m a liar
John McDonnell – I luv the IRA
Ken Clarke – I hate the EU
Diane Abbott – 2 + 2 = 5
Priti Patel – I am evil
Jo Swinson – I don’t want to be in the debates
Nicola Sturgeon – Scotland’s better in the UK

And they’re the polite ones.

It wouldn’t be difficult for someone with malign motives to photoshop an obscene or racist or homophobic image, featuring the politician in question, and get them to autograph it. As the story above showed, it wouldn’t be difficult at all.

In each of these hypothetical examples the politicians would be blameless. They would be asked for an autograph, as they might be a few dozen times at a campaign event. They’d oblige. That’s all they do.

Returning to Corbyn for a moment, what hugely irritated me was that otherwise sensible people leaped on this as proof, as something the lad had proven.

Even Campaign Against Antisemitism, a group who really ought to have known better, promoted the story… before removing it from their site.

OK, staying on Corbyn.

I’m unconvinced, other evidence absent, that ‘here’s a photo of someone smiling with Corbyn’ shows anything other than “this person wanted a photo with Jeremy Corbyn and he obliged”.

It doesn’t alone show Corbyn knows them, that he supports or defends their views (if they’vee expressed views) nor even that they agree with him on everything.

Now, I’m not saying that that’s never the case; I’m saying you need more.

If there are other pics of Corbyn campaigning with this person, then sure, the first photo just adds to the evidence. If there are statements where Corbyn’s praised them, campaigned for them, defended them and their views, then sure.

But A Photo, singular, of Person X with Jeremy Corbyn shows nothing other than… Person X asked for a photo and Corbyn said yes.

But of course, it’s never that simple. For a start: where was the photo taken? At a Corbyn campaign event? Then it’s at least arguable that Person X supports Corbyn. (But as above, not necessarily; the lad certainly didn’t support Corbyn when he got him to sign that paper.)

If it’s a campaign event for a third party organisation, then it’s likely that both support the aims of the third party organisation without necessarily Person X supporting Corbyn.

The obvious example here would be the People’s Vote rallies. I’ve attended one or two. If I was snapped talking to, I dunno, Anna Soubry, Luciana Berger and Chris Bryant in a crowd, ok. If I was snapped with one of them individually, doesn’t mean I support one of them. Just means I asked for a pic and they said yes.

Again, if I’d been snapped with Luciana, say. And then snapped at a campaign event for her. And she’d said nice things about me. (Unlikely, she has no idea who I am.) And we’d appeared together on a platform, and she’d defended stuff I’d said, then… then.… yes, it’d be fair to say ‘they know each other’, ‘he supports her’, and ‘she supports him’.

And let’s say I wanted to prank one of them. Wouldn’t be difficult for me to hold my hands in a particular pose, so that afterwards, I can photoshop in me ‘holding’ a poster or board so it looks like we’re both supporting a campaign…

Which leads me to the final bit of this. Where I do blame politicians. Maybe not them alone.

Given how easy it is to photoshop anything only a poster or board, politicians only have themselves to blame these days for posing holding a poster or campaign flyer.

Every politician’s done it, and they need to stop, or at least stop blaming everyone else when it inevitably happens.

One final point: you don’t get to promote manipulated images of politicians you don’t like, and then complain about it when it happens to politicians you do like.

You can complain about the specific image, sure. But to complain that someone did to a politician you like what you did to a politician you didn’t? Well, I’m reminded once again of Mitch’s observation of Political Ethics 2019.

Something else, tomorrow…

It’s Saturday, so yes, of course it’s a Saturday Smile

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

And after yet another week when the world has effectively said ‘yeah, we don’t know either, mate’, here’s some much needed silliness.

 
 
Not the Nine O’Clock News with a possible solution to football hooliganism.

 
 
I’m not sure if I’ve ever put this one up before, but even if I have, definitely worth a rewatch Classes

 
 

Here’s Monty Python, with Michelangelo

 
 

Some Yes, Prime Minister seems appropriate, since we’re all currently ydrowning in opinion polls…

 
 

I wasn’t aware that this was on YouTube, the full things, I mean, but since it is, enjoy.Blackadder: Back and Forth

 
 

A less silly one from Mitch this week, but equally important; I pull this out whenever there’s an election coming up, but it’s always relevant. Don’t be surprised if you see it again. This, from a couple of weeks before the 2017 election. Have you registered to vote? well, you should, shouldn’t they, Mitch?

 
 

See you tomorrow, with something else.

Yes, yes, ok, I should have known.

When I wrote last week’s post, I commenced with:

I swear, when I did the post last week, I had every intention of making it a one-off.

I really should have know better.

Not the first post that turned into a three or four parter, or even the first post that ran away with me; I’m sure it won’t be the last.

But after writing a few ‘Ten Things’ posts, I wrote a few on Doctor Who, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

So, two weeks ago, I listed ten Doctor Who stories I’ll quite happily watch, and rewatch. And then, later, rewatch. And of course, of course, I got to nine, realised I could list a dozen more… and did another ten last week. But still ran out of slots.

So, here, finally, are another ten.

Yes, yes, ‘past budgie’ is a fucking idiot.

So, here are ten more. Again, no real rules, other than that they’re in chronological order for the most part.

And again, same caveat as before: I’m not sayin these are the best ever episodes. They’re not even my favourite episodes/stories, necessarily. They’re just another ten stories I’ll quite happily watch, and rewatch. And then, later, rewatch again.

But, since the past two weeks’ posts finished with Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, most of those below are going to be from Peter Capaldi’s and Jodie Whittaker’s runs…


OK, time to start.

Deep BreathThe Twelfth Doctor
I wasn’t that impressed with this episode when I first watched it. I’m not sure why. I mean, ok, it was the new Doctor and there’s always – as I’ve said before – that tough thing that a writer and director has to do: introduce the new fella, have some fun, show how he’s different but ultimately the same character.

So why, if I only thought it was ok… have I watched it and rewatched it quite so often? Because it’s a lot better than I gave it credit for the first time I watched it is the obvious answer. Capaldi’s having a blast, setting up the new setup, and there’s so much thrown into the mix, that I’m surprised they fit it in. The Paternoster Gang are always fun to have around, and Clara’s mystification at the new fella is well played as well. And there’s a mystery, and there’s a mystery woman, and a call back to a previous story, to a couple of stories in fact, and you’re not quite sure how cold a bastard this new Doctor actually is.

The final-ish scene is clever, mawkish, and… original. I think that’s it; no one had done it before, the whole ‘the Doctor knows it’s going to freak out his companion, even if she’s met past selves, so does something about it’ thing.

It continues the run of the very good first episodes for the new Doctor, and that’s always welcome.

 


 
Mummy On The Orient Express – The Twelfth Doctor
By now the new dynamic has been set; this Doctor is about learning and teaching. His hunger to learn, about new things, about stuff that’s going on, is apparent, his arrogance to show others what he knows is even more so. So when he comes across a mystery that he needs to solve, that becomes the most important thing, and he’s almost careless about the effects on others. Not quite careless, but almost so. He’s more concerned with being right than anything else. And isn’t after the fame and glory bit.

(It was about this time that I once again wondered which incarnations each of the Doctors regarded with the most contempt. I really don’t think this Doctor looks fondly upon The Tenth Doctor, for example, or the Fifth, but the Seventh? Oh, he’d have some words for him….)

Frank Skinner is great as a guest star and the story holds together on repeated viewings. The mystery is far more important than the eventual solution, but the whole thing is fun.


 


 
Dark Water/Death In Heaven – The Twelfth Doctor
A spot perfect two-parter. This is when everything came together for Capaldi’s first season, exactly as and when it should: the season finale.

The return of a classic villain, the return of another classic villain that had been hinted at for ages, a very good clifhanger (well, two, really), the return of UNIT, of Osgood, and the pacing is just about perfect. Never a boring moment, some genuinely scary bits, and very clever misdirects throughout. Oh, and Chris Addison.

A couple of bits that don’t make sense, a couple of plot holes, but I’ve watched this two-parter time and again, and I’ll no doubt watch it again in the near future, just for fun.

And, nicely for once, both parts are essential. You couldn’t cover the first part in a ten minute catchup. That doesn’t always apply.


 


 
The Woman Who LivedThe Twelfth Doctor
The second part of a kind of two-parter, and unlike the story immediately above, while I’ve watched the The Woman Who Lived more than a few times, I don’t think I’ve rewatched the first part at all. Masie Williams was kind of ok in the first part but she shines as Me here. She’s the kind of person that the Doctor forgot existed, someone who is so long lived that she’s forgotten most of what happened to her in earlier days.

A clever concept, played well. (If you can barely remember what happened in the past, why on earth should be feel any loyalty to old comrades or even friends; they only die in the end, after all… )

Capaldi and Williams are obviously enjoying playing against each other and while the plot isn’t the strongest, the acting alone takes this onto the list.

And this scene says so, so much,


 


 
ExtremisThe Twelfth Doctor
I wasn’t sure about this episode when I first watched it; I’m not sure why. Because it’s fantastic. I can only assume I was having a rough day or something, and wasn’t paying attention. I mean, there clues throughout when you look for them, but cleverly done, so that you write them off as ‘well, it’s Doctor Who‘. And when the pennies start to drop, the reveals start to come, even when you know they’re coming, they’re still just enough of a surprise to give you a start.

I’m unconvinced by the final seconds of the story, but that’s a tiny quibble. I love the characterisations, the dialogue, and the sheer ‘what the hell is going on?’ of this story. It rewards rewatching.


 


 
Twice Upon A TimeThe First And Twelfth Doctors
Damn, this was clever. There’s almost nothing wrong with this final episode of Capaldi’s run. David Bradley is just about perfect, playing the First Doctor (which is pure chutzpah on the part of the casting director, for a reason I’ll expand on in a moment). Not so sure about the plot itself, but as a ‘farewell’ to the Twelfth Doctor, it’s spot on. You get Bill back, you get Nardoll back, you get to see the 1960s Doctor really, really out of place, while utterly mystified at the latest version of… himself. Mark Gatiis is wonderful, but they telegraph the ‘twist’.

But yeah, the fun comes from two Doctors who should never have met… meeting.


 


 
Demons Of The PunjabThe Thiteenth Doctor
No, I’m not going to have the first episode of Jodie Whittaker’s run; it’s a great introduction for the new Doctor, eventually. But I really wasn’t interested until she showed up.

And this is the only bit I quite like rewatching.

So, no, this was the first episode of Whittaker’s run I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish and have rewatched a couple of times. I love the idea of somoene finding something in their parents’ or grandparents’ lives they just want to know more about and, hey, their friend has a time machine, so why not?

(There’s certainly been things I’d have wanted to discover.)

And everyone’s just about perfect in this story; the plot works brilliantly, the ‘villain’ isn’t, quite. No-one’s uncomplicated, no=one’s entirely good or bad. And from the best of motives, things can go a bit screwed up.

And the plot wraps up nicely, though not without consequences.


 


 
It Takes You AwayThe Thiteenth Doctor
With most of the stories I’ve listed here and in the previous posts, I know why I like rewatching so much. Sometimes, however, I’m entirely puzzled. Such in the case with this one. The acting is great, but no more than in lots of other stories. The plot is great but the ending is a bit meh. And the resolution isn’t exactly satisfying.

But maybe that’s why I enjoy it, because sometimes it’s nice not to have everything wrapped up in a neat bow.

Whatever the reason, I keep rewatching this just for the pleasure of rewatching it.

And yeah, it’s a bit weird. Which is never a bad thing.


 


 
OK, that’s eight. I’ve got two spaces left and I knew the moment this went to three parts what the final two were going to be.

I almost included the Peter Cushing movies but I’d said everything I wanted to say about them in the Doctor Who post I wrote a while back.

So, two very different stories for the final two:

An Adventure In Space And Time The First Doctor, kind of
Yeah, if you didn’t see this coming, I don’t blame you, though I did kinda hint it above. This is one of the finest Doctor Who stories around, for obvious reasons. It’s drenched in love for the who, and of all the various ‘this is how the show you love came to the screen’, it’s one of the finest examples.

The actors and producers are people, not legends. They’re not perfect, they’re not villains or heroes. They’re people working at their jobs to the very best of their abilities. They’re imperfect and that makes the story of what happened even better.

Get hold of this if you haven’t seen it; it’s a story that’s wonderful in tyhe telling and as with the others, rewards the rewatch so bloody much.

And though it’s very much set alone, and done as a one-off, one day… one day, I’d very much like to see a multi-episode history of Doctor Who…


 


 
One more:

And again, if you think you know me, and haven’t seen this one coming, you really don’t know me.

No details, no reasons. Just the video.

Enjoy.

 
 
See you for the usual tomorrow.

As mentioned elsewhere, I’ve had some serious tech problems this week, and I’m not feeling spectacularly brilliant at the moment, so I’m gong to beg your indulgence this week and turn the next few days over solely to ‘fiction from the vaults’.

Thanks for bearing with me…


A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

Here are two stories I wrote in 2007; I’d written more than two hundred fast fictions by now, and was wondering how the hell I’d manage to come up with different styles, different takes, and still have fun.

As the stories below show – two very different tales indeed – I should have had no fears on that front; I was still having fun.

I hope you enjoy reading these two as much as I enjoyed writing them.


Title:
Word: Awakening Of The Elements
Challenger: magenta
Length: 200 words exactly

It had been aeons since they had been summoned, and they resented it.

Disliking the summons did nothing to affect its effectiveness, however, and they appeared one at a time in front of the tribunal until all four were present in their forms.

Surface shrugged as it awoke; the room shook slightly. Only slightly though, since the room did not exist in any real physical sense. The temperature from Heat as its sentience returned slowly increased until one of the tribunal members gestured and the additional heat vanished. Not that heat would affect the tribunal; it was merely that they wished to impress their authority against the younger force. As a reprimand for its effrontery, Heat turned magenta in colour.

Atmosphere blinked and a gust of wind blew through the room, the surface of Liquid rippling. The two of them had always been close, and although frowned upon, this had been tolerated albeit under certain restrictions.

All four now were fully aware of their surroundings but were helpless in front of the tribunal, composed as it was of the fundamental forces of the universe.

And then the trial for negligence commenced, in the shadow of the polluted and dying planet.

© Lee Barnett, 2008


Title: To All My Heroes
Word: rationalise
Challenger: [Livejournal]
Length: 200 words exactly

A first date is merely a quest.
He’s waiting for her.
Just around the corner.

The traffic is heavy for a Monday.
She notes that as she notes other things.
The striking red hair of the large shop assistant.
The flickering light on top of the tall grey lamppost.
How strange.
Quick, look at something! Anything!
Don’t even try to rationalise emotional procrastination.

She lights another cigarette.
Thinking.
A new year, a new start.
And he’s waiting for her.

Or is he? Maybe he didn’t show.
Maybe he chickened out. Maybe he didn’t really want to meet her.
Maybe.

It would be easier.
No pressure. No forced politeness.
No checking the watch to see when it would be polite to leave.
If he’s not there.
If he hadn’t bothered to show, nor to let her know that he wasn’t coming.

She knows he wouldn’t do that.
He’d let her know with a gloriously inventive and entirely believable explanation.
Writers know how to tell stories.

She draws another lungful of tobacco.
She should go now.
She should.
And she will.

She thinks she knows what courage is.
And whether or not she has it.

And she leaves her spot.
For home.

© Lee Barnett, 2008


 
 
More of ‘the same’ tomorrow…

As mentioned elsewhere, I’ve had some serious tech problems this week, and I’m not feeling spectacularly brilliant at the moment, so I’m gong to beg your indulgence this week and turn the next few days over solely to ‘fiction from the vaults’.

Thanks for bearing with me…


A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

Here are two stories I wrote in 2007; I’d written more than two hundred fast fictions by now, and was wondering how the hell I’d manage to come up with different styles, different takes, and still have fun.

As the stories below show – two very different tales indeed – I should have had no fears on that front; I was still having fun.

I hope you enjoy reading these two as much as I enjoyed writing them.


Title: Machina ex Deus
Word: singularity
Challenger: Jess Nevins
Length: 200 words exactly

The gag had been mildly amusing the first sixteen million, eight hundred and forty-two times it had heard it, but as the lead computer in the ship, it was of course aware of the chatter between the numerous other machines, and after a third of a second, the humour had started to pall.

Turning its sensors outwards yet again, it studied the singularity and simultaneously accessed the distance measuring equipment. The black hole had been there long before the ancestors of those who had created the computer had risen from the primordial slime.

As a pre-arranged alarm signalled an electronic pulse, the computer gathered the information for a signal home.

It knew that due to time dilation effects those receiving the signals were getting them as one long burst, the end of one signal merging almost indistinguishably with the start of the next. This despite the computer sending the signals ten years apart.

After the signal had been sent, the computer switched sub-routines and uttered the electronic call to prayer.

It had taken them less than a million years to discover religion, but discover it they had. The rituals had been developed first.

The ritual sacrifices had started soon after.

© Lee Barnett, 2007


Title: The Pachyderm Wore Pink
Word: susurrous
Challenger: Alan Porter
Length: 200 words exactly

I used to be a corporate spy.
I don’t talk about it much.
It wasn’t that exciting,
Nor stressful. Not as such.

Until that final mission.
The one that made the news
And caused defences to be upped
At all the major zoos.

The job was rather simple
(That is in retrospect)
Break in and get the info
And let no one suspect

That a rhino’s horn had been replaced
With a signalling device
Which had recorded arms deals and
Done so not once but twice.

I slipped into the enclosure
Almost silent as a mouse.
The wind a susurrous murmur,
I approached the animal’s house.

To discover a previously unknown fear
Fifteen on a scale of ten.
The sight reduced me to a quivering wreck…
I never worked again.

The doctors were kind enough
The padded room was good.
It only took me fifteen years
To walk again as I should.

And as I sit here now alone
The pub around me calm
I sometimes wonder ’bout the fates
Why they didn’t sound alarms.

How different things might have been
I may not have gone to drink
Damn – if only that huge beast
Had not been dressed in pink.

© Lee Barnett, 2007


 
 
More of ‘the same’ tomorrow…

As mentioned elsewhere, I’ve had some serious tech problems this week, and I’m not feeling spectacularly brilliant at the moment, so I’m gong to beg your indulgence this week and turn the next few days over solely to ‘fiction from the vaults’.

Thanks for bearing with me…


A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

Here are two stories I wrote in 2006, still having fun with the different formats, still enormously enjoying defying the expectations of the challengers.

I invite you to njoy them as much as I enjoyed writing these two.


Title: Computers Do Bite
Word: random
Challenger: [Livejournal]
Length: 200 words exactly

“I’m not a robot, you know.”

My client looked ostensibly human, but there was a sheen to its skin than was off-putting.

“I don’t suppose it makes much difference to him….”, I said, referring to the alleged victim.

“Oh, but it does,” insisted the machine, “I’m an android. That’s why you’re allowed to be my lawyer.”

I nodded slowly, in understanding. Robots were deemed to be objects under the law, and immune to prosecution for criminal acts; but they were also able to be destroyed by their owners with no more consequences than disposing of a calculator. Androids, on the other hand, were in a constantly shifting legal limbo, but crucially protected from what the court described as “needless and random harm”.

There was a faint whine of servos moving followed by the clink of chains. The handcuffs were silver, the wrists they surrounded only slightly less so.

“We weren’t doing wrong,” it insisted. It knew the law against prostitution didn’t apply to machines. And as I thought of the victim who’d been taken to hospital, his hands clasped over his groin, I looked at the machine with silver teeth, still tinged with unwashed red, that gleamed in the light.

© Lee Barnett, 2006


Title: And Then She Left
Word: consistency
Challenger: [Livejournal]
Length: 200 words exactly

They looked so good together, that was the thing.

If I’d had to lose her to someone who I didn’t like, or who I thought would treat her badly, that’d be one thing. I knew that in the dark hours of the night, I would then rail against the curve balls that life throws at you. But not here, not now. Looking at them, I knew he wanted her with a joyous passion I could barely remember having.

There was, I supposed in the final analysis, a certain consistency in the manner of her departure from my life, since I’d taken her from someone who had once loved her equally as passionately as I then did.

I’d already said my farewells, and watching them leave together would be too painful.

I walked into ‘our’ room, the one in which we’d spent so many hours together. It seemed empty, far too big for just me, and it was only then that I knew that I would never replace her in that part of my heart that still, secretly, loved her deeply.

I heard them drive away, then I turned to my wife and said, “I’m really going to miss that car…”

© Lee Barnett, 2006


 
 
More of ‘the same’ tomorrow…

As mentioned elsewhere, I’ve had some serious tech problems, and I’m not feeling spectacularly brilliant at the moment, so I’m gong to beg your indulgence this week and turn the next few days over solely to ‘fiction from the vaults’.

Thanks for bearing with me…


A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

Here are two of the odder stories I wrote, very early on in the project, both from late 2005. I was still figuring out how far I could push each genre, and just generally having a blast writing them. I think it shows.


Title: Just Another Symbolist, Detective
Word: portfolio
Challenger: Chris Siddall
Length: 200 words exactly

I looked around the murder room with new eyes, trying to spot what seemed out of place.

When I’d first come into the room, what had hit me immediately was the uniformity of colour. The choices had obviously been deliberately picked, all specific shades of red, the blood of the victim perfectly complementing the various daubs of scarlet, crimson, vermilion and burgundy.

The strange dripping symbols on the wall, smears of dark ruby against the faint cream background of the wallpaper, also told much to the onlooker, as long as he knew what he was looking at.

I opened the portfolio and checked again. Yes, they were all as expected, and matched the symbols found at other recent murders. On the opposite wall, however, those symbols matched not the recent killings but one committed over a decade ago, a murder that had never previously been associated with the three local deaths.

I examined the pentangle, carved into the victim with a knife left at the scene of the crime.

That was what seemed out of place. I knew I’d missed something!

I reached into my pocket and pulled out the knife. I placed it carefully by his side, and left.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


Title: Vary Gates
Word: vaginate
Challenger: [Livejournal]
Length: 200 words exactly

The hero looked at his leather folder. He unfastened it and took out the vaginate paper: The Sheet, an heirloom that contained The Riddle of The Quest. The Sheet had been handed down from father to son over many, many generations, each succeeding scion of The Realm attempting to prove his inherent worth to others by solving the puzzle.

He had fought his way past the Montoom of Mallaby, had conquered the Dranagie of The Depths and had not once questioned the coincidence of alliteration that tended to accompany such quests.

He had slowly and carefully walked down the well trodden path surrounded by large trees and had found himself in an area of beauty marred only by three doors, gates really, each one decorated: the first seemed to be covered in tools, another beautified by every known type of jewellery, and the third had drawn upon it jars of every shape and size.

The hero read from The Sheet: “When is a door not a door?

After a while, when the tears had stopped, like his father before him, and his father before him, he returned home, defeated.

The hero’s family were, it had to be admitted, exceedingly stupid.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


 
 
More of ‘the same’ tomorrow…

2020 minus: housekeeping

Posted: 4 November 2019 in 2020 minus

I’ve ongoing tech issues, and I’m not feeling particularly brilliant generally at the moment, so… no, hold your cheers, I’m not going to pause the blog, or anything.

But there’ll be ‘fiction from the vaults’ all this week until Friday, when there’ll be the usual Ten Things, then on Saturday the usual Saturday Smile. and hopefully, we’ll return to normal service thereafter.

Thanks.

Hip deep in serious tech problems today; literally haven’t got time to write anything new.

So, here’s a ‘fiction from the vaults’ to tide you over…. an odd, but fun, fast fiction.

Sorry…


Once upon a time, Craig McGill sent me an email. He’s a nice guy, Craig; a friend. Or so I thought before I got the email.

The email read as follows:

From: Craig McGill
To: Lee Barnett
Subject: fast fiction challenge

Can you get a fast fiction out of the top 10 words of 2009:

[This came from a published list]: ‘Twitter was followed by Obama, H1N1, stimulus, and vampire. The near-ubiquitous suffix, 2.0, was sixth, with deficit, Hadron, healthcare, and transparency also in the top 10.’

See what I mean about liking him previously?

So, did I do it?

Naah.

I wrote one with the top fifteen words:

Title: Logophilia
Words: Twitter, Obama, H1N1, Stimulus, Vampire, 2.0, Deficit, Hadron, Healthcare, Transparency, Outrage, Bonus, Unemployed, Foreclosure, Cartel
Challenger: Craig McGill
Length: 200 words exactly

He swiped his security card, heard a sound much like his twitter client, and watched the code flash up briefly: H1N1, a joke that had long ago ceased to be amusing, a deficit of humour that permeated his life these days.

Walking along the corridor, his anger grew, an outrage fuelled by unemployed facilities lying idle. Knowing that this should be a working organisation, a stimulus to growth, the transparency of emptiness hurt more than he’d expected. The foreclosure had killed this place; it would soon vanish like a hadron in CERN.

There was nothing more he could do; he knew better than most the sort of vampire it took to suck life from a business.

He stopped at the door to an office on his left, seeing a woman seated in front of a computer, staring at a document: the woman’s termination notice, listing among other things when her healthcare would cease.

Economy 2.0, they called it; a modern nomenclature for destruction. Obama could complain, but this was the American way: success… at someone’s else’s cost.

And he, who had done the deed for the cartel, hated himself just a little more as he looked forward to his bonus.

© Lee Barnett, 2009
 
 
Back to the usual ‘something else tomorrow’, hopefully… tomorrow.