Twitter = The Modern Machine Gun

The speed at which moral outrage can circle the world can be measured in mouse clicks. Six degrees of separation is all that divides us from Cecil the Lion; that and a few million tweets. For a story that barely grazed the pages of the Zimbabwean newspapers, it had generated an angry online mob complete with death threats within hours. It had swiftly mutated out of social media and mobilised into an on-the-ground band of protestors complete with placards and news cameras. It had even become the source of Jimmy Kimmel’s normally comic opening to his show.

The dentist is in hiding with US police checking out the death threats. There are calls for him to be extradited to Zimbabwe to face criminal charges. He won’t be looking at too many dental cavities for the next little while. His five seconds of fame with Cecil might have put him out of a job permanently.

This is not the first time Man versus the Twitter machine loses. In fact, the solitary human being is no match for the thousands, nay millions, of bullets from self-righteous online activists.   I am reminded of world war one when the machine gun emerged as the deadly killing machine. Even the terrifying cavalry was rendered vulnerable as a single machine gun could take the place of 80 rifles.  Like Twitter the early machine guns often overheated, requiring water or air cooling to stop them from jamming. It was not unheard of for machine gun operators to resort to urinating on an overheating gun in the midst of battle to keep the gun running smoothly. Yet another similarity with mass social media mobs.

It is also interesting to note that the most modern machine gun available at the start of world war one was the Maxim. The inventor, Hiram Maxim, offered his design to the British Army but the British High Command rejected it; officers even felt it to be an inappropriate form of warfare. Sadly for the British Army, the German government had no such qualms and inflicted severe carnage on the British troops as a result.

Twitter can certainly be called an inappropriate form of social discourse.  Like the early machine guns that grouped together for maximum results in impregnable points on high ground, the Twitter crowd gathers together on its high moral ground before launching its deadly attack.

At the end of the day, Twitter relies on its moral superiority for it power. It dispenses with legal rights, principals of fair trial and even the basic rights of an individual caught in the cross hairs. It is akin to a bearded Old Testament warrior claiming an eye for an eye. There is no due process, only moral outrage, and carnage, plenty of carnage.

It can be argued that Twitter is a power for democratising society; it can take down monoliths, behemoths and corporates. Yet, increasingly it seems to reserve its ultimate anger for individuals who break the code. Individuals who are hunted for days without letup, punctured and wounded and if the more extreme edge of the crowd had their way, killed in an even more barbaric manner than Cecil died.

I am against Cecil’s death but I would not see Twitter do the same to the dentist. One is a lion and one is a human being and two wrongs do not make a right.

For where does the outrage stop? First for a lion, then for a giraffe, then for a fox, then for a salmon, then for a fly?  And why not for a human being – can we not reserve some emotion for the thousands of human beings dying in terrible conditions as the world witnesses more displaced people on the move than at any other time in our history.

Twitter as a machine gun is deadly. Twitter as an advocate of change can be even more powerful. It is all about the target.

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Travel writer, South Africa: Swimming with hippos and other adventures from the veld

In a series of reader submissions to the Irish Times Amateur Travel Writer competition, we meet Jillian Godsil, who finds herself in the midst of adventure on an equestrian safari

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Sometimes, oftentimes, the things you really should do never feature on the average bucket list. For example, it would take a random ideas generator to put hippos and swimming together. The category of ‘swimming with’ usually includes non-violent animals such as dolphins or whales, and maybe sharks but that typically includes a cage or two.

I was on an equestrian safari in South Africa in the Waterberg region when I met my hippos. We had done all sorts of activities on horseback; witnessed giraffes up close, viewed any number of gazelle take fancy and flight, watched pronking sprinkbok with our mouths open (and our mounts firmly on all four legs) and had even ridden in a cloud of wildebeest as they whirled in formation across a dusty plain. We once rode softly past a white rhino and her calf, the quieter of the African rhinos, and she barely looked at the horses and riders as we tiptoed past, trying to balance cameras and click pictures without attracting her attention.

On our last day, we went deep in the countryside on horses that were as dependable as the Bank of England, back in the day when banks could be depended upon. We stopped at a waterhole. My ride decided he needed a little swim himself and began pawing the ground. I jumped off just in time before he rolled in the water. One of my companions said that many horseriders died when they failed to dismount and were drowned under the horse. I’m not sure it was true especially when she continued to tell me about a couple crushed when a male elephant decided to mate with their tiny rental car. Safari myths when told at home are easily scotched; when told in the veld it quite another matter. I gulped my fear, remounted and we carried on.

When we reached the end of the game fence our guide turned back and informed us the unseasonal rains had resulted in higher than normal water levels. We needed to part-walk, part-swim to gain high ground and continue our trek. I looked around at the other members of the group expecting resistance but everyone was simply tying perishable items around their necks. I followed suit, fastening my camera under my chin strap. I must have gone white in fear for an octogenarian lady in our group patted my arm. ‘You’ll be fine.’ She said. ‘Follow me.’

One by one the front runners plunged into the waters and struck out for the far bank. The water was first still and green, then rushed and rippled as rider after rider pushed forward. In all too short a time my friend set off, but not before giving me a kindly glance. I didn’t wait around and kicked on my horse. Together we entered the water and for a period I could not tell if he was swimming or walking through the depths. I leaned forward, trying to take my weight out of the saddle as we moved slowly through the water. It seemed like an eternity but soon I could sense his hooves getting traction on the ground and we were clambering up the muddy bank the far side. I did not have time to reflect on our achievement as the front riders were now cantering along in hock-high water. My mount bucked and took off too. I clung for dear life to the saddle as water and green watery ferns slapped my face while all the time the basking hippos barked gently, only a few feet to our left. I had been swimming with hippos.

Fifty Shades started surge of Mammy Porn in Ireland

first printed in the Sunday Independent on February 2, 2016

Jillian Godsil, who wrote ‘The Cougar Diaries’, has interviewed people about the impact of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. With the film adaptation of the book about to hit our screens, she reckons men in the audiences could be in short supply

50 shades pic

 

 

 

 

 

PRIOR to the publication of Fifty Shades of Grey, what might be considered deviant sexual practices were not discussed at the dinner tables the length and breadth of Ireland, much less practised in the bedroom. But following on from the book’s publication, the conversation went mainstream and in between the sheets.

I started interviewing people and talking about the impact and found to my empirical knowledge that sex had mushroomed in Ireland. Taxi drivers, hotel porters and bartenders – the true barometers of Irish society – were having more sex than ever before and the women were driving the train.

Which is somewhat ironic since the protagonist in Fifty Shades is submissive and very passive. The very Irish women turned on by the book appeared to be tying up their men – and sales of rope in Woodies are going through the roof without a single shred of evidence of any DIY being done. So, the reason Irish men are smiling is less a case of ‘mommy porn’ and more a case of ‘mammy porn’, and you will do what you are told!

And now, the tale is coming to a cinema near you. Somehow, I don’t think this is going to be the ultimate romantic, first-date movie. In fact, I don’t think it will even mimic the Sex and the City experience where groups of women dressed up as their favourite character in the sitcom, drank cocktails and strode around town on impossibly tall heels.

We all know Fifty Shades has sold in huge numbers (about 100m and counting) but I am not sure how the transition from reading erotica to watching erotica on screen will play out. The former is normally a very intimate affair, the latter a public experience.

Then there is the question of appropriate fashion – will the ladies all bring their favourite piece of bondage equipment with them? And I say ‘ladies’ for I don’t think there will be that many brave male souls accompanying their partners to see the film. And for those guys, about to take that plunge, I salute you now gentlemen!

It is hard to believe that the novel was published only in 2011. The book, and the accompanying phenomenon, covered new ground, old ground and some very dodgy ground, but one thing is for sure, kinky went mainstream and there is no closing that particular drawer.

At the beginning of the Fifty Shades excitement, a number of elements were said to be behind its success. The first was the popularity of online book stores and electronic devices such as the Kindle. People no longer had to go into a book store and actually ask for a book – buying erotica or dirty books in the noughties was still like buying condoms in the last century, a shameful act that required much steeling of nerves. Now, the same purchase could be done seamlessly online. And even better, once purchased, no-one could tell what kind of book you were reading – it could be history, non-fiction or erotica.

But while the anonymous purchasing and reading may have propelled the initial interest, soon actual physical book sales were outstripping or at least equalling online sales. In the summer of 2012, it seemed impossible to fall over anyone on a beach not reading the same book. .

But then there were tales of the book being left behind in hotels. Travelodge published a report that said EL James’ book topped the list of most discarded books, which may not upset the millionaire author, but it does beg the question, will the audience react in the same way in the cinema?

For every one person I met who loved the book, I met one who hated it and was unable to finish reading. Will we see streams of people leaving halfway through, like a poor showing at an indie film festival?

My own personal reaction to the book was frustration, and not the good kind. I am a sex-positive feminist and consumer of both erotica and its more edgy bedfellow porn. I am a devotee of Cindy Gallop and her MakeLoveNotPorn start-up, an admirer of Erika Lust and her women-centric porn and some very quirky stuff in between. I do, however, draw the line at reading Barbara Cartlandesque prose just to get to a post-modern, hardcore sex story stapled thinly within such a storyline.

The writing was inspired, as we know, by Twilight fan fiction and it shows: with every inner goddess, subconscious dance move and references to those jeans hanging off his hips. But my biggest criticism of the book is also my biggest compliment to it – the role of women and its impact on women.

Ana, as a character, I hated with a passion. I hated her for three major things. The first was that she travelled hundreds of miles to interview a businessman, but never did any research before stepping into his office – instead she relied on her friend’s notes to conduct the interview.

There is one question at the end of her friend’s notes which asks if Mr Grey is gay. Ana, this supposedly intelligent woman, cannot read the question in her head without blurting the three words out loud.

This was in the opening chapter, and I think this is where my frustration set in. Why do attractive female protagonists have to be so stupid?

The second was the fact that, as an unlikely virgin at 21, Ana proceeds to have effortless, countless, mind-blowing orgasms with Mr Grey. It would appear she has clitorises all over her body, which makes her a medical wonder.

The final nail in the coffin, for me, was her rejection of presents from her boyfriend. I have to say render unto Caesar and all that. If I am dating a mechanic, then a bunch of garage flowers is lovely; if I am dating a billionaire, then a first edition book is very thoughtful. Or maybe I should have watched Boy Next Door (2015) where JLo is given a first edition Illiad by the eponymous anti-hero. Who is the foolish one there?

So will the Mna of hEireann watch erotica on the big screen now that Fifty Shades is being painted on the big screen? Yes – if only to brush up on their knot-tying techniques. Gentlemen, you have been warned!

Jillian Godsil is a Master’s student in screenwriting in IADT, freelance journalist and author. She has published a quintessentially Irish trilogy of feminist, activist and comic erotica under the pen name of Aoife Brennan and entitled ‘The Cougar Diaries’, Parts I, II & III, which is available on all good electronic devices. She blogs on real world stuff at www.JillianGodsil.com

Sunday Independent

Cougar Diaries – purchase here

On Being a Student – Again

conferring

Confession time: I am a student again. I am studying a Masters in screenwriting in IADT in Dun Laoghaire. It is a demanding course with full time lectures on Monday and Tuesday. The rest of the week you are meant to spend in the library. Of course as a mature student I spent the rest of the time doing the things I have to do; look for business, pitch writing gigs, do writing gigs, look after my kids, mind house, cook the odd dinner, sing with my choir, preside over my alma mater, learn to run and plan world domination. And that is only on Wednesday.

It is a wonderful thing being a student again. It is a long time since I was a student and while it is different as a mature student, it is still wonderful. The biggest surprise is how much I don’t know. That sounds a bit foolish but life after university is often an exercise in using limited knowledge to navigate difficult tasks. The older you get, the better you get at navigation. But when you go back to college, the world sense you may have gained does not always parlay into expert navigation. For example I give you Aristotle’s Poetics. The title enough should tell you all you need to know. I dallied along in the shallows of the lectures letting the warm breeze wash over me, but when it came to actually penning an essay in the subject I almost overturned my little craft to be shipwrecked on the first outcrop of rock. I pulled out my hair, I gnashed my teeth and foamed a little at the mouth. And then, procrastination over, I wrote the damn thing. What an achievement (although I am waiting on the mark to see how much of an achievement it might actually be).

Today is also the deadline for the first draft of our screenplay. Collectively the 14 students on the course have pulled out enough hair for several wigs, gnashed enough teeth to impress even Dennis the Menace (of Beano fame) and foamed like a gossip of madmen. But today we have all handed in an approximation of our story – forged in the fires of catharsis, hammered in the clause of necessity, written in the genre of students and here’s the thing, it’s all sequence driven.

And the title of my screenplay – Mortar Life – say it out loud and you’ll understand the pun.

denis

 

So, first drafts in, we can relax before we start the next big thing but in the interim, I feel obligated (as our American friends would consonant) to share with you some of my recent learning on The Poetics and shall let you (irrespective of nationality and seamanship) be the judge of my navigation.

 

Mimesis according to Aristotle is the representation of world-like artistic activities through the media of poetry, music, visual art, vocal mimesis and dance. In his view mimetic works communicate intelligent images of what is reasonable, of what might prove to be a ‘possible world’.  Aristotle spells this out very clearly when he compares poetry with history. Poetry is much more philosophical and higher thinking than mere history. History, even when expressed in verse, is still history.  The state of the world when expressed in mimetic art is not constant, and indeed can make three things the subject of its mimesis.  Aristotle lists the three subjects as ‘the sorts of things that were or are the case, the sorts of things people say and think to be the case, or the sorts of things that should be the case’ [1]

Using these lists, and oddly and more recently reflective of Rumsfeld’s famous ‘known unknowns’[2] statement on Iraq in 2002, it is possible to see how Aristotle views the relationship between the world within the work and the world of the artist or audience as variable and potentially complex, with the range spanning ‘a spectrum that runs from the true to the fictional, from the close reflection of known reality to the representation of the purely imaginary.

 So there you have it!

[1] – Poet 24.1460b10-11 Since Aristotle says the poet or painter must depict one of these three things ‘at any one time’ he allows for combinations of shifts between the three within individual works.

[2] Donald Rumsfeld, Washington, 2002

 

The Fighting Irish are taking over the world of MMA

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Never since the glory days of gladiators has there been so much interest in hand-to-hand combat. It hasn’t happened overnight, it is rare that an overnight sensation actually happens overnight, but Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has passed the point of being a niche sport and is now officially the fastest growing sport on the planet.  21 years ago the first ever UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fight was staged in Denver, US, on a limited pay-as-you-view channel.  The beauty of the new sport was its diversity, linking as it does the different disciplines of martial arts into a hotchpotch of a sport – a fascinating, visceral, ambitious, primeval spectacle.  Taking the highly structured moves from each martial art and then putting them together created an explosive combination. In the first televised competition in 1993, in which there 8 fighters, the expression was coined – two men enter, one man leaves – to hype up the fights. But as local MMA coach and legend John Kavanagh adds. ‘Followed by the other man leaving shortly afterwards.’ And that is why this sport is different.  Being a young sport it was humorous, cross culture, highly addictive and making up the rules as it went.

 

First a disclaimer. In the 21 years of UFC being played and fought, there have been two broken legs. Period. While comparisons are odious, it is worth noting despite the ferocity of the strikes, this is a relatively safe sport, as contact sports go. At professional level the risks are higher, as with all sports, but the danger is in direct inverse proportion to the visual excitement. It is, again as Kavanagh points out, a sport where defence is as important, if not more, than attack.

 

Kavanagh, owner of one of the fastest growing MMA gyms in Ireland and coach to Irish UFC hero Conor McGregor, didn’t watch the original competition. He had been involved in Karate from the age of four, experimented with different forms of martial arts and was intending heading off to college to become a teacher. He had signed up for mechanical engineering in Bolton Street and was in his first year when an act of unintentional larceny changed the course of his life.  In his local video rental store he took out a VHS video of that first UFC competition. In the course of the competition, the triumphant winner emerges as a skinny Brazilian called Royce Gracie. Using Brazilian Jujitsu, (BJJ) this insignificant looking man emerged victorious against the plethora of buff Americans and even sumo wrestlers.  In a single sitting, Kavanagh was hooked and the video never returned.

 

Throughout his four years in college, Kavanagh became obsessed with the sport. He and his friends started experimenting, throwing armlocks into traditional set pieces. There was no UFC in Ireland. There was no UFC in the UK. There was no UFC in Europe. It took him almost six years to learn by trial and error what his professional trainers can impart after six months now. On that journey Kavanagh earned his electrical engineer degree before going on to open his first gym. He worked security at night to pay the bills and during the day he worked with young fighters. His first inclination had been to teach, and if coaching had not worked out, then he would have become a maths teacher, which was his mother’s preferred choice.

 

‘I could not in all honesty turn my back on MMA,’ says Kavanagh. ‘Even though I knew my obsession and dream was similar to being an artist, or a rockstar with the same levels of job security, I had to pursue it. My fallback position was that I had my degree. I could do a hDip and teach if this did not work out.’

 

Kavanagh got his black belt in Brazilian Jujitsu and fought and won MMA fights at Irish and British levels. He is a believer in the coach having the experience of his subject. ‘I wouldn’t like to be the dry-land swimming coach,’ he says.  From the beginning, he was always the teacher and today fosters a spirit of comraderie in his gym. ‘Martial arts is as much about discipline as fighting,’ he says. ‘The young people learn to fight in a very structured way. There is respect and discipline in the gym. Sometimes the public gets confused with ‘trash talking’ before a professional fight. That is the entertainment side of things and bears little resemblance to actual sport.’

 

Just last weekend, Kavanagh returned from South Africa where it was almost a case of deja vu. His own professional career took off when he began competing abroad and thirteen years ago he made his way to Johannesburg to fight. It was a successful trip earning him a title, prizemoney and a friend in the form of Matt Thorton.  Thorton was to be very influential in Kavanagh’s fighting and business, fostering as he does the principle of ‘aliveness’ in the gym which also encourages athletes and non-athletes to train side by side. Thirteen years ago Kavanagh’s professional career was founded and he went onto hold various titles including a gold in the European Brazilian Jujitsu Championship in 2006; indeed he was the first Irishman to attain a black belt in BJJ as well as the first Irish MMA sportsman to compete in the Cage.

 

His friendship with Thorton continues today with Kavangh earning a glowing recommendation from the Oregon based innovator. Thorton says of Kavanagh:  “Anyone that has rolled with John knows that his own personal BJJ game is phenomenal. He is a world-class BJJ athlete, and his skill at the fundamentals of each position in BJJ, are top notch. In the dozen years or so I have had to Coach BJJ athletes I have yet to work with anyone that matched John’s level of technical finesse.”

 

Kavanagh travelled last weekend to Capetown where he cornered for one of his professional fighters Peter Queally. At 29 years of age, Queally is at his fittest. A dedicated athlete, Queally had been invited to take part in the ESC championship, which is the foremost MMA organisation in Africa. Queally was the first non-African to take part in this prestigious league. Appearing in front of a huge crowd and an undefeated opponent, the odds were not good. When asked who won, a nonchalant Kavanagh replied: ‘Peter of course.’  History was repeating itself in a good way. For the rest of the weekend, Queally was feted as a hero and he will most definitely be back. While the prizemoney may have been nominal, Queally is now well on his way to success and in time, Kavanagh hopes, an invitation to join the UFC.

 

Kavanagh’s boy wonder and now seasoned UFC fighter, Conor McGregor, wandered through the doors of his gym a callow of youth of seventeen.  Although here Kavanagh pauses. ‘Actually Conor never moves without purpose. He didn’t wander in. He was young, loud, obnoxious and funny. And he worked bloody hard.’

 

When asked what differentiates Conor from other potential fighters, Kavanagh puts his finger on the point directly.  ‘Conor loves this sport. Other young men or women may join the gym keen as mustard but months and years of training can takes its toll. But Conor has never faltered. He has never seen training as a job or something to be done. He thrives on passion. He is a once off, a genius. He is the only other person with a key to my gym and sometimes he is there at 2am in the morning. That takes some passion; day after day passion.’

 

Other attributes which mark McGregor as different from his peers is his competitiveness – he’d want to win at tiddlewinks according to Kavanagh. He points to Conor’s cleverness, his savvy approach and his keen interest in marketing his own brand. Kavanagh does not mention the hair but it is an implicit part of the package.

 

But the beauty of Kavanagh is that he does not focus on one fighter. A true coach, his attention travels across a wide swathe of fighters and athletes. He is also ferocious in his desire to see the young fighters continue in their education. ‘It is not mutually exclusive,’ says Kavanagh. ‘Peter is a teacher, Cathal (Pendred) has a degree in analytic science and I have a degree in electrical engineering. I keep on telling the young kids they need something to fall back on.

 

‘There is nothing wrong in having a dream. Or hoping that Simon Cowell will pick you out of the casting audition, but everyone needs a fall back plan. For me, it is important the kids finish their education and it is something they can certainly balance.’

 

Kavangh recently opened a new gym, Straight Blast Gym, on the Naas road. His membership has jumped from 100 clients to more than 400 in the past six months. He acknowledges the fortunate combination of the success of his professional fighters and the new interest in the sport. He is finally making money from this business but it has been a long, hard slog. ‘Over the years I have had many young fighters sleeping on my coach,’ he says. With the forebearance of a tolerant fiancé, he has moved bunk beds into the spare room to continue this tradition. However, for every wannabe fighter, there are 99 people who just want to get fit or try a new sport.

 

‘I get messages from people who say training in MMA has literally changed their lives,’ says Kavanagh. ‘They get fit, they get confidence and they also find a supportive circle of friends.’ The Gym is more of a club with social activities on a regular basis – with an emphasis on family friendly fun. ‘More women are joining too,’ says Kavanagh. ‘For all new members we organise a private session so that people know what to expect. It can be daunting to try a new sport and we want to make it as painless as possible.’ With that in mind, Kavanagh is constantly challenging himself. Recently he togged out in a rugby club to try it out. He too felt the nerves that come with starting something new.

 

Kavanagh, despite his quiet spoken manner is passionate about more than just his fighters. He believes all kids should get an education – and often quotes Cathal’s degree in Analytical Science from DCU while training professionally. And he believes that kids (actually everyone) should do sport, it doesn’t matter what as long as they do it. ‘Some of the young seven year olds who start training here are puffed after ten minutes,’ says Kavanagh. ‘What is that all about? Kids need to get off their phones and into sport. Otherwise we are going to end up an obese nation.’

 

MMA is a funny sport. The original rules of engagement are predicated on respect, discipline and control. But the resulting mix in the ring can be frighteningly violent, leading journalists to sometimes question the sport and even link it, in one recent, well-documented interview, to bar room brawls. This is a quixotic jump to make, as front row rugby players are rarely asked if their scrum and ruck skills contribute to fracases in Temple Bar. And as if to further point up the absurdity of comparisons, Pendred made front page headlines in his native Clare when he rescued a baby dolphin at Doonbeg with his girlfriend before releasing it back into the sea. Not the obvious activity expected of a professional fighter.

 

And as for the Irish in UFC, Kavanagh likes to quote his prodigy McGregor. ‘We are not taking part in UFC, we are taking over.’

 

 

 

 

 

NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2014 – I got an honorable mention in the Semi Final

 Semi final. I made an honourable mention in this high-profile, fast-paced International Short Story Writing Competition.

Below in the email I received today with the honourable mention, followed by my story Welcome to Marstown. Below that is the first round story, In Full Pursuit which led me into the semi final.

If your story placed in the top 5 below, congratulations, you are among the 40 writers advancing to the 3rd and Final Round kicking off at 11:59PM EDT this Friday, May 2nd!  Choosing the top 5 in this round was incredibly difficult and there were many outstanding stories that didn’t place. Regardless of how your story placed, you should be proud of completing two very tough writing challenges and we hope it was inspiring!

#1 ‘The Fading King’ by Melissa Brand SYNOPSIS – The one who bears the Mark, will repossess The Fading King’s crown and become his successor. He clings to what is left of himself as he awaits The Repossessor.

#2 ‘The Alignment’ by Jonathan Ochoco SYNOPSIS – A man journeys to a magical valley to witness the alignment of his world’s twin suns and moon.

#3 ‘Lady of the Black Irons’ by Jamie Campbell SYNOPSIS – Long after a nuclear apocalypse devastates humanity, a once-clandestine war between creatures of darkness and a secret order of warrior-clerics spills into the open, and a witch hunter of a feared and venerated line tracks her prey to a dying town in the wasteland.

#4 ‘The Hula Girl’ by Adam Dennis SYNOPSIS – An island repo man is strangely captivated by a swaying hula figurine on the dash of a routine pick up. The tiny hula girl awakens memories of his past and offers him a chance for redemption.

#5 ‘The Sound of One Shoe Tapping’ by R. Daniel Lester (Ryan Lester) SYNOPSIS – A nameless, tough-as-nails corporate repo man is sent to collect a valuable spell from reclusive mega-celebrity, Finnegan Flash, the galaxy’s greatest tap dancer.

#Honorable Mention ‘Isolde’s Dance’ by Deanna Westwood SYNOPSIS – Isolde believed that she couldn’t dance until she received a stolen gift. However that gift had a destiny of its own.

#Honorable Mention ‘Shoe Envy’ by William Wilbur SYNOPSIS – When Cinderella realizes Dorothy of Oz has ruby slippers, she devises a plan to replace her own glass slippers.

#Honorable Mention ‘Welcome to Marstown’ by Jillian Godsil SYNOPSIS – Daria has emigrated from earth to Marstown, a settlement on Mars where everyone comes on a one way ticket and the Corporation is in charge. She finds love with Harry, a Plutonian, and runs her Delightful Dancing Emporium, but the oxygen is running out.

Welcome to Marstown

 

The letter lay on Daria’s welcome mat. The fact that the Corporation had bothered to put it in writing meant they were serious. Paper equated to legal ruling. Harry had already heard the quiet fall of the envelope; his hearing was far superior to hers. Indeed when the letter came during the night he said he could smell the uniform – the taint of the repossessor. On a planet that was already a prison; the only real deterrent was removal of goods.

Daria picked it up and turned it over. Sure enough, there was the black and yellow stamp, the waspish colour of his office. It was addressed to Daria’s Delightful Dancing Emporium. Even twenty years ago sarcasm had been in short supply. The name was never questioned and the sign hung over her studio in the recreational section, or the wrecks as it was unpleasantly nicknamed. Twenty years of a Marsian atmosphere had buckled the external plates creating a weird, rumpled finish to the walls inside. Obsolescence had a new meaning when living on a planet that did not have its own oxygen. The one way ticket, return ticket not optional, and now the dwindling air supplies gave its inmates great clarity. Living in the moment was the only religion in town.

The repossessor was coming on Wednesday morning to collect her music centre. Since everything, the inmates included, was barcoded there was no point in trying to hide it. Sensors would pin point its new position in seconds. Strangely for the human race, no one had figured out how to create hiding spots on Marstown as the facility was quaintly called. Even when the ships came from other planets bringing a motley range of creatures, there had been no dissention. Maybe twenty years was too short to grow a revolution, or even a protesting voice or two. Or maybe it was the introduction of different species that distracted the original human settlement. Hard to devil up a rebellion when living with mutts and even marrying them. Not that marriage existed on Marstown, anyone wishing to consciously couple just put in a request for joint quarters.

‘Is it from repo?’ called Harry from their quarters. Daria nodded. Harry had moved in three years ago when Daria had used up all the available male humans. A free spirit she called herself; a modern Isadora Duncan with her scarfs and dancing emporium. When she signed up for her one way trip she had been asked her profession. As a highschool dropout with a series of minor demeanours on her record, she had paused. This question had been asked at disembarkation, not departure. They would, and did, take anyone for the Marstown mission. It was like pressganging raw recruits into the army. Daria had licked her pencil thoughtfully. She turned her head on one side and a number of possible occupations floated past. She pointed out her left foot. Once, as a child, she had been told she had nice feet. She looked critically again at her foot; it was still elegant, thin and long. It had a matching elegant, thin and long partner in the right. She clicked her heels and wrote dancing instructor.

It had been a surprisingly good choice of occupation at first. What do you do with several hundred humans locked in an airtight facility on a forbidding planet? Dance, of course, dance. Daria had been very popular. Men and women flocked to her dancing school. She called her teaching methods exploratory and her natural rhythm and pert breasts pulled in the men. The women followed by default. It was the Marsian Ballroom of Romance.

However, the real success had come once the other ships arrived. Integration of different species in a single facility was fraught with issues, not least the question of socialisation. Dancing was an activity open to all shapes, sizes and species. Even the Plutonians, with their long heavy tails, could shake their booty with the best of them. That was when Daria met Harry. His long heavy tail served as a third leg. He could rest on it while talking or pull it around his body when he danced. Sometimes, if he got very excited, it would stretch upright, taut and quivering. It had taken two years, but Harry pursued Daria. He learnt English, he learnt how to dance and he learnt how to cook human food. She in turn learnt to stop shaving, for Plutonian males like their females hairy.  Now at night, curled in his arms, she would feel the heavy weight of his tail on her body, tapping gently as he fell asleep.

‘He is coming on Wednesday,’ Daria said. ‘We’ll have to dance to music in our heads,’ and she chuckled at the absurdity of that thought. Then as suddenly as she had begun laughing, she stopped. There would be no more dancing, it took up too much oxygen.

 

Rumours had started about five years ago when the emigrant fund dried up, even from more disadvantaged planets. Word had gotten round that Marstown was in difficulty. The Corporation denied it vigorously but the supply ships had stopped arriving. A one way ticket was well and good if you could live your life on Mars, but if you thought suffocation might be on your death certificate then chances were you probably wouldn’t apply. No new company engineers, no new oxygen tanks the size of small stars, no new food pods – in fact no ships at all. The docking terminal was all but closed except for a caretaker staff of worms. The worms, from Uranus, had failed spectacularly to integrate with anyone. They only spoke their own language, mixed only with each other and since there were hermaphrodite, spawned a new and fast growing population.

‘Give them time,’ said Harry, ‘And they’ll outnumber the rest of us.’

Daria had shrugged her shoulders at that prediction. Worms kept to themselves, were inherently passive and their only vice, as far as she could see, was their growing consumption of oxygen; but no one had shown any signs of wishing to commit mass genocide for that trait. Wars had been left on earth; maybe the blame lay with the excessive consumption of oxygen.

Around that time, sensors started displaying how much oxygen was being consumed in each airtight pod. If someone decided to run around the wrecks, lights would flash and alarms sounds. ‘Slow down,’ intoned the sad voice on the loudspeaker. ‘Save the air.’ The choir had all but shut up shop; their collective intake of oxygen singing Handel’s Messiah that winter had sent the alarm bells into overdrive. Sometimes they still met to sing Taize chants: long, slow and whispered. Daria too had modified her dance studio. She switched to lullabies, crooning singers and slow country warbles. Her dance students held each other and smooched around the floor in a parody of Hicksville bar, shuffling their way from one sad tune to the next. It was hard to be joyous when oxygen was restricted.

‘Do we need music to dance?’ Harry was by her shoulder now, looking at the letter in her hand. Daria smiled at him.

‘For all your love of hair you come from a very philosophical race.’

Harry growled and picked her up but she giggled. ‘Which came first,’ she squealed. ‘The dancer or the dance?’

He set her down laughing too but his face became serious. ‘Percussion,’ he said. ‘That’s all you need.’

 

When the repo man arrived, in his black and yellow uniform, he took the music centre and all her collection of music. Daria looked at him and said nothing. There were also rumours of oxygen tanks secreted away by the repo men. Harry had remarked they were welcome to them. ‘Imagine living out your final days with only the repo men for company?’ he’d said. Daria shuddered at the thought. In bed, she looked into his eyes, buried deep in his hairy face. In time she’d learnt to decipher the emotions solely from his eyes. He did not frown or smile; his face was not made for such superficial demonstrations of emotion; only his eyes. Eyes are windows to the soul was the line that repeated in Daria’s head at such times.

‘If we run out of oxygen,’ she said. ‘Will you kill me before I suffocate?’

‘Of course, my love.’

 

Thursday morning and Daria’s regulars were in her studio. They looked at her blankly at first. They had been told about the repo man and the removal of music. One couple began dancing anyway. What else was there to do? Daria put her rucksack on the floor.

‘We are going to make our own music,’ she said.

‘But if the choir can’t sing, how can we?’ asked Julius, a three-legged emigrant from Jupiter.

‘We are going to make rhythm,’ said Daria and she handed out the wooden spoons and rulers and kitchen implements gathered from her quarters.

‘Let’s make rhythm.’ It was messy at first and even Daria admitted it didn’t get much better, but they made a great sound. Some of the couples started dancing in a tribal fashion. They grunted and gyrated to the beat and soon the alarms were going off. Daria laughed out loud. It would take the Corporation weeks to issue all the correct warnings and even then she could argue she needed the instruments for her kitchen. Daria’s Delightful Dancing Emporium was not dead yet.

‘And when they do take the improvised drum sticks, then we have our hands,’ she said with glee.

‘And our tails,’ said Harry thumping his loudly on the floor.

‘And our feet,’ said Julius, doing a quick tap dance with his three feet. He panted and the alarms went off.

‘We can dance to the alarms too,’ said Daria, rocking in time to their swinging piercing sound.

 

The weeks passed and Daria’s students still met each morning. Julius had become rather good at palming with minimal oxygen expenditure. Sometimes they got to the end of a morning without the alarms going off, but Daria was getting regular correspondence from the Corporation now. They were closing her studio under section twelve of the corporate code. Once they had the final permission from the Secretary General, then the locks would be placed on the doors to the studio and the sign taken down.

‘It’s not just my studio, is it?’ Daria asked Harry. He held her tight, pulling her closer with his thick tail. They rocked together. Daria could feel the familiar desire rise in her and she kissed him. His tail quivered and went bolt upright. They made love like Plutonians did, standing up and then jumping together. Daria would never go back to human sex after Plutonian. In their little quarters where no cameras were allowed, they jumped and jumped. Moments later the alarms went off. ‘Slow down, Save the air,’ went the loudspeaker. Daria looked directly into Harry’s eyes.

‘No,’ he said. ‘It’s the end of everything, my love,’ and with one vicious sweep of his tail, struck Daria at the back of the head, killing her instantly.

 

The end

 

 

 

 

The 8th Annual Short Story Challenge is a creative writing competition open to writers around the world.  There are 3 rounds of competition.  In the 1st Round (February 7-15, 2014), writers are placed randomly in heats and are assigned a genre, subject, and character assignment.  Writers have 8 days to write an original story no longer than 2,500 words.  The judges choose a top 5 in each heat to advance to the 2nd Round (March 27-30, 2014) where writers receive new assignments, only this time they have just 3 days to write a 2,000 word (maximum) short story.  Judges choose finalists from the 2nd Round to advance to the 3rd and final round of the competition where writers are challenged to write a 1,500 word(maximum) story in just 24 hours (May 2-3, 2014).  A panel of judges review the final round stories and overall winners are selected.

nycmidnight

 

NYCMidnight

I was put into Heat 6 where the genre was fairy tale and the character of a hunter had to be incorporated. I wrote my story the first day (which speed of writing I hope I can emulate if I get into the next round). Here is my story…

 

In Full Pursuit

 

This is a story set in a world where only one child is allowed per family; any other children are considered illegals and are hunted down and killed. The title is taken from Oscar Wilde’s quote on fox hunting: ‘The unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable’.

 

 

He pushed open the door and entered the warm room. The gas lights were dim and the fire smoked, but it was better than the storm outside. Peter shook his furs and stamped his feet; snow littered the ground around him.  The barman looked up and gave him a neutral smile. Peter knew from experience that while he was never welcome, he was never turned away.

‘What will you have?’

‘A beer,’ said Peter looking around. ‘Have you any food left?’ It was late and the other patrons were talking into their drinks, a low rumble of chatter that clearly focused on his arrival.

‘Stew,’ said the barman pouring a beer. Peter nodded, accepting the beer and downing half it in one gulp. It was thirsty work and lonely. Most other hunters that he knew were more than fond of their beer. Peter steered on the side of caution, on the side of angels, reserving beer for the night and eschewing spirits altogether. He had shared huts with hunters who rose to beer or spirits and it wasn’t a pretty sight. It also made them uncertain stalkers; innocents were often caught in the cross hairs fuelled by a liquid breakfast. To be a hunter was to be a nomad and it was the loneliness that often led them to find solace in the bottle. Peter thanked his lucky stars for Maura, as he did often on a daily basis. Two kindred spirits, one ostracised for her healing, the other for his killing. Opposite sides of a single coin that spun through the air and had never yet found its landing place, its safe haven.

The stew was produced and Peter ate it hungrily without speaking. The barman polished a glass and watched him closely. Peter could sense he was curious and with good reason for Peter rarely travelled this far north. There was nothing or no one to hunt in these parts. When he finished, he burped loudly in compliment, pushed his bowl back and indicated he wanted another beer. The barman filled his glass and removed the empty bowl.

‘That did the trick,’ the barman said. ‘So, what brings you to our mountains?’

Peter could sense the interest across the bar; all ears were turned towards him. He could feel the curiosity quivering in the air. He burped again into silence and said: ‘That was a fine stew, thank you.’ Peter wondered if he should tell him or not. Sometimes he could get good intelligence from the locals. By the question, he presumed that he was the first hunter in the area, good if his instincts were right, bad if he was off course. He took another gulp of his beer. ‘Illegal child,’ he said. ‘From the Runoffs.’

The barman’s eyes narrowed. He spat onto the floor in disgust. ‘Dirty, nasty things,’ he said. ‘We don’t want them around here. No, we don’t.’

Peter nodded: ‘Any sightings then?’

‘No, we’d have called the Constabulary if we’d suspected anything. From the Runoffs you say? They are a bad lot there. Always flaunting the rules. Just one will do, don’t they get that message. Illegal children cause hardship always. Can’t be trusted. They don’t go to the Institution to be learned right,’ and he paused to check Peter’s reaction. Peter just nodded. ‘Dirty, nasty things,’ the barman repeated, polishing the glass vigorously.

Peter finished his beer. ‘Is there a room free?’ he asked.

‘Just in the shed,’ the barman replied. ‘But, it’s clean and there is fresh straw.’

Peter nodded. He was used to outside accommodation. His furs were old and hummed; strange smells of blood-iron, smoke from open fires and sweat from chasing prey. A heady cocktail, it wasn’t pleasant. When he moved to his shed, he knew the patrons would flap the air to try and get rid of his scent. They would not be so rude, or foolish, to do it while he was still there. Peter agreed a fee and paid the man. He would be long gone before anyone woke in this hamlet.

Morning came early, mists clinging to the side of the mountain, and the fresh tang of snow in the wind. It was bitterly cold and Peter wondered about his prey. Ten years of age, a female and no doubt scrawny. Illegal children were always thin and hard to stomach. The first one had been seven years ago, a young boy with burns on his face and legs where he had hidden in a chimney of all places; with a fire at the bottom. He had escaped so maybe he wasn’t that foolish, but it only gained him six more months of life. Peter wondered if the scars had had time to heal before he slit his throat. All that pain for six months of life; Peter wondered if it had been worth it. The boy had taken a solid week to track and in the end it was tiredness not lack of guile that let him down. Peter dispatched him quickly, a mercy killing he called it, but his face continued to haunt his sleep. When tracking children the memories surfaced again and Peter preferred not to sleep, not to chance to dream.

Peter left the shed, which had been warm, and strode off in the still air. He moved noiselessly for a man so large. He was so far north he wondered about detouring to see Maura afterwards. It had been almost eight months since he had been here last, that time chasing a convict; a weaselly, skunk of a man. He had been sentenced to death for murder, an eye for an eye, but escaped before the gallows could claim him. It was Peter who found him and returned him to the platform. The City wanted to see convicts hanged but preferred to have children executed in the field. No one wanted to know about the illegal children, and even less to see them. It was an intermittent problem, usually flushed out by inspections and areas like the Runoffs gave consistent trouble.

At the thought of Maura, Peter’s mood brightened. When he visited she made him strip before he was allowed enter her cabin. ‘Leaving the blood outside,’ she said. She would boil water and fill a bath for him. He stomped around outside waiting for her tiny kettles to boil enough water. When she opened the door, he would bellow and strip in a single gesture, before running into the house and climbing into the hot bath. Maura cleaned him with aromatic soaps and oils, anointing him for her pleasure. It was the one time his scent was submerged to hers. Sometimes she would join him in the bath, naked but for her amulet; an amber stone shaped like a cat’s claw. She had been found with it as a baby; an illegal child, but found by a childless couple and so given a stay of execution. She attended the Institution with all the legal children but she never fitted in. Now, as a healer she lived a hermit-like existence. Without words, Peter knew he was the only man who visited her, but she never asked him to stay. It was just the way things were.

Peter walked on through the morning. Why had he come to this area? Some instinct told him the illegal had come this way. He had tracked her directly for some twenty miles before losing the scent. He had a choice; to continue on the seaward direction or move inland. He had chosen inland and upmountain. All he knew about the illegal was she was light on her feet and good at climbing. He looked seaward and at the mountains. A climber would choose the mountains he reasoned and so he turned uphill. This was his second day without any tracks. He was not worried. He had more furs and flesh on him, than she had on her skinny body. Either he or nature would have its way. He walked all day without hesitation; it was as if the wind carried an invisible code and he sniffed each time he stopped for new directions. At dusk, he paused at the edge of a wooded area and looked around. Something caught his eye. It was a lone deer, grazing at the edge of the wood. He drew his bow carefully and took aim. The arrow pierced her eye and she fell quietly. Then he saw she had a fawn standing closer into the woods, he drew his bow again but the young animal slipped back into the shadow of the trees and was gone. Peter cursed. He would have liked to have brought both as a gift to Maura. Still, a deer was a mighty present and this was a plump creature. He swiftly gralloched the deer, tied up its hooves and strung the body up in a hammock over a tree. He would collect it later and this way it should be safe from scavengers.

 

When night fell, Peter curled up in his furs and slept. He wondered if he was close to the illegal and if she had managed to find any food or shelter. No one in these parts would harbour her; the penalties were too high and illegals generally despised. ‘Nasty, dirty things’ the barman had called them and he was not alone. Peter’s dreams were vivid again and he cursed when he woke. Then he stopped. He heard something: a tiny noise of a branch not snapping but being bent to its limit, a tiny creak. Peter silently moved to the edge of the woods. He was hidden behind a tree when he saw her; pale and thin against the dark trees. She stepped gingerly along the wooded path, for there were many twigs capable of yielding their noises. She had no furs as he suspected but dirty rags of clothes. He watched as she picked her way in the early morning light. She was actually moving in his direction. He must be upwind for surely she would have smelt him by now. He stood rigid as a statue hardly breathing. He didn’t dare draw his bow for fear of giving his presence away. Slowly, inch by terrible inch, she moved closer to him. He could smell her in the wind, tangy and light. He waited until she was mere feet away from him before he unleashed his bellow and ran at her. The sudden noise and movement surprised her. She did not run. She blinked instead and in that moment, he had his hands around her neck. He was choking her and she made not a sound. Her eyes rounded and a single tear fell down her cheek. He closed his hands tighter and shook her frame as if she was a doll. Her hands rose then fell. At that instance, a chain fell forward from around the neck; a chain with a bright amber pendent. It was Peter’s turn to blink but he loosened his hands. He had been about to break the fragile neck but the chain banged against his wrists. He removed one hand and looked at the pendent. It was of a cat’s claw.

‘Who are you?’ he hissed angrily. Her face remained the same; impassive but her lips moved though no sound came out. Peter released her neck. He placed both hands on her shoulders and he could feel her body shaking. ‘Who are you?’ he repeated but she gave no answer. For the first time in his life, Peter could feel an indecision rising in him like a volcano. He cursed again loudly. This death was worth more than 500 coins to him. He could live a year on that kind of money. The illegal looked at him. Her lips had stopped moving. Had she been trying to explain who she was or to ask for mercy? It was obvious, even to an illegal or rather especially to an illegal, that he was a hunter and no quarter would be given.

 

Maura did not run the bath for Peter. He handed over the illegal and the deer, but not before cutting its throat and blooding the illegal’s clothes with it. He watched the woman and the child stand in the doorway. As he watched, Maura closed the door and put on the bath instead for the child. Peter would not visit her again. He carried the illegal’s life in his hands. Returning to the City he presented the torn and bloodied clothes and collected his payment. He did not visit the North again. He found solace instead in the contents of a bottle. His drunken dreams were filled with the images of the boy but he never remembered them when he woke. That was the one gift the bottle could give him.

 

The end

Jillian Godsil

 

 

 

A Twitter Tale…@Ireland for a week – let’s write

We all know the Irish can talk for Ireland. We all know that every single Irish person has at least one book in them. Well, let’s get collectively writing on Twitter. Here are the first two lines – send me your line and the number where you think it might run. Replica lines may be juggled somewhat. this is fun! Send your lines to @ireland

 

1. The man at the corner shop did not look up when the gun went off @jilliangodsil

2. it was as if he was expecting it @paudimac

3. He was used to gunfire. The army taught him that. @islandgooner

4. He had powers to illude gunfire. @cybercalci

5. He’d learnt the noise of bullets tearing flesh too, the gasp of shock. She collapsed, eyes blank. He folded his paper, walked away. @GuyleJeune

6. As he walked, something glinted in the corner of his eye @islandgooner

7. and still he walked on neatly tucking the receipt into his wallet. @beanmimo

8. Not in his wildest dreams did he ever expect a hardback copy of Larouss’se reference for wine lovers, to be of any use to him @fleurman

Slim Shady at Slane

Slane Castle – Eminem

eminem

 

 

 

 

There is a vast difference between attending an Eminem concert from the VIP halls and from the grassy knoll with the rest of the hoi polloi. For starters you tend to get there much earlier or you have no chance of a spot up at the barriers, which is still separated by yet another strip of grass and then the posh barriers which corralled the uber VIPs (Mary Coughlan, Twink and Gerald Kean according to some reports were giving it their all in those quarters – or perhaps they remained in the castle overlooking the stage where it was dry and not full of screaming fans – who knows).

 

We arrived with the biggest baddest rain storm you could imagine. Luckily we had been delayed and still parking as this happened. We stayed put eating our sandwiches. Champagne was not served in the plebeian jeeps sadly. We had to do with cans of diet coke, laughing as the windows fogged up and the rain torrented down. Following that shower, sales of ponchos was brisk with the local touts.

 

Apparently, entrance to the VIP area was met with a strict body search, possibly akin to airport security, and I’m sure that was most disconcerting. That same journalist should have joined the throngs that made their way through all manner of security check points, searches and even putting the contents of our pockets into those plastic see-through bags. Were we leaving the country? No, we were going to the concert. Were there drunk people? Yes a lot of them but in the main their anti-social activities were limited to the men urinating against walls and hedges and the women, well they just fell over a bit (aside from that picture of a young girl administering fellatio on her fella, fortunately not near us) There was no aggression or intimidating behaviour then or throughout the concert. The worse that almost befell our group was a drunk man deciding to try and urinate on the grass beside us. He was stopped by another in our party, an ex bouncer, and told to clear off. He did. Sadly we spotted him urinating further on down the hill. He was just lazy and ignorant, attributes I am sure he would display at his local pub just as easily as here.

 

Slane itself is a beautiful natural auditorium. Arriving early also gave us the spectacular slow-mo view of the grounds filling up like a gentle human tsunami. And while VIP-watching can be a fascinating sport, I doubt it holds a patch on people-watching at an Eminem concert. Fashion, yes the fashion was amazing. It went from Slim Shady orange onesies to onesies just for the fun of it, including dog themed, spotted and furry outfits. The men for the most part opted for shorts, boots and lots of bare skin. Or rather lots of tattoos with some bare shin showing. The women however took up the challenge and dressed in the tiniest of shorts (lots of bum cheeks on show) flowery tops, beaded blouses and all manner of fashion festival boots. All topped with the ubiquitous ponchos as we did not have the benefit of staying dry in the castle.

 

Drinking was consistent but not raucous. As a designated driver and staying sober, it was fun to watch the gathering inebriation. People are truly talented and clever and resourceful. The fuller they got, they less booze they spilt, the more they weaved between the crowds, despite resembling mini human leaning towers of Pisa, the less they stepped on anyone. It was like watching puppets at times held up by a thin invisible thread, leaning first this way, then that and never quite falling over.

 

The support bands were inconsistent. Yelawolf and PlanB were good but the other two whose names elude me now, were not great. That is not just my opinion, the crowd agreed.

 

Then, an hour fashionably late, Eminem came on stage. In fairness the entire concert was running an hour behind. By now it was dark and the crowd were buzzing. He started up, trademark hoody in place, and a roar rained across the amphitheatre. We were good to go. He did some new stuff, some new classics including I’m not Afraid and Love the Way you Lie and then his all-time classics The Real Slim Shady, Without Me and My name is.

 

During one of his short chats the Detriot rapper asked the crowd to make an Irish noise. True to form the strains of Ole Ole Ole rang out across the hill. Jack’s army took up the cry and it echoed around the chamber before Eminem pulled out the big guns and fired his next track over the audience. In the darkness, the crowd heaved backwards and forwards. Some songs had everyone moving with passion, others people stood silently, maybe raising the one arm salute and giving it attitude. His fans were all word perfect, not matter how fast he rapped there were people in tune and in time and in lyric with him. I doubt the VIP crew could match that.

 

Footnote: Apparently I am a very cool mom. I say this with certainty for two young men approached me and told me so, once during the Eminem’s session and a second time as I was leaving the venue, bunched up in the crowd. The poor chaps thought they were giving me a big compliment – which they were – but all I could think was How do they know I’m a Mom. Of course, the fact that I was twice the average age of the audience might have given it away. The measure of being cool is directly inversely proportionate to age divided by Eminem. 

Uniquely Dublin

Ok, I didn’t win, I didn’t even make the long list but there were some 500 entries and only 10 in the long list, of which one, my good friend Robert Duffy was chosen. I enclose his entry after mine (lol – this is my blog, sorry Robert, lol)

So we were given the task of writing about Dublin, and it’s uniqueness, in just 100 words. I came up with this:

Freezing winter nights, laced with Dublin particulars, and hazed with orange lights around the Green. Slipping into a warm hostelry, sipping cold stout, the antithesis of comfort yet warming within. Oh, go on, a whiskey chaser then. Spring days come stretching slow. We are green because of our rain, ample amounts of it and temperatures mild and cunning. Sudden sunshine too, rainbows over the Spire. Tourists take quick pictures in the glare. Summer, because of calendar dates not weather, gushes over us and more green. Tourists loving it. Autumn, sometimes Indian, more often not. More rain. Repeat!

It didn’t cut the mustard!

But Robert’s did – go Robert!

What about the wonderful gush of imagination surging from the slabs of Westmoreland Street? Bright book upon book, our declamatory Pat, standing in the rain or lovely snow with his trolley and cat. Roll up; roll up for the remarkable greydraggled Mr Ingoldsby selling his pomes. He’ll cheer you up. (You’ll cheer him too.) Don’t pass by before you buy a slice of Dublin brain from yer man on Westmoreland’s pavement. He didn’t die years ago. Maybe the people who govern these sorts of things will cast him in bronze and put him back when he’s gone.

I actually think we are writing the same book – funny that!

The two short listed entries are listed on here: http://www.uniquelydublin.ie/ Well done!

 

 

 

 

Cindy Gallop – if she ran the world…

Aspire Magazine ran my article on Cindy Gallop on the cover of September magazine.

 

It was probably the hand action that secured the success of the micro talk at TED2009, that or the fact that Cindy Gallop had broken TED’s porn cherry with the description of her own sex life, the merits of hardcore porn and a personal preference not to watch sex films that resembled open heart surgery. In just ten minutes, a global sensation was born and a Cindy Gallop’s fame washed out of advertising circles and into mainstream social consciousness. Her diminutive frame and well-articulated vocabulary were at direct odds with her subject matter: the creeping ubiquity of porn and its damaging effect on society. However, Gallop is not anti porn, on the contrary she is a discerning consumer of it, but she worries about the effect that male dominated porn has on an impressionable younger generation, both male and female.

Gallop explained her problem and how she encountered at first hand the direct impact of porn on Generation Y, or GenY. In short, she dates GenY men and has sex with them. This point is only of interest as Gallop would be considered a cougar, and is somewhere in her fifties. She did not seek this departure, but during a campaign for an internet dating client while still working in advertising, she joined a dating site to see what it was all about. At the top of her field, single and very busy with work, she did not want a relationship and stated as much in her profile. To her initial surprise, this nugget of information proved very popular and she was inundated with offers of sex and non-committal relationships from young men.

Gallop stresses that she was not seeking young men and she was moreover very discerning in her choice of dates. This is a critical point as it shuts down those who might argue that her experience was slanted because of her circumstances. Gallop chose to date exceptional young men, at least one encounter mutated into a long term relationship. She is a very intelligent woman; she chose not to date unsavoury types.  But in dating younger men she came across very different sexual mores that had not been prevalent in men her own age or indeed during her previous sexual experiences. There was a whole range of new sexual behaviour that had moved directly from porn into real life and it was not a forward step.  To read more, please visit Aspire Magazine and start your free trial now