Issue #8 November 21th - 29th 2002
Schooldays, part 3
Eight reasons why you should never visit Greece
They don't give medals
I pull the gear stick into reverse, and my tyres spin against the ice before consenting to turn. In the city, this road would be clear.
I've never liked this part of the world. or any part of the world that people have, wisely, chosen not to colonise. When the facility was built, they said it would be easier to hide out here. In the flatlands, away from prying eyes. So I didn't have much choice, reluctantly settling myself in the nearest thing that resembled a connurbation and keeping my profile as low as possible, grateful that, at least, the last two decades have seen the destruction of what was once called 'community'. Nobody bothers me any more. I'm unremarkable. Or at least I try to be.
At least I have that option. I find myself thinking of him as some part of my brain processes the information coming from my car radio - (flurries of snow for the rest of the day, followed by a heavy fall overnight) - how he lived, hunted by the government to whom he was now a security risk, hunted by his enemies, separated from the only person he ever became close to - fearful for both of their lives should the relationship resume. I find myself thinking of him as the wheel slips to the left, out of my control and it is too late to regain a grip on the road. The ground moves to a place where it shouldn't be and the last thing I can remember is, quite calmly, stubbing out my cigarette. If I'm to die, I don't want to die in a fire. I've seen fire victims before.
I presume I'm in a hospital. I can smell some sort of disinfectant. I can hear the buzzing of machinery, and footsteps. Someone in casual shoes, plastic-soled. Someone about 6 feet tall, at a guess, and relatively heavily built. They are standing at the foot of what must be my bed, and they are walking backwards and forwards.
If I didn't know better I'd say it was him. My new patient. The super-hero. Or patient#S as he is more formally known. That would mean I'm in The Facility. But they wouldn't let him in here on his own with me - would they?
'Hello, Leilah...They let me in here. I....persuaded them, in my own way.'
I try to adopt an authoritative tone: 'You can't harm members of our staff... I won't allow it. We're trying to help you out, and yet you reciprocate by-' Its too much. The breath catches in my throat and I'm glad I can't see whatever I'm coughing up.
He sounds faintly amused. 'I didn't harm them. They'll be just fine. They won't remember a thing....and you need me as much as I need you..'
I suspect he has enjoyed using his powers. I trust him when he says he hasn't harmed anyone. I have tried to build up a trusting relationship with him, and I feel that I have succeeded. Even so, it is with some suprise that I find myself asking him:
'Do I look VERY bad?'
'Surface bruising, mostly. The bandages will come off your eyes tomorrow. You'll be fine, except for your ankle which will take a few weeks to heal. I've seen much worse' - he pauses 'I've been much worse.'
I try to move into a more comfortable position. Wincing, and unable to find one, I fall back to the bed. Surface bruising, really, he could at least.... but I stop the self-pity as it arises. To someone who was tortured on several occasions, his limbs broken one at a time by Persons Known and Unknown, this probably doesn't seem all that serious...
This will mean delays in our project. I could let someone take over the interviewing, but this is not a task I choose to entrust to another individual. Perhaps if I could - I try to move again--but I can't. No interviews today. Not formally, anyway. I will have to commit as much as I can to memory, and make case notes later.
I hate to ask him this, but as there's nobody else around - 'Could....could you get me a cigarette?'
I can hear the flick of a match, and his hand briefly brushes my lips. He seems about to say something, perhaps to warn me of the health dangers, but nothing comes for a few minutes. I can move my right hand, and use it to drag the comfort into my body, dropping my ash on what I believe to be the floor next to me. A clattering noise -
'I can't find an ashtray. This is a sample jar'
More information than I needed, but I'm thankful, and clutch it in my lap as he continues -
'I'm sorry about yesterday. I wanted to tell you more, but sometimes it -- It just hurts too much, and its hard to tell you everything. And, I don't really know what you need to know, what will help you, and help me. What can stop them from finding me again...what your organisation gets out of this, who you report to..'
I say nothing. I'd expected him to be more subtle. He offers me a bottle of water, holding it for me as I sip:
'I can't really condone any action that would create more people...people like me. Even when we were popular, famous, successful, I wouldn't have called our lives pleasant.'
'Oh, of course they were wonderful on one level. Sex, luxury, wealth - I could have had all of that if I wanted, provided I was discreet and stayed clear of drugs. And I tried some of it - it isn't as rewarding as you'd imagine. My employers kept a constant stream of women at my disposal but after a while, after I discovered my faith, that wasn't important.'
'You smile. Don't forget I can see you smiling, even though you can't see me. And I think I know why. Hard to imagine me in church, bowing down to a god, isn't it? Well, that isn't quite how it worked. I discovered something else. A hidden source of energy, something I could tap into when I wanted, and when I discovered it I knew I had something that could never be taken away. My abilities increased dramatically. I don't think I ever told them how much. But of course people laughed. They saw me as some sort of Jesus-freak... how do you think I got my name??'
The words are tumbling out. He hasn't spoken of this in years. Possibly, he has never spoken of it. He tells me that, in his time with Ruth Birman (aka Cat-Woman) they never talked about their work. It was the one subject neither of them cared to raise. It had brought them together and they knew that, eventually, it would destroy them. I consider how easy it must seem for him to talk to the bandaged creature on the bed - I certainly don't look as if I constitute a threat. A fraction of his power could put me out of action permanently.
So I listen..
To be continued...
Cooney has been getting on my nerves a bit lately. He's gone and got himself a girlfriend and now all he does is bore us with tales of what they do together. He goes on about how he got a feel of her here, and did this to her there, and the other day it made me laugh because Tommy said to him "Shut up Cooney- they only thing you have ever got a feel of is your own limp dick", so that shut him up for a while and, for a few minutes at least, he was the old Cooney. He grabbed Tommy in a headlock, and they had a fight, but it wasn't a real fight because they are best of friends really, it was more of a show. Then she showed up, and Cooney stopped fighting. I wonder if all men stop fighting when women show up. So, on the rare occasion that I lose my mind and start to think that it might not be a bad idea to get a girlfriend too, I think of Cooney and they way he doesn't even play football at break time, and the way at night he goes off with her behind the bus shelter whilst me and Tommy and Vinny trawl through doc tor's gardens pulling up their expensive plants, I think of all this, and I think I'm better off without one. Especially when I think of the girls around here, and the way they are always laughing and giggling at nothing at all, I mean, what is that about? They get in the way at break time when we are trying to play football, and in lessons they are always the first to tell the teachers if you misbehave, even though they keep on talking and talking, and when you ask them what they are talking about they always say "nothing" and I suppose in a way they are right.
My sister has a boyfriend, and he's always at our house, and she locks her bedroom door and turns the volume up on her stupid stereo playing stupid music, and I don't really care, she can do what she likes, but I wish she didn't make so much noise. You always know when he has been becuase she starts using all these long words that she pretends she understands the meaning of, but I bet she doesn't really. He's some sort of student at the college, that's all I know, and that's all I want to know. All students must be stupid if you ask me, I mean why else would they have to go on to college or something? haven't they learned enough at school?
There was this one time that he came around and it was really funny because the 'Captain' was out on patrol. We call him the Captain, but we don't know if was ever a real captain in the army or navy or whatever, but he wears this hat that looks like a hat some sort of General or someone high up in the military would wear, and he's got these medals attached to his blazor, and he is quite old so I'm sure he has been in some war or another, as all quite old men seem to have been. He patrols the estate with a pencil and pad, and he notes down things that are wrong, and questions unfamiliar faces, and even makes citizens arrests if one of the kids gobs on the street or something, although he has stopped doing that so much because he once tried to arrest Billy Fearon because he said he had caught Billy Fearon shitting in the woods at the back of the houses, but Billy Fearon's dad headbutted him and smashed his glasses in two. Anyway, my sister's fretting because her boyfriend's late. She's pacing up and down the li ving room and saying all sorts of things that just don't make any sense to me, and I think that this is another reason I never want a girlfriend if my sister is anything to go by, all this worrying over someone else's life, like there isn't enough to be going on with in your own life...anyway, he's about twenty minutes late and my sister thinks he's been killed in a car crash or something like that, then suddenly we hear this commotion outside, so I look out of the window and there's her boyfriend struggling with the old Captain. He's yelling at the Captain to let him go,but the Captain is a strong man, and my sister's boyfriend isn't, and the Captain is holding onto him with one hand, and writing something down in his notepad with the ohter, it's quite a sight, and my sister sees me laugihng at the window, so she looks out, then she's yelling at me to do something, but what can I do, I mean laws are laws, I say, and the Captain is a law unto himself. My sister hurtles out of the front door, and then she is h itting the Captain, telling him who her boyfriend is, but the Captain is saying that her boyfriend spat in the street and she should be more careful about the company she keeps, then I realise that I'm missing the 'A-Team' on TV, so turn myself from one window on the world and look into another, except in this other world on TV they have make-believe guns, whereas in the world outside the window, we have the Captain and a great deal of misunderstanding.
Trumbo, Fast, and a guy called Spartacus
In the last issue of this esteemed webzine, we looked at the work of one Dalton Trumbo, who wrote the screenplay to Stanley Kubrick's epic based on the true story of an ancient Roman slave revolt, 'Spartacus'. This week, we turn our attention to the man whose book inspired the film, Howard Fast
A Bit About Howard:
As a prolific author of historical novels, biographies, popular histories, children's stories , film scripts, plays, detective and science fiction, Howard Fast achieved best-seller status with novels explicitly promoting left-wing ideas. Born the son of a factory worker in New York City, Fast dropped out of high school and published his first novel before he was twenty. Within a few years, he had issued more than half a dozen novels about the American Revolutionary War period. His book "The Last Frontier" (1941) was an impressive effort to view the effects of colonisation of the continent of America from the view point of the indigenous native Americans.
Fast didn't confine his talents to writing novels, he took an active interest in the anti-fascist movement and the Popular Front from the onset of his career. In 1943 he joined the Communist Party. It was during these years of his membership that he wrote 'Spartacus' (1951). In addition, Fast wrote more explicitly radical novels such as "Clarkton" which told the story of a Massachusetts strike; "Silas Timberman" depicting an academic victim of McCarthyism; "The Story of Lola Gregg" which described the FBI pursuit and capture of a communist labour activist, and "The Passion of Sacco Vanzetti" which eulogises the martyred Italian anarchist.
In 1950 the House Committee on un-American activities ordered Fast to provide the names of all those who had contributed to the support of a hospital for Spanish Republicans in Toulouse, France, with which he had been associated during the Spanish Civil War. When he refused, he was thrown in jail for three months. On his release he was blacklisted. In 1952 he ran for congress on the American Labour Party ticket and in 1954 he was awarded the somewhat ironically entitled 'Stalin Peace Prize'. In 1957 in publicly broke with the Communist Party, but continued to champion the cause of the working classes and the oppressed. In 1977 he wrote a book entitled "The Immigrants" which was televised and became animated with left-liberal themes, tracing the fortunes of an American family from the turn of the century through to the Vietnam war era.
In a speech given shortly after the theatrical release of 'Spartacus', Dalton Trumbo stated the theme of the movie was the struggle for "human freedom" against any dictatorial society dominated by aristocratic elites:
'Human freedom - the need to secure it, the obligation to defend it, the resolution to die for it - this is the great theme of our time. This is the theme we have sought to dramatize for you in Spartacus. Our film is the story of men and women who opposed totalitarianism with the burning dream of freedom. Men and women who truly believe that any dangerous opposition is tenable if brave men will make it so and who in the end prefer to die as free men than to live as slaves. Such must be the choice of free men, whether in the 1st century BC or in the 20th AD. For it seems to be a law of nature, or of history, that men who prefer slavery to death inevitably get both.'
Today, in a society riddled with as much inequality as ever before, in an era governed by fear, mistrust and cartoon dictatorships, where Presidents cash in on the paranoia of nations, the story of Spartacus still stands, still inspires, and still seems as relevant and as badly needed as ever.
Eight reasons why you should never visit Greece
To my kind editor,
All I knew about Greece prior to my visit was that England drew with them to qualify for the football world cup. Boarding my flight at Gatwick airport, I was preparing myself for two weeks of feta cheese and smashing plate hell. Little did I know about all the other ghastly things that were awaiting for me.
I am writing to you from a pleasant café by the sea. It would be even more pleasant if one could get a nice cup of proper english tea. All you can get here is tea with fruit in and herbal tea. So I'm sitting here drinking frothy coffee, writing to you in the hope that the truth about Greece is finally unravelled.
Enclosed is a list of my thus far discoveries about this unpleasant country along with photographic evidence.
1. People walk in the middle of the busiest roads in the world.
2. Kids and adults (who really should know better) ride on motorbikes with no helmets on. It looks dead cool but only Vanilla Ice can do it properly, plus it's incredibly dangerous.
3. They plant trees in the middle of the street; this has dangers as one could get awfully drunk and walk into them. It hasn't happened to me yet, but the two weeks are still young.
4. Nice English boys feed chips to dogs who may have been drugged as they are very lazy; the dog looks up as if to say "if you think I'm eating chips from English boys, you must be mistaken", but ten minutes later both dog and chips have disappeared.
5. Greek people don't seem to get drunk in public. I'm not even sure they get drunk in private actually. This could go some way to explaining the trees in the middle of the pavement thing that baffled me before.
6. As no one drinks, there is no dancing in any bars/clubs. The poor DJs could play the greatest danciest song in the world and the people would look impressed but never dance; they seem more content to do the nodding head in time with the music (I've named this move the 'wobbly head'). Although, on saying this, I did spot some kids dancing to Prince or whatever he is called these days. I would have reprimanded them and called the Dancing Police, Prince Division, but I was too weary and besides, I think the DPPD had that night off to research bad eighties bands.
7. As well as taking a very dangerous haphazard approach to road crossing, they seem to really enjoy crossing railway tracks; not over bridges and sensible things but across the actual tracks. This is probably not as dangerous as it sounds as geek railway lines don't have electric tracks, but it's one of the many things I must stop doing when I get back to England.
8.On long train journeys old men swap sheep milking ideas, well, more brag
about sheep milking really. The conversation went as follows:
Friends Of The Heroes Reporter: "Which is nothing, as I can milk 724 sheep a day."
Maybe if all else fails, I could become a sheep farmer...
With all due respect,
6am Christmas morning and the reason why
There are a number of things that I am sure of in life:
1) I will win the lottery one day
As I have matured I have come to realise that I forcing my obsessions on my favourite people was wrong. It is wrong to confine my excitement to such a small group of people.
My favourite people breathed a sigh of relief wrongly thinking they would escape the burden my obsessions. But instead of letting them escape I bullied them into producing a weekly webzine. I have forced them to write, dragged them to gigs, nagged, obsessed and become generally unpopular. I know they thank me for it.
In my heart of hearts I know that not everybody will get the same kind of excitement from hearing Belle and Sebastian, and that not everybody will laugh until they can no longer breathe watching Dave Gorman. But I also know that everybody has something that they care about. Something that they get so excited about, that it moves them enough that they forget the daily grind for long enough to remember how it feels to be young and carefree. Something they get so excited about, that they do or say something rather than letting life pass over them.
We all have our heroes, some of them we keep hidden, some we tell the world about, some are people we know, others are people we don't. This site is dedicated to them.
This site is dedicated to waking up with excitement at 6.00am feeling like a three-year-old…