Thursday, 30 December 2010
Monday, 27 December 2010
- Having my friend Matt Pawsey come visit NZ for new year's and a month in Wellington - great times
- Releasing my debut, full-production, rock single "I Believe In Dinosaurs" - satisfaction ahoy
- Making my first music video - big ups to everyone who helped
- Launch party for aforementioned single - a fantastic night, so many thanks to friends/fans/bandmates/fellow musos/Bar Medusa
- UK & Europe holiday - just simply an amazing time.
- Jesus & the All Stars Episode 1 - only a short story, but definitely the start of something
- Open mic nights at the Fringe Bar all year - great times
- Lighthouses video shoot - again, thanks everyone involved.
On the creative front, I'm trying to put it down as a transitional year. Last year I recorded an album with acoustic guitar & webcam mic - it was great, but the main purposes were 1) to see if you can record a multi-layered album with basic equipment anywhere in the world (you can), 2) to get a bunch of songs from a certain period of my life recorded and out of my system, and 3) to make something while working towards bigger and better things.
Now, I have better equipment, and recording electric guitar and bass for the first time in 3 years (last time was The Digerati session) felt gooooooooooood. While Dinosaurs is no masterpiece in audio production, it's a good first effort, and more significantly it's marked the beginning of a new period. The Lighthouses single is in the pipeline for next year (another launch party in March!), and the album project has begun.
I'm also getting closer to playing real gigs again, with electric guitar live to raw backing tracks. Backing tracks are not exactly rock'n'roll but I think I can pull it off. It's something I've been talking about for a long time but found very difficult to reach. 2011 will see this happen.
Today is Boxing Day, and having flown up to see my rellies in Orewa for Christmas, I'm off to Ohope Beach in the Bay Of Plenty for a 3rd new year's holiday on another kiwi beach in the sun with awesome awesome friends. Barbecues ahoy!
Best of wishes to everyone out there, especially family, friends & fans who've been really supportive, and all you European folk in the ice and snow - hope 2010 has treated you well, and that you had a great Christmas/Saturnalia/assorted pagan festival celebration. Have a fantastic new year, and see you in 2011.
Friday, 17 December 2010
It being Christmas time, I guess I should also post their equally fun video for their festive song "Christmas Retreat". The song features bells, strings, big choruses and rock guitars, put to joyous home video of the guys enjoying Christmas. Love it.
They are busy rehearsing at the moment before going into the studio to record their next full length album with producer legend and all-round top man Neak Menter, who has also been very busy this year touring the world (Australia, US, although sadly not New Zealand yet) with hot new band The Joy Formidable. For Matt and John, my old bandmates, I think it'll be their 8th recording session with Neak, and I'm very jealous.
Thursday, 16 December 2010
Monday, 13 December 2010
Friday, 10 December 2010
Thursday, 2 December 2010
- One lighthouse
- Lots of very cool friends with lots of cameras
- Friends with keys to aforesaid lighthouse
- Lashings of summer sunshine
And that's about it! You may want to include (as we did) some food for a picnic; silly toys and props for fun and merriment; friends who are talented filmmakers themselves (@FranFilmMaker and @HoccusFoccus); and a joyous sense of fun.
What you don't need is a cold & sore throat like I had, but if you have one, just push right on through it.
Mount Victoria Bowling Club late morning - I'd made it an open event on Facebook, which meant it was a bit uncertain who'd be coming and if we'd actually have enough drivers. I'd originally intended it to be an organisation-free trip: everyone films their individual trips to the lighthouse, and we all meet up there, I don't have to organise anything. Hmm not quite.
So it was pretty much like this:
- Excited people, check
- Enough cars, check
- Blinding summer sunshine, CHECK. And off we went!
The Rimutaka Ranges
Rimutakas, we pulled together a picnic in Featherston next to the railway line. Apparently it's still in use, but you'd be forgiven for thinking it's abandoned - you can just walk on it, over it, around it, whatever. Rachel busted out her pogo stick and hula hoop. Chiara busted out her pasta. It was good times.
the Wairararararapa to Cape Palliser is straightforward, and on a sunny day, quite wonderful: flat, dry kiwi farmland making way for rough coastline with white foam on black rocks and sand. And as it turned out, cows all over the road. As you do.
What is this campimping, please tell me more
Sadly it's not seal season, so we skipped a trip to play chicken with the seals (note: this is a joke, never play chicken at a seal colony) and met up at the foot of the lighthouse.
Cape Palliser Lighthouse is about as stereotypical as red-and-white-striped lighthouses get, although rather than being placed 500m out to sea on a rock the size of a futon, it's merely up the cliff. 262 steps up, to be precise (kudos to James for counting).
It was up here the magic happened: as everyone caught their breath and took shots of the awesome coastal views, our friends who work at Maritime NZ unlocked the lighthouse door. (These awesome friends will remain nameless so a] they don't get into trouble, even though it was all above board, and b] people don't hassle them about getting into the lighthouse - this was a mega-special event!)
They were entirely professional and gave us the safety briefing, which mainly consisted of:
- Don't touch anything
- Small steps, watch your footing and mind your head, use the handrail
- Seriously don't touch anything, especially the lens which is the original, irreplaceable crystal glass from when it was constructed.
very similar picture on Wikipedia to give you an idea of what it looks like. Awesome. I felt extremely grateful to be allowed inside, and I'm strangely excited to be able to say I've been inside a working lighthouse. Our friends were very cool and kept the door open for other people who had come to visit that day and got a special treat.
After that, it was just a case of playing a 4-song set in the sun and wind consisting of:
I'd had virtually no sleep the night before and my sore throat meant my voice was less than impressive - thankfully everyone helped out and sang along too. Major shoutouts to Chiara and Rachel for the dancing, singing & dinosaur sounds, you guys are more irreplaceable than that lens.
Massive thanks to the drivers that day - Jay, Daniil, Rachel, Joel - without who(m?) it basically couldn't have happened. You guys rule.
So now all I have to do is get the footage from everyone and assemble it into a 4-minute pop music video. Easy peasy.
Thanks again everyone involved, the premiere will hopefully be in late January - I'll keep you all posted.
Friday, 26 November 2010
Friday, 19 November 2010
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
Wednesday, 3 November 2010
Monday, 1 November 2010
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Maybe I'm being a show-off - "oh GOD I've got too many fancy dress parties to go to, too many friends, too much FUN, it's a nightmare!!!". But seriously, everyone in Wellington knows someone who knows someone, and the people of Wellington LOVE fancy dress parties. So if you live in Wellington for any length of time, chances are you'll get invited to a fancy dress party.
The thing is, I reckon there's about 1 or more every month of the year. Okay, no-one's pointing a gun at my head to go, but they are with/through close friends and they are the kind of thing people ask about if you don't go along. And while fancy dress is fun, pressure isn't.
Don't get me wrong. I went to a "B" party this year as a Bat - I spent thinking-time, crafting-time and money getting it together - didn't take too long, looked pretty cool, job done. Had a great time. There've been a couple of others this year I think, including a safari-themed stag party day (that really was a lot of fun). And as for the denim + fanny packs + visors night, who'd pass up an opportunity like that?
It just seems like whenever someone has a party, it has to have a fancy dress theme, and everyone has to turn up in fancy dress, on pain of death! Or pain of embarrassment or something. And look, sometimes I want to go to a party just wearing what I want. Because people can have fun wearing anything (or nothing?).
Really, don't get me wrong. Whoever is holding the party - well, it's their party, they can pick whatever theme they want, I'm not stopping them. And sure, I understand that if you use the dreaded word "optional", then a lot of people start muttering "oh I can't be bothered", then "nah neither can I" and next thing you know, you've got a whole fancy dress party with no-one dressed up. So I see why it's tempting to put on a bit of pressure.
But this is Wellington, and as I said, people love fancy dress. Even with cynics like me getting a bit tired and bored of it, you'll still get a bucketload of people ignoring the word "optional" and wearing a costume come rain hail or shine.
Halloween is here. And yes, there's a party coming up this weekend. It looks pretty good and there's some pretty cool people I know going. Unfortunately I've been told "everyone MUST dress up", which I think is just pressure that people don't need and quite off-putting. Is this party going to suck unless everyone's got plastic fangs or a zombie mask? Are people really not capable of having fun without props reminding them what time of year it is? Is this America?
So, call me a grumpy old fart but I wasn't thinking about dressing up for it, and with that kind of warning I certainly don't feel like it.
I'm interested to see what happens. Will I be thrown out? Will my friends there see me being carried out and say "hey Jez, sorry man but it's their party and you didn't play by the rules, did you?" (Because every party has rules!) Maybe everyone will just do the traditional British/New Zealand thing of glaring and trying to make me feel embarrassed?
Or maybe, just maybe, people might say "oh yeah, no worries, let's drink and dance like idiots!" Because whether it's fancy dress or not, that is what parties are all about.
If you've got the energy and/or time and/or money to dress up every month in fancy dress for a party, good on ya. That's some serious dedication and I'm impressed. I just find it a bit more special when it's not so frequent, so regular, and without the added social pressure.
Monday, 25 October 2010
Banks is an excellent writer and clearly capable of drawing characters with depth and personality. So why in these 2 books does he have bad guys who are quite clearly Bad Guys? They have no morals, and cause pain to achieve their selfish ends, or even just on a whim. They are definitely Bad Guys.
Now I think I know. I think he enjoys writing Bad Guys.
Despite Banks' writing skills and his leftist, liberal political views (as far as I know of him), he's also quite a personality himself. These evil characters he creates are simple, straightforward, and perfectly happy to do whatever they need to get what they want.
The Culture, on the other hand - the loose projection of Western human civilisation in space - is full of guilt and self-doubt. Is it right to interfere with this civilisation? Is it wrong to use force to prevent someone else's war? Who are we to judge and act over other species?
The Culture are undoubtedly the good guys in "Matter" and all the books before and after, and you do want them to win, and they inevitably prevail in some form or other. But Banks makes them so awkward, so indecisive, so boring. In contrast, the Bad Guys know what they want and they're going to kill, connive, murder, slaughter, pillage and destroy partly because that's what happens in the daily pursuit of power, and partly because it's fun.
Banks is a rationalist but he's also a human being, and has a fiercely human personality. By drawing a techno-utopia in the future where most or all desires are satisfied, he raises the possibility that the important Good Guys who want to achieve balance and keep everything stable could be horribly, horribly boring.
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
They has the things you want. You has the money. Job done, surely?
Quite often, wholesalers are located in walking distance of homes in large towns and cities.
So what's the problem?
Some wholesalers might sell to the public, so long as you don't walk in screaming and shouting "I am from the public". But the root cause is some unwritten, unspoken rule that wholesalers don't break ranks or whatever and stop people buying stuff they want without paying more for it on the high street.
The only reason I can think of is to save the jobs (and presumably shareholders?) of the high street (that's main street for you yanks) shops and services most people get their stuff from. If you buy direct, many of them are out of a job.
But HOLD UP. Defending inefficiency to protect jobs is SOCIALISM. I'm not against socialism, but it'd be a big surprise to many people in the capitalist Western world if that was the real reason.
Especially with this here thing called Teh Internetz, surely high street shops and services should be exposed for the clunky, inefficient and/or thieving middlemen they are? The extra price I would pay in the UK for hair wax in Boots (as just one example), rather than the or supplier wholesaler on an industrial estate 10mins walk away, is not worth the luxury of shiny white walls and 16-year-old shop assistants who know less about the product than I do.
Is it about contracts? I'm assuming not, since I've been into said wholesaler and they've never asked me for ID.
So, serious question. Why can't, or shouldn't, the public allowed to buy from wholesalers?
Monday, 18 October 2010
It's the mediocre and mundane posing as the exciting and necessary.
It's the junk of the past re-packaged as "retro".
It's the great ideas of the past duplicated and watered down.
It's the same magazines who deride the fashions of 5 years ago as ridiculous celebrating the fashions of 20 years ago as "vintage".
It's a fraction of the important questions re-told without intelligence or long words.
It's the Superficial relying on hype like a wheelchair.
It's culture cut up and pre-digested for you, so you don't need to expend any effort to consume it.
It's music where the vocals are the most important thing and the lyrics are the least important.
It's the Average dressed up as the Glorious and sold to every person, everywhere, every second of the day.
Sunday, 17 October 2010
Friday, 15 October 2010
- I Brought Down The Average
- The Boy With X-Ray Eyes
- When Robots Cure Cancer, We'll Talk
- I Believe In Dinosaurs
- It's Not The Wine ... Or The Bourbon ... Or The Vodka
- Shark In A Goldfish Bowl
- 5yrs + 45mins
- Surgery For Symmetry
- (and possibly, not definitely) If I Can Be Wrong, Maybe I Can Be Young
What's cool is that almost all of these songs have been around in one form or another for a long time; seeing them together, even unrecorded, is pretty exciting for me.
I've played most of these songs live at some point, whether acoustic in Chelmsford's Two Brewers in 2008 or electric at Wellington's Bar Medusa a couple of months ago; some are already in semi-acoustic form on "Without Fear", some are already in full rock production on "I Believe In Dinosaurs".
Most importantly, all of them are big BIG tunes.
I'll be blogging the tracks one by one, either putting up existing videos or doing my own Youtube acoustic versions so you know what the songs sound like.
Different people will recognise different songs, but here's 3 almost no-one will have heard of:
"If I Can Be Wrong" is a tune that's been creeping around my head for a while now, and could well be a great closing track. While the others are mostly 95%-100% written, this is just an idea for the moment.
"Surgery For Symmetry" is an idea I had for F451 at one point that just never became real. It's about 80% written, and has the perfect mix of summery-feel and punchy lyrics for the album.
"It's Not The Wine" is a bright instrumental I have had for a while. I made a demo in early 2009 while learning how to use Reaper before I started recording "Without Fear".
I'm also hoping to add bonus tracks in the same way as the "I Believe In Dinosaurs" single, i.e. remixes or different versions to add value-for-money. I've got a feeling there'll be an acoustic version of "Pre-Digested", and quite possibly a techno and/or metal version of "Shark".
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Protecting cultures is generally awesome, but you can end up catching all the little crap from a particular era, like flash-freezing a dinosaur when it's taking a crap. It's important to allow room to develop, a little flexibility.
See if you can decipher this article on Stuff.co.nz. It's about Te Papa, the national NZ museum, warding away pregnant and menstruating women from a special exhibition of "taonga" (Maori and Pacific cultural/historical treasures). So far, so weird. But what makes an odd case odder is the article isn't exactly helpful for people like me, who only know a little bit about Maori traditions.
It mentions that the policy is "for the safety of women". Safety eh? I started thinking, wow, these taonga must be the military BOMB (see what I did there?). Years before the British arrived/invaded with shitty rifles made of lego and bits of twigs, Maori had highly-developed weapons that could detect women who are pregnant or menstruating and cause them serious harm!
Back to the confusing article. It explains "hapu" (pregnant) and "matu wahine" (menstruating women), but it doesn't explain this mysterious "tapu". Apparently they're powerful, these tapu, but what are they? Sacred objects? A set of cultural rules? Are they a bird or a plane?
Unfortunately, after wading through a lot of the comments, it turns out that Maori don't and have never had a secret weapon for wiping out a whole enemy tribe's menstruating and pregnant women - it's just an old wive's tale. I know. If you're disappointed, think how the Pentagon felt. These taonga aren't dangerous, unless they're big and you whacked someone round the head with one. They don't have magical reproductive-radar properties. They're don't even give you a +1 on your D6 roll in Dungeons and Dragons.
The comments section is an interesting mess. First you get the predictable backlash, some of which is actually quite reasonable - "oh what a load of old hogwash" - and okay there might be some racists in there using it as a cheap score against Maori people, but there's very little obvious racism. Then you get the more predictable backlash-backlash, consisting of "how dare you criticise Maori culture, it's all precious, even the bits with ghosts and dodgy attitudes towards women".
Many comments rightly point out that Te Papa is not actually banning women from seeing it, and it's not discrimination because "it's because women are sacred". *Sigh*. Throughout history, religious and cultural restrictions over women's menstruation and reproduction have been justified either because women are "sinful", or because they're "sacred", which isn't quite as bad but certainly is insulting.
Telling women they shouldn't do X Y and Z because it's about "protecting them" really puts the patriarchy into patronising.
I really like Maori culture - it's largely awesome, and since my brief visit in 2003 even I can tell how it's enriched mainstream NZ life with its art, language (Te Reo) and culture. Even some of the bits I don't quite like, like the official national Maori-only rugby team, are well-meant. And despite the numerous outcries in the article's comments section about discriminatinon against women, there's plenty of other cultures round the world with far worse records on women's rights, Europe included.
My problem is that while Te Papa is not actually forbidding pregnant women from attending the tour, they are propagating a piece of - to be frank - superstitious bullcrap under the important umbrella banner of cultural values. Cultural sharing and caring is very important, but in a national museum you really do need a filter for the bullcrap.
You could argue it would be a good idea to warn people before they attend about how Maori traditionally see these objects, and maybe Te Papa thinks that's all they're doing - saving people a trip in case they worry about causing cultural offence.
But for every pakeha (white European-NZ) on that comments board misguidedly "defending" Maori tradition, there must be a dozen or more Maori people out there, both men and women, thinking "god I wish we could dump this mystical nonsense, what a load of claptrap".
To bring it full circle. As I've said, the little that I know and have seen about Maori culture I think is awesome, and the more we share and understand each other, the more fruitful our lives and (arguably more importantly) the better we can get on with each other. But it's incidents like this where a culture risks getting trapped in amber.
Maori culture isn't about paddling around in a waka wearing a flax skirt and doing a haka every time you meet a stranger. It would be patronising of any white person to suggest the whole of Maori culture today was the same as it was 200 years ago, but more importantly it would be simply inaccurate: Maori people get on, do jobs, live lives. They play X-box. And it would be just as wrong for both Te Papa and Maori people themselves, of all iwi and tribes and whanau, to mix up the good practice of preserving their culture with maintaining the backwards little traditions that do no-one any favours.
[Note: I have a feeling this may upset some people, who will probably get the wrong idea and think it's just about respecting Maori culture. I realise this blog is on the light and possibly even dismissive side, unlike posts like this from Elpie which have detail and information. But when you're on the subject of superstition and nonsense, I think the only right attitude to take is to be dismissive. Things like this are not inseparable from the rest of Maori culture - it's not all or nothing. I'd deride anyone for believing in ghosts or spirits or pixies or fairies, and I can do that without causing disrespect to whatever culture and background they're from.]
Monday, 11 October 2010
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Sunday, 10 October 2010
Friday, 8 October 2010
Thursday, 7 October 2010
Just click the link that says "Free Download" and hey presto! Job done. Please feel free to tell people and share this around :)
"Without Fear" is my debut album and is made entirely of sounds created by acoustic guitar recorded via webcam mic, mixing elements of indie, rock, blues, punk, electronica and even a touch of hiphop. Check the minisite for more information:
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
Sunday, 3 October 2010
Brief update - I've now added an iFrame for Airfix blog posts to the PA website. You may have noticed I like iFrames. I find them functional and user-friendly for you the audience out there.
Hopefully soon I'll be able to start on adding videos for the tracklisting. (I already have 11-12 songs ready for the album, so at least you won't have to watch the tedious process of songwriting!)
Thursday, 23 September 2010
1. THE ALBUM
I've been carrying around songs for over 2 years now, vaguely dreaming of making an album. Last year's "Without Fear" was an album, but it was semi-acoustic and an experimental project - and just as those 10 songs had to be on that album, most of these songs have been saved for this album. After recording "Dinosaurs", with rock guitars and drums and stuff, I'm ready to start on this album.
It will have big tunes. In fact, EVERY song will be a big tune. It's going to have a big, summery rock sound and feel. It'll (hopefully) sound like the Manics' "Everything Must Go" mixed with Muse's "Black Holes And Revelations". It will, in short, be awesome.
It will be called AIRFIX DEMOCRACIES.
2. PROJECT AIRFIX
I'm going to document the making of the album, from recording demos and the songs themselves, mixing, production, artwork, even developing the website at www.jezkemp.co.uk/airfix from a blank page into a living, breathing, dedicated website:
Under the title of "Project Airfix", you can watch an album being born. Aaaaahhh :)
To get updates, subscribe/follow the RSS feed http://feeds.feedburner.com/airfix, or my main feed http://feeds.feedburner.com/jezkemp.
3. MAKE THE ALBUM YOURSELF
Yes, not only can you watch the album being made - by downloading the original files you can make the album yourself how you want to, your way. Along with regular updates on how it's going, I'll be podcasting and uploading the original material, from audio files of guitar and vocal takes to midi drum files to Photoshop artwork, so that you can mix and create your own version of the album.
I'm pretty pumped about this :) Keep watching!
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
I can reveal the new book will be a proper length novel - 60,000+ words, hardly War And Peace but more than NO UP's 40,000. It will be FUNNY. Like actually laugh out loud, piss yourself on a sunny day watching the cricket funny. It will have ACTION. It will be for ALL AGES (of people who enjoy awesome books). It will be ENJOYABLE to read. It will even have STUFF TO SAY, but in the background, like a bonus thing for anyone who cares about that kind of stuff.
It will be about a man who wakes from a coma to a world gone mad. Not "violent armageddon" mad, more unicycling walruses, everyone-is-king, champagne rhinocerus morris club mad.
It will have coathangers.
It will have flashmobs, and even a flashmobster.
It will have classical music chavs.
It will have The Queene Of Englande.
It will have a ginger cat called Octave who can talk but is definitely not a robot.
It will be called HYPER.
This is project #1.
One day I will write up my temping memoires (21 months and counting), where I will describe my experiences in the Land of Zero Job Security, going through the many difficult aspects of the various clients I've had to work with (anonymously, of course). That day is sadly not here yet, as I am still well and truly without a proper job.
I just wanted to touch on one aspect of temping that I was reminded of recently. (Flashback time!) When I was 16, I did waitering for the old people on Saga holidays at the local agricultural college. What seemed crazy to me at the time was that we were paid hourly - so if we all busted a gut to try and clean up early, we were paid less than if we lounged around, mucked around and got out around 11pm. And so, similarly, I've been involved in a number of temp roles with a specifically quantitative task and been paid hourly.
Now I'm not saying I have an alternative. It's not like employers could look at a job and say "completing that is worth X hundred dollars, the sooner it's done the sooner you can go". Also, quality and accuracy are important factors in many of these data entry roles, and I'm frequently saying (often just in my head, in frustration, admittedly) that either you want the job done quickly or you want it done properly, because you can't have both. In a sense, paying for more hours means paying for a better job. Neither am I saying I'm lazy or opportunistic. Even in my career as a temp, I've been honest and committed to the often less-than-exciting work I've had to do.
But I'm just wondering - does anyone else think it's strange to pay people less for doing the job quickly?
Saturday, 18 September 2010
In Conversation: Tony Benn & Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers from theQuietus on Vimeo.
The fellow moderating with the funny hair is music journalist Simon Price who has written the closest thing to official books about the Manics as there is.
Friday, 17 September 2010
Thursday, 16 September 2010
Being transgender doesn't make her a good politician, but she seems nice, and her opponent seems like a dickhead.
I'm also pleased to see CNN taking a generally balanced view!
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Here's the 1st episode in a new series "Jesus and the All-Stars", starring Jesus, Buddha, Vishnu, Mohammed and David saving the world in a spaceship. It's very funny and just a 5-10min read. Enjoy!
Far away, in a South of England school hockey changing rooms...
‘…So then I stabbed the yeti in the eye, pulled his pants down, and said “How do you like that, furball?’
The clustered girls burst out laughing, all beautiful smiles and glossy hair.
‘Oh Jesus,’ said one young brunette, ‘you’re so brave.’
‘Oh behave ladies. More champagne? You know, this reminds me of the time I arm-wrestled a particularly rude polar bear—’
Somewhere a device went beep beep beep.
The girls all looked around at each other, but Jesus just sighed. He examined a chrome bracelet on his left wrist, flashing red lights at him.
‘Sorry ladies, I must depart,’ he said wistfully. The gathered beauties all sighed sadly.
‘Do you have to?’
‘I’m afraid I must. It’s this whole “saving-the-world” thing. They won’t start without me.’
‘Fear not, I’ll be back before you can say “Son of God saves the day”.’ He gave them a rakish wink. ‘Do help yourselves to champagne.’
‘Oh Jesus,’ pleaded a young girl, tugging on his white robe, ‘please stay safe, we love you—’
But he, and his robe, were gone.
Far away, in a San Francisco computer gaming lounge…
‘Goblin archers to the right! Scylarr watch that Minotaur!’
‘Where the hell is Dvorkin? We need a wizard on this!’
Buddha munched his fries with mayo, punching at the control pad as his wizard climbed the rock face on the computer screen. The secret cave was up here somewhere…
‘Hey man, you can’t eat stuff in here.’ The gaming lounge assistant towered over him, a lanky Italian-American teenager. He was glaring back and forth from Buddha to the greasy wrappers on the desk.
‘Dvorkin? Are you even here?’
‘I bet he’s looking for treasure again.’
‘Or getting another takeaway.’
‘Oh, um, really?’ said Buddha nervously. ‘I didn’t see any signs—’
‘It’s the second time this week man,’ the assistant snapped, folding his arms. ‘I’ve seen you getting grease all over the control pads, on the keyboards, bits of food under the keys…’
‘What’s going on?’
‘I’m hit! I’m hit bad! Catapults!’
‘Look I’m in the middle of something,’ puffed Buddha, eyes flicking back to the screen. ‘It won’t happen again—’
‘Too right it won’t. You’re clearing that up right now.’
‘Now look here,’ said Buddha in a voice tougher than he felt, ‘I, I pay to come in here, and—’
‘You pay to play video games,’ snapped the assistant, ‘you don’t pay me to clean up your mess.’
Beep beep beep.
‘Now either you’re going to throw all that in the trash, or I’m going to ban you from here, period. What’s it going to be?’
But the headset fell to the chair, and he was gone.
Far away, at a Tokyo technology conference…
‘Greetings, representatives of assorted technology companies,’ Vishnu intoned. He sat cross-legged in a huge white leather chair, all 4 arms relaxed, loose golden robes draped over his blue skin. A pair of silver wraparound shades flashed different colours when he spoke. ‘Vishnu is pleased to have you here. Vishnu is pleased to present global premiere of new product from VS Industries.’
A translator in a grey suit relayed his words in Japanese to the gaggle of grey-suited men and women.
‘Vishnu gives you the VS100R.’
The gathered representatives gasped as the device was unveiled: a small rounded pyramid, entirely chrome, floating a few inches above the cream plinth. Blue lights from above flashed like shards of diamond as it spun gently.
The representatives examined their specification charts on clipboards. One spoke to the translator, who turned to Vishnu.
‘He say, this device very impressive …’
‘Hai, hai,’ all the reporters nodded vigorously.
‘…but what does it do?’
There was a pause.
‘VS100R does everything. VS100R is navigational tool for life. VS100R revolutionises networking. VS100R has wi-fi.’
There was muttering amongst the assembled representatives as the translator spoke. He nervously turned back to Vishnu’s seated form. ‘They require more explanation. Please explain more details.’
Vishnu’s shades flashed angry shades of red. ‘Vishnu does not need to explain VS Industries’ latest innovation! Does Van Gogh explain his sunflowers? Does that tramp Tracey Emin explain her “art”?’
Beep beep beep.
Vishnu raised a blue arm to see the flashing chrome bracelet.
‘Vishnu will take momentary break. Vishnu hopes politely that upon his return you are more inclined to buy his products.’
The translator opened his mouth to speak, but Vishnu was gone.
Far away, on a deserted Australian beach…
Two bronzed young men lay with surfboards under a cluster of palm trees, each puffing on a roll-up. A tiny breeze blew their smoke down the beach.
‘That was totally a giant turtle we saw out there.’
A big wave rolled in, crashing down the sloping sand in front of them.
‘Like, I love this man. Being at one with like … nature.’
Beep beep beep.
Blinking, David looked at the red flashing bracelet with flecks of the same colour in his eyes.
‘Dude, what’s up?’
‘Shit dude, I got work.’
The Australian dragged himself up, his face a picture of utter confusion under his blonde dreadlocks.
‘Dude, you have like … a job?’
But there was no-one there.
Far away, at a Tunisian market stall…
‘So are these eggs any good?’
‘The best! High quality Corsican eggs!’
‘No wait, you said you got them from Palermo for eight cents each.’
‘No,’ said the stranger, ‘I buy them from Corsica at four and a half cents each, and sell them under an assumed name in Cairo for eight cents each.’
The trader scratched his head under the shade of the awning, children running past and tourists haggling at the next stall. It was another hot dry day, and this stranger was trying his patience.
‘So what happens in Palermo?’
‘They’re sent by train from Albania to get cleaned for 1 cent apiece.’
‘Like I said, then I sell them in Marrakesh for six cents each, and buy them back at seven cents apiece.’
‘So how do you make a profit then?’
Mohammed sighed in frustration. ‘Look, it’s quite simple. I buy eggs in Palermo for three cents each and fly them to the Khartoum markets to sell them at four cents each, before buying them back in Damascus at five and a half cents and shipping them to Carcassonne for cleaning for a cent and a half, and buying them under an assumed name in Tripoli for seven cents so I can sell them to you for 6 and a quarter. Now do you want these eggs or not?’
Beep beep beep.
Mohammed stared at the chrome bracelet. ‘Oh no…’
The old trader stroked his coarse beard thoughtfully. ‘To be honest mister, I don’t think your economics stacks up.’
But he was gone.
‘What is it this time?’ said Buddha, a frown on his chubby little face. The All-Stars sat round the central table on their spaceship Gaia’s galley. ‘I’ve got 600,000 gold, I’m a level 37 mage, I’ve nearly unlocked the secret of Mishkronia and I get pulled up here.’
‘Vishnu was in middle of big technology conference,’ monotoned Vishnu, his wraparound shades flashing angrily. ‘Vishnu keen to make sale to Asian markets.’
‘My apologies gentlemen,’ cooed the ship’s computer Vivian. ‘You know I have no control over when peril strikes the world of men.’
‘Yeah guys,’ said David, puffing on his marijuana joint. ‘Just, like, chill out. Like.’
‘Chill out?’ snapped Mohammed. ‘Chill out? I’m in the middle of a key business deal that could revolutionise the whole of the African continent…’
‘Huh, could,’ mumbled Buddha.
‘...and I get called out for something that could probably be left to Interpol!’
‘Ha, those monkeys,’ chuckled Jesus.
‘Hey man, they’re good guys, like, give them a break.’
‘A giant squid is attacking New York city,’ said Vivian.
There was a brief silence. Buddha’s rolls of eyebrow-fat creased back into a frown.
‘A giant squid?’
‘I’ve seen giant squid. They’re like, 40 feet long.’
‘Yeah and they can’t even walk on land.’
‘Dude, like, use the metric system,’ protested David quietly.
‘David, the metric system’s great, but now’s not the time,’ said Jesus. ‘Vivian, how can a giant squid attack a city?’
‘My apologies gentlemen,’ cooed Vivian, ‘my vocabulary circuits are never perfect. This is by human terms, a giant squid. It’s 300 metres tall.’
A longer silence came down.
‘Now that’s the metric system.’
‘What does she mean “tall”? Since when are squid “tall”?’
Video monitors flashed into life all around them, depicting a giant pink-white fleshy mass amongst the skyscrapers of New York.
‘Vishnu estimates 300 metres is approximately 0.6 Empire State Buildings tall.’
‘Thanks for that, Robo-god.’
‘Vivian!’ announced Buddha, jabbing a pudgy arm in the air. ‘Get us to New York! And step on it!’
Vivian pulled the ship Gaia to a sharp halt just off Manhattan Island, leaving Jesus splayed against the cockpit window.
‘Dude, that’s like, what seatbelts are for.’
‘Thanks for reminding me,’ gurgled Jesus, lips suckered against the glass.
‘Vishnu suggests there is nothing cool about not wearing a seatbelt.’
‘Yeah man,’ agreed Buddha, ‘even Mohammed wears his seatbelt, and he’s the most uptight guy ever.’
‘Yes!’ declared Mohammed. ‘I dislike your derogatory remarks and I may behead you later, but your support for seatbelts is to be commended!’
Buddha laughed heartily. ‘Oh Mohammed, I love it when you get angry. You know I just like to wind you up.’
Vishnu’s shades flashed. ‘Vishnu believes a large piece of—’
A crash rocked the ship, sending the All-Stars flying against the wall.
‘Gentlemen, can I please remind you of the colossal squid hurling pieces of skyscraper around?’
‘Like, dude, colossal squid is a species too.’
‘So how big is 300 metres anyway?’
They looked at Jesus. He shrugged. ‘Let’s get a proper look at this thing.’
David peered over the handrail at the crashing, flailing behemoth not-so-far below, thrashing against the skyscrapers. It let out a stomach-churning roar.
‘Man that thing is big!’ exclaimed Mohammed. ‘I haven’t seen something that big since Biblical times.’
‘What? There was nothing that big 2000 years ago,’ said Buddha, hovering back by the balcony’s doorway. ‘I was there!’
‘You didn’t live in Biblical times, Buddha,’ mused Jesus, looking down through a pair of huge binoculars. ‘They were heady days. Just because you’ve been around for 2500 years doesn’t mean you lived in Biblical times.’
Buddha looked over to David, open-mouthed in protest, but David just nodded.
‘He’s right.’ David’s eyes glazed over, as he stared into the distance. ‘You didn’t see what we saw, man. No-one saw what we saw.’
‘Where do you think it came from?’ pondered Jesus.
‘Dude, seriously?’ puffed David. ‘Like, the sea?’
‘Can I go back inside now?’ They looked to see Buddha sweating nervously, one foot inside the doorway. ‘You all know I don’t like heights.’
‘Buddha, is this a team effort or a go-home-and-cry effort?’
‘Vishnu suggests you fear not, friend Buddha,’ intoned Vishnu. ‘Gaia’s viewing platform was reinforced to take any weight, even yours.’ The others giggled.
‘Pfft, yeah besides it’s Buddha, he’d bounce anyway.’
‘That was rude and I find it objectionable.’
‘So how do we kill it?’
Mohammed grinned. ‘However the hell we like! By which I mean, lasers.’
The heroes all turned excitedly.
‘Yes I’m using the laser. And please, no cheesy jokes about calamari.’
‘Oh come on,’ protested Buddha. ‘How many jokes about squids and lasers are there that don’t involve calamari?’
‘Vishnu suggests first one to the laser gets to fire it.’
‘Okay I’ve got a lock…’ mumbled Jesus, staring at the blinking cursor on the screen.
‘Vishnu suggests you stop hunching like that to prevent bad posture.’
‘Vishnu suggests even the supposed son of god is not immune from back problems in later life.’
‘I am 2000 years old and you are not my mum.’
‘Fire the laser dude!’ urged David excitedly. The crosshairs blinked invitingly over the monster.
‘Okay, fire!’ yelled Jesus, possibly a little too loudly.
A vast beam of blue light shot from the spaceship and hit the beast, turning parts of its flesh blue and forming huge ice crystals.
‘What was that?’ cried Mohammed. ‘You fired the freeze ray!’
‘Oh not again,’ muttered David.
Jesus blinked. ‘I thought the laser was control plus L?’
‘Noooo, it’s control shift L.’
‘Here let me do it.’
‘You? I’m way better than all of you with the laser.’
‘Guys, guys!’ shouted Jesus, batting them away from the controls. ‘It’s a big squid. We can take it in turns like mature adults. Right?’
They mumbled agreement.
‘Right then. Fire! Zzzzzzap! Kazam! In your face, squid!’
This time a bright red beam shone instead, burning the air and bringing a loud, painful roar from the squid.
‘Remind me to get this thing updated,’ said Jesus. ‘Multi-billion dollar spaceship and we’ve still got the interface of a ZX Spectrum.’
‘Huh, something else that’s from Biblical times,’ muttered Buddha sourly.
‘Why is it always New York?’ wondered Jesus loudly, swapping the seat with Buddha. ‘Always. All the time. New York.’
‘Good point man,’ mused David. ‘You remember the giant robot? And those aliens, jeeeez.’
‘Fire! Shazam!’ yelled Buddha excitedly, bringing another bellow from the squid.
‘Vishnu agrees. There are plenty more significant urban centres those aliens could have attacked, yet somehow they chose Lower Manhattan. It does not make sense.’
‘Okay my turn, my turn!’ snapped Mohammed, ejecting Buddha from the chair.
‘I have detected a non-biological artefact on the mega-giant-huge-massive squid,’ buzzed Vivian through the ship’s speakers.
‘Hey she’s right!’ called Jesus, pointing wildly at another large screen. ‘It’s got a massive metal plate on it.’
‘Aw come on,’ snapped Mohammed. ‘Do I get a go or not?’
The view did indeed show a shiny chrome plate behind the creature’s eye, stamped into its vast mantle. A big red light flashed on and off.
‘This squid is no ordinary squid,’ mused Vishnu.
David stared at him with bloodshot eyes. ‘Dude, like, were you there for the whole giant-colossal conversation?’
‘It’s a remote-controlled squid!’ squeaked Buddha.
‘So,’ said Mohammed, enjoying the swivel action of the control chair, ‘all we need to do is pulverise that metal plate, and shoo the thing back into the sea? Right?’
‘Vishnu agrees, but suggests you hand over the laser to him. This requires someone who can actually shoot.’
‘Oh whatever,’ grinned Mohammed, zooming in on the screen. The crosshairs came to rest on the squid’s giant implant. ‘Kazam!’
The red beam blasted upon the squid, charring and melting the metal; the huge bulb shattered, dropping glass to the street far below.
The squid paused in mid-flail, blinking its vast eyes slowly. Its tentacles withdrew, dropping the various bits of concrete and detritus, and it let out a low mournful mooooaaan.
Then it drew itself together, and dragged its bulk back through the streets to the harbour, and vanished into the dark waters with a large splash.
‘Congratulations gentlemen,’ cooed Vivian, ‘the squid appears to have been vanquished. You have saved New York City.’
‘So that’s it then?’
‘Well, there is as always the small matter of reconstruction in the post-disaster zone…’ mumbled Vivian sulkily, ignored as usual.
‘Man, this adventure was really easy.’
‘Yeah that’s one of the quickest ones yet.’
‘We’ve been doing this for years, and yet somehow this has felt like … an introduction.’
‘For who? About what?’
‘Vishnu has the strange feeling we will see this squid again.’
‘Whatever,’ said Buddha dismissively, ‘I’ve got a MMORPG to get back to.’
‘And proud,’ he beamed. ‘Come on, let’s go. Who’s going to sign out?’
There was a pause.
‘I did it last time.’
‘Vishnu finds it awkward and cheesy.’
‘Okay, okay, I’ll say it,’ said Jesus. ‘But only because someone has to. See you all next time … on JESUS AND THE ALL-STARS!’
More short stories at jezkemp.co.uk under "Short Stories" :)