Category Archives: Popular culture

The Ongoing Quest for a Superhero Worthy of Our Times

There’s an imaginary character in my novel called Super Subliminal Man. And his unique super power is his ability to blend into the background, so as to remain undetectable by others around him. He kind of exists on the threshold of consciousness, waiting to right wrongs etc.

I suppose, I’m ultimately intrigued by the whole idea of the subliminal, more generally. So it’s probably not all that surprising I should have been compelled to create a figure like Super Subliminal Man.

Why is it we have that favorite pair of jeans that when they’re freshly washed and ironed makes us feel so totally invincible as we pull them on? Or that favorite song that fills us with hope and boldness, for instance? Or that favorite food that we crave after a stressful and tiring day, for that matter?

Habit or familiarity, I hear you answer. Sure, but isn’t familiarity supposed to breed contempt? Uh-huh? And I would argue, therefore, that neither of these two things makes up the whole equation.

On a slightly different tangent, I was idly researching the history of the tobacco industry today and learnt that the man who designed the first Camel cigarette packets was a man called Fred Otto Kleesattel. And apparently he had initially worked as a camouflage artist for the US military during WW1. His wartime role evidently was to make lethal objects blend into their surroundings. Kind of like hiding cancer-causing tobacco products in plain sight of Mr and Mrs Joe (Camel) Average.

The Joe Camel reference may be lost on some of you, because this lovable mascot was banned in 1997, following accusations he existed solely as a way of marketing cigarettes to children.

Anyway, whatever. Hidden persuaders aside, I thought it might be cool to invent a subliminal agent that would fight for the forces of good for once. And, hence, Super Subliminal Man was born…

NB 5.4 million people die globally each year from tobacco-related diseases. The total number of deaths caused by WW1 was approximately 17 million, which includes about 10 million military personnel and about 7 million civilians. But because WW1 lasted four years (1914-1918), tobacco comes out on top as the bigger killer. At a rate of currently 5.4 million deaths per year, over a period of four years, tobacco will kill 21.6 million people compared to WW1’s paltry 17 million…

Hmm, appearances can often prove very deceptive, wouldn’t you say?


Notes on Living in a Picture Perfect World


My confession: I’ve sort of spent the last two days being wooed by a rival social media site, namely Instagram. From what I gather, it’s like Twitter but for the illiterate.

Okay, that’s a bit cruel. What I should say, instead, is that people on Instagram use pictures to communicate rather than words. My heartfelt apologies to the illiterate, by the way, also. (Oops, consider the irony if you will that I just spelt illiterate incorrectly, twice! Thank goodness, for autocorrect.)

Whatever, there are those among us who are describing our age as the Age of the Image. And, I suppose, I have been experiencing for myself what it is like to swim in a virtual sea of images, without so much as the hint of a narrative thread to cling on to.

In fact, I risked veritably drowning in pixels to conduct my unsponsored research into the allure of Instagram. And, no, I didn’t type anything rude into my search terms, either. In case you were wondering about my moral propriety.

So, what did I discover? Well, if we are indeed in the Age of the Image, we’re all doomed to a permanent state of pre-verbal idiocy. For the work of the Wordsworths and Coleridges of the digital form are being lost in the maelstrom of ill-conceived and poorly executed self-portraits teenage girls, for one, feel compelled to upload each time they apply fresh makeup in the mirror, apparently.

There’s a bunch of other stuff clogging up the airwaves, too, obviously, like photographic cholesterol. Pictures of people’s tattoos, pets, pectoral muscles, phony gangster poses and, argh, just stuff. Societal detritus.

All right, so I’m starting to worry this is making me sound like an elitist cybersnob. Who’s to say a photo of someone’s belly button piercing isn’t on par with Beethoven’s 5th, 6th or 9th, for that matter?

It’s probably simply the generation gap/chasm widening again the way it does, I know. But when are we going to start seeing the Stravinskys of snapshots or the Ibsens of Instagram, I wonder?

The Long Tradition of Using Pictures to Illustrate the Point

William Blake's etching/watercolour "Anci...

William Blake’s etching/watercolour “Ancient of Days” British Museum, London . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In line with the suggestion of a friend, I approached an illustrator today about his possibly supplying some artwork to accompany the text of my novel, Missing Zero.

Really, I don’t know why I didn’t think of doing this much earlier. You see, I identify my novel as being a work of Jungian alchemy. And, the thing is, a great many ancient alchemical works actually came with woodcut illustrations to help illuminate the often arcane and obscure passages of text contained therein.

It’s a no-brainer, ultimately. The only problem, I suppose, would be the raised printing costs that including illustrations would incur, if my novel were to ever find a publisher. However, at this stage, Missing Zero looks destined to remain a self-published eBook. The worryingly overdue, final verdict of Coronet publishing, in the UK, notwithstanding.

Interestingly, there’s always been a part of me that’s been totally intrigued by the prospect of turning Missing Zero into a graphic novel. My greatest reservation, obviously, being that such works are in no way viewed as serious attempts at literature but rather as adult comic books.

By contrast, fortunately, though, there’s a long history of cases where satirical/speculative writing has been coupled with illustrations. For instance, I can’t think of Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, without the images of Ralph Steadman’s surreal artwork coming flooding into my mind.

A more distant example from the past is, of course, the work of Arthur Rackman, whose illustrations for editions of Gulliver’s Travels, Alice in Wonderland and Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination have forever changed how these classics have gone on to be pictured in the minds of generations of readers over time.

In case you’re inclined to believe this is all just kid stuff, William Blake also famously illustrated his own often prophetic and surreal writing. And I don’t think you could find a literary critic alive who would try and argue Blake’s extensive body of work doesn’t constitute the very essence of serious, “capital L” literature.

So, there exists a long tradition of book illustrating, from the illuminated manuscripts of medieval times, through to the modern stylings of Ralph Steadman. And, therefore, who am I to willfully break with tradition?

Moreover, many are calling the times we live in the Age of the Image, as we move away from the page and towards the screen. The visual is king. Everything will soon be multimedia, including possibly Missing Zero. And I’m none too bothered, because for the reasons outlined above, to my mind, the marriage of words and images is simply just another instance of history repeating.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.jpg

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Being Out of Sync With Synchronicity — The Perils of Hitchhiking on the Electronic Superhighway

So, here’s the thing, I’ve recently managed to establish contact with the intellectual grandsire of my novel, Missing Zero. I call this man my book’s grandsire, because it was his works on Jungian alchemy, in particular, that so deeply influenced me when I first started out to become a writer of surrealist fiction.

Anyway, I have been corresponding, over the past few months, with this man about his possibly writing a preface to my book. And, gods be praised, amazingly enough, he recently agreed to actually read my manuscript, in view of providing said preface. Hallelujah!

As an aside, let me add that I’m hoping, by adding a preface to my book, uninitiated readers will not confuse its contents as being some form of satanic scripture, but rather see it for what it is, namely, a satirical take on the moral catastrophe we call modern life. Trust me, it’s meant to be funny, as well as being subversive, and I ought to know because I wrote the bloody thing! Really, you wouldn’t believe the names I’ve already been called, in the course of promoting Missing Zero to the reading public. But enough!

Whatever. The actual problem right now is that I have since found it practically impossible to forward a copy of the manuscript to this man, Missing Zero’s intellectual grandsire.

It’s quite weird, in fact. I must have tried half-a-dozen different email addresses for him, so far. But, each time, without fail, my message bounces back, along with the attachment containing my electronic manuscript.

Now, each time, this man has encouraged me to try again, with a different email address. So I’m fairly confident I’m not being given the cold shoulder here. Yet, even so, there’s something pretty wacky going on.

Which got me to thinking about not so much what Jesus would do, but what Jung would do if he were faced with a similar situation.
After all, the novel’s grandsire is a Jungian analyst and leading exponent of Jungian alchemical practice. What’s more, I also identify myself as a Jungian alchemist, having responded to being such when asked my religion in the latest census.

Well, anyhow, it seems to me the magic word for Jung (and all us Jungians, alike) was/is synchronicity. The idea of meaningful coincidences. And I’m beginning to suspect there is something meaningful about how my efforts to pass on my novel are being blocked.

It was all too easy. I first contacted this man, of whom I speak, for instance, through Facebook’s messenger application. And before you know it, I was next attempting to send off my 120,000 word manuscript to him via email, all in the twinkling of an eye.

Not too shabby for a morning’s work, eh? But to what end? So he could next skim over the first five or ten pages and decide he didn’t actually like it? Or worse yet, have him not even read it, but instead write a preface anyway based on the synopsis I had also forwarded on?

And this is the danger of the electronic age, I would argue. Everything happens so damn fast. Because of which, we constantly run the risk of being out of synch with things. We settle for the shallow and superficial, when we should seek the deeply significant.

I desperately want to see my novel published, preferably with the said preface in place (pardon the alliteration); however, it took me nearly eight years to write the thing, and so why should I be in such a screaming hurry now to give it to the world?

Maybe the world’s not ready for it yet. A satirical tale about the defunct Antichrist’s personal search for a moral compass, in a world long-gone to hell…hmm, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Sure, it makes me laugh, but then I’ve got an extremely wacky sense of humour.

How did my own sister describe it? Oh, yes, unpalatable. At which point, I laughed longer and harder than I have at probably any other point in the past eight years. My bad.

Hmm, what would Jung do, I wonder? Or Dali or Burroughs or Godard or Beckett or Cocteau or A Belgian Ballerina Named Frank…

IMHO — The Top 5 Song Lyrics of All Time

“Get sick, get well
Hang around an ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin’ to sell”
– Bob Dylan (Subterranean Homesick Blues)

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”
– Kris Kristofferson/Fred Foster (Me & Bobby McGee)

“Well, I stand up next to a mountain
And I chop it down with the edge of my hand
Well, I pick up all the pieces and make an island
Might even raise a little sand…”
– Jimi Hendrix (Voodoo Child)

“Five to one, baby, one in five
No one here gets out alive now
You get yours, baby, I’ll get mine
Gonna make it, baby, if we try”
– Jim Morrison (Five to One)

“Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows”
– Leonard Cohen (Everybody Knows)

“An ugly child belongs to its parents, whereas a beautiful child belongs to the world” — unknown.

I heard an interesting quote the other day that was told to me by an extremely inebriated, anonymous reveller, and it has stuck with me ever since.

Here it is: “An ugly child belongs to its parents, whereas a beautiful child belongs to the world.”

I suppose, in some ways, I can see how this quote is sort of akin to the well-known saying that states, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan”.

Whatever. What’s more intriguing to me is that I’ve since been surprised to find that I can’t seem to locate this first quote anywhere else on the web. (NB Please let me know if you know its source.)

As an artist I often feel about what I create as though it were my own offspring. And hence I can relate to the above quote not as an actual parent of a child, but instead as a writer. Sometimes I worry (like I’m sure all writers do at some point) that my literary offspring appear ugly to others. No matter, I tell myself stoically, it’s just a case of the ugly duckling syndrome…

So, until such time as all of my various ink-children should find similar birds of a feather to soar with, I have turned my attention to crafting the next big Internet meme instead (I wish!). 😛

An ugly child

The Self-Published Author as Shapeshifting Social Media Butterfly

I don’t know about you, but as a self-published author I have joined a whole damn plethora of social media sites, a great many of which I didn’t even know existed prior to this.

The name of my novel is Missing Zero. And so I’ve got the Missing Zero Facebook page, Twitter account and blog here at WordPress, too. In addition to these I’ve got other accounts, under the name of Lorem Ipsum at Pinterest and LinkedIn and a bunch of other sites like StumbleUpon and Tumblr, which I rarely use.

The reason I have these accounts ultimately is because I’m trying to make a direct connection with people. A direct connection with the greater reading public, in the first instance, possibly, but also a direct connection with people of all stations. And this is why I am currently exploring here with you the concept of the self-published author as shape-shifting social media butterfly.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. This week I have been in contact with two very different publishers, in regard to having Missing Zero published by either one of their respective publishing houses.

Now, the first of these two is a big name publishing house based in the UK. And I have so far managed to sort of get into the ear of one of this company’s head publishers. But the only way I have been able to do this was by contacting him through LinkedIn’s inmail service.

My point is that I actually joined LinkedIn for this sole purpose. As I knew of no other way of contacting this particular person, who I had earlier decided was the perfect match for publishing my novel. And this is where my idea of shapeshifting comes in.

You see, upon my joining LinkedIn, an old friend spotted my profile and sent me the following text, “OMG, you’re mainstreaming now!”

I suppose, I deserved his playful dig, because I’ve previously always stood apart from social networking practices, seeing them as an anathema to the creative life of an artist. But I’m now no longer just being a writer, you understand, I’ve shapeshifted into a she-wolf fighting for the life of one of her cubs.

Because that’s what my novel feels like to me. It feels like my offspring, and I will literally fight tooth and nail to see my progeny flourish and prosper, believe me. I will even enter the conservative, buttoned-down world of LinkedIn to promote my novel and thereby increase its chances of survival.

However, in a completely different guise again, I have also been in contact with another publisher this week, as I mentioned earlier. And I came across this particular outfit while hanging out at Twitter. Because that’s what I do at Twitter, I just hang out. Talking sh#t mostly, in 140 characters or less. My persona there is therefore not quite that of a street hustler, but certainly someone more streetwise, let’s say.

Well, anyway, I sent off a submission to this other publishing outfit. And quickly received a very favorable response. Although I’m yet to hear back about their policy regarding my novel’s currently self-published status. Gulp!

Whatever. I’m right now more interested in talking about who I’m being as I write this anyhow. Because at WordPress I believe I can just be me. There’s no need for any kind of shapeshifting on my part here. You guys get the closest thing to the real me.

And for the most part, you’ve all been totally accepting and extremely welcoming of the confusing ball of contradictions and inconsistencies that I happen to be. Really, what I’m saying is that it feels like home here for me. And I thank each and every one of you for that. Yay!

But remember, if you do happen to stumble upon me at StumbleUpon or try and pin me down at Pinterest I can be as elusive as a shapeshifting butterfly. Man, let’s simply say you really don’t want to know what I get up to at deviantART…

PS Just kidding, deviantART is one of the few sites I’m still yet to join. But give me time, and I’ll get on to it, sure enough.

PPS Just before I went to post this, I got an email from the publisher in England. Here’s what it said: “Your e[mail] made me laugh…Hope to read the script next week”

PPS Aargh! So what the hell do I do to stop going insane between now and next week? No, really I’m not joking! I’m FREAKING out here people. Anybody got any thoughts or Valium handy? Help!

Bike Butterfly

Bike Butterfly