The labyrinth

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.

Trash culture

Hey hey, I’m feeling low today.
When did our culture become so throwaway?
There I was, on display in the shop.
Best of the bunch on the shelf at the top.
And this kid comes in, Damien was his name.
A little devil clearly destined for fame.
Then there he goes, he snatched me quick fast.
In his podgy hands I’m never gonna last.

But off we went, back to his lair.
Me with a looming sense of despair.
I’ve been a good toy this just isn’t fair.
But hey, what can you do?
Very soon I’ll be part of this mad kid’s zoo.
Yes it’s true I was once top of the line.
Until what happened was less than devine.
Years of abuse at the hands of Damien.
Until he threw me out, like he thought I was maybe done.

Sitting proud on a heap ‘o trash.
It’s hardly a leap to say I’ve crashed.
Then, like a bolt, a thought struck me hard.
I’m the dealer and now hold all the cards.
This trash heap, this is my Kingdom.
Now I rule I can have some real fun.

As other toys arrive I lay down the law.
‘Wherever you’re from it won’t be like before’.
The message is clear, they want me to rule.
They know as a leader I’ll be super cool.
But one, like a fool, rises against me.
‘If you lead we’ll never be free!’ he cries.
I stand to face him and see fear in his eyes.

My God, is this what I’ve become?
In my efforts to evolve I’ve turned into Damien.
This makes me freeze and go weak at the knees.
‘Please!’ I implore. ‘It won’t be like that.
Together we’re strong and that’s a fact.’
Slowly, as one, they all come around.

And that became the start of Toy Trash Town.

Over time we’ve built a community.
Part of the world where we can be free.
We had to scrap for it though, battling each day.
Fighting those that became so throwaway.

Pooh Sticks (learning to flow)

I shiver and quiver as I hit the river.
I sink fast. Curses!
Then I emerge from the drink and surface.
The pain of being discarded burns less as I bob down the stream.
This river is mobbed but it turns out I’m part of a team.
Floating nearby my buddy suffered a similar fate.
As we converse we’re not irate, but then our pupils dilate as there’s rocks ahead.
We form a plan fast lest we both end up splintered and dead.

By the Power of Pooh Sticks we form a raft, with time to spare to fashion a mast.
But I’m no stranger to danger, I know what lies ahead.
My eyes narrow as I fill with dread.

Dogs!

Like goddamn wet, shaggy logs they’re more dangerous than any rocks.
But the river’s getting rapid and ahead lie bendy drops.
Mini waterfalls that even a mad mongrel won’t face.
Those stupid mutts know their place.

Drifting along the river morphs into the sea and my buddy and me know not what to expect.
What fate awaits us in the ocean’s depths?
Whatever it is we’re optimistic, given those darn dogs left us pretty twisted.
However… The Power of Pooh Sticks will keep us safe, as we explore the ocean’s vast space.

Next time you see us we’ll be bigger in size and scope, our twiggy raft having grown beyond our wildest hopes.
Festooned with barnacles, which, let’s face it, would be pretty cool.
So if you ever find yourself on a raft adrift at sea, spare a thought to its origins.
Discarded Pooh Sticks that came from a tiny stream.

Death

Death. What is death anyway?
If life is a journey from the cradle to the grave, where does it all end? How are we supposed to behave?
Religion has us all believing that we’re part of the plan, that if we stand up and help our fellow man we’ll be welcomed in, absolved of sin and born again.
There’s comfort in that I suppose. And for those of us that chose a different path, what then? Are we out on our arse? Straight to hell in a handcart?
Death frightens me I’ll admit it.
Whether heaven or hell await me I can’t say. For all I know my path is pre-ordained, like a stain on the carpet of life no matter the strife I endure I am constant until the end.
Do I have an arc? Am I supposed to learn something along the way?
Am I supposed to love, hate, work and pray?
Let’s say religion is for suckers but praying has a place, like meditation it takes us to a space where our minds can be free. Free to sing and dance and soar beyond ourselves, to transcend.
But this is only momentary, fleeting, short-lived. Like a damp squib our lives can be extinguished in the blink of an eye.
There’s nothing sadder than the moment after a party popper is released.
The climax has come and gone, all too sudden.
We cease.

Ps. Some of you may notice the feature image for this piece is Death, one of the endless, taken from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. Neil worked with Terry Pratchett from time to time and they were friends. Terry died last month and this is my tribute to him. ‘Why not use Death from the Discworld series then?’, some of you may ask. Whilst he’s a great character he felt too masculine. I felt this piece needed a female Death, hence one of the endless.

Karaoke? Yeah baby!

Joseph-Gordon-Levitt-500-Days-SummerSpontaneously bursting into song, that’s what it’s all about. By ‘it’ I mean random and unexpected musical scenes in films. They are like little rays of cinematic sunshine.

And, like all good moments of music that you experience in your life, a lot of these will have stayed with you as fond memories; for me, I’ve always had a soft spot for the songs in A Life Less Ordinary and Empire Records.

Some of these you may have seen coming – karaoke for example – but some, I imagine, took you by surprise in a wonderful way, as they did me. Here’s my selection:

‘Don’t Stop Believing’ Chris Evans – The Losers
Need to ensure no one gets in the lift with you? Just sing Journey with gusto. An unexpected and genuinely hilarious scene, one which works due to Evans’ ballsy delivery.


‘Beyond The Sea’
Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz – A Life Less Ordinary
A great scene in this underrated Danny Boyle film. It got me hooked on Bobby Darin for a fair while and remains one of my favourite Cameron Diaz performances.


‘Sugar High’
Renee Zellweger – Empire Records
It’s hard to pick one scene in a film packed with musical gems. This one is so much fun that it makes the cut. And Zellweger is so sweet singing her little heart out.


‘Hey Ma’
Anna Kendrick and Jake Gyllenhaal – End Of Watch
Apparently on a long drive the two actors were mucking about singing in character with director David Ayer in the back seat. He caught this and stuck it in the movie. That’s a moment.


‘Brass In Pocket’
Scarlett Johansson – Lost In Translation
This Sofia Coppola film which gave Scarlett her break remains my favourite of her performances. As she donned a pink wig, Bill Murray’s resistance was futile.


‘These Eyes’
Michael Cera – Superbad
Comedy that stands the test of time, now that’s tough. This film holds up though. A modern classic, encapsulated in this memorable scene. The hurtin’s on me yeah!


‘Here Comes Your Man’
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – 500 Days Of Summer
I have to say, I know one or two girls that would fall over themselves to get a piece of Gordon-Levitt. Here he gives us a masterclass in how to effortlessly rock a tank top.


‘Afternoon Delight’
Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner – Anchorman
Remember the first time you saw this film? Every scene held a wonderful surprise. This one was a classic example as I doubt anyone saw this 1976 song by the Starland Vocal Band coming.


‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’
Tom Cruise – Top Gun
I am sure I’m not the only one that’s had mates reenact this in the direction of unsuspecting women; essentially cornering them till the song is done. Ladies do love a crooner.


‘New York New York’
Carey Mulligan – Shame
Filmed with Mulligan singing live in one unbroken shot, this scene is so raw and affecting that I’ve only been able to watch it twice. Along with Fassbender, Mulligan elevated this film to pure art.


‘He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands’
Steve Buscemi – Con Air
Supremely creepy, yet mesmerising in a way. An innocuous little scene in the middle of this – clearly quite bonkers – Michael Bay movie has Buscemi singing like a loon as their plane prepares to crash.


‘Blue Shadows’
Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short – Three Amigos
This 1986 John Landis classic was packed with wonderfully witty musical ditties. Whilst ‘My Little Buttercup’ tends to get all the plaudits, honorable mention should go to this song too.