What goes up…

In the air, you feel invincible.

Streaking through the air at over 700 kilometres per hour, courtesy of two colossal General Electric turbofan engines. Armed with a 30 millimetre Avenger cannon, six AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missiles and two AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. The Sidewinders are for self-defence. Just in case.

Every contingency is prepared for.

Your aircraft, the A-10, is commonly known as the ‘Warthog’, but you prefer its official, more impressive title; the ‘Thunderbolt’. You like to envisage your combat role as that of Thor’s Hammer, flashing out of the sky and delivering electrifying justice upon those who have angered the Gods. No mercy, no hesitation, no fear – you are a tool of judgement for the Lord to wield as he sees fit.

You do not give your actions a second thought.

Today you’re going tank-busting. You and your wingman spot suspicious activity on the ground, very close to the active operational area of friendly forces. Immediately, with one swoop, you hurtle towards the vehicles and identify some peculiar orange tubes… They could be Scuds, or some other weapon to be utilised against your Coalition brothers in arms. Embedded on the banks of a small canal, they certainly appear military. You make a brief report of your sighting, and tell your aerial sidekick to prepare to engage. In seconds rather than minutes, you and your wingman have eliminated this threat, and continue your patrol.

The radio crackles.

“Popov from Lightning 34. Can you confirm that you engaged the tube and those vehicles?”

Buzzed, you respond in the affirmative, taking care to shield the pride from your voice.

“Roger, Popov. Be advised that you have friendly armour in the group box 3122 to 3222. Orange, small tanks. Just be advised.”

Your blood runs as cold as the air outside your cockpit.

“Hey, Popov three-four, ABORT YOUR MISSION. You got, uh…We…it looks like we might have a blue-on-blue situation.”

Fury, guilt and sickness instantly churn your guts, you want it not to be true as you key the mic.

“Confirm that those are friendlies on that side of the canal.”

At this, command changes tack, and declares that once upon returning to base, all the confusion will be sorted out at your debriefing.

“They did say there were no friendlies!”

Your comrade sounds on the verge of tears, but you have nothing with which to encourage him.

“Yeah, but the orange thing will screw us. Orange panels are the ident friend-or-foe, man. They…they just looked like orange rockets on top.”

From this point until landing, you stay quiet and simply concentrate on not throwing up.

At the debriefing session, you are informed that one British soldier was killed and five more were wounded. A thorough investigation will be launched, but it is highly probable – essentially certain, in fact – that you will be cleared of any wrongdoing. The incident simply will act as a reminder of the inherent fog of war that will occur regardless of modern technology and advanced communications. Blue-on-blue engagements are, unfortunately, inevitable.

This is all meant to be reassuring, but to you it is meaningless. Your wings have been clipped, your hammer cracked.

In the air, you felt invincible.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

***Loosely based upon the events documented in the video below***

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All filler no killer

This afternoon me mam asked had I been writing while she was away, and I realised that not one word has escaped my pen (or keyboard) since 2014. Why? What reason have I for such fantastic indolence? I have a job – just – but I barely work more than one day a week, if that. Mostly I sit on my ass at home, playing xbox 360 and surfing teh net for whatever tickles my fancy. Said fancy is usually tickled by football news, gaming news, mark kermode’s film reviews, and leftist politics. Just in case you were wondering, like.

I’m not seeking pity, you understand – this is actually all quite fulfilling. Yeah, a job would be nice; sense of accomplishment, social interaction, self-worth boost, something to talk about when I meet up with friends/relatives/acquaintances… Twould all be very nice. But, like, that’s in a perfect world. With a perfect job. And for somebody with my kind of anxiety, anything less than that eventually just makes me hate myself and everyone around me. Which makes full-time work essentially out of the question, and even part-time work seriously uncomfortable.

Meanwhile, I pretty much enjoy contributing to online discussions and what-have-you, in the time-honoured tradition of the armchair/keyboard warrior. SJW and proud, that’s me. This internet activism lark is pretty much all I add to my side in the class war, but it’s something I guess. Very little, granted, but nonetheless some sort of voice chiming in with the dispossessed and the disenfranchised. Tis a start, ya might say…if you were feeling charitable.

Anyway, that’s over 250 words, so I can say I’ve written something now. HUZZAH!

Now back to World of Tanks. Still haven’t managed to grind my way to a T-34 yet…

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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My Favourite Films of 2014

It’s that time again, when everyone is putting their end-of-year lists together and grading all the things they’ve done, read, watched and listened to, in the hopes that someone, somewhere, somehow, will give the slightest tiny shit about their tedious, uninformed opinions. So let’s get on with it!

All told, I saw about 70 newly released movies in 2014. In no particular order, they were the following (DEEP BREATH);

Uwantme2killhim?, Snowpiercer, After Tiller, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 12 Years a Slave, The Machine, Grudge Match, Dallas Buyer’s Club, Robocop, G.B.F., Godzilla, A Case of You, The Double, Gimme Shelter, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Calvary, Transcendence, A Long Way Down, The Lego Movie, Road to Paloma, The Armstrong Lie, Now You See Me, Under The Skin, Contracted, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Frank, Nebraska, The Zero Theorem, Guardians of the Galaxy, Her, The Amazing Spider-man 2, Locke, Around the Block, Grand Budapest Hotel, Enemy, Charlie Countryman, Canibal, Best Man Down, Night Moves, Edge of Tomorrow, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Maleficent, Perfect Sisters, The Square, Nymphomaniac, The Guarantee, We Are The Best, Horns, The Monuments Men, The Unspeakable Act, Automata, The Returned, All is Lost, Whitey: United States of America vs James J. Bulger, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, What If, The Babadook, As Above/So Below, Belle, The Maze Runner, Lucy, Predestination, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Gone Girl, Joe, The Purge: Anarchy, Tusk, The One I Love, Jimmy’s Hall, The Salvation, and last but not least, The Interview.

I also saw Mystery Road in 2013, but since it only got a proper release this year…I’m counting it. The films marked in blue are the ones I would heartily recommend to anyone who is looking for something great to watch.

Anyway, that’s why you won’t be seeing the likes of The Raid 2, Boyhood, The Rover, Interstellar, The Canal, Fury or any other of the myriad of potentially fine films released this year; because I haven’t seen them. Bearing all that in mind, these are my top 5 (drumroll, please):

5. Grand Budapest Hotel

How you react to this movie really depends on your overall perception of Wes Anderson’s oeuvre; if it’s too twee for your liking, you’ll probably hate it. However, if you adored Moonrise Kingdom, The Life Aquatic, or his adaptation of The Fantastic Mr. Fox, you will love this, his best work. Sumptuous to look at, filled with laugh-out-loud moments, and strangely poignant given the implied backdrop of Nazi-era repression, the Grand Budapest Hotel also features some of the finest comic acting this year, from a glorious cast.  Tony Revolori gives a breakthrough display in the lead role, and who knew that Ralph Fiennes could do comedy?! Exceptional film.

4. Calvary

John Michael McDonagh followed up The Guard with something a lot darker, more layered, more seedy, and harder to watch. The Irish auteur is fast becoming one of my favourite filmmakers, partly because he knows how to frame a great shot, and partly because he is economical with dialogue. His efficiency means that he can cram a lot of complexity into the characters and story within a relatively short running time, and a seven-day plot that moves along at a brisk pace. Props here to Chris O’Dowd and Dylan Moran, who both act against type to turn in quite heart-rending performances. Calgary’s pathos stays with you long after the end credits.

3. We Are The Best!

Easily the sweetest film of 2014, and my pick of the foreign language films this year. Based on Coco Moodysson’s graphic novel Never Goodnight, the adaptation is brought to the screen by Coco’s husband Lukas Moodysson, who takes the directorial reins with aplomb. It’s just a really lovely story about a couple of teenage girls growing up in early 80’s Sweden, enduring all sorts of hardship for being unapologetic, hardcore punks. The kids at the centre of the movie put in such earnest and talented portrayals that you can’t help but love them, and the whole thing is just beautiful to watch. An absolutely stand-out feature.

2. Mystery Road

This is a tale of identity, divided loyalties, justice, prejudice and honour. Set in present-day Queensland, this film is an homage to classic westerns, hardboiled detective stories, crime thrillers, and social dramas. A whodunnit in the Australian outback, with all the environmental beauty acting as counterweight to the grim deprivation of the people residing there, Mystery Road follows an aboriginal cop as he tries to solve the murder of a young indigenous girl. In so doing, he comes up against the understandable distrust of his fellow aboriginals, the racism of the local white populace, and even the feckless incompetence of his colleagues in the police force. Aaron Pedersen is outstanding in the lead role, but mention must also be made of Hugo Weaving’s electric supporting turn. A genuinely unique and brilliant film.

1. Locke

It’s funny; the other films on this list – and the one which barely didn’t make the cut, Predestination – are all visually complex affairs, with hard work required to execute the director’s vision. This, in sharp contrast, is the simplest of aesthetics; one man, in a car, at night. Of all the features listed, this is the one that sounds like it could easily be a stage play, or indeed a radio play. There doesn’t seem to be much to it.

Boy is that a daft assumption.

Oddly spectacular despite it’s limitations, Locke is the story of the eponymous Ivan Locke, a construction engineer working on the biggest job of his lifetime, who makes the sudden decision to abandon his career obligations in order to…you know what, I won’t spoil it. Just watch the damn thing!

Tom Hardy is simply extraordinary, a magnetic and mellifluous man at the helm of a tough, gnarled, strangely poetic vessel. The voice-only supporting performances by Andrew Scott and Olivia Coleman are wonderful too, as they have to be in order to maintain the gripping drama of it all. Make no mistake, in a film as apparently bare-bones as this, whether the whole shebang succeeds or fails is down entirely to the cast – and every one of them is marvellous.

Writer-director Steven Knight put together the most breathtaking of austere movies and, as a result, Locke is my favourite film of 2014. By far.

Solidarity, brothers and sisters… 

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What’s it worth to ya?

If it is the right recipient reading this, then you know exactly what it is that is now in our possession. You should, at any rate. Not much of a parent if you need it spelt out. Then again, had you been much of a parent then you would not have breezily sashayed into this predicament; either you lack the requisite intelligence to protect your young, or have not the slightest consideration for said offspring. Since we are not mind-readers (heavens no, we have foolishly divulged our one weakness!), we cannot be certain of which malady you may be suffering – stupidity or fecklessness. Be that as it may, it does serve to leave us in what could accurately be described as a pickle. What sum should we demand when the value you place upon those closest to you – biologically, at least – is so unclear?

Therefore, we shall – with no little trepidation and some considerably generosity, if we may be so immodest as to say so – leave this estimate up to your esteemed powers of calculation. Whatever price you wish to pay in order to see your seized spawn alive again, deposit it in the cistern of toilet 451 in the North Bank of the Arsenal stadium at half-time in this weekend’s scheduled sporting contest. Fair warning, however; if the amount is too little, we will know. If, indeed, it is too much, we will know.

In either scenario, the consequences will be…indigestible.

Is mise,

A. Kara

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Poacher come with his Poacher’s gun

He waits.

Breath measured, regular, inaudible. Expression tense, taut, concentrated, but muscles relaxed, waiting to be called upon. Body still, blending into the undergrowth. Eyes scanning the treeline, anticipating telltale movements.

Any minute now.

It is sound that provides the first hint of their presence. Foolishly squawking their arrival, inanely chattering at eachother; they have the arrogant haughtiness of predators themselves, and believe themselves invulnerable in this, their private domain.

Easy mistake.

He is in the perfect position, having meticulously planned this meeting, so he needs only to slightly, ever so slightly, track his scope towards the noise and – voilá! Once the unwitting marauders emerge, he will require mere milliseconds to account for each and every one of them.

Get the Alpha.

As the hubbub inches ever-closer, he reminds himself one last time to ensure that all of the hunting party must be clear of the wooded sanctuary before he engages. It is not in his nature to be hasty – how could it be, as a highly-trained, hugely-experienced killer? – but he is nothing if not methodical. His method always involves a final check.

Isolate and annihilate.

The hoots and wails of the revelry are so loud now as to indicate intoxication. That was neither here nor there for him, it merely made it easier to identify how many targets there were.

Alpha… Mate…  Two heavies… Pater familias… Mater familias…

No problem. The sextet finally hove into view, almost as one, and he exhales for the last time before pulling the trigger. Mechanically, he dispatches his prey before they even have a chance to realise what is taking place. With total conviction and relentless dedication, he speedily accounts for the cackling crew. He takes a moment to settle down, to let his heart-rate return to normal, before slowly rising from his firing position.

God save the King.

In his poacher’s garb, he will not raise any suspicion as he exits the Sandringham woodlands. He is, after all, a member of this prestigious private estate. Once the alarm is raised, he will be far away, smoking a Romeo y Julieta and serenely celebrating a successful hunt. The assassin whistles a tune as he packs up his gear and ambles away from the carnage.

Goodbye to the King of Nothing really,
Wave of a hand and a Life of Riley,
Part-Nazi, Part-King Billy,
Goodbye to the Crown.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

 

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Call a spade a shovel

With a muffled-yet-resounding crump, the four-story building about half a mile upriver on the opposite bank crumbled under a barrage from unseen artillery. Cordite and concrete filled the air, an intoxicating and inhuman mix. After a minute or so, the smoke cleared enough for the ruins to be made out. Nothing moved. Nothing living remained. A brief cheer went up from the embattled bastion, and their commander gave a quiet sigh of relief before speaking into the radio.

“Good hit, good hit on One. I repeat, good hit on Fortification One. I can confirm that no further enfilade is being received from upriver, we are secure. Cease bombardment. Repeat, cease bombardment.”

How significant was this victory? It certainly brought about a cessation of combat which, however temporary, was desperately welcome. In such circumstances, the passage of time becomes impossible to gauge, so that the men and women who had been struggling to weather the assault felt as if they had been fighting for days, weeks, months…

Their enemies seemed incessant. Drawing from an eternity of enmity. Every bullet, missile and rifle a tool eminently necessary to extricate them from their circumstances. What else could they use? All they had left was a desire to eliminate the chains which had held them for so long, and the methods of violence which could assist them in doing so. The decision to fight for one’s survival is no decision at all when no alternative remains.

The military denizens of the riverside barracks were unaware of this. The soldiers viewed their opposition as an exterminator might view vermin; unpleasant, nasty, disgusting nuisances…which necessitate their existence. As one grizzled, surprisingly vegetarian NCO liked to put it, “We’re only good for crackin’ heads…so let’s give thanks to ‘em for givin’ us some heads to crack, at least!”

Infantry and commander were as one in their reading of the situation: The state must be protected. The government must be the rulers of the state. The rulers are always legitimate. Rebels are always illegitimate. Establishment good, challenges bad. Status quo ante bellum.

A spade is never a shovel.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Behemoth-eaten in Scar City

Tendrils wrapped around every pillar of interaction. No space left to call safe. Privacy now a distant memory. Every breath measured, every utterance analysed, every thought policed. Orwell’s predictions now woefully quaint. The dystopian visions of the past a fairytale compared to the marketable reality of the present. Escape a hilarious joke. Death the only release. To sleep perchance to dream? To sleep perchance to evade dreams filled with focus-grouped product placement. Squeeze your eyes shut. Jam your fingers so far into your ears that the drums rupture. You will find no release.

You will never be free. You will never be free. You will never be free.

‘Vee haff vays off may-keeng yew calm…’ Pop pills for the quietude, play videogames for the achievement, watch X Factor for the schadenfreude, drink booze for the distraction. Create lusts and desires to fill the gaps left by mind-numbing soul-destroying tedium. Set about fulfilling them, however temporarily. Transient the satisfaction, but its presence a welcome relief.

Sometimes… Eyes meet. Mutual acknowledgment. This is out of hand. Solutions aired, opinions sought, optimism courted. No progress. No change. No revolution. Words drifting into the winter air. A prayer thrown up against the night. Not alone, but still lonely. Surrounded by humanity, struck by its inhumane direction. Angry at everyone and no-one. Those bastards!…but then, they are compelled by a systematic imperative. How can be free ourselves from our cuffs when we don’t even know who possesses the keys?

Rambling. Mumbling. Muttering.

Nonsense. Gibberish. Bullshit.

Every ideal twisted. Every principle discarded. Every soul for sale.

A frightening acquiescence to the destruction of everything that has ever been, and everything that ever will be.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…  

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