The Horrific Tale of The Decaffeinated World, Part 1

Strong coffeeAbout 2 months ago I wrote a blog post explaining how I want to write fun short stories (preferably silly or comedic in some way) based on ideas that you, my readers, come up with and pass on to me. Not because I’m lazy – I always have a million ideas buzzing around (which actually gets annoying sometimes) – but because I think it could be a fun new way to interact with my readers and also actually get back to creating more on this blog (which does, to be fair, have the word “creation” in its title). Anyway, if you haven’t seen that blog post, or would like to suggest an idea or want to see the sorts of ideas I’ve received already, have a look here.

The first story I’m going to write is based on a suggestion by CricketMuse, another writer/reader/blogger/teacher who has been blogging at least as long as I have and who has managed to retain far more focus than I ever could. This blog is a must for anybody interested in books, writing, and well just words pretty much!

The story suggestion is: “Suppose aliens swoop in with a coffeebean emp– how will the world cope being caffeine free?” As a coffee drinker, this idea terrifies me. Let’s see what this terrible imagination of mine does to this perfectly great idea (sorry in advance)! This will be in at least two parts but maybe three (just to break it up for you readers (okay, fine, to break it up for me too))!

The Horrific Tale of The Decaffeinated World

Part 1

by the considerably caffeinated Matt Watson

I stared out the window motionlessly as the morning cup whirled down my throat and into my body in a desperate yet routine attempt to bring me back to life enough to drive to work and pretend to be a normal person, just like everybody else pretends to be. We all have that drug of choice to help us achieve this – for some it’s smoking, others it’s alcohol, for some weird people it’s something even vaguely healthy like tea or juice or even water. But for a large amount of us, all around the world, it’s coffee that enables us to feign functionality in a world that is set to drain us until we are nothing left but a mechanical husk of what we once were. It was coffee that had provided me with a means of being an adult for the last twenty years.

My hand moved, without thought, to lift up my coffee cup to my mouth, only something was wrong. I nearly threw the mug into the roof with its lack of weight that I was clearly not prepared for, but being quite sure I had not gained any superpowers in the previous moments of contemplation and window-staring I found myself surprised at the possibility that I had already consumed all my coffee. I looked into the mug only to see desolation and crushed hopes.

I put the mug back down and rubbed my eyes. “It’s too early for magic tricks,” I mumbled to anybody who would listen.

“What magic tricks?” she retorted from the other room.

“My coffee is gone but I swear I didn’t drink it.”

“Oh darling…you just need another coffee. Make yourself another one.”

She was right. Of course she was right. She always was. I had accepted that a long time ago – I think it was in the marriage contract or something. I stood up after a couple of attempts and reached into the cupboard for the coffee, but again the coffee jar was not as heavy as I had been sure it was only moments earlier. I looked at it in my hands – completely empty, not even the coffee dust on the sides. It looked like as if somebody had cleaned it. But…nobody had been in the room since I last looked at it a few minutes ago. I put the jar backed and checked the cupboard properly. Then I checked the entire kitchen.

“Are you okay in there?” The noise had intrigued her, but not enough to actually come and see what was going on.

“Erm…yeah. The coffee has just…disappeared.”

“Well maybe you ran out, dear. Get one on your way to work or something.”

“Yes…yes that’s a good idea. Of course.”

I finished getting ready, with only a few sips of coffee struggling to keep me conscious I was quite certain. I felt like I was losing my mind, which was something that usually required more than ten coffees to occur, not just a few sips. But maybe I hadn’t slept well. I had no reason to worry about it just yet.

No, the moment when I felt I was more justified in my all-out-panic was when I pulled out of the fifth consecutive fast food drive-through window without a coffee. All of them, much to their own surprise, had been entirely depleted of their coffee stocks in what seemed to be the first time ever. I drove to a nearby supermarket, but the same thing had happened there. After two more stores that yielded the same impossible results, I drove to work with a sudden fondness for armageddon.

At the office, it turned out, we had also run out of coffee. I don’t want to sound melodramatic or anything, but I am quite certain I fell to my knees and screamed “nooo” at the top of my lungs for a few seconds before rolling over into the foetal position.

***

Meanwhile…

“So like…do they talk or what?” The long, bony, surprisingly ungreen (it was more a light pink) finger of the alien known as Boll poked one of the dormant beans.

“Don’t touch it you idiot! We still don’t fully understand them yet.”

“Oh, sorry Boss.” Boll stood up properly after being reprimanded by the creature he called Boss, but who was otherwise known as Ocks. Ocks was elected boss not by any sort of mental or emotional aptitude he possessed or had displayed, but because of the fact he was only 97 centimetres in height. As Boll stood at an appallingly tall 189 centimetres, his career prospects looked pretty dim. Such was the way of life for the Floating Nobulas, a curious nomadic people of unknown origins who travelled around the galaxies causing minor mischief normally by accident.

“And yes, apparently they do talk. They are alive after all.”

“But some of those human people said that most living things on Earth don’t talk, that only they do.”

“Yes, Boll, but just because some human told you that you’re going to believe it? Trust me, they’re not the brightest pack down there. These beans can talk,” and Ocks paused to look, no, stare, at the coffee beans, before pointedly asking “can’t they?”

The silence was mostly humiliating. They had come a long way to pick up these beans, to save them from the evil humans who kept grounding them up. They had agreed not to mess with the human affairs other than to remove all coffee beans and place them onto the several hundred ships that waited patiently outside the solar system in which the Earth existed. They already had a few issues to solve, such as where they would actually put these beans in the long term, but this silence was not assisting the situation.

Running out of ideas, Ocks finally played his blackmail card. “Fine, if you don’t talk, I’ll just send you back to Earth and you know what ha-“

But Ocks didn’t need to finish his sentence, as thousands of tiny eyes sprung open. One tiny bean finally hopped forward and bowed politely. “I apologise…we do not know how to handle such kindness as that which you have poured upon us.”

“Yes,” started another bean, “usually we just have boiling water poured upon us.”

“Sh!” The apparent leader of the beans didn’t want to give the aliens any ideas. “We are at your service, so long as you spare our lives.”

Ocks and Boll looked at each other, before Boll exclaimed “Awesome! We have a tiny army!”

Boll’s gigantic and quite hideous grin quickly disappeared with a knock to the top of the head from Ocks. “We have plans to make.”

***

By lunchtime, it had been declared on the world news that coffee no longer existed. It had completely disappeared, not just the stuff in the shops but also the actual plants themselves. It was as if the human race had been hallucinating the stuff, the entire concept, for the last few centuries. Except that when they checked books about it, it was still in there. There were still websites dedicated to it, there were still bad bumper stickers on the backs of cars referring to it, there were still shops and cafés whose business depended on it even if those shops and cafés suddenly looked like victims of a really huge theft (which, to be fair, they were).

It was declared an international emergency. Wars were temporarily brought to a ceasefire, political squabbles were put aside, natural disasters politely asked to take a hike for a short while. The 7 billion inhabitants of the planet needed to put their minds together to find a solution. Which would have been a great idea if it wasn’t for the withdrawal headaches from which large amounts of the human race were beginning to suffer.

However, despite my headache, even though I was emotionally volatile, I realised that this was my moment to shine! This was when I would become a hero, the hero that saved the world’s coffee supply! Today, I would be the biggest single cure for a headache ever! Because while the planet searched itself for something it no longer possessed, I turned my eyes to somewhere entirely different…

To Be Continued….

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Bookish Problems I have

toptentuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and while I don’t participate every week (as the last couple of weeks I have been doing other memes) this week’s topic was too good to refuse.

So here we go, my Top Ten Bookish Problems! Let me know in the comments if you relate to any of these or have any bookish problems of your own you’d like to share!

  1. My to-be-read pile is so high it’s beginning to interfere with flight paths of local aircraft. But seriously, it is pretty astronomical and shouldn’t be judged by my Goodreads account which I have never managed to update fully. What I do know is back in Australia in boxes are at least 200 unread books. Here in Sweden I have maybe a dozen unread books. And my wishlist on The Book Depository I believe is around 270 books. So…my TBR pile is actually 500 books? Oops.
  2. I buy books faster than I can read them, as my first point there illuminated. I don’t know what it is about buying books. Maybe it’s the desire to have a choice when I choose my next book – I do have a bad habit of reading several books simultaneously.
  3. I do have a bad habit of reading several books simultaneously and also I swear I won’t connect all my problems like this. But this can be an issue. Because what happens is I find myself “reading” five books at once, but only actually reading two of them. After a few months some of the others have been left for so long I forget what has happened and have to restart them or shelve them for later. This definitely isn’t good for my reading habits and goals, so I need to try and dedicate myself to ACTUALLY FINISHING MY BOOKS more.
  4. Chocolate and books are a match made in heaven until you drop a few chocolate crumbs on a page and then in a desperate but futile effort to remove said crumbs from the page you accidentally smush them into the paper, permanently leaving a stain that says “I’m such an idiot that I spilled chocolate on my book”. Having said that, it’s probably better than coffee, or in one quite weird instance blood (it was an unnoticed paper cut, okay?)!
  5. Books that have lots of really short chapters can be a total pain because when you really want to go to sleep the “just one more chapter” syndrome kicks in…over and over again. And then all of a sudden you have to wake up in three hours and you’re faced with that crucial decision: do I just shrug and do an all-nighter, or do I pretend to be an adult and sleep even though I know I’ll feel like rubbish anyway? Younger me would have certainly voted the former of these two options, but these days those lines around my face are suggestive of a man who would choose the latter.
  6. Books that have really long chapters can also be a nuisance, because I hate finishing mid-chapter. I’ll give you an example. I read Norwegian Wood by Murakami a couple of years ago (and utterly adored it). This novel has 11 chapters, most of which are between 20 and 40 pages. Except the middle chapter, which if I remember has a little over 100 pages. Was this length necessary? Actually, yes – it was the most poignant section of the entire book and the part I remember the most as it added a lot of beauty to a story that was otherwise quite devastating. But sometimes I’m dumb and I start a chapter without looking how long it is, and then I’m faced with that same decision from problem number 5…
  7. Where can I possibly fit all these books? At the moment, three bookcases (some 20 boxes) of my books sit in Australia, half the world away, inside a storage unit until the day I can ship them over to Europe. Back in Australia, I rented a nice big 2 bedroom town house with an enormous lounge. Now I rent a tiny one room studio apartment, meaning the bed takes up half of the living room. We barely have room for one bookcase and already we have piles of books sitting everywhere. There is a certain charm to it, for sure, but I fear that home will suddenly appear to be a bookshop, one of those old but charming second hand ones with piles of books everywhere. Or maybe the one from Black Books, although in that case I need to start drinking heavier…
  8. Just as I think I might like to try e-books I suspect my eyesight is going on me. Yes, at the ripe old age of nearly 29 I suddenly find I can’t look at a bright screen for more than a couple of hours without my eyes and head hurting immensely (how did I ever play video games for days on end when I was younger?). Of course, there is a good chance a pair of glasses will fix this, and considering my entire direct family wears glasses this fate was perhaps a little inevitable. Unfortunately, I’m also stubborn about silly things and this may be one of them.
  9. I really don’t read enough. I know a lot of people say this but I really don’t. It’s been quite a few years since I read over 50 books in a year and averaged a book a week. What kind of aspiring writer and English teacher am I? I mean, I know I’m busy and have been for a few years with the whole international relationship that turned into me moving across the world and all that jazz, but still! I see you bloggers out there, those of you that read over 100 books last year, or in some cases over 200! You’re amazing, and I’m sure not aiming that high, but I would like to do a little bit better. We’ll see what this year brings. It’s early days still.
  10. I am never going to read all the books I want to read. It’s a stark realisation, but it’s probably true. Even if I could hit 50 books a week, it would take me 10 years to finish off my TBR list. And considering that TBR list has been conjured up entirely in the last 3 years, logically this means that in 10 years time, another 1500 books will be added to it. Fast forward the next 30 years, and if I haven’t died from a caffeine overdose the TBR list will likely be in the realm of 5 digits and I will be a heaving weepy sack of word-hungry disappointment…or maybe I’ll find a way to freeze time and yes that is what I’ll do actually so don’t worry I only have 9 bookish problems it turns out. Excellent.

What are YOUR bookish problems?

New Music Releases 13/02/15

This week sees some pretty interesting releases in the world of music. One of them, the album Vestiges & Claws by José González, seems to not be available just yet on Spotify so it might be a genuine worldwide release next Tuesday. But here are three other albums you might like, all available from this week onwards.

Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

While this is his second album under this particular pseudonym, J. Tillman also has several albums to his real name and was a member of much loved band Fleet Foxes until his departure in 2011. I love his work as J. Tillman, but as Father John Misty he has tapped into a much louder and upbeat sound. The folky feel of his other projects is still there of course, but there is a strong 70s vibe and on many songs I find the style a little reminiscent of the older (and better) material of Elton John. Have a listen and see what you think, but personally I think this will be one of the bigger folk releases of the year:

Peace – Happy People

Another indie rock quartet from England, this is the band’s second album and follow up to 2013’s In Love. Already receiving mixed reviews, it will strike a chord with those who are fans of that scene in general as the band is often compared to others such as Vampire Weekend, The Maccabees and Foals, although I dare say they don’t quite possess the talent their comparisons often showcase. It’s not bad, but it’s not particularly amazing or ground-breaking either. Easy to listen to, it’ll be a crowd-pleaser all the same.

Colin Hay – Next Year People

I mentioned this album, Hay’s 12th solo album, a couple of weeks ago, and it has finally been released on Spotify (although sadly no clips are up on Youtube and only the same clip that I have already shown you on SoundCloud). It sounds great -Colin Hay is one of those artists who just keeps getting better with age. Continuing the folk sound of his last couple of albums, this album has an optimistic energy with just a small amount of melancholy lurking beneath as he addresses themes of people going through rough times holding out for something better in the near future (hence the title). His voice is, as always, the most awe-inducing aspect of this album. Nice easy listening from an artist who has found what he is good at and sticks to it.

What have you been listening to this week?

Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey

Ayoade on AyoadeRichard Ayoade is a British writer, director, actor and comedian. He directed and co-wrote Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, as well as playing Dean Learner in that series, he was infamous as Maurice Moss in The IT Crowd (which was an award winning role for him), and he has also directed the films Submarine and The Double (the 2013 movie, not the 2011 one of the same name). At the end of last year, he published his first book, Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey. This honestly has to be one of the funniest books I have ever read, even if it is totally ridiculous.

Essentially Ayoade is poking fun at all those “Director on Director” type memoirs that exist, attacking the pomposity of it all by splitting himself into two persona – the pretentious director and the humble in-awe interviewer. The book contains ten interviews (kind of), as well as a section on his thoughts on writing and acting. But the real gems often are found in the 100 page long appendix, and, if you read in the way Ayoade intends by referring to the appendix when his footnotes tell you to do so, you’ll have read the entire appendix when you’re only halfway through the interviews. Though it sounds annoying, it is actually quite entertaining and fun to be flipping back and forth through the book and many of the footnotes contain the funniest moments. Just consider these two footnotes on his title page alone (a quick warning that there is a bit of swearing, if you’re easily offended):

Ayoade on Ayoade footnotes

Much of the humour is very niche – it probably helps to have some interest in films overall. But I don’t think you need to know everything about film to find the jokes funny, either, particular in the appendix that is filled with lots of short 2 and 3 page pieces, from fake emails and letters to draft scripts, essays and various manifestos regarding film. The topics range from the recent Disney purchase of Lucasfilm, making fun of reclusive director Terrence Malick, crowdsourcing and of course the press, among many others. My favourite section from the appendix though, without a doubt, is the new manifesto for film which he creates, which is focused around these 10 points:

A New Manifesto For Film

The interviews themselves are also brilliant and seem to serve as a sort of narrative thread which connects the book in a way the page order does not. The director persona is not only on an intense ego-trip but is also very surreal in thought. In the very first interview he explains how he spent his time in the womb contemplating how he wanted to escape and start making films. When later asked about his childhood, he says he didn’t have a childhood and then adds that he doesn’t believe in childhood. As the interviews continue, he becomes increasingly subversive as he deflects most of the questions to pursue his own agenda – something Ayoade has gained media attention for doing in real life recently, to mixed reactions (though I must say I find him more entertaining than others in this risky interview style).

Although the interviews overall run the risk of stretching the same joke a bit thin, the constant breaking up of flow by references to the appendix helps to keep the general feel of the book fresh. I wouldn’t say it’s a book that you could read in a single sitting – I took a couple of months slowly digesting it to enjoy it more. Overall though, the book made me laugh out loud which is something very few books have managed to achieve. If you like film, you might enjoy this book. If you like Ayoade, you might enjoy this book. If you like both – this book is definitely for you!

I’ll finish off with another one of my favourite passages, from one of the earlier interviews in which Ayoade discusses forming himself. If any of you have read this book I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

Ayoade Informing Himself

Teaser Tuesdays – More Fool Me

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted at Should Be Reading. To get involved, all you need to do is take the book you’re currently reading, open it to a random page and share two sentences from that page. No spoilers, of course.

More Fool Me A MemoirThis week my sentences come from More Fool Me, the third memoir of Stephen Fry. Yes, the third. Those who don’t know who Fry is probably don’t live in Britain (or Australia, to be honest) as he is constantly on television as the host of QI, presenter of various documentaries, comedian in classic comedies Blackadder, A Bit of Fry & Laurie and Jeeves and Wooster as well as writer of several novels and other books. He also does movies from time to time, most recently playing the rather gross mayor in the second and third Hobbit movies.

Anyway, back to the book. His first memoir, Moab Is My Washpot, focused on his childhood years. His second, The Fry Chronicles, looked at his years in Cambridge and his entry in the 1980s into the world of comedy and entertainment. This memoir, then, focuses on the aftermath of that – a period of Fry’s life altogether darker and more dangerous than he had lived before. Without further ado, here are my sentences:

  1. “As well as writing the official club rules I also coined one evening in the late eighties the ‘Groucho Rule’, which states that any remark, apophthegm, epigram, aphorism or observation, be it never so wise, well intentioned, profound or true, is instantly rendered ridiculous and nonsensical by the addition of the phrase ‘he said last night in the Groucho Club.'”
  2. “Every time I saw somebody in a restaurant rising from their table and moving towards the gents or the ladies I assumed they were off for an energising sniff.”

There we have it! So what are your teasers for today, if you’re participating? What are your thoughts on this teaser?

New Album releases!

After saying something in an earlier post about how little music is released at this time of year, I’ve gone on to discover over a dozen new albums that I am really enjoying! So here’s a quick taste of some of those albums – I think it’s about time I did regular music recommendations again, yes?

This week I have three singer-songwriters who have all blown me away as well as a psychedelic band who you might half-know…not in that order though. As always all albums have clips of songs and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Pond – Man It Feels Like Space Again

The Aussie psychedelic rockers (who share members with Tame Impala, as their sound suggests) are back with another winner. Released in late January, this one taps more into the upbeat energy of their albums from a few years ago while also keeping a more accessible sound (similar to TI in that respect) so that you don’t quite feel like you’re losing your mind while listening. Almost, but not quite. As for this weird video….erm…watch at your own risk? (It’s mostly fun)

Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass

I stumbled across this stunning American singer-songwriter mostly by chance last week as she released her debut, self titled album around the world, but to be honest I was likely to have discovered her eventually anyway. With a soulful voice and slightly jazzy instrumentation she makes music that is at once sweet and melancholy and is easily some of the most intelligent pop music I have heard in a long time. For me, this is an instant classic. About 30 seconds into this song I found myself just smiling at how good it is. The clip is very thought provoking too:

Andy Shauf – The Bearer Of Bad News

Okay, this is new-ish. It was actually released a couple of years ago, but from what I can gather only in Canada from where this songwriter comes. Which is strange for an album he spent four years on, when you think about it. But finally he has released it in America and around the world as of this week – thank goodness for that. He himself cites the likes of Wilco, Elliot Smith and Neil Young as his influences although he has also been favourably compared to Nick Drake, but while his music is mostly folk there are elements of pop and other genres lurking beneath the surface, plus some very lush instrumentation as the songs go on.

Robin Bacior – Water Dreams

A haunting album of melancholy songs that are hard to place into any one genre, this American songwriter has captivated me since this release a couple of weeks ago. Her voice is powerful and yet gentle, reminding me vaguely of Dolores O’Riordan (singer from The Cranberries), while the music is very evocative of snow capped mountains, glaciers and, as the title suggests, the dark depths of the oceans. This is already a favourite album of this year so far – give it a listen and see why!

What have you been listening to lately?

Teaser Tuesdays – Portrait of an artist, as an old man

Teaser Tuesdays is a bookish meme hosted at Should Be Reading. Getting involved in this one is quite simple – all you need to do is take a book you’re currently reading, open to any page randomly, and share two sentences from the page (being careful not to reveal any major spoilers, so, you know, don’t go to the last page and “randomly” share the final twist).

Portrait of an artist as an old manI’ve decided to share my two sentences from a book called Portrait of an artist, as an old man. The book was the final novel written by Joseph Heller, most famous for his classic novel (and my favourite ever work of fiction) Catch-22. I have had mixed feelings about Heller’s other works, as have most people, and he seems to address that here as he writes a story of a frustrated old writer who has never repeated the success of their earlier work trying to find the right subject for their final novel. Through this fictionalised version of himself, Heller also pays tribute to his favourite writers but also to other writers who never lived up to the success of their earlier work either, such as Joseph Conrad and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Anyway, here are the sentences:

They also parted friends, although his heart was filled with a galling sense of injury and of enmity toward her also.
Who the hell did they always think they were?

What book/s are you reading at the moment? I’d love to hear from you as always!