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Tuesday, 27 August 2019

DON'T NEGLECT THE SMALL STUFF, SWEETHEART.

It is so easy for life's everyday frustrations to be swamped by the big stuff that hogs the news, like yer man in the White House and his itchy Twitter finger.  And our own blonde-bombshell, with a head like a burst sofa, in Downing Street. We curmudgeons of the small stuff are in danger of being isolated and neglected.

There are many, many irritations in my life but, rather than bore the pants off you, I'll concentrate on two.

There is a growing trend amongst female supermarket checkout staff to refer to customers as "sweetheart". Now, on the surface, where's the harm?  Male operators for years have been equally annoying when they refer to male customers as "mate" or "pal" when they are no such thing, and female customers as "love". I grew up in the era of "sir" and "madam", expressions that are way too formal in this sloppier more casual age, and don't get me started on supermarket staff appearance, gum chewing, mint crunching and water-swigging as they work. That would take my wrath to extreme levels.

But "sweetheart"? Not long ago a female checkout operator referred to me as "sweetheart" this many times in a fairly quick transaction:

Her: Hello sweetheart.
Me: Hello.
Her: Do you need any help packing, chick?
Me: No, thank you.
Her: That's £13.20, sweetheart.
(I hand over the money.)
Her: Have you a Nectar card, sweetheart?
(I hand it over.)
Her: Tap your pin in, sweetheart.
(I tap in.)
Her: Are you collecting school vouchers, ducks?
Me: No.
Her: There's your receipt.
Me: Thank you.
Her: Have a nice day, sweetheart.
Me (inside my head but inaudible to anyone else): Shaddup with the sweethearts!!!

I sound as if I am exaggerating but I promise you I'm not. To her credit, she did vary it slightly. It is very annoying to me. Some people will accept it as friendliness, and, on a level, it is. But it narks me. In fact, as soon as I experience the "sweetheart" treatment, I avoid that operator  on future visits and prefer to queue to be served by someone not afflicted with the "sweetheart" virus.

I'm not suggesting that we go back to sir and madam......but then again........

The other thing is restaurant staff, after setting down the plates, saying: "Enjoy." It has become such a throwaway word that it is meaningless and irritating. It is shorthand in this minimal character gadget age. "I hope you enjoy your meal" would be preferable because it takes a bit of effort to say six words rather than one. Stop it. STOP IT!

So, don't let the big stuff swamp the small stuff. I could go on and on about lazy car parking, car park machines that don't give change, service charges and tipping, rudeness, vaping.... but I'll leave it there....... for now.

Enjoy!

Saturday, 24 August 2019

SIR SEAN CONNERY AT 89

Tomorrow, 25 August, Sean Connery turns 89.  Here is a selected film poster gallery as a tribute.  A big salute, sir.



Hell Drivers (1957) as Johnny Kates



Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959) as Michael McBride



The Longest Day (1962) as Private Flanagan



Dr. No (1962) as James Bond



From Russia With Love (1963) as James Bond



Goldfinger (1964) as James Bond



The Hill (1965) as Joe Roberts



Shalako (1968) as Shalako



The Molly Maguires (1970) as Jack Kehoe



The Man Who Would Be King (1975) as Daniel Dravot



The Name of the Rose (1986) as William von Baskerville



The Untouchables (1987) as Jim Malone


and many, many more.

Happy birthday, Sir Sean Connery.





















Friday, 23 August 2019

ADDICTED TO SUBTITLES

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 
CV of published material available on request.
joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan



I have good hearing but I am now addicted to subtitles for films and dramas on TV.  Too many actors are mumblers and how disrespectful is that to writers. The words are important and I don't want to miss hearing what is being said.  It might not be the actors alone. What's the sound team doing, why is the director not bellowing: "More projection laddie/lassie?"

I am pretty confident that if you watch a pre-2000 film or television show, the dialogue is clear and you will hear every syllable.  (Actually, I've just remembered Rambo's First Blood (1982) in which Sylvester Stallone gives a speech consisting of noise that has never been anywhere near an English language dictionary.  It's like a bulldog with a mouthful of marbles chewing a wasp.)  But you get my drift.

Police and medical shows, to name two, are often full of technological and psychological babble that can be impossible to absorb, so subtitles are a godsend.

So, a short post but here's the message:

ACTORS - 
SPEAK UP 
AND 
SPEAK CLEARLY

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

THIS WRITING WEEK

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 
CV of published material available on request.
joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan



I love writing or trying to write. This week has been very productive, at least to me.

I have been focusing on flash fiction and, after hiring an acclaimed professional editor, I have 8 stories to play with.

7 of the 8 are already out there and these are their titles:


Lunch Interrupted

The Anniversary of a Done Deal

Betrayed

Brothers

Incident

The Girl Who Had Nearly Everything

A Dead Man's Journal


Story yet to place:
Rumbled


And a little 200-word story called Who Cares? has been submitted as well.

I have poetry out there awaiting decisions, and a memoir that is dear to my heart (again, edited professionally by one of the very best.). It's all fun.

Like the transients in Casablanca, I wait and wait and wait.............

Sunday, 18 August 2019

ABOUT CLASSICAL MUSIC, RACE & GENDER

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 
CV of published material available on request.
joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan


We 'shouldn't apologise' for the race or gender of those who made the most celebrated classical music, Nicola Benedetti says.
I was attracted to this headline on a piece in the Daily Telegraph (17 August, 2019). I’ll pick one quote from it:
Nicola Benedetti said: “I believe in and support a strong movement for diversity and integration. I also believe in respecting past mastery, regardless of race or gender.”

You can read the whole piece here.


But, as I read it, something occurred to me.  As a frequent listener to Classic fm, most of the time when I tune in I have no idea who wrote or who is performing the pieces. Some of the music played is familiar, but mostly it is new to me.  Quite often I hear a wonderful symphony or whatever and I marvel at the beauty within.  But it never crosses my mind to consider the gender or race of the composer or musician. Never.  

Two questions: Should I care about identifying the race and gender, and why should I care about identifying the race and gender? My answer to the first question is I don’t care.  I enjoy the music without unnecessary modern-day box-ticking.  My answer to the second question is that I am open to intelligent persuasion on any responsibility I should employ to ‘fix’ or ‘re-balance’ the past.  If there are undiscovered, forgotten or unappreciated composers of any gender and race from the dim and distant who should be lauded, bring them on.  I’m in it for the music. 

If I hear a mind-blowing piece and someone tells me afterwards the race and gender of the composer/performer, is that supposed to affect how I rate my enjoyment of the piece?

For the record, I think Nicola Benedetti is spot on in the quotation above.  Of course, in this age of instant apoplexy and hysterical attacks, she will have critics of her opinion.

I will continue to listen to Classic fm as I have always done – to hear beautiful music. Full stop.


Friday, 16 August 2019

FREELANCE WRITING IDEAS FOR SEPTEMBER

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 
CV of published material available on request.
joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan

I can write a piece on any or all of the following - joecushnan@aol.com

SEPTEMBER


12 - TV western Bonanza was first broadcast 60 years ago. 14 seasons; 431 episodes.
14 - TV cookery star Keith Floyd died at 65 10 years ago.
15 - TV western The Lone Ranger was first broadcast 70 years ago. 5 seasons; 221 episodes.
18 - Politician Mo Mowlam was born 70 years ago. Died at 55 in 2005.
19 - Model Twiggy will be 70.
20 - Actress Sophia Loren will be 85.
22 - Songwriter Irving Berlin died at 101 30 years ago
22 - TV sitcom Friends was first broadcast 25 years ago.
23 - Singer Bruce Springsteen will be 70.
25 - Comedian Ronnie Barker was born 90 years ago. Died at 76 in 2005.
26 - The Beatles album Abbey Road was released 50 years ago.
28 - Retailer Marks and Spencer was founded 125 years ago.
28 - Actress Brigitte Bardot will be 85.
29 - Pope John Paul II was the first Pope to visit Ireland 40 years ago.

WHEN ELVIS PRESLEY DIED, THEY DIDN’T EVEN TRY TO BREAK IT TO ME GENTLY (1977)



Huge capital letters on a newsagent’s board:
ELVIS DEAD – handwritten in black felt-tip –
And I gasped as I headed to Chadwell Heath railway station.
“What? WHAT!” I thought in my own capitals,
“How can this be true?” Beyond moody blue.

I felt like throwing a sickie, going back home,
Smashing an LP to pieces, finding a sharp end
And slitting my wrist, I was that pissed.
They didn’t even try to break it to me gently,
Just BAM!!  Right there for all to see. Heartbreak.

Later, after work, watching the news and pictures
Of scrawny Elvis, beautiful Elvis, fat Elvis,
I saw the beginnings of him, the wonder of him,
The decline of him, that rotten rock and roll thing,
A complete and utter waste of a king.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

ELVIS COSTELLO HAIKU

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too.
 
CV of published material available on request.

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan



hire the detectives
man in specs is watching you
his aim my be true

Monday, 12 August 2019

PROCOL HARUM HAIKU

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too.
 
CV of published material available on request.

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan




dancing salty dog
skipping a light fandango

wearing a homburg

Sunday, 11 August 2019

JETHRO TULL HAIKU

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too.
 
CV of published material available on request.

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan

A few years ago, I wrote a lot of haikus about musicians and singers. This was the very first one.





man with magic flute
playing earthy melodies
standing on one boot


Friday, 9 August 2019

IT'S A PIZZA, MAN. JUST A PIZZA

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too.
 
CV of published material available on request.

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan


From a Pizza Box.......

'wheat flour (wheat flour, calcium carbonate, iron, niacin, thiamin), tomato (17%), mozzarella cheese (milk) (16%), pepperoni (9%), pork, pork fat, salt, dextrose, caraway, garlic powder, antioxidants, (rosemary extract, sodium ascorbate, anise, paprika, paprika extract, pepper extract, ginger extract, preservative (sodium nitrate), tomato puree, water, semolina (wheat), rapeseed oil, salt, sugar, yeast, oregano, black pepper, basil, white pepper.

Although every care has been taken to remove bones, some may remain.'

It’s a pizza, man. Just a feckin’ pizza!



*******************

Which reminds me of a little poem I wrote:

Pizza Expired
There he was,
a lonely, depressed pizza base,
the last base in the place,
not chosen for eat-in or takeaway,
the last base at the end of a busy day,
unnecessary, unwanted, unloved,
his only option, he sighed and sagged,
as he lay all alone on the kitchen shelf,
was to end it all and top himself.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

THIS FACE WILL ALWAYS MAKE ME HAPPY

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too.
 
CV of published material available on request.

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan

This face will always make me happy. No matter the f-wits who try to be clever and important and relevant. This is this guy. This guy. This. Thank you, Babe.


Saturday, 3 August 2019

ETHAN EDWARDS, SEARCHER


Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too.
 
CV of published material available on request.

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan




The story goes …..

….. that the kid got blasted 
by Ethan’s furious anger:
What do you want me to do
draw you a picture, spell it out?
Don’t ever ask me,
long as you live don’t ever ask me more.‘
And all the kid wanted to know
was did they……
was she……
and Ethan stabbed the ground
with a knife
and stabbed it again
and again
and again
as if murdering the earth
provided closure
after he found the girl
dead
and worse.
After he wrapped her in his coat,
after he buried her
with his bare hands,
his insides twisted by loathing,
his heart thumping with rage,
his blood pumping with revenge,
his head promising a reckoning.
So on to find them, the savages,
ever restless searcher
and on finding them
to kill them
and on killing them
to shoot out their eyes
to deny them sight of the spirit-land,
to force their black souls
to wander the afterlife
forever
and ever

and ever.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

GUEST POST - COLIN DARDIS ON HIS NEW POETRY COLLECTION: THE DOGS OF HUMANITY

Today I am delighted to present a guest post written by Colin Dardis to celebrate the launch of his new poetry collection, The Dogs of Humanity. 









Colin Dardis writes about how the relationship with his publisher came about, leading to the release of his new poetry collection, The Dogs Of Humanity.

Last year, I had a poem published by Fly On The Wall Press in their anthology, Please Hear What I Am Not Saying, helping raise funds for the mental health charity, Mind. I have struggled with my own mental health since I was a teenager, so naturally, I was very keen to support the project. And because of that, I was on their mailing list, and followed their social media accounts, so I saw the call out for chapbook submissions back at the end of 2018. 
Isabelle Kenyon, the publisher and editor, does amazing work, and had impressed me with her ambition in putting together the Planet In Peril anthology and getting a letter of endorsement from Sir David Attenborough! So I knew I wanted to work alongside her and felt she was someone I could trust.
However, I almost missed the deadline to submit to the call out! It had been on my mind as a consideration, but realised on the very last day that the deadline has approached. I knew I had quite a number of poems about dogs, or that used dogs as a central image or metaphor. If you consider the number of idioms with negative connotations that use ‘dog’ in some day, it’s clear the animal is a symbol for the more unwanted side of humanity: a dog’s dinner, sick as a dog, work like a dog, the ‘black dog’ of depression. So I thought these could form the main body of the work, focusing on how generally humans treat each other.
This is possibly going to annoy some people, but the process from submission to acceptance was quite easy. On that deadline day, with perhaps twelve hours until it closed, I got together every poem of mind I could find: dogs, birds, cats, wolves, cows, etc. The bulk of the book involves dogs, but there’s a second section, ‘Other Animals’. I frantically redrafted and edited the work, putting them in a loose sequence, wrote my cover letter explaining the collection, and waited. A week later, I got an email accepting the work, it was that straightforward.
            Obviously, since then, we’ve weeded out some of the weaker poems, made a few tweaks, and added in a new poem. But overall, the gestation of the book was an easy labour. The poems themselves had been written over a period of ten years or so, sitting on my laptop, doing nothing. Perhaps six or seven had been previously published. But the putting-together-a-book process was a lot easier than the process of my previous collection, the x of y. From original manuscript to publication, that took about two years. Things tend to move slowly in the publishing world. To move from submission to actual physical book with Fly Press in eight months is amazing.
            There’s a curious shift in confidence that’s experienced before you publish a book. You could think each poem is strong and works well beforehand. But actually handing something over, and presenting a solid body of work, feels rather daunting. You start second-guessing everything – does that line work? Should that poem follow here, or be placed later? Should I have dropped that other poem? All you can do is try to ride out the doubt and forge ahead. That’s how things get achieved. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself, I just hope I have said something of merit that people can find some kind of affinity with. The last poem in the book in a call to arms of sorts, so perhaps people will read it, and want to go out and try to spread a little more kindness and love throughout the world.
            I think every poem can be cathartic: as a writer, you are happy when you are productive. It feels good for me to produce any new poem, even if it doesn’t come out as an overly strong piece; the main thing is the creative process, which you can still produce. With the past book, the poems were very introspective; there was an awful lot of ‘me’ there. With Dogs, I wanted to be a bit more outward looking, to observe and reflect on the state of humanity. So there are loose themes of chauvinism, bullying, just how hard life can be. There’s some positive stuff too though, simple things like celebrating nature, and the need for kindness. Some of it is subtle, some in plain sight, but I’m happy at least that the book considers other people rather than just myself.

The Dogs of Humanity is out 1st August, available to pre-order now:


Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dogs-Humanity-Chapbook-Colin-Dardis-ebook/dp/B07TCBCZ64/ref=sr_1_3

Sample poem:



The Dog at the Table

I am not moving towards you

in a way that is threatening
or foreboding. Trust me.

My steps are like my syntax, 

measuring out in drops of caution, 
spaced in order to give you breath.

As a girl might approach a boy 

in a high street coffee shop 
only after finishing her drink

might I come to you now
with a lip of foam hiding
the coquettishness of my walk.


And you will stay seated, 

reading Milan Kundera’s
The Book of Laughter

and Forgetting, as you get
lost in a sentence, and forget 

to look up to the angels.

Look up from your borderline. 

I’m tearing up the packets.
I’m adding sugar to your tea.