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Open for submissions

The 2017 WH prize mug I’m looking forward to reading your stories each day, and seeing which ones come to the fore early on, and if they...

Friday, December 30, 2005

You break our laws, and we'll break yours

LENIN'S TOMB: Foreign Office Tries to Censor Craig Murray on Torture.

The three unwise monkeys are in charge of British foreign policy. See no torture, hear no torture, speak no torture. Blair, Brown and Straw. Robin Cook is turning in his grave.

Zoz

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Aleksandar Hemon

The Conductor

"In the 1989 “Anthology of Contemporary Bosnian Poetry,” Muhamed D. was represented with four poems. My copy of the anthology disappeared during the war, and ..."

Marvellous short story, about poetry, Bosnia, America, abandoning pretentions and finding humanity. And what would a bit of East European storytelling be without a dollop of the kind of diversion that leans heavily on the "all is fair" principle, stirred in for flavour.

Ossian

Friday, December 23, 2005

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Beijing 2008 - what do you think?

Dominic Waghorn, Sky News

"Chinese authorities announced a cleanup -- of sorts. Instead of being clubbed to death the animals are electrocuted with home made devices wired to tractor batteries. They struggle to escape as one prong goes in their mouth the other in their anus, then lie twitching and whimpering on the ground. Often the voltage isn't strong enough. There is no effort to check they are dead before they are strung up on the tractor and skinned. In the back of the vehicle their skinless bodies pile up, some clearly still alive, their hearts still beating."

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Federation of Worker Writers & Community Publishers

TheMagazine, Issue 31, New Year 2006



Including reviews of winning and short-listed books from the Raymond Williams award for community publishing, and a lot more.

Ossian

Reminder

Only a week left to get your stories in for the Willesden short story prize. See below for details. About a hundred have been received so far, and our hired wordslinger (motto "Have pen crayon, will travel") reports that the standard is high.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Extract from a Willesden diary

by Thomas*

I'm a born again nutter, thankfully I'm a self-medicated born again nutter (speed and weed are all I need). God forbid I were not. Have you ever tried, say just 20 mg. of chlorpromazine, Largactil, better known in prison as the liquid cosh? If you have, you will know what it feels like to be a zombie.

Enough already, I don't want to get anyone down, for I am, as per usual on an up. I have had a wonderful year, notwithstanding the fact it had a rather ominous beginning, when I lost £4,000 in a little business venture that went wrong. Anyway I've since stopped gambling again. It's easy to stop, I've done it hundreds of times.

So that was back in April and as I had whole lot of magic mushroom tea I was higher than the proverbial kite. How high is high?

I started going back to the writers group again, where I was encouraged to tackle writing my book again, which I am happy to report I started at the beginning of June and finished three months later.

Anyway I had a lovely diversion, in the middle of writing said book, when I met the most gorgeous girl and managed to get my end away, for the first time in a long, long while. It was really very funny, however as she became part of my story, I'll give you the shortened version.

What was funny to start with was, for the longest time, I had been looking for someone to share my magic mushroom tea with and when I met this girl in the Spotted Dog pub, she only tells me she's the magic mushroom Queen. I resisted telling her I was the King. However I did manage to give her my phone number, telling her she could give me a ring sometime and come up and see me.

I never had much hope for such an event, as she was only 27, with a body to die for and I'm old enough to know better. So you could have knocked me down with a feather, when she called me that same night and indeed came up to see me.

Now I have been married five times and I took my fun where I found it, however I had never been with the perfect body, that was Ashlie (her assumed name).

She told me she was a stripper by profession and a nymphomaniac. I told her I was Jesus and she could nympo maniac with me whenever she felt like it.

She stayed with me for the next two nights, with me never getting off first base. We had a good time, she enjoyed the tea, the smoke and the company and I was living in hope. She disappeared over the weekend, turning up again on the Monday, staying on till the Wednesday, with still nothing going on but the rent.

Now there's an old cliche that says, if you can make them laugh, you can fuck them. Well watch the ride. I'm telling Ashlie about Marilyn Monroe in the film "Some Like It Hot" with Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn's saying to Jack how she would love to just talk to him all night and Jack Lemmon's making all kinds of faces that are saying he wanted to do anything but talk. So now I'm saying to Ashlie, forget the one about the bishop and the actress, fuck Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe, this is Jesus Christ Almighty and the fucking stripper and all we're doing is talking. Talk about laugh, I had never laughed like this, since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and Ashlie was even worse and it went on and on, like Ariston. Ashlie was so bad I sent her into the next room for the night.

We never slept much that night and she was still laughing the next day. So I took her for a walk in the park and left her there, to laugh it off, for I sure needed a break.

She followed me home about two hours later. I had sort of made up my mind to ask her to leave because I wanted her so much it hurt. However she asked if she could have a bath and I asked her if she would like a nice cup of tea. Shit she had only been there a week and we had got through 32 pints of magic mushroom tea, for this was the last of it. So I took her her cup of tea and she just lay there, so gorgeous and fuckable. Believe me I was foaming at the mouth and hot to trot.

The next thing I know, she's out the bath wearing a G-string and a really sexy bra and telling me I could have her!

Well you'll have to refer to the book for what happened next. Suffice to say I never had to ask her if it was all right for her...

*Thomas is a Willesden-based Scottish writer.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Talking trees

Amaptocare is a major public arts project by Jochen Gerz. If you sponsor a tree, you choose the species, which determines the price. A small lectern beside it will be engraved with your answer to the question, "If this tree could talk, what should it say for you?" Jochen has spoken to over 300 out of 600 of the donors already, mostly in person. As I'm not in Dublin, he phoned me last week at an appointed time to discuss the text to go beside the wild cherry tree that I chose. I told him I lived in Ballymun till I was 23, but I wasn't sure what was required, that it was too easy to philosophize. He said that what he was looking for was something personal, rather than general. I wasn't able to answer there and then, though I had thought a lot about it. In the end, this is what I emailed, and this is what will go beside my tree:

"I heard the cranes on tracks singing to progress when they built their concrete house of cards. A hollow evicted became a hill. Cubitt Haden & Sisk raised seven giant mausoleums to seven system-built heroes. Spiral arms gerrymandered out across constituencies. Refugees fell in from the tumbling city. Now where hundred-foot lighting masts used to sway, the hill has been righted back to earth. Where only the odd sapling pined, a forest advances from Santry woods south. Listen to the singing of blackbird and robin in the branches now, and circling above in their changeless Dublin accent, the seagulls still crying, still laughing."

Ossian

Easy come, easy go

Implosion video footage

Listen to all those future Feargal Mooney's commenting on the demolition. One of them says, 'It's too good.'

Friday, December 09, 2005

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Willesden short story prize, update

It falls to me to introduce some order into the proceedings here. Frankly the fumes of whiskey around Herald house are nothing but unprofessional. And I don't care if Feargal calls that "telling tales out of school." What am I, a man or a mouse?

You asked: Send as attachment or in the body of an email? Answer: Attachment (".doc", ".rtf" or ".txt"). If there's any problem with the format, we'll let you know. Do not put your name with the text of the story, but please do put it in your email.

You asked: What if I've developed the story in a workshop or online workshop, does that count as published? Answer: No. But if it's online in a blog or online magazine, that counts as published - so get it off there or don't send it. We're not the F.B.I.

You asked: How will it work? Answer: The entries will be reduced to a shortlist with the aid of this person, a sort of literary odd-job-man. Shortlisted stories will then be sent to the adjudicator without the authors' names, so everyone will have an equal chance.

You asked: How come I can't see the mugs anymore? Answer: The shop was burgled and we had to create new mugs, so the old links don't work anymore. The links have been updated below.

You asked: What the hell are you talking about? Answer: Stop asking questions and get writing.

Simon Moribund

Friday, December 02, 2005

Poets reading their own work

Poetry Archive



A significant new online museum of contemporary and historic recordings, "the world's premier online collection of recordings of poets reading their work." There is an introduction on video, and a guided tour by Andrew Motion.

Ossian

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Famous writer to judge short story contest

From: The Willesden Herald

Willesden's own Zadie Smith has kindly agreed to judge the Willesden short story prize 2006. If their authors choose to take up the option, the winning stories will be posted here in the new year.

Ossian

Breaking news

Stop Press... Stop... Press... Stop... Press again... Don't stop

Now calm down. The Herald is pleased to announce that Willesden's very own literary star Zadie Smith has kindly agreed to adjudicate our short story contest. In a break from an all-day meeting with his accountants, between the two-thirty and the three o'clock, Herald flounder Eddie 'Red' Woodward said, "I believe the expression I'm looking for is how cool is that."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Sloe Wine sponsors...

Willesden Herald short story prize 2006

The deadline for entries is December 24th, 2005. Follow link above for full details.

Ossian

The Willesden Short Story Prize 2006

In association with Sloe Wine

First prize: Ed's Big Ugly Mug* (special edition, inscribed Short Story Prize 2006)

Runner-up prize: Mug for Munchkins** (special edition, inscribed Short Story Prize 2006)

There is no theme, and no word limit other than our editorial team's variable attention span. If you can hold their attention you deserve a prize. They have read a lot of great short stories and want to read as many more as possible. If your entry is not a short story they will know, so don't send a novel. If it's a chapter from a novel, don't tell us - it should stand alone. If it stands alone, we don't care whether it's part of a bigger work, but we don't want to know beforehand.

Entries must be sent by email to stories at-sign willesdenherald dot com. No pictures please, only very limited mailbox space is available. Maximum two entries per author. Even if the two best stories are by one author, only one will be selected, and only one prize per author.

All entries will be acknowledged by return email. If you do not receive your acknowledgement, either we have not received your entry due to our spam traps, or you have not received our acknowledgement due to your spam traps. This is equivalent to the Cone of Silence (cf. Get Smart). Please re-submit if you get no acknowledgement, and avoid anything that sounds like spam in your subject line.

Please state author name for by-line. Pen names are acceptable. Anonymity will be maintained (if required), with the help of St. Jude and the good judgement of the bartenders of Willesden. However, if you wish to receive your prize you will have to provide a delivery address. You don't need to send a delivery address unless you win. If you prefer you can collect your prize from Gigi's in Willesden by arrangement. We cannot conceive of anybody not wanting the prize, however if this enormous improbability were to befall, we would be pleased to donate the cost price to an online charity of your choice. N.B: The cost price.

Closing date for entries: December 24th, 2005. The winner and runner-up will be notified by email on New Year's Day and the results will be announced as soon as possible afterwards.

Winners are kindly asked to grant non-exclusive rights to Sloe Wine to publish their winning stories, online only, until the end of 2006, when they will be deleted. Alternatively, almost unique among literary competitions, we can leave your winning story unpublished if preferred. Copyright remains with the author at all times, of course. If you agree to publish, links will be posted here in the Willesden Herald to the winning entries. The results will be published online on several websites, and the title winner / runner-up Willesden short story prize 2006 will be yours.

Entries must be your own original work and previously unpublished.

This is a genuine competition. No purchase necessary, as they say. We reserve the right to withold either prize or both if entries of a sufficient standard are not received.

*Rare. Only two in existence. The first is in the possession of Eddie 'Red' Woodward (here seen drinking Irish Tea).

**The only one in existence is believed to be in the possession of The Rt. Hon. Sarah Teather, MP

Saturday, November 12, 2005

East of the Web

Short Stories



A pretty impressive site, with a lot of new short stories and a selection of classics. They are helping to nurture new short story writing talent.

Ossian

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Hysterical ninnies in full cry

Tonight on This Week (BBC1) Tony Parsons confirmed his imbecility. It was already clear when he was stuffed by Hari Kunzru on Newsnight Review, the other day. What a puny Goebbels wannabe.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Citizens safer tonight in Britain

291 vote for 90-day amendment; 322 against

It was the 'Sden wot done it. F---* The Sun, the Daily Blackmail, The Daily SS and the rest of the backsliding dumbasses.

Attention lobby fodder

Why MP's must reject 90 day detention (Guardian)

An even better reason: all your favourite blogs will be on 90-day hiatus.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Windbreaking News

Skynews Science Bulletin

"A Cambridge boffin has developed fart-free varieties to the relief of baked bean fans and their families everywhere. Dr Colin Leakey - that is his real name - has just produced his first six-tonne harvest of a new strain of South American manteca beans. Dr Leakey, 71, has even developed his own 'fart-ometer' to measure the amount of flatulence produced by manteca beans compared to other varieties."

Pressure has bean building up for this for ages.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Imbeciles strike at the general public

Bombs in Delhi (Skynews)

'We have seen badly-burned bodies littering the market. Most of them are children who had set up food stalls.'

Bombers like these are beyond stupid, their brains are dead. Have they not had enough with earthquakes and tsunamis that they have to massacre people in marketplaces? There's never been any justification for any violent attacks on the general public, but in the middle of a crisis with thousands of people injured, freezing and starving, here they are with their pathetic, small-minded attacks. They will live and die in shame and contempt, the rotten swine.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Great new series - Pictures that didn't really work

Starting Today!



No 1. Les Miserables*



No 2. Swimmer in the sea at Eastbourne*



No 3. A lady squirrel not doing anything cute*



No 4. More noble than bombers*

*Is that you? Claim your prize**

**3 weeks plenary indulgences, courtesy of Mrs Haverty Enterprises.

License to ill

US Govt. adverts alongside hate lyrics

Nick Grimes

US government Small Step health campaign advert spotted alongside this song lyric inciting people to shoot and burn gays:

Artist: Sean Paul
Song: Chi Chi Man

'This is another single from T.O.K. This song is called "Chi Chi Man." Thier names are Craigy-T, Bassie-C, Alex, and Flex. Hope you like this. Big up Jamaica.'
[sic]

Intro
Bassie:
My crew (my crew)
My dogs (my dogs)
Set rules (set rules)
Set laws (set laws)
We represent for the lords of yards
A gyal alone a feel up my balls

Chorus:
From them a par inna chi chi man car
Blaze the fire make me bun them (Bun them!!!!)
From them a drink inna chi chi man bar
Blaze the fire make we dun them (Dun them!!!!)


It continues in the same vein. A later visit to the same page revealed a Red Cross advertisement instead of the Small Step one. Presumably the Red Cross needs to raise money to tend Sean Paul's victims. There are Google Ads on the same page, but they need to improve their algorithm, because they didn't offer any gun or flamethrower links*.

*And Google Ads turned down the Willesden Herald as unsuitable! What's their motto again, "Don't be evil"? Ed

Forget global warming, forget bird flu

Theory blames lava fields for mass extinctions

'"It has deep ramifications for life on Earth. There's no reason it couldn't happen again," said Dr Elkins-Tanton.'

You won't be running a high temperature, you'll be roasted alive. It will be bye-bye homo sapiens, and canus fidelis and all. Remember, you read about it first in your super soaraway 'Sden.

Sloe Wine authors reviewed

Magazine - loaded with arts

The website of Magazine (New Zealand) includes interesting new reviews of books by two of Sloe Wine's contributing editors. (-What?) Here and there.

Ossian

Friday, October 21, 2005

Emophilia

Emo Philips

"When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn't work that way. So just I stole one and asked for him to forgive me."

Emo's CD: listen to "12.73% of it". (Very funny.)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Complex Messiah

nothing will save you by dean strom*

reviewed by Feargal Mooney

Arab singers start a song with a mawal, a prolonged melodic wail without words, and this book also eases into its song with a preliminary mawal lasting many pages, before settling into an almost conventional narrative. I say almost conventional, because there is very little that is conventional about "nothing will save you" and just when you think you are on solid ground, back comes the mawal and you are floating away again. I am reminded also of the ethereal chants that highlight some songs by The Beatles, namely Lovely Rita and A Day In The Life.

"nothing will save you" is a novella and collection of poems, prose poems and short stories. The eponymous novella, which occupies most of the book, is a road movie, love story, breakdown story, redemption and more, but with every element undermined at all times by its author. The story is full of surprises and jazzy variations on unexpected themes and events. We're never allowed to get too comfortable with characters, some of whom materialise and dissolve and might or might not be emanations of the narrator himself, from the screaming torture chamber of a mind in crisis.

There are evocative and unique scenes from strange sub-cultures, of native American knife-throwing while full of firewater, followed by a native American game of beating the stranger unconscious, robbing and leaving for dead, to some extreme sport that entails running over mountains and frequent injury, rickshaw drivers in New Orleans, police brutality there, gay cruising haunts in Hawaii, and what I suppose we now have to call "the queer eye for the straight guy."

Chi Chi, the narrator of this tale (who shares his name with a Waikiki beach cocktail) stays, on arrival in Honolulu, on a boat with his friend Dean (who shares his name with the author). Chi Chi through the eyes of the cruising gays is a beautiful boy - nobody believes he's straight. In some ways it's like Death in Venice from Tadzio's point of view, but it's Tadzio who's dying. The love story that started on the road, with Jenny, is strung through a sequence of exciting and bizarre events leading to Chi Chi's Honolulu sojourn, heartbreak, series of encounters around the beaches and bars, some sleazy and demoralising, some transcendant.

In the climax of the story, fuelled by alcohol, dope and firearms, the mawal of Chi Chi's inner torment returns as disintegrating prose, increasing entropy of typography, to the point of jumbled letters, and conflicting voices, wanting to speak without saying, through intwining, self-consuming thoughts turning on the impossibility of the genuine, or possibility, whether the art of speaking and writing is in the words, in the fingertips, in the initial, lost thought, until we reach a real and very frightening event.

Chi Chi subsequently wakes to a world of satire, in which redemption takes the form of publication and money, and back on the road, or rather in the air to the promised land, the shining city, and for a page or two you think, he's letting us off, we are heading for resolution, satisfaction, comfort. As if.

*nothing will save you by dean strom
Published by Pretend Genius Press. ISBN: 0974726117


Ossian

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Found by clicking Next Blog*

Is this the world we created???

"By the cold and religious we were taken in hand - shown how to feel good; and told to feel bad."

*Maybe we should turn that on here. Ed

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Raymond Williams Prize for Community Publishing 2005

"The Raymond Williams Prize is an award dedicated to commending two published works of outstanding creative and imaginative quality that reflect the life and experiences of the people of particular communities. Open to non-profit-making publishers, and awarded annually, the prize is becoming increasingly popular. It was set up by the Arts Council England in 1989, and is now in its sixteenth year."

The first prize of £3,000: "The Monkey's Typewriter was written to celebrate ten years of Willesden Green Writers' Workshops. It contains eighteen stories and poems that are in turn funny, disturbing, captivating and downright strange."

The runners-up prize of £2,000 was awarded to Equal Arts for The Kitchen Suitcase. "This book is a result of an Equal Arts project which involved women from Zayis Raanon, a Jewish organisation in Gateshead. The women met weekly to make a tapestry on the theme of Journeys to Gateshead with the artist Fiona Rutherford and tell their stories to the poet Gillian Allnutt. Seven very different women give us a glimpse of their lives and community that binds them together."

The judges this year were Debjani Chatterjee, an award-winning South Asian author with over 40 books to her name, Tim Diggles, director of the Federation for Worker Writers and Community Presses, and Courttia Newland, author of three acclaimed novels and co-editor of IC3: The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain.

The standard of entries was high, both in content and production, with books of all shapes and sizes, many amply illustrated, representing a wide variety of community groups from all over Britain.


Ossian

Local primates whoop it up

The Raymond Williams prize for community publishing, 2005, has been awarded to Willesden Green Writers Workshop for their anthology The Monkey's Typewriter, as featured in your super soaraway Willy.

*The Monkey's Typewriter is available from local bookshops and libraries. ISBN 0953019551

Raymond Williams prize 2005

This year's Raymond Williams prize for community publishing has gone to Willesden Green Writers Workshop for their anthology The Monkey's Typewriter, which includes one of my own abominations.

Ossian

Raymond Williams award 2005

Announced within the last hour, this year's £3,000 Raymond Williams Prize for Community Publishing has gone to Willesden Green Writers Workshop for the The Monkey's Typewriter (isbn 0-9530195-5-1) an anthology of short stories and poetry edited by Anne Mullane, Andrew Mayne and Dale Arndell. The closing story in the book is Gerry Boysey's Human Circus by yours truly. If the judges had read that far we probably wouldn't have won.

Ossian

Now you don't see it, now you do

10m to study how to regrow damaged limbs

"Gus McGrouther, a plastic surgeon at Manchester University, said that while the research was in its early stages, the goal of regrowing limbs was not beyond human grasp. 'It's an achievable future, it will eventually happen.'"

The article doesn't mention that we can regrow the tips of our fingers. I (P Kronk, from the village W in the territory of L) have a guitarist friend who had the tip of one of his index fingers severed below the nail, and it has now grown back.*

Kronk

*Unfortunately, it has forgotten how to play its parts in my friend's guitar music.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

South Asia Earthquake Children's Appeal

UNICEF

Who needs wars between people when nature is against us all? Dig some moola out of the ruins of your bank account, and put it to work. Willesden is entangled in this wreckage.

Pumping Ieuan

Swansea Is Britain's Healthiest City

"Swansea is not the only city in Wales well-known for its quality of life. Cardiff was recently branded the best place to live for its perfect balance of work, rest and play by Men's Health magazine - and nearly 90% of male residents said they were happy with their sex lives." (Sky News)

John Banville

Interview

"'Once,' says Banville, 'in the 1930s, the Inland Revenue did an investigation into Yeats's tax returns because they could not believe someone so famous could have such small sales. One should never allow oneself to be discouraged by small sales. As Pinter says, I stuck to my guns.'"

Banville is a masterly prose stylist. The Guardian has several good articles about him winning the Booker, including this colourful piece by the chairman of the judges. Considering the public dispute he, John Sutherland, had with Banville (see interview above) it was as Banville says "large" of Sutherland to cast the chairman's deciding vote in his favour.

See this Guardian report for a short "extract" from John Banville's prize winning book The Sea.

Ossian

The Big Uneasy

New Orleans police beat up black man* (Telegraph)

For further examples of New Orleans police beating up people for no reason, read Nothing Will Save You by Dean Strom.

*Isn't this the classic non-news headline, equivalent to Dog Bites Man? Ed

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Bendy buses are stupid garbage

Letters

Who decided to order these monstrosities, totally unsuited to London streets? Idiots. They don't fit around corners without blocking whole junctions, some of them have burst into flames, they are very ugly, and just what is the point of them? On the Harrow Road watch how they're used. Most of the passengers get in and out of the middle doors without paying. It's a complete farce because the driver is so far away there's nothing he or she can do. A double-decker takes half the space, is ten times as efficient, and a hundred times better looking.

Cyril "Blakey" Blake

Monday, October 10, 2005

Serfs ye are, and serfs ye shall remain

Key Chinese democrat beaten unconscious (Guardian)

"One of China's leading democracy activists has been beaten, possibly to death, in front of a Guardian journalist. Lu Banglie was last seen lying unconscious on the side of the road on Saturday night after an assault by a mob which had joined forces with police to stop a car containing him, the Guardian's Shanghai correspondent, Benjamin Joffe-Walt, and two other people."

Update

"Lu Banglie, the Chinese democracy activist who was savagely beaten at the weekend, has been found injured but alive."

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Hello, good evening and salam aleichem

David Frost joins al-Jazeera TV (BBC)

"Veteran UK broadcaster Sir David Frost is to join Arabic-language TV station al-Jazeera, the network has confirmed." (via Morph)

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Timing

MI5 unmasks covert arms programmes

"The disclosure of the list comes as the Nobel peace prize was yesterday awarded to Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the UN watchdog responsible for combating proliferation." (Guardian)

Friday, October 07, 2005

Recommended

Tania, In Another Lifetime



"... where the pavement turned to gravel, where there were fields rolling away into the distance, and where there was a muddy creek and there were railroad tracks and trains (which sounded, you said, like iron waterfalls) ..."



A wonderful short story.

Ossian

Council Tax rising hugely, Pensions static

The government allows a situation in the country where Council Tax rises by huge percentages every year, but Pensions are kept almost static or in line with inflation. It's the same as taking money out of the Pension. Where is the justice in that?

Do the bureaucrats not understand that a 25% rise in Council Tax is not fair to pensioners? Are they too "institutionally stupid" to bestir themselves and change the basis of Council Tax calculation? Pensioners are now becoming martyrs, going to prison, dying of hypothermia. If we have a big freeze this winter, maybe it will be the death of this government too.

Councils must be barred from applying tax rises above the rate of inflation, now. No excuses, do it. Gordon 'Miser' Brown, are you listening? Open your sporran and get the money out for the poor, or you're nothing but a lame timeserver, riding for a fall.

Can't pay, won't pay! Remember the Poll Tax.

Feargal Mooney

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Spot the double standard

Guardian Online

'"There is no justification for Iran or any other country interfering in Iraq,'' Blair said at a news conference with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.'

Monday, September 26, 2005

Short story

Burglary

"That night my brother woke me to say he'd heard strangers in the house. I told him this wasn't true, but he insisted I go downstairs and check."

Ossian

Moorish Girl meets Salman Rushdie

And he has her book, and wants her to sign it



Brilliant. He likes her blog too. One of the most outstanding literary journal entries I've ever read, just from the human interest point of view, I think.

Ossian

Blair says 'don't force me out'

The Observer | Politics | Britain to pull troops from Iraq

"Britain has already privately informed Japan - which also has troops in Iraq - of its plans to begin withdrawing from southern Iraq in May, a move that officials in Tokyo say would make it impossible for their own 550 soldiers to remain."

They've got a tiger by the tail. Bush's pillion passenger is looking travelsick. He's about to cut and run too. To luxurious retirement, at your expense.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Coming soon -

Rabbit
An Eddie Speranza mystery.

Detective Eddie Speranza has a clue but no crime. Somebody has committed the imperfect murder.

Bids invited. (What - you don't believe me? - Excerpt on the way.)

Ossian

Saturday, September 24, 2005

peak oil blues

light sweet crude
can't get enough of you

Ossian

Inside the walled garden



Charleston is a literary and artistic Ali Baba's cave. If you go to the Small Wonder short story festival there, it's worth going early and taking a tour of the house. Virginia Wolfe lived there for a while with her sister Vanessa, before filling her pockets with stones and wading into the river Ouze. The rooms of the house are covered in paintings, fragile murals, decorations - every inch had to be beautiful. There's a sculpture of the head of a boy, a gift from Renoir, as well as many rare and wonderful paintings. The tales of tortuous relationships would put any fiction to shame. I'm reading more about it in "Deceived by Kindness" by Angelica Garnett, which I picked up in the shop there on the recommendation of one of the marvelously enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guides. The house is restored and preserved by the Charleston Trust. T. S. Eliot read from his manuscript of The Waste Land for the first time ever in the sitting room there, and somebody fell asleep during the reading. Another speaker said that somebody had fallen asleep while Maynard Keynes read something, which sounds slightly more plausible. Whatever. There are lots of funny and amazing stories like that, and a lot of sad stories too about the place. I spent a sunny morning in the walled garden, working on a short story, on a bench with nobody else around, just fruit trees, flowers, bees, and statues. A party of schoolchildren passed through later.



Ossian

They are watching

Friday, September 23, 2005

Notes from Small Wonder 2005

The Short Story Festival

Thursday

Rachel Seiffert and Tobias Hill are two excellent short story writers. Tobias read a story from his two years in Japan. Shades of Murakami I thought, and none the worse for that. I referred to Rachel Seiffert recently when I bought her collection "Field Studies" on the strength of a marvelous reading of her award-winning story "The Crossing" on Radio 4. She read an extract from "Second Best" the closing story in the book. I thought she would have done better to read one of the shorter stories in full. Interesting.

Friday

Zadie Smith read from Martha and Hanwell. She has a strong, sonorous voice and read without any sign of nerves or hesitancy. There is a relentlessness to her writing, which she almost acknowledged when she stopped, by saying 'It could go on for ever.'

Zadie stayed till the first interval of the short story slam. This year's theme was "Revenge". I thought the first group were the best, including Sean Lusk's piece which nearly won it for him again this year. His comical massage parlour nightmare had the audience in stitches but in the end took second place to a wicked "hell hath no fury" piece Thump Sandwich by Tessa Sheridan, which proposed new uses for kitchen utensils. It was great fun, but even though they managed to fit 18 entrants by the end, my name never came out of the hat. I think mine would've been the only political piece; you can read it below.

Saturday

William Boyd's story "Seven Lunches" was highly amusing, though his commentary put me in mind of an uncle who knows all about cars or electronics and likes to explain this to you. He expounded his thesis that the short story is a better subject for film adaptation than the novel, the length of a standard film being what it is. My companion fell asleep during his talk, but to be fair to Boyd, she fell asleep during most of the readings.

John McGahern made a great impression on people in the audience who didn't already know that he's one of the best writers around. On the question of whether people recognised themselves in his books, he said that when he had portrayed a little man who sat on the bar all day and talked about sex and football (in The Pornographer I think, not sure) six people had gone into the local solicitors to enquire about the feasibility of suing him. The solicitor told them if they were to have any chance of success they'd have to decide which one of them it was. McGahern's conclusion: there must be a lot of people in North Roscommon who sit on the bar all day talking about sex and football.

Sunday

Grace Paley was too ill to attend, had to cancel at the last minute, but had been so looking forward to the event that she took the trouble to make a video, taken by her daughter, to talk to the audience. It was the highlight of the festival, she is a life force all right.

Her recollection of segregation and relating of it to her own black grandson was wonderful. She recalled two bus trips from New York to southern states, one in which her mother had refused to move to the front when they crossed into a segregated state, where blacks had to sit in the back of the bus. In a depiction of this incident she had written that her mother argued with the driver, but her sister later informed her that her mother had merely said 'No' firmly, three times. We were reminded about the disgrace of black soldiers in the second world war being forced to sit behind German prisoners on buses.

Grace Paley's parents had fled the Russian pogroms, and the irony of this manifestation of racism in the so-called "land of the free" was brought home to her when she made her own bus trip south. As before when they crossed the state line the segregation was implemented, and she was sitting at the front of the boundary with the back of the bus. The bus was crowded and a black woman carrying a young boy, heavy and asleep hanging from her neck, wouldn't take the seat but through exhaustion agreed to let her child rest on Grace Paley's lap. At just 21 she thought ahead to when she would have a child of her own, feeling that same weight comfortably pressing her down. At the end of the journey a white man turned to Grace and said, 'I wouldn't have touched that thing with a meat hook.' Later in life, she felt that she'd already held her own black grandson sixty years earlier.

The boy appears briefly as people and dogs come and go in this home video. I hope the video will be seen more widely, it's fascinating and touching. Ali Smith and Paul Bailey talked about her and read from her stories, and she read her story "A Conversation with My Father" as well on video. Grace Paley is that rare thing, a U.S. socialist. Before saying goodbye, she referred to our shared opposition to the war in Iraq and the thousands of deaths it has caused.

The cherry on the icing of the festival was Simon Callow, who brought two of Charles Dickens' short stories ("Going into Society" and "Doctor Marigold") to life, in a tour-de-force performance. We were reminded that Dickens was not just an author but a performer, a superstar of his day. The stories amply demonstrated his mastery of an audience, by turns making them laugh and cry.

Postscript

There were other delights I hardly have time to write about, such as poets on short stories, including a surreal story by Sean O'Brien satirising the literary scene. (In spite of the title of this piece, I didn't actually take notes, only mental notes.) There were crowd pleasing pieces by Romesh Gunasekera and Sophie Hannah - hilarious story about babies writing thank you cards etc, and killingly logical poem telling men to take one of these things and do it properly: fidelity or an affair (halfway through affair, man goes on guilt trip about family... "not very good at it / but at fidelity, you are also shit. Choose one thing and do it properly..." something like that.)

In the same session, the refreshingly serious David Constantine read from his collection Under the Dam, concerning frozen bodies exposed by melting glaciers - held in youth, revisited by children now older than the dead - with all the pent-up deluge waiting in valleys to burst out and so on. Constantine talked about the supremacy of life over art, how all writing must end as pointers outwards or inwards towards reality, and never to forget that, or try to place art above life, or try "to contain" perhaps. (I can't remember his exact words.) Sean O'Brien commented afterwards that by contrast, his writing concerned people who held art to be above life and who in his surreal world prefer to live in books and libraries.

I couldn't make it to Ian Rankin's reading, unfortunately. You can see from the program that I also missed several other interesting writers.

More

Ossian

American diary #3 - Evacuation Rita

Kelly Peck

Urgent calls from sisters and mothers. They listen to weathercasters with symptoms of hydrophobia. Sleep? To keep the peace we pack the SUV. We leave at 2 am. By 2:10 we are heading north on the toll road. The Transit Authority has waived the tolls. This 3-lane highway meets the interstate 30 miles from here, near Old Town Spring. From there, Interstate 45 rolls through the heart of Texas. In Dallas, I-20 is coast-to-coast. I-35 heads north to Oklahoma City, Wichita, and Kansas City. It stretches to Canada. The night speed limit is 65 mph, day 75.

We take turns driving. Satellite radio pours out Bach, Sinatra, Earth Wind and Fire, and Mary J. Blige. Hurrican news. Rita winds are 175 mph. If there was a Category VI hurricane, this would be it.

I'm curious. How many people are in this exodus? Figure: Each vehicle takes up 3 yards. 1760 yards in a mile. I count 7 45-foot semi trucks per mile. Bumper to bumper, 580 vehicles, or 1000 people per mile, per lane. We've got two lanes. At I-45, the governor has ordered the four south-bound lanes converted. Now they go north. Eight lanes, 8,000 people per mile. Last evening the radio said this column was 100 miles long. Same scenario with Interstate 10 West, and highways 59, 290 and 90 North. 30 lanes, 1,000 people per mile, 100 miles. Three million people.

The radio says the Authorities hadn't planned for this.

We've been on the road for 10 hours. Didn't stop to pee. We've driven 30 miles. Used almost half a tank of gas. The Interstate with all 8 lanes was moving 1.5 mph.

At this rate, Dallas is two days away. The hurikan would pass us at Dew, Texas. It has a convenience store. I'm hoping the Authorities are re-routing fuel.

We turn back. It takes 30 minutes to retrace our 10-hour crawl.

We plan. We can camp out if necessary at a building made of cement and steel. It has recessed windows. It's like one of those movies. The trained professionals move in. Set up an assembly line. We rustle up trash barrels. Line them with plastic bags. Fill them with good water. Move everything off the floor and away from windows.

Work out how to leave our vehicles one on either side of the bayou. If it floods we can drive anywhere. Or bike.

Back to the store. The shopping carts available have a wheel that locks if the cart is taken out of the lot. There are no others. I help a shopper load her car. I get her cart. The place is abuzz. Thirty racks, 10 shelves high are emptied of breads and rolls. The produce department has half a box of apples left. No one buys potatoes, books or magazines, yoghurt, dairy or frozen foods. The water and soft drink shelves are empty. The canned goods shelves are normal. A few exceptions. There's been a run on garlic pesto. The only soups left are beef stock, and cream of celery. I get the last bag of ice, and the last ice chest. It has a New Orleans Saints logo.

I try to help a policeman. He just got off duty. I find him a box to carry his groceries.

People watching. A girl who could be a fashion model strutting the potato chip aisle like a runway. A geezer has emerged from his den for the first time since Eisenhower was President. He's pale. A Carib who has been in "plenty hurikan before." A half-Oriental who tried to cut in front of me. He got huffy.

The checkout lines are controlled chaos. I see carts full of candy and sugary treats. One woman's cart holds more beer than I've had in the last 20 years. No food. Just beer, wine and coolers.

I tell the cashier what an adventure this has been. We laugh. He comes out of his funk. These are the heroes. Instead of providing for their families, they serve others.

To get gasoline, it takes two people. One to wait in line, the other to direct traffic. The lines are 25 cars long.

The cell phone networks are overloaded. Have been for three days. Every fourth call goes through. I keep my calls short. Reach a friend. She invites us to her ranch. They raise sheep, goats, watermelon and water hyacinths. I advised her dad on hydraulic ram pumps. He is a Buddhist. This is his retreat.

I know back roads. We can get there tomorrow. Now it's late. Between us we've had 4 or 5 hours sleep.

There's not been a drop of rain. The storm starts Friday. The hurikan Saturday morning. If it comes. Maybe it'll go to Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley. The crops need the rain.

www.urgevitamins.com

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Telegraph quote of the week

The war in Iraq was based on a lie - and policing Basra is an illusion (Boris Johnson)

You don't have to be a genius, like Boris, to figure that out.

PM cusses Wales

The guilt about Wales

"The gap between Tony Blair's appearance and the reality, between all that squeaky-clean preachiness and the shoddy, self-serving reality of his quicksand mind, is now a well-established feature of British politics." (Guardian)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Mam's fish bar

diamond geezer

"Her warm and genuine smile beamed out from beneath a shock of red wiry hair, swept back and piled high on top of her head."

Franchised restaurants are boring monocultural morgues.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Cross-network Hurricane Katrina benefit concert tonight

Stars pitch in for Katrina benefits (CNN)

"Among the latest musicians announced for 'Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast' are Sheryl Crow, the Dixie Chicks, Randy Newman, Neil Young, Rod Stewart, Alicia Keys and Paul Simon."

"Shelter From the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast" is a live, one-hour, commercial-free telethon to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It will air at 8 PM Eastern time on Friday, September 9 on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, The WB, UPN, and a number of other television stations around the world.

Thanks to Cheryl of Border Crossing for this.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Registering for school, displaced by the deluge

The Smell of Cypress: Schooldays

"Each family came through the center that had been set up for registration and filled out the necessary paperwork then went to the tables to choose three uniforms, searching for the right sizes, looking for empty rooms to try them on."

A teacher on school registration day meets hundreds of displaced people, with stories of when the water rose, of children rescued from the flood, babies drowned and an alligator taking an elderly man.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Amuigh faoin despair

Irish coral reefs bulldozed by deep-sea trawlers

"Deep-sea fishing trawlers are bulldozing 4,500 year-old cold water coral reefs off western Ireland, a British marine biologist said on Monday." (Reuters)

Sunday, September 04, 2005

American Red Cross

Donate to Hurricane Relief 2005

Who wouldn't be angry?

Letters

RE: Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem

If non-Arab, non-Muslim people are angry reading these reports, what on earth must the victims feel? It's no wonder sympathisers all over the world plot the most heinous revenge. The actual Palestinians are still under the heel, why should the world not support them? Where is the International Brigade of our time? You know the answer. Yes, it's not judicious to say these things, because our masters have in mind to shut us up. Why don't they instead police Israel, and make it get inside its borders and stay there? This has gone on for far too long, the impunity, avarice, Anti-Arab racism. How is it that Israel can train 200 nuclear weapons on its neighbours with impunity? The stupidest part of it all is that it's comletely self-destructive. It only gives justification to some idiot to blow them up with another one. Why are the generality of politicians and power-grubbers so asinine, venial and short-sighted? Rage is everywhere. The forums of the world are aflame with rage and violent rancour. It's because of the lazy, dimwitted, self-serving hypocrites who rule this world. They ruin everything.

Furious, Willesden

Saturday, September 03, 2005

"It's another world" - American diary - #2

Bears scream like women

Kelly Peck

I was staying at a fishing lodge in the mountains. Just below in an oak grove was a confluence of five streams. Native Americans considered that a sacred space.

A mystic had built the lodge of native stone and hand-hewn beams. He built the flue as he'd been taught, and never had smoke inside. Legends told of visions that he and others had had there.

My favorite canyon I called Indian Creek. I took a roundabout way to the headwaters, so no one knew my secret spot. I picked herbs and steeped them in the waters to make sun beer. It was not alcoholic, nor did it contain anything that would get you high. Other than the water itself. The water was alive, at the spring. Farther down, the life went out of it. I lived for three days on that sun beer, hiking in the mountains.

The fire was low. We heard him coming down the canyon. No one was brave enough to go out and look. That bear screamed like a woman for 20 minutes, while our conversations died. We looked at each other, some in terror, some in wonder. He continued down canyon. No one went outside until the sun was above the trees.

Kelly Peck is "chief pimp poet and bottle-filler" of Urge Vitamins*.

*Is that a rock band? Ed

Friday, September 02, 2005

Earth calling, Earth calling. Is there anybody out there?

A Poem for Space

I'm voting for A Martian Sends A Postcard Home by Craig Raine.

Ossian

Can you spot the difference?

Turn up your brightness

This has Red stumped.* (Feargal)

*Statistically improbable phrase

Telegraph quote of the week - No. 4

In its recent final exams more than 105 per cent of entrants achieved honours degrees mostly in such subjects as skateboarding studies and Belgian pastry studies. (Peter Simple)

Malignant critics have suggested that there is something "phoney" about these striking results. To them the vice-chancellor, Dr Harry Goth-Jones, replies: "On the contrary, it is the result of hard work all round and devotion to the ideals of democratic education. Next year, if all goes well, as it will, we expect to reach 120 per cent."

Peter Simple just pipped Kenneth Clarke at the post. Otherwise Telegraph quote of the week would have been "We have been chasing votes up the age ladder, down the socio-economic scale and into the South-east of England."

Monday, August 29, 2005

The writer's writer

Interview with John McGahern



"But judgment has no place in the writer's trade. I think an ounce of sympathy is worth a ton of judgments."



One of several excellent quotes in the interview, including this:



'No matter what happens to you, no matter how depressing the material, if it becomes depressing to write, or indeed, to read, it's no good. I firmly believe that unless the thing is understood it's useless, and that the understanding of it is a kind of joy. It's liberating.'



There is also a generous excerpt from McGahern's new book, Memoir.

Ossian

Friday, August 26, 2005

"Publishing too open to unknown writers"

Everyone does not have a novel inside them* (Tim Clare)

"There is an auld axiom beloved of burnt-out English teachers, glamour-impoverished fantasists and a million other drudges seeking to transcend their lives of quiet desperation: everyone has a novel inside them."

Is that "beloved" with two syllables or three, sire? Tim Clare sounds like he has a novel inside inside him, right enough. How it got there is another kind of mystery.

*Note the Grauniad's classic caption "Think the wrold [sic] should hear your story?"

Ossian

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Bar terrorist fellow-traveller from re-entering country

Letters

Cavorting in Barbados, the cheer-leader and accessory to the atrocious US invasion of Iraq, apologist for the massacre of Fallujah, instigator of the deaths of UK troops and civilians. He does suffer, y'know. He really does. Pangs. But y'know - Splash! Race you to the beach! Mr Tony "Y'know" Blair. While we scrimp and save and can't afford holidays, up to our eyes in debt just to pay the Inland Revenue, to fund illegal wars, and pay for Caribbean holidays for those quislings and traitors, and y'know it's a laugh, isn't it. They're having a laugh, those horses' arses.

A Taxpayer

On this day in...*

2003, Sunday August 24th.

the sky over roundwood park, by ossian

"It was a very good summer."

Mrs Haverty's uncharacteristic outburst is perhaps best forgotten, but it was a busy news day with all of the following stories breaking: Image of Yogi Bear discovered on Mars; The problem of speeding on Chamberlayne Road; and the rather sinister Dog man walking. There are some comments in the old format "Comments (2003-2004)".

*Brilliant new feature. We need never be short of copy again. Excellent wheeze. Ed

Principles of a Story by Raymond Carver

www.theshortstory.org.uk



There's a link to an Acrobat (pdf) file containing Carver's essay reprinted in the forthcoming issue of Prospect magazine. It's all light and reason. Someone here may be horrified to read his statement, "But extremely clever chichi writing, [my emphasis there] or just plain tomfoolery writing, puts me to sleep." (At least he didn't say Chi Chi writing.)

Ossian

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

World's richest short story prize announced

Guardian feature



"Alex Linklater, deputy editor of Prospect magazine, spoke out today in support of the short story. 'The novel is a capacious old whore: everyone has a go at her, but she rarely emits so much as a groan for their efforts,' he said. 'The short story, on the other hand, is a nimble goddess: she selects her suitors fastidiously and sings like a dove when they succeed. The British literary bordello is heaving with flabby novels; it's time to give back some love to the story.'"



National Short Story prize website

Ossian

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Telegraph quote of the week*

"The woman who keeps doves needs a heart of stone."

The vet's time was wasted and a dove put through hell, all because I lacked the resolution to kill a thing I loved.

Ms Greer** is wonderful on domestic animals. [Is that politically correct? Ed] If only she'd been a man, there would've been no problem because "All men kill the thing they love" (Oscar Wilde, "Quote of the Week", every week from 1864 to 1900).

*Yes, might as well rename this feature "Telegraph quote of the week" because they keep winning. Funniest stand-up routines in town.

**Planning to have GiGi as the centrefold for the first WH Sunday Supplement magazine. We'll get that picture somewhere; ah yes, it's on Google Images. Get your own link, you filthy perverts. Ed

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Titanic 2 - Poorboy to rebuild legendary ship

Dynamic entrepeneur Muzzy Poorboy Pirbhai is said to be in negotiations to rebuild the legendary Titanic as the most modern, powerful and safe ocean liner ever. He denies saying, "Even Allah could not sink it." A film of the project is already in the works, to be directed by Michael Winner, famous director of the Death Wish series of films. Winner is quoted as joking, "Don't worry dear, it's only an iceberg." It's thought that a large amount of government money is being sought. Unfortunately John De Lorean is not available for comment, as he died earlier this year. [Late edition. Ed]

Friday, August 19, 2005

Clare Short better get a food-taster

Mo Mowlam dies (Guardian)

Sky News has quite a touching photo gallery in their tribute. She had a homely, friendly presence like an aunt to everyone. So soon after Robin Cook, another prominent speaker against the war.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Golden Willy Awards 2004-5

Results

The Willesden Rotary Mower Club announces that there will be no statuettes this year, due to a world shortage of gold paint. All of the nominees are therefore declared joint winners of the Golden Willies for:

Overall Winner
Diamond Geezer, whiskey river, Lenin's Tomb, Moorish Girl

Best Journal
Implosion of Mediocre Brilliance, Sashinka, The Eejit

Best Online Magazine
writeThis.com, deaddrunkdublin, Big Bridge

Best Newcomer
The Smell of Cypress, sean?

Best Commentary
Lenin's Tomb, Karmalised, Emerald Bile

Best Photo Blog
Frizzy Logic, London and the North

So Bad it's not Good
The obLiterati, The Framley Examiner

The rules state that the winners are entitled to display the Golden Willy 2005 logo. Unfortunately, due to a world shortage of graphic designers, it has not been possible to produce the logo this year, again.

The Committee is pleased that the Willies continue to go from strength. There follows a short statement by our patron Lord Donor, Boy Pirbhai.


Carmencita Haverty (Hon. Sec.)
Willesden Rotary Mower Club


Statement by Patron

Congratulations are in order to all the nominees. The number of blogs was exactly the same as last year, a few new ones born, a few old ones died. And the quality was exactly the same as last year too. A fantastic improvement, a slowing of the decline in real terms. I have been able to help WRMC with complicated finances so that they have for the first time ever been able to balance their books, which considering the number of statuettes they supplied in previous years is an amazing feat. Without their recognition most bloggers would just remain sad geeks, unread, unloved and wrongheaded. But thanks to the prestidigious Golden Willies their efforts are given meaning and respect among fellow toilers in the field. In fact, it's not too much to say that these people are the modern equivalent to horny-handed sons of the soil. All power to them, they should be plugged into the National Grid as far as I'm concerned. To those who weren't nominated, you may remain unknown for another year, but on the downside you won't have your name associated with the prestidigious Golden Willy. Better luck next year!

Muzzy "Boy" Pirbhai (Lord Donor)

The bark*

Woof. Woof woof Kenneth Clarke woof. Woof and David Cameron woof. Woof woof. Woof Gordon Brown grrr. Grrr woof moneybags miso woof grrr. Woof Iraq grrrr woof woof woof. Woof Clarke woof Iraq woof woof. Grrr Davis blech grrr blech Brown grrr blech. Kennedy miaow.

*The new name for the Heraldtorial, designed by Fitzgerald Fitzsimon. Our thanks to Gerald Fitzsimon and Simon Fitzgerald for their input. It was a shame there had to be a loser in the rebranding competition as Doon McCracken's entry was also excellent. Our commiserations go out to Ben and Phil. Ed

The Willesden Herald - "still barking after all these years"

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Dig it

The horror of scratching a blackboard with fingernails, and aversion to the horrible sound of grinding a pebble must come from the fact that fingernails and teeth have no feeling. Digging in the ground for roots, aversion to the sensation of scratching stone would protect one's fingers. When biting a peach the squeak of the tooth on stone is a warning to prevent damage. If the sound meant nothing we might damage our teeth. Were it not for the aversion to scratching a stone we might damage our fingers. Even thinking about these things "sets one's teeth on edge".

<< Previous | Next >>

Laboratoire Kronk Nailcare

Hear that Nature? New Scientist? Syndication enquiries: contact P. O'Toole. Ed

Monday, August 15, 2005

Classifieds

____________________

Personal
____________________

£20 conscience money to St John Baptist De La Salle for stealing from school. St Jude pray for us.
____________________

Mature Irish lady, well-set, late of HMP Holloway, seeks male companion 40-60, gsoh, possibly another ex-offender, for outings and possible romance. Box 101
____________________

"The Secret of My Success" booklet, £1.50. Also packet of straws, good as new, 50p. Sunday newspapers, 1970 - present (various), 10p each £15 the lot. Box 102
____________________

Holidays
____________________

Jet away to sunny Tel Al Djoupe, the new Balearics. Tel Al Djoupe Tourist Board.
____________________

There must be 50 ways to love your loser


The Willesden Herald - still barking, after all these years

What?

Things happening in that other dimension or those other dimensions probably impinge on our universe. All sorts of wild imaginings come to mind, but any other world would make no more sense than our own, and no less. Our universe as the snow globe in Citizen Kane. What the hell is this? Never mind why, when, where, just what? What? What is this? Big bang! Gets us nowhere. What what what. Rocks. What are rocks? Iron. What is iron? Atoms. What are atoms? Bits of atoms. What are bits of atoms? Energy. What is energy? Something. What is that something? Something else. What is that something else? Nobody knows. We don't know what we are, or what our world is.

Nothing one can propose can be built on anything but sand. At the end of every proposed explanation is another question: what is it made of? As T. S. Eliot said (in The Rock?) all of our knowledge only brings us closer to our ignorance. How can I think and write and listen to sweet Paul Simon melodies and wear out my creaking knuckles and program computers and live and die in ignorance and everyone we know all disappear and stupid mad animals massacre people and disease boil us alive, dismantle and eat us, and still Paul Simon is singing so sweetly, and all the gods fight it out in a temple amongst themselves, and...

Ossian

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Poems by Mairéad Byrne

Because of the typography, the following poems have to be seen to be appreciated.
Trapped begins "house is trashed. near the ruined market". Baghdad has an epigraph from the Iraqi information minister (Comical Ali, I believe they used to call him.) It begins "if I leave Baghdad early towards Baghdad will never reach Baghdad".

Ossian

State of the universe

Following from previous speculations (below). Observation leads to description which is the attribution of properties to entities. Entities have properties whose state only they themselves "know" authoritatively, e.g. alive. Albeit consisting of mutually ignorant entities, the universe nevertheless is the set of all properties of all entities according to their owners.

Nothing and nobody inside the universe can have an overview, which might require an additional dimension or additional dimensions. Seen from a world with an additional dimension, our universe becomes an observable object, like the snow globe in Citizen Kane maybe. To us the extra dimension is a physical barrier, absolute and unvarying to all within our universe because not observed by any, like the barrier of the third dimension to a 2-D line drawing.

Ossian

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Google plans to ignore copyright

New York Times

'That is really turning it on its head,' Ms. Schroeder said. 'How is an author even supposed to know that his or her work is being copied?'

How can Google say that publishers have to opt out? It's preposterous, Google must be made to ask for permission before copying and effectively re-publishing.

Ossian

"If I want your opinion I'll give it to you," said the dying man to the doctor

How can we know the dancer from the dance? (W. B. Yeats)

Thinking about those imaginary people who go off on rockets at nearly the speed of light, and come back after only a year in their own lives to find that thousands of years have elapsed here on Earth...

It is people's own version of events that is authoritative for matters concerning themselves, most dramatically whether they are alive or dead. How somebody else perceives the timing of one's being alive or dead may be interesting and strange, but it is irrelevant to oneself as the owner of the attribute "alive".

From various vantage points, other people may think that one dies at different times, some seeing one drop down dead later than others see the same thing. Nobody may see it sooner than it actually happens, I hope it's safe to assume. If the soonest to know is oneself (not that one can really know, being dead), can we say that the time when it occurs is the only possible time for the owner of the attribute, and always earlier than all other observations?

So even though different observers can't agree on the timing, there is a time in all of their pasts after they have seen it, which corresponds to the time in the dying person's present. The event in the owner's realm, in this case the owner's death, is a fixed mark around which the observers are arranged and correlated. There is one absolute version that is authoritative, the owner's version, and it determines the observers' experiences absolutely.

All versions are not equal, since the secondary ones held by the observers are variously inaccurate, but the owner's version is absolute and it precedes and controls the others. The mistake is to say that all versions are equally valid. You could say that you don't really care about the attributes of an event according to the owner of the attributes until they impinge on you, however it is the case that you are at the mercy of those incoming attributes as they were established before they reached you. Your fate was sealed in the realm of the owner, in that sense.

Therefore it is necessary to get rid of the idea that one can see anything happening, all that can be seen is a trace after something has happened. In effect we don't see anything, we only see images and traces of things. That is what seeing is, it's an immanent property of the observer, arising in response to events that have already occurred earlier. As to what things are, we can't say, all we know are the effects they produce.

Even though we have the fascinating mystery of living in a haze of relativism, where none can see any other accurately, and "outside" things are not the same for any two people or for any two entities, we still have absolutes within us about which we know with authority. We know we're alive as long as we're alive, and we know what we think and feel, absolutely unmoderated by anybody else's version. Our subjective experience is ours alone. Outside people and entities also know about the attributes they own. Communication bridges the uncertainty, it is transmission and reception, across the quagmire of timespace, with noise and delays on the line. Over.

Ossian

Friday, August 12, 2005

Whose trumpet is it anyway?



Announcing the Anti Bridget Jones in a new serial:
Carmencita Haverty Part I: "Time Out"

Me probation officer talked me into it, putting an advert in Time Out. I was lonely, and I thought what harm is there in it, and I thought I might as well be above board about things, for once in me life, you get nowhere by sitting in your homeless B&B room watching I'm a Gobshite, Let me Out of Here, and eating batch loaf by the handful.

Quote of the week - 2 not out for Boris

"You're a snob," he insisted, "and you want to hit me."

On the contrary, I said, I had no desire whatever to hit him. "Yes, you do," he said, coming closer. "I can tell by the way you flexed your shoulder muscles. You're getting all psyched up."

I said that any shoulder-flexing had been entirely involuntary, and that, even if I had flexed my shoulders, it did not mean that I wanted to hit him. He thought about this a bit, and then said that perhaps it would be easier all round if he hit me'
(Boris Johnson)

He goes on to describe street scenes worthy of Hieronymus Bosch with pasty-faced, bottom-dwelling creatures looming out of the gloom, shouting incomprehensible oaths and invitations. BJ's Wodehousian verbal googlies diverted stupid cupid's dart mid-flight from this:

"It is, quite frankly, a scandal that we have failed to come up with a solution to the problem of the sliding slice of tomato."

"Research has shown that an important part of sandwich satisfaction lies in opening it up and peering at the filling before eating it. This is why I am urging RHM, the creators of the crustless loaf, to take up my idea of the edible hinge." (Oliver Pritchett)

OP's learned article is in the tradition of the redoubtable Myles naGopaleen, who invented trains with tracks on top to allow overtaking, and pop-up theatre seats to deliver latecomers direct to their places.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Great new US diary - "It's another world"

No. 1: Pet concerns

with Tamara Imes*

Went to the vet twice today for my cat who got his ass kicked by another cat. He had a gaping wound the size of a silver dollar plus a quarter from where his tail hits his ass to just above the middle of his back left leg.

The vet had to shave him and suture it. When I picked him up they had to give him a shot to bring him out of anesthesia. Then they gave him a shot for pain (fucked him up - got him even more high). Then they gave him his immunizations - three shots. Then they put a halo thingy-ma-jig around his head to keep him from chewing on it. Then they hand him to me (I didn't have a carrier for him because the lady who pawned him off on me didn't give me one). That is another story in itself.

So I take him, as he is moaning and howling, out to my Jeep and have (my son) open my door for me because I have my purse, the cat which's bleeding all over me still because they left the very back part open a bit to drain - OY VEY, and my keys. I put the cat in the car and the first thing he tries to do is stand up to the window. He goes to do that and is so fucked up from all the anesthesia and pain medicine that he falls over like a board sideways - halo and all. He didn't just land on the seat - no. He fell, flipping over onto his head since he went straight over, onto the floor of my Jeep. The halo acted as a stand for him for a second because he got stuck face down for about a half second until his hind end flipped over and hit the floor then he had to move his head from side to side to unstick it.

It is comical to think back on, but it was so sad and upsetting at the time. I was so stressed out when it was happening because he was moaning and crying and bleeding all over my leather seats and the poor thing was a fucked up wreck. I was petting him trying to comfort him and he wouldn't calm down because of the trauma he'd just gone through. Meanwhile it's rush hour traffic and I have to pull out onto one of the busiest streets in the valley - Redwood Road.

Anyway... Took an Ativan when I got home. I was a nervous wreck. My son screaming in the back seat because he was afraid the cat was going to get blood on him. Little putz boy. I love him to death - but he's a putz sometimes. Hahaha. Hey, I can say that. He's mine. Don't anyone else call him that though... Ay Dios. What's the world coming to when a little boy is afraid of getting some blood on him? It's only a little cat blood - c'mon! What's he going to do when he goes fishing and has to break a worm in half and put it on the hook? Oh my hell. Whatever. My baby boy. At least I don't have to worry about an animal killer on my watch. Ha! I will toot my horn to that. Thank you Jesus for not giving me a freakin' animal killer.

*Tamara Imes is the author of The Storm Before the Calm, and the Willesden Herald's answer to Erma Bombeck. Ed

Free competition - win Omar Bakri's Ford Galaxy

Deportation not fair - Oh pity me!

"[Omar Bakri] has said homosexuals should be 'thrown from Big Ben'."

The Willy in conjunction with the Daily Male is offering this great prize, of a hardly-used Ford Galaxy (owner emigrating) to the reader who throws the most homosexuals off Big Ben. 2nd Prize - an exotic two-week holiday in Beirut with the gay, chubby-cheeked sheikh. 3rd prize - an exotic one month holiday in Beirut with the gay, chubby-cheeked sheikh*.

Big Ben

*I can predict Taxpayer's letter now. "How come this guy can afford a Ford Galaxy, and a one-month holiday on benefit, when I have to hock my soul to pay tax, and haven't had a holiday since 1987? And he thinks it's an excellent idea to bomb me on my way to work." Taxpayer might even say, "Let the old ratbag see how he fares on the baksheesh of his countrymen." Ed

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Your top 10 names for the tenth planet

New Scientist Breaking News

Mavis?

Ironwork restoration

Thank you for your email regarding ironwork restoration which has been passed to me for reply.

Westminster City Council is already running a project with English Heritage linked to their "Campaign for London Squares" and using money from the Social and Community Fund from the Paddington Regeneration (ie. money from the developers). £250,000 has been allocated towards improving railings and boundary treatment to squares in the Paddington area. The first project approved is for Cleveland Square with one third funding from each of English Heritage, the City Council and the residents. Work is also ongoing looking at Talbot Square and Sussex Gardens.

The Heritage Lottery Fund's Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) would not be applicable to garden squares which would fall under their Public Parks Initiative. However, you are quite right to say that railings and boundary treatment improvements in the Queens Park Area would fall within the remit of the THI. However, a successful application would require at least 25% of
the funding to come from other sources and there would be a considerable staff input from the City Council to run such a project. At present, there is no likelihood of the staff or finance being available from the City Council to pursue such an initiative. That is not to say, however, that residents could not submit such a proposal for Heritage Lottery Funding, but they would need to address the same issues of resources and funding.

I hope this reply is not too disappointing, but you can see that the City Council is already pursuing a project in the Paddington area which is achieving real improvement to ironwork and boundary treatment. The important difference though is that this work is being funded by developer's money rather than by the City Council who have limited finances and many competing demands.

David Clegg
Head of Design and Conservation (North)

Immuring the native

The Segregation Wall: Rantis village, a case study

Establishment hacks, put your fingers in your ears, shake your head and go "Na na na na we're not listening.' That's what you usually do.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Hill of Springs Herald here

Our Lady of Willesden

"According, to legend. Our Lady has for centuries graced this ancient 'hill of springs' (Willesden from the Anglo-Saxon Wiell-dun) with not only her presence but a holy well, which has been deemed to possess miraculous properties. The origins of a holy well date back before the 939 A.D. Charter of King Athelstan granting the ten manors of Neasden cum Willesden to the Apostle St. Paul's own monastery in the City of London. The first mention of the now famous statues of Our Lady in Willesden was the Visitation in 1249."

Mrs Haverty is already planning package tours, and all thanks to the intercession of St Google.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Hiroshima, the 60th anniversary

Geoffrey Wheatcroft | Guardian opinion

"This atrocious action places 'us', the defenders of civilisation, on a moral level with 'them', the beasts of Maidanek. And 'we', the American people, are just as much and as little responsible for this horror as 'they', the German people." (Dwight Macdonald)

I think the very people who tell us not to talk about the reasons for the recent London bombings, saying with emphasis that "nothing, nothing can ever justify attacks on innocent civilians" are probably the same people who support the US nuclear atrocities. For the past world, they despoiled it in common with their vicious enemies, for the future world the precedent they set is the seed of our destruction.

There was a beautiful story on the radio today, on Radio 2's Jeremy Vine show, about an old survivor from Hiroshima, who told an author recently a story he had never told anyone before. The night before the bomb he was courting his beautiful girlfriend, and both their families opposed their relationship, but for the first time they stole away and lay down on the grass beneath the stars. They never kissed, all they did was to hold hands for several hours, and that was the happiest time of his life. He searched the ruins for her for days, never found her.

Francis MacManus short story competition

RTÉ radio

"Over the past twenty years The Francis Mac Manus Awards have resulted in the broadcast of over 500 original stories from new and emerging writers and encouraged many now celebrated Irish writers who went on to win success and acclaim in Ireland and abroad."

The closing date for entries is Friday 7th October 2005. Click here for rules. Click here for entry form. Click here to listen to the latest series.

Only Irish people or residents of Ireland can enter.

Ossian

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Quote of the week - Boris Johnson

The British dream: we must all speak the same language

"We've all got to be as British as Carry On films and scotch eggs and falling over on the beach while trying to change into your swimming trunks with a towel on."

Update (12/8/05)

Okay, the rest of the article is not so jolly. Lenin's Tomb finds it full of sugar-coated menace.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

London - the E.N.V. of the world

National Geographic

"A sleek, almost silent, nonpolluting fuel cell-powered motorcycle is set to begin gliding down U.S. streets by the end of 2006."

They even give you a way to make your own hydrogen for it, with almost no pollution.

Niger crisis appeal

Disasters Emergency Committee

Over-nourished? Don't know how to spend all your money? We can help.

Imagine my horror

Science Made Stupid

My life's work has been in vain. Why, those diagrams are qvite laughable.

Kronk

Monsanto pigs

MoorishGirl: Are Animals Patentable?

From the company that brought you Agent Orange and Terminator Seeds.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Stop cruelty and executions*

Letters

Bears in small cages for extraction of bile. Who are you fooling with your gifts of pandas, and your superstitious medicines? Only yourselves.

Executions of pathetic men and women, like helpless dogs. Sheer inhumanity and unconcern.

Your people bound in slavery and ignorance by complacent, golfing old tyrants, traitors to Socialism.

Little or no social welfare benefits, lazy and feeble compared to efforts by Social Democratic countries such as England and Sweden and many others.

Beijing Olympics? What a load of arrant hypocrisy!

Get up off your knees, Chinese people, don't let the benighted tyrants make you live and die in ignorance and servitude.

Bai Juyi, London

*An open letter to the editor of China Internet Information Centre

What is seen and what is

Can an entity have properties of its own, known only to itself, were it capable of knowing, and so absolute not relative? Isn't the falling item, whether observed from a train or from an embankment, only what it is itself, and not the varying impressions that observers receive?

We only know what we can observe ("seeing is believing") but that is a problem not an advantage. Otherwise why say "only"? Our impressions are always to some extent out-of-step with underlying reality.

The inner properties of something may be held in a fixed frame of reference which is the containing item itself. Equally the frame of reference that is authoritative for effects on an entity, is its own frame of reference, what it encounters from its vantage point. That we cannot see things that way is merely our problem.

Two entities may collide and the fact that various others cannot see the collision at the same times is their problem. It's no consolation to the items which collide and are destroyed. When did it happen? When the entities collided. Never mind where we were. We had a distorted view of each entity, and we will receive a distorted view of when they collided, but the entities are not in any doubt themselves. When did it happen? Ask the collision. When did we see it? At different times.

Things have conditions and properties which we try and ultimately are not able precisely to discover. Does the theory of relativity confuse what is observed with what is at the point that owns the attribute, where the attribute is a condition of the entity and not a condition of its image? Images are distorted, but attributes that underly them are authoritative. Relying on images, we cannot see in a precise or timely way, that which the items in question "experience" or bear as attributes of themselves.

So turning to that intangible and much denied concept, the soul, and thereby losing the goodwill of any readers who've got this far, maybe it is the sum of one's absolute attributes, known not to oneself even but to itself, invisible and inexpressible except imperfectly, about which one can only wonder.

Ossian

Monday, August 01, 2005

BBC - Radio 4 - Afternoon Reading

Curly Tales

A new short story every day this week, read by the author, including writers who are new to radio. You can listen to any of the week's five stories online, where they are listed for a week. The Afternoon Reading is on daily every week, sometimes featuring abridged longer pieces. If you're quick you can still catch last week's pieces (except last Monday's) which were called "Americana", readings by contemporary U.S. authors.

Ossian

I'll quit Commons, Blair tells family and friends

Guardian Online

Here's your hat, what's your hurry?

Square one*

There are now so many books it's as if there were no books. And so much of every medium it's as if there were no media. If everything is told then we're back to square one, with as much to make sense of as we started with and no distillation, no reduction, no summary, the "raised voice" of the poet inaudible in the racket, the vision of the painter indecipherable in the welter, and as for music, forget it.

But it's a fallacy, because there's a new world for every individual, every day, untold, undepicted, unlived, unknown, and other things starting with "un". Yes, you got it, the old world is gone with the wind.

*On browsing www.granta.com

Ossian

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Language as understanding

You could argue that while we have no language to describe, we have no understanding. When people say they can't understand the motivation of the suicide bombers in London, at the same time they are saying that they have no language to describe it. I thought when Police Commissioner Blair said they behaved like a cult, a death cult, that was it - he had classified them for us. It's a way of understanding Al Qaeda, a religious cult with a typical charismatic leader, and a typical tropism to suicide of the members.

I'm only referring here to the indoctrination of the cult members, their organisation and behaviour. The politics underlying the formation of the cult are more complex and are well-known. A lot of people agree on some of the politics, and are angry about the injustices, but very few are minded as a result to kill themselves and massacre the general public.

Equally when people talked about a clash of cultures or clash of civilisations, we were at a loss to know how to answer. Was it something observed, which simply had to be accepted? We hadn't the language to respond. That is why it seems helpful to me that the Spanish prime minister should call for an alliance of civilisations to combat terrorism. Even if it's embraced by the most guilty, as a sort of cop-out, I think it's a useful idea, a useful phrase, a worthwhile aim. It sounds very simple now, but until the language was adduced it was as if we were to some extent in a state of suspense and danger, a question was left hanging.

When the Spanish prime minister contemplated the problem, perhaps his thoughts constituted a search for the words, and his words are a gift to us, a gift of understanding conveyed in words. Not new words, but a classification of something unclassified, with a rightness, a sort of solution to a puzzle. The quest for understanding of something being a puzzle, and the words of explanation being the solution. It might be a solution instinctively known, and embodied in the behaviour of "right-thinking" people, but until the words were formulated there was a hunger, a need, an uncertainty. From uncertainty, fear and anger and then violence are born.

What is the sense of rightness, of solution that I feel on hearing these words? One person's solution may ring true to some people, but false to others. For me I think it's the extent to which the solutions, the new words, give hope and reassurance, and also propose a goal or direction to pursue that leads towards peace and security, away from war and the threat of destruction.

Ossian