April 03, 2008

point A

Greg’s favourite thing to do, he said, was to take much more mandy than I

could’ve managed, lean against the (white) wall of his flat, and gradually

slide to the floor, chain-smoking and rushing his nuts off. That doesn’t

mean Greg had nothing else to him. But he could certainly handle, and

enjoy, things I couldn’t. He’d bomb this initial mandy in the

mid-afternoon, and then gum dabs of it through the evening, and I suppose

he could’ve stayed high for days, if he’d been diagnosed with some

terminal illness and been told he had a fortnight to live, he’d’ve

probably buzzed right through it, ending up in the morning-afterlife.

It was this conversation – what I could hear of it over the general

messy sound of Birmingham, which sounds like couples kissing and old men

farting and dumb kids starting fights and that kind of Decemberist

folk-with-kick that Mr. Bones and the Dreamers do – this was Point A.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to say why, but I can tell without a

shadow of a doubt that this is where it all started.

Not that it was a typical night in my life, because it wasn’t that, it

was just a good one, a great one, for a lot of people, I know, and a lot

of people I know, this is a much more regular experience than it is for

me, seeing the happening djs and taking the love drugs. Still it can

happen to almost anyone, their hearts and their minds can change and

mandy’s always core to it as far as I can see, the author of our

confessions and strained sobriety, and this is the taste it lends to water

when it is dissolved in it and sipped by skinny girls. So like everything

ever, this begins with girls, though not one girl in particular, though

there was the problem of my ex-girlfriend, but she was several postcodes

away in her cold London room, so what could I do? Too ugly to fuck around

and to afraid of loneliness to get a hobby.


I just made the mistake of thinking aloud.

“I’m fine, I’m fine, sorry, just – buzzing, you know?”

“Yeah man.”

“I’m just gonna... sit here for a while,” with my head in my hands, “with

my head... in my hands.” I trailed off. New vibrations shook the wooden

floor beneath me. Footsteps, of Dave’s big feet in flat soles.

“Alrigh-ight mate?”

“Yeah – ” in my brain, I puked my guts out, “just feeling a bit –

overwhelmed,” goddamit I am so shit with drugs. I took my phone from out

of my pocket. I began to compose a message to Keiran from Mr. Bones and

the Dreamers. Dave caught my eyes.

“You need. To. Rave. Trust me on this. Used to be me, everytime, I would

just sit there rushing like hell, getting a bit – depressed.”

What do I say? My body is at odds with my mind?

“Come dance, may-ate.”

I finished the message, that asked him for salvation. He didn’t live too

far away, it was just round the corner that I’d seen them play and just

round the corner from him, but I’ve taken to reducing even

the biggest cities to only their centres and suburbs. I lifted my lead

legs and placed my feet on the slats. The whole world shook. I was


March 11, 2008

Kaplan's Korner

Writing about web page http://yolatengo.com/kaplanskorner.html

Yo La Tengo are, on and off, my favourite band; partly it's the attitude and not just the music. Therefore you should probably be watching this video:


March 08, 2008

Correspondence with the Books

Hey Ben,

Well, i've always had a love/hate relationship with language, written and

on the one hand it seems to fail miserably at capturing the essence of an
experience, such as the 'real' sound of something, or the way light is
working at a particular moment. it's a finger pointing to the moon in
that respect, and i think it's important for a culture to recognize the
difference between the finger and the moon.

on the other hand, working with language as we've done has been a meaning
making activity as well. language excels at generating abstract
possibilities, new combinations of ideas that at their best can help
dissolve idiomatic thinking and push a culture forward. and that can have
very real effects in the non-literary world as the learning moves from
conscious to subconscious.

good luck with your paper,


On Fri, February 29, 2008 8:38 am, Mr B R Osborn wrote:

> Dear Nick and Paul,
> I'm in my first year of an undergraduate course in English Literature at
> Warwick University, England. I was recently introduced to your music by a
> friend from New York, who bought me a copy of 'Lost and Safe'.
> I'm just beginning work on an essay for my course, the title is a
> quotation from Greenblatt's 'Touching the Real'; 'will reality come when
> it is called?', and the essay is about whether, and how, literature
> represents and relates to reality, that is, the non-literary world. When I
> saw this question I thought immediately of 'Be Good to Them Always', the
> use of found sounds and sampling not as a kind of peripheral to the song
> but as the basis of the composition; this is not real life, this is
> aleatoric television... I would say that you take directly from other
> sources, you build your music and poetry out of quotations, contained
> within a strong sense of aesthetic form.
> I thought I might as well try and get your opinions on this, not
> neccesarily to help my essay (after all, it's not really the intention of
> the artist that is important, just as Alan Watts didn't know that his
> voice would make such an interesting compositional device...), but because
> I'd be really interested to know what you thought.
> Well, actually it would help my essay a lot.
> Thanks,
> Ben

March 04, 2008

welcome to the whalesong (Music Mailout)

Writing about web page http://www.myspace.com/sleepingpassengers

There is now a new band, THE SLEEPING PASSENGERS I think, or possibly SLEEPING PASSENGERS, or possibly FEIJOADA, or FEIJOADA AND THE SLEEPING PASSENGERS... not sure.

Anyway, I wrote a song, and recorded it (badly) on Sunday night, based on going to the Chumbye or however you spell it gig, which was obviously all in Spanish, and my attempt to understand what they were saying led me to sing along with the words WELCOME TO THE WHALESONG.

I am convinced that if I ever write anything of any value it will be because of this technique, of misheard words. I might start running my life around them. In the spirit of this style, I googled "WELCOME TO THE WHALESONG" and found this fantastic website:


You can click on the notes or use your computer's keyboard, and make your own whalesong. Obviously it mostly sounds pretty horrific, but it is such a brilliant idea. If anyone actually reads this, goes to that website, and does anything cool with it, please let me know, send me soundfiles etc... Also anything else you do with, or find out about, whalesongs, I would really love to hear about.

And also, if you'd like to be part of the SLEEPING PASSENGERS artwork, please send me photos of sleeping passengers. If they're staged, make it obvious, that will be cooler.

To listen to the song go here: www.myspace.com/sleepingpassengers ... please do let me know what you think.

x Ben


February 24, 2008

chaos theory

surely there is an equation for how I am doing at the moment, and surely it is better that I don't know it.

February 17, 2008


  I dreamt of a coal mine. My tongue was black with soot. When I woke up, I drank two glasses of water in a row, barely stopping for air, but my tongue still felt dry with the stuff. It was -4 outside, cold for this time of year; I had woken early, before dawn.

Several friends called during the day, offering their condolences. I shivered down the telephone as my friend from New York sympathised.

‘Is it cold in New York?’ I said, realising that I felt cold.

‘It’s chilly. I’m wearing a jacket.’

Around midday, the loneliness got to me. I began craving strange foods. ‘All I want to do,’ I said to myself, ‘is sit around in my underwear and eat Lego.’ I wasn’t used to this kind of loneliness. It was a complicated feeling, but there wasn’t much to it. My mouth still tasted of soot.

The cupboard was bare. I opened the cupboard because I wanted to look at empty space. Outside, the clouds had just begun to lift. A bright light shone on the backs of the railings across the road, and their shadows looked like a zebra-crossing.

Earlier, my friend had said, ‘Don’t worry. There are a lot of people rooting for you.’ Thinking about that made me feel kind of good, but it was confusing, I had never realised how complicated loneliness was. My eyes kept closing, all I wanted was to go to bed and wake up two days ago, before all of this had happened, but I knew that if I fell asleep I would dream of the coal mine and wake up tasting soot again.

February 12, 2008


More Sand

‘Oo-dee-lally, I seen nothing like that before.’

  I couldn’t enlighten Fraser, having never fired a gun before that moment; I was acutely aware of a hot pain in my wrist that felt ready to spread. Gorman chirped up with an expression I’m sure he’d been brewing for weeks,

‘Not the sharpest dick in the Kleenex are ya boss?’

  But all I heard, as ever, was a metallic grunt like an electric pencil-sharpener churning up a biro, and Fraser kindly nudged him below the ribs for me, making him spring up elastically.

A smoking hole now pierced the piled sand. Whatever had been there had left twin trails like a bicycle dragged along on its side, but lazily and with no certain direction, despite the fact that it had moved fast enough to vanish over the horizon in the few seconds it had taken for the dust to settle.

‘Why’d you shoot, Georgie-boy?’ Fraser asked, gently, ‘I’m glad you did it, not saying otherwise, but what made you?’

The whole situation had twisted into a paper ball in my head. I swore to high heaven, dropped the revolver and gripped my wrist.

‘Hurts like a caesarean, don’t it?’

‘Sweet merciful fuck, Gorman, can’t you save your dick-slit sayings for special occasions?’ The side of Fraser’s heel met the back of Gorman’s knee with a deeply satisfying thud, and the tall man crumpled. ‘I really hope you don’t go paying this guy, George.’

‘He does his job,’ I said in George’s voice, staring down at hands that had never held a book before, that had probably never held a pen either.

Fraser gazed pitilessly at Gorman’s half-kneel. ‘You never fired no gun,’ he spat, ‘and you never had no caesarean.’ Gorman stirred like a sleeper and rose to his feet.

I winced, unfamiliar skin bunching over my weak eyes.

‘It’s fine now. Just a shock.’

A shock! Why did I get off here? This was definitely not my stop. My feet were too big for my legs, a problem exacerbated by the rapid swelling process that they were undergoing. My bones were brittle and useless, barely held together by the strings of my muscles. I was going to have to use my brain before it had resigned itself to the confines of George’s fence-builder cranium. It was like being a Shakespearean actor who’d been miscast as one of the Three Stooges. Who know when the train would come back this way? It seemed a strange enough route to take anyway – what if they discontinued it, concluding that it wasn’t worth the cost of the fuel?

‘Let’s get moving.’

Gorman looked at me with something like friendship in his eyes. ‘Now you’re talking smart, George. Let’s get out of it. If that thing comes back here, we’re...’


Loyal as ever, Fraser turned me. ‘No offense, Georgie,’ he said, ‘but if that thing comes back – well, the speed it was going at, it won’t have any trouble catching up with us.’ He paused. ‘Not that I’ve got a better idea...’

I wondered if Fraser was his Christian or surname. ‘We don’t get out of it, chaps,’ I said, ‘we’re going to go after it.’

They slumped towards the horses without protest. Gorman mouthed the word ‘screwcifered,’ silently memorising it for his collection.

We followed the tracks until dark. The sand had begun to resemble snow in the weird green moonlight, though a little colder than I remember snow as being, when I finally let my companions stop. My peripherals were full of Fraser’s unspoken concern about our water supply. These fucking practicalities. I could smell water not too far away, but I couldn’t remember whether that was a natural sense, so I didn’t voice it. Fraser removed the remaining fence-poles from beneath the saddle and arranged them carefully beside the fire. Gorman poured canned food into a dirty saucepan and dangled it over the flames, savouring an aroma that made me retch uncontrollably.

‘Alright, George?’ Fraser’s hand was on the small of my back immediately.

Gorman seemed to be contemplating the correct phrase, but Fraser glared at him. ‘Don’t even think it, you lanky twat.’

‘What’re you getting at me for? It’s not my fault he’s about to throw a flem shape – ’

‘Gorman, will you shut your god damned face before I do something you’ll regret.’

‘Hands off me!’ I hissed suddenly. Shit, shit, control yourself, you idiot!

‘What’s that?’ Fraser’s hand didn’t move, but his concern had turned to confusion.

Shut up, shut up. I had grown so unused to discomfort.

‘Take it easy now, George.’ He wandered back to the horses to unpack the blankets. I could feel the depression his hand had left on my back gradually being refilled.

  We consumed our food in near-silence, and retired immediately afterward.

  By dawn I had lost hope. I was losing the fight with George’s body and mind. Something drastic would have to be done, while there was still time, before I became completely limited.

I walked over to Fraser’s sleeping form first. He screamed only briefly, and was not loud enough to wake Gorman. I placed my disintegrating foot over his face; the grains ran down into his eye sockets, coating the eyeballs with brown sludge which reached the brain in a matter of seconds. His body began to spasm unpleasantly, until finally I reached his heart and our pulses became one. I wondered for a moment, with all his misplaced affection for George, whether this wasn’t exactly what he would have wanted.

Gorman was more difficult. He made the mistake of waking up moments before I reached him. What he saw moving towards him must have been beyond his imagination, the limitations of which I became aware of in the next few minutes as I placed a blustering hand on his face. Only bad luck, on his part, I thought, to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. He certainly didn’t ask for this.

With the correct number of legs at last, I followed the sand.

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