A photo of a Hi-Fi system.

Mixtape #2: Snowmine, Mogwai, Causa Sui

Mixtape number two! Here’s a handpicked collection of songs I’ve been listening to over the last week. These are tracks that have inspired me and taken me to other lands, both joyous and tragic, inside my head while I work on my art. Indeed, I like to think music takes on a journey, so consider this mixtape a ‘trip’. Enjoy 🙂

An illustration of a stork.

The Talk

EXT. CITY PARK – DUSK

[A FATHER sits with his young son, MATTHEW, on a bench in a park watching the sun go down over the horizon.]

FATHER: Matthew, it’s time we had the talk. You see son, in nature …

MATTHEW: I’m twelve dad. Don’t you think it’s a bit late? I know about the birds and the bees.

FATHER: Well, it’s just … I understand you learn certain things on social media and at school, but perhaps you don’t know everything.

MATTHEW: I know enough.

FATHER: Your mother asked me to talk to you. Just let me say what I’ve come here to say, okay? Don’t make this any more awkward. Then that will be it. You see … I’m not really sure how to put this, but … Well … Let me finish … Matthew, in nature …

MATTHEW: God dad.

FATHER: Let me finish. There are birds and there are bees. Now, the oriental stork is found in the lowland forests and wetlands of many Asian countries. It is a long-necked, long-legged bird …  Let me finish … The oriental stork is a large, white bird with black wing feathers. Let me finish … The oriental stork is a solitary bird except during the breeding season …

MATTHEW: Did you get this off Wikipedia?

FATHER: No. [PAUSE] In nature, there are …

MATTHEW: Oriental storks?

FATHER: And bees. There are nearly twenty thousand known species of bees in the world. They are found on every continent except Antarctica … Son, bees are important to birds because bees pollinate flowers, and well … We need flowers. Flowers are very important. But … It’s evolution. Biology. It’s completely natural … You see, birds too need flowers and we need birds. Everything in nature must work in tandem. Do you understand?

MATTHEW: I like birds.

FATHER: That’s very good to hear. But son, it’s important to like all animals.

MATTHEW: Yes, dad. Bees have sex. Birds have sex. Birds like bees and bees like birds and sometimes bees like other bees and some birds like goats. Everyone has sex. It’s good. It’s natural. Use condoms. I get it. I know.

FATHER: Matthew, in the age of Nicky Minaj and Tumblr I would be a little worried if you didn’t know about sex. But I’m afraid there are other things, much more complicated if you’d believe, that you must learn as a boy becoming a man. Son, you must learn certain things that social media and other people can’t ever tell you or don’t want to tell you. You must learn how the size of the universe is unfathomable and our place in it seeming insignificant, but you must learn still to love yourself within that same expanse. You must learn how a man cannot move mountains if he never learns to move his lips to speak of the simplicity of love. And you must learn that all animals have their place on Earth, and how we are all one with nature, and not separate from it, and how no single animal is lesser than another, and how we are all brothers. You must learn to listen to the wind even when it rambles insane, and to the call of mother nature even when she whispers so softly your ears only ring with the silence of it. And you must learn how the spirit moves through you and through all living things though you will never see it. And you must learn how humankind has been corrupted by greed. How men seek to replace bees with robots, and trees with money, and you must learn to keep your sanity in the midst of all this. Even when the last bee dies and the birds fall like a plague from the air. You must still learn to keep the bitterness out and peace and love in. For you must learn that the purpose of all things is to learn to love and be loved. For you are the universe. Like all living things. Like everything that ever was, is, and will be. Do you understand? [HE SEES THAT MATTHEW IS DUMBFOUNDED, JUST STARING AT HIM] Well, your mother was right. It’s too late. I should’ve had this talk with you when you were ten. But you see, my dad never had the talk with me. He only told me some bullshit about puberty! Can you believe!

[A moment. The two watch the sun disappearing behind the horizon.]

MATTHEW: What do they look like?

FATHER: Vaginas?

MATTHEW: Oriental storks.

FATHER: They’re critically endangered. But I’m told they’re beautiful, son. Like all birds. Beautiful.

MATTHEW: Beautiful?

FATHER: Beautiful.

THE END.

An illustration of a koala in a tree.

The Koala

EXT. – FUTURISTIC METROPOLIS, DAY (2075)

[A MAN hangs on to the third-story corner of a large skyscraper, the only tall building in a mostly flat and green metropolis. An electric truck pulls up in a silent kind of ‘whoosh’ out front.]

NARRATOR: After its long descent into depravity, things on Earth in the year 2075 had well and truly turned the other way. Disgusted with the greed and destruction they had long witnessed in the world, the Global Hippie Front and Hipster Freedom Parties formed a joint alliance and had, through the help of some carefully crafted viral social media posts, taken over the world. Money was abolished in favour of a simple barter system (farmer’s markets). Love was encouraged instead of hate. Trees were replanted the world over. The Great Barrier Reef teemed with life again.

[A neatly-dressed WOMAN WITH MEGAPHONE steps out of the electric truck, accompanied by her younger ASSISTANT. She looks up, spots the MAN clinging to the building, sighs, and raises her megaphone.]

WOMAN WITH MEGAPHONE: In the name of the EGDFMTEALA, the Ecological Global Directive For Making The Earth Actually Liveable Again [SHE TURNS AWAY FROM THE MEGAPHONE TO HER ASSISTANT BY HER SIDE] Didn’t we agree on a simpler acronym? [BACK TO THE MEGAPHONE] I demand that you come down from that building.
MAN: [SHOUTING] Why? So you can cut down the last of the corporate offices? Replace it with one of your wildlife thoroughfares? You people are insane! All about the animals isn’t it? Oh, ‘Don’t hurt a koala’, I hear you say. ‘Respect mother nature,’ you say. ‘Wait till they cross the road,’ you say. Never mind you’re running late for a meeting! Yes, I see what you’re up to. You bloody hipsters! Driving your potato-powered cars and drinking your coconut-milk turmeric lattes! Yes, don’t touch the hair on a koala! But what about us CEOs? You hunt us down, force us to work on farms!
WOMAN WITH MEGAPHONE: No one is forcing you to work on a farm, Mr. Rubin.
MAN: Yeah right, because I’ll just walk down to the supermarket will I? And buy myself a tomato? But oh wait, there are no supermarkets anymore, are there? Because YOU SNEAKS got rid of them.
WOMAN WITH MEGAPHONE: There’s always the farmer’s market?
MAN: Fruit and veg without pesticides? Are you mad? You think I want worms in my salad? Hummingbirds in my sandwiches? Bees in my hair?
WOMAN WITH MEGAPHONE: Actually, I think you’ll find we’ve made significant progress on the birds and the bees, and the koalas for that matter. With all due respect you’re being a bit of a koala now.
MAN: All I ever wanted was a little bit of money to cradle, to love, to worship. Was that too much to ask? Just a few million pounds, tax-free? But YOU BASTARDS won’t have it! No! I’m never coming down! I’m making a stand!
WOMAN WITH MEGAPHONE: Come on now, don’t make this difficult. You’re making a fool of yourself. You’ll have a law suit on your hands!
MAN: Bleh! Community work! I don’t care anymore! I JUST don’t care! I made a promise long ago to sacrifice my life for the wholesome good of money. There’s no going back now! I won’t let you cut down another skyscraper!
WOMAN WITH MEGAPHONE: [LOWERS MEGAPHONE, BACK TO HER ASSISTANT] There’s always one.
ASSISTANT: Bloody cash huggers.
THE END.

A photo of a monk in meditation.

Control Your Mind And You Control The World

You may have noticed I’ve been increasingly more active with my website and on social media lately. I have a few reasons. After a few years of being shy about putting my art out into the world, I have come to realise that like some try-hard Apollo I’ve been resting on my laurels and letting much of my creative ideas go to waste in the dark unseen corners of my cupboard drawers. And yet, this is a greater tragedy than any negative criticism I could ever receive by setting them free.

As a writer, I must remember:

‘’Tis better to have published and lost, than to never have published at all.’

And so here I am, unleashing my creativity, my humour, and my philosophy upon the world. But there is another reason for my recent surge in productivity. Let me explain.

For a long time I feel like I’ve carried the state of the world on my shoulders. Society has had its issues of late, after all. And seeing how messed up the world is impacts me in such a significant way that I have found myself numerous times over the past couple of years being stopped in my tracks, incapable of putting into words how I feel about bombs being dropped, the Great Barrier Reef being bleached, and paying-customers being dragged off aeroplanes. I shut-down. In a last-ditch effort to combat this depression, after seeing the ridiculous fate unravel of bad people controlling the world, I forced myself to repeat to myself an ancient Indian proverb:

‘Control your mind and you control the world.’

My way of dealing with the external was to remind myself that a lot of the bad things happening in the world are out of my immediate control. There is no use stressing over things that I can’t change. What is in my circle of influence, I ask myself? I can only control my mind. But then, I thought, what if my mind is my world? What if I took things one step (or even several steps) further? And so, I started looking at myself as if I were a nation. But I saw too that I had been embroiled in dramas with other nations that could not be escaped. At the end of my tether seeing war and corruption and greed on the daily news and on Facebook and everywhere I seemed to turn, I overthrew my old form of self-government with a swift coup. There was no militia, no battles on the streets. The change in government was gradual and relatively gentle. My first executive order however was extreme. It was to place a strict embargo upon the following things:

Television, all forms of advertising, movies that prioritise the selling of merchandise over creating a sound story without plot holes (hint, hint, the new Star Wars), news on television, tabloid newspapers, magazines, dairy products, materialism, Christmas, Easter, the gifting of materialistic presents, and Game Of Thrones.

Fair enough, said a lot of people. Milk is weird. It comes from cows. Do you see squirrels milking cows? Iguanas milking horses? No, that would be plain silly. Most interestingly however, my ‘allies’ (let’s call them that) were most distressed when they heard they could not export to me their tales of Game Of Thrones, or they could try, but I would simply not engage. The threat of unleashing spoilers still had no effect. ‘But it’s so good,’ people told me. To which I replied, ‘I’m sure it is. Doesn’t mean I have to watch it.’ ‘You’re not allowed to boycott Game Of Thrones’ said another friend. ‘Of course I can,’ I replied.

I told myself that I didn’t need Game Of Thrones because I would watch Japanese anime regardless of whether my friends (or even myself sometimes) understood what I was watching, I didn’t need Star Wars because I had Douglas Adams. I embarked upon forging a new society for myself, regardless of the society that surrounded me, a society which would be about love and not money, reason and not hate, a society that would enjoy the early Stars War films as canon and reject the ‘new testament’ (because come on, Rey developing her Jedi powers in the space of five minutes what took Luke Skywalker and entire film and constant counselling from Yoda to reach – is this the kind of storyline that earns your respect?), a society in which every day was an excuse to celebrate nature and not commercialism in the guise of Father Christmas, and fertility and not sugar in the guise of the Easter bunny, a society rich in resources which would forever enjoy a plentiful supply of coconut milk, iguanas or no iguanas.

And in many ways, things were lovely. I had a lovely bunch of coconuts. The problem was that it was partly because my society was an island. And no man is a … What’s that famous quote again?

The problem was that like Cuba, my life was impacted both positively and negatively by such strict embargoes. Because sometimes when you shut things out you also shut things in. Thus, after writing four hit plays in Europe and living overseas and feeling once upon a time like the sky was the limit I found myself laying low for a while, and I became more and more withdrawn. But though I still had ideas and comedy teeming within my brain I had shut down all methods of export.

I’ve realised finally that shutting your eyes doesn’t make the monsters go away. And unfortunately, if there is going to be change in the world, then you have to open you eyes and try to push through the pain of observing the destruction. I also have to be active in putting myself out there into the world. And so here I am, writing, illustrating. Creating. With a new hope (new Star Wars films will still be boycotted).

‘Those who love peace must be just as organised as those who love war.’ – Martin Luther King.

That saying really chimes with me. Not just because Martin Luther King is an example of someone I would nominate to be a leader of my ideal society, but because now I realise that you can’t fight what you can’t see. When I look at the news, when I see what’s happening in the world, I still can’t help getting down feeling like the world is doomed. More and more the world is becoming like that movie Idiocracy. And empty minds are louder than full minds. But that’s why I have to remind myself to be loud. Indeed, I think we all do. Strictness is not necessarily strength. The truly wise person learns to let the waves of destruction, sadness, and regret wash over them, and then finds a way to impact the world around them.

The question that has often stopped me posting my creative works on my blog and on social media in the past is this eternally nagging question: ‘Why does anyone care?’ Okay, Martin Luther King and Charlie Chaplin, those are nice quotes and all, but how do I get organised? How can I fight for peace? And as corny as it sounds, how can I fight for love? There are bombs going off in Syria, there are leaders blindly reaching for their nuclear deployment buttons, and here I am posting a short story about caterpillars. How does that help the world?

You need power, only when you want to do something harmful. Otherwise, love is enough to get everything done.’ – Charlie Chaplin.

The thing is, it does help. You see, not everyone can pick up arms and fight extremists on the battlefield, not everyone can get engaged in politics and tackle corruption on the front lines, not everyone was born to run into burning buildings and save people’s lives and actually enjoy the thrill. If you can do any of these things, then I would like to say thank you right here and now. The point is, everyone has different skills. So the question I’ve been asking myself for so long when on the verge of hitting the ‘Publish’ button: ‘How does posting this change the world?’ really was the wrong one. Instead, all along I should’ve been asking myself, what am I doing to chime? Yes, chime. The world needs us all to chime right now. The world needs us to sing like pipes in a church organ and to drown out the angry and the insane. Whatever it is you love doing, whatever it is that makes you feel passionate, creative, cultural, there is a good chance it will make others feel that way to. And that matters, because people need to remember to laugh, people need to remember to take an interest in other cultures, people need to remember to look at the world with a creative mind, people need to remember to think with reason and philosophy.

‘Control your mind and you control the world.’

Yes, fill your mind, and then tell people about it. Engage, connect, share, spread love and happiness. Be the antidote to the negativity in the world. Be the world you want to change in the … Yeah, you get the idea.

The world is already full of so much darkness. Whatever you can do to bring light into the dark corners of the world indeed counts in the fight against destruction, oppression, and greed. You’ve just gotta chime. The change might be small. But even the ocean is made up of drops of water. Corny? Maybe. True? Yes.

From now on you’re going to see a lot more of me online.

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An illustration of a British soldier.

On The Front

EXT. BATTLEFIELD, EAST U.S. – LATE 1700s, DAY

[An infantry unit of red coats gather on a wide open field. There is no sign of the Americans yet. Biding their time, they load their muskets and adjust the buttons of their uniforms (whatever they can do to look busy). A young LIEUTENANT approaches the GENERAL, a thick-set man with a large handlebar moustache, sitting back on an elaborate chair positioned on the grass outside his tent as he watches his men fuss about him.]

LIEUTENANT: General …

GENERAL: Yes, what is it?

LIEUTENANT: I was just thinking …

GENERAL: Again?

LIEUTENANT: Why do we attack the Americans from the front?

GENERAL: Well how do you want us to attack them? Swing our bayonets around like pendulums? Shoot them over our heads? We won’t be able to see them!

LIEUTENANT: On the front.

GENERAL: Ha! If we don’t attack them on the front how on Earth will we find them? We’ve got to be fighting on the same field don’t we?

LIEUTENANT: Of course. No, but I mean, why do we attack them in such a symmetrical fashion? You see, it has occurred to me that if we would only move around a tad, while the other side is reloading their muskets at least, we might all survive a whole lot better.

GENERAL: Ah, but Lieutenant, that’s not very honourable, is it?

LIEUTENANT: There’s nothing honourable about returning home dead Sir.

GENERAL: That’s not what they told me. And if we attack them from the side then what’s next? Attack them in the night? Attack them in their sleep on Christmas? I mean come on man, there’s got to be a limit.

LIEUTENANT: Right then.

GENERAL: Now come on. Hop to. The Americans said they’d be here. They’re bound to show up any minute and then we’ll only have another hour to prepare.

[The lieutenant raises his hand to his head in salute, albeit reluctantly, just as the American militia suddenly come charging out of the distant trees to the left and right of the British ambushing them guerrilla warfare style, swords, axes, and pitchforks in hand.]

GENERAL: Clever girl.

THE END.

An original illustration of a green caterpillar.

Plastic Grows On Trees (short story)

James hated nail polish. The smell was like an invisible fist that divided in two, reached in through his nostrils, and simultaneously punched him in both hemispheres of the brain. Given the choice, he would rather sniff textas or wasabi, he often thought, at least wasabi had tang, but not nail polish. Never nail polish. And so, James did what he did every time his mother got the horrible stuff out in front of the television. He went outside. It had been raining for two straight days capping off an atrocious summer, and the ground squelched under his feet and the hems of his trousers were quickly saturated by the grass. Boredom. All he could think of was the news: the stabbings, the plastic-eating caterpillars, the never-ending rhetoric. His mother had had a horrible time keeping her hands steady in between manic outbursts of ‘That’s awful!’ and ‘Well, aren’t they clever!’ and ‘Those scumbags are at it again!’ But now as James breathed in the fresh air he felt whole again, cast free from that insane up and down merry-go-world. He thought about throwing a tennis ball against the wall of the garage, but then he remembered he had left his tennis balls out in the rain and they too were covered in globs of mud, only their bald yellow heads poking out in a neat row from the river now gushing along the length of the fence. Cricket balls? He couldn’t remember where he’d put them and he was half certain his mother had hidden them after one of them chipped the sandstone cornerstones of the house. It wasn’t like he’d broken a window!

He wandered down to the back corner of the garden, aimless, simply looking up so as to force himself not to care about his wet trousers, so he could tell his mother he hadn’t noticed when she’d inevitably tell him off, but besides that, so he could simply feel the drizzling rain upon his face. After a few more steps he stopped and cast his eyes down from the grey clouds to the top of the largest tree in the back corner of the garden. The last of the summer’s red delicious apples dangled from its branches over the wood shed. Each February James had to climb over the wood shed to pick the brightest red apples before they got pecked by the crows. But today, he wasn’t really feeling all that hungry. Down his eyes sank from the canopy down the trunk, to the bottom branches jutting out wide in the hopes of one day catching the sun.

On the closest branch James spotted something wriggling. Something green. He watched as a caterpillar heaved itself upside down along the length of the greenest twig, and reared its front half up seemingly staring at James with its huge orb eyes. James put out his finger and the little thing grappled on. James lifted it up to his eyes. ‘It’s gonna be up to you one day buddy,’ he said.

‘James! Dinner’s ready!’ the caterpillar squeaked back. ‘James? Are you listening? Dinner’s ready. Come in now.’

‘Wowee,’ said James. A talking caterpillar. Meanwhile his mum stood at the back door still waiting for a reply. She looked down to her eldest daughter by her side who looked back up at her, one eyebrow raised.

‘I swear, he’s autistic,’ said the mother.

‘Sniffing nail polish,’ replied the daughter.

‘And take those bloody trousers off!’

It was time to go in.

THE END.

Yup, it’s true. Scientists have identified a caterpillar that eats plastic. But will it really spell the end to turtles choking on plastic bags and never-ending pits of landfill? Read more:

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-39694553

https://phys.org/news/2017-04-caterpillar-bags-biodegradable-solution-plastic.html

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/25/plastic-eating-bugs-wax-moth-caterpillars-bee

An illustration of the Egyptian goddess Bastet.

Tinkers (And The Giant Slide)

INT. EGYPTIAN PALACE – DAY

[A PHARAOH paces in his palace room nervously. The sound of horns. The massive doors to the room open. Two small cats enter flanking TINKERS, a gigantic two legged hominoid cat woman twice the size of the pharaoh. Seeing Tinkers, the pharaoh promptly drops to his knees and prostrates himself on the floor.]

PHARAOH: Tinkers, you have returned.

[With a simple gesture Tinkers orders the pharaoh to stand.]

TINKERS: Indeed. I have returned to inspect the construction. Remember, I’m counting on you Egyptians to complete everything on time.

PHARAOH: The last stones are being put into place right now, master. We’ve laboured for centuries in honour of you, our gods. Finally, we can say we have completed your request.

TINKERS: Perfect, then everything is in place for the great experiment?

PHARAOH: Err, yeah, about that. Can you remind me what the great experiment is?

TINKERS: (FRUSTRATED) Is it done or not?

PHARAOH: We’ve constructed everything you asked for.

TINKERS: Great. Gigantic are they?

PHARAOH: Massive!

TINKERS: Made of stone?

PHARAOH: Of course.

TINKERS: And the giant slides down the middle?

PHARAOH: Giant slides?

TINKERS: Don’t tell me you forgot about the giant slides!

PHARAOH: Errr …

TINKERS: Oh you fools! Didn’t you have the blueprints? How else are people going to slide down on their faces into the massive tub of spaghetti? How else are people going to be humiliated and forced to lick themselves for hours afterwards to externalise their embarrassment? It’s the ultimate revenge! For all those years being thrown off apartment balconies just to see if we’d land on our feet, for all the times we were forced to wear pieces of bread around our heads just for your amusement. It’s the reason we took over Earth in the year 3000 and travelled back in time. Revenge! Didn’t you read the project brief?

PHARAOH: Well, that’s the thing. [He reveals a document from his back pocket] My interpreters had some troubles …

TINKERS: What?! Give me the brief! [Tinkers snatches the document and reads aloud] Meow meow meow meow meow hhssssssss meow meow meow … I don’t understand, this explains everything in complete detail. Damn your incompetence! Right then, you give me no choice. I’ll just have to go to the Aztecs. A little more expensive I admit, but I highly doubt they’ll get it wrong.

THE END.

An illustration of a cat sitting on a windowsill.

You Only Love When You Want To Be Loved

You only love when you want to be loved
You only breathe when you want to be breathed
Like fire
Drunk
Upon my kerosene,
Spat out
Through hoola hoop eights
And
Dancing girls skirts
Singeing embers
With
Stars.

You only love when you want to be loved,
You only sing when you want to be sung,
Like a cat,
Moaning
In the dead of night,
Perched
Again
Atop your window sill,
Claws in dead moths
And
The deaf dumb
Dark.

You only love when you want to be loved,
You only move when you want to be moved,
Like unopened superglue
In some forgotten drawer,
Yearning
To be still,
Again
Like skin
Scratched porcelain
Forever
Doomed to
Fall.

You only love when you want to be loved.
You only live when you want to be lived.
You only love
When you want to be loved.

An illustration of a yeti in a blizzard.

The Yeti (a short story)

It had been a difficult year, what with the divorce, losing half the house, half the kids, not to mention half the company (therefore). Simon had half a mind left to take his ex-wife back to court, but then he knew he might just lose everything.
Anyway, not all was lost. Rather conveniently, Simon’s mother passed away only a week after Simon’s divorce settlement. Simon was her only son, and she had left him a massive hessian bag filled with cash. No, not 500 notes but each note was worth a whopping 500 Euros. He couldn’t be bothered counting them all. The point is, it was a lot of money, in a sack, hidden under her mattress (which had unfortunately resulted in Simon’s mother having long suffered from curvature of the spine). How she had managed to save so much money was beyond Simon. Though what was stranger was that Simon had no European heritage. On top of that he learnt his mother for the last ten years had been living in France. No wonder he hadn’t heard from her in a while. He suspected she had become involved in counterfeiting. Again. In any case, the bank didn’t seem to care.
What luck! The only problem was that Simon had to travel to France to pick up the bequest. The French post really mucked Simon around. They refused to ship such a large bundle of cash and instead suggested sending each note out of the country in individual envelopes. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, right?
Simon thought that was a very French and a very stupid idea. Anyway, picking up the money turned out to be a relatively easy task. He simply had to pick up the money from an old forgotten uncle, though we won’t get into that and I dare not describe him because he was a very simple fellow not worthy of description, who drank tea and talked a lot about cats.
And so, Simon was suddenly rich again. Still, the past year had taken its toll on him and seeing as he was in France already, he decided what he needed was to make the most of his forced holiday. He decided to go skiing. It was winter (luckily) and it would surely help him to relax and take his mind off other things. Or so he thought.
It was at the top of Mont Blanc on a particularly snow-swept day that Simon got off the chairlift finding himself at the top of a double black diamond run which was basically an accident because he only wanted to see what it looked like and at the top of chairlift peak was told he could take the chairlift up to the black diamond run but not down from it. An hour later, trying to avoid skiing down the double black diamond run Simon found himself completely lost in a crop of trees. And to make things worse, the mountain was now being pounded by a spontaneous blizzard. As the snow picked up and the sky turned white Simon noticed something moving around a collection of large boulders around the top of the mountain. He started to approach it, hoping it was one of those St. Bernard rescue dogs with a cute little barrel filled with cheese and crunchy bread dipped in olive oil around its neck. But as he got closer he saw that whatever the figure was, it was huge. It was not a dog, nor was it human.
A mass of white hair hovered above the rocks and in a moment the creature thundered towards him, making the Earth shake with every step, and cutting through the thick wall of snow as though it were cellophane. Its white matted fur glistened in the winter sun, its red ravenous eyes glowed, its dirty yellow teeth gleamed. It roared, ‘RRARRRAAARRRRGH!’
Well, Simon didn’t bother introducing himself. He clicked his boots back into his skis and skied like he had never skied before (only because he had never skied before). Trees, snow, trees, snow. The landscape whizzed by him in a flash. He had never learnt how to turn! Another two hours later, after tumbling and falling and careening back and forth down the double black diamond run Simon trudged back into the ski village at the bottom of the mountain. He was hungry, exhausted, trembling. His nose had turned blue. Thank Shiva, he said quietly to himself. He had escaped a yeti!
Back at his hotel, Simon said hello to the receptionists though he didn’t bother telling anyone what had happened. He was embarrassed after all. And would anyone believe him? Did he even believe himself? He retreated to room 286 on the second floor. Inside, he wrapped himself up in his bed covers and for a good long while he sat still trembling in a puddle on the carpet as he thawed. It was an hallucination Simon told himself. It was nothing.
Finally, having collected himself, Simon stood up. All he had left in his life was a load of cash and half a mind. But what good is money if you have no mind at all? He wouldn’t let the insanity beat him. He had to fight it. It was all delirium, a kind of anti-mirage. Surely. He had a shower, slipped on his slippers, and poured himself a small cup of brandy with still shaking hands and laughed to himself. How silly. To think, a yeti!
Suddenly there came a loud thumping at his hotel door and it burst off its locks and there stood Michael Schumacher.
‘Michael Schumacher?’ said Simon.
Michael Schumacher was dripping wet. His hair was long and his beard grew down to his hips. His eyes were bloodshot. His fingernails were long and sharp.
‘Yes, it’s me,’ replied Michael Schumacher. ‘I am the man you saw on top of the mountain. May I?’ He barged into Simon’s room and moved towards the brandy as if it and he were magnetised. He poured and knocked back a full glass before he looked back at Simon to see Simon’s jaw still hadn’t closed (he was still deciding whether to shout or cry). ‘Sit down,’ Michael Schumacher said. ‘I will explain everything.’
Well, Simon thought about asking Michael Schumacher to leave, but it was Michael Schumacher. ‘Um, okay,’ replied Simon, half in shock, as he took his seat and Michael Schumacher, still standing, poured two new glasses of brandy.
‘I faked my own coma,’ said Michael Schumacher. ‘I’ve been living in the mountains for years. Listen, we don’t have much time. There are people after me. The CIA.’
‘The CIA?’
‘They want to kill me.’
‘Why?’
‘Because of this,’ said Michael Schumacher. He held up a bright yellow USB stick in his hand. ‘It contains on it, the ANSWER …’
‘To the meaning of the universe?’ asked Simon.
‘No,’ replied Michael Schumacher. He looked a little disappointed. ‘No, not that. You know, who shot JFK.’
‘Oh,’ replied Simon, forcing himself to take a sip of his brandy, only to steady himself. ‘But the thing is, Michael … Can I call you Michael? What does this have to do with me?’
‘I saw you,’ replied Michael Schumacher, ‘Struggling with your skis on the top of the mountain, struggling to get off the chairlift. I followed you as you were lost in the blizzard. You’re not like the others are you? Yes, I saw you and I thought, here is the kind of man I’ve been looking for. A man who has lost the way. A man who has lost everything. A man with nothing to lose. A man who has realised the great truth about everything. A man to take the answer …’ He held up the USB stick again as though it were a sacred jewel. ‘And get it to someone who can help. Here, you must take it. Hold out your hand. Tomorrow, I am sure something will happen to me. I shouldn’t have left the mountain you see. I believe I’ve already been seen. Simon, you must believe me. Tomorrow, I will be dead. Promise me, you’ll find a man named Baron McGall. You must find him and give this USB stick to him. He is a writer for Die Welt. He will make sure that the truth gets out.’
‘And he’s a Baron?’
‘No, that’s just his code name.’
Simon reluctantly held out his hand and Michael Schumacher placed the USB stick into it and clasped Simon’s finger around it for him. The only question that ran through Simon’s mind was whether Michael Schumacher’s were sweaty or just wet. ‘Um, I, well, I guess … Um …okay,’ said Simon.
And with that Michael Schumacher downed another glass of brandy, backed out of the door, and after looking both ways down the hall anxiously, disappeared again around the corner.
Simon got up and ran out into the hall but he could see through the open second-story window Michael Schumacher was already sliding down the outside piping towards the ground. He was as agile as an iguana! Simon watched as Michael Schumacher ran off across the snow-covered front lawn of the hostel and across the small road, and disappeared again into the night.
The next morning Simon went down to the front reception of the hotel. He had had an awful night’s sleep given all the events and had continued shivering all through the night, not helped by the fact that his hotel room now had no door and someone kept leaving windows open. He still hadn’t managed to convince the receptionist of his experience. Apparently no one had seen Michael Schumacher and Simon was informed he would have to pay for the broken door. It was then he saw the new day’s newspaper on the reception counter:
‘MICHAEL SCHUMACHER IMPERSONATOR SHOT DEAD. “BLOODY WELL MURDERED,” SAID WITNESS. ESCAPED FROM MENTAL HOSPITAL. POLICE SUSPECT SUICIDE …’
So the guy was an impersonator? A crazy? Thought Simon to himself. And yet he looked the spitting image of Michael Schumacher? But then, if he was Michael Schumacher and if Michael Schumacher was killed by the CIA wouldn’t the CIA cover it up? Simon’s head spun. He needed more brandy.
One name resounded in his head: Baron McGall.
Within the hour the police were swarming around the hotel. It seemed the receptionist had tipped them off to his report that he had seen Michael Schumacher the night before. But Simon watched them from the cafe across the road where he had seen Michael Schumacher, or at least the man who claimed to be Michael Schumacher disappear. It was at exactly 11:30am that a tall man wearing a fedora and a long brown raincoat stepped into the café, and after shaking his damp coat and hanging it up and doffing his hat, he approached Simon, and took a seat at his table.
‘You’re the guy?’ asked the man, in a low gravelly voice.
‘Who are you?’ asked Simon.
‘Baron McGall.’
‘Why do they call you that?’
‘I’m not really a baron if that’s what you’re asking,’ replied the man. A waitress approached but with a slight nod of the head the man sent her away. He turned to look out the window for a moment, through the still thick snow tinted by red and blue. ‘You’ve got something for me?’
‘Michael told me to give you this,’ said Simon. He placed the bright yellow USB stick on the table and slid it towards the man. ‘I just hope justice can be done.’
‘Did you look at the contents?’ asked the man.
‘No,’ said Simon.
The man frowned then, and looked deep into Simon’s eyes, searching. ‘Why not?’
‘Well …’ replied Simon. ‘I’m not all that interested in it. I mean, was 9/11 really an inside job? Were alien artefacts found on the moon but no one ever said anything? I’d like to know more about those things to be honest. Who shot JFK? I mean, I get it. Something doesn’t add up. But I just don’t think it’s really all that important anymore. I mean, it was a long time ago.’
‘Very well,’ said the man. He looked curiously at the bright yellow USB stick again in his black gloved hand before he slipped it into his pocket. He got up, retrieved his coat and tugged the brim of his fedora now back atop his head. He opened the door to be buffeted again by the snow and the blue and red lights, and with a wry smile he finally turned and disappeared back into the blender of it.
It should not be surprising that the great exposé in the international newspapers never came. You see, Baron McGall was not really Baron McGall. The real Baron McGall had been murdered with an umbrella two months before Simon met Michael Schumacher. Yes, he had actually been stabbed with an umbrella by the KGB two years earlier (who wanted him dead for numerous other reasons, namely counterfeiting). The thing was, Michael Schumacher had no way of knowing that because he’d been hiding away like a hermit on a mountain hadn’t he? The guy who claimed to be Baron McGall was really CIA. He knew too well how so many would give their right minds to know the truth. He knew too how anyone who looked upon that USB stick would likely not be able to mutter a single intelligible word for the rest of their lives. That’s the price of the truth. For he knew how sometimes answers unlock other answers. How sometimes keys unlock other keys.
But what if a man had no right mind?
What if a man only had half a mind left?
THE END.

A photo of a cassette tape.

Mixtape #1 (Kavinsky, Radiohead, Beirut, Charlie Chaplin … Yes, Charlie Chaplin)

Whatever happened to the mixtape? Ever seen the movies High Fidelity or Almost Famous? Those movies were about sharing music. I mean, actually sharing music. There was a time when people saved up their hard-earned pennies for a month just to buy one new album. Yes, a physical album they could hold in their hands. Sure, vinyl is making a comeback. But now, how things have changed. With YouTube, Apple Music, Spotify at our hands we are able to access pretty much all music anywhere anytime. And that’s great, don’t get me wrong. I love that. It just occurred to me the other day that perhaps in this age where half our data lives in the invisible ‘cloud’ we just need to remind ourselves that sharing is caring. Sometimes you’ve got to actually slow down, take a breath, and actually share. Not just click a button that says ‘share’ but actually give. Lest, you get caught up in the storm clouds.

A good mixtape is not just about packaging a bunch of songs together. A good mixtape takes time and thought and contemplation to create. A good mixtape flows just like an album in its own right. It conveys not just one emotion but many, woven throughout multiple themes both subtle and obvious, trickling from start to end like a beautiful (or beautifully ugly) river. The start might be as wide as the Amazon or as hazardous as the Niagra falls, while the end may be a mere babbling brook. A good mixtape makes a lot of individual songs stand out and yet chime together.

If you’re new to my site let me introduce myself. My name is Stu. I’m a playwright and lately a dabbling artist. And a music fiend. I listen to music every day without fail. I listen to music while I write. I listen to music while I paint. Basically, I feel a bit like a converted Daniel talking to Sam-I-Am:

‘I listen to music in a boat!
And I listen to music  with a goat.
And I listen to music  in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
It is so good so good you see!’

In the past writing and even producing my own plays I’ve always listened to music as a source of inspiration and a way of channeling certain emotions and keeping a consistency throughout those emotions that I need to write and edit a work over and over again. Playlists allows me to add a soundtrack to the movie of my imagination. Indeed, when it comes to my plays, in the past I’ve always loved creating a playlist (yes, the technician required a CD) for every show, music to be played pre and post performance. I’ve even gone to the lengths of mixing my own beats and sound effects for use during shows and after each play’s run actors and audience members alike each time asked for copies. Which is flattering, though I won’t get too carried away. I’m not the one making the music! In essence, what I was creating were handpicked soundtracks for my art.

This got me thinking. Why wait to create a soundtrack just for my plays when I pretty much create a soundtrack to my art every week? Why don’t I share the music that inspires me and my art more regularly? Below I’ve compiled a list of fourteen songs that over the last week or so have really inspired me, taken me to wondrous lands inside my head, and made me feel something. My music taste is very eclectic so be warned (everything from ragtime to techno). It changes from week to week. My playlists also have a way of switching genre midway through. But it’s all about sculpting that river.

This particular mixtape is an eclectic mix of some well-known and newly discovered gems. Electronic, rock, soul, punk, folk … add some Charlie Chaplin to garnish and yep, you’ve got yourself a mixtape!

Maybe I can make this a weekly thing?

So here goes. Here’s my ‘mixtape’: