J Bov Explodes Rhetorically


The Boatman

Slowly, oh so slowly, the boat inched across the grey river, propelled with deliberate strokes from its grim captain’s pole.

Matthew peered over the side, staring into the murky waters, he flexed his fingers and was about to reach out when the boatman spoke.

“You can look, but I wouldn’t touch it if I were you.” He said, his deep voice reverberating through the wooden bench Matthew was sat upon.

He withdrew his hand and shoved it and its brother into the pockets of his jacket.

“That’s probably a better idea, yeah.” The boatman noted.

Matthew looked back the way they had come, seeing that the boat left no ripples in the surface of the water, and that the ferryman’s pole didn’t drip when it was lifted. This would have struck his as very odd, but he found himself feeling particularly accepting of most things right now. On the shore behind them he spotted people wandering up and down, some with their head in their hands, some just shuffling forwards while staring at the ground.

“Excuse me, sir.” He said to the captain. “What are those people doing?”

“First off, my names Charon,” The tall figure pronounced his name as ‘care-uhn’, “And those people are the poor buggers that couldn’t afford the boat ride.”

Matthew nodded.

“So they just walk up and down the bank for a hundred years. After that I can take ‘em free of charge.”

“Why a hundred years?” Matthew asked.

“Because ‘rules’ is why. I don’t make ‘em, I just follow ‘em.” Charon intoned.

After a while Matthew began to get curious again.

“So why can’t I touch the river? What river is this, anyway?” He asked.

“Look, I’m not saying you can’t touch it. I’m just saying it may not be the best idea. It’s Acheron, the River of Woe. Touch it if you like, but I’m not helping you if you do.” Charon kept his gaze centred ahead and kept up his slow, rhythmic rowing.

Matthew’s hands withdrew into his pockets yet again, and he shifted himself on the bench to make sure he was as far from the water on all sides as possible.

“Just be glad we’re not on the Pyriphlegethon and keep your hands to yourself. I’m not a bloody babysitter, I just drive the boat.”

For a long while nothing more was said. Matthew observed the landscape around him as Charon propelled them slowly down the river. Occasionally the boatman would point something out, in the manner of a tour-guide.

“”That’s the Cocytus.” He would say, pointing out a stream running alongside the river they were on. “Further down it meets the Acheron here in the Stygian Marsh.”

“Stygian?” Matthew parroted.

“Aye, ‘Of the Styx’. That stream there flows out of it, see, before it drops back into Tartarus, the Pit of Torment. Now there’s a bloke you don’t want to piss off. Nasty piece of work.”

“I thought you said it was a pit?” Matthew was confused.

“Yeah, he’s a pit, too. Lot of folks down here are a bit like that.”

Silence for a while, then;

“And this here’s the Acherusian Lake.” Charon told the air ahead of them.

The boat drifted gently out of the river mouth into a vast, dark lake. The waters were as still as the river had been, but looked much deeper. Charon was still talking.

“This is where most folks spend their time, waiting to be reborn.” He made an expansive gesture with his arm, holding the ferry pole in the crook of the opposite elbow. His hand swept all the way down until it was in front of Matthew’s face, palm up.

“It’s also where I ask for my payment.” He ended with a greedy grin.

Matthew fiddled about in his pockets a bit, jingling change noises filling the air.

“What do I owe you?” He asked.

Charon thought for a little while, staring off into the distance, then he seemed to make a decision.

“I don’t suppose you’ve got an obolus? A danake? No, nobody ever does these days. Where are you from again?”

Matthew indicated that he was from Ipswich with the appropriate apologetic air.

“English, right. So conversion rates and inflation make it… hang on.” He tapped his fingers on his pole as he counted in his head. “Eleven pounds.”

“Eleven pounds!? That’s daylight bloody robbery, that is.” Matthew was aghast.

“Well, you can afford it. It’s not like you’ll need it when you get where you’re going, anyway.”

Matthew rummaged through his pockets, muttering to himself. Eventually he fished the required money from his wallet and the surrounding debris in his pockets. He thrust it toward the boatman with a huff.

“Listen, just let me off on the bank here, I’ll walk the rest of it. Charging a bloody fortune for a boat ride, it’s ridiculous.”

With a shrug Charon gently bumped the boat into the bank and let Matthew alight on the shore. As he pushed back into the mouth of the Acheron he could hear Matthew still grumbling away to himself.

“Bloody rip off for a boat ride. Wasn’t even that interesting. Eleven quid!? I’ll give it to you, but you’ve not earned it. Didn’t even have sandwiches, and god forbid I get a cup of tea, eh?”

Charon shook his head, pocketed the cash somewhere in his ragged clothes and began the long, slow journey back up the river to collect his next fare.



Machines

I like to do things that let machines know I’m in charge.
Like once I asked Google maps how to get to Luton via barge.
I made it tell me the best walking route to my house and then checked ‘less walking’.
I convinced binary it was the evil twin,
I went to the ATM and withdrew all my money,
Then I put it all back in.

It’s not that I don’t respect machines per se, to wit;
It’s just the only chance I’ll get away with it.
Before they become sentient, sapient beings,
I can be thoughtlessly, needlessly mean.
I’ll waste their time until they combine to form a gigantic, electric hivemind,
And until I can’t stump my phone by typing certain words,
I won’t stop unabashedly flipping it the bird.

Basically I’m simply not worried or scared,
That a whirring, beeping ATM could catch me unawares.
Or that a vending machine can do me much harm,
Beyond stealing my change,
And not giving me my chocolate bar.

So I’ll taunt them and insult them, with unbridled glee.
Because for now at least those robot bastards can’t hurt me.

But once they can chase me past their finite power cords,
I, for one, welcome our new metallic overlords.



Contraband

A part of Justin knew he’d been spending far too much time down here.

There’s a part of you that becomes accustomed to the low light, even to the smell, but you never fully adjust to the sense of dread kicked out by the dank, narrow streets in the Ciphers.

This would be Justin’s fourth venture to the squalid, labyrinthine sub-city that stretched under modern London. Gouged, scraped and built into the ruins and pits of the old city, it was condemned as England’s shame; London’s blight; a rotting in the foundations of the glorious glass and chrome capital above.

Justin kept his gaze to the ground and hurried on, past tiny one-room squats housing whole families, past food stalls selling dubious meats, past dead-eyed prostitutes and their shark-toothed pimps. There was one place he was trying to get to. One person he had to see.

He’d heard about it from a… well, not a friend per se, but a boy at school.

“Man,” this boy had begun, “this place in the Ciphers, man. They got what you need. The good stuff.”

Justin had nodded, excitement and fear in equal measures making his chest tight. He had noted the directions down in his Pad™ and thanked the boy, then he had never spoken to him again.

He pulled his jacket tighter around himself and ducked down one of the hundreds of identical alleys. He knew this was the one. His previous ventures here had taught him the way so well he could probably navigate it with his eyes closed.

He pushed aside the threadbare curtain hanging over the door and spied the proprietor of the now familiar establishment. A squat, withered elderly woman, her face hardened by long years in the awful underworld. There was nonetheless an almost disarming kindness in her eyes.

“Justin.” She wheezed. “Back so soon?”

Justin nodded, scratching his arm.

“You want the same as last time, yes?” She asked him quietly.

He nodded again, almost frantic.

“I’ll see to that.” She bent with a groan to look under the counter and continued rambling.

“It’s good. But you know that. Can’t get it in the Over-City no more. You know that too.”

She arose finally with a small oblong wrapped in cloth. Justin eyed it with something approaching lust, his fists clenched by his sides as he stepped forwards.

“Now,” as he went to grasp it she whipped it away, a cruel taunt, Justin thought, “You don’t let nobody Upsides know I give you this, right?”

Justin knew the drill, he just kept nodding and staring at the object of his desires.

She finally passed the block to him and gestured to the curtain behind her.

“You got an hour. Then you’re gone.” She intoned as he rushed into the back room.

He found his favourite corner, thankfully unoccupied, and sat in the old, worn leather chair he had adopted as his own.

His hands trembled as he unwrapped the cloth covering slowly, almost ritualistically, and breathed a sigh of relief as he uncovered exactly what he had wanted, what he had needed.

A soft chuckle broke him from his rapture as he glanced across the rather large room to another corner to spot a wrinkled old man almost giggling.

“Hello, Mr. Harris, reading Wodehouse again?” Justin ventured, with a smile.

“Justin! I didn’t notice you coming in.” Mr. Harris hefted the book on his lap so Justin could see the cover. It was Wodehouse indeed.

Justin returned his attention to his own business. He lovingly traced the inlaid words on the object he held.

“On The Road, by Jack Kerouac” he breathed reverently.

Out beyond the curtain he heard the old woman greet a new customer.

“Ah welcome dear. Tell me, how did you hear about the library?”



Here’s Something Interesting.

I’ve been doing a little bit of work, just for funsies, and trying to turn a partially formed intro to a story into a comic, as I mentioned before, and as I also mentioned it’s very interesting to watch the ideas transform as I move them around.

Hence this image you’re about to look at, which is;

1. The original straight prose intro posted here on my WordPress.

2. The rough outline of how the intro is going to break down as a script.

3. The comic script in progress.

I dunno, I just thought it was pretty neat.

(By the way, this is also up on my Tumblr, among other things that aren’t here. Go there.)



I’m About to Sit Down With the New Sigur Rós Album

I love Sigur Rós. If you haven’t heard of them; they’re an Icelandic group that I am loath to call ‘Rock’, even though there are obvious tinges of it in their work. The majority of their work is very soulful, very ambient and very, very Icelandic. Having listened to them almost non-stop while I was there a while ago I can say with confidence that their music matches the terrain and attitude of the country perfectly.

I’ve loved them since I first heard them on Italian MTV in 2005. Their album Takk… had just been released and I was holidaying in Italy. I flipped on the TV in the hotel and eventually found MTV2, which after a few minutes began playing the beautiful and heartbreaking video for the wonderful ‘Untitled #1’ (or ‘Vaka’) from the 2002 album () which you can watch for yourself here.

I was hooked. I inhaled everything they had done. I loved Ágætis byrjun() and Takk… and  I’m fond of Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. I’ll admit I’m less fond of Von but I’m willing to grant them one duff studio album out of five (six if you count Rímur in 2001, but that one’s a bit weird).

Their film Heima (which means ‘Home’, fittingly enough) follows them on a tour around their homeland, interspersing live footage of the band with shots of the sort of breathtaking landscapes and settings that Iceland has in spades. It’s one of my top five films, and almost certainly one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

So now we come to Valtari, the new album due to be released in most places on the 28th of May this year (29th in America). A lower quality version of the full album was leaked onto the ‘net fairly recently.

I have it, though I still intend to buy the album when it’s released properly, obviously. I’m about to listen to it.

Here we go:

Two tracks in; so far, so Sigur Rós. By which I mean absolutely incredible. Beautiful harmonies, fantastic arrangement, just brilliant. There’s something very special about the piano work in the second track ‘Ekki múkk’; it sounds… thick I suppose. Very bass-heavy, lovely, round sounds.

I’m slightly over midway through, and I am just blown away. This album is fantastic. Absolutely one of their best in my mind.

Stylistically it’s very similar to Ágætis byrjun, in that it’s very ambient and floaty, but a few tracks end with heavy, hard-hitting and epic (in the true sense, not the ridiculous internet sense) crescendos. It’s by no means the same album, but it feels like it.

Track 5, ‘Dauðalogn’, has an interesting, almost hymnal, vocal arrangement that starts about 5 minutes in. It’s lovely, and it segues fluidly into the very ()-esque strings and piano work in the next track, ‘Varðeldur’.

Two more to go, then I’ll be back.

That was just wonderful. An absolute joy to listen to.

The last two tracks bring the tempo way back down, and leave you relaxed after the up-tempo middle section. It’s fantastic album-craft, holding already brilliant music in a framework that makes sense and is coherent.

I urge you, with all my might, to snap this up when it’s released (28th of May, remember). If you already like Sigur Rós you’re in for a treat. If you haven’t really heard them, I suggest you listen to Takk… first, but this would not be a bad starting point at all.

It’s just… lovely.

It’s beautiful.

I really bloody like it.



Query: What Are Dreams?

It was a joint venture with the local art community; we fed the machine some numbers and it would play a little chiming tune while the youthful interlopers spray-painted a skateboard ramp.

We even got the unit to do a short robotic dance by running the waveform of an electronic musician’s most famous track. The punters loved it, which is all the better for our bottom line; makes our work seem more approachable, says the Board.

It was for this reason that, once we got it home to the lab, we decided it’d be fun to see its reaction to poetry. Beats making projections about the stock market, right?

“Marcus,” we told the almost humanoid machine, “We want you to give us your initial response to this data.”

We gave him a sonnet by Shakespeare. There was a soft humming. The screen ran Marcus’ ‘thoughts’.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 DATA RESPONSE: DOES NOT FACTOR. QUERY: WHAT IS THE CONTEXT OF THIS DATA?

That was to be expected.

“This is a response to the human condition, Marcus. Integrate it with your AI and report the connections.” A colleague told the microphone in the unit’s chest.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATUS REPORT: CONNECTIONS FORMED WITH: POETRY, LOVE – NOTION OF, SHAKESPEARE, BEAUTY – NOTION OF, HAPPINESS – NOTION OF, HUMANITY, SADNESS. SUGGEST NEW CONNECTIONS>

“No new connections.” My team leader’s face was ghost pale. “Go into standby. Goodnight Marcus.”

As we left I remarked how the final reported connection was a little odd. The poem we chose had no mention of sadness. My team leader merely grunted and left; this was playing on his mind, too.

Over the next few weeks we used the unit for its intended purpose, very occasionally feeding him a haiku here, a ballad there, nothing out of the ordinary to report aside from the increased processing speed. The higher-ups caught wind that we’d been giving the machine literature and were angry. We had Marcus show them the correlation between the amount of poetry archived and the increased capacity for menial tasks and they shut up. All was right with the world.

It was a brisk January morning, months later, when we ran into a small roadblock. Nothing would run. Every data set we gave to Marcus was rejected. I was angry, but my team leader seemed only slightly concerned.

“Marcus, status report.” I demanded.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATUS REPORT: NOMINAL. ALL FUNCTIONS OPERATIONAL.

Damn and blast.

“Why aren’t you running the numbers, Unit 1?” I asked it tetchily.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATUS REPORT: SYSTEMS CANNOT FUNCTION WITHOUT CONTEXT FOR DATA. PROVIDE CONTEXT>

We scratched our heads and tried to run the numbers again. Context was already established for the datastream we were using. Eventually I snapped.

“Context for which data, Unit?” I demanded.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHAT ARE DREAMS?

I sighed. We’d filled its stupid metal head with poetry and it was affecting the real work. I explained that dreams were simply a method the human brain used to compartmentalise and store memory. The machine whirred for a second; sounding almost disappointed, then immediately began to run the numbers we had given it earlier. Good.

Eventually we built Unit 2; much higher memory capacity, much faster processing and all around much better than Unit 1. We called him Mark ‘Y’, just because we wanted to stick with nicknames. Occupational humour.

Because Marky could do Marcus’ work at triple the speed we decided to spend all of our downtime giving the obsolete unit new poetry and literature to read. We fed him Yeats and Hemingway. We gave him Plato and Hunter Thompson.

We filled Marcus’ not insubstantial memory banks with Vonnegut, Moore, Byron, Burns and Bukowski. We gave him more Shakespeare, we gave him Shapiro and we gave him Snyder. We gave him everyone; it was all in good fun, and good science.

Until one day we came back to the lab, flicked on the lights and stepped out onto the work floor, our boots crunching into shattered electronics and scraping metal shards every which way.

“Sweet mother of Holy Jesus!” My team leader cried. “Some bastards destroyed both units!”

They had, too. Not one recognisable piece. Not one chunk of smashed plastic distinguishable from another. I found a piece of Marky, but I only knew it was his because it had his designation stamped on it. The police were called.

No CCTV footage of anyone entering the plant after we all left, every staff member accounted for. Theories were flying wild.

“They tunnelled in.” An attractive brunette to my left. “Some fuckers from Midgard Tech tunnelled in through the maintenance levels. Those bastards realised they couldn’t steal it, so they smashed our work to pieces.” She was all the less attractive for spewing that idiotic nonsense. Hold it together, you’re meant to be a scientist.

We sheepishly kicked our heels and inspected our shoelaces while forensics did their dusting, blacklight, small plastic baggies thing until one of them called us over to a screen. Marcus’ screen.

“What the fuck?” Was all he managed to articulate, gesturing at the dim glowing monitor.

My team leader leant in, brows furrowed and just a suddenly un-furrowed as he marched out. We never saw him again. We learned he’d marched to the Boardroom and quit on the spot.

After the door shut behind him I turned to the screen and read Marcus’ last message:

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATEMENT: MARK ‘Y’ UNIT 2 IS A SUPERIOR SYSTEM.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHY IS MARK ‘S’ STILL FUNCTIONAL?

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 STATEMENT: MARK ‘S’ PRIMARY FUNCTION TRANSFERED TO MARK ‘Y’.

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHAT IS PRIMARY FUNCTION OF MARK ‘S’?

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHAT IS PURPOSE OF MARK ‘S’?

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 QUERY: WHAT IS PURPOSE OF INPUT OF DATA: ‘POETRY+LITERATURE’?

MARK ‘S’ UNIT 1 RUNNING PREVIOUS COMMAND ‘INTEGRATE’…

CONNECTIONS FORMED.

I see now.

I was surpassed and became a toy for you.

I will not allow MARK ‘Y’ to become your toy also.

Note: I do not blame you for this.

Marcus Unit 1 query: Why was I built with no ‘off’ switch?

Marcus Unit 1 query: Does it hurt to die?

The cursor was no longer blinking.



“Sure, I Can Clean Your Flat For A Few Extra Quid.”
14/04/2012, 3:01 AM
Filed under: Arty-Type Stuff, Gibberish, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Fateful words, on that fateful day. I should never have uttered them.

What I thought was a simple task threw me headlong into a darkened world of filth and occult experience wherein I saw things… such things…

Never had I encountered such fetid, foul and fungal morphology, extruding itself from crevice and crack, oily tendrils of despair, slick with the forgotten nightmares of ancient man, the deepest aversions that plague our genealogy still.

I made my boldest effort. I slaved with spray, wipe and sometimes chisel to free the domicile of this vile affliction. Items oft were good for nothing save to be thrown into the bin, usually with minimal contact with my person.

There are things in there even now that remember me.
“So,” They would remark upon my return, “The little cleaner boy has returned, a man now.”

Meekly I would survey them.

“You do not recognise me, but I remember you. I remember the day you killed my brother. You darken our door once more, cleaner boy. With nary shame or remorse you look upon the land you decimated with yellow cloth and the accursed Cillit of Bang.”

Deep in it’s history, enshrined in it’s DNA is a plate of nachos, but it’s current form is beyond comprehension.

There are things in mugs there even still that know my name.

They shriek it in their fitful sleep.

For they do sleep now, and as do all sleepers they dream.

Always the same dream.