Short stories on Instagram

I’ve been writing short stories on Instagram.

I’m not really sure why, but it’s just something that has started happening recently, since my last haircut in fact (which is an odd way for things to start but still). I remember the hairdresser handing me a copy of the latest GQ magazine and thinking ‘Ugh, I haven’t read this since I was a teenager’.

But then I opened it and started browsing – ‘I’ve got nothing else to do for the next 40mins, why not?’ – and I found an amazing and quite lengthy article about Philip K. Dick. Prolific science fiction author, futurist and drug user (I would be amazed if you’d never heard of him or of any of the films that are based on his works), I’d never read anything about him, the man, before and it was just completely mindstretching.

I really can’t remember the full ins and outs of the actual piece (quotes etc) and you’re a better man than I if you can find anything relating to the piece on the GQ website but what I do remember is the way they described Dick’s imagination and the way he viewed the world in which we live.

It really did blow my mind.

The guy was a mental case, a drug-[ab]using* genius and yet, his imagination was – and still is – ridiculously inspiring. That article, on top of this additional piece from Warren Ellis, entitled ‘How To See The Future‘, is pushing my brain in new directions and it is awesome.

On the way home that afternoon, I was on the look out for a decent Empty Underground shot or three and I spotted this:

Inspired, on Instagram

‘That’s cool’, I thought ‘reminds me of the use of amber, from [the TV series] Fringe‘. Then I boarded my tube and started typing. I don’t know what the character limit is on Instagram images, I’m yet to find it. But what I am finding is that being able to go over and above 140 characters is somewhat freeing.

My imagination takes me to all kinds of places…

I wrote:

—————-

Emergency tube closure.
Large rats, the size of cattle, have been reported roaming the tunnels at Oxford Circus. These orange panels, an emergency procedure in place since 1997, are actually made up of a thick orange sinew. Frequently mistaken as a deterrent to the unbelievably large rodents, the panels – also known as ‘honey squares’ – are actually covered on one side with a sickly sweet, yet dangerously poisonous, honey-like coating. This honey trap, if you will, lures the wildrats out of their dark dens and snares them with their hypnotic flavour.

Death occurs merely minutes after first contact. All that remains is for a clean up team to dispose of the captured carcass and reopen the station to the public. The whole process takes approximately one hour.

Quite remarkable really.

—————-

I’ve been writing short stories on Instagram. I’m not really sure why, but what I can tell you is that they’re inspired by Philip K Dick and Warren Ellis.

More short stories —

The Witness

Another World

Sentient Life

Emergency Tube Closure

 

Emergency tube closure. Large rats, the size of cattle, have been reported roaming the tunnels at Oxford Circus. These orange panels, an emergency procedure in place since 1997, are actually made up of a thick orange sinew. Frequently mistaken as a deterrent to the unbelievably large rodents, the panels – also known as ‘honey squares’ – are actually covered on one side with a sickly sweet, yet dangerously poisonous, honey-like coating. This honey *trap*, if you will, lures the wildrats out of their dark dens and snares them with their hypnotic flavour. Death occurs merely minutes after first contact. All that remains is for a clean up team to dispose of the captured carcass and reopen the station to the public. The whole process takes approximately one hour. Quite remarkable really.

A photo posted by James Whatley (@whatleydude) on

A bit similar to my N8 project from last year, this time it’s with Instagram.

*user or abuser? The word is undecided. He took the drugs to push himself, and his work, into new dimensions. Surely, for him at least, that’s not abuse; that’s using them exactly what they’re for.

Butterfly effects

Everyone has their favourite toys from childhood, I was fortunate to have a few. If you remember things like He-Man, Thundercats or Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors – then this tale is for you.

When I was a kid my big thing was M.A.S.K.

– aka Mobile Armoured Strike Kommand.

MASK Crusaders! Working overtime! Fighting crime!

I remember one Christmas morning when I walked down the stairs to find Boulder Hill completely all set up and ready to play with [can you imagine depriving me of an unboxing today?!] –  it was brilliant.

Switchblade, Condor, Volcano… the toys were amazing. One in particular, was Bulldog.

Bulldog was an American truck that fell down into a tank-like contraption at the press of a button. After a while (I don’t remember when), the spring loader in the click broke, which basically meant that Bulldog couldn’t return to truck mode.

This video talks you through the general awesomeness of Bulldog. You don’t have to watch it, hell you might even want to just skip it completely. However, the money shot is around 1min in. Y’know, just in case.

To add some background to this story, my father was an extremely talented carpenter and joiner, who owned his own building contracting company. He liked to build things. And as such, so did I. Lego was my thing as a kid, in the main at least, but outside of that you had Zoids.

Zoids were great. A seemingly impossible mixture of prehistoric robotics, each toy came in tiny little pieces that you had to assemble yourself (or in my case, with my dad).

What this all meant was that when Bulldog broke, dad and I set about taking it apart (like a Zoid in reverse) to see what the issue was. The cause: a small dog-leg-shaped piece of plastic that had somehow snapped during playtime. Damn.

‘What do we do now, dad?’
‘Well, now we know what’s wrong, son, we can get a replacement part and fix it.’

A few days later, an eight year old James Whatley wrote a letter to Kenner Parker toys explaining what had happened and asking very nicely if they could possibly send out the replacement part that we needed.

A few weeks later, my mum greeted me from school to tell me that she thought Kenner might have got my letter, as a parcel had been delivered while I was in class – and it had a MASK label on it. We raced home as fast as we could and, sure enough, there it was was: not a small packaged envelope containing the piece we needed, but instead a whole brand new Bulldog. Brand. New.

I still beam when I think about it now.

Two things to take away from that story:

  1. Surprise and delight: I’ve talked about it before, and I’ll talk about it again. It’s nothing new, but it is [still] a beautiful way to deal with your customers. Even now I can imagine that marketing or customer care manager sat at their desk, opening my letter and thinking: ‘Hey, let’s just send him a new one. That’ll make his day.’ – and they were right, it really did.
    .
  2. That one decision, made all of 20+ years ago in a random office somewhere in the UK, had such a profound affect on a little boy that not only does he still remember it fondly, but actually now spends his waking hours working out how he can make his clients’ customers feel just the same way.

That’s some butterfly.

Six months of travel

Not me. A chap named Jonathan.

James, Jonathan and Ben

[that’s Jonathan, over my left shoulder – don’t ask about the hats]

I met Jonathan first in Russia on my first night in Moscow back in April. He was halfway through a six month trip and had big plans. We ran into each other again in Mongolia and (along with a few others in our group) we discovered we pretty much had the same schedule ahead of us for the seven days or so [taking in camping out in the desert, catching the train to China and then hanging out in Beijing].

Anyway, I got back from my trip in May, Jonathan got back yesterday.
This post, entitled ‘HOME’ (and reposted with his permission) is what he’s just published and I actually love it.

Enjoy.

“Just finished unpacking my backpack for the last f***ing time because I am finally home in good old London. If ever there was a moment for a cliché/gay/philosophical/Disney/boring (whichever) shout, surely now is the one time I can get away with one. So here goes (and then I promise I will shut up about all this and go back to drinking K and listening to s*** music).

A lot of people have asked me recently what I’ve learnt or found in the last 6 months living like a gypsy ‘on the road’. Well, I haven’t discovered the meaning of life, I haven’t realised that the world is a beautiful place, I still don’t understand religion and I still don’t get the appeal of a tan. What I have found is a restored faith in the human race, pieced together by every individual that has gone out of their way to help me get so far. The couch-surfers around the world who put me up for a night or few, the drivers who gave me a ride when I was stood with my thumb up on the side of the road in the rain, the families that invited me to live with them and those that fed me despite being too poor to get a solid roof above their heads. The people that turned my map the right way round, the people who patiently tried to teach me a part of their language and culture, those that put up with my constant complaining everywhere I went, and everyone else who smiled at the pasty tourist far too far from home. Sure, there are a lot of dickheads in the world, but they are greatly outnumbered by amazing people.

The Cambodians have a saying ‘when glass floats’ which means when evil prevails over good. Glass will never float. That’s what I’ve learnt.

PEACE OUT YO.”

 

Peace out yo, have a great Monday.

Why I love Conan O’Brien

“It is our failure to achieve our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique”
– Conan O’Brien, June 12th 20011

I’ve already shared this both on Twitter and on Facebook, but it was happening upon an old article that I’d read a while ago did I then decide to post this video up here. It’s 20mins long, but worth every second; take some time out and appreciate Conan O’Brien.

If you’re done here read these excerpts from ‘The War for Late Night‘ by Bill Carter, c/o Vanity Fair. It tells you everything about why this speech means so much.

Then, once you’ve done that, check out this ‘kinetic typography’ video (a mere 2mins 45secs) of Conan’s farewell monologue from The Tonight Show.

The man is an inspiration.

Inspired by Spider Jerusalem

As most of you know, it was my birthday a couple of weeks ago and – amongst a whole host of other things – these arrived from my good friend Tarek

– The first two books of Transmetropolitan, Woo! –

I started book one yesterday morning and had finished book two by the afternoon… There’s ten books in total, (eleven if you count Vol. Zero), and I am a fan.

There’s more to come on this – just as there’s more to come about my birthday – but I just wanted to share something with you that I read a few pages into ‘Lust for Life’…
(Transmetropolitan: Vol. 2).

In the image to the right, Spider – the er… ‘hero’ of said work, is talking to his new assistant. The reason he’s making this request of her?

Well, she wants to be a Journalist. Spider’s response to the question asked is:

“If you’re going to be a real journalist, you’re going to need to learn how to look.”

Upon the assistant’s return, Spider elaborates on this further…

.

This exchange, as I mentioned, comes quite early into book two… but upon reading it, I closed the pages together and stopped reading.

“You need to learn how to look…”

“You need to learn how to look…”

“You need to learn how to look…”

Over and over these words reverberated around my head and, as I was scheduled to be leaving the house within the minutes that followed, I decided that I would try and capture and/or record whatever I could. Observing that around me that I’d normally idly pass by.

Thing is, I thoroughly enjoy taking in the world around me most of the time and yet I’ve never really felt the urge to try and capture it, live and as it happens…

I walked out of my house this afternoon and set off to the train station. As soon as I stepped outside I started walking and I started talking… and – thanks to the wonders of SpinVox Memo*…

(*I speak in one end and an email pops out the other… and Yeah, I know I work there Dudes, but the service is actually bloody handy and the Memo part is FREE!)

This what I said/saw:

Walking out of my front door. The light is blinding, the air is cold and the trees are dark. The Sun is setting and yet still so bright. The ground is muddy. I can hear hammering in the distance and yet there is not a soul in sight. Two cars sprinkle the road like forgotten toys while a plane soars through the sky leaving a trail like a scar across deep blue skin. No clouds, not a single one. A couple of people appear but nothing to report. Life in constant transit. This is what I do…

It must be noted at this point that it’s not that I ever didn’t know how to look… it was more, as I said, never having the urge to capture it in actual words. The words spoken above aren’t about to win me any awards, nor are they ever going to. The point is; just reading one snippet from a comic book that a friend bought me for my birthday has changed how I now look at the world… if only slightly.

I’m going to start capturing more of what I see around me… and no doubt use whatever I end up with in future blog posts.

In the mean time however, I need to locate Transmetropolitan: Book 3.

ASAP.

🙂