[Fiction] ACMA Attack

radio ACMA 2

Image by 600v on DeviantArt

“Shut it down! Shut it all down!”

Chelse burst into the tiny studio, arms waving wildly, a look of panic smeared across her normally calm features. Zed and Heather looked up from the equipment, surprised.

“Shut it down?” Heather asked. “But we’re nearly done for the day anyway. We’ve only got, what, ten minutes left to go?” Zed’s finger hovered uncertainly above the panel, a battered old Kreubsig 700 they’d bought third-hand from a junk dealer. Zed seemed anxious, but then, they always were. A legacy of a corporate past.

“Right bloody now! ACMA’s practically at the door!” Chelse shouted. Why weren’t they moving? 2PLY FM definitely did not have a license to do what they were doing. If ACMA – the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the broadcasting watchdog – caught them transmitting on an illegal channel, they’d not only confiscate the audio equipment they’d begged and borrowed over the past few years, but slap an injunction on them so fast it would make their heads spin. Hell, for all the talk that ACMA was a ‘toothless tiger’, Chelse knew better than most just how ruthless they could be. Just ask her Uncle Greg – if he ever made it out of prison.

Still, it seemed her urgency was getting through. Heather gave a terse nod and signalled Zed, who faded out the current song – Little Mix’s latest banger, Shout Out to My Ex – and flicked on the announcer’s mic. Heather remained cool and collected as she spoke into the cardioid, a picture of professionalism. She didn’t rush her words or stumble; it was important to maintain 2PLY FM’s brand even in the face of crisis.

“And that’s all for this afternoon. We’re ending a little early today, but tune in tomorrow for more fresh mixes and unsanctioned opinions from 10 till 2. I’m Hetch McKinnon on 2PLY FM saying: talk soon.” Heather nodded and Zed cut the signal, their pirate transmitter whirring strangely as it shut down. Like everything else in the room, it was old and failed constantly, but Chelse had managed to get it up and running again every time it refused to start. She might not have finished her physics PhD, but she’d still learned to navigate a circuit. Chelse spoke, flustered.

“Okay, the guy who called said a representative from ACMA’s due any moment to investigate a few complaints they’ve received from this neighbourhood. Obviously, someone’s ratted on us.” Heather’s face darkened.

“I’ll bet it was Mrs Logan. She never could mind her own business!”

“Look, pointing fingers at this stage isn’t going to help. Yes, it probably was Mrs Logan because she’s a nosy retiree who complains about everything, but it doesn’t matter. What we need to do is -”

The doorbell rang. Everybody froze, darting nervous glances at each other. Zed whimpered.

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[Fiction] Killing softly with sorghum


Image credit purple-grey-fox on DeviantArt

In a rural town that had broken its bread and bad habits, bread had finally broken them. Amidst arid plains and a burst of health-consciousness, the town of Gumtree Flats in the Northern Territory, Australia, had taken the plunge and switched over to the gluten-free life.

No more would wheat darken their tables at breakfast or dinner. Barley, rye and oats were tossed in the trash and their suppliers politely informed further deliveries would not be necessary. Grains were swept from the pantry and scoured from the supermarket in an attempt to root them out before their determination faltered and they thought better of their plan. Perhaps hardest of all, fridges were thrown open and their doughy ales and bitter, brooding brews disgorged to general lamentation; Holly Robbins was spotted wailing upon her lawn as her neighbor Drew solemnly poured her latest batch of Hotchkins’ Malt Special into the thirsty grass.

Grain was purged, with all the word implies.

Little Calvin Quinn, the two Quinn dads’ kid, marveled at the town’s anti-grain campaign with all the wonder that a six-year-old can muster.

“Look, Cal,” dad Brian said to him. “Everyone cares so much about your health that they’re chucking the grain so you don’t get sick!”

“Is that cause I’m a seal yak, dad?”

“A celiac, Cal. And yes! Isn’t it just swell of them?”

Of course, the true reason behind the grain purge was far different. A string of health-food ads on television had sparked concerns in the Gumtree Flats mayor’s office. Alarmed by the severe threat gluten posed to their longevity with scary things like gut inflammation and escalated intestinal permeability, Mayor Wrigley had called for a debate around a possible ban on the dangerous substance. Citizens from both sides had weighed in, arguing in circles until eventually, by some miracle, the town agreed to try it – just for a little while.

People streamed from the town hall that evening in chattering droves, but only one left in smug silence, smiling softly to herself.

She killed softly with sorghum.

Naturally, a substitute had to be procured – some of the residents of Gumtree Flats didn’t have much more pleasure in life than a good strong hunk of bread and a dark, cool draught out upon the patio. Sorghum was settled on as an alternative: a few farmers in the region already grew it, and it could be cheaply imported by some health-savvy suppliers who knew a sale when they saw one. Within a week, artisan sorghum beer was flowing at the taphouse and people began to joke that soon they’d go all the way and maybe be a vegan next month as well. There were even tentative, self-conscious jabs about gentrification and how it was really time Gumtree Flats got its own modern art gallery on the go.

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[Review] Nosferatutu or Bleeding at the Ballet


Tommy Bradson as the vampire Kevin

Griffin Theatre Company
Until 21st January

“Oh, go on! Play something sad! Play! We need music!”

A ballet dancer, clad in elaborate costume, takes the stage while the three-person orchestra starts in on the first haunting strains of Swan Lake. For a moment all is silently-amused peace while the cavalier dances his melodramatic way through the palace gardens, exaggeratedly miming out the scene. Then, the lights flash red – and the vampire strikes!

“Shit! Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. Why does this always happen when you go to the theatre, Kevin?”

Nosferatutu is part stand-up comedy routine, part performance dance routine, and part musical drama. Tommy Bradson plays the anxious, impulsive vampire Kevin, a poor soul who wishes he could just once enjoy a performance without jumping the performers and sucking their blood. The show isn’t over as the jam-splattered dancer topples, though, because Kevin is determined for the show to go on – even if he has to do it himself. Luckily for him, he manages to prevent the musicians and the tech crew from fleeing, and enlists Sheridan Harbridge – the usher who saw the audience in – as his reluctant co-performer.

This show is packed with energy and talent. Bradson’s Kevin never lets up for a moment, flitting from despairing, self-pitying lamentations to dizzying musical numbers to vaudeville-like comedy in the space of seconds. The audience is left in a state of perpetual laughter and excitement, because it is truly impossible to predict where he’ll take the show next. Even amidst the chaos, Bradson ensures we never lose sight of the core idea of Swan Lake as a comedy of errors performed by a very sad and lonely man (sorry, vampire) and a coerced usher.

What deserves particular mention are the vocal talents of both Bradson and Harbridge. Their voices are beautiful, both spanning the full range from deep thrumming bass to stunning soprano. Nosferatutu is packed full of spontaneous little numbers that, quite frankly, could form an impressive piece of musical theatre on their own.

So if an eternally-dying physical prop of a ballet dancer, a half-assed Swan Lake with some truly quality headgear (from jewel-encrusted swans to shaggy demon horns) and a nervous, wise-cracking vampire who just can’t stop tearing down the fourth wall sound like a recipe for a great night out, do not miss Nosferatutu. It’s bloody good!

[Poetry] a royal vizier in ladytown


Image credit: The Mash: Andersonville, Chicago

under blankets, untold stories fill the screen
we’re cuddled close to velveteen
(she smells faintly of onions)
implausible contortions of an old familiar tale

Ladytown looks nice this time of day

we didn’t have to go this way
up and down a street filled with salons and antiques
some cushy veggie eats
fluffy clothing stores less dear than home

Ladytown has parapets
a patio too many –
one patio is too many for castles such as these

we will live here, you and i + our little son
calcifer! lord of fire!
king of sinks

friendly dyed-hair waiter brings the drinks

sweet Ladytown brings friends and big v i b r a t i o n s
a tiptoe past a tulip station
full of soft pink phalluses

a song is just a dick dressed in sheep’s clothing

[Personal fiction] Tracheal burn



Image credit: Fuck You by Kathe Burkhart (1984)

The jagged looks get stuck in your throat after a while. It’s the passive degradation as you’re walking down the street, keeping your head high and trying to hang on to the warm feelings you earned in the mirror that morning. Four different outfits and a thirty minute debate between two indistinguishable sweaters until finally you could see yourself and smile.

It’s not even about ‘passing’ anymore, that nebulous, fucked-up dream-mare of people looking at you and ticking enough gender checkboxes that they’re at least confused rather than outraged about you. Forget about hiding that strong jawline they love praising when you’re in your man-mode, the bland grey disguise you use to ward off judgement for a day, become just another invisible denim ghost wandering the street and fading into the background.

Wow! You’re telling me I can get this button-up shirt in three different shades of dark blue? I’m overwhelmed with the choice. Please, this is too much for my rational man-mind, leave the risque fashion choices to the women. It’s all too hard for me. Remember to avert your eyes as you pass the lingerie shop in case people catch you looking and draw the wrong or right conclusions. What kind of pervert are you?

You’ve got to capture what self-confidence you can, because it drains away constantly, like water through the old ratty rubber plug in your bath. Constant attrition on the street, from your social media feeds, from the voices echoing in your head when you’re at your lowest. Throw your sliding scale out the window – there’s good days and bad days, divided not by a drifting moon but insensitive comments that follow no discernible pattern. You are always vulnerable: you are only safe cuddled up with your best friend in their little upstairs living room, taking refuge from a world outside that’s voted against your identity.

The jagged looks get stuck in your throat, and they hurt. They rip you up, but inside, where nobody can see it and your smile can stay on your face. It’s tracheal burn of the worst variety, like choking on an olive pit. You are too big for yourself, and you bulge at the seams.

[Fiction] Lord of the Liferings: All Aboard the Fellowship


Image credit Jamie Smith – inksnow.blogspot.com

All characters property of J.R.R. Tolkien.

“The world has changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the sand. I smell it in the salty air. Much that once was is now lost, for none now sail who remember it.

“It began with the forging of the great liferings. Three were given to the elves, immortal, wisest, and most buoyant of all beings. Seven to the Dwarf Lords, great miners who wouldn’t know the ocean from their aunt Nimli’s bathtub. And nine, nine rings were given to the race of men, who above all can’t swim without an instructor and years of intensive training. For within these liferings were bound…”

“Cut! Cut!” screamed Gríma Wormtongue, forgetting that the bullhorn he held magically amplified his voice many times. The resultant blast of sound had everybody clutching at their ears. One grip, a young orc named Bolg, was so startled he knocked the lighting rig he was adjusting into the ocean with a soft splash, where it promptly fizzed itself into oblivion.

Wormtongue winced, trying to calm the ringing in his own ears. “Sorry, sorry, everybody,” he said, more softly. “Stop the scene. And take better care of that equipment!” he barked at Bolg – half-heartedly, since he knew he was at fault. Moving the bullhorn aside, he shouted up at the lighthouse which loomed large above them all, in a far more deferential and nervous tone than before.

“What is it, my lord?” In response, a blinding beam of light shone down from the lighthouse, centering on Cate Blanchett, who lowered her script and shielded her eyes with a cloth-draped forearm. “Galadriel, lord?” The beam gestured angrily, jerking insistently and repeatedly to the left of where Cate stood, towards the waterline.

“Cate, go stand to the left a bit! That’s right, where the Dark Lord is pointing,” Wormtongue said. “Gorgol, how we doing on that lighting?”

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[Poetry] velveteen


Image credit thomahawk1234 on Deviant Art

there’s an eye up in that lighthouse
baleful and blistering
insisting on surveillance of our
most petty ephemera

what’s your aesthetic?
nailed to the wall in shifting existential crises
this trip holds no surprises
for those cynical creatives
jaded by the rhetoric oozing down the wall

SPOOPY spelled in lacquered chunks

what’s your aesthetic?
invalidation and assault
don’t stop until we MAGA and force those suckers out
pussy grabbed and paid for
by our forefathers
wouldn’t they be proud to see our country standing tall?

SPOOPY drips and spatters on the wall

what’s my aesthetic?
same as anybody’s, anger
sharp shoulders, straightened back
gender abnormative disconformative liberal left-wing quack

I spread love irresponsibly
loom big above the bigots
embrace the 2am texts from a sexting supermoon

my aesthetic?
velveteen rabbit
wet fur clogging up the sink
and SPOOPY lettered out in goopy green