Sunday, 29 June 2014

Dream 24/06/14

I  have to go on a long mission on the bus to a run-down supermarket in this tatty town centre, which is the only place to get an ingredient I want. It's somewhat convenient for me though, as a friend of mine runs a hairdressing salon next to the supermarket, so I can visit her at the same time.  As I'm walking round the supermarket I meet this sexy goth girl whom I vaguely know who tells me she needs a haircut, so I take her into the little salon, which is deserted, and introduce her to my friend. She sits down in the barber's chair and my friend starts giving her a rather severe feather cut. About halfway through doing the haircut, she suddenly announces that it's lunchtime and that we need to go to the cafe next door before it gets too busy. It turns out that the cafe has become famous on account of its amazing macaroni cheese, which has been hyped to the heavens by food bloggers, and is now deluged by Hoxton foodies every lunchtime. Promising the girl that we'll only be five minutes, she leads me next door into the cafe, leaving her sitting in the barber's chair with her hair half cut.

We're the first lunchtime customers in the cafe but the old Italian guy and his son who run the place are already madly busy. Dozens of piping hot dishes of macaroni cheese are already plated up and sitting on the counter, like half-poured pints of Guinness on the bar of a Dublin pub. The old guy greets us, we each take one - my friend tells him to put it on her tab - and we sit down at a table and start eating and gossiping. It really is remarkably good, and we're so busy nattering away that it's only half an hour later that we realize we've left the goth girl in the barber's chair.


Hurriedly we dash back into the salon, but the girl is gone. I feel guilty so I go out to look for her. It starts to rain. Eventually I find her huddled in the doorway of a delivery entrance at the back of the supermarket. She is crying so I sit down next to her and put my arm round her and comfort her. At first I think she is upset about her hair being only half cut, but it turns out that she is in some kind of trouble with this psychotic drug dealer guy.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Dream 08/02/14

I'm in the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Lots + Lots!!" which is based on book and lyrics by Lerner & Llep. It is over three hours long and the music is stunningly beautiful, the best he has ever written, like a cross between Adam Guettel and Tori Amos. The plot has an anthology structure, with four unconnected segments about ordinary people who do extraordinary things. One is about a woman scientist who discovers a new ultra-amazing molecular multivitamin extracted from citrus fruit that can be used to help treat depression. Another is about this girl who has a choking paraphilia and pretends to hang herself with her belt to freak out school bullies. A female friend and I are in this segment. On the school campus we have to fight our way through a densely packed cornfield to get to the main building. We meet the girl who tells us her story then we see her doing her thing (hangs herself by her belt with her toes just touching the floor, gets pleasure from choking). We get worried that one day she will accidentally kill herself. When we decide she's had enough we take her down, dress her in her pyjamas and gently lay her in bed.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Mittyesque

Jonah DeSoto is renowned as one of the world's greatest explorers, always ready to put himself in danger in the pursuit of scientific truth... and the occasional bit of treasure. But his globetrotting lifestyle puts heavy strain on his relationship with his wife Nicolette, who shoulders the burden of looking after both their sickly son Timothy and her infirm mother. After Nicolette's mother dies in a bizarre accident, she makes Jonah promise that he will be there for Timothy's ninth birthday party, which the boy must have in hospital. Jonah arrives back in London in good time, but his treasure-hunting past finally catches up with him and he is swept up in a fantastical adventure that results in him missing Timothy's birthday party, leading to a ferocious bust-up with Nicolette. In the doghouse with his wife and in danger of losing her to his ladykiller best friend, Jonah must find a way back into her good graces before it's too late to save his marriage and his relationship with his son.
© John D. Buchanan 2014

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Dreamstone Origin

Aeons ago, in the time before time, in the midst of a great war between darkness and light, the Elder Beings forged the most precious and powerful object in the universe: The Dreamstone. Using its magical powers, they were able to send out good dreams every night to sleepers everywhere, knowing that as long as laughter and joy and the power of imagination thrived, the forces of evil and darkness would never prevail. Before they passed into history, the Elder Beings built The Voice of the Planet Dreamstone, a vastly powerful artificial intelligence which oversaw the creation of, and acted as a mentor to, the Council of Dreams, a group of elite scholars from across the universe who were trained as Dreammakers. They would make dreams and maintain order in the universe, and the Lord Highest, leader of the Council, would nightly use the Dreamstone to send out dreams to sleepers everywhere.
 
For millennia the Council endured, keeping peace in the universe, until one day an ambitious young Dreammaker named Zordrak became obsessed with the old ways. He coveted the power of The Dreamstone and the position of Lord Highest, which was then held by a kindly older man, and came to believe that the forces of evil and darkness were stronger than those of goodness and light. He corrupted good dreams into nightmares, believing that in this way he could seize power. But his treachery was discovered and he was banished from the Council. Before he was flung into the depths of space, he used his evil powers to transform himself into a hideous, monstrous beast, swearing revenge on the Council and in particular on the Lord Highest.

Now able to survive the freezing blackness of space, he came at last to rest on the dark, barren side of a small backwater world where a race called the Urpneys were beginning their first tentative steps toward civilization. These primitive beings worshipped Zordrak like a god, and he decided to shape their civilization to his own ends, building them into a mighty army subject utterly to his iron will alone. Trapped in his new, monstrous form - for, bereft of his magic books, he had no way to change himself back - he decided to bide his time, knowing that the Lord Highest would come for him one day and that when he did, he would be ready.

Zordrak's beautiful sister Zarag had been courted by the Lord Highest and had fallen in love with him, but when Zordrak was banished she rejected him and set off into space in search of her brother, believing that there must still be good in him and that she could help him. Zarag at last located her brother and found him in his new home under the Black Mountain of Viltheed, where his Urpney slaves had built him a vast throne. She entreated with him to renounce evil and come back with her to their home planet, but Zordrak could not bear to look at her, for her beauty reminded him of all that he had lost - and so he cursed her, making her hideous like himself, and trapped her spirit in a bottle where she would languish for two thousand years.

At last news came to the Council that Zordrak had survived, and of his whereabouts. The Lord Highest knew that Zordrak would never rest in his struggle to obtain the Dreamstone, and that in the process he could wreak havoc across the universe. Blaming himself for Zordrak's crimes - for the young Dreammaker had been his pupil and his responsibility - he vowed to watch over Zordrak, forever if needs be. He made the extraordinary decision to move the Council's entire base of operations to the planet that Zordrak had made his home, even though this meant taking the Dreamstone - the very prize his enemy craved - with him. He dispersed the Council and sent each Dreammaker home to his own galaxy, there to watch and wait in case more followers of evil sprang up. He was not afraid of being alone, for he knew that he could always call on The Voice of the Planet Dreamstone any time he needed its help.

When he arrived, he discovered that the other side of the planet was lush and verdant and home to another species, the Noops, whose civilization was also in its infancy. They too revered the stranger from the stars but left him to his own devices. He built himself a castle and made it his home, continuing to send out dreams to the sleeping universe night after night, becoming a guide and protector to the Noops. Once they were sufficiently advanced to understand what it was he did, he had already long passed out of living memory and into legend. He had simply always been there, so very old, they said, that he was old when the moon and stars themselves were young.

The Dreammaker, as he was now simply known, needed allies who could help him safeguard the land and watch over Zordrak. In the thick forest he found a more advanced civilization, the plantlike Wuts. He made contact with them and bought their loyalty with the gift of magic. In return, they agreed to be his spies and the guardians of the land. But he kept the secret of the Dreamstone safe from all.

For some two thousand years, the Dreammaker, keeping himself alive though the power of the Dreamstone, benevolently oversaw the evolution of the Noops' civilization into a utopian, agrarian society of simple, peaceful folk. Meanwhile, Zordrak moulded the Urpneys into a lethal, single-minded war machine, at the same time manipulating the Urpney gene pool to eventually breed a super-genius, Urpgor, who became his primary strategist and inventor of military technology.

Magic became deeply ingrained in the Wuts' society. They learned how to grow trees with magic leaves on which they could surf through the skies, and make staffs topped with powerful energy globes that could function both as weapons and communication devices. The Urpneys made sporadic raids on Noop territory, which were swiftly repulsed by the Wuts.

This fragile status quo existed until one day, a young Noop named Rufus, a well-intentioned but head-in-the-clouds wastrel, was fired from his third job in three weeks for daydreaming, and his girlfriend Amberley, in a flash of inspiration uncommon to her kind, suggested he go and try to get a job with The Dreammaker.

He could never have begun to imagine the world he was to enter, nor the titanic struggle that was about to ensue: a world of mystery, magic, adventure, and terrifying enemies, where he and his friends would be thrust into mortal danger and the fate of the whole universe would hang in the balance.
© John D. Buchanan 2014
"The Dreamstone" © Mike Jupp 1990

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Best of 2013

It's that time again, folks! I've spent literally months sequencing this selection and I think it may just be the best one yet. It's quite Japan-centric this year, but there's still the usual eclectic mix of genres and languages you've come to expect and love. The selection may be downloaded here. Plug in with an open mind, play and enjoy!

1. "Forbidden Love" by Abel Korzeniowski, from the album "Romeo and Juliet"
The greatest love story ever told finally has the soundtrack it deserves thanks to Polish wunderkind Korzeniowski, who, when movie legend James Horner's completed and fully recorded score was inexplicably rejected at the last minute by the film's producers, stepped in and – in just six weeks – wrote this sweeping, indescribably beautiful replacement.

2. "Mou Nakanai to Sora ni Chikatta Hi" ("The Day I Swore by the Heavens That I Would Weep No More") by Gakido, from the album "'s Note"

The now tragically defunct Tokyo band's epic tribute to their late bandmate Piyo, who died in a car crash in 2010, is replete with duelling vocal harmonies, insanely rubbery bass skills and probably the only use ever of the harmonica in a visual kei song.

3. "Music" by Sakanaction, from their self-titled album

Amazing retro-futurist disco-funk epic from one of Japan's best-kept secrets, superstars in their homeland but virtually unknown in the West.

4. "17 Crimes" by AFI, from the album "Burials"

The Californian death-punks blast back with this thrilling anthem to doomed youth, arguably the most immediately accessible track they have ever recorded.

5. "Alone" by Falling in Reverse, from the album "Fashionably Late"

Frontman and band mastermind Ronnie Radke gleefully tears up the rulebook and flushes the pieces down the toilet, calling out his "haters" on this truly unique, utterly original, foulmouthed and frequently hilarious fusion of electro, metalcore and gangsta rap.

6. "Breakaway" by Celine Dion, from the album "Loved Me Back to Life"

The Québecoise pop diva with the voice once described as "like an iron fist in a velvet glove" blasts back with her best song in more than a decade, a heart-wrenching ode to self-doubt and longed-for emancipation.

7. "Alchemist" by Acidman, from the album "Shinsekai"

The enduring Saitama indie rockers turn in this absolutely gorgeous, transcendent anthem inspired by Paulo Coelho's allegorical novel of the same name.

8. "Xanadu" by Screw, from their self-titled album

Major debut single from the dark-hued, hard-rocking visual band who this year were finally and justly rewarded with a ticket to the big time after four underground albums.

9. "Gunshotta" by Machinedrum, from the album "Vapor City"

American-born Berliner Travis Stewart is at the absolute bleeding edge of electronic music with this ultra-futuristic "slowfast" mélange of jungle, ragga and RnB.

10. "Uns Gehört die Nacht" ("The Night Belongs to Us") by Blutengel, from the album "Monument"

The vampire-obsessed Berliners tear up the floor with this almost impossibly epic, 80s-influenced futurepop anthem.

11. "I Wanna Be a Warhol" by Alkaline Trio, from the album "My Shame Is True"

Thrilling return to form from the gothic pop-punk heroes, a yearning paean to obsession with a chorus that unfortunately, and highly amusingly, sounds like "I wanna be a warthog".

12. "First Sight" by The Devil Wears Prada, from the album "8:18"

Ensuring that metalcore remains relevant in the 21st century, the Ohioan quintet show why they are the best band in the scene today with this gut-ripping yet melodic display of aggression.

13. "Passion Theme" by Pino Donaggio, from the album "Passion"

Giallo veteran Donaggio's stunningly gorgeous orchestral score for campmeister Brian de Palma's latest lurid straight-to-video shocker is one of the best things about the movie.

14. "Teeny-Tiny Star" by Baroque, from the album "Non-Fiction"

The seminal oshare band sometimes known as Kannivalism return after a eight-year hiatus with this effervescent, life-affirming nugget guaranteed to plaster a smile on any face.

15. "Seasons" by Div, from the album "Zero One"

The young Tokyo quintet demonstrate why they are the best oshare act in the scene right now with this incredibly lush, openhearted, instant pop-rock classic.

16. "Vanilla" by Haruka to Miyuki, from the album "Cyanotype"

An astonishing, incendiary racket made by two tiny Japanese girls with childlike voices who look about fifteen but who clearly have old, world-weary souls.

17. "Taigh an Uillt" ("Taynuilt") by Joy Dunlop, from the album "Faileasan"

This love letter to the Argyllshire town of Taynuilt and its people, complete with Disneyesque interludes of flute and violin, is stirring, stunning, preposterously beautiful – music to stand atop a mountain to, arms outstretched. Were there any justice, this would have been the theme song from "Brave".

Monday, 18 November 2013

Wedding dream

A friend of my daughter's is getting married, aged just 13. We get invited to the wedding, in the beautiful manicured grounds of a Japanese temple, and I meet her mother Ti (pronounced Tai), who is Malaysian or Burmese or something - a soft-spoken, fiercely intellectual, Aung San Suu Kyi type - and a portly, mustachioed Indian man whom I take to be her father. Part of the ceremony involves the bride in a sort of ritualized wrestling with her bridesmaids, who are dark, heavyset girls. When the groom, a smart, bookish-looking boy no older than the bride, is finally produced, I am surprised that he is white. But later at the reception I discover in conversation that the bride's father died when she was very young, and that her stepfather, with whom she has lived for years, is also white. He couldn't be there for some reason; the Indian man whom I had taken for her father is in fact the mother's lawyer, a family friend.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Dream 03/11/13

I wake to the sound of a ringing phone and discover I am in a tiny, shabby, sparsely furnished apartment. I answer the ancient bakelite phone and a guy asks to speak to Chini, wants to know whether he can come round and hang out, make some tunes. An African dude, apparently Chini, appears and grabs the phone, starts talking to the other guy. I look out the window to blazing sunlight. It is immediately apparent from my surroundings that I'm not in Kansas any more. Where the hell am I, and how did I get here? Chini is ready to go to work, so I follow him downstairs and we exit through a small closet door into the department store where he works. He tells me to come back later for lunch, then disappears. After wandering about the store for a bit, I go outside and, strolling around a street market, I discover from road signs that I am in Durban, South Africa. I spend the morning walking about town before going back to the apartment building, but it's not how I remember it - the department store has disappeared and seems to have been replaced by a series of luxury apartments and offices. I wander around asking for Chini, but no-one knows when he will be back. From the way they talk about him, it sounds as though he is a person of some importance, rather than a lowly department store clerk. When I finally find him, he takes me back to his apartment, which has turned into a preposterously plush mansion complete with fountains and views over a sort of hanging gardens of Babylon. He tells me he's going to get changed for dinner, then proceeds to remove his trousers right then and there. I don't know where to look.