Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Friday, 13 July 2018

Life Choice

I have two choices, he tells me.  I can spend the rest of my life in prison, or I can go free.
That’s no choice, I hear you say.  Well, it is slightly more complicated than it seems.  Let me explain.
I’m sitting in a cell.  An FBI guy is facing me, sitting on a chair.  I’m sitting on what passes for a bed, but is nothing more than a raised concrete platform with a really terrible, cheap foam mattress and a couple of sheets.

Apparently, after I was thrown out of the bar for singing, again, and being sick in the ashtray – again, these guys picked me up.

Everything up to the point in which the FBI got involved – last night - in my life, has been pretty normal.  I went to school, I had a shit time, I drank to forget, I got a shit job in an IT department in a paper company, I hate the people I work with, I drink to excess every weekend, I clean up on Sunday, and hit the nine to five hate-fest Monday to Friday.

I have no friends – my friends are the heroes I read about in comics, and the heroes I create in the comic strips I make and upload to a nerdy website for people like me.  Nothing extraordinary.  Well, except for one thing.  My comic strips are not about flying, caped, iron suit clad narcissists who fight women in cat suits or men who want to rule the world, no.  My heroes are people who live normal lives, in American suburbia, but are not American.  They are spies.  Not from one particular country, but from countries around the world, and they outwit and fight each other for secrets or to stop the rising tide of different menaces such as fascism, imperialism, corporations, dictators or apathy.  I get a lot of praise for these comics.  In fact my name, or comic creator name, Ozark, is pretty well known in my community.  Which is of course, online.  All my friends are online.  And that’s how I like it.  Meat friends are jerks.  They really don’t exist.  The wonder of this thing called the internet is that it has brought people like me together with people like me who also hate meat friends. 

I have no family.  Well, I do, but I haven’t seen them for twenty years.  We lost touch, on purpose which came as a relief to both parties, especially when I discovered drink, marijuana and bars and realised I didn’t have to put up with their crappy shitty small-town walnut sized brains.  By the way, in no part of this I will tell you I am nice.  I’m not.  I’m a jerk.  But hey, I like me.

I rarely have girlfriends.  At the moment I don’t have one.  The last one left me over a year ago and lives somewhere up state with her night class teacher.  I sometimes meet a girl in a bar, get drunk with her, sleep with her and never see her again.  In actual fact, that is a rare occurrence, but has happened. Once or twice.

It sounds really shit, doesn’t it?  The thing is, I love my life.  I love my days hiding behind my desk in work, barking at idiots who don’t know how to ctrl alt esc.  I love getting home and cooking something new, exotic and hot, and settling down in front of my screens and chatting to other avatars and comic fans.  I have a few plots of land in Second Life, and I game like the best fucker there is.  That best fucker is me… because I know most Triple A’s like the back of my hand.

None of this is prison material, right? 


It isn’t. 

I’ve done nothing. 

I’m clean. 

Me, Ozark.  The only crime I have ever committed is to buy a second hand copy of the British comic 2000AD 1990’s “Sex Issue,” which is just bad and every nerd wants to pretend to forget, but all own.
Only, that’s not what I am being told.  I have a choice, I am told.  I can spend the rest of my life continuing to do all of these things, or I can spend a lot of it in prison… or something.  The something hasn’t been explained, but will be said,  he says, if I make my choice.

Its an easy choice, no? 

No.  It isn’t.

Ozark creates comics.  Ozark is me.  I script them, draw and colour them, and upload them for other creators and nerdy readers to pick them apart.  That’s what I thought I was sure of.  Its what I do sober, because if I ever attempt to write or draw drunk, I really can’t.

I thought I was sure of that part.  The drink part, well that’s the part I thought might be the difficulty, because I have been known to black out and wake up in all sorts of places.  Sleeping on top of walls, in doorways, in my bed… funnily enough never in the bed of anyone else.  Always my bed, or some shitty place I’ve managed to crawl in to on my way home from whatever bar has gotten tired of my whine, or rant or song.

Only it isn’t the drunk part of my life that has been the problem.  It has been the sober, creative part.  And that’s part of this strange deal. If I choose to walk free, I lose the creative comics part.  I won’t have the creativity to create the comics I have been creating for twenty years.  If I choose to go to jail, they will cease to exist.  They will literally be ripped from the internet and locked away, after they have been used as evidence against me, or something.

Apparently, he says,  I have been murdering people for twenty or so years.  This comes as a surprise to me.  I really don’t recall ever murdering anyone.  The bigger surprise is that there is a lot of stuff I can’t remember.  Years of stuff.  People, places and events.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they told me that I had some sort of mental illness that means I don’t remember short periods where I go out, hunt down some lonely asshole and rip them apart or something.  But no, that’s not the sort of crime I have committed.

Apparently, I have been a spy.  I have been living within a community of spies and I have been stealing American secrets and killing American spies, for a foreign country. 

This is news to me.  This FBI jerk across the room from me stares into my eyes and asks me, “What’s it going to be, boy?  Prison or freedom?”

This is a huge decision. 

I could lose everything I am.  Every memory I own now, will disappear.  And I will languish in a prison, or I can continue this existence and drink, draw and hate in the way I have come to love over the past lifetime.

Only apparently, I haven’t.  Because I am a spy.  I have murdered and stolen and had adventures that have seen me travel the world, prevent wars, start wars, and marry and have kids and drive amazing cars and boats and planes.  I have met rock stars, Presidents and Queens, and loved and made love to,  Presidents, Queens and Rock stars.

Just like my comics.  Only, my comics apparently really don’t exist.  They exist only in my head at this present moment in time.  Because this is what my Government gave me as a failsafe.  I’m programmed to become this person, this Ozark who I feel I have been all my life if I am caught.  All the memories I have, of this lifestyle I have grown to love – in the past 24 hours – has been pre-programmed and executed by me when the FBI were on my trail.  The comics I remember uploading are actually my life.  Coded.  I’ve literally been me for 24 hours, he says.

And the FBI are being kind.  They are offering me the chance to live on as Ozark, or hack my brain and reinstate my life, which will mean jail.

They don’t need me to suffer, he says.  The spy ring was smashed.  Others I knew, including my wife have made this choice, he says.  She will either go to jail or live whatever nondescript life that was pre-programmed into her head and set up by my government for her to live. And the American Government, who just want the spy ring stopped, have no problem with jerks living out boring, drunken, grey lives, he says.

Only I am the key.  If I wake up, all will be woken.  And all will go to jail for espionage.  My Government will disown me and the others, and we will be left with nothing only the memories of our real lives.  The colourful lives that are at this moment on pages in my head that say they are on the internet.

To live, or to be Ozark.  So he says.  Is there someone behind that glass laughing at me?

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Being Wrong...

Admitting you were wrong is pretty difficult, especially when society is so judgemental and in turn individuals at a personal level feel judged by friends, family and peers. So, I'm going to write a wee series of blogs on “when I've been wrong.” Please, judge me all you like. I'm 52 and know I've made mistakes. Many. I've said shit things, thought shit things, done shit things and been an unbearable shit to some people. Not all the time, I don't think, but I'm going to offer apologies to those I've hurt, or criticised when I have been wrong. I can't ask for forgiveness, and I suppose, on one level, I don't want it, because being wrong has helped me learn, because when people shout an alternative world view at you when you are shouting your view, it does sometimes register.

I perceive myself as politically left, and I think if anything, the political left should be about one thing- analysing society, and perhaps shifting their world view as well as others, in order to stop society sliding into a massive shit hole of creeping Conservative right wing inequalities. Challenging our own view should not be seen as confrontation, but should be welcomed. We should be open to it. The world can only get better if we keep an open mind to change both personally and societally.

Anyway, my first apology is not about politics, well, partly so, but only partly. Though that will come I'm sure. My first apology is about music, and at a guess as I write more of these, my apologies will be about other aspects and choices regarding music.

  • Paula, I wasn't wrong about Joy Division, but perhaps neither were you.-

Teenage boys can be introspective en extremis. I was no different to many others, and as I discovered music, I thought, “I'd love to share this feeling, this deep, emotion, with other people,” so the stereo was cranked up in the bedroom and when I went to Paula's house, I brought my Joy Division tapes with me. Unknown Pleasures on one side, with a few fillers like Japan’s “Night Porter, “ and then their other album, “Closer, “ on the other side with a few fillers like “Love will tear us apart,” “These Days,” and The Beatles “Let it Be,” sang by St Paul's boys choir.

Cheery, and what every girlfriend would love.

Paula wrote all over the cassette, “boring! Snore..!” and other less than enthusiastic words. Although she was of course wrong, it made me think that perhaps my perspective on music might not be everyone's. What touched me, didn't always register with other people's life experiences.

My music taste did develop, though Joy Division and New Order stayed with me. As I became more aware of what went on outside me, I began to love music that dealt with political themes. The Fun Boy Three, and “The More that I see,” about Northern Ireland, The Police “Invisible Sun,” about the same theme, and then stadium music that dealt with Steve Biko, Mandela, Martin Luther King, poverty, starvation etc became the big theme of the eighties and selfish, introspection was out. And I loved to find the roots of the music I loved, the influences etc, so I became a fan of New York punk, and in turn, the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, Patti Smith and Western US pre punk rock bands like The Doors. I loved the music that influenced my modern day heroes, Echo and the Bunnymen and other northern English bands; The Associates, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and other Scottish bands.

And here comes the main  apology.

  • I wasn't entirely right about The Cure, Sharon and Toby. I won't apologise for not worshipping the ground Morrissey soiled, but I will apologise for not fully appreciating Smith’s introspection, musical talent and actually laying out his problems on vinyl.

Morrissey did write some scathing political songs in the eighties, but his own reordering of his thoughts have now set him firmly in the category Rock against Racism was set up to counter. I bought The Smiths first album, and although I did like some tracks on it, that was it. The Smiths to me, created some good songs, sometimes in spite of Morrissey’s whiney, “look at me, I'm so your new Dylan, Byron hero thing that the artistic press seek every ten years or so.” Some amazing, sparing singles. Johnny Marr and the others made The Smiths. Morrissey in my opinion, made them unfollowable.

Smith, at a glance, seemed the same. And for me, again, there were songs I liked. But my mistake was I mistook his introspection and shyness as a Byronic feyness ala Morrissey. I appreciate now, I was wrong.

My other gripe about Smith and his music persona, “The Cure,” was that he seemed to follow groups, and imitate them. I remember reading an interview with him in which he said his favourite track was Joy Division’s The Eternal. So, I started hearing The Eternal in everything he did, and his song The Walk, was quite obviously his take on New Order’s “Blue Monday.” Having said all of that, one of my favourite tapes I bought during the eighties was a “best of” The Cure’s early stuff. (I bought stuff on tape I thought was disposable - if I wanted a lasting copy, I bought vinyl and taped the vinyl). I wasn't wrong in his listening to good stuff and using some of the same techniques, but I was wrong to make this something to diss what was amazing stuff, almost entirely created by Smith himself. Smith, I realise, was a magpie. While his peers applied modern musical instrumentation to what they learned from The Velvet Underground, Bowie, The, Doors, The MC5, unlike his peers, he also picked out what he liked about what his peers were inventing.

Listen to Disintegration and you'll hear The Bunnymen, New, Order, Bowie, the anthemic stadium sound of the time, and even classical influences. But what is clear is it is about Smith, his disintegration, his depression,, his realisation that the joyous, self conscious, certain world he inhabited in his teens and twenties were coming to an end. Friendships and the need to be in a gang, were less certain, but love and commitment and respect were. His emotions, unlike so much that was “indie”at the time, are layed out on this amazing construction.

And mental health, addiction and depression created a joyous, anthemic,beautiful piece of work I had dismissed as a copy.

Toby says this is late night listening. Perhaps. But the current heatwave, the claustrophobia of the heat and slowing down of life, makes this apt, appropriate.

Unlike those who found it at the time, it will remind me of the incredible weather of summer 2018. My memories of 1989 are of The Doors, Australian rock and crashing my dad's car driving to meet Sharon, one of The Cure’s greatest fans.