Smoking used to be cool

Poetry

Remember when smoking was the way to be seen?
Back when all our idols did it. 
From Sean Connery to James Dean.
A cigarette hanging lazy from their lip.
So cool it made me wanna fake scream. 
Or get all starry-eyed and daydream. 
Then the world changed, and our bodies became temples of health. 
Now I could live longer.
And perhaps play a different hand to the one I was dealt. 
With quinoa and wheatgrass and gluten-free bread. 
I could be better. 
But a voice inside screamed to be shot in the head. 
Cos I missed the days of whisky and decadence.
Where I twerked in clubs, my body all twisty and elegant. 
And the way I flirted had a kind of trippy intelligence.
But now I just spend my days in health stores and coffee shops.
Damn.
It wasn’t long ago when Friday night dinner was one that I double dropped.
But even back then I was burning out.
And needed a plan to stop the rot. 
Cos this lifestyle couldn’t last, and before long would have to stop. 
So I ditched the night-time narcotics for fitbits and yoga mats.
With weekends spent browsing for more wholesome hits.
Like curtains and cushions and toaster racks.
Knowing this was way worse than my youth.
But somehow, now, I was kinda trapped and loathe to act. 
Cos my joys, it seemed, were cups of tea.
I had to grow up and face that fact. 
But life is never as black and white as people say. 
Sometimes, when you clear an obstacle, you still get wet like a steeplechase. 
But this is the glory of the human existence. 
And shouldn’t be a lethal race. 
So if I’m having a good time and not hurting anyone.
Should I be punished for my ‘evil traits’?
But whatever. 
Right now, on the table, lurks that cigarette. 
Its rush of calm is in my grasp. 
So where’s the harm if I go ahead and take that bet?
Look at it, laying there all seductive.
The sunlight framing its silhouette. 
With witnesses around I try and ignore it.
And attempt to casually feign regret. 
But in reality can’t hide my dismay.
As I put it down so it’s laid to rest. 
Cos frankly, I’ve been racking up debt for decades. 
So maybe now it’s time I paid that cheque?
Cos ribbons of impurity continue to unravel in my mind. 
And get me thinking, should I save these threads? 
Cos I need both the rebel and the sensible. 
And if I don’t feed them equally.
Then I may as well be as good as dead. 

The labyrinth

Poetry

Before long you’re lost and alone.
At first you feel like a forgotten King.
Like a boss on the throne.
Then paranoia sets in.
Where is home? Which way do you go?
Cos maps mean nuthin’ here sunshine.
This situation ain’t divine.
All you’ve now got is fear and time.
Maybe you deserve this?
It’s clear you’re here cos you’re worthless.
Like a broken banger it’s time you were put out of service.
You shiver at this predicament.
Body quivers like a bust lightbulb filament.
To escape this you’ll need to be diligent.
But right now, you’re a picture of innocence.
C’mon, snap out of it, get offensive and militant.
Stay loose for threats and be extra vigilant.
Cos with no way out you’re stuck here a permanent citizen.
And make no mistake, the road home will be tough and won’t pass without incident.
But you’re made from rough stuff.
Cheeky and a little bit impudent.
All you need to break free is some good, hard discipline.

But that’s all to come.
Right now, lost in thought, you’re stood static like a scared little rabbit.
Time to move fast, be rapid, cause havoc.
But, like Medusa, the maze she shifts.
As you focus your gaze she turns and twists.
The effect is odd.
Like an eclipse that plays tricks.
Can’t you climb the walls?
After all, they’re just bricks.
But their surface is like sheer granite glass.
Whoever has you trapped like a rat holds the power, but can it last?
Time you tracked them down.
And attack on two fronts in a tandem blast.
Cos this ain’t a case of mere random chance but a brutal assault.
So you stop, feeling guilty and futile like it’s all your fault.

But now is no time for introspection.
As the maze, she beckons, and you need to teach someone a proper crazy lesson.
In some sort of surgical strike with no phased progression.
Fainting left and right to keep them dazed and guessing.
Bring them the fight, so they’re grazed and tested.
Make them give up ground till they’re enraged and aggressive.
First though, you have to find where they’re hiding.
Sitting scared in their lair is where you find them residing.
Thinking they’re smart but alone with no one to confide in.
Last thing they want is to stop this fighting.
Maybe this is how it ends?
Maybe you can now be friends?
The thought, you think, is kind of exciting.

Top 10 alternative fairytale movies

Best Of lists

Be warned, if you’re not down with your witches, pixies, fairies and whatnot, this list will appear strange and confusing to you. That being said, away from your Cinderella and Snow White classics, here’s an alternative take on the best the fairytale genre has to offer that you might find refreshing.

10. Stardust (2007)
Based on a Neil Gaiman novel this mad fantasy adventure sees a young man fall in love with a fallen star, played wonderfully by Claire Danes. And Robert de Niro almost steals it as a camp pirate.
9. Spirited Away (2001)
Often cited as the Japanese Alice in Wonderland, this film by Hayao Miyazaki sees a young girl grow up as she’s forced to work in a bathhouse for the Gods to save her parents and return home.
8. Willow (1988)
A young Warwick Davies plays Willow, a farmer who goes on a quest to defeat an evil witch and protect a baby – with the help of a mad swordsman (Val Kilmer).
7. Big Fish (2003)
The whole thing is a reminisced fairy tale, with Albert Finney laying in bed and recounting the magical adventures he’s had throughout his life.
6. Coraline (2009)
Another Neil Gaiman adaptation – this one sees a girl find a parallel world behind a secret door where she has to fight her creepy ‘other parents‘ to save her real parents.
5. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
In this sequel, Hellboy fights to protect humanity by battling an elven Prince (Luke Goss) and his unstoppable golden army.
4. The Princess Bride (1987)
Wesley, aka the man in black, goes on a journey facing many foes along the way to save his one true love, Princess Buttercup.
3. The Labyrinth (1986)
A teenage girl (Jennifer Connelly) gives up her baby brother to a Goblin King (David Bowie) and then must venture into the labyrinth to save him.
2. Hanna (2011)
Saoirse Ronan plays uber-assassin Hanna, on a quest to discover who she is and understand her place in the world – whilst killers hunt her down.
1. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Set just after the Spanish Civil War this film tells the tale of Ofelia, a young girl who meets a Faun who gives her a series of tasks to perform to achieve immortality.

Push it real good

Poetry

Salt n pepa said that, back in 1988.
At that time music wasn’t faked.
Yet from stealing and sampling there was still no escape.
But the words, poppy as they were, still hold resonance.
Growing up in the ’80s and the ’90s decadence,
I used their melody to calm me and give my soul relevance.
Paying penance in the presence of my peers,
I faced my fears with benevolence despite my hesitance.

And their cries of ‘push it real good’ gave me drive.
I’d rave about how their lyrics kept my dreams alive.
Their catchy hooks gave me motivation at times
when I became complacent. But I stayed patient.
Facing enemies I built the hatred and became brazen.
My soul like a winged raven heading straight for satan.
Righteous indignation emblazoned on my chest for all to see.
‘S’ and ‘P’ shaven onto me, my ID for when you call the police.

For if you think my approach is orthodox, prepare to be outfoxed.
I’ll leave you feeling accosted and lost, broken down beyond cost.
You, like a defeated nation seeking reparation for your failures.
Me? Continuing to push it trying to influence your behaviour.
Cutting round you like a Savile row suit and I’m the tailor.
But in this instance I’m just applying the laws of nature.
Setting on you with a harpoon, you’re Moby Dick and I’m the whaler.
Captain Ahab, dooming my crew to the bottom of the ocean floor.
A ferocious and atrocious end… unless I learn to push it some more.

 

Inside Out: a sad, sorrowful joy

Film

American psychologist Paul Ekman pioneered the study of human emotions creating an atlas of thousands of emotions. These can be boiled down into seven: anger, contempt, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness and surprise.

For Disney Pixar’s latest film, Inside Out, we start with the basics.

A child, Riley, is born. In her head she experiences her first emotion and Joy (Amy Poehler) steps into the void. A bubbly, bouncy, excitable character who controls a console in Riley’s head dictating how she reacts to any given situation. She’s quickly joined by Anger (Lewis Black), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Thus making up five of Ekman’s seven key emotions (surprise and contempt not making the cut being similar to anger and disgust I imagine, and for the film’s sake, seven are too many characters).

inside-out

With this film, Pixar, in all their inventiveness, have laid out how the human mind works in a way that’s fully accessible to children and adults alike. For example, to begin with they introduce us to how memories are formed and how they’re attached to the emotions; glowing orbs that roll into Riley’s mind, each colour representing the overriding emotion linked to that memory. From a few scenes we quickly understand the concept of long and short-term memory and ‘core memories’ that form the building blocks of one’s personality, in this case Riley’s. These power the fundamental aspects of her personality: friendship, family, her love of hockey etc. We also understand how the five characters/emotions fight for supremacy when faced with certain situations and how they defer leadership to each other.

For example, for most of Riley’s life Joy has ruled the roost (and her emotions). Then the family move to San Francisco and Riley loses her friends and everything she has known and her personality changes irrevocably. Joy finds herself increasingly unable to control Riley’s mind and the other emotions. This was the building block – and brain child – of director Pete Docter, and the idea upon which he based the story.

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As things go from bad to worse for Riley (at least in her head, moving to San Francisco can’t be that bad surely?), Joy and Sadness find themselves out of brain HQ and marooned in her long-term memory. So theirs becomes a journey movie, as they must get back in control of Riley’s mind and back to HQ. At least, that’s Joy’s plan. Sadness sort of tags along for the ride dragging her down.

The way Docter and Pixar personified these emotions in order to explain growing up, being a child and the loss of innocence, is remarkable and, at times, quite heartbreaking (the loss of Goofball Island brought a tear to my eye). Rarely has a film so succintly laid out the inner machinations of a person’s mind before. We get Imagination Land, the Train of Thought, Dream Production, even the corridor of Abstract Thought. It’s like Google decided to set up an office in someone’s mind and let loose (scarily, this may happen in the future).

ins

And just to prove it’s not just Riley (and young girls) the filmmakers understand, at certain points they dive inside other character’s heads to hilarious effect. More jokes for the adults than the kids, but the balance between pleasing audiences old and young is never an easy thing, and here Docter and his team makes it look easy.

Like a mash up between Alice in Wonderland and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this is is a movie which tackles big themes and complex issues in an almost effortless way. It will make you laugh and cry (definitely if you’re a parent) and, as long as you understand the importance of – and why we need – both, then the filmmakers will, no doubt, feel their work is done. Hurrah Pixar, add this to your classics.