Cliff Robertson Honorary Documentary

My all-time favourite film, set during wartime, is 633 Squadron (1964), starring Academy Award Winner Cliff Robertson. You may know him better as Peter Parker’s uncle in Spider Man.

633 Squadron is also one of my favourite movies of all time. The editing is tight and the action is the edge-of-your-seat stuff of legend. Here’s some trivia for you: did you know 633 Squadron was George Lucas’s inspiration for the Death Star attack in Star Wars IV – A New Hope? A great deal of the credit for the film’s taught style and human depth can be attributed to Cliff Robertson, who had enough influence in Hollywood at this time to ask for rewrites of film scripts. Cliff was at the very pinnacle of Hollywood’s acting elite and is still, to my knowledge the only actor to win a Grammy each for film, theatre and advertising. His Oscar for Charly was well-deserved and if you haven’t seen that, PT 109 (where Cliff played John F Kennedy) or 633 Squadron, see them.

Cliff was one of my childhood heroes and I was lucky enough to correspond with with Cliff at the end of his life. Along with many other fans, I always wondered what happened to his character, Roy Grant, at the end of the film. He is badly wounded but we can’t be sure whether he survives or not. After a heated discussion on youtube, I decided to try and contact Cliff to find out. With the help of Stephen Thompson, Cliff’s Press Agent, I was able to write a letter with a set of questions and get these to Cliff.

To my complete surprise, he replied! Not only that, but he was very forthcoming in his answers and asked me to go to America to interview him, in his words ‘mano a mano’. Unfortunately I was unable to do that before his death, to my lasting regret. Cliff left a lasting impression on me as a man of great warmth, generosity and genuine curiosity. Here is the question and his response:

10. It seems a question of debate as to whether Roy Grant survives at the end of 633 Squadron – we would like to have your personal opinion on this?
Cliff: I did not particularly like the ending and so stated because there was an ambiguity as to whether Roy Grant lived or died. However that’s just my opinion. Walter Marrish, the producer is a fine gentleman and a delight to work with. He happily is still with us and lives in Beverly Hills.

You can read the interview in full by clicking on Cliff Robertson Interview in the main menu.

Cliff was a towering figure in Hollywood, for reasons which I won’t go into here, but which you can find out about yourself if you take the time. Please don’t let this outstanding actor and personality be forgotten. I recently dedicated my novel Attack Hitler’s Bunker! to Cliff.

Stephen Thompson is now working on producing an honorary documentary about Cliff, both as an actor, and his aviation accomplishments. Below is a video of Cliff talking about some of his concerns about modern Hollywood films and below that an extract from Stephen’s project page to raise seed money to get the project made. He has contacted John Travolta, Harrison Ford and many other people who knew Cliff. Brian Gillogly (Accidental Icon: The Real Gidget Story) has agreed to direct the documentary. The project is gaining pace but the project needs your support. I have known Stephen for a few years now and I have found him to be utterly dedicated to Cliff’s legacy and reliable. Anything you can spare will be greatly appreciated and you can have your name on the Honour Roll at the end of the documentary. See further down for more details.


Video Courtesy of Jason Wissinger — Storm Maker Productions

From Stephen Thompson’s project page:

In order to produce the project at the quality level I envision, developing the project will take a substantial amount of time on our parts, so I am raising $9500 to cover the development expenses, minus the $410.00 I raised earlier this year through our IndieGoGo campaign.

Development is the business foundation of our project. Without proper development, our project will never progress beyond the discussion stage.

I feel fortunate to have found the video shown above, and obtain permission to use it, because this particular video shows Cliff as I knew him.

So please like the project on Facebook then learn more about the project, and consider making a donation in order to help make the project happen.

Check out our Honour Roll, where any donation earns you a listing, regardless of the amount!

Please consider making a $50 donation, and receiving a listing on our Supporters page.

As always, thanks for your consideration and assistance!

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Banned ebooks!

Infinite Blue Heaven has been banned by Amazon. It is my first book available from me directly: https://payhip.com/b/yth1. Read on to find out more:

Cover of Infinite Blue Heaven - A King and A Queen

Cover of Infinite Blue Heaven – A King and A Queen

Infinite Blue Heaven – A King and A Queen The eBook has recently been banned by Amazon although they do not specify why. Despite repeated requests by me for the reason, they refuse to be drawn. If it is because of the incest, then there are books on Amazon which peddle this theme as pornography. There are also writers like Vladimir Nabokov and Thomas Pynchon who treat this subject more sensitively. If this is the reason, I really don’t understand it; I have always used the word ‘incest’ in the description and the book has been on Amazon since 2009. I have made no changes to it in that time. I also treat the subject sensitively and include it because incest was not rare in royal circles of the 17th Century. Let’s be plain, it existed and Amazon can’t simply wipe out the bits of history they don’t like.

Buy Infinite Blue Heaven on Payhip here: https://payhip.com/b/yth1

The paperback continues to be available on Amazon through their subdivision CreateSpace. But you can now purchase it directly from me using Payhip. Just click on ‘Lazlo in Your Country‘ in the main menu above to find this book from now on.

Memories of the 1960s: Issue I – Fishing. What are your memories?

There is a permanent page for Memories of the 1960s here.

Last week I took a long walk next to the Grand Union Canal near Ware in Hertfordshire. It reminded me of my fishing days in the 1960s and I wondered if fishing could still feel the same. It occurred to me to try and write about the 1960s and I decided to try it. Each post will be entitled Memories of the 1960s and followed by the issue number. Here is the first:

Fishing in the 1960s
Don’t get me wrong; I couldn’t fish now because I have long since become vegetarian and I could not possibly hurt a fish by tempting it to take a hook into its mouth. But the nostalgia for those almost-lost hazy summer days of my youth is a powerful intoxicant.

I cannot possibly hope to equal the success or effect of Mr Crabtree and his stories. For those unfamiliar with him, Mr Crabtree was the wonderfully avuncular central figure in a series of cartoon strips for one of the daily papers (Mail, Mirror or something like that, I can’t remember). In it, he taught a young boy to fish and these stories were wonderfully and evocatively illustrated. You could almost smell the ground bait and ginger biscuits. But here we go:

I first came to angling, or course fishing as fresh-water fishing is called, through my father. I think I had tried sea-fishing, in Sidmouth, and didn’t like it. But I knew my father was taught to fish by his father so I wanted to try.

One Christmas, the usual toy car presents were supplemented by a very long and thin package. It turned out to be a solid fibreglass rod, about six feet and six inches long, longer than me!

It came with a small reel – I think it was a tiny Daiwa open-faced reel – some line, a few hooks, some lead shot weights and some floats. That weekend, my father took me on my first trip. I can’t remember where we went but I soon discovered that the three brothers next door all fished and they took me to Rickmansworth Aquadrome, a large lake and one of a string along a valley.

The lake was well known for its high yield of fish and I was soon catching some. I quickly found that I needed other equipment; a rod-rest, for holding the rod to release your hands to eat, a bait tin, a landing net and a folding seat to mention a few. These were soon joined by more floats and ledger weights (flat or cylindrical lead weights).

A typical fishing trip would go like this:

Woken by alarm at 3 am (that’s right!) on Sunday morning. Make breakfast quietly, get maggots out of fridge, quietly, and pack bag. At 5.15, watch Gone Fishin’ on BBC1 for 20 minutes and then get ready to leave. Walk 5 miles to Chesham tube station. Catch ‘milk train’ to Rickmansworth. Walk mile to Aquadrome. Climb around locked gate (locked until 9 am) on bridge with all your tackle and shimmy along large pipe under bridge until you could climb back onto bridge and reach lake. Walk fast (sometimes run, if it was a nice day and there were lots of other anglers on first train) to best swim. Fish until you started catching or moved to another place. Drink lots of soup, tea or orange squash and ginger beer. At midday, with hot sun blasting away all thoughts of school on Monday, eat cheese and tomato or chicken sandwiches. Fish until about 5pm when light starts to fade. Father or whole family arrived and ate a picnic while you told them about, or showed them, if you had a keep net, what fish you had caught. Taken home in style, in the back of an Austin Maxi, complete with hydro-elastic suspension. Have bath, watch TV until you go to bed, very content.

In fact, I never had a blank day, a day with no fish, at the Aquadrome, even though once, I was only saved by a lucky miller’s thumb, a sorry looking fish, only one up from a stickleback. It was a highly competitive place, every angler competed in an unofficial match. The bailiff, who didn’t seem overly bothered about making you pay the 50p ticket, would walk around telling you:
“Such and such has caught five tench two swims down!”
A swim was the area of water adjoining the bank, which you had chosen to fish.

My own particular record was 122 fish, all in, and that remained a record for about six months, I seem to remember. I kept a log book and measured the depth of every part of the lake using a plumb on a line. I mapped the lake meticulously and became adept at ‘thinking like a fish.’

The only bait in town then was maggots. Hemp and sweetcorn hadn’t really been discovered. Of course, all the fishing books told you to use bread; bread was a time-honoured bait, used in the earlier part of the century by everyone but by the 1960s, fish had encountered maggots and they were addicted!

I used to breed my own maggots. I well remember leaving a breast of chicken in a shed on some nearby waste land (sorry Mr Thame, if you are still alive – you must be 122!) while we went on a two-week holiday. Maggots will normally grow from birth to full size, and form chrysalises, by this time so it was a stupid oversight on my part. By the time I came home and checked the box, the stench was terrific and the maggots were the size of prawns! As usual, I washed them, which entailed washing them in a bucket of soapy water, drying them by rolling in a towel, washing them a second time and placing in a tin or plastic container of clean, dry sawdust and then put them in the fridge! My mum went ape! Later she calmed down and said that they actually smelled okay. They were in a tightly sealed box so there was no risk of their escaping. In those days you bought sawdust by the sack load from the nearest timber merchant for about 50p per sack.

I made my own ground bait; the mixture of bread crumbs and other stuff you throw in the water to conceal yourself and attract fish. I would practice lobbing it into a plastic hoop at ranges up to 60 feet in the back garden. Later on, I bought a maggapult; a catapult designed to hold maggots or ground bait. With that, I practiced hitting the target right across a field -perhaps 2-300 feet away. It was all pretty technical stuff.

At the end of my sting at the Aquadrome, I had progressed to a 12’6″, orange, fibreglass fishing rod and a Mitchell Black Prince reel. I was using Bayer fishing line which was ultra thin and strong (I remember mine was 1lb or 1.5lb breaking strain). Somebody offered me a Billy Lane Match Rod, which was old, still fibreglass, and had two alternative tops, one for float fishing and one for ledgering, and two alternative butts. My landing net was a collapsible thing with very course mesh, handy for travelling but a bit abrasive for the fish. Technology had moved on, Micromesh was in, and I a keep net about 12 feet long, big enough to hold the large number of fish I was catching.

I had many amazing and weird experiences at the Aquadrome. An ancient willow, of about a metre’s girth, fell into the water right next to me. I was soaked but glad to still be alive. I remember several times sitting so still that water voles actually sat on my feet to wash themselves. Another time I was concentrating very hard on fishing when I felt a twig fall of the tree above me. Nothing unusual about that but then it started to move! I cautiously put my hand on my head and picked off… a five inch long stick insect! I had no idea if they could bite or were poisonous so I put it on a bush and left it.

Another strange thing which actually happened to me was when I almost pulled off a woman’s skirt. It happened like this: I was fishing on a bridge over the canal, next to the lake for a change, and cast out my float using the 12’6″ rod. Now that rod had a very whippy action and, combined with the excellent new Mitchell 401 reel I had bought, only one step down from the ultimate Mitchell Match, meant that the float, hook and maggot went much further than I expected, partly because I was 15 feet up on a bridge. The result was that it landed somewhere near a passing narrow boat. I didn’t know quite where but I soon found out when an old woman, sitting in a chair and sunning herself on the boat’s deck, suddenly started screaming and pulling on her skirt. I could see it was mysteriously lifting off her. I knew I had snagged it. What to do? As the boat moved further away, I simply let out more line until the boat was almost out of sight. Bayer line is very expensive so there was no way I was going to break the line at my end. Just when the line almost ran out, I decided to yank it hard. I know the hook came out because it came back to me, bent. I saw the woman standing up and shaking her fist at me so I presume she still had her skirt on.

The strangest thing happened in the stick insect swim, which was ‘V’ shaped and between a spur of land and the shore. I had been fishing there all day on a Saturday, quite a good day’s fishing as I recall, and was back there at 6am the following Sunday morning. However, when I reached the spur, it was sealed off by bed sheets, hanging from a clothes line strung between two trees! I saw a policeman poke his head out between the sheets and asked him when I could fish. He said, “Not today. Dead body in the lake.”

As if to balance my karma over the woman on the boat, a car drove over my rod a week later and squashed it, making it useless. It only cost me £12, about 12 weeks pocket money then, but I was still very upset. The Aquadrome was getting too busy and it was time to move on.

About this time, I discovered two things; Ivan Marks and the Boxmoor section of the Grand Union Canal. Ivan Marks was at that time the British Angling Match Champion, a working class hero if ever there was one. He looked like a toothy John Lennon, complete with flat cap and a big grin. Boxmoor was a narrow valley near Hemel Hempstead. It not only had a lovely quiet stretch of canal but also a tiny, concealed lake called Pixies Mere (I kid you not!).

Ivan Marks had started a shop called Marks and Marlow with a mate and their first rod was a black beast, the first carbon fibre fishing rod offered for sale in the country. It was called the Persuader. I had to have one! I saved my pocket money, did two paper rounds and bought one of the first. It came, personally signed by Ivan Marks. It was so light you could swear you were holding only a pencil in your hand if you closed your eyes. It was 13 feet long!

I discovered Boxmoor by accident. I had started going out on my Dawes Dapper, a no-gear bicycle, to find new places to fish. The rods and landing net were tied to the cross bar, a bag was on my back and the seat was slung around my neck! Most good places were south so I headed north, into unknown territory. I tried the Grand Union Canal near Hemel Hempstead, one wet and miserable day in February. I hadn’t actually started to fish; this stretch of the canal was filled with pianos and rotting, sunken barges. Then I reached a lock and a boatman offered to take me on board, complete with my bike.
“All you have to do is open the lock gates for me,” he shouted. “Here is the key!”
He passed me a giant piece of iron, bent into a shape like a car jack. I put the bike on board and started to wind down the lock sluice. Once this was done, I could push open the gate by hand. We traveled like this for a few miles before there was trouble. When you wind open a sluice, the weight on the handle seems to get heavier with each turn. When you wind it closed, it goes faster and faster. This time, I must have been tired because it got away from me and whacked into my elbow, sending me sprawling. For a while I couldn’t feel my arm.
“I better go home I think,” I told him.
He let me off and I rode along the tow-path, one handed. I had almost reached my turn off when, what with all the weight on the bike, I lost my balance and rode straight into the canal!
“Shit!” I thought. “Deep shit!”
My dad had sacrificed a lot to buy me that bike so there was no way I was going to leave it fifteen feet out in the canal. After hauling myself and my stuff out and peeling off my trousers and shirt, I dived back in and down to the bike. I found it in the silt and dragged it along the bottom until I reached shallow water and could haul it out, all with one hand.

I took all my clothes off and rung them out.
“Are you okay?” called a woman from her back garden.
“Fine!” I replied, because that’s what you did then. You didn’t make a fuss.
I was freezing as I rode home. The wind chill, combined with the wet an my fatigue became too much for me about a mile from home. I had already ridden about 10 miles but I stopped at a phone box and reversed the charges to get my dad to pick me up. He was very angry with me for some reason.
“You’re always falling in water!” he said. This was totally untrue. I was pushed into a lake by a next door neighbour once, many years before. Perhaps he was just concerned for me!

A few weeks later, I tried riding the other way, west, and discovered a place where the boats turn. A wide basin, in the middle of nowhere, called Cow Roast, was to prove my Nirvana.
I baited it for a week, riding there each day and throwing in as much ground bait as I could afford. When I began to fish, small fish came out in streams. And then I caught a very large fish. I wondered what it was. It fought like a carp. When it broke surface, I saw the gorgeous brown colour of a Bronze Bream. It was the first I had every caught. People say bream don’t fight but these ones fought like devils. It would often take me twenty minutes to land one of these giants and then I would be surrounded by gawping locals.
“Niver seeen nuffin like ‘at!” they would say.

When my parents arrived, they couldn’t believe their eyes. It took both my father and I to haul up the keep net. It weighed about 100 pounds. The biggest of those bream weighed about 5 pounds! Whoppers! I had so many lovely days there. I began to lose interest when other anglers discovered the spot. It became too busy for me.

I tried the King Richard Lake, near Basingtoke, with a friend and between us we caught over 240 tench, another lake record.

But it was Pixies Mere that attracted me most. An older fishing friend had to get me in because it was ran by a very private club; you had to be recommended. It also had the biggest tench in the home counties, or so the rumour went! If I may, I would like to extend my memories into the 1970s because the essential ethos of fishing hadn’t changed yet.

Summer 1976 – the hottest summer on record.

We had 13 weeks of unending sun. I also discovered sweet corn as a bait and by now I had acquired a proper fishing basket. I must have looked the part the first time I rolled up to fish Pixies Mere. Imagine the scene:

It’s August, 1976, 7pm, dusk. We open the gate in the trees and see a lake with the magical name, Pixies Mere. It is about the length of two football pitches and the western end, to our right, is divided into two arms. It nestles among the trees which concealed it, mostly willows which hung down to weedy, fertile water. The swim we want is in the fork between the two arms and can only be reached by a perilous scramble along a rough path on the side of the bank and then traversing three planks of wood over boggy ground.

The dragon-flies are out in force, nightingales are singing and there is the occasional ‘plop’ of what we think are large tench. The lake is a mystery, it’s all a glorious mystery.

I try to set up my fishing seat, full of tackle, on a mud flat, barely half an inch out of the water. It begins to sink and so do my feet in my wellington boots. The flies are attracted to my face but I don’t care. From under my cap, I survey the swim with the experienced eye of a veteran.
“I will go over there,” I suggest, pointing to the left.
“Okay. I will go right,” whispers my accomplice.
Quietly, we rig up and sit down. It’s almost completely dark by the time he gets a bite. We are using large floats, crow-quills we have made ourselves and painted with Humbrol fluorescent pink.

His float whacks under the water and his line sings in the air as the big fish races away from us. He hauls on the rod and it bends over double, looking as if it will break. Soon, the reel is screaming and the battle reaches its climax. Slowly, ever so slowly, he works the fish around some lily pads, past a bed of rushes and close to where I have submerged the waiting landing net.

By the time I lift the net, encircling the tench, it is exhausted and gasping for breath. Tench are very powerful fish. They have thick, olive green bodies with large, rudder-like fins, which can often be red. In the mating season, and in August some still are mating, their bellies are crimson, to match the colour of their bead eyes.

I marvel at its beauty and he puts it back. My friend has caught tench before but I haven’t. We fish on. It is now completely dark. The lake is closed up at 10.30, just in time for last orders in the pub at its side. My parents will be arriving to treat me to a pint of cider. I am only 14, but nobody cares about such niceties in this day and age, the summer of 1976.

Finally my float, jabs out of site.
“Steady,” my friend tells me. I cannot believe the strength of the fish on the end of the line. It is like having my sister pulling for all she is worth. I swear quite a lot and steer the fish around some of those lily pads and start the perilous haul to the net. Finally, it is safely inside and my friends drags it onto the mud. I drop my rod and gawp, wide-eyed at the beautiful fish. We weigh it; 4 pounds and 8 ounces. Not a giant but the most amazing fish I have ever caught. A few weeks later, I caught my biggest, a 5 pound four ounce beauty. We were the first to try sweetcorn at that lake. For a whole summer, we caught the biggest. The tench could not resist us.
When we can finally no longer see in front of our faces, we have to call it a night. By torchlight, we pack our stuff and then I hear my father’s voice calling across the lake:
“How do I get out there?”
I tell him and fifteen minutes later, he reaches me, feet soaking wet. He doesn’t seem to care.
“Show me then!” he demands, when I tell him we have caught eleven between us. He is as amazed as I am when we see the lovely olive green and crimson fish in the net. I can hardly believe such a beautiful creature swims in English waters.
Wearily, we follow him to the pub, where my sister and mother watch over two pints of gloriously sweet cider.
What a day!

I hope you enjoyed my description of course fishing in the 1960s. What are your memories?

OCD Log 1

This week, first of my new OCD updates and FREE eBook Offer: Eighteen, Blue

OCD Log 1
To make it easier to find my updates on OCD, I am starting from today to name them Log 1, 2 etc. Too often, these posts might get lost among other subjects and I am aware there are many sufferers out there.
In my last OCD update, I announced my first OCD-Free day. It was really just an experiment and I didn’t expect it to work. But it seems to have worked.

OCD-Free is a strong term however. I think it would be more accurate to say that I have ‘broken the back of my OCD’ or ‘turned a corner’. The OCD is still there; every day I catch myself doing something that I call ‘OCD behaviour’. I just stop myself, say, “That is OCD behaviour. I am not going to do that,” and then ignore the impulse.

This tactic doesn’t always work. Strangely, it works better for physical events than purely mental ones. I am still prone to moments of hesitation or what I will call ‘colour blocks’ – a distaste or guilt, if you like, for looking at cert.

But on the whole, things are much better. My partner is over the moon and suddenly I can eat what I want, and I have much more time each day to focus on writing and practical tasks. OCD was a big waste of time and I knew it.

So how have I made this leap forward?

1. There are complex factors but I think the biggest is the boredom I suffered after giving up music full time in the early 1990s. Music really absorbed me. I was passionate about it but to earn enough money to survive, and produce albums, I had had to busk and this physically exchausted me. At the end, I had severe back pain, so bad I could only sleep on the floor, and I was too tired to move. It was then, I decided to go into IT. I don’t denigrate IT at all, I earned a good living from it for almost 25 years but it was not so interesting as music for a very creative person.

2. My last job, in IT, was extremely stressful. There was a lot of ‘office politics’ totally unnecessary for the job at hand, and this drained me.

3. I must say a word about my partner. She has been a mountain of strength. Her patience and understanding are LEGEND as far as I am concerned. She has definitely been one of the biggest factors in helping me overcome OCD. If you are a sufferer, never underestimate how much support your loved ones can give you. And if your loved one has OCD, never underestimate how much support they need.

I should also mention The OCD Work Book. I am not sure how much help this book was, but I know some of its exercises were so mind-numbingly boring that they gave me a big incentive to ‘make a break’! You can find a link to the book on my OCD page.

So if you are an OCD sufferer, or think you might be, have patience. I had it for 20 years, 18 of those without acknowledging it and without help, and I have managed to make progress.

If you have something you want to say about OCD, please don’t hesitate to comment here and I will do my best to give you an answer.

FREE eBook offer!
To celebrate my progress with the OCD (and because I need the publicity!) Eighteen, Blue: (Short Stories Volume I) is FREE from 24-26 May on Amazon. Here is the link: http://bit.ly/19xmNJq

I have rarely offered this book free and in fact, this may be the first time so make sure you grab a copy. It will be the only chance you have to read the short stories, Eighteen, Blue and the romantic science fiction tale, Another one for No. 19.

Eighteen, Blue
On the Rebel held wastelands of North American in the 22nd Century, biker bounty hunters choose their victims according to their playing card rank. But in this life-or-death game of poker, one player holds the trump card.

Another one for No. 19
Machine 19, the last Janitor bot still moving, travels on to its last assignments as Isha and Danel in NewYork District of Central City wonder how to change their meaningless lives.

This book may well soon become available on Amazon because they have banned one of my books which has forced me to seek other outlets. But more of that next week.

Is Monica Bellucci, Naked, Profound or Banal?

This week: Two Poems and: Is Monica Bellucci, Naked, Profound or Banal?

I apologise for the belated post this week; Amazon managed to revert all my book descriptions to old versions so that I have had to spend the last three days rewriting them. Like a fool, I trusted Amazon to keep them current so I didn’t keep copies myself. I have also had Infinite Blue Heaven – A Kind and A Queen banned. I don’t know the reason why but it might be something to do with the word ‘incest’, which has been in the project description on Amazon since 2009 and on Lulu since 2006. If Nabokov, in Ada, and Thomas Pynchon, in Gravity’s Rainbow, can mention incest, why can’t I? I have emailed them to ask what the problem is and to ask for it to be reinstated so I will keep you posted.

Is Monica Bellucci, Naked, Profound or Banal?
Okay, so I have your attention! In fact the question is slightly tongue-in-cheek but there is a point to it, as we shall see.

It is often said by wiser men than I that the beauty of a woman is profound. Some would say that nothing in the Universe can be more beautiful.

In the Hollywood movie Malèna, starring Monica Bellucci, we see a beautiful woman through the eyes of a teenage boy.

She is the object of our desire and we do see her naked. I suspect every man who watched it, already knowing that Monica is famous and intelligent Italian model with outspoken ideas, identified with the boy’s vague feelings of lust for this beautiful woman.

Extend this to a photograph of the naked Monica and that man, myself included, will still feel the same lust.

And yet, if her place is taken by an unknown model, the feeling disappears. We do not lust after an unknown woman to the extent we desire a woman we admire. In fact, what we feel for the unknown model is banal; a simple urge for sex devoid of any deeper emotions.

So what is this feeling we have for Monica? In what way is it different from that for the model?

Well, there language fails us! Man has yet to find the words, or the grammar, to describe that feeling.

So there is space for our language to grow, and with it, we will grow too. I am sure you will agree with me that human society on Earth is far from ideal at the moment and so we need to grow.

However, if language is one of our learning ‘tools’, there is a problem. We simply are not trying hard enough. I heard you ask; why?

Well, let me explain. I was reading my daily dose of Edgar Allan Poe this morning. He often made a few bob from work criticising the work of other writers. Here he is talking about a story of James Fenimore Cooper (author of The Last of the Mohicans): Wyandotte.

Regarding Cooper’s sentence on the opening page of Wyandotte – ‘One of the misfortunes of a nation is to hear nothing besides its own praises.’

[This sentence] is by no means lucid. Here it will be seen, that to convey the intended idea [that compared with other nations Americans only see America’s virtues], we have been forced to make a distinction between the nation and its individual members; for it is evident that a nation is considered as such only in reference to other nations; and thus as a nation, it hears very much ‘besides its own praises;’ that is to say it hears the detractions of other rival nations. In endeavoring to compel his meaning within a brief sentence, Mr Cooper has completely sacrificed its intelligibility.

What a wonderfully analytical brain Poe had! He is basically saying that Cooper has communicated the following message: Americans can hear no sound other than praises of the good ‘ol USA!

He doesn’t go on to offer an alternative, as he does for other errors by Cooper, but nevertheless it is a withering criticism. Even in the 1840s, some writers of Cooper’s calibre were seen as ‘dumbing down’ grammar, either deliberately or by error.

Now, you and I can tell perfectly well what Cooper was trying to say and yet it is true that the sentence is ambiguous. So Poe was keen to point out that we need to be precise, and further more, it is quite clear that we are a lot less clear these days than writers of the 1840s. We have failed to pick up the challenge laid down by the likes of Poe, Dickens and even Shakespeare. Compare this chorus from the song Stupid Hoe by Nicki Minaj:

You a stupid hoe, you a you a stupid hoe
You a stupid hoe, you a you a stupid hoe
You a stupid hoe, you a you a stupid hoe
You a stupid hoe, you a you a stupid hoe
You a stupid hoe, yeah you a you a stupid hoe
You a stupid hoe you a you a stupid hoe
You stupid stupid, you a stupid hoe

Okay, so it’s an extreme example! But not only is it dumber than a hamster would tolerate of itself if it could pick up a pen, it is so ambiguous as to be completely meaningless. We don’t know if she is referring to herself, somebody in the song (she seems only to refer to herself in the rest of the song) or even the poor listener.

So what’s my point?

My point is that we are slowly losing the ability to communicate. Indeed, we are slowly losing the will to communicate.

What seems to have replaced it is the will to be entertained. I would suggest that Cooper had half a mind on entertaining the masses. During his lifetime, he was more popular than Poe; probably because he knew how to provide entertainment rather than enlightenment.

But if we carry on like this, overloading our senses with simple gratuitous pleasures like youtube videos, we will be sleepwalking into big trouble. Sooner or later, a clever malcontent like Hitler, or perhaps simple corporate greed, will shape our society in a way we want and guide our feet over the edge of the precipice, into disaster.

Oh, and my original question; Is Monica Bellucci, Naked, Profound or Banal?

Well, I think it depends on whether you know exactly who Monica is. What’s your opinion?

Two Poems

I read Poe’s critique of Rodman’s Culprit Fay this week. While Poe is scathing, I don’t think the poem is that bad by today’s standards. Judge for yourself:

Extract from: Culprit Fay – Joseph Rodman Drake

He put his acorn helmet on;
It was plumed of silk of the thistle down:
The corslet plate that guarded his breast
Was once the wild bee’s golden vest;
His cloak of a thousand mingled dyes,
Was formed of the wings of butterflies

My own efforts are pathetic by comparison. However, I have always believed that if you don’t get your own efforts ‘out there’ for others to judge, you can never improve. So here goes. Here are two poems of mine. The first, I began composing while on holiday in Spain. I was walking through a nature reserve, full of beautiful wild flowers, when a few rhyming words popped into my head. Over the next three months, I persevered with getting the thing into some kind of shape. The second, I can barely remember writing. I think it was written in ten minutes flat, after seeing an exhibition at the Tate Modern and meeting somebody new. I think you will agree that both are very poor, but please let me have your opinion.

To Play in Beds of Riotous Ray – Lazlo Ferran

Don’t you know you are the first, the utmost,
Figure-head of my dreams,
Like a sea-drunk fool, return’ed, who knowest,
Words, shaped to frame the tender feeling,
Art s’easy to snare as a unicorn,
I offer, in hope, ten stanzas,
– Ten prayers to the Holy God of Poem,
That in perfect word circumscribe,
The beauty of the lady from Kansas.

Succulent red pillows of a dew-ed rose,
Penanted breez-ed sunflower.
Precious golden corn flower posie,
Cascading sweet ellyssum bower.
The petals of a flower they only form,
A ring-ed shape that doth surround,
The central essence of your beauty’s stem
Which I first saw from afar, thence,
You seemed to withhold, mysteriously
and thus t’was, came to be bound.

I do not seek to invade, as some trou-
badour jesting in myth antique.
Chivalry, have imagin’d their false woo-
ing, but seek to befriend¬ – no tricks,
To encompass your waist, to hold your hand,
Because you, a woman, most fair,
Have power to give, th’ love that’s least detained,
From God’s deep infinite fountain,
You are the Lady to the Lord
That I do feel in your presence my dear.

Or with hold at your mercy, that which I,
Believe you to hold most precious.
I know that were I to take from you this prize,
Not cherishing its worth to us.
T’would be a sin, I could not do penance,
Adequate to pay the price to,
Absolve my soul from the evil cursed chance.
My loss too great, for I sought to take,
And took to turn and burn, our
Lady Jennifer’s heart and made it to dance.

The domicile of men is most suited,
To those who are of brutish strength.
Where words are of force, ne’er entreated,
But I entreat ‘y, must needs attempt.
To clumsy try with pen to reach you t’tell,
You how it is that to be close,
To you, would be to want to be closer still,
Let me say my dear that my most,
Delicate desire is to hold your waist,
And to let your breath my ears to fill.

Whether your breath is that quickened,
Or t’s the slow breath of sleep.
Its sweet music doth me empassion-ed,
– Smiled upon as I pass straight,
Through those gates to the garden of your heart.
To play in beds of riot ‘ous ray,
To walk hand in hand, yet we both be fast,
‘Sleep may be still ’tis we are one,
T’is just as a Night must needs have the Moon
And a Day must needs have the Sun.

Lady of the Lord that I feel I am,
When I am touch’d by your presence.
Your parapet I do walk alone,
Cautious, yet happy, I thence,
O’er see the foes advance ‘yon the walls.
I command all inside, grey stone,
Sky above, buttressed firm and resolv’d,
To protect you, to protect us,
I have built this castle, built this keep
For to keep us safe until we grow old.

I must, sure, seem to you like a dull blade,
On the battlefield of honour.
Your will so sharp to see all rank display’d,
Below you in clashing clamour,
If you had not e’en noticed your humble knight,
I would hardly have dared to try,
T’win your honour, but my aim you ignite,
And I need, on this field of conflict,
To loose the arrow, afore
I burn in the flames that burn so bright

You to me are of noblest blood,
Your features and deportment fine.
You glide like silk that marble dance-floor floods.
And glide and turn in sweetest line,
And if our twisting circles should entwine.
The Minstrel’s tune become too much,
Your eyes so close, to drink like mulled wine.
I would risk to press my case again,
And leaning close I see’st you smile
And in that while our fingers touch.

Now we have seen the form of my flower,
Radiant echo of your beauty.
See that I do not say if your bower,
Be a rose, sun-flower, lily,
Or the lilac, for it is in worship.
Of that flower called beauty,
Whose bud is true desire I fashion’d it,
In the hope that this fair missive,
May after a time, all the more
Beautifully say what my words can not.

This – the eleventh verse, is the bud,
Of my rhyme’s mimicking flower.
The mysterious creature called love,
At the centre of desire.
I say – We men are cordless without love,
Were you hence to remember me,
I’d be happy, e’en in that misty world above.
Were you to love me I would be,
Happiest of all – Were I a Saxon king,
Afire on my leafy bed,
On the lake, t’would be the last part burn’d
– The sweet mem’ry of you, in my sleepy head.

The Lighthouse – Lazlo Ferran

So dark the night.
Owls pussyfooting around my cloak muffed soul,
My destiny, three-masted, white, serene,
Glides deep, deeper into Hades sea.

Ghoul-Captained, sailors a’dippin’,
their plumbs and tinkly bone-dry fingers,
Into the still real lapping waves
As the old, oak-bound hulk shivers.

On the edge of night it is.
And yet isn’t quite extinguished
The souls of the crew,
Cry out for some Lode-Star light to distinguish.

“There!” cries a loose-socketed soul,
“I see it!” as the Dervish sweep – ,
Faery Light to guide them in,
Comes the Light House with their embrace to keep.