Disappointment and mediocrity in the capital

I sit with my cup of tea in a cliche coffee shop in the capital, pondering the events of the day. I am wearing the only suit I’ve ever bought, with a briefcase of clothes that should last me the weekend sat on the floor beside me like a dozy dog.  A squeezed teabag, washed of its value sits beside my cup of tea, quarter full.

I don’t feel tired, but perhaps I am. I feel dull and uninspired, despite having left a job interview that went well for a job I think I’d like, or at least prefer to my current position.

My girlfriend texts me to say I’ll see her in an hour. A police car wails by. The group in front of me having a business meeting speak in tones and words I can’t relate to, or care for.

Why am I not pleased with the day? I have been loathing my job for months now; leaving its choking embrace has occupied my mind intensely. This is a great step forward in the right direction; and yet I am not satisfied. I must be tired, but I don’t feel tired,  I just feel like a styrofoam bowl of grey and beige soylent.

When I run, and my heart squeezes until I can feel my pulse beating in my fists, my mind dreams of violence, in sync with the music I blare in my ears. I shoot some sparks into that space of my mind now, but find it mired in diesel. The brain has lost cabin pressure; no ignitions today.

A young couple leave without paying. A barista chases after them and retrieves the pair, laughing and embarrassed at having forgotten to pay. I watch on, and feel nothing. No judgements are made.

There is a tiny shelf beside me proudly displaying a transparent trophy. The Perspex cuboid informs me that this particular establishment was awarded runner up for best coffee shop by the ‘Hot Diamonds London Lifestyle Awards’. “I get around” by The Beachboys plays in the background. This is what it must feel like to be middle aged: nostalgia for the tunes of your youth while celebrating meaningless prizes from meaningless organisations.

My girlfriend sends me a message telling me that she will be 15 minutes late. I don’t want to keep writing this, but it seems like I’ll have to.

This place isn’t bad. It’s got a quaint layout – open bar and a big window to look across the street through. It’s sad that the pews furnishing the place were probably from some church in disrepair somewhere. I tried to get into the church before I got here, but they wanted to search my bag before I got in and I couldn’t be bothered pouring all my stuff out for them. I must be tired.

A deep seated longing for Cool Scenes

I had a discussion the other day with my family about writing. I commented that I had never really figured out the attraction to contemporary fiction – those bestsellers nobody you know ever seems to read, yet remain suspended at the top of those exalted lists. Who reads these books of urban intrigue, of lives just like our own, characters living in everyday places doing every day things? I’m generalising of course, blurbs and reviews being my only reference point. But what I don’t understand is why anyone would want to imagine being in a place just like they are now.

My mother had been speaking about the work of Robert McKee, and how screenplays are endless value changes and exchanges, and it is that rather than the background or the context which makes a good story. This is the opposite of what I used to do I told them – all I was ever after was the capture of ‘cool scenes’. Great expositions of combat mastery, fantastical cities and fantastical powers could not be found in traditional fiction, only the home of fantasy. Which is why fantasy was pretty much all I ever read.

I reminisced about old times in primary and secondary school, when I had written impossible tales above and beyond what was required of me in English assignments. I would bend each generic starting sentence or theme into something wild and fast; violence would need to be involved, a chase, running. Magic could have a place somewhere, explosives also. The main character would be some swashbuckling knave, or the victim of one. Somebody had to be flitting through the shadows, climbing something, stealing something, flying somewhere, killing someone. The theme didn’t matter, it was the action, the image. The singing of swords, the steel reflecting sunlight in erratic paths across the floorboards as their owners dance across the floorboards. The sound of a blade scraping ribs as it’s thrust through a man, a red spray spattering his opponent’s face as they wrench it free. Bones breaking wetly beneath the victors heel.

Cool Scenes would strike me quickly once I received the brief – it didn’t take long for the dull words of the task to spark a vivid fresco in my mind. The Scenes weren’t just limited to short stories either – poetry soon became the home of bloodied warriors, storm-swept pirates and manic visions when we were encouraged to ‘use our imagination’. And how cathartic it was to write them down! To transmute the flesh of the imagination into ink on my jotter and then back into the imagination of whichever poor bastard read it was the greatest academic joy I knew. I would smile as I saw their expressions change at the horrors I had conjured in their minds, proud of myself. There was never enough time to include the forensic levels of description I wanted, even when I took my work home with me to finish later – in secondary school my word count limited this also. Why did I long for such colourful dreams of carnage? Why did everything else have to be so dull?

I suppose it was a form of escapism. One that I’ve never grown out of either: my imagination has hardly changed since then. I have matured, and I can conjure some things in my imagination that are less…extreme. But the shadow remains, an electric abyss in my head holding in its depths no innocent lovers, no still life paintings, no trips to the recycling, no pension planning, no local politics, no travel insurance, no quarter-life crises; nothing at all but a deep black pool of blistering, brutal, unforgiving and liberating…Cool Scenes.

-Bilk

Current events: A Brutal Kangaroo, or a Magical Mutt?

The world never fails to amuse – this is a constant. What changes, however, are the people being amused – there’s always somebody laughing. Don’t worry if you’re not laughing now, because someday you will be. Those of a certain breed will get the jokes for a time, before another is granted the keys to the laugh locker.

Right now, those keys are firmly in my hand –  I’ve been finding the world more hilarious everyday. And I’m not the only one. Doan Thin Hoang, one of the femme fatales accused of assassinating Kim Jong-Nam wore a shirt proudly bearing the sigil of millennial mirth across her chest: LOL. What’s more, she claims the smearing of VX, one of the deadliest chemical weapons known to man, to the North Koreans face was merely in jest. (‘It’s just a prank, bro’ as they say on the internet these days). LOL, indeed.

The contents of the Wiki Leaks dump known as ‘Vault7’ is even more bizarre, and consequently even more funny. Down the rabbit hole of insidious and diabolical methods of state surveillance you shall find all kinds of ridiculous absurdities, the names of the programs being the first. Although Wiki Leaks claims that the CIA has been trying to adopt more military terms for their operations to tap into Department of Defense money streams, the terms for the underlying applications used in such operations are anything but.

A buddy of mine in the cyber-security industry told me that those in the sphere
“love their names”. Looking from Project Brutal Kangaroo to Project Magical Mutt(yes, really), I couldn’t agree more. A juvenile creativity with words seems endemic amongst the cloistered elite with the power to pry into almost every nook and cranny of your life. Some are clearly fans of Doctor Who, naming their program which turns your TV into a microphone they can tap into after the popular ‘Weeping Angel’ villains of the show. Others are clearly video game enthusiasts, apologizing in the notes for “noobing it up” for errors in the development of their programs (noob is a derogatory abbreviation of ‘newbie’ yelled over the internet at video game participants playing poorly). I could barely believe my eyes at the farce –  I told my friend it was as though these elite CIA operators thought they were still playing video games. He said it was symptomatic of the current generation raised on such past times making their way into the agency. This generation, he said   “Just don’t take their responsibilities in the agency very seriously.” A sign of the times perhaps.

The response to the leaks has been even better. Those vigilant souls labelled ‘conspiracy theorists’ by the mainstream feel euphorically vindicated at the proof that 1984 is closer than ever before. In one corner of the internet I frequent, one user commented triumphantly:
“In the early 90s I said to my ex husband they can watch you through the TV” to which another responded:
“I have a TV ~ But I don’t watch it. Instead I have it pointed at another TV which loops TeleTubbies 24/7 just for s***s & giggles.”

I didn’t care if the latter’s post was serious or not, I was too busy laughing.

-Bilk