The Typewriter Will Sleep When The Job Is Done

He went home and wrote his book to the end. His hands were cramped and shaking by the end; finger tips stained with typewriter ink. But he felt the satisfaction of a hard job done well. It had been worth the sacrifice of an evening out with his friends.

The next day at work he realised that he’d made a mistake in the first act of the story and that its pacing would ultimately derail the whole narrative. He resolved to … resolve … the issue. He realised he’d been in trouble two words into that previous sentence and wondered vaguely when he’d started narrating his own life story.  The day passed, eventually, like a kidney stone. But that evening he was there at the typewriter, feeding it his time and blood and sweat and every last ounce of creative energy he could wring from his knackered flesh.

Done.

But then it occurred to him in the shower the next morning that he had been a blind fool to go back to the first person, a blind, stupid fool.  Sorry boys, gonna’ have to ‘ixnay on the five aside tonight – the muse is trembling in my bosom.  He didn’t notice the unresponsive … response… from his colleagues.

The next day he left work at the very second his contracted hours were up. No post-work drinks for me; I’ve a book to write.  And the next day he did the same. And the next, until it was done.

He was excited then, at the end, so he sat back and lit his cigar he said, ‘Martha, now, how about that…’ but before he could finish, he had a revelation – it’s not a third person narrative at all; it’s a dramatic monologue.  He went to bed with the dawn chorus for a power nap before work.

And so it carried on, through the changing seasons and almost as many drafts as demurred invitations: I’m sorry guys, another time, how about on the 6th,  not tonight; sorry my only and dearest brother, I can’t come to the wedding, I’ve got to re-edit the climax – it’s so close, but not quite right.

Over time the invitations dwindled then stopped completely as, one by one, his friends came to the realisation that they’d lost him to addiction, that cruel mistress. It would almost have been better if he’d had a mistress, even a cruel one. At least he would have left the house occasionally.

Eventually the invites stopped coming, but he’d long since stopped noticing them in any event.  The years went by, one draft following another – what have I been doing, it’s been right under my nose all this time – it’s an epic poem.

Obviously.

His weight plummeted – he was too busy to eat.  In time, his pallid skin hung loose from his cheekbones, and his once proud mane of hair first became straggly then started to come off in huge clumps. The drafts would come and go – here a witty take on the book-ended structure of Madame Bovary, there a playful homage to For Whom The Bell Tolls.  The hipster’s typewriter became an executive’s MacBook Pro, then a desktop PC because an artist’s tools need not be a statement.  And then back to the typewriter, the one true implement of the writer.

Finally, after decades of work it was finished. His masterpiece.  His baby.  NOW he felt the full satisfaction of a hard job done well.  He scrabbled in the dust for his phone, before remembering that it had died for the last time back in 2039 and he’d not had time to replace it. That was during his ‘second person phase’, which he remembered with the sort of wry disregard one normally reserves for an ingratiating but wildly destructive king charles spaniel.  He felt a dull ache in the long-disused lizard part of his brain and a twitch he’d not felt in all the years since he’d decided to rule out including a saucy scene in the book. Hey Martha, he called out, how about that sex? Silence.

He found her decomposed corpse in the kitchen.  She’d been there 15 years last May.

It all came crashing in at once: the nights out, the weddings, funerals, get-togethers, reunions, anniversaries, date nights; all abandoned to feed the insatiable appetite of the typewriter.  He felt bitterness then – the return home after a difficult commute only to hear the typewriter’s guttural chant: feed me, feed me.  His body shook with the surge of long-suppressed tears, he tasted ash in his mouth and let out a savage roar that caused the neighbour’s cat to go into hiding for so long her owners thought she had passed away.  He smashed and crashed his way through the kitchen, an open wound, a primitive maelstrom; a writer unwritten.

Eventually he gathered some semblance of control over himself and staggered back to his typewriter. Use this. Use this, use this, he whispered to his racing heartbeat; this could be the real masterpiece.  One letter at a time, he began to type.

A Cat’s Tail

Cat sat on the  mat and contemplated the play of sunlight on the sandstone paving of the porch.  He’d had a play date with Mouse this morning and sure, it had been fun for a while, but it was dead now.

The afternoon stretched in front of him, a great soothing expanse of empty canvas. I should probably do something positive, thought Cat, but then again there’s existential dread so I won’t.

So he didn’t.

Frood’s Fun Friday Facts: Star Wars: Return of The Jedi

Dr Frood is minding his own business one day when he comes across a random, doubtless apocryphal bit of trivia that titillates his mental tastebuds: when casting around for a director for Return of the Jedi, future Star Wars persona non grata George Lucas decided that he really, absolutely definitely wanted his film to be directed by none other than David Lynch.

No, really.

David Lynch, director of dreamlike, surrealist creep-fest Eraserhead. David Lynch, whose various artworks (movies, music, paintings etc) specialise in being disturbing, offending and confusing in equal measure. David Lynch, who looks like he’d be happiest hanging around Dalston after dark eating people’s souls.

Directing Star Wars.

Chances are his film wouldn’t have been wildly different from Richard Marquand’s. So at best this is a mildly diverting factoid. Maybe so, but here at Frood we prefer to go a little…more obvious.

So here’s how we like to think David Lynch’s (18 rated) ROTJ would’ve turned out:

We have the same score that we know and love, albeit done in the signature style of Twin Peaks. With Julee Cruise on breathy vocals.

The scenes in Jabba the Hutt’s palace would have had more of an undertone of sexual violence and body horror (with puppets!) under a veneer of middle class respectability; Blue Velvet meets Jim Henson. One shudders to imagine the pit of the mighty sarlacc (hole in the ground with teeth and tentacles that Jabba wants to throw Han, Chewie and Luke into).

So one shan’t imagine the pit of the mighty sarlacc.

This eventually leads us to the weirdy dream logic of Luke reuniting with Yoda and learning the truth about daddy while Roy Orbison sings in the background and because we haven’t rammed in enough references to Blue Velvet, Luke finds a severed ear.

Remember Admiral Ackbar? He would probably have been redone in the vein of the pallid leather-daddies from the Spacing Guild in Dune, with the same horrifying vocals. The visual similarity to the Emperor would no doubt remind us that today’s freedom-fighter underdog is tomorrow’s brutal totalitarian regime. It’s a trap indeed.

The Ewoks would all be called Bob, have always been dancing, slowly and slightly off the beat. They’d have had regular human voices, but played at half speed with a touch of reverb. They’d have been seen eating human meat at least once. They probably shouldn’t have survived the movie in any event, so let’s just assume that Lynch would have given them psychic gifts/magic/messing with your head while you’re dreaming powers/lesser demonic entities.

Finally, when the Emperor is doing his old electricity trick (can’t mess with a classic) on Luke, Luke and Darth Vader both stand, start singing ‘In Heaven’ in unison, holding hands, while Jedi mind-controlling the Emperor into happily throwing himself to his own death. Meanwhile, back on Endor, Leia would sing along while sitting in the middle of the scorched, bloody remains of the battle.

Oh, and one of Luke or Han would’ve been recast with Kyle MacLachlan.
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I would absolutely watch all of Sting’s scenes from Dune again on a loop if it meant I could see that version of ROTJ.

Scriptwriter’s Guide to the UK General Election

Hi Tim, you’d better come in. Look, we need to talk about this bloody Westminster drama. Again. What the bloody hell have you been doing? It’s nearly the end of the season, numbers should be growing but the ratings are more alarming than my blood pressure. Look at this review in the Sunday Times: one-dimensional characters, unbelievable plots.

Look, I get that you did what you could with David – we saw the caring, touchy feely bollocks wasn’t working so you changed tack. The thing is, though, all you did was bump up the backstory. Yes, he went to Eton, I get it. So what? And what’s the story arc with Osborne? You’ve had 5 years and all you’ve done is have him change his haircut and lose some weight. Who is he? What does he feel?  What does he care about? I’ve been watching him for years and I don’t have the faintest clue. And those are the Tories you’ve bothered to develop. IDS: is he…what? Comic relief? Antagonist? Voice of reason trapped in the wilderness of public opinion? At least Chris Grayling has the decency to have malevolent eyes.

Point being, these guys can’t hold a candle to Michael Gove – you really dropped him from the regular cast far too soon. I said that at the time, didn’t I, Tim? What’s that, I can’t hear you? Yes I did, that’s right, Tim. You need a villain you can really get into; didn’t you ever see Michael Howard chewing the scenery? He was fabulous.

Look, I know you’re the creative one, and I’m just some suit, but I do own a TV, Tim, and I’ve been in this industry for decades. You should take my advice occasionally.

Talking of, what about these Lib Dems, Tim? Whatshisface with the sad eyes, I thought he had real potential – optimistic young naïf, idealist thrust into government, basically kneecapped by power. He could have been a way in for the audience.  We should have a sense of tragedy, y’know, some really gripping drama. You’ve really dropped the ball on that one. And which bell-end in wardrobe thought that yellow was a good idea? Or was that in the script? Was that you, Tim? I get it, yellow = cowardly; is that really the level we’re working at? Even Avatar was more sophisticated than that. I’ll give you Vince Cable: he’s pretty fun.

And can we please give over on fucking Trident, already. I didn’t give you a platform just so you could air your views on nuclear weapons ad infin-fucking-itum.

Sorry, I’m getting angry. Look Tim, I know you’re doing your best under difficult circumstances, but we couldn’t continue to support the writing room; we needed the warm bodies for Sherlock. Yeah, Cumberbatch said he’s up for it as long as Freeman drops all that diva shit. I was pleased too.

Anyway, we’re getting sidetracked. Labour isn’t working – that line was a doozy.. Christ I miss the old days… First up: Ed. I told you, didn’t I, work him in gently. But no, you just had to bump him straight up to the regular cast, like: here’s another Baratheon brother wants the iron throne. Tell me you’ve seen Game of Thrones. You haven’t? Jesus wept… Anyway, that whole fratricidal maniac plot was solid. Tim, I thought you really had something there even if you obviously ripped it off from GOT. But what have you done with him since? 2 kitchens, can’t eat bacon, where’s the growth? Where’s the heart?

Just a void, an adenoidal void.

Ed Balls. That was just cheap, Tim – Balls-up, Balls in your face, it’s a cock and Ed Balls story. You’re better than that, Tim.  Which reminds me: Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP. You did the same thing, didn’t you? Nicola’s here to shake up the plaice, Nicola: what are you carping on about? Don’t be so koi, Nicola – Nicola, do you need some time to mullet over?  Frankly Tim, I’m amazed you thought puns was the way to right the ship.  She’s not even running for Westminster – Alex Salmond is – so why are you giving her so much camera time?

What do we have left? Oh yes, the new blood. UKIP, the Greens.  We agreed last time that things were getting stale so we needed to inject a bit of oomph. But no – just more underdeveloped, half-baked characters. Maybe in Farage’s case that should be ‘half-cut’.  I tell you what, he’s very watchable, the casting director saved your bacon on that one, because the lines you’ve given him… beggars belief.

I guess what I’m trying to say is… This is surprisingly difficult.

I’m sorry, there’s nothing for it. The decision’s been made – we’re cancelling. To be honest, I’m not sure the network’s even willing to broadcast the end of the season. We can fill the slot with Great British Bake-off re-runs until we can come up with something, maybe with Jeremy Clarkson. Although God only knows how much he’s gonna’ cost.

Look Tim, we’ve had a good run, but you really jumped the shark with that whole Coalition plot. Frankly I’m surprised we lasted this long when the writing on the wall was that clear. Anyway, I thought you should know – the director’s aware and he and a couple of the producers are ringing around the cast. It’s a damn shame; I really thought we could have created some solid entertainment.

Oh, and Tim? You’re fired.

Book Challenge 2: The Bookening

The Rules:

  1. Pick a book you love and want others to read
  2. Write something along the lines of ‘Hello, I’m a book, please read me and when you’re done write your name on the back page and give me to someone else to read’
  3.  Leave the book somewhere conspicuous and walk away

I’ve suggested that people write their names on the back page simply because that way everyone has the option of imagining the book’s journey and wondering about its previous owners, which is a silly but hopefully rather pleasant way to pass 5 minutes.  Besides which, we could all do with a bit of a mystery from time to time.

In other words, while the last book challenge was about kindness, this one is about whimsy and naivety, because the world could do with a bit more of both.
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Some time ago a piece I wrote about a book was Freshly Pressed by WordPress – showcased on their webpage of the same name, thereby attracting a few more readers to the blog. I, by now drunk on the untold power of reaching a vanishingly small number of people, chose to abuse said power by testing my newfound followers.

Accordingly, I issued a book challenge, which was inspired by a couple of experiences you can read about here. The challenge was simple: pick a book, find a stranger and convince the stranger to take the book on the basis that doing something nice without the likelihood of getting anything in return brightens up everybody’s day without being all karmic vegan hippy about things.

For me it was easier said than done. In part this was because the morning commute is hardly a demonstration of the social instincts of humanity but mainly because whenever I’m spoken to by someone I don’t know I have to fight the urge to shout ‘stranger danger’ and run away shrieking like a banshee mid-coitus. As you can imagine this makes job interviews a bit tricky. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not antisocial, just a bit childish (you can find more evidence of this here, here and here).

A few people took up the challenge, but although I’d intended it to be a thing – yeah Frood, he’s the guy who gives people reading material – I never did it again. So I went back to the drawing board and refined the challenge. The plan now is just to leave the odd book lying around with an introduction outlining the challenge and directing whoever picks up the book to this blog so that if the mood takes them they can complain about my littering or call me an epithet.

First up to be sent out into the world seeking fame and fortune will be In Love by Alfred Hayes, which is a spectacular little novel about heartbreak that I probably won’t read again.

I expect that it’ll probably end up in the bin, but for once I’m going abandon my usual cynicism: it’s definitely going to be found, adopted and adored, it’s absolutely going to make someone’s day, if only because when did you last get something for nothing?

And if you out there in internetland fancy taking up either book challenge, please, I’d love to hear all about it.

Alcoholics Guide To The World Cup – Group H

Tim from Advertising: Pele, we’ve got a great opportunity for you – erectile dysfunction.
Pele: I actually prefer to be known as Edson, which is my name. I was named after Thomas Edison.
TFA: The guy who invented Twitter? No that can’t be right, but the name rings a bell…
Pele: An Alexander Graham Bell?
TFA: Didn’t he used to play for Manchester United*?
Pele: Thomas Edison?
TFA: No, Bell – struggling to place Edison.
Pele (sighing): Look, it doesn’t matter, just call me Pele.
TFA: Great! Listen, Pelz, like I said, we want to make you the face of erectile dysfunction.
Pele: But that makes no sense, if anything I need anti-viagra. Did you know that I scored over a thousand career goals and for every single one I sported at least a semi? When I scored the opener in the 1970 final I had a rager that actually ripped straight through my underpants.
TFA: I have no response to that. But we’ll pay you a shit ton of cash, and I tell you what, we can shoehorn in an awkward bit at the start along the lines of “I don’t have willy problems of my own, but lots of you fat knackers who watch telly do.”
Pele: A shit ton of cash you say? I think I can see the logic in this campaign.
TFA: Thanks Pele, you’re great. And can I say I’m a huge fan, huge fan – watching old footage of you winning the World Cup for Norwich really gets me going. Or it would if I didn’t suffer from erectile dysfunction, which is ironic because I’m a total dick! Ha, hashtag SelfBantz.
Pele: I’m pretty sure that’s not what irony means. But yes, I hope you die soon.

*Actually true, just not the same Alex Bell.

Algeria

The plan was to wait until the second round and then write off the chances of the two teams who qualified as no-hopers. To be fair, most of my stabs at humour are even less sharp than that.

And then I contracted some sort of flesh-eating zombie virus so even that abortive idea was…aborted.

Also, going into the World Cup, Group H looked to be a sclerotic clone of Group G with three teams realistically likely to scrap for scraps after the big dog (Belgium and Germany respectively) had its fill.

So…

On a personal note, what I’ve learned over the past week is that one brain is too many and two brains are not enough.

Uuuuuummmm…

If you’d put a gun to my head I’d have said “please remove that gun from my head” – they love that one down the old people’s home – and then written off Algeria without a thought. To be fair to me, Algeria’s biggest impact at the World Cup came before I was even a drunken mistake by my parents, in 1982 when West Germany and Austria conspired to game the system in their final, dammit…, game, unashamedly playing for a result that saw them both qualify at Algeria’s expense.

But let’s look deeper at 1982. It was Algeria’s (be gentle it’s my) first time at the World Cup and they caused a shock upset, beating West Germany 2-1 in their first match. They were inexperienced but exciting and the world fell in love with them for a time, for their dynamism and style and the sense that real life is often far more absurd than fiction, which has to follow rules.

Absurdity of real life aside, 32 years later Algeria have again played with panache and élan and all those nobby words beloved of opera aficionados. This time they reached the second round where they were given an opportunity for revenge against Germany, with predictable results.

No drink – antibiotics. Also, it makes you crave brains.

Belgium

The vagaries of fashion are well-known – today’s sharply dressed man about town is tomorrow’s embarrassing photograph. Currently, Belgians are the must have accessory for clubs who seek the chic.

Consequently, the Belgian Waffles came into the tournament being talked up as a potential dark horse, despite the fact that a dark horse, by definition, is a team whose qualities only become apparent when they turn up out of nowhere and go far further in the competition than anyone considered remotely likely. Costa Rica, for example.

After spitting out that bitchy wad of phlegm, which you blame on the ludicrously strong beer brewed by Belgian monks that can only be sold by the half-pint that you’ve been drinking like the kool aid at that strange cult you joined in a misguided effort to make new friends, here’s your position:

Trashy B-movie action heroes Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel will star in Escape From Group H. Captain “Two’s” Kompany and goalkeeper Cortois are world class, and galloping foetus Januzaj has all the potential in the world.

But beyond that Belgium has a surfeit of ‘names’: players you’ve heard of who look excellent for less-than-top-level clubs or who play relatively minor roles at clubs you’ve heard of. Striker Benteke (Aston Villa) didn’t make it in the end, leaving the team reliant on season-long-loan’s Romelu Lukaku AKA the polyester Drogba. See also: Mirallas, Dembele, Vermaelen.

Kevin “Teenage Prince Harry” De Bruyne left a minor squad role at Chelsea to star reluctantly in next season’s Europa League fixtures with VFL Wolfsburg; Marouane “Disco Lurch” Fellaini looked even more out of his depth at Manchester United than we all assumed he would be.

But they’ve been handed a pampers group and a likely second round game against the American Pancakes*. Also, what Belgium has that almost no one else does is a range of far better than average players in most positions, with a few extraordinary ones. And Disco Lurch.

In other words, a squad with depth and balance that is capable of defending as well as attacking. The golden generation might even take bronze.

PS: Divock Origi has been a real pleasure and that rarest of things for the online generation – a relatively unknown player exploding onto the international stage.

*In the spirit of full disclosure, I genuinely did predict they’d face the USA, but only so I could consider the merits of Belgian waffles vs American pancakes. Waffles won but only because I prefer thinner crepe-style pancakes, which is technically match-fixing so I’ve shopped myself to FIFA.

Russia

The plan was to wait until the second round and then write off the chances of the two teams who qualified as no-hopers. To be fair, most of my attempts at humour are even less attempt-ey than that.

Russia’s star man(ager) is/was/remains martinet marionette Fabio Capello, whose CV is so glittering footballers wives fight magpies for the privilege of touching it. Don Fabio chucked the likes of Arshavin and Pavluychenko on the basis that whatever talents they might possess, consistency and work ethic didn’t number among them.

Russia qualified for the tournament for the first time in twelve years with a team that was functional if not all that exciting. Kind of like the vodka you’re pretending to enjoy while surreptitiously looking around for a mixer.

Having qualified and facing a pretty doable group, Capello took a blunderbuss to a butterfly with the English mentality at the last World Cup and proceeded to do the same with his Russian charges this time round. Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity was being insane, but also that locking away professional sportspeople in an isolated, high pressure environment for extended periods of time and expecting them to perform at their best is pretty nuts too, especially when it didn’t work last time.

Hands up: I expected them to qualify (just about) for the second round before being humiliated by Germany. Because of what Einstein said. He had a bet on it.

Maybe not such a genius, after all.

South Korea

The plan was to wait until the second round and then write off the chances of the two teams who qualified as no-hopers. To be fair most of my how many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb? Fish.

The alternative would’ve been to do some research. I’ve not kept up with South Korea since Park Ji Sung retired from international football, but every time I tried to crank up the internet I found myself on Youtube watching K-Pop videos.

K-Pop, as you might imagine, is Korean pop music. A couple of years ago it briefly threatened to be the next big thing, especially for parents who wanted their kids to have something to listen to that didn’t involve ‘hos, rim jobs or generally worrying attitudes to women. I highly recommend giving it a whirl: it’s basically a mash-up of the West’s entire pop canon injected with neon and high fructose corn syrup. That’s not a criticism – most musical forms start life as a twist on something familiar.

If I were a parent (and world leaders continue to thank me for not breeding) I’d definitely encourage my kids to listen to K-Pop if only because they won’t understand the lyrics. Hell all of Girls Generation’s songs could be a series of meditations on the joys of doing porn to get back at daddy and my kids and I would be none the wiser.

South Korea’s teams tend to play with a lot of energy, efficiency and enthusiasm. If that all sounds like a euphemism it’s because they’ve played in the last eight World Cups but only made it beyond the group stages twice. In 2006 or 2010 they didn’t even threaten to trouble the latter stages of the competition.

In the run-up the squad was generally described as in transition, which is usually itself a euphemism meaning “about as likely to have a lasting impact as Eat, Love, Pray”, but in this case was more likely the bookies admitting they hadn’t really got a clue about the group apart from Belgium. In fact, Group H offered a pretty good opportunity for South Korea to improve on their record (no one really saw Algeria coming), but it wasn’t to be.

Not to worry, pour yourself a measure of soju – like vodka, but sweeter and weaker so your doctor is legally obliged to approve – big up the volume on Gangnam Style and re-watch the highlights of their run to the 2002 World Cup semi-finals.

Or give Wimbledon a go; they let you drink Pimms at Wimbledon and you don’t even have to feel ashamed of yourself or nuffin’.
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So there you have it, the Alcoholics Guide to the World Cup. You’re welcome, internet. And if we sober up in time there may well be supplementary Guides to the semi-finals, play-off and final.

But if not, time for some final thoughts: sorry Spain, those pink and blue Puma boots are a travesty, I heart the Netherlands, Pirlo retires from retiring, Germany have actually been a bit pants, what’s with all the hairstyles, Zico’s lot would’ve pulverised Neymar and co, did all the decent central defenders go out together in a blaze of glory suicide pact but forget to tell Kompany, so glad the England band weren’t at any of their games, Arjen Robben, what side of whose bed did Honduras crawl out of, Team USA vs Belgium was my pick for game of the second round, who switched Angel Di Maria with an evil twin with no hand-eye coordination, Arjen Robben, did anyone else notice that Spain wore different kits for each of their three matches, I still love you Cristiano Ronaldo, shame Chile had to go out so soon, so glad there are no vuvuzelas, Costa Rica!!!, Neuer’s a better sweeper-keeper than Higuita ever was, Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller, Alexis Sanchez, Divock Origi, Arjen Robben, James Rodriguez, BEST TOURNAMENT IN YEARS (so far).

Thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams about the tournament so far: feel free to share; in the words of Dr Frasier Crane, I’m listening.

Arjen Robben.