There was a Private Eye cartoon,
two dim forgettable people at a party:
'It's coming back to me now. We were married once, weren't we?'
That repurposed with, 'It's coming back to me now. You were prime minister once, weren't you?'
...It is a foreign language, isn't it, all the business jargon.
I'm looking for a job at the moment and all the ads say things
like 'You will be a self-basting, bio-active individual with
futumsh, oobla and snerg, together with a funicular
grounding in PTO, GBH and PCP and a shamanistic percipience
of Money-Till interfacing' and I go 'Aaaaaargh, you run a
fucking chip-van, cunt.'
OK you find a girl and check she's the exact same age as you to the day,
and then check if race mixing is currently mandatory or forbidden as appropriation,
and she weighs twenty stone and used to be a man so that's all right
You transfer enough money to her account that you both have the same
(this is a gift without conditions, she can still change her mind and walk off and keep it
otherwise it becomes prostitution)
And you're equal in carbon credits and vax points so there's no power imbalance there
She passes the breathalyser test
You take a picture of it, first getting written permission to take her picture
You draw up a contract and sign it
You do it the number of times agreed and in the legal positions (some have been banned
because of the risk of vax-related heart attacks)
But then you forget to knock on entering the bathroom next morning so ten years later
you're denounced and castrated
Q: What does AI mean for me?
A: All creative or white-collar professions are suddenly low-status. Anatomically-based cabaret turns such as sucking your own cock or firing bananas out of your vagina are suddenly high status; also your best chance of a paying gig and careers teachers will be steering school-leavers in that direction from now on. Virulent communism will probably make a comeback, at least if it can be divorced from woke; on the other hand transgressive art and writing that computers aren't allowed to emulate will increase and even the likes of [insert names of elegant liberal fop authors] will start ending every sentence with [censored] and [censored] out of spite.
As it will be impossible to detect essays and theses written by AI all students will have to be given A's/1sts/100%, but that was already happening and there won't be any jobs for them to do anyway so it doesn't really matter. Degrees that used to be sneered at such as basket-weaving will become high status as they can't be faked, but people holding them won't be able to get jobs either as the millions of Third World immigrants who have been foresightfully imported into the west certainly include lots with more practical experience of weaving baskets, and besides some cunt will already be working on a basket-weaving robot that will supersede both. Again, your best hope of one day having some coins flung towards you is to learn to fire bananas from your cervix or arsehole at his leering geeky face as he gloatingly tours the untermensch slums while celebrating his Nobel Prize.
There's likely to be a revived interest in ESP, spiritualism and other psi phenomena as part of a last attempt to one-up computers and stake out a ground they can't compete in; also break-dancing, Twister and of course banana-firing. However belief in any kind of traditional God will decline even further, unless and until some natural disaster or Russian EMP takes out Silicon Valley. In the medium term and barring that, formerly middle-class people throwing rocks and beer-bottles at limousines and lynching and eating anyone who looks like they know how to code will become very fashionable.
Q: Will there be an upside?
A: Has anything in your lifetime got better?
Q: But will the things run amok and lay waste to all life on Earth?
A: One can but hope.
Business idea, concrete boots for banging downstairs heavily in if you think you hear a burglar
When I have more time and energy I'm going to do a thing,
mymdb or oldfartmdb or 'the premature alzheimer's movie database'
All the cast lists will be like:
The one who was in the thing with thingy
The one who was in Game of Thrones
The one who was in that one we put on Netflix and I hated it like poison and you fell asleep
Josh Thing, the famous one, looks like he ought to be Nick Nolte's son
Jesse Eisenberg or Michael Cera
One of the Ryans but not Ryan Gosling
One of the Emilies or Emilias or Emmas
(when you click on the links the filmographies for the above will all be amalgamated together)
That one who's always in things
The fit one with the pointy face
That bloke with the too-large head
(For the likes of the latter the filmographies will be quite accurate up until about 1998 and then get vague. For the likes of, say, Hammer babes like Caroline Munro they will be uncannily accurate down to what they were wearing)
(Most of the titles will be similar)
(Note to filmmakers, stop giving your films titles that are just people's names like 'Mortimer' or 'Fenella', because A it doesn't tell me what the film's about and makes it look like you don't know what the film's about so I just don't watch them, and B if I do watch them and somehow like them and want to look up who you are, by the time I get to the computer it's become like 'Mordred' or 'Susan.' And by the time I try to recommend them to anyone it's become, 'Say some names, say some names with vowels in them.')
Filthy-rich people planning to not leave their kids any money has been a phenomenon for a
couple of decades now but, like so many modern innovations, far from going away it's gone on
spreading and becoming more and more hardline and more and more eerie to a point where I
can't ignore it and must shriek before I burst.
It's suddenly considered virtuous to not look after your own?
That's Nazi. Not even in a good way. That's the dark side of Nazism.
That's the flipside of the uniforms and jolly marching songs.
'If my kids! Are inferior! Zey shall starve!'
Except as well as eugenic it's also anti-eugenic, because winner talents
sometimes skip a generation, so your kids could be thick or unfocussed but your grandkids
could be people who would have made some great contribution to the world if they didn't get
sent to a shitty school or live in a shitty neighbourhood or if they didn't not get born
because your kids wound up on the street because you wanted to virtue-signal (to Nazis).
If you're rich you will have pampered and sheltered them while you were alive to an extent that
they will not make it in the real world -without- lots of money. I got clowns on my
birthday and trips to the seaside and -I- can't cope with the real world. If you're rich and
not leaving your kids money, also start hitting them on the head with hammers and
forcing them to forage for food in a pitbull kennel to teach them what the world is like.
If you're worried about your kids ruining themselves spending your money
on drugs and Ferraris and whores, put it in a trust-fund with strings attached
and the accountants and lawyers can spend it on drugs and Ferraris and whores.
I can't imagine anything that would mess your kids up worse than the thought
that you'd rather give money to random strangers than them.
If I was ever filthy stinking rich and had kids I would leave it to them
but in the form of drugs and Ferraris and whores so they didnt piss it
away on good causes. But I would also set aside a billion or so to leave
to Bill Gates' kids and Hollywood brats and so on, on condition they pissed
on their parents' graves. No. No. No. I'd give it to them now on condition
they pissed on their parents at the breakfast table.
Cuckoos and gangsters are better parents.
Found dynasties! Found dynasties! Build vast Gormenghast castles to put them in where
they can cultivate abstruse eccentricities and plot against each other.
Christ Almighty, one is almost inured to the constant rewriting and erasure of the past but the
Radio 4 Lovecraft 'reimaginings' are something of a new low. People may listen to those things
and imagine they know what he's like. The point to Lovecraft isn't the monsters and cultists,
it's the eerie beauty of his prose. And the point to remakes isn't to 'reach a new audience'
but to hide the fact that people in the past wrote more vividly and talked more articulately and
thought more clearly than we do.
It's the narcissism and narrowness I can't stand (or is it just a presumption of these in the
target audience by the programmers, or a desire to inculcate it in them), the apparent inability to
identify with anyone who doesn't communicate as sloppily as a modern. The modern Star Treks I've
only glimpsed where they all talk in ironic snark are similar. Nothing must threaten the unending
smugness, no door must ever be opened into a world where things are different.
Of course there's another reason to keep people away from uncut HPL. Is his work racist? No.
Is it full of an equally-verboten sense of The Other? Yes, that's his whole metier. But that's
just an excuse, because they don't have that rationale with other things they trash. It's the
beauty and the clarity that's the threat, to, I increasingly think, some eldritch Lovecraftian
abomination that wants the world ugly and stupid and drained of real emotion.
This will be disgusting so don't read it. I once had a job where the room where I worked
was just the other side of a flimsy wall from a toilet. I could hear everything that went
on there. Sometimes when I heard people entering the toilet I would flee, but sometimes
I couldn't without interrupting the work at a crucial stage, or I thought I'd better not
because it would look like I was never there. To make things worse, due to lifestyle or
bowel disorder at least two of the people there were prone to, shall we say, spectacular defecations.
But I had a little cheap radio next to me, and although I usually found it distracting when I was
working, as soon as I heard someone going next door I'd turn it on to shut out their noises.
It was tuned to a station that played about 75% good, old, beautiful 'classical' classical music,
and 25% bad, horrid, discordant modern 'classical' music. For the sake of the former it was the
only station I liked, and it had been very difficult to tune into it properly; if I tuned to something
else it might take forever to find it again. So when I turned it on to drown out the noise of
shit and piss, if real pre-1950 (or late 20th century Baltic) harmonious and melodious classical
music came on, fine, I could carry on working with my ears unviolated. If the modern dreck came
on, nine times out of ten I would turn it off again, quickly, and put up with the toilet noises
in preference. I remember one occasion when I tried three times to keep the atonal-detuned
discord-and-unease modern-classical on for more than a few seconds because the bloke next door
was performing a modern symphony of his own with his lower sphincter. 'Come on,' I kept telling
myself, 'give it a chance. It -has- to be better than the sound of shit-rain splattering porcelain
and noises like someone squeezing the dregs from a plastic HP sauce bottle.' But it wasn't. It
was physically unendurable even to shut out that. The toilet noises were disgusting, the 'music'
noises were disgusting and actually painful. So, modern classical is objectively, demonstrably,
scientifically-proved more unpleasant than the sound of other people's diarrhoea. And yet I
do nothing, you do nothing, God does nothing.
The thing is, though, if I or you or God did torture a modern composer to death it would
sort of validate them. I mean, judging from their output, apprehension, unease and horror is all
they've ever felt all their lives. So you'd be burrowing up their arse with a pneumatic drill and
they'd be thinking 'I knew it! I was right! I always knew something like this was going to happen!'
Also they'd be listening to their own screams counterpointed with the drill noise and wishing they could take it all down and sell it to the Arts Council.
'Whereas I, for all my imperfections, am able to overturn dinner tables with my cock,' Carstairs said,
quietly but firmly, and with a reminiscent gleam in the eye. 'Can you say as much? Could your
much-vaunted Mr Gandhi? You are strangely silent, of a sudden.'
A definition or giveaway of being middlebrow: reading Boswell's diaries but murmuring,
'Get in there, my son,' when you see the asterisk indicating he has made love to his wife.
My name is Luca
I work on the second floor
Inspector Maigret gives me all the shitty jobs to do
And interviews all the pretty whores
I chase pimps down late at night
While he stays cosy and lights his pipe
I just don't argue
I just don't argue
I just don't argue any more
(Oh frig, it turns out it's spelled Lucas, but you know what I mean, that's how they pronounce it.)
(Who had the tweet, someone did a tweet, something like,
'French people will have names like Mark Bloggs but pronounce it Murrr Blurrr.')
Idea for thing about a serial killer who despatches his victims while sitting in the
audience of talent shows because their screams won't be noticed
Idea for other thing about aesthetically outraged maniac who takes to machine-gunning
and napalming audiences of talent shows to give them something to scream about
(Do you remember the end of Bill and Ted, the British family sitting there warmly
applauding and going 'Quite good, quite good'? What happened to that?)
Has anyone made the gag that AI is the ne plus ultra of 'train your own replacement'?
The conquest of the galaxy would have been a fitting end point to our millennia of labour and struggle to advance; or perhaps an age of plenty with Star Trek replicators and other magic technology. Making ourselves redundant just turns everything we've ever been though into a sick joke.
After I press the power button on my remote control, my TV or its set-top box
shows no sign of life for exactly long enough that it starts to come on just when I've concluded it didn't work and pressed the button again thereby turning it off again
(OK my telly's crap but I know people with state-of-the-art ones and they take longer to
warm up than 1950s ones did)
(Let alone 70s or 80s ones, remember when you'd go Clunk and a thing would come on?)
Washing machine same story as the telly, a pause before working just long enough for me to leave
the room and then go back to it because I can't hear anything happening
It is impossible to see which setting my dryer is on even in daylight without
shining a torch on the dial to see the tiny, tiny little notch that indicates where it's pointed
All the kettles I've had in the past twenty years are slower than 80s ones
OK leave out toasters, they've always been cunts, and my fridge isn't evil yet but
someone's probably working on it, maybe they've succeeded but I can't afford the evil ones
I have to pounce on my microwave a second before it finishes so as to avoid
the series of shrill self-important head-splitting beeps
Very cheap and simple radio, suspenseful pause before it comes on. Fairly good stereo, as many
buttons on the remote as one of those gadgets out of Space 1999 but no volume control. If you
pause a CD for more than a couple of minutes it turns itself off and doesn't remember where it
was up to when you turn it on again. Same with my DVD player except it sometimes remembers.
Then of course there are the modern lightbulbs that only come on after you leave the room
and only provide a ghastly sort of tomb-light for a few minutes after that
(Like all of us, even the party apparatchiks I suspect, I mostly have semi-black-market
old-fashioned ones but they're getting harder and harder and more expensive to procure.)
Oh! I almost forgot the fairly expensive printer I also can't work without a bloody torch,
because I can't see a small, dim, needlessly complicated LCD display otherwise
(And bear in mind that everyone who designed all these things will have been given a million
pounds and won awards)
Don't get me started on computers, or the internet, or online shopping,
or comparing them to how they used to be for speed and convenience twenty years ago
I don't want to say we are ruled by a demonic force that feeds on frustration and annoyance
and that this permeates into every single detail of life as deliberate policy,
but if we were it would look awfully like this
12 Years A Slav - film about a woman whose botox goes wrong
and she can't crack her face for a decade
Resolved: to start referring to the 21st Century as Century 21 in honour of Gerry Anderson
and the world that should have been; to get an Ed Straker haircut; to have a bevy of
secretaries with Oxford vowels, blue hair, and silver uniforms and drive them wild
by paying no attention to them because I'm so intent on work; to have that particularly
slinky bit of the UFO score playing in my head whenever I enter any room.
The world, the world. It's all Darwinism in action, innit?
We're destined to evolve into some remorseless dinosaur-like
killing machines. Just all go round going 'Raargh, raargh' all day
and anyone looks at you funny slice his head off with your claws
I mean that could actually happen, when genetic engineering comes in,
there's no sense choosing for your kids to be born as beautiful saintly
geniuses when the people next door are turning theirs into armoured lizards
I know a teacher who has a colleague who tells her pupils the Vikings were
essentially peace-loving and only ran amok in England because the Saxons
cruelly shunned them.
She gets the kids to make lists of ways they might have been made to feel
hurtfully excluded leading them to rape, pillage, massacre and blood-eagle
as a cry for help. I have no idea why this came to mind just now.
Fenella Snell KC rounded on the witness angrily, waving her files in the air.
'Is it seriously your contention that this alleged fraud - this apparently multi-million pound
fraud which has turned the whole City of London upside down - was perpetrated with a humble
bottle of Tippex?'
She shook her head in disbelief.
'This court has heard of my client's reputation as a financial genius - the prosecution would
have it, a diabolical, machiavellian one. And now you have the gall to stand there and expect
the jury to believe that a man of his accomplishments and standing, having decided to in effect
mount a nine-figure heist on one of the biggest banks in the world, would resort to the
expedient of painting over a number on an account sheet with liquid eraser and scrawling in
a new one in biro?' She could see the jury looking thoughtful and decided she had done
enough. She heaved a theatrical sigh. 'I have nothing further for this witness, Your Honour,'
she told the judge as she sat, in tones of weariness, scorn, and disgust.
As the prosecuting counsel got to his feet she heard a murmuring from the dock. A clerk came
over and passed her a note from the defendant.
One ear on the proceedings, she unfolded it, and was instantly so rivetted by the message
revealed that her opponent's questions became a background hum. The note read:
'I wish I was a spaceman
The fastest guy alive
I'd fly you round the universe
In Fireball XL-5.'
Schultz was grim. 'There's no way around it. We've already stalled as long as we could.
A presidential candidate has to be exhibited before the public. They have to see his face and
hear his voice. If we avoid all press conferences they'll know something's up.'
Larsen moaned and made a vehement negatory hand-gesture. 'They'd suspect something's up.
But the worst they could dream of wouldn't compare to the reality of... the thing. If we put him
out there and they see him... hear him... doing... the thing...' He moaned again. 'We have
to keep on stalling. Cancel tonight and then postpone any others for another week or so. A family
emergency.' His eyes lit up and he gripped Schultz's arm excitedly. 'We could create one! We'll
kill that son of his - even his daughter - his wife! Christ that could play - soldiering on
valiantly - after a decent interval for grieving - it would at least buy us time - '
Schultz shook his head sadly. 'I already thought of it. Don't you understand? There is no
cure for The Thing. No-one's ever heard of The Thing before. I've consulted the
greatest brain experts in the country and they were unanimous that it's unique to him and
something hitherto unknown in the history of insanity.'
Larsen boggled. 'You consulted - ??'
'Relax, they're dead now. What do you think went into that lime pit last night? But before they
passed they came up with nothing. They didn't even know what causes it.'
Riley, whom Schultz had hired to the campaign for an irrepressible optimism he wasn't sure
whether to ascribe to a drug habit or a brain defect almost comparable to the candidate's,
suddenly spoke up brightly. 'I say, let it come out. Maybe it won't be so bad. Maybe they'll
go for it. I think I could sell it! He's whimsical, see? Like your eccentric but likeable
uncle. In an age of doom and gloom, what better way to cheer people up than a character who
gets on a podium in a presidential election and...' He petered out as he thought about it a moment
and his excitement faded in the face of the stony disbelieving stares from the other two. He
narrowed his eyes and chewed on a toothpick. 'What was that thing about killing his wife again?'
Larsen said, 'There must be medication.'
'Nothing worked. Why should it? Walk into a pharmacy and ask them for a pill to stop someone
...doing That Thing. They'd medicate you.'
'We tried it. We tried it until he zapped everyone whose hand he shook. He did it twice as
often. He was singing in his sleep.' He shuddered.
'A muzzle!' Riley echoed, excited again. 'Like Hannibal Lecter, or that character out of Batman!
I like that! I could sell that! It's a shout-out to the SM community, you know? Or a warning to
America's enemies - watch out - Mad Dog - don't fuck with us - we wheel him on, chained, the
lights lowered, he growls for two minutes - '
Schultz shook his head again. 'We polled it. A significant proportion of voters in swing states
responded that they would be slightly unlikely or highly unlikely to vote for a candidate who
wore a muzzle at press conferences.'
'We could arrange another pandemic?'
'There isn't time.'
The younger men fell silent. Schultz said, 'Look, we can get through this. The media are all
behind him. Everyone here tonight has been vetted. I've seen all questions in advance and I've
thrown out all the ones that contained any of the words or topics that have triggered him so far.'
Larsen whimpered. 'But it's getting to be everything. His mind wanders and every chain
of association seems to inevitably lead him... there.'
'Trust me, I've been thorough. We have a set of safe, bland questions on safe bland subjects
a million miles away from anything mentioned in... you know what.'
'But if they go off-script?' He gripped Schultz by the lapels, on the edge of hysteria.
'It's going out live to the whole damn country!'
'That's where you come in.' He steered Larsen a few yards to the side to where a huge metal
switch like something out of a Frankenstein lab was set into the wall. 'I had this installed.
It's a cut-off. Throughout the press conference you do not move an inch from this switch.
At the first sign of him going into... The Thing, or anyone breathing a single word that might
conceivably by any twisted chain of reasoning prompt him to go into The Thing, you pull it
down, immediately. It will kill all power in here, lights, mikes, everything.'
'There'd still be his unpowered voice, and the tape recorders and some of the TV cameras will
have their own power.'
'We could work around that. Say it's a terrorist attack and everyone will have to be searched.
Or there's still some room in the lime pit.'
Riley shook his head forebodingly and crunched his toothpick in two. He appeared to be on a
down-swing. 'Let's face it, sooner or later we're sunk. The thing you've got to think of is,
what happens when the opposition finds out?'
Schultz smiled grimly but smugly. 'I've been working on the assumption they already know. They're
sure to have people inside our campaign as we have people in theirs. But that's the one thing we
don't have to worry about. No-one would ever believe them.'
Riley brightened. 'There's something to that. Maybe we can do this!'
Maybe they could do it. Those words became Schultz's mantra, running on a loop through his head
over the next two hours as the auditorium started to fill with the members of the press corps
and the candidate and his entourage arrived in their motorcade. Maybe they could do it. Maybe
they could get away with it. Maybe they could pull it off. And in the process, hissed a chilly
voice of lingering conscience, foist a candidate on the American public who had a secret
compulsion to... do That Awful Thing he was increasingly frequently compelled to do.
He suppressed that voice. He was a professional. He was a party man. He was answerable to figures
who did not take kindly to failure. For better or worse the candidate was Their Man and Their Man
must prevail. No-one must ever know. No-one must ever see. No-one must ever hear.
Maybe they could do it. Here came the candidate, walking onto the stage to tumultuous cheers from
the claque and seemly applause from the press; wouldn't do to show enthusiasm but most were in
his corner and they knew which side their bread was buttered, Schultz told himself, go off-piste
and they'd lose all access. Maybe they could do this. His heart was in his mouth but the
candidate delivered his opening remarks with aplomb, less shaky and more relaxed than he'd been
last time around, and more energetic, projecting down-home bonhomie, calm self-assurance and his
individual brand of unconventional but undeniable charisma. No fluffs or gaffes or signs of a
wandering mind, or that certain peculiar glint in the eye that signalled the onset of The Thing.
The questions began and for the first few minutes Schultz had his fists clenched so tightly
it hurt. His guts were in a similar state and his chest felt tighter. But the candidate
fielded questions on social security and social cohesion and foreign policy with ease. He
threw in a few jokes, unscripted but passable. He was on top of his game.
Loitering in an aisle towards the back of the hall Schultz suddenly found himself taking
in his first easy breath in what felt like forever; inhaling a good clean lungful of untroubled
air and letting it out again in a huge cathartic sigh. He had been right. He had been right
to risk the long-postponed press conference. He had been right not to kill the candidate and
start again with his safe but wooden running-mate.
They could do it. They had done it. They were going to get away with it.
That was when a word of four letters and two syllables tolled in his ears like a death-knell
spelling the end of all their hopes. Nasa. His heart clenched, a sphincter loosened, his lungs
stopped working. NASA. Someone had gone off-script. Someone had asked an unvetted question,
and the worst possible question in the world, one absolutely guaranteed to trigger the candidate's
bizarre and inexplicable and embarrassing syndrome. The stupid fucking cunt had asked him
his plans for NASA.
In the moment before disaster fell Schultz whipped his head round to the right.
To see Larsen at his station by the wall on the other side of the room, frozen with shock,
staring stupidly at the huge Frankenstein-lab electrical cut-off switch he had just obediently
yanked down and which had broken off in his hand.
Schultz understood instantly. Sabotage. Deliberate and purposeful sabotage. They have people
inside our campaign as we have in theirs. No-one would ever believe them. But if they could
allow the world to see and hear it for themselves -
Schultz moved quickly, his target located in a fraction of a second, against the wall on the
opposite side from Larsen, his legs responding in the next fraction, heart pounding, ears deaf
to protests, trampling feet, shoving aside cameramen, overturning journalists in their chairs
in his frantic desperation. He was already too late.
'You know,' boomed the folksy amplified voice that had tested as both reassuring and statesmanlike
to a majority of registered and unregistered voters in all fifty states of the union, 'I'm
glad you asked me that.' The candidate's grin blazed at 500 watts. His eyes were perhaps brighter.
He had taken one of the array of microphones from its stand and, clutching it in one hand and
carefully shaking the cord loose of all snags with the other, came forward a few paces until he
stood at the very edge of the podium. 'On the topic of space exploration, Laura, I have only
one thing to say to you.'
No, thought Schultz as he ran and shoved and barged, blindly elbowing aside a sound recordist
whose on-air talent he had just toppled, Please God No.
'Perhaps I could best express it like this.'
The candidate didn't express it. He didn't say it. He sang it, before the eyes and ears of
a continent and half the rest of the world, before all the waiting reporters and rolling cameras
and whirring recorders and streaming gadgets massed in the hall. He sang, at great volume, in
his reassuring but statesmanlike, folksy but gravitas-filled voice, the song that at the drop
of a hat and with the slightest and vaguest trigger, and to the bafflement of an array of
once-eminent experts on brain degeneration and mental aberration now dead and dissolving in a
lime pit, he had sung on and off, day and night, to his open-mouthed staff and anyone else who
came close enough, for the past two weeks. With great verve, child-like joy and a manic enthusiasm
that came close to religious rapture or all-consuming love, he sang:
'I wish I was a spaceman
The fastest guy alive
I'd fly you round the universe
In Fireball XL-5.'
Schultz had reached his target by then, a black-suited black-shaded wire-eared gum-chewing
rectangular chunk of federal bodyguard. He hit him like a charging line-backer, slamming him
back against the wall, followed up with a piston-like blow to a pug-like nose he hoped might
be marginally more vulnerable than his yard of granite jaw. One chance. One chance, but
already too late. His plan had been to get his hands on the man's gun and spray the room
at random before the horror began. Shoot at journalists, cameramen, the candidate himself.
He doubted even that would have stopped him once started but their screams would have covered
the noise. Too late for that now and there would not be enough bullets in the gun to kill
every witness in the room, to say nothing of the live TV audience. But if he did get the gun and
he did start shooting at random it would at least change the headline. Not even the opposition's
hardest pitbulls would dare dwell on the candidate's strange impromptu song the day after
a horrible massacre of the nation's keenest and most immaculately-coiffed. He delved into an armpit
and got his hand around a pistol-butt and did not let go of it as a vice-like hand gripped his
arm and a granite head smashed into his.
In the background he heard:
'We'd take the path to Jupiter
And maybe very soon
We'd cruise along the Milky Way
And land upon the moon.'
The candidate was putting his heart and soul and every ounce of his vocal training into the
lyrics, enthusiasm undimmed by the stunned silence his performance was greeted by.
Schultz's new plan was simply to put a bullet in his own brain. But he had let go of the gun now,
arm broken at the wrist. The guard had him down on the floor and was pounding at him like a
baker with dough and other wire-eared men were coming. He twisted his ringing head to look at the
stage. The candidate was flinging out an arm and winking, pinning the fatal reporter with a
pointed finger as he crooned. The last thing Schultz heard before he passed out with the pain was:
'My heart would be a fiiireball (doo doo doo doo), a fi-re ball (doo doo doo doo),
If YOU would be my Venus of the stars.'
I just had a beautiful dream from which I woke up laughing.
I dreamed web 2.0 never happened and html websites never went away.
The net was as big as it is now but social media had never happened and online
shopping had never really taken off. But people whose self-made homepages had
been around since before the turn of the century were like huge conglomerates now,
just from banner advertising.
Some girl who ran a site for Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan-fiction was woman of the
year and on the cover of Time Magazine and gave speeches to the UN about things.
But the biggest site in the world was this Pamela Anderson fansite that had been
going since 1996, the sort of thing where they used to upload 65kb pictures
scanned from magazines. He found a new picture of Pamela Anderson in an old
gossip magazine he found in a junk shop, and the whole stock market boomed
on the strength of it.
The execution was achieved perfectly with one clean stroke of Terminus Est,
and should have pleased me, but after it I felt curiously sad, perhaps because
of and not despite my knowledge that the man had been so vile. After receiving my
payment I wandered down the river for half a league, and sat upon a rock in a forest
clearing dotted with purple flowers that closed upon insects as my fingers had closed
upon the coins.
I took from my scrip The Book of the Wonders of Urth and Sky, the book the Master
Ultan had given me at the request of the Chatelaine Thecla, on the day when I had also
found the picture of the golden-helmed warrior with the odd unwavering pennon, which had
awakened such unnameable feelings in me.
The book contained many tales, and songs, and verses, and apothegms, from the youngest days
of the race, and some I was familiar with and had them like seeds in my mind, hard and whole
and ready to germinate, and others would still be new to me. I felt a yen for one in particular,
whose page I had fingered often; though its meaning had never been clear to me, in such moods
as I now knew I had often sought it out and derived a strange comfort from it.
We did not make such songs in our day. I had understood at once that it was a thing that was
only possible when the world was young and the sun was new, and it was then, I think, that
the resolve first grew in me to make the sun burn bright and fierce again, no matter what
the cost, so that such songs might spring to our lips once more.
But such words, I also understood, would echo down the ages, and if all the books on
Urth were burned they would still be passed, in whispers from father to son and from him
to his son, and lullabies mothers crooned to daughters in their cradles, as long as the
world still turned.
I too yearned to share it with someone but so far had found none worthy, or whose heart
I trusted to be so attuned to my own; except perhaps for Thecla, whose soul dwelled within
me, and I was not even sure that she understood my strange attraction to the fragment. Jonas,
I suddenly realised, would have felt a consonace with the poem, and grasped its import better
than I did, but I had never thought to show it to him and now he was lost to me.
Shoving off with my boot a flower that was creeping towards it I turned the gilt-edged pages
'I wish I was a spaceman
The fastest guy alive
I'd fly you round the universe
In Fireball XL-5.'
I closed the book and rose, prey to a reverie in which I possessed the last copy
of this verse, and a horde of man-apes and zoanthrops pressed upon me savagely seeking to
take it from me and destroy it, and I swung Terminus Est in whirling arcs around my
head, resolved to defend it to the last drop of my blood.
McCartney retroactively cancelled for 'Give Ireland Back to the Irish'
'Reflects the attitudes of the era in which it was made in a way that some
viewers may find offensive.' But that's what we come here for, TalkingPicturesTV.
Stow the trigger warnings and instead start putting Bizarre And Improbable Content
warnings on some of the rarities and curios you show. I suppose only a tiny
percentage of your audience will need to worry about hallucinogen flashbacks,
but a lot of the more elderly viewers will be on old-fart medications and worry
they're having side-effects from them. I just turned on while semi-delirious
from a flu that bordered on fever and that was disturbing enough.
'Is Graham Crowden fighting Yul Brynner or am I completely broken?'
Billy Wilder directing Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in a sketch about stuck writers by IAL Diamond:
I've done that. I mean almost word for word. From Volker Schlondorff's interview with Wilder, which can be found on the BBC iplayer under 'Arena'.
I forget who posted this, I dunno the book, it's Ian Smith recalling a meeting with Kissinger.
I find the end hilarious, I'm going to start saying the same to anyone polite and well-behaved I meet.
Anyone who thinks to offer me biscuits, anyone who doesn't annoy me, but conversely all the people who fail to please me will be informed they'll be sternly denounced to posterity.
Kemp allowed his eyes a moment to adjust to the dazzle then stepped out onto the terrace. The Aegean Sea competed with the Aegean sky to see which could be more platonically blue. The ancient marble of the balustrade and a wing-footed statue of Hermes were bone-white against them.
"You are just in time for lunch, Mr Kemp." Ludendorff's voice was urbane, jovial; lower than he had expected and with the English almost accentless. "Although I have never been sure if lunch is still lunch for a man who has missed breakfast."
He was sitting at a large square table, also of marble, and overflowing the long bench behind it. Over a cream silk shirt a tent-like MCC blazer did battle with his gargantuan bulk, and an incongruous jaunty boating cap was perched atop his oversized head almost like a crest of snow on a mountain.
The table was set for two and bore a silver platter of sea-food, a crystal bowl filled with salad, a basket of bread. The armless girl stood by its side, without her stahlhelm and clad in a sleeveless tennis dress, scowling at Kemp. There was no sign of the quick-draw artist or the other armed men but the cheetah sprawled slumbersome at the eunuch's feet, barely troubling to rake Kemp with an indolent eye.
Kemp sat. Finding he was hungry he started to pile his plate with prawns. "Lunch and breakfast are both states of mind," he said lightly.
Ludendorff chuckled. "What was it Goethe said? 'Das Frühstück ist die wichtigste Mahlzeit von dem tag.'"
Kemp nodded. "But let us not forget the following line: 'Aber manchmal lasse ich es aus und auffüllen bei Mittagessen.'"
If he was annoyed at being capped Ludendorff did not show it but gracefully waved a hand in a 'Touche' gesture. Conversationally Kemp asked:
"Why am I alive?"
The big man roared with laughter, his head going back so far Kemp was impressed the hat stayed in place. "The eternal question that has vexed man through the ages. In your case, Mr Kemp, the answer is very simple: you are alive because it suits me."
Kemp's smile was rueful. "Then I will ask another: what did I get wrong?"
Nothing but good-humour showed in the smooth fat face and coal-lump eyes. "You or your superiors overlooked what I should have thought would be a fairly obvious possibility. The Giacomo Balla you tried to sell me could not have been the genuine missing one," Ludendorff said almost apologetically, "because I happen to be the one who stole that and it is hanging in my bedroom. Yours was, however, such a good attempt that only a national government - or four or five men who know better than to cross me - would have the funds and resources for the techniques employed. But let us not talk of such things while eating. Please try the rolls. I have them flown in daily from Paris; those are the only really palatable ones, I find."
"Except for the ones on the Algarve."
The eunuch raised one of his vestigial eyebrows. "If you insist." He gestured towards an ice bucket. "I thought we might have a glass of the Montrachet '47. I believe I may have the last half-dozen bottles in the world. I am careful of them, naturally, but this is a special occasion."
Kemp inclined his head. "I am honoured. For all the ballyhoo, though, I confess I've always preferred the '48."
Ludendorff looked indulgent. "There is discernment, Mr Kemp, and there is idiosyncrasy. There are also sheer perversity and the wilful striking of postures. However my cellar will certainly run to the '48, if you would prefer."
"I'll make do."
The armless girl served the wine, gripping the neck of the bottle between her teeth and twisting her own neck over their glasses to pour. Not a drop was spilled.
"Impressive," said Kemp.
The black eyes twinkled. "Kow-Tow has many more parlour tricks than that."
"As I found last night."
Ludendorff beamed at the girl fondly. Her own gaze, still filled with hate, was focussed on Kemp unblinkingly. "Do not berate yourself overmuch. An armless opponent is almost impossible to deal with in, it seems tasteless to say 'unarmed combat', as there is nothing to take hold of. Herodotus speaks of an island of armless men who were much feared as mercenaries. As you currently have an oyster-knife in your hand, and it has not escaped my notice that your butter one now lies half-hidden behind the rim of your plate perhaps with a view to later concealment up your sleeve, I will mention that her headbutts are formidable even without her helmet and she will always be faster than you. Nor are those and her kicks the limit of her capabilities. You will have noted the strength of her jaws. The earliest trick Kow-Tow learned was one I did not teach her. She earned her name in the fight-pits of Macao, but when I found her she was a humble shepherd girl in the foothills of the Montenegrin mountains. She had been taught to remove rams' testicles with her teeth, and saw how pliable they became afterwards. She used this skill on any of the local youths who tried to take advantage of her; also on any wolves who menaced her flock. She was able to outrun them even in her bare feet. With her head down she is as aerodynamic as a bullet, nothing to cut down her wind resistance." He shelled a prawn and turned his eyes blandly on Kemp. "I have told Kow-Tow that you are a wolf, and that if you make any sudden movement she should bite off your testicles." He sighed and looked thoughtful. "As you may know I suffered such an injury myself. I have found compensations, I admit. I wonder if you would have the same resources?"
Kemp found himself moving his cutlery more slowly and hesitating even before reaching for his napkin. He began, "May I ask - ?"
"An accident in childhood. At that age I did not appreciate the magnitude of my loss and perhaps I still don't. It has set me free to cultivate more rarefied pleasures. Back then what I resented more was my obesity; always waddling in last in running races and being a laughing stock in chase games in school." He turned his cannonball head to track a motor boat that, far off and far below and unheard at this distance, was lacing the blue with a line of foam like a silver needle plying a long white thread. "Speed, Mr Kemp. That is all that matters in life. That is the only power that should be prized. The ability of one animal to move more quickly than another is all that is needed to give it the advantage. Whether it comes in the form of sharper reflexes, speedier delivery, a quicker turn-around; or just through the possession of faster cars, a nippier boat, more powerful aeroplanes," he hesitated fractionally and dimpled, lowered his eyes demurely, looked for a moment obscenely simpering, "supersonic rockets." For the first time he allowed smugness to show as he raised his eyes again to meet Kemp's, then became merry once more. "It is also the only joy worth having. How does your Doctor Johnson put it? 'If I had no duties I would spend my life driving briskly in a post-chaise with a pretty woman.' Or not so very far from here but quite a long time ago Sappho wrote:
'Ó ánemos en emós kóme eis tachýs trieres
Pyretós ego hópos sós dáktylos, euphilés.'"
"'The wind in my hair on a fast trireme excites me like your fingers, my love,'"
he translated. "If it was
Sappho; in fact it's now thought more likely by
Ludendorff blinked rapidly a moment as if he had been slapped, then contrived to look inordinately interested. As he recovered his bonhomie his full lips curved at the corners and his eyes became dreamy and far away. "Or of course there are the immortal lines of the great Anderson - unsere Anderson, we presume to call him in the Teutonic countries, and insist he can only be fully appreciated in German." He flung out a hand in a histrionic gesture but softly and altogether reverently recited:
"'Ich wünsche das ich ein Himmelfahrtmann war
Der schnellste Typ wer Leben
Ich möchte du auf Feuerball XL-Fünf
Herum das Universum fliegen.'"
He gazed up and into the middle-distance solemnly, an unmistakable moisture of emotion
in his eyes.
Kemp murmured, "'Mein Herz würde ein Feuerball sein. Ein Feuerball,'" he repeated. "Although if you're going to steal our poets surely 'schnellste Kerl existieren' would be a more accurate translation of 'fastest guy alive', and make for a better rhyme."
Ludendorff hissed. He flung down his napkin in annoyance and was suddenly on his feet.
"Come," he said coldly, "I will show you my ping-pong table. It was made by Florentine craftsmen from a thousand-year-old Sequoia tree. If you are recovered from your injuries you must favour me with a game. I will beat the living shit out of you at ping-pong," he screamed, clenching a fist and bent almost double with rage. "I will smash the ball right down your loathsome snotty throat and then bite your balls off myself!" He stopped and straightened and cleared his throat, got control of himself again. "But I am forgetting my manners," he continued more suavely. "Please, follow me."