Ian McEwan to script Pirates of the Caribbean 5.

‘I’ll be taking it in a slightly different direction,’ the Man Booker Prize winner said. ‘Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is now a neurosurgeon. The way I see it, he’s come to the realisation that Blackbeard (Ian McShane) is really just a symbol for everything that he has come to mistrust about himself. So he retrains and in an amazingly short time becomes one of the most eminent medical men of his generation. Along the way he meets Angelica (Penelope Cruz), one of the top five Leibnitz scholars in the world, and is seduced by her saucy manner and bounteous decolletage. They live in a nice part of the Caribbean, where there are Sunday papers and you can get really authentic focaccia.

‘But their clever, successful lives are about to be invaded by Blackbeard – now a brilliant but self-doubting composer – who is determined to make Jack understand that rationalism is simply camouflage, an elaborate set of defences against the inadmissible truth that the received idea of ‘identity’ is delusional, a way of consoling ourselves for some lost pre-lapsarian innocence. They discuss it over grappa and mineral water, and Blackbeard feels momentarily ill at ease. “But surely ontology and epistemology are entwined like the nerve fibres of the corpus collosum,”Jack muses drily.

‘Just at this climactic moment, Angelica arrives, to explain that Leibnitz had a somewhat tortured relationship with Spinoza, and never fully acknowledged the intellectual debt he owed to the older man. Blackbeard, suddenly struck by a fugitive fragment of memory, or perhaps desire, starts to explain that any attempt to equate morality with algebra, in the sense that Spinoza intended, can only be redundant, given what new neurological findings about consciousness tell us about personal identity and the nature of the ‘self’. He then, inexplicably, throws himself out of the window. A wry half smile flickers over Jack’s wise, successful face. He tenderly, almost hesitantly, makes love to Angelica; she weeps afterwards, and he tenderly explains to her again how clever he is.

‘Jack and Angelica know that nothing can ever be the same now, that some essential tenderness, or perhaps just the habitual recreation of  a shared deception that held them together, has been irrecoverably sundered. The focaccia has hardened, become brittle and dry. The Sunday papers have all been read. He shrugs, and tenderly makes love to Angelica again, while wondering why no one has congratulated him on anything recently. Then something or other explodes.

‘I thought a better title, actually, would be Eminent Neurosurgeons of the Caribbean, but Disney weren’t buying.’

Johnny Depp is reported to be ‘profoundly moved’ by this radical new vision for the franchise. ‘I feel Jack’s terrifying sense of contingency,’ he said, ‘and I’m just crazy for Leibnitz.’

Pirates of the Caribbean 5: The Search for A Quite Possibly Illusory Sense of Detachment begins shooting in May.

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Author condemns BBC documentary as ‘biased’.

 

Controversial author Simon Nolan (Whitehawk, Revenge Ink, £7.99) has made a scathing attack on a BBC documentary. The programme, aired after Christmas, was, he said, ‘a joke, completely biased, with no attempt to address the arguments from both sides.’

Summer Ends on Penguin Island, screened on 27 December, featured numerous sequences of penguins eating herring and mackerel. But, says Nolan, the programme crucially failed to indicate how the herring and mackerel felt about any of this.

‘It was just blatant triumphalist penguin propaganda. I mean, when is it the poor bloody mackerel’s turn? When do they get to be the hero? You know?’ he said.

A BBC spokeswoman said: ’I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Who did you say you were again?’

Reuters.

Author says pottery is ‘Not for him’.

Controversial author Simon Nolan (Whitehawk) has said he is ‘finished’ with pottery. In a wide ranging interview, he reveals that it had ‘never been more than bit of a whim, really.’

‘I only went about three times, ‘ he continued. ‘I thought it was all really boring and messy, to be honest. And the pots all looked a bit shit. I was quite keen at first but then, I don’t know, I just stopped going.’ When asked what kind of gap his abandonment of the artform would create in his life, he shrugged. ‘Barely measurable,’ he said. ‘Frankly, I couldn’t care less about it.’

Vince Quank, from the British Institute of Potters said it was ‘a shame’ that the artform was losing practitioners like this. ‘I suppose if everyone who liked pottery suddenly decided they didn’t like it anymore, then that could be a serious blow to the craft of pot throwing in this country. But just because one person decides he doesn’t like it after three goes, doesn’t really mean that much, in the wider sense. Many a dream has come to ruin at the wheel. We believe that pottery will continue to play a key role in the creative life of the nation.’

Julian Lovely, the Minister for Pottery and Tableware, issued a statement which outlined this administration’s vision for pottery over the next ten years. ‘This administration,’ it concludes, ‘has a vision for pottery over the next ten years.’

Reuters.

The Little Zombie Who Just Wanted To Dance.

‘Look we’ve been over and over this,’ said Mrs Tupelo. ‘You put your arms out like this, you lurch about and you go uuuurgh. OK? Got it?’

Maisie sat sullenly at the table, staring at the oozing slab of brain in front of her.

‘But…’

‘When did you ever see a zombie dancing?’ said Mrs. Tupelo. ‘Feeding on human flesh, OK. Going uuuurgh, fine, that’s traditional. It’s what we do in this family.’

‘But I don’t like human flesh.’ Maisie picked at the food. ‘It’s all gooey…’

‘Yes love, well that might just be because it’s brains mightn’t it… Look, just eat a little bit of it and you can have some of the other stuff, what was it again?’

‘Salad.’

‘Uuuuurgh,’ said Mr Tupelo abruptly, as a rat crawled out of an eye socket. (He was, largely, ignored.)

‘And what’s all this about dancing?’ Mrs Tupelo said as Maisie moved the brains around her plate.

‘I’ve told you. I want to join a contemporary dance troupe,’ Maisie said, quietly defiant.

‘Maisie, your father didn’t get a machete embedded in his skull just so you could go prancing round in a leotard.’

‘Uuurgh!’

‘You want to make us a laughing stock?’

‘I don’t care!’ Maisie cried out, tears stinging her eyes as blood spurted out of her ears. ‘I don’t want to lurch about going uuuurgh! It’s boring! I just want to dance!’

She ran from the room, slamming the door behind her.

‘Maisie. Maisie!’ Mrs Tupelo called after her. She turned to her husband. ’Graham. Can’t you talk to her?’

Graham looked at his wife. Her left arm fell off.

‘Uuuuuuurgh!’ he said.

Vampiryirya and the zombie horde

She shuddered to behold them. Her inky tresses shuddered as well.

‘Who,’ she intoned as she stared from her lofty pinnacle at the grounds below, ‘are these miserable creatures?’

‘They are undead, ma’am,’ said Tench her valet. ‘They are lost souls who have died but then returned. Their mission is to devour human flesh ma’am, if I understand the matter correctly.’

‘Well, I can’t say I particularly like the look of them,’ she said as the hobbled, lurching, decaying mob surrounded the mighty oaken front door and set up a monotonous but pulverisingly powerful battering. ‘See them off would you Tench?’

‘Ma’am.’

He worked his way down the endless stairs, floor after floor, until he reached the front hall. The pounding on the door was a slow, terrifying, earth-shaking thunder, as the foul creatures flung their rotten corpses against the door. As the ones at the front lost limbs, heads, even torsos, they were replaced by others who, gibbering and feeding on the ever-growing heap of human detritus, crawled over them to take up their positions, pounding and hammering. They gave vent to a wordless sound, part grunt part howl.

‘I say,’ said Tench through the letterbox. ‘I say, hello?’

The leader of the ghastly crowd bent down and surveyed him coolly from the other side of the letter box.

‘Uuuurgh.’

‘Yes, quite. Well I suppose I was just wondering, is there anything I can do for you at all?’

‘Uuuuuuurgh!’

‘Indeed. As you say. You see the thing is, sorry and all that, but my mistress isn’t at home just now. So sorry. Was there a message at all?’

The leader’s eye fell out, rolled through the letter box and landed, wetly, at Tench’s feet.

‘Yes. I see. Well thanks awfully for coming, and I’ll be sure to let my mistress know you came.’

The leader seemed at a loss for a moment. His ravaged, maggot-infested hand crept to his now empty eye socket. Then he turned to the mob behind him. He raised a bloodied stump of an arm.

‘Uuuurgh! Uuuuuuuuuuurgh!’

The mob fell silent for a moment. Then they tore him to pieces and started to feed. Tench wound his weary way back upstairs as the pounding started up again.

‘They seem to still be there, Tench,’ Vampiryirya said as he returned.

‘Ma’am. I did tell them you were not at home, but…’

Vampiryirya flung open the casement and threw scorn at the direful rabble.

‘You! You down there! Hear me! for I am Vampiryirya, Acting Queen of the Damned!’

Some heads twisted up to look (many of them, regrettably, fell off in the process). ‘I abjure you by all the powers of the dark, by the waters of sorrow and mystery, by the awful ecstasy of the Great Memnoch…’

The pounding showed no signs of abating: it seemed, in fact to be increasing in volume. The mob was growing with every minute, and the great door was starting to yield, inch by inch, as the pressure of the gruesome army increased.

‘I’m not sure you have their full attention, Ma’am,’ said Tench. ‘I wonder if they quite understand the meaning of “abjure”?’

‘Abjure? Well it means… you know, it means…’ She tossed her raven hair. ‘Oh sod it.’ She turned back to the casement where the grunts and howls of the horde below drifted up.

‘Look you lot. Just bugger off! OK?’

The mob gazed stupidly up at her.

‘Uuuurgh.’

‘Go on now. Shoo!’

‘Urgh.’

‘That’s it. For I am Vampiryirya, Ac…’

The mob stirred, seethed, grumbled. Then they turned and started to lurch away, leaving bits of themselves behind as they went.

‘Tench.’

‘Ma’am?’

‘Go down and clear up would you?’

‘Ma’am.’

‘Dirty little oiks. Oh, and Tench?’

‘Ma’am?’

‘Don’t get any of it on your shoes. Hmmm?’

‘Ma’am.’

‘For I, Vampiryirya, have only just had my carpets shampooed.’

‘As you say Ma’am.’

Against punk

Punk, we are told, came about as a reaction against the bland, bloated corporate rock of the 1970’s. Punk represented a violent and healthy shrugging off of the politeness and dullness of mainstream music (Stevie Wonder/Earth Wind and Fire/Marvin Gaye…), it was a great rebellion, a rising up of the masses who were being, in some ill-defined sense, oppressed by this meretricious pap, and who were terribly angry about it. (Quite why they were buying it in such numbers has yet to be fully explained.)

So the answer, of course, was noisy, amateurish music with a lot of rage in it. Music that could be produced by anyone. You didn’t need anything to play punk. You didn’t require any fancy musical training or high-priced skills or anything, just some mates, a shed (or garage) and guitars and amps and a drum kit and mikes and amplifiers…

OK, you needed a fair bit of kit. As much, in fact, as the muso oppressors needed to make their polite (spit) well-polished (blaaaah) music with. And you needed to know how to play chords, no fewer than three, the same three that all those poncey, sell-out mainstream bands used actually. Plus of course if you were going to actually get anywhere there would have to be someone around with some rudimentary marketing skills. You would have to have some promotional machine so that the world could know just how angry you really were about being oppressed by Stevie Wonder and Earth Wind and Fire. For the gig you would need further things: a PA (public address system), and probably a van, or  at least large car, to carry all the stuff to the gig. You would have to produce some promotional flyers for the gig, which would mean having to deal with The Man at the photocopy shop. Someone to take money. If there was a bar, you would need staff to take money there as well. Still, it was as anarchic as anything (at least as far as the constraints of being a commercially operated venture would allow, of course).

Then, if you wanted to record just how angry you were about it all, you would have to operate within the constraints of a record producing entity of some kind. Even if this was your own label (financed by daddy’s money, of course), this would involve owning or hiring plant and machinery plus expertise. It would, undoubtedly, all start to oppress the bejesus out of you at some point, so you would retire straight away and go back to your day job at daddy’s car valeting company. Unless you made it big, in which case you would  give a great many interviews to a great many angry young journalists like Julie Burchill, and then wait until it was your turn to do the butter adverts. Meanwhile the enemy, in the form of corporate media whores like Prince, would be making Sign o’the Times

Maybe it all made sense at the time. Maybe you had to be there. Though possibly even that didn’t really help much. (I was, it didn’t.)

Against Poetry: #1 in an occasional series

 

(NB: For my purposes here, I am talking only about rhyming poetry. Unrhyming poetry (blank or free verse) is, in my opinion, best discussed as an over-reduced, and rather meagre, form of prose.)

Rhyming poetry involves the action of choosing words for their sound rather than for their meaning. The poet is preoccupied with what he is pleased to call the ‘music’ of language, by which he means the accident that some words sound rather like other, unrelated, words. This is called rhyme, or when rhyme is not fully achieved, assonance. The poet must fit his meanings to the straitjacket of assonance, and if his meaning suffers as a consequence, so be it. It is as if, for the poet, a language is no more than a stack of brightly coloured food tins which a bored child arranges into the shape of a battleship.

Let us consider William Blake. In The Sick Rose, Blake rhymes ‘worm’ with ‘storm’. It is because he wants to use the word ‘storm’ that he must make his contaminating agent a ‘worm’ – a worm, moreover, which flies, which worms, notoriously, do not. He is led to this absurdity by the demand that his poem rhyme. But ‘worm’ does not rhyme with ‘storm’, it just looks as if it does. So his meaning is twisted, not even for the dubious sake of a meaningless chime of syllables, but for the visual illusion of one (what I understand is called an ‘eye rhyme’).

And what is his meaning anyway? A prose translation would yield: ‘Oh rose, you have got an (invisible, flying) worm in you, it’ll kill you, probably.’ Does anything follow from this observation? It does not. Infestations are not exactly unknown in the natural world; the phenomenon of one organism destroying another is an inescapable part of the order of things. So Blake here is really saying: ‘I have noticed that flowers are sometimes subject to infestation’, a remark which would perhaps be of interest in a discussion of horticulture amongst simple-minded people who had hitherto had no contact whatsoever with growing things, but can only be considered the most crashing commonplace to those of us who have been outside once in our lives.

So is there some further meaning to be teased out here, beyond the horticultural? ‘All things are subject to decay’, for instance? Again, for those of us who have observed just about anything at all, ever, this is not really news. Or possibly: ‘things are not what they seem’? But who amongst Blake’s readers believes that they are? Who above the age of six believes such a thing?  Perhaps then: ‘good things are destroyed by bad things’? But are (invisible, flying) worms, in any quantifiable sense, worse than roses? According to whose criteria? Or maybe: ‘beauty can be deceptive’? Is there anyone breathing to whom this is a revelation, and how have they managed to avoid death through the ill-advised consumption of, for instance, poisonous berries or brightly-coloured plastic beads?

So poetry mangles language in order to utter commonplaces. Poetry really should be called to account on these issues. It is nothing short of a scandal that such abuses of language are perpetrated, celebrated and transmitted. The Government should appoint a Poetry Czar, whose first and final act would be the abolition of poetry in any form. People of Britain, take to the streets and demand an end to this so-called artform. You have nothing to lose but your invisible, flying worms.

Below is a handy cut-out-and-keep quick guide to some well known poems, with their ‘meanings’ explained.

The Sick Rose. W Blake

What It Says:

Oh rose, you are playing host to a flying, parasitic worm, which will, in due course, kill you.

What It Means:

  1. Things are not always what they seem
  2. All things must pass.
  3. My garden is full of invisible, flying worms.

The Waste Land. T.S.Eliot

What It Says:

The modern world is a debased version of a richer, mythical world which only I really know about, because I can read Dante in the Italian.

What It Means:

  1. Things are not what they used to be.
  2. Modern life is rubbish.

The Four Quartets. T.S.Eliot

What It Says:

The future’s a mystery, the past is just history, today is a gift: that’s why it’s called The Present!

What It Means:

  1. Things are not what they used to be
  2. Nor are they likely to improve
  3. I’m cleverer than you.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud. W.Wordsworth

What It Says:

  1. I saw some daffodils
  2. There were a lot of them.

What It Means:

  1. Daffodils are nice.
  2. I saw some.

Next week: Against Punk.