I am so upset right now. I have just been listening to Letters from Guantanamo on Radio 4 and it has left me really, really distraught. It is a set of letters from Sami El Haj, a camera operator with Al Jazeera captured crossing the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1999. He had dual passports and visas; he had done this many times before in his coverage of the war. The border authorities accused him of filming Bin Laden then imprisoned him in Kandahar, before selling him to the Americans. Yes, selling him. As Musharraf admitted this week, the Pakistani government was a) threatened into joining the war and b) paid well to pass along captives. Notably, the Americans have admitted to paying bounties for Al Quaeda fighters but claimed to be surprised that the Pakistani government was involved. What terrifies me is that the Sudanese-born Sami is lucid, clever and an amazingly literate writer, whose letters are rich, stuffed with emotion and strength in the face of alleged horrors (the ones that make it through the censors). “The enormous statue cries out freedom and justice to all. But gradually the lights around Lady Liberty grow weaker and we see that she is either deceiving or deceived.” It is not clear whether Sami is an enemy combatant, a fanatical warrior who wants to see the west die. However, it seems unlikely and if this man, if any of these men are criminals, then let us try them and be done with it. If the allegations do not stand up in a court of law, then let them go free. Sure, follow them if you want, if you still suspect them. Nevertheless, for these individuals this horror should not continue, it is illegal, against the Geneva conventions, against the moral law that trickles even inside me. I am horrified and angry, convinced by the honest beauty of this man’s words. More Sami, as far as I can remember from the programme, “The light in the statue’s hand flickers and may go out. One day men may stand around this wreck and say one day ‘here stood a great thing, liberty.” God, if you exist, damn Guantanamo bay and those who uphold it.
Following James Elroy’s wondeful study of a gruesome murder in 50s L.A., The Black Dahlia, crime hackette Lynda La Plante has written a money-spinning rip-off called The Red Dahlia, set fifty years after the first murder, timed to coincide with the release of the Scarlett Johansen movie and plagiarising large portions of its illustrious predecessor (I’ve not read the book, I’m just assuming this). However, La Plante has missed out a key part of Elroy’s fiction, which is slight references to a recognisable and real popular character involved on the peripheries of the plot, and also a touch of corrupted authority. Which is why I present to you this day this exclusive excerpt from my forthcoming novellete / vpdodcast / mystery play “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolour Dahlia”;
Joseph enters the room. His shaggy knuckles are pulling together his shabby multicoloured coat of dreams and he’s obviously drunk; stumbling, mumbling, filthy. He could even be a journalist.
Joseph: “A crash of drums, ugh, dum-de-dum, a flash of li-ur-hic, I need a shite, yarr, balls.”
Joseph collapses in a corner, his brothers sell his sleeping body to slave traders, he travels to Egypt where he narrowly avoids being blown up by Arab extremists / Israeli pre-emptive surprise airstrikes / errant Western Cruise Missiles and becomes advisor to the democratically elected Pharoah Godking III The Shit, before being reconciled to his randy father and brothers in a touching scene (Warning: no touching). Whilst Joseph is dozing one day, his wife sells his magic hair to a passing salesperson/genie/disguised grand vizier, removing the gift of hard-drinking that has allowed him to charm/booze his way to success in the court of The Shit. After disgracing himself at a state banquet, he is expelled and narrowly avoids becoming a lion’s dinner in the arena by showing off his excellent manicure skills, before wandering out onto the streets, drunken, where he is accosted in exactly the same manner as before by a passing flowerseller. She reaches out to the erstwhile bigwig’s drunken figure, holding in her hand a bushy tuberous perennial which she hopes to exchange for goods or indeed services.
Passing Flower Salesperson “Excuse me sir, would you like a flower?”
Joseph proceeds to vomit copiously over the poor flowerseller’s bloom, turning it a variety of shades depending on which course of his fantastic banquet he is regurgitating. It is hence technicolour and also amazing so our story can
I expect this to sell millions.
A hop, a skip and a fortnight goes by, casting askance glances shoulderwise. Curious at glinting Fortnight’s eye, I call up my calendar and find that every day for the last month is heavily annotated, the little squares filled with digitals. Since the 14th Aout, I’ve been to Manchester once, to see the paternal side of the family, back to London, to somewhere in Wales, to see some Folk (they were green, by all accounts but brother’s and I’s), back to London, to Paris, to play poker it seemed, back to london (for a hour), to Buxton, to drink the county dry (not touched a sip of the mineral water in fifteen years, perry burns a hole in yer gut/tering that the water would just trickle through, like a human filtration system, stalgatites growing out of your ruptured ulcers into interintestinal interstices. Or is stalagmites? Mite is right, as Kissinger always said), lack to bondon, was pimped up at Saint’s Row party (those girls shave awfully close to the thong), to Oxford, to watch the first of my comrades in the League of Strident Singletons do the blood brethren thing with a GIRL (Benedict, how could you betray our sacred vows and do all that pledging stuff? How can you make a solemn vow on anything about the future, when you have very limited control over it? WRONG.), that is, marriage, tack do bonlon, went to the first christmas tat party (walked away with screaming monkey, disembodied eyeball, candy clothing, book of arse called Cheek, etc), danced with zombies (they do an excellent version of thriller, more surprising produce grand finger food, in retrospect too many fingers, yuk), to the Isle of Wight (where the barrows crawl with the disembodied souls of campers, doomed to eternally wear their Bestival costumes, because they can’t find the irritating little bra hook small fo the back that dismantles the whole flapping crepe paper and wire edifice), talonknobdoc antbloodconk backtolondon, games played bomberman, godfather, heroesannhiliatedempires, legostarwarsII, ninetyninenights, &c, went to Sega’s Kew offices today, sat by the river, walked in the rain, stared for hours at the lightning in the night, Fortnight’s certain lead foot is descending to complete her passage, must bid adieu and wish that the next of her sisters proves as entertaining even if little old brain up here (hello!) can’t hope to hold her.
LIFE UPDATE OVER.
I just went downstairs for yet another photoshoot, to provide comic characters for the magazine. As per usual, I supplied most of the outfits from my wardrobe (what does that say about my dress sense?) I was dressed up as a motty-style football commentator, with sheepskin and mike, glasses perched precariously on nose’s end. As the photographer’s shooting away, he says “you’re really good, you know?”. I’m kinda flattered but not sure what he means. “I mean, you’re a natural in front of the camera.” Soon he’ll be telling me to loosen my top. “Have you ever thought of doing character work? You’d be really good!” I’m starting to get flattered and laugh nervously. “There’s this agency, don’t get me wrong, called Ugly, who could do with someone like you.” My lifelong dreams about a life on the catwalk, on the catwalk, yeah, fall into shards of glittering angst. He’s joking, isn’t he? “Seriously. I’ve got loads of shots of you now, just drop me an email and I’ll pass your name along.” I get back to my desk and, guess what? He wasn’t lying. So. Should I agree to this and go to work for a modelling agency called ugly? Or should I pep up my pride and pretend I don’t fancy a bit of cash on the side?
The Pissed People of England: What? Wherefore the irishisms?
Myself: Agh, I’ve just got back from the Saint’s Row launch event which was lavish in the uttermost.
The Pissed People of England: More so than the brothel-party in Paris? Than the Scarface binge in Madrid? Than the Wincle Beer, Cider and Spirits festival? (sotto voce) Lawks, I can still taste the turps in that perry.
Myself: More so indeed. Mainly due to the copious booze, gyrating pole dancers, and awesome break dancers. I am myself positively tented with the memory.
The Pissed People of England: That’s a nice image for no-one. So whyfore “begob” with such acid vim?
Myself: Ah, it was for this game, and we did the exclusive everything, yet they forgot to invite us, like we were but passing tools to be ground down and discarded. Yours truly only sneaked in on his wits (large as they are, I strapped myself under them so that the cyclopean doorman should find only Nemo in his fumblings), but the rest of my crew/gang/massif/posse/team/cabinet decided not to attend.
The Pissed People of England: By your state, twas a wise move on their part.
Myself: Indeed. Now, didn’t I have work to do..?