Saturday, 28 September 2013

Don't Dance to This

I'm fond of music and I have a lot of songs that I really enjoy, but I'm definitely no Music Nerd. I hate the Beatles, I think they're overrated; I don't understand the idea of listening to a whole "album" (sounds boring); I don't think any band is worth following & I genuinely enjoy the music of Ke$ha.
So I'm not any kind of authority when it comes to music. However, I do believe I'm an authority when it comes to story. Stories come in all shapes and sizes, and the most interesting mediums of story would be . . . well, books - but a close second would be music.
My favourite songs are the ones that tell a story. Music isn't the best for telling stories, but to me it's great at conveying emotion and simplistic, visceral thoughts. That's not to say "simple" is bad. For example, if I were to take any of the songs, like: "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele"Fuck You" by Cee Lo Green or "Take Care" by Drake (featuring Rihanna), sure, I could turn it into a book. But as a book, it would be weak and played out, and it would be really short since there's not much plot to it.
But with all of the emotion involved, since the passion is so deep and heavy, the plot becomes immaterial to the feelings involved. Because music isn't about telling a complicated plot, it's about getting you to feel something; it's about poetry.
If you manage to create that unity and match the narrative of the lyrics with the emotion of the music, then you can create a masterpiece. However, creating that match is not always so easy. In fact, it's really hard to find that harmony, so there are a lot of songs that fail on this front. Today, I want to talk about those songs. The Word of the Day is: 'DISSONANCE'

Dissonance /'disənəns/ n. 1. An inharmonious or harsh sound. 2. Music A combination of notes usually thought of as being in a state of unrest and needing resolution (opposed to consonance). 3. Disagreement; incongruity.

There are a lot of bad songs out there, with bad lyrics or bad music. In fact, there are too many to list, so I don't want to talk about all of those maladies of melody; rather, I want to talk about a select few musical misfires.
See, if you want to write a sad song, you could give a slow beat and a mournful, classical instrument along with lyrics about pain, oblivion and death - you'll have a sad song. If you want to write a happy song, you could have some happy, jaunty whistling tune with a fast pace and lyrics about sunshine, rainbows & love.
But lately, I've started hearing some strange songs that are a mix between the two. There are a couple of songs out there that are supposed to be happy, but they sound sad to me. It's quite jarring to hear these songs that have so many people going: "Oh My God! I can't stop smiling when I hear this song!" and "This is the best party song ever!" While I'm sitting there on the verge of tears saying "This is tragic!"

At first, I thought this was just one or two songs that sounded off, but I've found a bunch of songs like this. In fact, after just two weeks of searching, I've found FIVE modern Pop songs that are implied to be happy, but sound sad.
Before I tell you what they are I should to clarify: This is not a list of sad songs with a happy tune. Songs like "Hey Ya" by Outkast; "Semi-Charmed Life" by Third Eye Blind or "Pumped up Kicks" by Foster the People - these songs all sound happy, but they were supposed to be unhappy songs. The songwriter wrote the lyrics with a clear intention of singing about something that is depressing, then they sang it with upbeat instrumentation for artistic purposes. You'll find these on a Cracked list or two about sad, upbeat songs, but these will not appear on my list.
This is a list of songs that were meant to be happy songs, but due to artistic ham-handedness, ambiguous lyrics or my own twisted interpretation - make me feel sad when I hear them. If you're confused, then just check out my list and hopefully you'll understand, what I'm talking about. This is . . .

THE A.W.N.'s TOP 5 SADDEST UPBEAT SONGS

5. "We Are Young" by fun.

What it's about: The band Fun is something of a melancholy band that enjoys the heavy, happy beats. Just look at their name, it's officially spelled with a lowercase "f" and a full-stop. It's fun in a very restrained way and their music often reflects that. They're lyrics, also, are often incredibly ambiguous, as is the case with "With are Young" as well, but unlike their other popular hit "Some Nights", this song actually sounds like it's supposed to be happy. A lot of people see this as a youth power-ballad about drinking heavy, partying and enjoying yourself while you're young. That is a sentiment I should be able to get behind, but with this song, to me, isn't one about youthful excess . . .

What I hear: I can't help but feel like this is a song about stalking, jealousy and abuse. From the word go, our narrator isn't telling the truth (needs to get his story straight). He talks about a girl he calls "lover" although she is conversing with another guy, so it's obvious to me this isn't the singer's girlfriend. Apparently, the singer gave her a scar, whether emotional or physical, she wants to forget about it . . . suspicious. She won't accept any of his apologies, as they're all half-hearted and they spend the rest of the song getting shit-faced drunk.
Half-way through, narrator claims that "the moon is on his side" because if, at the end of the night, girl is "falling down" (i.e., black-out drunk) he'll carry her home. Considering how much she hates him and wants to forget the "pain" he caused her, it seems like she wouldn't agree to that sober. I can't help but feel like our narrator is a controlling ex-boyfriend that won't let his old girlfriend move on. He could even, potentially, be a date-rapist, although I wouldn't go that far, it's a bit of a stretch.

That's pretty horrible . . . but it's low on this list because the song sounds like it intended to be a little ambiguous rather than happy, so it's not all that dissonant. But it scrapes in by a hair because it's so damn happy about being young and living it up and "set the world on fire", that the stuff about scars and apologies freaks me out.

4. "Ridin' Solo" by Jason Derulo

What it's about: Love isn't everything. If you've managed to move on from an old relationship it can be depressing; but hey, don't fret! Single life has it's perks. You can party all night, hit on all the girls and live a free life without worrying how your partner feels or getting into silly arguments all the time.
I mean, you're not "depressed, lonely & single", you're ridin' solo! A party of one without any cares in the world. Why so glum? You're free!

What I hear: For one thing, this song fails to inspire me to "enjoy being alone". But that's not what makes this sad, that just makes it ineffectual.
For me the sadness comes from the subtle implication that Jason Derulo's ex-girlfriend was ridiculously cruel and that the singer is emotionally and physically scarred from that relationship. Sure, he sings about how he's having so much fun that he's practically high off being single . . . then again, that's the first hint. After my break-ups, mutual or no, I always feel a bit uneasy stepping back into the ring. Why would Derulo be so "ecstatic"?
The second verse is basically "I'm good, I feel alright. It's good tonight, everything's alright". The repetition of "no, I'm alright" to me sounds more like someone in denial. After saying it four or five times, it seems like he's trying to convince himself not me, especially since he keeps saying "I've got myself together". He also says he's finally free to "do the things I like" and says there's "no one to argue". It sounds to me like his ex' has been guilt-tripping him from enjoying himself.
Okay, all of this sounds like conjecture and misreading, until we get these two lines:
  "It's over now, the pain is gone" okay, maybe he's talking about the pain of the break-up . . .
  "I'm puttin on my shades, to cover up my eyes" . . . okay, when people wear sunglasses, specifically to cover up their eyes at night time (as we've established it is) they've either been crying, or they have a black eye. What the hell did this woman put you through, Derulo! Did she break your heart or did she hit you?

Yes, this is a song about moving on, but because we keep hearing about how bad his old relationship was and that he's been recently crying (or bruised) this just sounds like someone who's still healing pushing himself too far in an attempt to seem like everything's okay, when it's obviously not. I can't help but feel sorry for the singer, and pray that his attempts to move on so quickly while he's still hurting doesn't get him hurt again . . .

3. "Just Dance" by Lady Gaga

What it's about: Another song about youthful excess! Hey, partying gets a little crazy sometimes, we get it. You get lost and lose your mind, but none of that matters when you dance. You could be so drunk that you've forgotten the name of the club you're in . . . but none of that matters when you dance. Dancing is, after all, about being carefree and expressing yourself.

What I hear: When I hear this song, I hear a bitter and disenfranchised girl trying desperately to fit in.
To me, this isn't the story of a girl at a party trying to live a carefree life. No, this is about a singer/songwriter named Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, a pretty brunette that played catchy songs on her keyboard. She made heartfelt ballads and piano songs all the time in her youth, but when she failed to find her place in the industry, she created a stage persona called "Lady Gaga" and started singing party music until she finally entered the charts with the song "Just Dance".
To me, this song isn't about dancing to be carefree. To me, dancing represents the mindless crowd. "You don't listen to the lyrics, so why should I bother writing them?" it seems to say. This Lady Gaga, rather than writing heartfelt lyrics as she once did in her youth, started writing songs filled with gibberish lyrics, repetition and mindless dance music because that's what the people wanted from her. "Just Dance" to me, might as well be called "If you can't Beat 'em, Join 'em". Lady Gaga is a shadow of her former self, with all of those flashy outfits nothing more than masks, in an attempt to hide the girl underneath; that unique girl is hidden beneath a blonde bombshell and partygirl, because she's ashamed of herself. Once or twice, she's returned to her piano and done cover versions of her party songs in a way that exploits her passionate voice and technical ability, but those will never be as popular as the "party and bullshit" songs she was famous for.

Ironically, she wasn't "Born this Way", she used to be someone else before "The Fame" changed her into a, well, "Fame Monster". Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but with songs like "Poker Face" about hiding your true feelings, more songs with gibberish lyrics and calling her fans monsters, I'm starting to think this "subtext" is more of a "context".
Someone else, please, tell me I'm not the only one that feels sorry for this poor soul.

2. "Girl on Fire" by Alicia Keys

What it's about: I am woman, hear me roar! Yes, being female isn't the easiest thing in the world, with all this global sexism; industrial patriarchy; modern objectification & the myth of the weak and stupid, but pretty housewife. I do think women get it pretty rough . . . of course, this song doesn't talk about all of that, this is just supposed to be a song about female independence and strength. How you can use beauty as a strength, and walk away from your problems.
Ladies, you are strong. Don't believe what men, or brainwashed, ditzy girls say - you are powerful.

What I hear: I'm all for feminism, hell I am a feminist, but this song doesn't sound like it's about a strong independant woman. I can't help but feel that this is the story of an arsonist.
Yes, fire is often a metaphor I know, but due to the ambiguity of this song I don't really understand what "fire" metaphor means in this song. Is it good or bad? Strength or pain? Power or Tragedy? This song can't make up its mind, so I'm left to assume that it's not a metaphor, they're literally talking about fire. When you think of it like that, the story becomes clear.
This is the story of a girl that's lonely, so for some kind of control she turns to setting things on fire - textbook pyromaniac. The song mentions that she's "got her head in the clouds" and "on top of the world", to me this translates as the euphoria of setting the fire. A lot of the song just talks about all the things that are burning, but the real tragedy is revealed in the second verse:
  "Looks like a girl, but she's aflame." she's literally on fire. I have to assume that she set fire to a building then got stuck inside. She's got "both feet on the ground" and is now "walking on fire" sobering to the fact that she's burning alive. The worst part is, even though she's going to die, "she's not backing down", implying either that she is choosing not to put out the fire, or that she is going to proudly burn in the fire of her own creation.
It's such a pointless tragedy, it's no wonder that "You can try but you'll never forget her name".

I think this song is one of dark reminiscence, the whole song is about what lead up to this tragic self-immolation, but the first line says it all. After all the "power" she gained from setting things on fire, at the end of the day "She's just a girl, and she's on fire". The saddest part is, I'm still rooting for this girl.
To me, she's like a tragic villain. She was lonely, and probably had no father at home (according to the psychology of pyromania), so she's almost like an anti-hero until her untimely death. But I'll mourn you, little firebug, because if someone had paid you a little more attention, perhaps this tragedy could have been avoided.

1. "We Can't Stop" by Miley Cyrus

What it's about: Just like songs 5 and 3 on this list (all the odd numbers? Imagine that) This song is about youthful excess! More than that, the focus of this party song is one of rebellion. Not just about drinking, but doing drugs, dancing, having sex and living life by your own set of rules.
It's about living carelessly and having fun, because when you're old enough to live on your own, you don't have to do what anyone else asks of you. You're your own person and can do whatever you want.
This is about freedom . . . so why is it so sad?

What I hear: That slow, heavy beat. Like the steady thump of a dying heart, that beat sounds so mournful. Then the lyrics . . . as much as Miley sings about freedom, she sings so slowly with so little emotion, that it feels empty.
If this is supposed to be a happy song, "We Can't Stop" has a very poor choice of words. The first line sounds like the opening of a horror story "Red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere". Then, after asking if anyone wants to go home, Miley says they'll keep partying until sunrise. Then we enter the chorus, and the poor grammar sounds slurred, with lines like "This is our rules"; "Can’t you see it we who bout’ that life" & "We run things, Things don’t run we" it sounds like the singer is drunk.
Sure, it might seem fun to sing while drunk, but Miley's not drunk, she's "dancing with molly" and "tryin' to get a line in the bathroom", that is to say she's doing drugs, particularly ecstasy and cocaine. That's not a misread either, the singer herself claims that she meant MDMA and crack.
With this in mind, the surreal music video, the creepy beat and the slurring all make sense. These are the words of someone with a skewed reality. But the worst part, and what makes this song so sad to me, is the chorus - the very line that inspires the title:
  "We can't stop; and we won't stop."
That sounds almost like a threat. But worse, it doesn't sound like someone that's having fun. It doesn't say "we don't want to stop" It says "we can't". This, paired with the drug use and the slow mournful rhythm, sounds like a cry for help. It says she "can't stop", but not that she doesn't want to. I mean, think about it, at the start of the song she asks if you want to go home, then she says "this is our house". It was an empty question all along. She can't leave even if she wanted to, because she can't stop.

To me, this entire song sounds like a girl trapped in a culture of partying and addictive drugs with no way out. Hell, with all the references to sex and cocaine, this song could be a prequel to "The A Team" by Ed Sheeran. When I first heard this song, I got a little teary-eyed. That's not a joke, I feel sad for this girl. It sounds like she's so deep in denial, trying to be seen as a party girl, that she doesn't realize how broken she is.
But the saddest part of all, the part that I just don't understand, is how people enjoy this song. I'm not saying that it's a bad song, but this was once as high as #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. People love this song and say that it's a fun party song, but how? It's so depressing, so why am I the only one that sees how sad this is? It's almost like this is a girl crying out for help, and there's no one there to hear . . .


In conclusion, I'm not saying you can't enjoy these songs. Hell, I'm not even saying that you are wrong if you find them upbeat and happy (except for "We Can't Stop", that is seriously depressing, and I'm not the only one that thinks so). What I am saying - if I'm saying anything at all - is that art is open to interpretation, even if that interpretation is the opposite of the meaning that the artist intended. More importantly, I'd like to think that I'm encouraging people to look at art with a critical eye. I encourage you to share your own alternative interpretations of modern art (and feel free to let me know about it in a comment if it's interesting enough).
Not only can you have fun reading against someone's intended message, but you could even learn something more about yourself and the way you view the world. Though, to be honest, this list was mostly written for the fun of it.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time I'm going to listen to some upbeat music that's not so depressing.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Crossing the Teas

In a way, I am very British. I live - and was born - in Australia, but I have a lot of British traits. My ancestors were somewhere between three-fourths and seven-eighths British; my father's something of a royalist; I speak with distinction and enunciate my words properly; I try to carry myself as a distinguished gentleman & I love that old-school romanticism of the well-spoken intellectual. So the Briton in me gets a fair bit of leg-work. But one trait of Mother England that I absolutely cannot stand is the cup of tea.
The Word of the Day is: 'TEA'

Tea /tee/ n. 1. A shrub, related to camellia, and widely grown in China, Japan, India, etc., with fragrant white flowers. 2. The dried and prepared leaves of the shrub, from which a bitter, aromatic beverage is made by infusion in boiling water. 3. Any kind of leaves, flowers, etc., so used, or any plant yielding them. 4. The drink so prepared. 5. A light meal taken in the late afternoon. 6. The main evening meal. 7. A cup of tea, Colloquial Anything well suited to one's experience, taste or liking: That show is more like my cup of tea.

I was inspired to write this post by Miss Sridhar of "A Faceless Author". Well, the truth is, I was basically told to write this post and couldn't bring myself to refuse the request of such a charming girl. To be perfectly honest though, I think she only wants me to type this whole post so that she can refute it in the comments section. So keep an eye out for that.
For you see, she really likes tea, but as I like to put it: A cup of tea is not my cup of tea. I really don't like tea. In many ways, I am disgusted by tea. There are many reasons for this, which I will outline presently for your perusal.

First of all, it tastes like nothing. Tea itself is basically "flavoured water", but it doesn't have much of a flavour at all. The only reason you boil the water is to make the water hot enough for the endothermic reaction to subtly extract the flavour from the dead leaves that are awash in it. Yet, after turning the water a sickly brown or yellow colour, all you get is a weak bitterness. Considering how much power it takes to heat water, tea to me is just wasted energy.
I know a lot of people say that the flavour of tea is all about the smell, which would be all well and good if tea was used purely as potpourri; but it isn't. When I drink tea, all I get is the overpowering flavour of bitter, dirty water. I like the smell of roses, but this is the equivalent of chewing on the stem full of thorns just to smell it, you'd see why I'd be less than inclined to do so.
Oh, but there is a way to flavour it! You can add milk or water (or lemon, if you really enjoy sour tea). But my question is, since the tea-flavour is so weak and you like the taste of sugar, couldn't you just put sugar in milk and drink that? Why do you have to dangle your lawn-clippings in water just to pretend you're drinking something more than sugary milk?

Secondly, I hate the culture of people that enjoy tea. In the online, crowd-sourced site, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Earth Edition", there is an entry on Tea. Not only is the entry ridiculously long, but it also tries to blame a person's dislike of tea not on the disgusting taste of tea, but on a person's inability to make it properly. But if you ask me, anything that takes such effort just to not suck is a bad thing. It's the same as those advertisements that say "this product will make you lose weight . . . so long as you also exercise and eat a healthy diet".
At this point, it's not the tea that's good, it's my ability to make it: Spinning the teapot around three times clockwise, three times widdershins; adding a fraction to the base of the crucible before crushing the leaves and whistling "Henry the Eighth I Am" as you pour the brew. It's just silly to me, but it seems like tea-drinkers love these little rituals. In fact, ritual, I feel, is the perfect word, since to so many "tea" has almost evolved into a religion, with its selection of beliefs. Some people believe that drinking green tea will make you live longer; some people believe a cup of tea has more caffeine in it than a cup of coffee & some people even believe that tea-bags are sinful, and that true tea-drinkers should brew from leaf alone.
It's just beyond tea-leaf [ha!]. I wanted a beverage, not an unscientific, hierarchical, paganistic, ritual-based belief system.

Thirdly, I always associate tea with the old Aussie phrase "Do you want a cuppa?".
For those of you that don't live in Australia, first of all I feel sorry for you, but more importantly "cuppa" is short of "cup of tea/coffee". I personally, do not like this term. Not the slang of cuppa, I think that word is cute; rather, I don't like being asked, because it usually ends with disappointment.
Usually, I just say 'No' to spare everyone grief, but it gets frustrating if I actually want a cup of coffee. Because if you answer "Yes, I'd like a coffee", then the follow-up question is "How do you take it?" [unless you like being inefficient and instead ask the three questions "Do you take it with milk?" followed by "Would you like sugar?" then "One or two?", but that's another matter entirely].
The thing is, this is inefficient for me, because I take my coffee a very particular way:
"Two (Raw) Sugars, Strong (Two Teaspoons of Coffee), plentiful Milk & Iced"
I don't drink hot coffee, it tastes too bitter and makes my insides hot, like I've got a fever or something, but nobody offers to cool my coffee. If I tried to get someone else to make my coffee the way I like it, I'd seem like I was ordering around a manservant (or maid, I guess). The only way to get a good one is to say "Yes, but I'll make it myself". But so often, because people are so goddamn charitable, they will usually insist with a "No, I'll make it for you" and a smile. Yet even if I have a particularly forgiving host that attempted to fulfill my demands, I'll still hate it because I make my coffee based on ancient measurements ordained by my palate alone, that no one else has yet to master. So I won't be able to enjoy my hosts efforts, making me seem ungrateful and making them feel unappreciated.
If I ever visit your house, do me a favour, let me make my own cuppa; and if you can stand it, perhaps let me make yours as well.

Finally, Old People. I have nothing against old people as people. My grandmother is "old people" and I love her to bits and she drinks tea. But the thing is, as you get older your taste buds start to get weaker so you won't really get to enjoy the taste of things as much as you used to. You still get to feel the textures and enjoy smells, but not so much flavour. So, I have a pet theory that this is why old people love tea. I'm of the belief that it always tasted bland but smelled nice, so to old folks it always tastes the same. But that alone is not why I dislike it so much.
The reason is because my mother is the manager of a nursing home. Thankfully my mother's a good manager so the residents are kept in good condition and everything, but the fact of the matter is that the high security/dementia ward will always be, at the very least, a melancholy place.
It also smells. Not like crap or pee or anything (that kind of thing is catered for), rather, it has this off-putting, almost warm, organic, stale, sour smell that isn't very strong but it just manages to invade the very tip of your nose. I worked as a gardener at my mother's work for a while, and every time I entered that ward I couldn't quite put my finger on what was causing the smell.
Then one morning, as they served breakfast, it hit me. It was the tea. They serve tea every morning. A weak, milky tea (often sugarless). Now, they serve this in every ward, but the thing is, if you've got dementia (or the like), you're more prone to spill a little, or get it caught in the spittle-gunk that accumulates at the corners of your mouth. As a result, it lingers on your person and because it has milk in it, after lingering for a while it will sour a little and smell stale.
So to me, the smell of milky tea will always be associated sadness, decay and senility.

So, basically, that is why I hate tea. There are many facets, some based in opinion some based in fact, but all based on tea. I look forward to a very particular retort in the comments section below . . .

For now I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time I'm going to go make myself an ice cuppa coffee.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Cursed Cat of Cecil Street


- 1 -

I don’t know what it is with this cat. I had first found him at the Cecil Street Cemetery as I came home from school and saw him sitting on the top of a stone pillar. I knew there was something more to him than what I could see. Scruffy, grey fur; piercing, yellow eyes. It reminded me of those supposed legends of witches who could turn into cats. It was then that I began to follow him, began to understand him, that he was more than just a cat. It all felt so surreal, at one time I thought it was all a dream.
But if that were the case, then why am I breaking into the museum?
The windows of the heavy, dark doors splay the light on the floor in suspicious angles, and the night’s darkness feels so unnatural and lonely in this public place. I check left and right for a guard or a camera or something, but Tembley seems unfazed. I still don’t understand what kind of name ‘Tembley’ is for a cat, but then I don’t understand very much about this cat anyway.
The cat stands at the doorway to the exhibition room, beside a table piled with pamphlets
. The cat is waiting for me, beckoning me with each curly whip of its fluffy tail. I slowly approach him and look into the room. It’s not pitch black, but an unsettling darkness makes the mannequins and hieroglyphic masonry seem like forbidden treasures. At the far end, there is a display with an eerie spotlight still shining down, detailing the contents of the glass case. It is this case that the cat moves straight toward, and I can’t help but follow, out of intrigue, curiosity and perhaps even fear. After all, the cat has taken me this far, and I still don’t know how or why. I had always known that I wasn’t chasing the cat, but rather that he was leading me somewhere, perhaps this is finally it.
Inside the case I see a human skull. As a young boy, I had always been afraid of skulls, so cold, dead and empty, but for some reason this one seems . . . nicer.
It has wide cheekbones, and an almost cheerful, skeletal smile. The skull is sitting next to a closed, old, weathered book that looks like a diary.
 That’s when I notice Tembley. The cat is staring deeply into the empty sockets of the skull. Just like cats, the face is completely emotionless, but as he stares at the skull I swear I can see something in those eyes. Recognition? Memory?
Then the cat looks at me. I look at it, I glance at the skull and look back. It feels almost like telepathy as it stares right into my eyes, expectantly. I feel uneasy, I really don’t want to.
“No.” I say. The cat looks at the skull and back at my eyes again. I exhale dejectedly,
“Alright then . . .” shielding my eyes with one arm, I raise up my fist and bring it crashing into the glass. I expect some loud klaxon horn to blare at any moment, but there’s complete silence, perhaps there is no security in this old museum, but I won't risk for a silent alarm. The skull feels like cold wood or stone as I pick it up, taking care not to drop the jawbone.
“Come on. Cat.” I say, quickly moving towards the entrance.
Man, I bet I am going to be in so much trouble tomorrow . . .


- 2 -

The cat sneaks straight through the wrought iron gate of the Cecil Street Cemetery, but I’m not so skinny so I have to climb it. I prop the skull up on a tall pillar and pull myself over the fence.
As I drop down the other side and pick the skull back up, I see that the cat is already there, waiting for me.
I walk right up to it and take a look at the grave it is sitting beside. Its headstone reads:
            Here lies what remains of Marcus D. Richman, 1886 - 1923
‘Well, cat. This is it.” I say to Tembley.
I bend down and place the skull in front of the headstone,
“There you go Marcus . . .” I tell the skull as I place it on the grave.
As I stand up tall I turn to the cat,
“You’ve done well, Tembley. Perhaps now your master can rest in peace.”
The cat looks at me with those brilliant eyes,
“Your welcome.” I tell him, “And now you can rest too.”
I smile as the cat wanders over and curls up next to a nearby grave with a small plaque embedded in the ground. It reads:
            Here lies Tembley; a faithful cat


Sunday, 22 September 2013

After Party

I think my liver hates me. The night before last I went to a mate's place for some heavy drinking, since I hadn't done it in a while and I was in the mood to socialize. Unfortunately after 55 shots of Wild Turkey Bourbon and Coke, my brain switched off and I don't know what happened. I woke up several hours later, facedown on a dirty mattress in a room with the door barricaded by a desk. I was the only one in the room, so I must have been the one that did it but I have no idea why, it was an off-putting experience to say the least. I don't usually get that drunk that fast, so all in all, it was a disappointing evening. Don't get me wrong, I had fun while it lasted, but I think that a night-out should be judged not only on the night itself, but on the quality of your experience afterward. The Word of the Day is: 'HANGOVER'

Hangover /'hangōvə/n. 1. Something left from a former state of affairs. 2. The after-effects of drinking too much alcohol, such as a headache or stomach disorder, usually felt several hours after cessation of drinking..

It's no secret that I'm fond of a drink or two, I once wrote an entire post while drunk just for the fun of it; and yet, I have only ever had a hangover once. That is to say, the headache, you can't avoid the after-effects like the slight numbness, butterfingers and unsteady legs, if you could do that then you wouldn't really be drunk at all. But even after getting black-out drunk last night, I didn't have a headache this morning. Do you want to know my secret?
Every time you go to pee, have a drink of water. Just a mouthful or two (I usually drink from the bathroom tap after washing my hands).
I don't understand why people get the hangover headache seeing as how it's so easy to avoid. Some people think it's just part of the experience, some even think that it's karma, a necessary evil of heavy drinking to remind us not to drink excessively. But I don't agree, I think that a good night out can, and in fact should, end with a good hangover.

Sure, when you're hungover you slow down, you feel all buttery and sometimes you just want to lie down and sleep all day. But if you can manage it, you should try to make the most of your hangover experience.

The first step is surveying the damage. Even if you remember everything, it's fun and interesting to wander around and check out what's become of the place after your revelry. Make sure everything is in one piece, including you; check out the number of empty bottles and clean up any mess. I find it helps to reminisce, piece by piece, as you look around the place.
Once that's done, I recommend a shower if you can. The worst part about going drinking is that you don't notice all the sweat, grime and dirt that accumulates on your person and you feel really gross in the morning, so it's important to clean that off if you want to enjoy yourself. You'll be a wibbly-wobbly mess, but at least you can feel clean and fresh.
Once you're clean, you're going to want breakfast. In my opinion, the most important part about breakfast is that you treat yourself. I like to cook and I find it relaxing, but this is not a morning for bacon and eggs. You've been bad and overindulged, so celebrate that and indulge yourself a little more. Go and buy yourself some cheap and unhealthy take-away food. No cafés or restaurants solitude aids in your hangover and the atmosphere is all wrong.
Something grilled that's been wrapped in paper and costs about ten bucks is what you need. If you're lucky, there will be an independent take-away shop near you, they're the best. I also love coffee, so I always stumble into a grocery store and buy a bottle of Iced Coffee, as strong as I can get it. Never buy weak bottled coffee; you need a strong, sharp taste to overcome the plasticky, preservative taste that's in all grocery store coffee. Also, it helps you to kickstart your brain after your night out.

I personally like to eat my take-away breakfast on a park bench or on a seat outside somewhere. The warmth of the sun is refreshing and it's nice to enjoy and appreciate the natural beauty of the world after spending a night diluting your reality. After breakfast, go for a walk.
I always drink at my mate's place, so I have to catch the train home and walk from the train station anyway, but I like the walk. So, if you drink at home I suggest you go for a walk anyway. It's more time to enjoy nature, but for me it also gets my muscles going, stretches out any kinks and I'm pretty sure it helps kick my guts into gear to process the toxins that are working their way through my liver. Either way, I like the walk, I use the time to think about last night and what's ahead for me in the day. I sometimes work on stories, either getting new ideas by processing the events of the previous night in a new light or just thinking about stories I'm already working on. If you're not a writer, then enjoy a little bit of introspection, after all your body isn't in the state to do anything too strenuous so enjoy a little time in your own head.

Finally, the last step is the best one: go home and relax. On some occasions I've come home and lied down in bed all day, but that's not the best use of your time. The best thing you can do is lie down and read a book, but I also like to watch videos online. I find that a good Let's Play is perfect for those moments of reflection and solitude, something to keep your mind occupied that's not too strenuous. Basically, relax and enjoy the simple things while you recuperate.

All in all a night out drinking can be a lot of fun, just don't ruin that good night with a bad day. A lot of the time the downsides of a hangover are self-inflicted. Overindulging, not taking care of yourself and letting the drink get the better of you. Don't fall prey to these simple mistakes and you too can enjoy your hangovers, like I do.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time, I'm going to need to restock the liquor cabinet.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Hallways and Forever



<< < Chapter Three > >>

There was fog adrift in the cold air that night, near the empty construction site. In the middle of London, one would expect to see people walking around, or even cars on the street, but no one was to be seen. However, through a wide gap in the construction site's fencing, two men could be heard talking.
  "Excuse me, sir, can you tell me the date today?"
  "The date? It's the Sixth of July."
One of them was a tall black man wearing a full-length leather jacket, known as the Duke; the other was a policeman in full uniform, his name: Chester Edison.
  "Year?" asks the Duke.
  "Twenty-thirteen," replies Officer Edison, glancing over the Duke's shoulder to see the brightly lit doorway of a strange elevator, still billowing illuminated dust around its threshold.
  "Drat . . . I'm early," says the Duke, slipping what looked like a tuning fork into the pocket of his jacket. With a nod, he leaves the ground floor of the construct heading for the gap in the fencing and disappears into the night, off on a grand adventure. Officer Edison watched him leave and was very confused by the man, but his eyes were slowly drawn back to the elevator.
His curiosity getting the better of him, he had to know why it was there, where it had come from and how it could be working in such a threadbare construction site. He walks up to the doorway, torch still in hand and stops just outside. Carefully, he places a foot within the elevator and steps inside. The elevator holds his weight easily enough.
Looking around, shining his torch around the small space. There was a door to the rear of the elevator and a shiny, metal panel with two columns of buttons. He leans down to inspect it, when the door mechanism activates.
  "No . . . NO!" he screams, reaching for the door. But the doors lock shut, sealing him inside. He turns around to find the button to open the door, but before he can the elevator begins to descend . . .

  "No! Goddamn it, wait! Open the bloody doors!" Inside the elevator, Officer Edison jabs at some of the buttons with his finger, but the panel doesn't respond, as though it hadn't been connected yet, "stupid machine . . ."
Stumbling slightly, Edison attaches his torch to his belt and grabs his radio. The situation didn't seem dangerous yet, but he had a gut feeling that something wasn't right.
  "Control, this is Inspector Edison. There's some very suspicious activity at the Bishopsgate construction site. How soon can I get backup?"
Listening to the radio, there was only static and a high-frequency whine.
"Control, I repeat, This is Inspector Edison. Suspicious activity at Bishopsgate construction site . . . I think I've got stuck in a broken elevator, here."
With a clunk, the elevator stops moving and a mechanical voice says 'Geometrics'. The rear door slides open to reveal a short walkway leading into a pitch-black room. Edison stares into the dark room for a moment before trying his radio on again.
  "Control, please respond," he says, his voice wavering slightly. The radio responds with just a short burst of static before clicking off; Edison figured he was too far underground for the radio to work. Taking out his torch again, he shines it into the darkness. The room beyond obviously wasn't square from the angle of the walls, which were silver and clean but not very shiny and he could see marble columns in each corner. He couldn't see the ceiling from his position, but there was some kind of large, circular platform raised a few inches off the floor in the middle of the room. As he stared into the room, Officer Edison was trying to weigh up whether he should investigate or not, trying to determine if it was wiser to be cautious or curious.
Inevitably, he steps out of the elevator.
The elevator doors close as he steps into the little corridor, cutting off all light except the torch Edison held up near his shoulder. There were two other corridors leading out of the room, but what caught Edison's eye was the ceiling. It was domed, the edge bordered by an uneven collection of delicate machinery, in a wide circle; in a tighter circle was a perfect ring of light glowing a soft-blue & in the centre was a concentric circle of curved, glass panels, obscuring the top of the dome. Curious to see the very top, Edison steps onto the raised metal platform and points the torchlight up at it. In the centre was a large metal spike, like a needle, connected to wires, cables and a smaller ring of blue light.
  "What the hell is this thing?" Edison murmurs to himself.
As he looks up, the lights start to fluctuate and with an irritating buzz the lights glow brighter. Instinctively, Edison steps out from under the point of the needle. With a mechanical clunk, the lights in the room switch on and the glass panels descend to surround Edison on the platform. A wireframe cage of blue, neon lines encapsulates the platform, in a virtual column. In less than a second, a blue-tinged, transparent membrane flickers into existence and sweeps harmlessly from the top of the virtual cage to the bottom, scanning the interior. A moment later, the wireframe disappears and Officer Edison glances around suspiciously. "What the hell is going on in here?!" the policeman demands.
From the ceiling, the glass panels shift, on mechanised arms. There were four in total, each two metres across, one metre tall and held at eye level. With a sharp whine from the machinery above, each screen flickers to life and Edison slowly turns to see them all. Each was a graphic representation of a person; or at least a part of one. One screen depicted a perfect skeleton; there was a tangled mess of red and blue veins around a beating heart in another; there was a green outline of a brain, connected to a circuit of green lines in the shape of a man & the last was a policeman's uniform, with fully equipped belt, hat and high-visibility jacket but nobody wearing it. Each image was standing up tall with both arms outstretched and turning slowly around and around to show every side of it.
Edison steps closer to the panel displaying the policeman's uniform. It was identical to his own.
  "It's all me?" he murmurs to himself, watching his clothing and equipment slowly turn, "that's impossible."
As he watches, the image stops spinning and the taser-gun within it starts to flash with a blood-red outline. The machinery starts to beep with short sharp shrieks as all of the screens flash with red text: "SUBJECT ARMED".
  "That's not good," says Chester, ducking under the panel and stepping off the platform. As he does, the beeping stops, only to be replaced with a much louder alarm, echoing through the entire room. It sounded like the distant knell of a church-bell, or the sound of a gong being struck underwater. Whatever it was, it was very loud. Edison heads over to the elevator door, but it was locked up tight and he couldn't find a call button of any kind. Looking back into the room, he could see all of the screens still flashing red and hear the sullen tone of the booming alarm bell; it was then he decided that staying in this room was a bad idea. Heading to the next closest exit, Edison heads into the dark hallway, lighting the way with his torch.
The alarm was quieter as he entered the hallway, but the tiled floor tapped rapidly along with Edison's hurried footsteps. The hallway was lit by red lights that flashed along with the alien alarm, lighting up the hallway like a surreal crime scene; but during each moment of silence the redness dimmed leaving just the lonely spotlight of his torch to lead the way as it searched frantically for a way out. With another flash of red light Edison sees a doorway at the end of the hall and begins to jog, eager to escape through it. But as he begins to run, there's a sharp hiss and the door in front of him slams shut. For a moment, he halters, stopping to stare at the door in the light of his torch, before bursting into a run and in a dozen steps, he was at the door. He tried to pry it open, but there was no handle, just two sliding doors sealed shut with no mechanism to open it. Officer Edison knocks on the door with the heavy end of the torch.
  "Open this door," he calls out, knocking three more times, "I'm a police officer."
If someone was there listening, they were very good at pretending they weren't. With nowhere else to go, Edison turns around and swiftly heads back down the hallway. But before he can take a dozen steps, he hears that same hissing and then the slam of a door. Stopping half-way down the hallway, Edison shines his torch ahead to see that the previous door was shut. He was stuck in a hallway, with only flashing red lights and the alarm-knells to keep him company.
  "Come on, Chess," Officer Edison says to himself, trying to lift his spirits, "you're an officer of the law, you can get outta this." Edison glances back and forth between the two doors and he looks over the walls with their strange octagonal patterns, then up at the concave ceiling.
"Right. Stuck in a basement with a no way out; alarm bells ringing and security that puts Alcatraz to shame . . . what would Dad do?"
Edison turns and looks at the far door with his torch, although from this point it looked like the near door. He stares at it for a moment before he remembers, that was the far door. He turns his sights and flashlight back onto the other door. Sure enough, it looks closer than the other one, so he turns back. But when his spotlight falls on the first door, he stops still. This door, the other door, the farther door . . . it looks closer than before.
This was getting confusing.
Edison looks at one door then back at the other. He remembered walking down the hallway, it was a long hike, but now it looked less than thirty feet across. Just to be sure, Edison steps back against one wall and starts to count the marble columns along one side, praying that he wasn't losing his mind.
  "Two, four, six . . . seven." Chester turns around, "Two, four - yep, right, seven again." Chester turns around to count again. "Two, four . . ."
Six. There were only six columns now. Chester wanted to turn around, look away and check the other side, but he didn't dare. It was impossible, walls don't just move like that, it didn't make any sense!
Chester stares at the doorway. He could see it so much closer now, but how? He stared at the door for a full minute, but it didn't move an inch. Chester shook his head, he must have been imagining things. It was late in his shift, he'd been working hard all day, he must be tired, surely. He turns around.
Four. There were only four columns to the end of the hall and there the door stood looming before him. Chester tries his radio again,
  "Control, do you read me?" he asks into the radio on his vest. The radio responds with dead air and static. "For the love of God, Control, respond!"
But it doesn't, the radio clicks off to silence. Edison scolds himself, "stupid, stupid . . ." He kicks the wall with a resounding metal clang. "Metal walls means no radio."
But he was starting to panic. The walls were literally closing in on him. He didn't want to turn around, because he knew the door would be getting even closer. Every time he looked away, the distance was somehow getting shorter. He couldn't blink, he could barely think. Except . . .
  "Wait a minute . . ." Edison kicks the wall again. It echoes with a metallic clang. "Metal walls . . . that echo."
Stepping along the wall, Edison taps the wall with the end of his torch, seeing only by the red, flashing lights. Each section of the wall made a slightly different sound, as though he were playing some strange drum kit. There was some kind of space behind these walls. After a moment, he finds what he's looking for, a section of wall where just one tap resulted in a loud, deep echo. The wall looked like the others, but there was a much bigger space behind it. Replacing his torch on his belt, Edison runs his hands over the wall, looking for a way through. The walls weren't perfectly smooth, between each shape in the pattern was a thin gap, just large enough to fit a pinkie finger, and each square was adorned with a small, round dome. Edison grabs jabs at the wall, tugs on it and kicks it, but it wasn't easy to find a way through. He steals a glance at the door to his right. It was barely two columns away now, he didn't even have to count. With a kick, one of the domes near the floor clicks and the square panel around it pops out like the door on a cassette tape player, to reveal a small, red handle inside. Edison grabs it and gives it a pull. The handle, along with a section of the wall slides out and upward as he pulls and the wall-piece curls into the roof like a roller door.
Edison looks into this new space to see that it was also dark, but he could see a ladder inside attached to the far wall and running all the way up and down like some kind of fire escape. It looked a little unsafe, but since its walls weren't currently closing in on him Edison wastes no time stepping out of the hallway onto the ladder. The roller door closes behind him under its own weight as soon as he lets go. Shutting with a click it further muffles the sound of  morose siren and the flashing lights, leaving Edison to fumble in the dark using one arm to hang off the ladder as he switches on his torch. Even without removing it from his belt, the light shone against his high-visibility vest and reflected around the small space to provide enough light.
  "Right . . . where the hell am I now?" Edison mutters, his voice reverberating dully off the narrow walls. Peeking down, Edison could see nothing but darkness, so he was thankful his destination was upwards; he only hoped this ladder could lead him back to the surface. One hand over another, he started to climb.
As he started his way up, he couldn't help but wonder about this place. The elevator; the shrinking hallway and that strange room with the giant scanner. He'd seen some strange things on duty: death, madness and violence; compassion, love and justice. He didn't doubt anyone's capacity to do amazing and terrible things, but this place was more than he could understand. With cages of light and creeping hallways, it was like some kind of magic . . .
clunk. Above him, Edison heard a mechanical thumping sound. clunk. He looked up as he heard the sound again, trying to see by what little light there was. clunk. Something above him was moving, but he couldn't quite see. clunk.
  "Oh no . . ." Edison whines. It was unmistakable. The escape vent was getting shorter. clunk. A series of hatches were closing incrementally, closing off the upper levels. Edison starts to climb down again. clunk. He couldn't see through the dark and there was no time to grab his torch, the closing hatches were getting nearer. clunk. They were starting to catch up. Soon, they'd close around him and he's be locked in. clunk.
Seeing no other options, Edison stops climbing and grabs the side-rails with both hands. clunk. Letting out a deep breath, he kicks his feet off the rungs and grabs the side-rails with his feet as well. Immediately, he starts sliding down the ladder. His hands were unprotected and the friction was burning into his palms. Wind whipped past him, as the weight of his belt dragged him down. He wasn't so much sliding as falling. He strained his ankles pressing tight with his shoes and pressed with his palms to slow down. But his hands started burning and he could feel the rungs rattling past the tips of his fingers, which could easily snap bone if he grabbed it now.
Suddenly, the base of the chute slammed into his feet. In a split second, his left knee collided with the wall, he fell on his arse and his body fell back, knocking his head against the metal wall behind him.

Thankfully, his hat cushioned the blow to his head leaving nothing but a dull ache, but his knee hurt, his hands were burning and he felt like he'd been kicked in the rear. To top it all off, his handcuffs were pressing into his hip.
  "I swear, this place is trying to kill me . . ." Edison groans. After sitting there for a good minute or so Edison gets to his feet using the ladder for support. It was then he realized his feet were throbbing, boiling hot from the blood-rush on impact. Reaching around behind him, Edison pawed at the wall before finding a handle and rolling up a section of it wall. It was bright inside, so Edison limped through the opening and looked around for somewhere he could rest his feet.
As the door closed shut behind him, Officer Edison saw his surroundings and was very confused. The entire room looked like a three-storey clothing shop. Or, more accurately, a costume shop as racks everywhere held completed outfits, shirt and shorts with shoes underneath in rows. There were also a lot of very strange outfits. On just one rack, Edison found a tight bodysuits made of some kind of leather or latex; Renaissance Fair outfits with frills and tight bodices; some kind of pajamas made of metal; togas paired with sandals and even a full set of medieval armour, complete with a sword. There was a cast-iron spiral staircase off to the side, so Edison limps up to it and sits on the steps, rubbing his feet.
This was obviously no ordinary construction site, but as he considered his strange surroundings Officer Edison was trying to understand. With its strange holograms, moving hallways and now a costume shop, his best guess was that this was some kind of theme park. But why was it hidden under a construction site? Who would bother furnishing the basement before building the upper floors? It didn't make sense. And, of course, why did it have an operational security system?
The worst part about this mystery was that the site was most likely private property. If he wanted answers, he wouldn't be allowed to use his police resources to investigate. That is to say, assuming he could escape . . .

As his feet stopped throbbing, Edison looked around and soon realized that none of the clothing racks had prices. No "30% off" signs, no price tags and no change rooms. He stands up again, still limping slightly from his sore knee and looks around for a service desk or cash register of some kind. There were none to be found, but something else catches his eye: Elevator doors.
He jogs over, as best he can, finds the call buttons on the wall beside it and presses the "up" button on the panel. Unfortunately, nothing happens. The button doesn't light up, the elevator makes no sound and the doors remain closed. He presses the button again and steps back, waiting. After a short while, Edison starts to count the seconds. He waits for a full minute, but the lift is not responding. Getting impatient, Edison steps forward and tries to pry the door open with his fingers. They're pretty firmly shut. With a cranky sigh, he steps back and groans with frustration.
  "Come on! Let me out of here!" he yells. Fed up, he takes a few uneven steps away from the door, when he sees the suit of medieval armour again. He gets an idea and walks right up to it. It stood up tall, both of its hands holding the sword in front of it, the tip resting on the floor. Officer Edison grabs the sword and lifts it out of the display. It was heavy and looked like a real sword, either way it would suit his needs. holding the sword to his side, avoiding touching the blade in case it was as sharp as it looked he marches up to the door and points the sword at it. He presses the tip against the gap between the doors and leans his weight into it. The blade scrapes in between the gap.
  "Hah! Got ya . . ." Edison growls. He pulls the blade to the side, prying the doors apart a few centimetres. Stepping forward, still holding the sword with his right hand, he places his left palm against the inside of one of the doors and pushes against it as hard as he can. The door resists for a while, barely moving an inch, before releasing and sliding open completely. Edison drops the sword on the floor behind him, grabs his flashlight and shines it around inside the elevator shaft.

Looking up, Officer Edison could see upwards of twelve storeys before it was obstructed by the lift car, sitting still in the shaft above him. Looking down, Edison could the bottom of the elevator shaft. There was some kind of engine or generator in the bottom corner, attached to cables and things along the wall. The whole shaft had metal support beams around the walls, with cables held behind it on metal walls with grills, lights and greasy panels. The support structure around the place looked like it was strong enough to hold his weight and had enough beams for handholds. Seeing this, Edison sighs loudly. He was getting sick of small, dark and unsafe places, but with the escape ladder blocked off and the elevator unresponsive, this looked like the only way up and out of here.
After making sure his torch was on and taking a deep breath, Edison steps out of the clothing room and onto a support beam. grabbing onto another beam, he turns around to face the wall and secures his footing.
  "Up we go . . ." Edison says, trying to boost his spirits. Unfortunately, before he can even raise his foot, the elevator door slams shut. Then, the lift shaft starts to echo with the familiar sound of a gong being struck underwater. Red lights along the shaft turn on and start spinning like police-car lights. "No, not again!"
Edison reaches back and shuffles along the beam to get back to the door. He reaches out an arm to grab and pry open the door, but it wouldn't budge. He'd never be able to get the door open with one hand.
There was no way to open the door while hanging off the support structure. It was the last thing he wanted to do, but he'd have to climb down to escape the elevator shaft. Shuffling away from the door, he starts to steadily make his way down to the lowest level. His hands were sore from his last climbing escapade and he only ever stepped down onto his sore leg since it couldn't bend at the knee without pain, but he slowly made his way down the wall.
Even with his feet on solid ground, he still felt unbalanced. The alarm was ringing in his ears so loud, he was having trouble thinking.
The base of the shaft was lower than the bottom level, so Edison reaches up and grabs the doors with both hands, grasping onto the structural brackets on the inside of the door and yanks them apart. As soon as he gets an inch of movement, he puts his hands between the doors and pulls with all his might. Like before, the door resists for an inch or so before releasing the pressure and opening fully.
Since the doors had closed on him last time, he quickly hops up onto his stomach and pulls himself out of the shaft and along the floor to safety. He lies gasping on the floor for a moment and sure enough the door closes behind him. It muffles the alarm greatly, but he could still hear it behind him and this hallway was also lit by red lights that flashed along rhythmically.
After catching his breath, Officer Edison gets back on his feet and checks his surroundings. It was much like the hallway above, but in many ways very different. It too had a floor of chequered marble tiles, which were coloured, smoky-grey and egg-shell white marble. It also had columns supporting metal walls, but these walls were not patterned or decorated in any way, they were thick, reinforced iron. The roof also was not curved, it was made of flat metal plating, with the flashing red lights dotted along it. Each light was protected by a small metal cage. The level of security in this place made him feel uneasy. Holding his torch out before him, he started to slowly walk down the hallway. Ahead he could see a door, nestled between two columns in the wall on his left. As he approached, it too looked heavily reinforced and secure however, as he stood before it, something unexpected happened. The door slid open.
Ever since he'd entered this place he'd been locked in, closed off and shut out, so this new open door fascinated and confused him. He looked into the space with his torch. It looked like another hallway, but it was wider than the one he stood in, there seemed to be large alcoves along each side and at the very end there was a closed security door. He knew it was stupid and it felt like some kind of trap, but Edison couldn't help himself for his curiosity. He stepped through the door.
As he moved down the walkway, shining his light across the alcoves and looking around, he noticed two things. Firstly, what he thought were "alcoves" were actually prison cells. He could recognize them anywhere: small sink, a toilet and an uncomfortable bed, all bolted into the walls, but where most cells would have metal bars, instead there were only panes of glass. Perfectly clean, he could only see them now due to the light of his torch. Secondly, he noticed that the cell at the end of the row was occupied. He could tell because there was light coming from inside and he could hear a something shuffling around in there.
Edison walked towards it cautiously. He wanted to know who was there and perhaps even get help out of here, but at the same time he knew it could be dangerous. After all, the "glass" didn't look very thick.
  "So, you finally decided to pay me a visit . . ." says a voice from within the cell. The voice was soft, slightly nasal and to Officer Edison it sounded almost hollow. Just to be safe, Edison takes the baton out of his belt and flicks his wrist, extending the baton with swift clicking sound.
  "Who's there?" Officer Edison demands. The voice doesn't respond, so Edison steps past the edge of the wall to see inside. What he saw sent shivers down his spine and made him grip his baton all the tighter.
In the middle of the cell sitting in some kind of chair, there was a short, humanoid creature. Its skin was green, a sickly off-green that paled at the more sensitive undersides of its skin such as its palms, forearms and face. Its hands were thin and spindly and its fingers were webbed. So were its feet and its legs were thin and emaciated, propped lamely to the left side of the chair. But its face was truly disturbing, because it looked so human. It had thin lips over a thick, square jaw with an underbite; no nose but instead two thin nostril slits in the middle of its face & tiny, beady little eyes that peered out at him with disgust. It didn't seem to have any ears and the top of its head, along with the darker parts of its skin, was mottled with all kinds of warts and lumps. It looked like some kind of frog and man hybrid and even had a lot of skin hanging around its throat, as though it could croak. Its only clothing was a large, raggy, grey shirt that covered its torso and the top of its legs
  "You're not the Duke," says the creature, without emotion.
  "What the hell are you . . . ?" asks Edison in a harsh whisper.
  "I could ask the same of you," replies the creature. It shifts a finger and the entire chair moves forward, making Edison jump. It took him a moment to realize that the creature was sitting in a motorized wheelchair. It stopped just an inch behind the glass and the creature looks at the policeman. "Scared little thing, aren't you?"
Edison was shining the torch in the creature's face, but it didn't even blink. After a moment he switches off the light and replaces it in his belt.
  "I'm Inspector Chester Franklin Edison of the London Metropolitan Police," says Edison, but the creature continues to stare at him silently. "Who are you?"
  "You don't know who I am?" the creature asks. Edison shakes his head. After a moment of staring creepily at Edison, it says "I am Steeking."
  "What are you?" asks Edison.
  "I'm a prisoner," responds Steeking.
  "But what- . . . " kind? . . . illness? . . . species? Edison couldn't find the right words.
  "He did this to me . . ." Steeking says, slowly rubbing one of its legs. It wasn't the question Edison wanted answered, but it begged another question.
  "Who did this?"
  "The Duke." snarls the creature, with obvious disgust.
  "Who is the Duke?" asks Edison, frowning. Steeking cocks his head slightly to the side.
  "You don't know who the Duke is?" it says, " . . . how did you get in here?"
  "The lift," says Edison. Steeking continues to stare, not blinking even once.
  "What are you doing in here?" it asks.
  "I'm looking for a way out," says Edison.
  "Oh . . ." murmurs Steeking, with a whir its chair rolls back, away from the glass.
  "How do I get out of here?" asks Edison.
  "You don't," says Steeking.
  "What do you mean?" asks Officer Edison, stepping forward.
  "The ship won't let you leave. You're stuck, Inspector . . ."
  "There's no way out?" says Edison in disbelief.
  "Oh . . . I didn't say that."
  "So there is a way out?" says Edison, Steeking just stares at him again with his unsettling little eyes. "Damn it, tell me!"
  "Why would I do that?" asks Steeking, but Edison can't think of a response. "If I let you escape, how would that help me? I'd still be locked in this god-forsaken cell."
  " . . . you want me to let you out?"
  "No . . ." says Steeking, driving his chair right up to the glass again, "you want you to let me out. I'm the only one that could navigate this maze of corridors and time. The only one that can outsmart this ship. You need to let me out." Edison considered Steeking's words, but was already shaking his head.
  "No," he says.
  "Why not? Don't you want to escape?"
  "This is a prison," says Officer Edison.
  "So it is . . ." mutters Steeking.
  "You're a prisoner. I can't just let you out."
  "Of course you can, just unlock the cage . . ." says Steeking, pointing to a small, dormant panel on the wall outside his cell. "I know the code."
  "Policemen don't let people out of prison."
  "Policemen?" snorts Steeking, " . . . you'd rather hide behind your little games of law and justice than let me out of here?"
Edison stares at the prisoner, considering his options. Perhaps it would be harmless, Steeking was stuck in a wheelchair after all . . .
  "Tell me . . . why are you in here?" asks Edison.
  "I was caught," says Steeking.
  "Yes, but I want to know why," says Officer Edison. Steeking glares at him again, his little eyes shifting slightly in their tiny sockets.
  "You really want to know?" says Steeking, an unnatural smile creeping into his cheeks, showing off a neat little row of teeth. "I killed people."
  "You?" Edison asks in disbelief.
  "Yes . . . millions and billions of people. Entire worlds."
  "Worlds? That's ridiculous," says Edison, although as he looked at the little frog-thing, the word alien suited him perfectly, it was uncanny.
  "Ridiculous? Not at all. A planet is such a fickle play-thing. I've burned the sky and watched thousands suffocate. I've sparked at their very core and watched continents disintegrate. I've unleashed plagues and watched millions of worthless people slowly rot . . ."
  "Why?" says Edison.
  "Because I can . . ." says Steeking, smiling his unnatural smile.
  "Why would you tell me all of that?!" yells Edison.
  "Because you're gonna die down here, Inspector. You'll wander these infinite hallways until you starve, then you'll crumble into dust and bones - but before you do you're gonna know it was me that let you die . . ."
  "You're completely insane." Edison turns and walks away, heading for the door.
  "Where are you going, Inspector?" Steeking calls after him him, still speaking in his calm, hollow voice. "You're just as stuck out there as I am in here. You can't try to outrun time, Inspector; you can only let time run out . . ."
As Edison steps out of the prison, the door behind him closes shut, he turns around and leans against the opposite wall, slowly thumping his head against it.
  "Goddamn freak . . ." Edison growls under his breath. He closes his eyes and listens to the sound of the distant alarm trying to calm down, but Steeking's words were getting on his nerves. He really was stuck down here . . .

As Edison leans against the wall, waiting with his eyes closed, the alarm stops. Officer Edison opens his eyes, but the lights were out. There was no more flashing red, they were just off. Until, with a heavy clunk, the hallway is flooded with light. But not red light, clear white light flickers on and illuminates the entire hallway.
"What the hell is going on?" says Edison. There's a pop and crackle near his shoulder as his radio comes to life. It humms and whines, as though someone were surfing through the channels. Edison grabs the radio.
  "Control? This is Edison, can you read me?" he says. The radio buzzes and whines for a moment before responding.
  "Find the . . ." buzz and fizzling, Edison could barely make out the words.
  "Control? Please repeat."
  "-th . . ." the radio flickers, its signal weak.
  "Please, say again," says Edison.
  " . . . Find the Hearth . . ." says the radio. Then, with a high-pitch whistle and a pop, the radio clicks off.
  "What?" mutters Edison. He speaks into the radio again, "I don't understand, please repeat."
There's no response.
  "Is this the London Metropolitan Police?" asks Edison. Down the hallway, he hears a slow grinding sound followed by a clunk and decides to investigate. As he walks down the now brightly lit hallway, he retracts his baton and returns it to his belt; the walls and reinforced steel were still intimidating, but they felt safer and more welcoming now. At the end of the hall was a T-intersection down two identical paths. Each led a short distance to a doorway, except that the one to the left was open. Edison heads through it. He steps into the middle of another hallway with doors at each end. The doorway to his left slams shut, but the right-end door remains open.
  "Where are you taking me?" Edison mutters. He starts to walk down the hall, when the entire facility echoes with a loud thud. The ground starts to shift and shudder and all around he could hear a strange whirring, grinding, wheezing sound, muffled by the walls. He grabs one of the columns to keep his balance, but the quake soon passes. "What the hell is this place?"
Edison quickens his pace and jogs swiftly to the open door, through which he could see green. He runs through the door, which shuts right behind him, and finds himself in some kind of garden. It looked a lot like a golf course, with soft, little hills of grass and few dozens trees scattered about, even with spots of sand and little ponds. But there were flowers growing all over the place, with vines crawling up the trees and even the wall behind him. There were even cast-iron benches, statues and birdbaths about the place.
But what truly amazed him was the ceiling. The walls and roof were made of glass, kept together with a white metal frame like an enormous glasshouse; and up far above him, he could see the sun as it shone down upon the grass and plant life.
It was completely unbelievable. Not only was he more than 30-storeys underground, but according to his watch it was barely four o'clock, yet this glowing star stood at high noon. For the fourth time today, Officer Edison was looking directly at an impossible thing as it looked right back at him. He didn't know what to think as he started making his way across the grass, the heat of the strange sun warming him as he walked.
"Only trust your eyes, son. Don't believe it until you can see it with your own eyes"
That was something his dad told him, when it came to police work. Crooks lie and evidence doesn't, it made sense; but this didn't. He'd seen aliens, holograms and underground sunlight, and now he didn't know what to believe.
However, Officer Edison didn't let that stop him. He didn't understand this place, but right now he didn't have to. He had a plan and he would focus only on that. Because all he understood right now was that there was a way out of this place and he was determined to find it. He could see the far corner of the glass ceiling was about a quarter-mile away, so he decided to head for it. This place seemed to be leading him somewhere, he only hoped that somewhere was up and out.
The ground beneath his feet starts to rumble and Edison stops, standing with his feet wide braced apart so as to stay upright. With a far-off boom sound, the rumbling stops and he starts to run. Edison didn't know what was causing it, but in his experience anything that could shake the ground like that was not a good thing. He made good distance, running through the lush grass past elegant oak trees and serene pebble and sand gardens; but as he sees the door and races towards it, barely ten metres away, there's another loud thud. With a loud, mechanical groan, the entire facility began to spin. The force of it threw Edison off his feet. With the sound of wheezing and whirring thundering through the building, Edison is thrown to the ground and tries to grab on as the force drags him sideways. All around was chaos. The tree branches were whipping wildly, sand and pebbles came spilling across the grass and statues all over toppled and smashed. Edison digs his fingers into the dirt and grits his teeth. Then, the madness slowly dies down and comes to a stop with a distant thud. Edison lies there, breathing heavily, before getting back to his feet and dusting himself off. The entire place was a mess. it looked like a tornado had hit the place, shredding it apart. After recovering himself, Edison makes his way back to the open door by the far wall. It was further away than it was a second ago, but he couldn't run, he was still a bit shaken up.
Edison enters the next doorway and finds himself in a huge open space as he stood on a suspended, steel catwalk. The space below him was darkness and out in the space, the catwalk split off, connecting to more suspended walkways with staircases and intersections in a complicated matrix of interconnected walkways Edison had no idea what was keeping them suspended.
To his immediate right, there was a large staircase that connecting to the wall and seemed to climb all the way up to the sun in the sky. Although he was thankful for a way up, Edison groaned as he took his first step up the long climb.

It felt like forever as he climbed the stairs, the sun was bearing down on him as he made his way up. Every now and then, he glanced up at the sky and noticed something strange. As he climbed higher, the "sun" was getting bigger. It was a bright round ball in the sky, but it wasn't the sun he'd known since birth. The sky around it was dark and it was obviously suspended in the air above him. Some kind of powerful source of light and heat.
As he stopped, peering through clenched eyelids at the burning ball, feeling the heat on his face, he couldn't help but wonder. Find the Hearth. The Hearth was the "fireplace", yet so much more. It was home. It was "Hearth and Home", it was a place of warmth, life and light . . . Edison begins to climb faster.
He tried to pace himself, so he wouldn't run out of energy before he reached the Hearth, but he couldn't help it. He wanted to get to the top. Whatever this place was, it wanted him to find this burning star and so did he. Nearer and nearer, the once small dot in the sky became larger. He was only a few floors away. Suddenly, there's another thud and Edison manages to cling onto the railing marble pillars as the empty space echoes with mechanical groans. Glancing up, he sees the glowing orb fluctuate. With each tilt, heave and shift, the orb flickers, pulses and expands. When everything stills with a final thud, so too does the star.
  "It's you . . ." says Edison, looking up at the burning sphere, "you're making everything move."
  "Find the Hearth . . ." says his radio, suddenly crackling to life. Coming through loud and clear, the voice sounded almost mechanical.
  "I'm nearly there!" Edison yells, his voice echoing through the enormous chamber as he heads up the last few levels. At the top of the staircase, there was a catwalk that extended out next to the star. And up this high, level with the blazing sun, it looked magnificent. Wide as a cricket field and bigger than any one thing that Edison had ever seen this close. Officer Edison makes his way along the catwalk, light shining magnificently off his high-visibility vest as he approached the fire. From above, there's another thud and a slow grinding sound as the entire ball shifts and fllickers again.
  "Find the Hearth . . ." barks his radio.
  "I'm here!" Edison yells, as the walkway tilts and turns. He struggles to cling on as he gets closer and closer. "I'm here!"
  " . . . the Hearth . . . Find the Hearth . . ."
Edison stands before the fluctuating star, grabbing the side-rail with both hands.
  "I've found it!" he cries.
 " . . . the Hearth . . . Find . . . You."
The sun expands and Edison sees the star in all its glory; and like some cosmic eye the star blazes back at Edison and he felt completely at peace, as though he could stay there forever . . .

Thud . . . before his eyes, the sun pulses and the surface writhes with darkness and fire. Blinking his eyes, Edison pulls away from the railing. His hands ached and he felt sore all over. The walkway was shifting again, along with the sound of grinding, alien gears. Turning away from the star, Edison runs along the walkway, trying to ignore the stiffness in his legs.
As the whirring comes to a stop and the chamber echoes with a final thud, Edison stumbles through the doorway at the end of the catwalk. He found himself in another hallway, with marble pillars and chequered tiles. He was stretching his sore legs when his radio flickers to life,
  "Find the Duke," it says, before clicking off.
  "The duke?" Edison groans. He didn't know what the radio was talking about, although he vaguely remembered Steeking mentioning something about a duke. "I hope the duke doesn't give me sunburn as well . . ."
Edison stands up straight and heads to the right. Thud . . . the hallway starts grinding and whirring again.
  "Alright, alright!" yells Edison, "I'll go left then!"
He turns around and everything stills with a thud as he goes stumbling down the hallway. The hallway was quite long, but Edison stops as he comes to a pair of doors. While most of the doors in this place were metal, here there were two ornate wooden doors. Curious, Edison opens them and steps through.
  "Oh my god . . ." He entered the room and all around him was a great big, twelve-storey, fully-stocked library. The place was carpeted a lush red, a wide open space leading to a stained-glass dome on the ceiling. And all around the shelves were stacked with all kinds of books and occasionally with some things that were definitely not books. But when Edison sees the staircase, he makes his way straight for it and continues his way up. Twelve-storeys later, Edison finds himself on a cosy little balcony with rows of bookshelves either side, and another pair of wooden doors in front of him.
Ignoring the books, he heads straight through these doors. On the other side, he stepped into another grand room. An enormous open space with a shiny, wooden floor. The walls were decorated with marble masonry, and the occasional hexagonal pattern within glamourous stone arches. The roof was a sheer slab of smoky white marble with two large chandeliers hanging down.
It was, unmistakably, a ballroom. As Officer Edison slowly crossed the space, each step echoing through the empty room, he couldn't help but feel somewhat melancholy at such a grand space going to waste.
Slowly but surely, he pushed past another set of wooden doors and entered a room that was decorated in the same manner, but much smaller. Down the length of the room, there were two free-standing white walls. It took him a while, but as he walked across this room he recognized it as some kind of art gallery; but there wasn't a painting or portrait in sight.
  "It's so empty . . ." says Edison, heading for the small doorway to his right. This lead down a very short corridor before opening up to another large, bright room. The floor here was, that grey and white chequered tile, and at the front of the room he saw a pair of silver elevator doors. Sore and tired, Edison walks towards the door, picking up the pace slightly. But as he does, he glances back into the room and sees something that makes him stop.
At the other side of the room, opposite the elevator doors, were three seats raised up on a dais. They were all made of stone, and built into the floor. Each was cushioned with a dark blue pillow and a blue cloth draped across the back but the centre chair was at least twice as big as the other two and was obviously some kind of throne. Behind it, the wall was ordained with a grand blue tapestry, with silver details around the edges and a gold symbol on it that looked like some kind of squid or jellyfish. Either side of the tapestry, there was a collection of vicious looking blades, chains and weapons, organized with perfect symmetry to one another, perfectly framing the throne to inspire both beauty and intimidation. As he stares at the throne room it begins to groan and sway, shaking along with that now familiar sharp, rhythmic, grinding sound. Edison braces himself against the wall and everything comes to a stop with a deep thud.
  "I've got to get out of here . . ." Edison says, pressing the call button. This time, the button on the panel lights up. After the elevator doors open up, Edisons lets out a sigh of relief. Stumbling into the lift, he presses the button for the ground floor. Behind him, the doors slide shut, but then nothing happens. "What?"
Edison presses the button again, but nothing. His radio sparks to life again,
  "Find the Duke."
  "What? What do you mean, find the duke? Who is the Duke?"
With a clunk, the elevator starts going up. Officer Edison lets out a sigh and adjusts the hat on his head. It looked like it wasn't going to be that easy for him to leave. Behind him, he hears that familiar mechanical voice say: 'Console Room'. He turns around just in time for the doors to open, and he steps out.
It was beautiful. The geometric tile pattern; the carved dome ceiling; the glass column & the incomprehensible console in the centre. In front of him was a woman of some kind of Spanish descent, wearing dancing clothes. But behind her, looking up from the console, was a tall black man wearing a full-length leather jacket.
  "Where did you come from?" he asks, in a familiar deep bass voice with a regal tone. Edison recognized him from the night before. He was the man at the construction site.
  "You!" Edison yells, marching towards him. He was the Duke, he just had to be. "I'm Inspector Chester Franklin Edison, and I want to know what the hell is going on here!"
  "That's a good question, Mr Edison. I wish I had an answer for it."
  "Are you the Duke?" he demands.
  "Yes, I am."
  "Well, Duke. I have been thrown, cooked, trapped, chased, scanned and threatened for the last few hours. So I would appreciate it if I could get a straight answer here. Where the hell am I?"
  "A straight answer . . ." says the Duke, stepping out from behind the console. "Mister Edison, you're standing in the console room of a Type Seventy-Two T.T. Capsule, Mark One; a dimensionally transcendental, architecturally infinite timeship - That is time and ship, as in time-machine, spaceship - that can travel anywhere and anywhen in the known universe and even some places beyond that. Currently, we're adrift in space, designation sector two-four-six-one of the third quadrant of the Mutter's Spiral, and in time we're about seven months before yesterday."
  Edison shakes his head absent-mindedly, "That's impossible . . ."
  "Now, Mister Edison. I've given you a straight answer, so I would appreciate the same from you," the Duke says, marching to stand in Officer Edison's face. "Tell me, how did you get aboard my ship, and manage to navigate its decks unscathed?"
With those words, Officer Edison collapses at his feet.
"That answers that much."
  "Is he alright?" says Anise, running over and kneeling beside him.
  "I'd have to say 'No'. Give me a hand moving him to the lounge," says the Duke, grabbing his arms, "When he recovers, he'll have an awful lot of explaining to do . . ."

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Getting the Banned Back Together

I tend to write an awful lot about my opinion on this blog, and as a result there exist some very stupid people that would disagree with me. I haven't really heard from them, but it's inevitable isn't it? People do disagree.
I don't really mind that, everyone is entitled to their opinion, to err is human, I don't mind if you disagree. However, one thing that does bother me, something that really pisses me off, is when people that don't agree with me think they have the right to silence my words.

Thankfully, this blog hasn't come to that, nobody can silence my words except me, (I'm trying to make a point here). I believe in Freedom of Speech, I believe that you have the right to express yourself, even if people disagree. In fact, disagreement is a part of Freedom of Speech. One person says one thing, another disagrees, debate continues. We continue to grow and learn as a society when we allow thoughts and ideas to flow freely. Hell, even bad ideas can teach us about ourselves.
So it is an affront to education, and in my opinion an absolute disgrace, when we silence words in the form of Banned Books.
The Word of the Day is: 'BANNED'

Banned /band/ adj. 1. Prohibited, forbidden, or barred: The dictator banned all newspapers and books that criticized his regime. 2. Archaic a. To pronounce an ecclesiastical curse upon. b. To curse; execrate. ♦n. 3. Prohibited by law; interdicted. 4. Informally denounced or prohibited, as by public opinion: Society's ban on racial discrimination. 5. Law a. Proclaimed. b. Publicly condemned. 6. Ecclesiastical Formally condemned; excommunicated. 7.
cursed.

I've already talked about my hatred of censorship, in posts like "The Dark Word" and "For F_ck's Sake", but today we're talking about something more specific. Today, we're talking about Banned Books. Why? I hear you ask.Well, because it's Banned Book Week of course!

Except that, it's not . . . that doesn't start until next week (Sunday the 22nd to Saturday the 28th) as it's held during the last week of September; but I'm celebrating it now because I'm writing this post as part of the Banned Book Event, being hosted by Book Journey. For my involvement you can thank my friend Miss Sridhar over at "A Faceless Author", who introduced me to the event (and will be writing a banned book post of her own).
I wasn't exactly sure what to talk about, until I came across something rather peculiar while looking into the American Library Association's List of the Most Frequently Banned/Challenged Books of all Time.
See, although I don't really do reviews (because this isn't a review site after all) I still wanted to talk about some of these books that I've already read. What surprised me was that I've actually read quite a few of them. Unfortunately, I also realized that for a lot of these books that I've read (or heard about), they all have something in common . . . I don't actually like most of them.
Some of them are poorly written, some of them are bad ideas & some of them are written perfectly, but I just didn't like what they were about or the message behind it.
But, I wanted to talk about them, so I'm going to do just that. In list form, because list-writing is easy. I've listed them in ascending order according to where they appear on the "Most Frequently Banned" list. So, without further ado, allow me to introduce:

THE A.W.N.'s TOP 6 BANNED BOOKS THAT I DON'T LIKE

6. Where's Wally by Martin Hanford
(#88 on the list - depicts nudity)

The Book: Wally is travelling around the place, sending you postcards from everywhere he goes. Each picture is a large scene of a heavily populated area with hundreds of people, including Wally. Your task is to identify Wally by seeking out his beanie, jeans, glasses & trademark red-and-white shirt. Sometimes he was also carrying other tourism equipment such as a camera, a backpack and satchel, as well as a magic walking stick (it's magic in the TV show, at least; but, if it's not magic then why would be need it?). This is on the banned list because in the beach scene, a sunbather's breast can be seen. It's on an angle, from behind, at a distance. The breast itself is about 2-3 millimeters big on the page . . . yeah, I can see why they complained.

Why I don't Like it: This is a book about finding Wally. Once you've found him, you can also look at the picture and some of the funny scenes it depicts, but other than that there's no replay value. I feel justified in using a gaming term, because this isn't a story, it's a game. Find the guy! I have nothing wrong with the nude chick. Children have nothing to fear with breasts, they were probably sucking on them a few short years ago so they don't care. My issue is that this is a game with 12 levels, and the difficulty is only raised when either Mr Hanford's drawing ability falters or Wally is obscured by some of the random crap in the scene.

Why you Might like it: The game is fun while it lasts and young children can have fun with the little jokes while they're looking for Wally. This is also a classic book series, and some of the later books include more people and things to find, so even if this is a one-trick pony, there's an awful lot of it to be had.

5. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
(#22 on the list - depicts paganism & questions religion)

The Book: Meg Murray is the daughter of two scientists, her beautiful mother, and her father, who went missing after a freak tesseract experiment. After encountering three witches with stupid names, Meg her love interest Calvin & her brother Charles get transported to a mystical land of love and light to find her father. The three witches reveal themselves to be centaurs, and tell the children that they're under attack by an evil creature known as The Black Thing. They then visit a medium called the "Happy Medium" who uses a crystal ball to see that Earth is covered in a darkness that, apparently, a lot of nice people have been fighting against. One of the witches then says that she used to be a star, but she sacrificed herself to fight The Black Thing and . . . you know what? I can't go on, this is stupid.

Why I don't Like it: Are you kidding? Unless you can tell, this book is god-awfully stupid. For one thing, that's not what a tesseract is. For another, the villain is basically "Evil" and the kids fight it using "Love". It's so lovey-dovey sickly that I think I'm going to vomit. But I don't hate nice stories about love defeating hate and evil, what I hate is when it's done this badly.
Good vs. Evil has been done so many times before, and better, that it is an insult to even call this a story! It's just a collection of clichés, wrapped in a book cover and sold for $11 apiece. This is the only book that I would happily burn and it spawned the only movie that I stopped watching half-way through and I watched all of Bio-Dome!

Why you Might like it: What? You won't, it is the worst story I've ever heard! . . . What?! It's so stupid!
Oh, fine. I hate cliché-ridden drivel and bad story structure, but if you can stomach it this has been on some "Top 100" lists for children's books, so obviously it's well-written. The characters seem kind of interesting and, I guess, if you really like hearing the Good vs. Evil story for the millionth time then you might enjoy this surreal attempt at the ancient tale of the eternal conflict.
But in my opinion, there's only one way to enjoy this, and that's as a case study. I believe this is the true anti-novel, a perfect example of a bad book. I think it's a concentrated form of story so bad that when it comes into contact with other stories, they are both annihilated leaving behind nothing but annoyance and disappointment in their wake.

4. Goosebumps (series) by R.L. Stine
(#16 on the list - depicts frightening, occult/satanic themes)

The Books: Each story is about a middle-class, twelve-year old boy or girl whose parents are either scientists or have abandoned them, leaving them in the care of a scary relative. Usually, they have just moved house, or are new in the neighbourhood and don't know what to expect. They inevitably come across some kind of surreal or supernatural horror and must use their own wit and imagination to escape it. Once they overcome the horror, the books often end with a twist whereby the children are punished in a scary, unexpected and often disproportionate way.

Why I don't Like it: These books are poorly written. They often fail to Show without Telling, the stories are often "surreal" in so much as it seems like the author was just making it up as he went along and they are most definitely not scary for anyone over the age of thirteen. The characters are often stupid or unrealistic; the dilemmas and resolutions often make no sense at all and a lot of the stories are the same, with the only difference being the Monster of the Week.

Why you Might like it: Nostalgic Bliss. These books are horribly written, so the part about them I hate the most is how much I absolutely adore them. They introduced me to reading, and I'm sure that trait is universal. No matter what century you were born in, if you're pre-teen or younger then you will enjoy these books. You may even find them scary.
If you're older than that, you definitely shouldn't read these books for the first time because they're not good. But if you're like me, then reading these crappy books again can still be enjoyable just for how bad they are. Hell, I'm proud to say that I own all sixty-two of the original series. Just because I enjoy them, it doesn't mean I like them; but just because I don't like them doesn't mean you can't . . .

3. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
(#09 on the list - depicts death , blasphemy and non-Christian values)

The Book: Jesse Aarons is frustrated. He's bothered by the numerous chores he has to do on the family farm and by the many annoyances of his many sisters. He's a bit of a dreamer and he likes drawing pictures, which annoys his pragmatic father, so Jesse feels a bit "stuck", since few people understand him. But through a series of events, he is introduced to and becomes friends with the new girl at school, Leslie Burke as she too is misunderstood, because she's quirky and tomboyish. Together, they create an imaginary world called Terabithia, where they fight imaginary monsters to uphold their kingdom and escape from the real world with its school and family troubles.

Why I don't Like it: Even if the story isn't exactly about it, I can't help but get that feeling that the story is about using your imagination to escape reality. I like escapism, it's the cornerstone of literature, the want to escape into another's reality. But in multiple ways, it seems like the children use this imaginary reality as a coping mechanism to deal with life's troubles, and by its very nature the book seems to encourage other children to do so as well.
That is messed up. Imagination is one thing, but after a while it seems more like this book is encouraging delusion. That is not healthy at all. I was a kid once, I played around using my imagination, but always with the knowledge that I was playing make-believe. This book blurs the line too far, and makes me feel uncomfortable. Also, I wasn't fond of the ending.

Why you Might like it: This is a great book. I don't like the delusional aspects, but that is not the only way to interpret this text. The characters are great, there are a lot of great themes in this story, particularly lessons about bullies, religion and grief. This book is also on a lot of Top 100 lists (hell, it's probably on a lot of Top 10 lists) and it won the Newberry Medal in 1978.
It's a great story and worth a read. If you're buying it for young children, then I recommend you give it a read through beforehand because you're supposed to do that anyway, but in this case you'll need to decide if your child can handle and you may need to prepare yourself for the questions your child could ask because of it. I honestly believe this is a great book, but this is just one of those occasions when I don't like a story for personal reasons.

2. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
(#06 on the list - vulgarity, racial slurs & allegedly promotes euthanasia)

The Book: George Milton is a clever old fellow, if uneducated, who wants to find good, steady work for himself and his friend Lennie Small, a retarded, large-bodied man who likes "soft things", but doesn't know his own strength. They're travelling California during the Great Depression, trying to outrun rape allegations due to Lennie grabbing a woman's soft dress and come across a ranch in Soledad where there are many other interesting characters who are hoping to overcome their misfortune and achieve their dreams.

Why I don't Like it: It's kind of boring. It's a novella, so it doesn't take too long to read, but not very much actually happens in the story. A lot of the story is just time passing between the scenes where Lennie Small abuses his strength. It's like the entire story is just build-up to the inevitable last scene.
Unfortunately the book is also aware of this fact, so chooses to abate it by including a lot of characters whose stories it seeks to tell. However, as an avid reader, I can see through this books attempts at diversion and all I can see is a 5- to 10,000 word story that was written in about 30,000 words.
Then, on top of that, this is a very American story. That's not a bad thing, but it has this whole "American Dream", "Over the Rainbow" feel to it that I've never had any interest in.

Why you Might like it: The characters are fascinating, the atmosphere is done well and this has good tension. I would hesitate to say it has a good "story", since this is more about the atmosphere and themes than it is about the content of the tale, but I think the drama is very well done. Actually "well done" is an apt term for all of this story. Everything is very well done, it is a technically proficient story. So while I feel the story is longer than it needs to be, all of those extra words are expertly written. To me it just feels like treading water, but it's nonetheless proficient prose.
The thing is, after reading this book once I decided that I would never read it again. I felt like it was too much time and effort just to read the story, but I wasn't bored by the experience, so I consider that a point in its favour. You won't want to read it again, but you should definitely read it at least once.

1. Scary Stories (To Tell in the Dark) (series) by Alvin Schwarz
(#01 on the list - depicts violence, frightening imagery)

The Books: A collection of folk-tales, urban legends and campfire stories, this book is exactly what it says on the title page. Stories like: "The Big Toe", where a boy eats a rotten toe he finds in the garden and is haunted by its owner; "The Thing" where two boys find a strange animal in a field that scratches one of them, infecting him with sickness and horror; "The Hearse Song", a song about how you'll rot in your coffin when you die; "The Hook", that Hookman urban legend where a couple is harassed by a madman with a hook for a hand; "The Babysitter", the urban legend with a young girl being harassed by obscene phone calls & "Bloody Fingers" the story of a haunted hotel room (on the 13th floor of course) haunted by a ghost with bleeding fingers.

Why I don't Like it: Are you kidding? I don't like this book because it's goddamned terrifying and will give you nightmares! Oh, but not because of the stories. These can get a little creepy at times, but most of these are quite tame and the urban legends will, at best, give you the heebie-jeebies.
No, what makes this terrifying are the illustrations by Stephen Gammell. Seriously, DO NOT Click this link if you're reading this at night in a quiet room on your own, you will have nightmares, it links to a site with some of the illustrations from the books (as well as stories) you have been warned!
Those images are unsettling, nightmarish depictions of inhuman horror; warped depictions of a darker reality. No child should see that. No adult should see that. Hell, I don't think any human should see that, it's unnatural.

Why you Might like it: If you've been adequately warned and you're not reading it on your own, I think that you can look at those images without vomiting from sheer terror. Then, once you get over those pictures, the stories are quite tame and the perfect campfire ghost story. From what I've seen, some even include instructions to scream at the right moment so as to really scare your listeners. It sounds like a lot of fun.
Heck, even that creepy "Hearse Song" could be tamed if it was a campfire sing-along, I guess. I just don't understand why anyone thought such horrific pictures would be suitable for kids. The books are for kids after all, yet even the front cover has a picture of a screaming scarecrow from the hell dimension. Then again, if any child is brave enough to pick up the book, then I guess they're old enough to read it.


Anyway, that's my list, and those are some Banned Books that I don't like. I don't really recommend them, but I guess you can check them out if you want to. In fact, that's kind of the point I want to make . . .
I don't like banning books, because a lot of these are good books, and taking them away makes us a less cultured people. But it's not just the good books that I want to save. See, I personally dislike these books (in fact some of them I hate and detest) but I would never dare take them away from you. I don't like them, sure, but that doesn't mean they're worthless or inappropriate. It's not up to me to decide what you should be allowed to read. That's what these people don't understand, those that challenge books or request they be removed from school curriculums and library shelves.
So, I encourage you to try to enjoy these books that I dislike or despise, because it's not up to me to tell you what you can and can't read.

It's up to you.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time, I'm going to see what kind of writing I can get away with before someone tries to ban it . . .