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The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me

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Posted on November 13, 2017 by

Jesse Lacey was the closest thing I ever had to a hero. Those who know me well (and probably most of you who don’t know me that well) know that the music of Brand New has had a huge impact on my life. They’ve been my favourite band since I was 18 and their songs, specifically the lyrics of frontman Jesse Lacey have gotten me through some tough times.

That’s why the recent revelations about his past emotionally and sexually abusive behaviour towards a minor is like a punch to the gut. I am devastated. With the recent exposure of powerful men in the entertainment industry as sexual predators, it was inevitable that sooner or later most of us would find out that someone whose work we admired would turn out to be a scumbag of the highest order. For my wife it was Kevin Spacey. More about him later. For me, it is the one person I had dared to hope it would not be.

For the last couple of days, since the news broke, I have felt sick to my stomach, imagining that this man who has had so much influence on me could do such awful things. I had been listening to their new album earlier in the day – it popped up again the next time I opened Spotify; I went to see them in concert last month. That will be the last time I ever see them live.

Honestly at this stage I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the end for Brand New. They were widely slated to break up in 2018 anyway, and if the other members of the band have any decency they’ll call it quits right now. Either way, even if they continue I can’t in good conscience give them any more of my money. Honestly, at this point I’m not sure if I can ever listen to one of their songs again. That’s going to take a lot of thinking.

Of course every time something like this comes to light there’s the discussion of separating the art from the artist. I don’t agree with this, and I believe twitter user @DILUTEDSPELLS put it pretty succinctly when they said ‘I’ve seen tweets backing Jesse Lacey: “Separate the art from the artist”. That is despicable, idiotic and terribly wrong. Those words came from vile lips, a wicked mind and a barren heart. Art comes from the soul of the artist. There is no way to separate or differentiate.’

That isn’t to say that I will deny the influence his music has had on my life. That is impossible. But I feel as though I can no longer go back and listen to songs where he half-jokingly complains about how hard it is to be a famous rock star, or how he’s a tortured soul. It must have been so fucking terrible to have to manipulate your doting, teenage fans in to helping you get off.

This brings me to his ‘apology’, and back round to Kevin Spacey. Not long after all this broke, Lacey released a statement through Brand New’s social media accounts essentially glossing over the core aspect of these revelations – that the girl in question was 15 when their interaction began – and blamed any and all past indiscretions on his sex addiction. I don’t know that throwing sex addicts as a whole under the bus is as bad as Kevin Spacey essentially using his coming out as being gay as a cover for addressing the awful things he did in the past, but it’s the same tactic. This kind of non-apology is bullshit and is designed to distract attention from what the abuser did on to how sorry we should feel for them – Lacey for having to deal privately with this addiction, and Spacey for having to live in the closet for so long.

This shit will not stand anymore. I am done. This weekend has been hard for me but I don’t want any sympathy. Your thoughts should be with the countless millions of people who suffer sexual assault and harassment every day. I don’t know the name of the girl in question, or really any details about her, but I believe her. And I believe all the other people coming forward with similar stories about Lacey, and I believe all the stories of every other person who says they’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted. This shit isn’t going to go away because a few pieces of shit get exposed. We, and by that I specifically mean men, have a responsibility to treat all women with respect, and to be vigilant about the behaviour of the people with which we associate. If you see it happening, say or do something to stop it. No more excuses.

This shit will not stand anymore.

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2014 – A Year In Stories: Week 47 – Imagine

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Posted on November 30, 2014 by

Only 5 more stories left! Hot diggety dog!

This week’s suggestion comes from Edward Murphy, who you may recall from earlier in the year of getting stuck up a mountain fame.

His idea is: ‘The entirety of modern civilisation was a fever dream in the mind of an 11th century minor noble. They wake up.’

2014 – A Year In Stories
Week 47
Imagine

“Selfie! YOLO! Glamping!”
Lord de Bonneville sat up in bed, cold sweat clinging to his body, drenching the sheets.
“What is it, my Lord?” his wife asked, waking up at his outburst. “Hast thou had the dream again?”
“Forsooth, it is the third time this week alone.”
“What didst thou see on this occasion.” Sitting up in bed, Lady de Bonneville caressed her husbands chest soothingly.
“Men riding metal horses at high speed. Oxless carriages roaming the streets. Buildings twenty times the size of the castle, made entirely from glass.”
“Fortifications of sorts?”
“It is hard to say. A glass tower would be surely indefensible.”
“It matters not, my love. Sleep now, and we shall consult the herbalist on the morrow.”

#

Lord de Bonneville spent the rest of the night tossing and turning uneasily. The dreams he was having were so lucid. They felt so real that he could not dismiss them.

He saw huge settlements, built from glass, metal and a strange sort of stone he had never encountered before. Wars fought on a scale that even his mighty King could not consider possible, and with such weapons that rendered the swords and armour of the day useless. People walked around in strange clothing, the likes of which he had never seen.

There was more. So much more. The dreams had been coming several times a week for weeks now. It was sweet of Lady de Bonneville to be so kind, but the herbalist had tried her remedies already, and they had failed to make a difference.

He wondered what the dreams meant. Were they prophecy? De Bonneville knew just how the King felt about prophecy. If word got out to his Lord that he had been having visions of the future he would undoubtedly be executed for witchcraft and heresy, and probably his family too for good measure.

There was nothing he could do but to keep it hidden from everyone. It was a risk telling the herbalist, but his wife had insisted that they at least try some of her remedies. Even his own children could not know about his affliction, lest word reach the King, and he send an army to bear down on the city walls.

#

Sure enough the herbalist’s balm had no effect. The very next night Lord de Bonneville experienced his most vivid vision yet. He saw a family gathering around a strange box that projected images of people and places on to glass for their amusement.

Rapt, he had watched in awe as the family enjoyed a 30 minute long performance about a talking dog. Lord de Bonneville did not understand the appeal, but the family had seemed to thoroughly enjoy the experience. He was sure that entertainment in a box would never trump the thrill of a live performance.

Over the weeks that came the dreams intensified, and every prophecy was imbued with some new wonderful custom or contraption that was compl tell unknown to him.

The strain of keeping the secret was starting to show. The Lord barely slept 2 or 3 hours a night before his fever dream woke him, and he was constantly tired. He would fall asleep in war council meetings, and his attention to detail had dropped significantly. Little mistakes were starting to creep in and it wouldn’t be long before the King started to notice.

Eventually it became too much. After a few particularly bad nights, when he had barely slept a wink in nearly a week except to dream of the prophecies, Lord de Bonneville could finally take no more.
On the fifth morning of the week he rose, feeling fresher than ever. Choosing his robes of state to wear he strode to the castle courtyard, and ordered his herald to summon the peasant folk to listen to him speak.

When a sizeable group of the castle’s inhabitants had gathered, Lord de Bonneville cleared his throat to speak.
“Imagine,” he began. “Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. No hell below us. Above us…only sky.”

The herald glanced at one of the guards who had accompanied the Lord.

“Fetch Lady de Bonneville,” he said. “My Lord speaketh in tongues!”

#

“My lady, come quick!” the guard said, bursting in to the drawing room, where Lady de Bonneville was teaching her son numeracy.
“What is it, Perkyns?” she asked, startled by the intrusion.
“It is your husband, my Lady. He spouts heresy to the townsfolk!”
“What do you mean heresy?” Lady de Bonneville became flustered, dreading the possibility that the secret might be about to come out. “My husband is the most pious, God fearing man I’ve ever met.”
“I swear to you, he instructed the peasants to imagine that there was no heaven. He speaks in riddles. Methink him possessed by the devil!”
“How dare you!” Lady de Bonneville roared, rising from her stool. “Aedelwise,” she said to her son. “Go and play with the servant boys awhile.”

The little boy scuttled off, ducking between the guard’s legs. The soldier’s eyes never once left his Lady’s face, however, which by this point had turned beetroot red.

“How dare you accuse your betters of such nonsense. I’ll have you hanged for this.”
“Ma’am I implore you to trust me. Come and see for yourself. He doth rant and rave like a lunatic.”
“Very well,” Lady de Bonneville replied, calming down a bit. “But if you speak falsehoods I shall have your head.”

#

“Ah, my Lady,” Lord de Bonneville said as his wife approached. “Did you know that I am the walrus. Coo coo ca choo.”
“Husband dear, what hath gotten in to thee?” Lady de Bonneville replied, with a poorly faked smile on her face. In addition she hissed more quietly, “We discussed thine not acting up in public, dear. If the King gets wind…”
“Oh but dearest the King is dead. He died on the toilet eating a cheeseburger.”

Lady de Bonneville could only stare at her husband in awe. It had all been too much these last few weeks and he had finally snapped. Her dear husband. The King, who was very much alive and to her knowledge had not perished eating on the privy, would hear about this and the Lord would be sent to the asylum at best, or at worst executed.

“Yes dear,” she replied eventually. “So I believe.” She led her husband off to their private chambers, that at least he would be out of the public eye.

#

Sure enough it was only a matter of days before the King found out about the outburst. Lord de Bonneville was doing better, but had been lying in bed proselytising at length about the virtues of something called a Ferrari versus something called a Lamborghini, and why someone named Kanye from the West was the most important artist of this or any other age.

Before he could make enough of a recovery to be fully lucid, however, the King’s men had come to cart him off. Thanks to her begging and pleading that her husbands life be spared, they agreed that he would be admitted to the King’s asylum in the capital.

#

Lord de Bonneville sat in his cell, singing a song that none of the guards or other inmates at the asylum knew.
“Heyyyyyyyy,” it went, “hey baby. Ooh. Ah. I wanna knoooow – will you be my girl.”
“Feeding time,” the gaoler said, pushing a tray of slop under the door.

Lord de Bonneville was utterly ravenous, and devoured it immediately, all the while singing, “Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut,” to himself.

The ‘food’ came with two blunt instruments that loosely resembled a knife and fork, but they were so useless that using the, would have made eating more difficult.

Despite this, Lord de Bonneville pocketed the knife. The gaoler didn’t notice when the tray was removed, and shortly after the imprisoned Lord got to work, slowly, methodically but surely carving in to the wall of his cell.

#

“Here,” the archaeologist said, standing up in his trench. “Dave come have a look at this would you?”
“What is it, Terry? Found something big?”
“You could say that mate,” Terry replied. “I’ve found the lyrics to ‘Imagine’.”
“The John Lennon song? Where? Just like on a bit of paper.”
“No you berk, not on a bit of paper,” Terry said, folding his arms. “I’m hardly going to ask one of the world’s foremost medieval inscription specialists to come and have a look at some open mic night print out of a John Lennon song am I? It’s inscribed here, on a bloody wall.”
“You’re pulling my leg,” Dave replied sceptically. “This is to get me back for that time I baked a Roman skull in to your birthday cake isn’t it?”
“I am not pulling your leg. Just come and look.”

Abandoning his own trench, Dave went and joined his colleague to look at the wall.

“Well bugger me with a fish fork,” he said, brushing some dirt away from the wall with his fingers. “It’s ‘Imagine’ down to the letter. But it’s not signed John Lennon. It’s signed Lord Francis de Bonneville, 1096.”
“So Lennon is a fraud then?”
“I always knew McCartney was the one doing all the work.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time an artist nicked their lyrics. I heard Aethelred the Unready wrote Bohemian Rhapsody…”

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2014 – A Year in Stories: Week 5 – Around the World in 80 Pages

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Posted on February 9, 2014 by

This week’s challenge was one of the more abstract briefs I have had so far this year. It really meant that I could go anywhere with. It had the potential to go off in to the fantastical or to be entirely grounded in the real world, and I went more towards the latter in this instance.

As soon as I read it I had an idea of where I wanted to go with it, so the challenge was not coming up with a plot (ironically) but rather was in how to convey the message that I wanted to get across, which is that if you are looking really hard for something you can quite often miss the interesting things that are going on around you. I will leave it up to you to decide if I have managed to do this!

Anyway, the brief came from Steve Newman (twitter user @bigfoottreasure) and went a little something like this: ‘Author can’t think of a plot, goes in search of one.’

You don’t have to search very far to find the result, as it is below.

2014 – A Year in Stories

Week 5

Around the World In 80 Pages

It had happened the same way every night for a week. Fred sat down in front of his computer and stared at the blank document open on the screen in front of him.

His face lit by the glow of the monitor, he insisted that this night, this was the one where he finally got started on the greatest novel ever written.

But every night it was the same old story, or rather lack of story. After an hour of staring blankly at the screen he would close the word processor and insist that tomorrow would be the night.

This night was no different. He sat, staring at the white screen. The cursor blinked at him accusingly. ‘What are you waiting for?’ it cried. ‘Don’t you have the moxy to write a novel?’ He was starting to think that maybe he didn’t.

By this stage he was begging for a distraction. Any excuse to take his mind away from writing and on to other things. A notification popped up in the corner. An email! Perfect. Fred clicked through to his mailbox.

It was only spam. He cursed. TravelWise with another one of their promotional emails offering cheap holidays to places he wouldn’t visit if someone threatened to shove a pair of angry ferrets up his trousers.

He switched the window back to the word processor and leant his chin on his hands. If only he could think of a plot. He knew he had a novel in him. I mean, everyone does, right? It’s just that his was apparently better guarded than Fort Knox and more secret than the location of the holy grail.

He racked his brain for inspiration, but his mind began to wander. Perhaps he needed a holiday after all, just to get his creative juices flowing. He clicked back on to his email to see what dreary destinations were on offer today.

Scrolling through the email he found himself thoroughly underwhelmed by the idea of a weekend in a cottage in the Brecon Beacons; completely unenthused by a wildlife tour of Sussex and downright disgusted at the thought of a Club 18-30 booze up for a week in Marbella. But at the bottom of the email he saw something that caught his eye.

A year long round the world tour.

As he scanned the list of stops he became excited. Rome, Athens, Budapest, Prague. And those were just some of the ones in Europe.

He baulked slightly at the price: £10000. But it was all inclusive and he HAD just inherited some money. The mouse barely hovered over the ‘Buy’ button before he clicked. Within minutes he had set up a payment installment plan. Within the hour he had quit his dead end job.

If spending a year travelling around the world didn’t inspire him to write the greates novel in the history of the world, frankly he didn’t know what would.

#

Two weeks later Fred was all packed d ready to go. He sat in the departure lounge at Heathrow airport and flicked through a complimentary magazine as he waited for his flight to New York, where his adventure would truly begin, to board.

The adrenaline was flowing through his veins. He had barely so much as left Berkshire before, let alone Europe, and here he was preparing to jet out to the Big Apple and the USA. A tingle of excitement ran down his back.

BING BONG.

“Would all passengers for Zoom Air flight ZM9934 please head to Gate 42 as the plane is now ready for boarding, thank you,” a nearby tannoy announced.

BING BONG.

It was time.

#

Fred spent the next two months in North America. He climbed the Empire State Building, swam with dolphins in Florida, hiked the Grand Canyon and camped in the wilds of Yellowstone Park. He watched ice hockey in Vancouver, went on a Moose safari in Nova Scotia, and attended Cinco de Mayo in Tijuana.

Yet, despite all of that he struggled to find a plot for his novel. Every situation he found himself in, he felt as though he had been here before. Or, rather, someone else had been there on his behalf, and written about it in some way.

North America felt so cliché to Fred. Even Mexico and Canada felt like they had been done to death already, either in literature, film or television. There was nothing new to write about. No new story to tell. And so he moved on.

#

After he left North America on his world tour, Fred was next deposited in Japan. Here, he felt sure that a plot would present itself. After all, Japanese culture was so utterly different to that in the West that something would surely start his creative juices flowing.

But, he was disappointed to find that actually he didn’t feel all that inspired. He sat on a bench in Dinseyland Tokyo, looking out over the bay, where he could see Mount Fuji in the distance and sighed.

He readjusted his Mickey ears and took a bite from his toffee apple. The problem with Japanese culture was that it was TOO different. Sure, he felt that his creativity had been stifled by the homogeneity of British culture, but Japan was a swing too far in the other direction.

Everywhere he turned there were people doing interesting and unusual things. People partaking of foods and drinks that he had never tasted, games and sports he had never imagined, and as for the theatre and television, well it was beyond even what knowledge he had gleaned from all those late nights watching Takeshi’s Castle.

It was too much. Someone like Fred could not relate to the common Japanese man, and therefore he did not feel as though he could tell his story. He had failed to find what he was looking for under the pagodas, so one again he moved on.

#

His next stop was the Asian mainland. He spent some time trekking the Great Wall, and yet more time still on the backpacker trail around Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

In a hostel in Bangkok he found love, or at least what passed for it on the road. He spent two weeks exploring the Thai countryside with a Canadian girl, as their passion burned brightly before dying out as, eventually, they both had to go their separate ways.

As he flew on to Mumbai, his next destination, he wondered if he would ever see her again. He realised as the plane made its ascent out of Thailand that in the fortnight they had spent together he had completely failed to divert any of his thoughts to coming up with a plot.

He scanned back through his memories of the previous fourteen days and they were all taken up by her. He could not remember a single other thing from his time in South East Asia, all he could think about was the girl he spent the time with.

He sat back in his seat and smiled contentedly, but a small part of him remained sad that he had still not yet managed to find the plot that he was so desperately looking for.

#

He mused further on his failure thus far to think of a plot as he wandered the streets of Mumbai, and it nearly cost him dearly. As he wandered around oblivious to the world around him, a young pickpocket snatched his messenger bag from his shoulder.

Spotting the miscreant, Fred gave chase immediately. He was glad of the parkour lessons he had taken at university, as the small child was nimble and quick, and clearly knew the area of the city well.

They leapt over boxes and street stalls and weaved in between people as the chase went on. Eventually his superior speed paid off and he caught the child, snatching his satchel back in annoyance. He looked through to see if anything was missing and cursed when he found that his notebook, on which he had written all of his germs of ideas for stories, had fallen out during the chase. That would set him back another couple of weeks.

#

Incidents like this peppered the rest of his year of travel, and eventually he returned to his parents home in Berkshire empty handed and despondent.

None of his friends could understand why he was so sad. He had, after all, just spent a year travelling to some of the world’s most exotic locations and seeing some wonderful and fantastic things.

After a few weeks of doing the rounds of visits to friends and family that he had not seen in over 12 months he settled back down in to what he supposed he could call a normal routine.

His uncle found him a job in the local supermarket while he looked for something more long term, but every night it was the same as before he left. He would sit in front of the computer for an hour or more at a time and stare at a blank screen. All that time and all that money wasted, and he hadn’t come back with a single idea for a story.

After the third night in a row of sitting and staring at the blinking cursor he gave up. Perhaps what they all said was a lie. Maybe everyone didn’t have a novel in them. He sighed deeply and wondered what he could do next.

“Oh well,” he said to himself. “I suppose I could write up my travel journals. Though I can’t think why anyone would want to read any of that…”

Taking a sip from his mug of coffee Fred stretched his fingers out and began to type. Several hours later he was startled to hear birds singing outside his window. He opened the curtains and daylight streamed inside, forcing him to blink in order to adjust. It had felt like he had been writing for no time at all, but he had been up all night.

He looked at the document and saw that he had written ten thousand words. Perhaps he had inadvertently found his muse after all.

###

Next week I have to tackle some sci-fi. Considering I read a lot of the genre I’ve never really tried to write any, so it might be interesting!

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