Sunday, 23 August 2020

Diver City II

 Second part of a sci-fi short story inspired by a friend's interest.

Diver City - II

Ortmann shifted sideways a little as he stood before the board. It was not a conversation he had wished to initiate. The harsh white strip light didn't make it any easier.

"I'm… I'm concerned about Harwell. He seems… unwell."

Not a single member of the board looked up at him. He'd never seen their eyes, and had never known them to leave the board room.

"Councillor Ortmann, we do not concern ourselves with the well being of the collectors."

Ortmann felt his throat dry. Looking around the room for a window, he began to speak.

"The collection yields have steadily reduced for the past sixteen weeks, and we're not hitting the targets. His cough has worsened. What do we do if he has the gall to die?"

A flicker of the strip light punctuated a silence that must have lasted at least four minutes. He could feel their contempt like insects under his skin.

"Councillor Ortmann, we do not repeat ourselves. You have our decision. If he does not improve, kill him yourself, and then take his place."

Diver City

 Title is only a placeholder really, will change if something better comes to mind but this is the start of a short sci-fi story I was inspired to write by a friend who'd been looking for some dystopian fiction along the lines of the treatment of the Dalit bone collectors.

Diver City - I

The collections agent stood before him.

"How far down did you get last week?"

Harwell tapped three times on his stick.

"Three hundred metres eh?"

A single tap. Harwell had been forbidden from speaking for over a year now. Words were exclusively for those who could afford the subscription rates.

"And what have you got for me this time, Harwell?"

Taking a crumpled list from his pocket, Harwell unfolded and attempted to smooth it out a little before handing it over, bowing his head and tapping his stick on the ground.

'alumin - half kilo. sulfa - two kilo. tin - one kilo. lead -  two hundred gram'

A nod as Harwell stifled a cough. His writing had improved little, and as much of an effort as he'd made with spelling, he still struggled to remember the correct words.

"They haven't let you into the reference libraries again have they Harwell? Make sure you don't lie to me!"

Harwell shook his head violently and bowed a second time. He kept his head down, not noticing Ortmann's nod as he left Harwell to another coughing fit.


Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Carnivorous Lunar Activities - Chestburster

Shitrockjournalist reviews Carnivorous Lunar Activities - Chestburster 

 Raging away in the deep depths of Essex for the best part of a decade, Chestburster play thrash/grindcore. It is fast, has a decent groove, and plenty of horror movie samples. Fans of Mortician are in for a thrill ride here with their latest release. 

Opening with "Death Race 2000", with samples from the movie of the same name, the tone is established quickly, and I mean it when I say quickly... Buzzsaw guitars remind you of good old Swedish death metal, and scenes from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Nice one, Lewis! 

Rob's vocals (and I assume Lewis and Chris with the gang vocals) veer between 80s hardcore and 90s death metal, just about intelligible enough to catch most of the movie references the song titles point you toward. 

Chris batters the skins like he's trying to survive a zombie apocalypse and he's wielding the lawnmower from the final scenes of Braindead. Less of a death metal swamp, and more a deathride on a rusty rollercoaster seen at the start of a bad 80's slasher flick, you can't help but love Chestburster. 

There's a real knowing tongue-in-cheek charm to all this, but not in that snide "yeah I'm all about the irony" hipster prick way. Spend any longer than 5 seconds chatting to Rob, Chris and Lewis, you'll know they love horror movies. You can imagine for a moment what Cro-Mags might have sounded like if they'd picked up Cannibal Holocaust 2 from Blockbuster Video instead of a copy of the Bhagavad Gita. 

 Longest track? 2:11. "Dracula AD 1972" It is over in the flash of a blade as the killer smiles as the camera. Shortest track? 7 seconds. Better get your running shoes on kid, Freddy's coming, and he's sharpened those gloves. I think my ears might be bleeding...

Monday, 30 March 2020

Isolation - Lifewrecker

Shitrockjournalist Reviews Isolation.

No it's not a fucking comment on working from home, or trying to not spread disease. It's a review of the latest release by UK noisy bastards Lifewrecker.

Isolation - Lifewrecker Reviewers don't tend to get asked questions about genre. "Yeah but what actually is powerviolence?" "It's a bit like grindcore." "Yeah but what is grindcore though?" "It's like punk rock with a fucking rocket up its arse" "Yeah but what does it sound like?" Isolation opens with some high pitched frequencies and some bassy sounds that sound like a kind of nuclear warning alarm. Then we get the genre hallmarks. Distorted guitar riffs that sound like they could carve you into a thousand pieces before you've even realised you've banged your head hard enough for it to fall off and travel back in time to inspire Cannibal Corpse's first few albums. Marcin and Nic have got some serious groove in the riffs here, but don't mistake that for some piss poor Pantera mid paced snoozefest. That and they're not racist cunts either which is a bonus. In the time it took for me to come up with that, track one is over, and the ferocious vocals have just begun to sink in. Roaring through with a bite fiercer than dogs put down in the mid 80s, Martin's not letting up on this one. The rhythm section, by Christ, Nic and Wayne make you feel like you're having the shit beaten out of you while somehow making it work as a dance routine. I have a bizarre mental image of Louis Spence jiving around a pit at Chimpyfest throwing the grindcore finger while Tony holds up a sign that just says "10". Martin's noise programming on this also adds to the feel of the hellish future we seem to be finding ourselves in lately, and given the (admittedly on the nose) title, I think they've fucking nailed it. This zips by at quite a fucking pace, with track 3 being the shortest at 47 seconds. The closer 'Social Distance' feels like heresy at a whopping 3:07. Don't worry though kids, this ain't the sort of shit you'll see on Top of the Pops. Come to think of it, it's not shit at all. Not that it gives you any fucking time to think. It's a radio broadcast from the end times, and while the economy and Covid-19 may well be a lifewrecker for some, fortunately neither this band, nor this release are. Some life affirmly brutal grinding noisy d-beat horror from Lifewrecker. Get it in your fucking ears.

Get it here: https://lifewrecker.bandcamp.com/album/isolation

Name your price, but consider giving the lads a few quid. Times are hard, and it's bloody good stuff.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

The Grief Harvest

The Grief Harvest

It's odd how influences converge. I recall a page from Grant Morrison's "The Invisibles" that refers to characters "slowly assembling the maps of Hell to guide the rest of us safely through the dark". I recall a Tumblr post about a variety of battles faced by those beaten down in their lives, and their welcome into Valhalla. The latter also came with many disparaging comments about how it apparently wasn't in line with the mythology, entirely missing the point of the story, and ignoring it's poignancy.

I was brought close to tears by the story, amplified by a song I was listening to at the time, "You Were Cool" by The Mountain Goats

It's good to be young, but let's not kid ourselves
It's better to pass on through those years and come out the other side
With our hearts still beating
Having stared down demons
And come back breathing

A comic came to me, and the tears flowed. Here it is below.





Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Pollyanna's Web

Much has been made in recent years of the onward march of technology, and a concept frequently pushed is that social media tramples on our happiness as it surges forward to make money from our personal data.

I understand that it is difficult to navigate this, and I feel that we are frequently unfairly judged for things that are not our fault.

Unfortunately for us, Cambridge Analytica don't give a fuck if you're smiling, they just want to correctly identify your prejudices to nail you firmly to your own convictions and crucify you next to the criminals you've told everyone you'll be voting for via the medium of a quiz on your pet's favorite brand of dog food as dictated by your star sign.

See? It's far too easy to sneer. You might well be wondering who the hell I think I am, talking to you like this, but we are on the same side.

Because it's all too easy to believe it, isn't it? To buy into this wholesale misery bullshit that they ram down our throats in the hope of turning us into the most profitable sadness foie gras. You risk forgetting that social media is a tool. And so is John Lydon, so I'll sidestep the "anger is a gift," schtick, as cathartic expressions of anger are generally considered to do more harm than good.

Thing is, WhatsApp and Facebook can be useful tools for checking in on friends while maintaining a respectful distance when they are going through a hard time. I found out months after the fact that sharing football jokes and memes with my uncle via WhatsApp had helped him carry on when his wife left him. Of course, I'm not so naïve as to suggest that was the entirety of it. A loving, supportive family rallied round and helped, just we did so in different ways.

I attended a music festival this year where my group of friends created a WhatsApp group for those of us with anxiety issues, offering support if anyone needed a break or a chat. Not the perfect solution, but very useful, and something that would have been difficult to achieve as little as ten years ago.

So don't just rely on the snide naysayers. You can make someone's day, and it is much easier than you think. Try it. Be kind to yourself.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

The Calculus of Hunger

I recently wrote an article about cheap meals, and the misrepresentation of costs.

A similar issue is that of portion control. Thanks to the likes of the exceedingly smug Jamie Oliver, we have additional taxes on sugary foods. Similar campaigns have led to markings on food packaging to indicate levels of fat, sugar, etc.

This is good, to some degree, as it helps us to make informed choices about what we eat, and helps us to improve our diets. However, I dare say that those reaching for the bags of crisps or bars of chocolate, are well aware that they are not the healthy option. We're all rather sick of being patronised, thank you very much.

Also, the dirty tricks arise again.

A large bag of crisps will have the nutritional information based on a portion, generally a fraction of the size of the bag. Of course this is not just the case with crisps and snacks, but I use them as a convenient example. Perhaps I just have a problem in that I see the bag as one portion, rather than the arbitrary 25 grams or whatever has been deemed appropriate for me by whichever nutritionist we've decided is correct on any given week.

I do appreciate what people are trying to do, but frequently it is all too heavy handed. These nutritional stats are tweaked to give an impression that what you're eating is healthier than it really is. I understand. Nestlé need to make money, and behaving ethically just really won't cut it. Bellies need to be filled with whatever excrement companies wish to pump out, and we're all hungry. Just do yourself a favour and keep a calculator in the kitchen, right?