Saturday, 10 October 2009

'Freudian Tunnel' - CHROME SPIRAL CLIMAX


'Freudian Tunnel'
Archetype Records, 1997

by Matthew Ward (using the name Carl Young)

Published in 'Famous Album Covers', 150609

CSC are a group of 24 year old lads from Everton in England. They all have computer science degrees, are all geeks and all love music more than just about anything.

The press release I have says: "Freudian Tunnel may be the finest debut album from a British band ever, and that includes such established names as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who".

That's a pretty big rap. Critics in England are already saying that because the band utilises a computer they are just plagiarising other peoples' hard work, "scoring free flesh of a dying antelope", one London rag has said. But this is a little unfair.

Brendan Witherspoon, a self-proclaimed hacker and leader of the trio said the band knew they were going to be big when they discovered that all major Beethoven pieces, when recorded backwards, spliced up then recorded forwards, gave not only astonishing tunes, but also the apparent sound of people talking, and not stilted like in the backmasking trials of the '70s and '80s (Led Zeppelin, Motley Crue, Queen etc...) but actual lyrics.

Peter Sutherland, the band's 'funny one' mentioned his theory to The Guardian in July: that the spirits of old Beethoven and others like him had left a puzzle for artists like CSC to tap.

And tap they have. If you like house music you will be pleased. If you hate all niteclub music you will be converted. 'Freudian Tunnel' has precious moments, from the mysterious 'Tambourine Flash I still Got The Cash' and 'Fisherman Baskets For Sale', 'Reds They Come From Crook-ed Cross Drawing', 'Degrees and Degrees of Sanity' plus the boppy 'Regress Too Far Away', this album will sell well with both those in the drug culture and the people entrenched in other, more eclectic tastes. Yes! Album due out in early November.

-Carl Young (1997)

Published in 'Famous Album Covers', 150609

Orig. published in Opus, November 1997

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

MATT WARD INTERVIEW, World Audience, 28 Sept. 2009

In the early hours of 28 September 2009, I was interviewed by Mike Strozier of World Audience publishers on Blogstar. I had no webcam, only a mic so have extracted the audio from that interview and also transcribed the speech to text. Here are Parts 1 -3 (10 mins for each part) interview about me, Skive Magazine, Mockfrog Design, and what Mike calls the 'secrets' of a lot of website hits, downloads etc... Audio player below so you can hear us as you read. Enjoy, and please comment if you have Blogger etc... (Part 4 to come).

Interview with Matthew Ward of Skive Magazine, Mockfrog Design
by Mike Strozier, 28 September 2009

Part 1 of 4

So, okay, we spoke last time and we covered a lot of ground, I know, things are just really changing fast, fast and furious with publishing and the online world and technology and all that so I don't really want to take up too much time like maybe we could talk about half an hour cos, maybe a little longer, we'll see since see since it's really only just you and me anyway, no-one's here and then we can change the whole video around cos I don't want my face looking [laughs] for an hour, you know.

So okay so let's start with well why don’t we just start with some small talk then like I don’t know, The Beatles, or Australian weather or whatever you want. Go ahead...

Matt Ward (MW)
Well, Australian weather, we had a big dust storm here last week about 4 days ago. It blew over from the west of New South Wales and we woke up at about 8 o'clock and the whole of Newcastle was red, it was red dust it was amazing and beautiful.

Okay great. Actually before, I should back up a little bit and give a little bit of an introduction. So this is World Audience interviewing Matt Ward, and basically Matt Ward, I have your blurb on our page here but you're the publisher and the editor of Skive Magazine which has been around forever before World Audience ever existed and I personally as a writer used to submit to Skive it seems like going back into the late '90s but and then your magazine became a printed magazine in '03 i guess, correct me if I’m wrong, and a lot of the writers that I know and interacted with in the '90s and up into the beginning of this decade submitted to Skive and were published by your magazine and so it's grown to be a rather large publication at this point probably been around a decade which is something of an accomplishment. I know there's a lot of competition out there in the world with these literary journals but I think we've really covered some ground. And in addition you were very instrumental in helping World Audience get its feet up off the ground when we started in '06 and helped me a lot showing me the ins and outs of publishing and technology and html. You showed me a lot of that and built our website in fact so thank you for all your help that you've done for World Audience. But now what's happened lately is a lot, I think we were at the right place at the right time because within say the last two years, well certainly Print On Demand technology matured say 3 or 4 years ago but it sort of took a couple of years to sort of get everything rolling and then within the last 2 years everything else has come online. YouTube is fully integrated, now there's Twitter and then there's Print On Demand technology and that incorporates well together with YouTube or things like Twitter. ... Desktop technology is fully integrated. The printer that we use - 'printers' I should say, we use several different ones. Technology can create these wonderful color books, great artwork and then probably last the artists themselves and writers are online now. They're not... Well, they always were online, but it seems like now they're more than ever. We're reaching, we just keep getting better and better as artists. I know you have a lot more writers that you've published than I have so that's just sort of an overview, background about you and me and our businesses so...

Okay, so let me ask you this specific question, but before I do that let me let you respond to that and then I'll ask a specific question.

Well yeah I published you in 2006. You sent me a play and I published your play and I think you were amazed that I’d publish a play [laughs] where most people were publishing short stories and things like that, poetry occasionally. But now I haven’t been running this for a decade, I’ve been running it for about 6 years this year which I guess is a long time anyway. And you're right, the Print On Demand business has really improved a lot in only a couple of years. I mean, when we were starting out it was a bit of a hillbilly outfit, I mean it was really easy to use but the quality of the book was sometimes lacking, pages were sometimes upside down, books sent to Australia had to come through Spain and I don't know what the hell was happening. Sometimes it'd be late, sometimes the books'd be damaged or missing or whatever. And they'd always replace them but it was a pain because it took sometimes a month for books to get to Australia in the first place. So... But you're right, in the last couple of years they've really pulled their fingers out at Lulu and I think the reason for that is CreateSpace's come onto the scene and Lulu have had to so something to stay in the ballgame as it were.

Okay yeah there's Lulu, there's Lightning Source, which I use, and the distribution through Amazon, and Barnes & Noble and Ingram and all the other distributors. It's pretty sophisticated at this point and I know with your magazine Skive you have Lulu, then there's CreateSpace which sort of made the competition a little bit stronger and then there's Cafepress which I was using but that's probably the weakest of the lot and then there's a few others in fact. But you were saying that you have now, 'Your magazine gets how many downloads do you get a week?' is my question. And are you paying for those? Did you in the past or how are you monitizing that? I think you were saying through advertising. So that's my question and then also the other question that I wanted to ask is, 'How many are you selling, printed copies through Lulu?' cos I think you've gone to selling quite a few now but unlike me you don't have any distributor so if you could maybe talk about how you're able to get all these downloads plus selling... In a sense you become your own distributor, so what are your secrets?


[Laughs]. My secrets, oh god. Well, downloads, it's hard to say how many per week or how many per month cos usually what happens is as soon as an edition of Skive comes out there's a huge peak and it sort of peters out as you'd probably expect it to do that. I had a few thousand in a few days and I was... This issue, the issue before, December, before that it's been really big for about 8 months and print as well. Now I think the reason it's jumped because I've made it available free, and that sounds bizarre that you'd do a magazine, just put it up free but I mean it seems to have worked and it's not only the authors who are buying copies of this magazine anymore and it used to be like that for a couple of years; really the only people who were buying it were the authors and people who'd been published a few times stopped buying it, they already had their copies and they didn't want to buy it anymore. I just took a gamble and put it up live and people started downloading it. Printed copies? I've sold a few hundred in a few weeks and it's mostly authors but also other people as well. I've kept the price down too, I've dropped the price. I got greedy and I was selling it for $30 and I sold a few but then people really were not buying it as much as they used to. But I've really incorporated things like Facebook and Twitter - you were mentioning those - and I've got a book of 50 or 60 organizations I'm involved with as you probably are too and you've got to keep track of all these places whether they're social networking sites like Facebook... I'm not involved in MySpace but it's probably more for the youngsters. But there's hundreds of these sites and I think that probably contributes to it too. So I get in contact with these people, I keep in contact with them and we get a really nice working writing relationship and I think that helps a lot to give that sort of personal touch. I'm not just a guy turning up to make a heap of money who knows nothing about writing. I'm a writer who became an editor who became a publisher. So, I'm self-taught. And going back to your computer comments before - me helping you - people helped me the same way and that's how I learned. I've got a degree in Classics, and Philosophy and English and things like that. I don't have a computer degree, I don't have a website degree or graphic arts degree, I'm more self taught so that way I'm more patient with people I meet that way so I think that people appreciate that.

End of Part 1.


Interview with Matthew Ward of Skive Magazine, Mockfrog Design
by Mike Strozier, 28 September 2009

Part 2 of 4

World Audience (WA)
Okay, thank you very much. Yeah probably that's true, I mean ‘the personal touch’, I think probably the fact that we're writers, I’m definitely a writer and that does make a difference in the fact that I’m able to relate to the writers that I publish, I will say that does make a huge difference. You know, we were talking before on Skype that I’m a publisher that dabbles in a magazine and you're a magazine publisher that dabbles in books - or I should say I’m a book publisher - so you know we're two sides of the same coin. And also I think you were describing with your magazine... I'm sort of like a couple of years behind you still and as soon as you made your magazine free I made it free so I’m just following your every lead. And now that I’m thinking about it I’m thinking I should maybe make all of our titles free, ebooks and that will kick in... that will create that network of links that create or facilitate the printed book getting purchased which is a lot more profitable even than an ebook would be. So that's definitely an idea in terms of marketing books.

I guess, what other secrets of the trade do you think you have that you incorporate that you notice have worked. I'm just curious because obviously you have a lot of success, certainly the personal touch is part of it but I have to think it has a lot more to do with the marketing that you're employing. Because the personal touch works in connecting with writers on a personal basis, I can say the same is true for me but it doesn't sell books although it does make a difference in sort of building up that network. But even the network itself doesn’t necessarily translate to big sales and watching your growth I noticed that within the last two years those same two years when technology really started to catch on fire that's when you started to catch on fire and so I don't think it's all timing of the network of writers and that personal touch that you have. There must be some other stuff that you're doing that's working so maybe if you could talk a little bit about that.

Secrets? Well, going back to your... Following my coat tails [laughs] or whatever you're talking about, one thing I do do, is I charge for back issues of ebooks, so the current issue is free but back issues cost money and people tend to buy them, it's bizarre that they would do that. I think... What I did have was... At one point I had everything free, as ebooks not printed books and even the printed books were almost cost so they were very cheap but I think sometimes people treat cheap that way, they don't seem to respect you that way. So the current issue is free but past issues I charge, only a couple of dollars. It's all balance of... It's costing. If a book is $14.95 for the printed issue and you offer the ebook for $3.00 it looks attractive, it's just all pricing. Samplers, which I think we've done with World Audience as well. So a sort of smaller version of the book, half a dozen pages for free whacked up there. I've put up PDFs that've got passwords on so that people can look at them online, they can read them but they can't print them, they can't extract text from them, that sort of thing. I guess it's a little bit like shareware, you know, with software so you give someone a taste and most people will, if they can get it free they'll get it free. I don't know many people who'll read a whole novel or a whole copy of my magazine or your magazine online, it's a bit of a pain. They'll get a bit of a taste, and they'll go, "What the hell, I’ll just buy a copy". I also used to send someone an ebook as soon as they'd bought the printed book. If they'd told me they'd just bought it I’d say, "Here's the ebook too". So instead of waiting for a week they'd get a bit of a taste as well.

Okay yeah that's very good, there's some more things I forgot that we did before. The samplers definitely work, you know we give a little taste of the book. Of course the other thing that was always an issue was having the ebook get out there in cyberland and then that sort of spoiling the show. I know sometimes way back in the day you would send Skive and say, implore people to not forward this email [laughs] with the ebook attached to it so, I don’t know, but now you can lock it, so that makes it a lot better.

So what about social networking and the power of using that to have the authors connect with the readership. Certainly, we're publishing these two books by Dr Jack Kevorkian. One is already is in print, that's his memoir that he wrote in jail and it sold a little bit here and there, but his other book is about overpopulation, and then he has a movie called 'You Don't Know Jack' starring Al Pacino, John Goodman and Susan Sarandon [and] some other actors that's coming out in January [or] February; he'll be on some major TV shows talking about his book with World Audience so we're expecting some sales from traditional means in that particular way. But we have a lot of other writers that potentially could you know, use these social networking sites and I just don't know how to approach that, I’ve some ideas and we've talked a little bit. What are your thoughts on that?

I've been using Facebook for about a year really seriously and the advantage I had was I had already published 400 people in my magazine, and they’ve got this neat thing you can find your friends on Facebook using your address book, your email address book and out of 400 people roughly 200 people became my Facebook friends overnight. I mean, that was really good, and they know people too and I make Facebook friends every day, which you probably do too and Twitter is another thing which everybody laughed at you know cos who's gonna be interested in what you're doing when you're crossing the road with your Blackberry saying, "I’m crossing the road now"? I mean, no-one really is, but it gives a really instantaneous gauge to things like television shows, you know, albums, books, that sort of thing. And it's just another string in the bow, you know? There's Myspace, which we haven't really talked about, for the younger people. I mean, I utilize all these social networking tools, all the people I know online do as well. They're not only sitting at their computer, they've got their Blackberrys and they're Twittering from Starbucks as well, it's ongoing all the time. It doubles up, and these people can say, "Oh, I’ve just sent a submission to this magazine"; I’m a writer and I’ll say, "I haven't heard of them" so I’ll send something to this magazine and if I know the person I can say, "Mike recommended me" and it gives me a better chance of getting published there as well. So I’m on the hunt for this publishing thing as well like everybody else is. It's a very powerful tool. All of them are, all the various social networking websites like Facebook... And Facebook’s sort of changing all the time too to compete as well. They've got a lot of advertising which I don't utilize. I don't really seek out advertising really except for the website but the more people I publish the bigger the whole thing gets because they all have blogs, right, every time they get published they put something on their blog or on Zoetrope or Critters Bar or all the various writing sites they’re on. Everybody that I know is a writer, they all know how to use these things or they soon learn how to use them whether it's free press releases or... It multiplies the chances of getting published. What's interesting is that these people are writers and they’re on my...

End of Part 2.


Interview with Matthew Ward of Skive Magazine, Mockfrog Design
by Mike Strozier, 28 September 2009

Part 3 of 4

MW cont...
I’ve got two Facebook pages, I don't use one. I've got two Twitter pages, one is a writing page, and the other one is for Skive. Now the Skive writers rarely say anything nasty to me which they probably wouldn't anyway but you'd think if it was someone who was a publisher and you want to get published with them you'd if you were smart you wouldn't say anything too annoying [laughs], it wouldn't worry me anyway. On the whole it's been a positive experience with the social networking sites and I think it can help most people if they just get on and learn how to use them. There's a lot of annoying things about them that I hate that, the quizzes and all that. You know, 'who's you favorite spice girl?' or ;which president are you like?' all this sort of stuff it just annoys me, I hide them and block them.

I had a look at my statistics, going back to your question about how do I gauge downloads. I use Webalizer and there's another one called Modlogan and they more or less have a look at my website stats and I can tell where people are coming from, I can tell how many... I can't tell how many downloads from a place but I can tell how many people are coming from a place, so I can see that there's so many hundred from Facebook and, I mean, if they're coming from Facebook, I’ve got roughly 200 friends yet I’m getting a lot more hits so obviously what people are doing is they're sending links to their friends and I’m getting a lot through Twitter and a lot more direct enquiries which to me says that people they have knowledge of the magazine now. They know what it is, they just type it in and I can see in my little stats thing keywords that are used to find me, whether it's just my name or whether it's... Sometimes I get links from your site or mostly Google of course, everybody links from Google. But also through Twitter so I can just put up a little Tinyurl link saying 'magazine's out now, taking submissions', that sort of thing. And Facebook's got that really cool thing where you can set up your own fanpage or group page; I don't know if you have one set up for World Audience; and you can send a message instantaneously to everyone on your group and they've got their own stats on those pages too, so, you know, it's a big deal.

Okay, super, thanks. Yeah, that's all good information. I didn't think of a World Audience group or fan site, I got to look into Facebook and also adding all my friends to my own email list with Google, they could probably incorporate them, or Gmail.

So, yeah, that's really interesting. There's just so much that keeps growing between what we're doing with the networks that we have. Certainly there's a lot of ezines out there other publishing houses like, say, Glimmer Train, I know you know all of these as well, or even something like McSweeney's but McSweeney's is more like a traditional publishing house who thinks that they're sorta hip and young and modern but they're not really doing what we're doing. And probably even something like Glimmer Train is again printed, certainly they have a big database of writers that's much larger than say yours or mine but they're publishing just that one magazine through print, they're not using anything that you're using which is very much in the digital realm. And I like to think that of the books that we have, I mean if you just look at the numbers, we have about 200 titles now and that's about a hundred a year basically. It's actually more than that, you know, we're publishing maybe 20 a month or something now. So that's grown significantly. It basically makes us a mid-side press. I mean, Random House publishes maybe double that, forty, fifty a month or something so they're not really that far ahead of us and they're dying and I’m growing so the other thing is that we're reaching these writers better, top notch writers through the web, like you say, they're finding me. Sometimes people ask me, like, 'how do you find these writers?' and I say, 'I don't do a thing, I mean, I’m not doing anything', I did way back when in like 2006, I was really hitting the streets and everything but nowadays I don't have to do anything, they find me and if anything it's all about how I interact with them which is what we were talking about before, that personal touch which to me of being a writer I tell them what they want to hear and I’m able to deliver what they want and then that pretty much seals the deal. There's really nothing else to discuss cos they're very excited about what World Audience has to offer because we're able to fulfill their needs in many, many, many ways.

So let me ask you this, then: given that fact, given, you know, social media, given what I’ve just now talked about with writers and then what you're talking about, you know, on the web and your Webalizer which I have. I use 75% of what you're describing I understand but that other 25 is still a mystery to me. I need to probably take a course or something.

Let me turn to the future now. What do you think, cos of course publishing is dying, especially in America - printed old school publishing - what do you see is the future, like where are you going to be in a year from now? If you could talk a little bit about your writers, have you seen the quality improve? I know you're publishing more than just stories, it used to be just a story magazine and now you have all this other artwork and things, so where do you see yourself going in the near future?

The magazine has sort of come full circle. I mean, when I started it was an online magazine. It branched out from a magazine that I ran at university with a friend of mine. It was like a boy's own adventure magazine, sort of post modern 1940s thing, guys' short stories, and occasionally poetry, poetry was used to fill pages when we had gaps and things and we used to have ads that my co-editor used to create - or we used to create together - and they were sort of tongue in cheeks ads from... You see them if you can buy the magazines and I don't know the names of them off by heart but they're things like corsets for men, and wigs and nose straighteners and all these crazy things they used to have in magazines, so we had that, right, and that was more or less stories that were illustrated with pictures. And then it got too big in the end. And my idea was to take it to a website and I’d been designing for a few years so I could do websites and my idea was to do a website that was a monthly thing and it would take me no work at all, it would be easy, I wouldn't have anything to do, and of course I was just totally naive in the thing cos it took me twice as much work as it did previously when we were doing the printed magazine. Now, my co-editor, he was going to go in with me, in the end he was too busy so I took it on myself. And then what I did is I advertised to the authors I’d already published and then started scouring the web like you're talking about, advertising. I had all this spam software that you can get and I was just sending to everywhere, you know, really making a pest of myself, and likewise now I don't have to do that, people just come to me; I'm not trying to sound grandiose but they know of the magazine, they do a search on Google and they find you, you know. Where do I see Skive going in a year? I think you asked me that last year. I'm not really sure. I mean, there are things like Kindle, and there's a Sony reader as well. You're really into ebooks, and you [were] talking for a long time about the big ebook revolution which, hey, if it comes about, fantastic although, you know, people tend to like books more than they like electronic readers. Where's my magazine going to be? I'm not really sure.

End of Part 3. (Part 4 coming soon...)

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

SHOTGUN WEDDING - A Short Story of Horror, well, kinda...

by Matthew Glenn Ward

How was I to know that wearing a condom can actually increase the chances of getting a ghoul pregnant.

My ladylove’s name is Elizabeth Wonderplowe. She is forever 17. She’s 17 and so am I.

Elizabeth died of plague in 1851. In 1996, I threw myself off a cliff, and thanks to a litterbug and a rusty 1972 Holden Kingswood, instead of the dramatically romantic demise of drowning in the ocean, I just broke my neck on the diff of a very common and lacklustre Australian sedan.

So, Elizabeth and I lived 145 years apart, but we both died at age 17. Quite romantic, isn’t it? We have everything in common. We both like music, but we do have different tastes in bands. Me, I like late 1970s punk. She is more into circa 1850s traveling minstrels singing about the gold rush.

Elizabeth is pregnant, ‘with zombie’. Her father, the right honorable Cleveland Wonderplowe, sneered as he thrust a gun in my ribs. Shotgun weddings shouldn’t be a worry because you’d think there’d be no pain when you’re a ghost, but the funny thing is there is pain, and sorrow, and also happiness. This didn’t used to be the way, the old timers tell me. But it all changed a long time ago...

* * *

The story goes that in 1714 God and the Devil got drunk together to reconcile old differences. They spent an afternoon quaffing tequila. Well, they laughed. They cried. They stared blankly at a blaring jukebox saying they had wasted their lives. God said he was sorry he lost his temper that day he threw the Devil out of Heaven and into Hell. The Devil forgave him, and said he, too, had a confession, that he had disguised himself as God and had had his way with God’s wife while God was away trying to swing things in the favour of the Christians during Crusades II.

This last confession infuriated God so much that he slapped the Devil in the face with a leather glove, in essence challenging him to a duel. Pearl-handled cosmic cannons at dawn. In the atmosphere on the other side of The Sun.

St. Peter was God’s second. The Devil initially chose God as his second, then after God gave The Devil a WTF look The Devil decided to be his own second.

God thought about St. Peter’s suggestion of swapping the Devil’s cosmic ammunition for silver-dipped martyrs from other faiths, but he thought better of it knowing that he’d never get any sleep, what with all that guilt.

So, there they were, God and the Devil, back-to-back, Good and Evil in the fight to end all fights.

Well, to cut a long story a little shorter than it could have been, they both turned and fired at exactly the same time. 500,000 warheads the size of mountains collided with each other causing such a tumult that both God and the Devil were thrust back into twin black holes. The kings of Good and Evil were crushed down to the size of carbon bees, and they drifted into the blackness.

* * *

Heaven and Hell ceased to exist that day, I was told. No longer would God and the Devil intervene in the lives of people on the planet Earth.

And so, here I was in a cemetery, never to leave, all because two old friends who became enemies decided to become friends again.

Those who come to a place like this can never get out as there are invisible boundaries that zap you if you try. The individuals look like they did the day they died; they sleep, don’t have to eat but can if they want to. We’re stuck here forever because there’s no longer a Heaven or Hell to go to. And we are invisible to the living so if they come here, they can’t help.

* * *

The guests started arriving. I went on my last night of freedom last night, drinking blood & wine cocktails from the skull of a Dadaist who wanted his head buried in the cemetery and his torso burned in the crematorium. I was taken to a ‘strip club’ which was really a secluded part of the Catholic section where ravens watched from tall trees as Potato Famine teen girls from the year 1847 did lap dances in my gracious lap.

My now heavily pregnant bride appeared, stumbled up the aisle, escorted by her father who looked at me with one eye while he bent down to pick up the other that had fallen out and rolled away. The guests cheered, and some of the women cried. Boer War veterans toyed with their medals.

When Elizabeth got to the altar, our zombie baby chose then to fall out and onto the ground, as zombie babies are wont to do. The matron of honour wiped it down with a souvenir 1902 Coronation hanky, and everyone applauded as the zombie baby stood up on its own - and I was amazed to see it was actually born in a tiny suit!

The ghost priest smiled in that way only priests do at weddings.

Then the zombie baby brought forth a velvet cushion with two rings. I noticed the rings had stones that were black, shiny and mysterious. My future father-in-law had said before the ceremony that he had acquired them from somewhere but wouldn’t say exactly.

I put one ring on Elizabeth’s ring finger. She put the other ring on my finger.

We exchanged vows. We kissed.

Everyone was ecstatic as we walked arm-in-arm between the graves. Hundreds of ghouls applauded us and threw maggots, cos rice can swell in a pigeon’s stomach and choke them to death.

* * *

That night, Elizabeth and I lay in opened stone caskets in our own wedding present from her parents: a stone sarcophagus. After some spine-melting lovemaking, she held me tight and I her as well. Everything was perfect.

Our wedding rings on our fingers shone in the moonlight that seeped in through the crack in the roof of our sarcophagus. Then the strange black stones on the rings seemed to move. I heard a ‘tink tink’ sound, like when you knock on a TV screen with your fingertips. Then tiny voices. I looked closely at both rings and could see little faces. Their mouths seemed to be saying: “Let me out! Let me out!” One figure had a white beard. The other, horns.


This story has been accepted to be published in issue 7 of House of Horror (UK) out Dec 1st 2009.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

DASH - Friday Flash - 25 September 2009

This was a 200 word challenge at Critters Bar. The word prompt was dash




Wednesday, 23 September 2009


Woke up this morning to be greeted with a red dust storm! Here's a pic (no orange filter used, pic as is):

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

BEATLES QUIZ - 'Beatles Songs About Real People'

I put this on Facebook but people must have found it too difficult (impossible?) to do, so they didn't do it. Here it is with hint photos (keep in mind, some are red herrings)

Which Beatles songs are about real life people (even in part) ? Answers at the bottom of this page (don't cheat, Beatlemaniacs)

01 Sexie Sadie

a) Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
b) Sadie the Cleaning Lady, or
c) Marianne Faithful

02 I Am The Walrus

03 Norwegian Wood

04 Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

05 Day in the Life

06 In My Life

07 Julia

08 Dr Robert

09 Dear Prudence

10 She Said She Said

11 Her Majesty

a) Queen Elizabeth II
b) Queenie Epstein (manager Brian's mother), or
c) Freddie Mercury

12 Martha My Dear

13 Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me & My Monkey

14 Hey Jude

15 You've Got To Hide Your Love Away


01 Sexie Sadie
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

02 I Am The Walrus
Paul McCartney

03 Norwegian Wood
John Lennon's Norwegian shag

04 Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Julian Lennon's schoolfriend, Lucy

05 Day in the Life
Guinness heir, Tara Browne

06 In My Life
John Lennon

07 Julia
Julia Lennon & Yoko Ono

08 Dr Robert
The Beatles LSD Dentist

09 Dear Prudence
Prudence Farrow (Mia's sister)

10 She Said She Said
Peter Fonda

11 Her Majesty
Queen Elizabeth II

12 Martha My Dear
Martha McCartney, Paul's sheepdog

13 Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me & My Monkey
John & Yoko

14 Hey Jude
Julian Lennon

15 You've Got To Hide Your Love Away
Brian Epstein

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

VODKA ROCKS - vowel challenge story

This was a challenge on the old Skive forum. The goal was to write a short story that was 204 words in total. The first half could not contain the vowels 'i' or 'e'. The second half could not contain the vowels a, o or u. The following is my story, which due to the confines of the challenge ends up sounding rather obscure and also poem-like (poetic?). You be the judge.

By the way, I wrote the story out 'normally', then spent time removing the vowels and adding words or deleting them. The original story took maybe 10 minutes. The first half of the challenge -
Only a, o, u - took half an hour. The second half (Only i & e) took several frustrating hours. Have a go and see how you do.

by Matthew Ward, 2007

Only a, o, u (102 words)

My blurry watch says two o'clock. You know, my aqua futon was bought for four thousand bucks but my cat, Phalanx, naps out on a cold porch floor. Gulls fly past but Phalanx looks not to a cloudy sky but down and across to my woman, Margot, who pours out cat food. Phalanx jumps up and runs along a dusty floor, looks up at Margot; a proud look says: "Good work!" Margot nods, walks away to work out my mood. "Want a Vodka rocks?" My look says 'No way'. Atom bombs blow up my skull as my lady adjusts a bra strap.

Only i & e (102 words)

My wife grins with spirited glee. I like the drink. She likes imbibing with me in the evenings yet my inexperience is dire, the effects severe. In the night time I feel better. I nibble fried chicken with brie cheese. I sip sweet, fine, red wine! Time slides by. In bed I lie with my wife. She likes gently riding me. She sleeps silently. The wind French kisses the dwelling. The wily feline is still peckish. It stretches, winks twice (instinct tells me this). By midnight I feel fine. I smile. I feel titled. (Next week I get my degree in English.)


Thursday, 13 August 2009


by Matthew Ward

from, 2005

"Trust the Iraqis to have marked cards," said foreign minister Alexander Downer today, after losing Australian captive Douglas Wood in a game of poker in an airport lounge.

The truth is a little less interesting, that Downer simply doesn't know how to play cards.

The foreign minister was walking Wood out through one of the really big Iraqi airports when he was approached by a charming Arabic man wearing a black suit, hat, a moustache and smoking a cigar. Downer was told he could "double his money", that he could take not only Wood but 5 million dollars worth of French cognac. Downer umm’d and ahh’d and finally said yes to one hand of straight poker, right there in the airport terminal.

Downer's hand was full of royal cards but he handed them all back and kept a 4 of diamonds. Well, the end of the story was Downer with head bowed walking into a Australian Hercules heading for Canberra and Wood being taken to the local Baghdad Cash Converters.

At hearing the news, John Howard was reportedly disappointed, but not as disappointed as he was for the Queensland State of Origin team who were trounced on Wednesday night by the New South Wales blues.

© Matthew Ward, 2005

Monday, 10 August 2009


Hit and Run Magazine is a blogzine that features sketches of the writing process. This is a sketch they published in April 2009, with notes from an unfinished novel that would be salvaged for a flash short story I wrote this year called 'The Film' based on a real life event where my Year 7 Catholic high school all boys class was shown a propaganda movie on abortion.

Text from the sketch:

... would be: start with the "Fires all enclosed in drums bit, the boy in high school, Year 7, I think or maybe Year 8, but probably Year 7 being forced to watch (als along with his classmates, a film about abortion, the one from the ’50s, you know...

Maybe, instead of a boy, as in the original manuscript, it could be a girl. I can relate more to the male, though. Perhaps it is a boy who goes on to date a woman (Celeste?) who is going to terminate her child.

So, something like: SCENE INT 1980 1979, EXAM HALL

"We see the bright, orange roar of fire in close-up. The fires are in drums to keep the large exam examination hall warm. Students file in and sit, we do not see their faces. Whispers from the students (we now see they are all boys), giggles, seats scraping, squealing the ways seats do. We have We see priests in white robes rushing around, nuns, too.

Priest #1
(Irish accent)
Silence, please!

Boy #1
(to a nun)
Sister, are we seeing a film?

The image to the left has nothing to do with the story, just a John Lennon-like sketch. The words BACKAWARDS TRAVELER are from another, so far unpublished short story about time travel.


and the finished short story:

The Film
by Matthew Ward

In the 1970s Jack attended an all boys Catholic high school. One day in 1st year his class was told to go to the hall to watch a film.

Other boys having already seen the movie said it was a porno. Why the Church would want them to watch blue movies, Jack didn’t stop to think. Afterall, this was primo erotica and he didn’t have to sit through another boring hour about Jesus.

Inside the hall the lights were dimmed and a WWII vintage projector was operated by a WWII vintage priest.

Boys fidgeted with excitement as scratchy images of loose women in the backs of Chevs, in public parks, and at the beach locked lips with boys with buzzcuts who smoked cigarettes and fumbled with teenage bras.

The boys’ looks of wonderment turned to horror when the narrator showed them how 5 minutes of passion could turn into murder!

Footage of discarded foetuses scarred Jack’s brain.

He wanted to leave, like others did too but they couldn’t. Priests and nuns blocked the doors. Two boys vomited.

The film had done its job. Afterwards Jack knew that when he was old enough to have sex he’d use condoms.



I wanted to make the point that the Catholic school system was archaic even then, 1950s films shown in the 1980s, and the idea that the film would scare boys to never use abortion as an option would instead encourage them to use contraception.

Saturday, 8 August 2009


a memoir by Matthew Ward

"... all the serious people like Martin Luther King and Kennedy and Gandhi got shot." - John Lennon, 1969

above: John & Yoko, 1969 (Wikipedia, Fair Use)

It was only last week at the time of writing that Michael Jackson died at the relatively young age of fifty. Now, it might be hard for some of us who have entered middle age to fathom the outpouring of emotion for that musician - even though we are aware of the record sales, and the MTV clips - but it only seems like a week ago that John Lennon, creator of The Beatles, went to meet his maker after he was murdered in New York City on 8th December 1980. Lennon was younger than Jackson when he died, he was only 40, and was more influential than Jackson in terms of music and popular culture, it could be argued, and certainly more so than most other musicians of the 20th century, with the exceptions being John's hero Elvis Presley, contemporary Bob Dylan, and his Liverpool cohort Paul McCartney.

My journey from ignorant youngster to Beatles aficionado took but a glimmer of time; and all it took was the death of Beatle John: the rocker, the teddy boy, the artist, the wordsmith, the poet, the peacenik, the loving husband and father, the house-husband, the orphan, the King of the Comeback; but also the sarcastic one, the drug addict, the womaniser, the alleged wife beater, the deadbeat dad, the blasphemer, the political criminal and the adulterer.

It was sometime in 1981 that I waited in the Newcastle NSW suburb of The Junction. It was night, maybe close to 10pm and I had been to a Beatles film evening at the old Hunter Theatre, a place that was built back in the 1920s I believe, and a building that would be demolished in 1990 after Newcastle's 1989 earthquake. I had previously been to the theatre for school excursions, to see such 1970s must-sees as 'Storm Boy' and 'Blue Fin'. The ceilings were tall, and the seats leather and wood and uncomfortable as all hell.

above: The Hunter Theatre, The Junction (Cultural Collections)

I was leaning against a half brick garden wall in the semi-darkness for my father to come and pick me up, and as I stood there I watched the cars roll on by towards Bar Beach in the City or the other way, past the council flats to Adamstown.

In my mind I also relived the movies I had just seen, films that for the most part had debuted over 15 years before, when I was a little boy living in Williamtown, when I lived near the Air Force base with my mum and dad in 'marry-quarters' (when my dad was in the RAAF). The films were zany director Richard Lester's 'A Hard Day's Night'; and also 'A Magical Mystery Tour'; and the famous 'Shea Stadium' concert from 1965. The Washington DC concert that was also advertised was not shown due to 'sprocket damage,' but I didn't mind as I had seen three movies back to back for my $5.00 or however cheap it was in those days. I might have been the youngest one there by at least 20 years, but what we all had in common was a love of The Fab Four.

As I was so young when they were released, I hadn't seen any of the films before. 'A Hard Day's Night', the black and white masterpiece that perfectly captured Beatlemania - at least what the media thought Beatlemania was about anyway - with the Moptops running around like lunatics, trying to keep away from screaming girls and all the while encouraging them at the same time (George Harrison met his future wife Pattie Boyd on the set when she was playing the part of a schoolgirl.) 'Magical Mystery Tour' was in colour - bright colour - that was like Alice in Wonderland and Edward Lear go on a bus trip with carnival freaks. And 'Shea Stadium' had The Beatles helecoptered into the middle of a baseball field to the shrill sound of thousands of (mostly) girls who clutched the boundary fence and screamed in one continuous scream like summer cicadas I had heard in Blackbutt Reserve near my home.

I also thought of The Beatles, of course, my new group, even though most of my friends liked the New Romantic bands or semi-metal groups like The Angels, The Oils, and The Radiators, or nothing at all. I was again aware that one of The Beatles had died at the end of the previous year, and the world was quiet as I stood there, thinking as 13 year old boys are apt to do.

On the afternoon of 8th December 1980 I arrived home from high school to find out John Lennon had been murdered in New York City at the age of 40 by some nutcase who thought he himself was the sardonic ex-Beatle and peacenik and that his victim was an imposter. Of course you know that Lennon had signed the murderer's record sleeve, and then a short while later he addressed him, shot him, sat down and seemingly waited for whatever was to come, be it praise or something else.

The thing is at age 14 I had never known of John Lennon as a Beatle. Sure, I was aware of The Beatles - who wasn't? - but to me they were a long ago black and white movies band who sang 'She Loves You', 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' and 'Help'. The John Lennon I knew was a recent star who had just released an album called 'Double Fantasy'.

It was a warm Newcastle afternoon and as I walked through the front door my mother asked me if I had heard that John Lennon had been killed. I said I hadn't and felt a little saddened as I had loved his recent hits '(Just Like) Starting Over' and 'Watching the Wheels' (and maybe 'Woman' but that might have been released after his death).

It was through watching the headlines and news on TV did I get the connection that John Lennon of 'Double Fantasy' and John of The Beatles were the same man. I saw story after story of fans crying, holding vigils with candles at The Dakota, the building that John and his wife Yoko called home in New York. I saw the brief interviews with John's friends, other musicians, the other ex-Beatles Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

I had my dinner that night, then watched TV again and saw more stories on John Lennon, this phenomenon who had been cruelly cut down in the prime of his life, after his comeback album was selling so well. That night I went to sleep crying quietly into my pillow, for reasons that had less to do with Lennon being shot, but, selfishly, more to do with me never having the chance to appreciate his music as a Beatle and that I would never get the opportunity to see him in person or watch him perform on stage.

This was the first time in my life I would mourn someone's death.

In 1977 I was in primary school and recall talking to a boy who sadly told me Elvis Presley had died. I thought it odd later on that this boy, Stephen, loved Elvis when he seemed to me to me old hat, a bit daggy for 1977 when everyone else was listening to disco, long-haired glam rock, or Sherbet Vs Skyhooks battles on Countdown with Ian 'Molly' Meldrum. However when John Lennon died I understood Stephen's grief for the King of Rock ’n' Roll, and also Lennon's grief at his hero Buddy Holly dying in 1959. We all have our heroes, it seems.

In the days after John's death, I started obsessively collecting newspaper and magazine clippings regarding the murder but also general Beatles-related clippings, too, which was easy as all the newspapers had them for a long time, featuring everything from the living ex-Beatles' reactions to the death (McCartney's perhaps misunderstood "It's a drag" comment became as commonly repeated as Lennon's 'Bigger than Jesus' statement of the mid-’60s).

Then I borrowed books from the library, Hunter Davies' Beatles tome was devoured every afternoon and into the night; and I bought them, too, with whatever money I could scrounge (Peter Brown's 'The Love You Make' is still a thorough and fair read.) Obviously I collected the LPs, the singles, the EPs, and later cassettes and CDs. 'The Beatles Ballads' was an LP released in 1980 by EMI, and I would lay in the darkness of my bedroom at night and unconsciously memorise the songs, like 'Yesterday', 'Do You Want to Know a Secret?', 'Hey Jude', 'Norwegian Wood', 'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away' and more... At any time of the day I could imagine the songs and play them in my head like I had my own internal jukebox (such is the imagination of the adolescent).

above: The Beatles Ballads (EMI, 1981)

Over the next couple of years I collected the rest of the Beatles albums, one per month, sometimes two if I was flush with cash. One birthday I bought a tape player and the albums 'Revolver' (1966) and 'Abbey Road' (1969). The others followed ('Sgt Pepper', White Album, 'Revolver', 'Help!', 'A Hard Day's Night', 'Magical Mystery Tour', 'Please Please Me', 'With the Beatles', 'Let It Be', 'Yellow Submarine', 'Rubber Soul', 'Beatles For Sale', and other official mixtures like 'Hey Jude', 'Past Masters', 'Oldies But Goldies', 'Rarities'. And the singles, as many as the second hand shops had.

After that I collected the ex-Beatles' albums including those of John Lennon ('Imagine', 'Plastic Ono Band', 'Mind Games', 'Walls and Bridges', 'Double Fantasy', 'Sometime in New York City', 'Live Peace in Toronto', 'Menlove Avenue', 'Shaved Fish' among them). It seems to me now that the best ex-Beatles albums were recorded during the time of the Beatles or soon after - as afterwards, with no-one to check them, the ex-Beatles made music that was good but not as tight, in my opinion, as those recorded in the periods 1963-1969.

I had a few friends in high school who liked The Beatles and we discussed the band all the time. We had our favourite Beatles. I admired John I think because of his attitude and thought the chicks liked him more than Paul (which according to John was never true). One friend, David, used to play squash at the squash courts at the International Sports Centre, Waratah (now the Newcastle Knights Admin Headquarters) on a Tuesday. We'd talk Beatles on the way over and often in Beatley voices, probably imitating the Beatles cartoon more than the real deal, and pretending we knew how to play guitar with our rackets. I recall David's sister had given him for his birthday a coloured vinyl copy of 'Sgt Pepper' from The Green Apple record store at Garden City, Kotara and I was more than a little envious.

Another friend was walking with me one day and when I saw a dead beetle on the ground I asked, in a silly way, which of the Beatles it was. The friend answered, 'John Lennon' in a snide way that the real Lennon would have been proud of. The comment made me a little sad, wishing I had never asked the question.

I watched every Beatles special on TV, and every week Donnie Sutherland on his show Sounds Unlimited (later, Sounds) would regularly play Beatles clips from the Let It Be period, like 'Let It Be', 'Don't Let Me Down', and 'Get Back'. McCartney looked cool in his Scotland beard, Lennon starved but still looking dapper with long hair, round glasses and F-You attitude, and Yoko at his feet.

Years ago there was that 6 Degrees of Separation thing with connections to actor Kevin Bacon. We all like to try to connect with our heroes. My connections to The Beatles are flimsy. Let me see... My dad's uncle by marriage was related to Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin played in the band The Yardbirds. Eric Clapton played in The Yardbirds and was friends with George Harrison and so played guitar on George's Beatles song 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' (and would eventually marry George's first wife, Pattie). Also, recently I commented on Yoko's Twitter page and a day later she started following me on Twitter. Lastly, about 6 years ago I designed a website for a client who in 1964 took time off school to go to Sydney to see The Beatles perform (she proudly said she was the only one in her school who did so). Not much is it? But it's something.

For me, The Beatles never died. Lennon said in an interview that fans can listen to the albums if they want to reminisce, and also record their own compilations: one of his songs, one of Paul's, one of George's, one of Ringo's from the post-1970 albums, and pretend if they wanted to that the band was still together (as the Beatles albums from 1967 on were recorded largely it has been said as individuals, with the others playing 'backup band'). It's just a band that broke up, it's not important, he said. But we wanted it to be important, and we knew it was important, and we knew that when Lennon died, they could never reform again, and I knew that I could never watch them perform in person.

Lennon said that death was like getting out of one car and getting into another. I don't know if I believe that, in reincarnation, but I guess there's always hope that we can meet our heroes, in this world, or the next.

My dad picked me up in his car and asked me if I enjoyed myself. I said yes, smiled and we drove off towards home, and towards my tape player, headphones and drawer after drawer of Beatles masterpieces.

© Matthew Ward, 2009

This article was first published on the Making of Modern Australia website, August 2009.

Monday, 20 July 2009

The Monty Python Quiz is Over!

by Matthew Glenn "Don't-Sleep-In-The-Subway-Darling" Ward

Newcastle University Union Amp, 1995

It was billed as the Mythical Monty Python Quiz and it was almost mythical, seeing it was advertised in mid-semester one and did not materialise til the first week in August; but when the contest was announced, many many Python freaks felt their hearts flutter the same way as when they had their first kiss, or the first time they heard Graham Chapman go "squawk! squark! squawk!"

On Tuesday August lst at 12:30 pm, the stage was setup in the Tanner Bar to test four teams, in two heats, on their knowledge of Monty Python.

Team # 1 included a female! - The first one competing since the famed finals of the 1920s; and there sang the man in the green greatcoat. The other team consisted of four perfect strangers who were not in charge of the Gestapo at all, but were ex-members of the now-defunct Dead Parrot's Society, and called themselves the Ex-Parrots: they included the Reverend Arthur Belling who fancied himself (and thought he could even answer a few questions!)

The questions ranged from the Ex-Parrots' fave Circus to Grail and back again. At first, Team #1 was ahead but the Parrots put the pedal down and surged through to kill them stone dead. Heat 2 had last year's viktors from NUSA playing the 4 Bruces. The NUSA team was handicapped by a hat with hands on it, and a Brian who only realised the Monty Python Quiz was a quiz about Monty Python at the last minute. It was cruel to watch - so much so that the Ex-Parrots allowed one of their own to join the team (not that he did much good! - he was forced to the sin-bin which was the Rudolf Nureyev Silly Walk around Godfrey's Bar!) To put it simply, Sir Bruce of Verbatim was too good, channelling Chapman himself and sending a chill down the back of Terry Jones picking tomatoes in his southern England garden. Result: Bruces by a lot!

The following week the Ex-Parrots were VERY ready: they had their sacred t-shirts on, ancient
Groucho Marx glasses on, the dead parrot cage hanging from the mike and glasses of refreshment: trouble is they left their brains on the operating table (doctor! doctor!). Sean had instituted the comfy chair! Anyone doubting the word of Sean would be placed in the chair, and we never doubted his wrath, verily (even Beowulf screamed). The Bruces had changed their titles: and Ewen McTegal left his kilt in the highlands to lead his team.

In the opening minutes, Ewen was put in the comfy chair for backchatting Sean and all cheered just cos he deserved it:) The Bruces were lost without him and Vanilla's crew romped into a quiet lead. After Ewen came back, Sean took the cocky move of placing a woman with child in the comfy chair, saying she deserved to be made an example of (and they say power doesn't corrupt).

Vanilla himself was brave enough to test the famed Seanian angst by 'complimenting' the quizmaster's handling of the contest, and Vanilla was sent to the chair, much to the anger of the huge crowd in the Bar of the Beast!

The scores were neck and neck most of the way, and Sean made the most of the physical challenges, with Ewen capturing beautifully the gallop of King Arthur; and the Bruces won the Fish-Slapping Dance only cos one guy fell off the stage before the event could begin. Dame-Fortuna was most surely with the Bruces that day!

In the end Sean ran out of questions, and the draw was broken when the Bruces in their wisdom answered a question about the Knights of Ni! Result: Bruces by a question: they took a book of Python songs as their reward, and the Ex-Parrots fought to the death over a video they already had. But there were no real winners or losers - comedy and cliché won the day.

© Matthew Ward, 1995

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Published - Famous Album Covers - 010709

Famous Album Covers, run by Jeff Crouch, published this pic and story about a fake band. Enjoy...

'Let It K.G. Be' - LENIN & McCARTHY

(1932) Phonograph Recording.

Take one conservative US senator who hates communism with a passion. Give him an acoustic guitar. Then give that senator access to the tomb of Russia's greatest communist. Put a harmonica in that communist's mouth and pay a Moscow baker to push up and down on his stomach. The result is the now long forgotten duo who influenced every folk star, from Joan Baez to Simon and Garfunkel.

The senator was Joe McCarthy; the communist was, of course, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, famously known as Lenin.

So why would an American who hated Reds with such a passion play music with a long dead communist? Well, this could be speculation but some pundits have theorized that Joe and Lenin went to university together. St. Petersburg State Polytechnical University to be precise. They were roomates and started their duo with Joe on guitar and Lenin on harmonica. Sounds feasible, doesn't it? Well it is true.

Lenin of course died in 1924 and this broke up the act. Joe was distraught that his college buddy was gone, telling a journalist, "Yeah, it's a drag." But McCarthy had other plans, to continue the partnership. The result became Lenin & McCarthy's greatest album, 'Let It K.G. Be'.

Highlights include: My Mule She Won't Move, Heave Ho, Stalin the Man of Steal, Middle of Nowhere Blues, Salt Mines, and I Wish I Was Back In Ole Kentucky. The song old folk remember most is one that Paul McCartney would adapt in 1970. The song was called 'Go Back'. Here is a snippet of that song with Joe McCarthy on guitar, Lenin on blues harp with a little bit of help from Sergei the baker operating Lenin's stomach bellows.

'Go Back' by Lenin & McCarthy (mp3)

McCarthy of course went on to cause panic in the arts world of the 1950s with his anti-American witch trials turning friend against friend. Funny that all along, Senator Joe was just one fun loving pinko.

Ebay had a copy of this album last year. It's worth a cool thousand now if you can get it.

- Matthew Ward, reporting

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Back in Blogger Again

I can't believe it's been 2 years since I opened this Blogger account. Time flies. But I will be adding to it more regularly. Stay tuned.