Monday, 25 April 2011

Weekly Wordzzle

Hmm, it's been a few weeks since I did this last.  Pesky work!

Anyway, Raven's Nest is the place to find the challenge-words for next week and other players for this.  The challenge words are in bold in the pieces below.

Here's a mini I did a couple of weeks ago, but never got to publish until now.

Wine is a mocker and strong drink is raging. Well they got that right, thought Angus, as he inspected his morning-after face in the mirror. Beneath a cropped brush of bright red hair, a single bloodshot blue eye stared back at him. The other - a huge shiner of a black eye - was too swollen to open. He only dimly remembered the events of the night before, could not recall the faces of the participants in the fight (there must have been one, Angus was covered in cuts and bruises). For the life of him, he could not remember what it had been about. He caught sight of something sticking out from under the bed and stooped to haul it out into the light. His beloved clarinet! Tears sprang to his eyes as he cradled the poor broken thing in his arms. As he gently caressed the twisted keys, the splintered wood, he remembered. It had started with a few taunts, a little pushing and shoving and had escalated into a full-on pub-brawl, which had ended in the awful, awful sound of breaking wood.  He was a clarinetist, for goodness' sake! What on earth had possessed him to walk alone into a saxophonists' pub?

This week's mini
I like to think of myself as a fairly pragmatic person: I don't 'do' feng shui, crystals and potpourri or any of that new age mumbo-jumbo, but when life busts a hobnailed boot through the tambourine of your hopes and ambitions, there's nothing like the serenity of a Japanese rock garden.  There, you can sit in the middle of the simplicity, allowing your mind to play over the abstract flow of sand and rock.  These shapes are not representative of anything, but they hint at some hidden message.  You may ponder this and forget, for a while, all your shattered dreams.
This week's 10-worder.

New to Harold? Catch up here.

Moon stopped his car at the entrance to a non-descript campus on an equally unimpressive business park. A uniformed guard emerged from the little hut next to the security barrier, clip board in hand, and motioned for Moon to lower his window.

Moon turned off his car stereo, cutting off the sound of Mitch Carpenter, lead singer of Chip off the Old Block, going on about how his heart felt like it had a great big Charley Horse now all his happiness had fled because of old ladies' gossip or some such twaddle - at least that's what it had sounded like. That was one CD that was definitely going back to its lender without being copied!

He gave his name and showed his id to the guard and was waved through quickly enough.

Now that he was actually here, he could feel the excitement building inside him. The phone call last evening had been most intriguing. If the project had actually come up with some real results, he wouldn't be the only one with cause for gratitude. The implications were staggering,

Haines was waiting for him in the spartan little reception area. Moon signed in and the two men walked wordlessly to the laboratory where the demonstration was to take place.

As they entered the lab, Dr Flowers stood up behind her desk and greeted Moon warmly.

"Welcome, would you like some coffee or something before we get started?"

"No thanks, I had one just before setting out," Moon gazed around the room in bemused interest. There was a definite Heath-Robinson look to a lot of the equipment - a sort of mix and match approach, connecting all kinds of disparate bits of electrical and electronic components had been adopted, by the looks of it.

Flowers saw Moon looking.

"At this early stage, we're still trying to figure things out." she said, "Obviously, once we've refined our techniques, we can build something a little less messy-looking. Shall we start? If you take a seat here, you'll get a good view."

Haines sat down on a stool next to a large, blocky piece of equipment, encrusted with lights and dials and with numerous wires coming out of it. He then proceeded to pull onto his head what looked for all the world like a swimming cap. The cap was covered with round metal clips.

Flowers moved in and began to connect the wires from the equipment to the clips on Haines's swimming cap. When they were all connected, she flipped switches and the large box hummed to life.

"All set?" she asked.

Haines nodded.

Flowers picked up a telephone that lay next to the blinky-lights box.

"Pilkington? Switch on number three, if you please."

She replaced the handset and moved to where a lumpy shape lay under green surgical cloths on the bench.

She twitched these aside and Moon was surprised to see the body of a small monkey lying underneath.

Noticing Moon's startled reaction, Flowers smiled. "Don't worry," she said, "it's not dead, just anaesthetised." She lifted another cloth to reveal a surgical tray and instruments. Quickly donning some rubber gloves, she swabbed an area on the monkey's arm with antiseptic. It looked to Moon like a patch had been shaved in the monkey's fur. Flowers then took a scalpel from the tray and with deft precision, made a two-inch cut in the monkey's skin. Immediately, blood flowed out onto the green sheets. Flowers stepped aside and motioned to Haines, who stepped up to where Flowers had stood.

"Watch closely," said Flowers, and Moon leaned in, transfixed.

Haines reached over to where the little monkey lay and touched its arm, Moon wasn't sure, but he thought he saw the most miniscule flash or spark of blue run from Haines's finger to the animal. Haines then stepped back, a strangely euphoric look on his face.. With the blood covering the area, Moon could not see that anything had changed. He looked at Flowers with a quizzical expression. She grinned, stepped forward and swabbed the blood away.

"Amazing!" breathed Moon.

There was no sign whatsoever of the cut Flowers had just made.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

A New Home in the Sky - Under African Skies

As I gaze out of the seventh floor window here at Throwback Towers, I can see herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the vast plains of Sainsbury's car park.

The boss comes in, he's covered in scratches and his clothes in tatters.  

"What happened to you," I ask.

"Bloody lions," he grumbles, "it's about time the council did something, the Municipal park pride are getting bolder by the day. They nearly had me today!"

"Well you will insist on cycling to work through their territory." I tell him.

"But it's green to cycle!" he protests.  Very big on green is my boss.

"From where I'm standing," I quip, " it looks more like red, black and blue!"  He is not impressed, so I put the kettle on to cheer him up.

"Anyway," he continues, "the ring road was chock-a-block: some pillock knocked over a zebra at junction six."

"Yeah, I heard it on the news.  Mind you, they have managed to get rid of those hippos that had moved into the ornamental lake at long last, so that's good."

We sip our tea thoughtfully, the silence only broken by the scream of angry baboons fighting over the bins at the back of MacDonald's.

None of this is true, of course.  There aren't any giraffes either, which is a pity as I quite like them.

Some local bright spark has, however, come up with the idea of re-opening a nearby pub (formerly the haunt of bikers and drug-pushers, when it wasn't being set on fire) as, wait for it, an African-themed pub.  

Now, we weren't sure what that would entail, but the advertising specifically said, and I quote: "Customers can have the full experience of Africa without the trouble of going there."

Peering through the window of the afore-mentioned pub the other day, my boss was not able to discern anything especially African about the place - no Zulu spears and shields on the wall, no witch-doctor masks, no fake zebra skins.  

There was a menu consisting of just two African-sounding dishes, and they apparently serve that most African of beverages: Guinness.

So it would seem that Africa is just like a run-down manky old pub next to the railway station in a dodgy part of a post-industrial English city.

It's a good job I was able to get my money back on those Kenyan Safari tickets then.

I wonder if anybody will open a space-themed pub, I've always fancied going to space, but it seems like a lot of bother.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The World Should Reflect the Data

Another cartoon that came out of a throwaway remark made by a colleague at work.

As some of you may know, my job is to support systems that provide management information (MI).  One of the annoying things that happens is when someone rings up and complains that the system is not showing the figures they expect.  A lot of times, this is just a case of the user not understanding what the report he/she is viewing is actually showing and is easily solved with a bit of explanation.   Sometimes, though, there is a genuine fault and we have to amend the information held in the database, which can be very tricky when lots of pieces of information are dependent upon each other. 

Sometimes, it'd just be easier to fix the world....

I tried out several ideas for this joke, like having someone fallng from a high window, having been pushed, or of having the IT chappie looking through the sights of a sniper's rifle about to shoot someone.  I tried having IT chappie running out of the room, snatching up the rifle as he went.  None of them really worked though.

In the end, I think this is more subtle and hopefully funnier (plus it was easier to draw!).

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

New Music Genre

Yes, you've heard of House Music and Garage Music.  Now meet Cardboard Box Music.

This little tune had been kicking around in my head for ages until I finally backed it into a corner and got some words down.

As it's such a simple little thing, I thought I'd try recording it on GarageBand for the iPad - a cut-down version of a program that grown-up Apple Macs have.  I think for £2.99, it's not bad.

The vocals and guitar have a very boxy sound to them because they were recorded in a room which is anythng but anechoic.  Plus, I suspect that the iPad mic, while doing a fair job, isn't intended for high quality studio recording.

The bass part and the drums were created using the virtual instruments that come with garageBand. 

Anyhoo, have a listen to as much of it as you can stand and let me know your thoughts.  One thing I think the song lacks is an instrumental section to break things up a bit.  Maybe in version 2....

My Name is Mud - Trimmed by DelusionsOfAdequacy

If you can't get the widget to play click here to go to SoundCloud and hear it there.

Don't worry, Watercats, your crown as blogland's premier musos is quite safe.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Weekly Wordzzle 149

Staying up waaaay later than I should to finish this.

Go to Raven's Nest to rules, next week's words and more players.

The Mini (origami, book review, spinster, vultures, cheese)

Clayton Olliphant IV plonked the hastily-grabbed cheese sandwich and brick-thick paperback (the subject of many a glowing book review) down on the counter and immediately began to rummage in his pockets for the right money, as the cashier –a confirmed and embittered spinster if ever there was one – grumpily rang his purchases up on the till. Above his head, a speaker crackled into life and the station announcer nasally regretted to inform passengers that the 17:42 Virgin West Coast train to London Euston would be delayed for approximately thirty minutes due to an attack of origami vultures in the Wolverhampton area. He then went on to apologise, blah, blah, blah. Clayton looked around him. His fellow travellers were looking at one another and shrugging in bemused resignation. So he had heard right. He smiled to himself: so that’s where his birds had got to.

The 10-Worder (happy endings, charitable, shapeless, magical, mushroom soup, spectator, enclosure, one hand tied behind my/your back, pregnant, pretending)

New to Harold? Cantch up here.

Seeing Harold's crestfallen look, Teatime gave an exasperated sigh.

"Well you needn't look so sorry for yourself," he scolded, "I mean, you didn't seriously believe, even for one second, that you'd be staying here when this lot's all over, did you?"

"To be honest," admitted Harold, gloomily "I hadn't actually been thinking about it at all. I got kind of caught up the excitement of trying to solve the mystery and, well, you know..." he trailed off.

"Well, I hate to break it to you, old sock," replied the little monkey, "but for you and your kind, there just aren't any happy endings, and it's no use pretending there are."

Harold stood up, picked up his plate and cutlery and carried them to the sink before opening the kitchen door.

"Now, where are you off to?" inquired Teatime.

"Just going outside into the garden for a while." replied Harold, stepping outside, "The sun will be up in a few hours and thought I'd grab a chance to enjoy the coolness."

A few stars were out, scattered randomly about the dark velvet sky like shiny crumbs dropped from some celestial table. Harold took a deep breath. The rich scent of the night garden was magical, heady and musky. A light breeze fingered the trees and plants that grew in shapeless profusion in the large enclosure of Mr Teeth's garden, causing them to whisper to one another conspiratorially.

Harold strolled across the smooth green carpet of the lawn to where he could make out a small stone seat next to a pond. Mr Teeth – or his landscaper – had designed with sensitivity: the little stone bench was simple and the pond artfully natural-looking. Harold sat down and shook his head. He liked Teatime really, and was somewhat in awe of his intelligence and general savoir-faire, but most charitable thing that could probably be said of the little fellow was that he lacked empathy at times. Scratch that, thought Harold ruefully. Teatime, my friend, you might be able to out-think me blindfolded and with one hand tied behind your back, but you're about as subtle as a pregnant rhino on a bad hormone day. He smiled at the image his train of thought had conjured up.

Overhead, a shower of meteorites appeared in the sky, blazing for a few moments against the blackness, only to disappear as suddenly as they arrived. Harold watched it. The night was really putting on a show for its lone spectator, it seemed. He would miss things like this.  Humans had so much beauty to enjoy all the time. Still, there was nothing to be done about it, so there was no use moping. He lingered in the garden, savouring the time alone, until the first rays of the sun began to apply touches of colour to everything.


"Damn vending machine's only got mushroom soup, no tomato, sorry, Doc." The voice had lost its mosquito whine and was sounding more normal as it swirled into the consciousness of the Listener. How it knew what was normal for these voices it was not sure, but it did know, which was a small anchor-point in a vast dark sea of uncertainty.

"Oh well," Came the second voice (the Flowers woman, the Listener thought). "It'll have to do. Now let's go over what we're going to be doing this afternoon, I want RolexBoy to be genuinely impressed with what we're doing here."

"Enough to keep funding us, anyway." chuckled the first voice.

"There's more than just money at stake here, Haynes," chided Flowers.

"I know, sorry, Doc."

"Anyway," continued Flowers, "We had good repeatability yesterday with the monkeys, so I thought we should show him them."

"Just the monkeys?"

"Yes, why, what are you thinking?"

"Well," said Haynes, "I was thinking we could maybe do something a little more ambitious. Maybe demonstrate on one of us."

"On an actual human?" Flowers's voice had risen somewhat and was bordering on the unattractively shrill, "Are you mad? We've only just about got a reliable result with the monkeys – and that's only been since yesterday. It's way too risky to contemplate – and certainly not in front of the paying customer, as it were. Plus, there is the small matter of ethics. No, we'll use one of the monkeys to show him."

"I wasn't thinking of doing anything life-threatening, it would of course be a volunteer and there'd be just a small – "

"Absolutely not!" Flowers was adamant.

"You're the boss." sighed Haynes.

You're the boss.



The word sent a thrill though the Listener. He had been a boss once. He had been called that by somebody.  The memory was like the thinnest gossamer strand - if the Listener tugged on it too hard, it would snap and leave nothing behind. 

Gently, oh, so gently, the Listener allowed the whisp of memory to float where it would.  Soon, it touched something and other memories began to appear one by one.  A city, music, laughter.  Light.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

The Poetry Bus - Animal Magic Special

Time to hop aboard the mighty poetical omnibus once more, ably driven by Titus, who set a prompt for us here.  We were to write about aminal(s), specifically:

1) The Dolphin
2) The Gecko
3) The Panther
4) The Bushbaby
5) The Archerfish
6) The Kingfisher
7) The Harrier
8) The Ring-tailed Lemur

Well, the word 'panther' does appear in my poem below, so it qualifies for a ticket I suppose, but whether or not it qualifies as a proper pome, I cannot say.  I am in silly mode (as usual).  This trifle is best read aloud I think.

What Shall I Be?

If I were good at panthing
Then a panther I would be.
If couging were my forte
A cougar you would see.

In black and white pyjamas,
I’d probably look a dweeb.
But it looks so neat on Zeeebras
‘cos they know how to zeeb.

A lithe and slinky Boa
If bo-ing were my bag,
Or a deadly silent Jaguar
If only I could jag.

So, I guess I’ll have to settle
For the cat no-one can beat.
For there’s one thing that I’m sure of
I do know how to cheet.

Thinking about this kind of silliness reminded me of a children's television programme from my youth.  It was called Animal Magic and was hosted by Johnny Morris, who used to do voices for the animals, as well as telling us all about them.

It's a classic!  Here's a clip where Johnny and an orang-utan wax philiosophical about hats.