CHESS

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“Black people?
Black? People?
People who are black?
For real?”
That was me – a white pawn aged about four, I reckon.  Until then, my only experience of diversity had been a comic annual that displayed a load of dark-skinned tribesmen* and their bonesome nose-jewellery.
*Cannibals.

Of course, my subconscious being what it is, I’d had nightmares that they were gonna eat me and use the sharpest bits of MY skeleton as piercings.

Then there was Tom and Jerry – where Tom’s “Mom” was brown-skinned. (Cut to: a later-in-life epiphany that she was more than likely the help**)
 **Slave.

Next came the “beautiful” gift from an uncle – a Gollywog in all its racist glory; this at a time when The Black and White Minstrel Show was just ending (thank fuckness for that).

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I mean – what the FRIGGING hell? Are they supposed to be HUMANS? This was the shite of nightmares, helping to reinforce the pale ideology that black people would eat your children (me).

But – I woke up at around five, when I attended a multi-hued school. We’re talking Chinese kids, Nigerians, Indians and Pakistani kids, an Italian boy, a couple of Ethiopians…and guess what?

No….

FUCKING…..

Difference.

I was incensed: I’d been conned. I’d also been introduced to all sorts of cultures, languages, beautiful accents, and beautiful people. I was entranced and enchanted. And it was nothing to do with skin colour.  (Well – tell a lie, it kind of was, insofar as I’d find myself staring into the velvet veneer of my Nigerian friend and wishing my tones were so rich and smooth instead of my skin having this frecklesome corned beef effect).  But, envy aside, all of those colours simply merged into a wonderful evolutionary spectrum. Even at that age, this was some kind of cathartic experience for me, watching from the cheap seats as the young players performed their harmonious humanity.

And this above all else: they didn’t eat me.

Around the same time, Mum was doing her thing with Gone With The Wind. Over. And. Over.  That flick never sat right with me. Not only did it bore the crap out of me, being around eighteen hours too long n’all, but I knew that the celebration of Southern Hospitality*** was clearly reliant upon the success of cruel slavery.  I just didn’t know that I knew it.  

***White Supremacy.

West Side Story was another one – where I was parentally-informed that the Sharks were the baddies. The BADDIES? Why? Because they’re brown? Because they’re Latino? I didn’t buy into any of that crap, of course, and if anything, I was rooting for the Sharks all the way because – well, Riff was a dick, Baby John was an annoying little shit, and none of that lot could sing in tune. AND: Rita Moreno was really rather fucking awesome. (Shame about the brownface make-up for some of the cast, but that’s a whole ‘nother debate).
At ten or eleven, along came Harper Lee; I found myself considering things from her point of view, climbing inside her skin and walking around in it. This was the skin of a writer; one with the POWER to change the world. Lee was my catalytic convertor, mixing me up into a better product and spitting me out, refined. I’d gone from a kid harbouring white guilt into one that wanted to stand up and DO something about white privilege. I could be Atticus at this chess game of life – I could try. Even if I failed, Finchly, I could TRY.

So I looked into it some more. I learned about Rosa Parks and how she sat down for what she believed in.  I learned about Martin Luther King, and nicked his dreams. I cried as I ate the Strange Fruit of Billie Holiday. I listened to it once, but heard it a thousand times. There was blood at the root, and that tall white tree needed uprooting.

My heart bled as I read that Nat King Cole was whited down, because he was just TOO BLACK for tv, damn it. SHAME on you, humans.

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For those WHITE PEOPLE that need their PRIVILEGE explaining….come on a journey with me.

You’re in a store. The security guard eyeballs you and follows you around, because of COURSE you’re about to nick something; something the aforementioned security guard knows as FACT based on the colour of your WHITEY WHITE skin.  Miraculously, you make it through, and as you get back into your car, so you play some white music because that’s ALL you people listen to. As you drive, so you are pulled over by cops because of your whiteness. At a party, someone asks you to sing, because ALL white people can sing, right? They also ask if they can touch your hair. Someone ELSE asks whence you hail. When you say Liverpool, they say “No – I mean which COUNTRY”. You say England, and they say “No – originally”.

The party takes its toll on you. You decide to walk home, wearing a hood because you are cold. Somebody stands their ground with a gun, and murders you to smithereens.

Crazy huh? But don’t worry. If you are white, those things will never happen to you. You WON’T be expected to explain yourself or describe your origins because nobody cares. Chances are your hair will be left alone and you won’t be profiled. You won’t nick from a store because only black people do that, right?

White privilege is a THING. It’s a massive THING. Don’t hide away from it or deny it – USE it. OWN it. LEARN from it. And TEACH.

I piss a lot of white people off; I know that. But of that number; the pissed are usually unworthy anyway – my true friends put up with (and even welcome) me and my rants. You’re white? Then you have privilege. I can’t stress it enough and I am happy to debate this with ANYONE until my lily white face turns blue.

And it’s the younger generation that usually gets the shit from the oldies. “The youth of today…” you’ll hear them sigh, as they then proceed to ramble on for sixteen weeks about how they fought in two world wars for this country… and how said country has turned into a haven for Somalians/Poles/look down your nose and insert label here…

The inner darkness thing pisses me off too. Why does everything dark have to have negative connotations? Not all bad things happen at night, for fuck’s sake.  When I talk about my own deepness (this is waaaay different than depth, trust me), I refuse to call it a dark side. Not only does that sound a bit too Star Wars for my liking, it doesn’t even fit the bill.

Writing a horror story does not equate to my walking the wyddishins around a church to summon the devil. It means nothing more than a few words on a page, designed to give shivers to the skin. So, I call it my creative side; nothing more, nor less.  It’s a vacation-place that I visit, because it’s where the best stories are. That’s all.

Then there are people who tell me to lay off the freaky stuff and talk about nature and trees and shit.  However, I have no desire to praise the flowers whose petals have already become poems. I’d rather write about THIS. About people. Humans.

I’d rather write about how UKIP are Hitlers in gestation, starting out by brainwashery of the irretrievably stupid, or how Trump scares the ever-living fuck out of my remaining (and dwindling) hopes for humanity.

Immigrants.  Bloody Immigrants…….for the sake of fuck’s big sister, we’re all immigrants, and yet none of us are.  Our home was just one frigging landmass at one point: (image of supercontinent Pangaea stolen wholesale from http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/earth/earth_timeline/pangaea)

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And contrary to popularly xenophobic belief, it’s NOT a fucking doddle getting in to the UK. The UK won’t buy you a house and give you benefits. Neither will it allow you to work straight away; it expects you to starve.

Don’t believe what you read or the bullshit you hear. Challenge everything. Someone calls the corner store the Paki Shop? Then ask them what they mean: “Do you speak of a place that sells Pakistani people”?  And no – Paki is NOT just a contraction with which you can get off scot-free, arsehole.

Talk to your kids; often. Learn from them; always. They are but sponges, ready to soak up whatever liquid we drip in their direction.

And don’t give up your seat on the bus. Whatever the reason, stand up for what you believe in by remaining seated. For those who can’t defend themselves, stay seated for them, too. If there’s even a LITTLE Rosa in you, let her out and sit her on your shoulder.

Great things can happen when you sit down for what’s right.

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And like some pawntaking chess match, the black-and-white board painstakingly squares up. It ruffles its rookfeathers, underneath a pale, darkened cloud. The only thing missing from the board? A few token shades of brown. It’s white that is the darkest shade of all. Queen takes rook.

The cloud bursts, and white rain drowns everyone.

Unless maybe…just maybe… whatever colour the sky, we start carrying umbrellas as standard.

ROLLERCOASTER

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If I read one more lazy-arse review using “juxtaposition” in the wrong context when they actually meant “contrast”, or describing a film as a ROLLERCOASTER of a ride, I SWEAR I am going to stalk the person responsible, stick ’em on the Big Dipper on repeat for six hours and then see how their face likes being juxtaposed with my fist.

We Have Such Sights To Show You

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So – you’re a movie buff. Me too. But for those of you still in the filmfreak closet, here’s a way you can quote your favourite lines ALL….DAY….LONG….and nobody need ever know (unless you want them to – I assure you, it’s a great pulling technique if you want to gather yourself a nice, smart movie geek).

Technically, any flick with a half-decent script is a quotemine, so this list is compiled with that in mind; to show you just how easy it is. Quotes you didn’t know you knew, lines from films that are usually overlooked when it comes to “Best Quote” lists. It’s especially thigh-slappingly amusing trying to crowbar a line into a conversation at work. With a customer. On the telephone. And yes – I have. Many times.

So fly, fly – engage in a little of your own project mayhem that only the true enthusiast will espy. Let’s explore how we can take oft-overlooked statements and make them work for us (Work it, baby, work it…)

Ah….We have such sights to show you….

The Terminator (1984)

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Why it’s so quotable – with a Duel-like chase, the story becomes all the more sinister as Arnie’s Terminator takes on the voice of Sarah Connor’s mother to track her down at the sleazy motel. You too can be equally menacing if you need to know where someone lives:

“Give me your address there”.

OR…..run from that spider crawling towards you, at the same time maniacally exclaiming:

Why me? Why does it want me?

When trying to haggle at a market or garage sale, turn to whoever is next to you and tell them, referring to the vendor:

It can’t be bargained with, it can’t be reasoned with.

(Using this one makes you truly awesome.)

This will all stand you in good stead for the day you need to borrow someone’s clothes, boots, and motorcycle.

Withnail and I (1987)

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Why it’s so quotable- the greatness of the nothingness of every single thing that happens in this movie owes itself to Bruce Robinson’s uber-screenplay. He provides us with a truly juicy superabundance of utterances which can be easily levered into everyday speak.

The finest hangover line available to humanity?

I feel like a pig shat in my head.

Feeling a little paranoid in a new office or hotel room?

You’re not leaving me in here alone. Those are the kind of windows faces look in at.

When you experience poor service at a local establishment, it’s super-fun to yell:

We are multimillionaires. We shall buy this place and fire you immediately.

(Of course, they won’t believe you, but your pure awesomeness makes that a moot point).

When you’ve haggled with the vendor at the aforementioned garage sale, you do of course need to tell them they’re out of their mind. But it only makes sense when you get down to two quid.

Fight Club (1999)

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Why it’s so quotable – With their screenplay, the deities that are Chuck Palahniuk and Jim Uhls make things secretly obvious. If you’re anything like me, by the end of the movie your head is spinning with the incredible dialogue you’ve just heard.

To console someone about a break-up:

It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.

If you want a slap in the chops, wait until someone you know gives birth to a girl and utter:

We’re a generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.

(The mere danger/stupidity value of using this quote means you’ll receive extra cool points on your awesomeness chart).

It’s the ideal movie for paraphrasing purposes, too, where you can create endless phrases inspired by Chuck and Jim: “I am Philip’s sense of utter rejection” or “I am Maria’s total lack of responsibility”.  I am Linda’s lack of fuck-giving. That kind of stuff.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

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Why it’s so quotable – it’s fucking Ferris fucking Bueller’s fucking Day Off. That is all.

Customer service agents leaving you frustrated on the telephone? So many choices: but to start with you could ask them

Do you know anything?

(Or simply tell them to stick their finger up their butt).

Worried about being fired for using Terminator quotes on the telephone? Talk about your boss thus:

If I’m gonna get busted, it is not gonna be by a guy like that.

And if you are clever enough to crowbar:

I did not achieve this position in life by having some snot-nosed punk leave my cheese out in the wind

into a real life situation, then I may need to marry you a little bit.

This will imbue a sense of greater purpose and confidence: If you need to call across the office to your colleague Grace, you KNOW how it must be done.

Beetlejuice (1988)

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Why it’s so quotable – If you ever wanted to prove yourself strange and unusual, this film gives you the chance.

Not into the person trying to pull you down the local boozer? Refuse to tell them your name:

If I tell you, you’ll tell your friends…

..and go on to say it’d make your life Hell, ok? A living hell. (Disclaimer: at this juncture, if they get it and laugh hysterically, you may have to have a rethink – they might just be The One).

Viewing a new house? Not too keen? Tell the estate agent:

Oh look! An indoor outhouse.

Of course, there is the one you HAVE to use whenever you try on a new outfit:

This might be a good look for me.

Extra points for saying it after sucking on some helium.

Dave (1993)

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Why it’s so quotable – because it rocks. Simple.

Excellent insults abound:

You’re LINT! You’re a FLEA! You’re a BLIP!

Try on a sweater vest and complain in your best Voice of Ving that it makes your neck look too thick.

Take the kids on a museum trip just so you can say:

We’re walking, we’re walking…and we’re stopping.

(This could only be made cooler if Frank Langella were to bustle past).

Be Dave. Because Dave is just wonderful. Fess up to everything:

I take full responsibility for each one of my illegal actions.

If you know anyone called Ellen (or with the initials LN), you do of course have to thank them for doing this at every available opportunity. It’s the law.

Robocop (1987)

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Why it’s so quotable – because it’s essentially a comic lavishly portrayed by real people. It’s also one of the finest movies ever made.

Assure your friend that their upcoming surgery will be a success:

They’ll fix you. They fix everything.

Made a typo on a document? As you delete it, you MUST say out loud:

Now it’s time to erase that mistake.

(Come on! Say it with me!)

There ARE a lot more quotes from this movie…..I can feel them… but I can’t remember them.

Austin Powers(s) –  (1997 et seq)

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Why it’s so quotable – because it’s such a well-rounded collection of Mmmmmovies.

Don’t go for the obvious YEAH BABY nonsense. But if you’re about to go for surgery to correct your vision, you HAVE to do air quotes when you say LASER otherwise it’s just a wasted opportunity.

Channel Scott Evil wherever possible, with as many, like, whatevers as you can. And always refer to the French language as Paris talk. It’s like, cool.

Being that you’ll often hear people using the boring old in-a-nutshell phrase, you can liven things up. You know how – get on your back and be you, in a nutshell.

As you do this, laugh inwardly at your own genius, point to someone and tell them that’s where they are. They’re there.

Casablanca (1942)

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Why it’s so quotable – it’s set in a gin joint. There’s booze.

Enter a casino and declare that you are:

..shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

Next time someone calls you a piss-head, explain that that makes you a citizen of the world.

Confuse the enemy: explain that somehow,

just because you despise me, you are the only one I trust.

You could also tell someone that you are looking at them, kid, but this may just cause confusion.

School for Scoundrels (1960)

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Why it’s so quotable – watch it. Just watch it.

Tell someone you’ve been married a long time. Perhaps almost

Be utterly charming and patronising at the same time, translating everything on the menu. Even if it’s in English.

Point to some tomatoes in your local store, and state what they are.

If you’re being berated for trying to get one over on someone, explain that:

he who is not one up, is one down.

Speaking of one-upmanship, get one over on your local garage by convincing them that your piss-poor excuse for a heap-of-crap car is actually a rare automotive gem.

See? It’s easy when you know how. I’m off for a game of golf now, but it’s snowing. So I’ll use red balls.

REVIEW: A MIRACLE IN SPANISH HARLEM

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Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you A Miracle In Spanish Harlem. Do be sure to catch this film; It’s like watching a poem.

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This is not an exclusively Hispanic story – it’s just a story that happens to people who just happen to be Latino. The story is timeless, crossing boundary and culture, its main language LOVE. And that is what translates. It is for this very reason that I could see MIRACLE being adapted for live performance, and being that all the world IS a stage, then you could take this piece anywhere, for anywhom.

Director Derek Partridge seems to have gifted his ensemble with a vision of his own; a pragmatic approach enabling some really real  performances. Five minutes in and already, I’ve identified with TITO. This is a guy whose eyes are as crucial as the script in telling us the story. As Luis Antonio Ramos draws us in with those peepers, so he lets us see his world through them.

This is a world whose genetic make-up began with an extract of Carlos Bermúdez, whose screenplay gave birth to a pretty awesome bunch of people. (I refuse to call them characters when they’re as real as this). It is this writer’s DNA that acts as a catalyst here, setting off a series of events that allow the production team and performers to deeply reach within themselves. And then, they decorate our screen from the inside, painting in wide, free brush-strokes with their own souls. Their palette? STORIES.

We see Tito’s Mom, (Priscilla Lopez) having a rant for his shamelessly blocking the love of God from his girls’ lives. And just how true is this performance? Well – for starters, Ms Lopez would appear to have studied my own (Irish Catholic) parents for inspiration. For the most part, she underplays – thus underpinning the very nature of a parent who thinks they know what’s best for their children. (And they’re usually right, damnit).

Back to those eyes. There’s stories behind them; we know this much already. As Tito’s single-parent status is established pretty early on, so it’s apparent there’s a lost love behind them. And we’re dying to find out more; we eventually do just that, through the heart of Mr Ramos, which he wears on Tito’s face. Ramos pours everything he has into the pressure-cooker of Tito, to be released in drip-feed motion as the vapour is released. The revelations of the depths of his soul are conveyed both with words, and without.

Gradually, we’re GRACED with EVA (Kate del Castillo) as she glides through the store, eventually meeting us face-to-face at the checkout. We immediately warm to her, so it’s unsurprising that Tito feels likewise. From the get-go, Eva’s established as a feisty lass, with just the right amount of charm and a healthy sprinkling of pluck – this is Miss America right here. She recognises a good ‘un, too, as she acclaims Ernie as “something-else” in exactly the right way. (Ernie – sensitively observed and displayed for our viewing pleasure by the super-talented Adrian Martinez – is a man whose presence tells us a lot about the others; this is great use of the sidekick narrative device).

Then there’s the kids -the gorgeous kids. Confidently performed by Fatima Ptacek and Brianna Gonzalez-Bonacci, Amanda and Samantha are two little girls hopeful for their Father’s future. They’re part of him, and they don’t let him forget it.

There’s a bit of ACTION, too, which I won’t spoil for you. The MAIN EVENT is something we as the audience aren’t privy to, but the resultant aftermath is displayed. Whether this was intentional or a result of budgetary constraints, it worked. If it was the latter, then Serendipity was at work.

It’s far from a perfect movie, but if truth be told, the minor flaws kind of added to its charm. I’d liked to have seen more realism –tighter direction might have been the key – when the girls met Daddy after the aforementioned occurrence. Apart from beautiful puppy-sad eyes, there wasn’t much difference between their reaction here and the more everyday scenes.

I could have done without the canine back-story and Eva’s au-pair revelation; we’d already endeared ourselves to her, so this felt like a sell-out. It kind of felt like an addendum, the white lie itself a deliberate flaw-of-sorts sellotaped on to Eva’s character. To have kept her as Miss 90210 would have only added weight to the love story – and would have actually been a nice Cinderella twist – she with the princely wealth and he, scrubbing the floors.

The Miracle itself was a bit of a MacGuffin – I’m talking the actual miracle here, not the miraculous finding yourself/finding love/finding happiness theme. I blame the REST of the movie for being so damned good that it sucked me in and made me want to forget the supernatural edge. It gave me PEOPLE to believe in, so I didn’t need a Power, a Glory, or a Holy Ghost. Is divine (or Tyronian) intervention the reason things turned out for our couple? I’m pretty sure that with the strength of our two lovers, supported by one heck of a loving family, things would’ve worked out anyway for sure.

So is it true what they say? That they don’t make them like that any more?

They just did.

Pass The Tissues rating (out of 5):

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Four Fifths of Breaking Bad

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I don’t know why I like it so much. It’s compelling stuff, granted. But to have your principal thisclose to sexually assaulting his wife, failing to help a dying girl, and engineering the lirio scenario? That’s a risky little game!

Beaut TV is in the square eyes of the remote beholder. But Gilligan’s Isla? It’s bigger than that. It’s unsurpassed, Shakespearean devastation for the screen.

What started as visual methadone for a Dexter addiction has since stolen my every gram of potential sleep. We’re talking five episodes injected at any given sitting. Why watch just one teenth of a season per night?

Perfectly imperfect…..and oh! the hypnosis of narcosis. This is a poetic expedition explaining why the high is worth the risk. And, ultimately, why people bring meth labs to airports.

It’s ART of the highest order. There’s more POV shots than you can open a fridge to (my particular favourite being the delightfully dusty Vac-cam).

And then there’s the sheer ProtAGONY! There’s the Jesse of murders past haunting the Jesse of murders present, and the dawning that there’s ALWAYS someone bigger than you. Especially when you parade around most of the day in your tightie (Walter) Whities.

I’m broken in, good. Please send season 5 my way. That is all.

Ralph.

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Ralph Fiennes owes me one, BIG TIME. He made me reach for the STOP button with Shakespeare!!!! And THAT is almost unforgivable.

I say almost, because he did spoil me with his sublime, passionate bastard of a Heathcliff and his Luciferous Amon Goeth, not to mention his dreamy realisation of the Constant Husband, gardening away until he reached the truth. But CoriolANUS sucked.

This review is one-fourth the size it should be, because I only viewed a quarter of the movie. Which wasn’t moving in the slightest.

It didn’t draw me in – even the POWER of William’s Words couldn’t save this attempt to turn Ancient Rome into the Hurt Locker. And contrary to popular belief, EVERY Brit-flick does NOT have to contain a Redgrave. Be TOLD!

I bid Fiennes to wash his face, keep his teeth clean, and consider some atonement in the form of self-flagellation. That oughta do it.

(As I finish this rantlet, I can hear Ralph – somewhere in the distance with shame etched on his face: Like a dull actor now, I have forgot my part, and I am out, even to a full disgrace.)

Exit- screen right

The Dead Zone

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To my Darling The Dead Zone.
It’s been 30-odd years and we’re still going strong.  Biannual dalliances have kept us perennial, and with every date you deliver something new, to someone who is:
Not scared – she knows him.
Each time you visit, you promise me a cold time in the old town tonight. And you ALWAYS play that game with me: Castle Rock, Paperback, Dodd’s Scissors…..

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With an apparent budget of tens of dollars, I can easily forgive your one flaw: the worst movie death ever (Johnny’s mom), instead relishing one of the finest (her son).

You iconified Walken, and via Sheen, you gave us the Dark Side of Jed Bartlett (You KNEW!!).
Herbert Lom achingly reveals Weizak’s past – a devastating telephone-exposition that his young self just wasn’t meant to be; and so, we learn how second-Sam was born.
Even your melancholy score is in absolute simpatico with my heartbeat, every note reflecting seat-edgedness, teasing out a symphonic range of emotion via a three-part harmony (The Murders, The Spells, and The Prez).
Your clued up crew were in on it, and it shows-from the aural delight of the crunching gazebo snow to the Johnny-lookin’-spooky uplighting.
You’ve been a real sport to me. You just fucking (castle) ROCK and I shall never let you go.
Nevermore…Nevermore…Nevermore.
Let’s send Mediocrity to hell.
Lin.
X

THE NHS? SHOCKING.

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Ma: The Doctors were useless. Yer Dad’s alright now though. But d’ya know what? (Shudders)… I was SO disgusted…THAT hospital.. Sheesh..It’s gone to the dogs…Me: (Bracing for a Ma-ism) Go on…

Ma: They don’t do the envelope corners any more when they make the beds.

#SomeoneCallThePolice
#ThisIsWhat’sWrongWithSociety

SAY IT AGAIN

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War, huh? What is it good for? A bit of ethnic cleansing here and there, pretty little lab experiments in this petri(fied) dish of a planet? World “leaders” getting their cocks out to compare size? Yeah. It’s good for all those things. War, huh? What is it bad for? Absolutely everythin’.

EIGHTLEGGER

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That moment in between asleep and awake…..when the sheet tickles your leg and your tired, pathetic subconscious decides that two and two equal five and that it must be a spider. That moment when you shoot out of bed, heart racing, as if said imaginary spider spans eighteen feet and is holding a stabby weapon in one “hand” and a shooty one in another. All this whilst he waves at you, menacingly, glaring with his far-too-many eyes. THAT is what happens when a sheet dares to tickle your leg. And THEN, standing at the light switch that you right-hooked to ON, you scratch your thigh because, damnit, it feels like there’s something ON IT. There is. The remains of a little tiny eight-legger who chose to crawl under you for some warmth and perhaps protect you from flies. And then you feel exceptionally guilty and decide to take on the day like some superhero – Arachnoman, maybe…or Rachnobabe, vowing to save at least one of the little critters from a squishy demise.