Today, nobody believes in reality. Fiction remains stronger than fact. All stories are true - satires in particular. Imaginary heroes are more dependable than the other kind, living or dead. Whatever you need is unavailable, so choose the brighter new tomorrows that you want instead. FAX 21 is a muse (news) blog-fest of science fiction concepts and fantasy ideas for genre enthusiasts. Paradox free since next year!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Summer Of Guff

Summer Of Guff
The Paedophile Priests

Polymorphous Pervert Records

Review by Alexander Stark

The well-known phrase ‘difficult third album’ might well have been invented for the much awaited new release Summer Of Guff from controversial Swansea cult indie rockers the Paedophile Priests, but for all the wrong reasons. Just before Christmas, iconoclastic front-man ‘Bald’ Archie Canterbury was rumoured to have left the band to concentrate on his new side-project Joan Bakewell & The Tarts in collaboration with Des Lynam, Julian Assange, and a broken lawnmower, and drummer Tutu Bishop was arrested on drugs charges during a charity concert in Timbuktu. With guitarist Ike Davis in much-publicised rehab for model addiction after his public split with girlfriend Kate Moses, the Priests’ disarray and disintegration seemed complete and completely dismal.

But in characteristic style they have returned just in time it seems to re-take their place at the apex of Brit pop, enthralling fans and virgins alike with their usual blend of acerbic lyrics and ear-ripping aural bricolage. But did I say ‘usual’? Of course, nothing is ever usual with the Priests, and that is the essence of their power to shock and spring eternal from the jaded and dusty fountainhead that is the flagging heart of the British musical scene. Indeed, with the whole country on its knees economically, Summer Of Guff feels like the morale-boosting breath of foul air that we’ve all been waiting for.

As ever, instrumentation runs the gamut of invention: from detuned violas and retro-wrecked harpsichords, to eviscerated goats guts miked-up to back-firing motorbikes, didgeridoos and recordings of NATO night-time bombing raids. Particularly topical as events have subsequently unfolded, is Muammar Gaddafi (now how did they pull off a coup like that?) providing guest vocals on two of the tracks Oil, My Ass and: I Fly Pariah International. Despite numerous attempts at imitation over the last few years, no other band have even come close to the originality and influentiality of the Priests since their seminal release Father Tolled Me Off With The Bells, and its astonishing follow-up Get Behind Me, Satan.

The heart of every song is still Canterbury’s hauntingly ecclesiastical vocals and wry observations on the world, like a sermon from some sort of drunken Jesus who survived the cross, sold his story to The Sun then got busted by Interpol on his way over to Al-Jazeera. “There’s always time enough to repent/ Time enough to tell you what I really meant” he laments in the stirring Tony B. Liar’s Confession Cubicle, and after an appealingly vile zither solo from Ike Davis, he rounds it off with “Nail me to your floorboards/ I’m so sorry I made you cross/ Vote me a penance baby/ I’ll take the street and a dodgy doss.”

But the Priests save the best for last, with the last three tracks on the album amounting to an impassioned lampooning of all things Royal and British. Patriots beware. Prince Andrew Junket Junkie blows us sideways with coronation trumpets overlaid with the sound of yelping corgis (“No royal family members or equally dumb animals were harmed during the making of this record”, the sleeve notes helpfully tell us). Duke Of Anywhere But Here, mercilessly berates the Queen’s Consort with a meticulous list of diplomatic gaffes over the years: “Slanty eyes and golly wogs/ Swiss cuckoo clocks and Dutchman’s Clogs/ Prejudice ’gainst nations diverse/ I get my views from Taxi Drivers/ Closeted, moi?”

The Paedophile Priests are the urban troubadours of our troubled age, bringing an inane smile to even the most inane of our kingdom’s weary serfdom. Archibald Canterbury is a true poet of the modern world. I’ll leave you this from the magnificent closing track Organise Your Own Street Riot, in which we encounter the edifying spectacle of BBC Royal Correspondents Jenny Bond and Nicholas Witchell being entombed alive with the Queen Mother in the manner of an Egyptian Pharaoh:

In patriotic royalty haze
Street parties in the good old days
Were timed to set the minions free
To celebrate the Jubilee
Or even better when a wedding
Tabloid froth and see-through bedding
Diana’s fringe and Charles’ bald pate’s
Been swapped this time for Wills and Kate
Let’s all forget the nation’s fate
To watch two people copulate

Blessed by God as from above
He pours down cocktails Molotov
A recipe from Jenny Bond
Right royal advice to correspond
To Nick Witchell’s prime hot air
We wonder what he sees up there
Gazing up the royal pudenda
To postulate the day’s agenda
Two silly poodles we should have smothered
The day we lost the old Queen Mother
Sealed up like Pharaoh with her slaves
Alive inside the Dowager's grave
Endless commenting on putrefaction
We’d hate to miss out on the action.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Strange Currencies

By Jake Elliott

Something is apparently happening to money. Not that we will notice overnight changes in the actual cash we carry, however, for the shift is occurring in the rarefied world of abstract economics. As Professor M.B. Drapier of the London School of Economics explains, "While there have always been alterations in the form money takes these are usually so slight as to give the illusion of stability. What it is suggested we are seeing now is quite different."

The earliest money is understood to be electrum coins issued in Lydia in Asia Minor around 4,000 years ago. The practise of substituting a representational artifact for all goods and services spread as the system of bartering became impractical due to increasing complexity and population growth. Precious metals - notably gold, silver and copper - became the accepted standard for hard currency (or 'specie') because of their durability, manageability and their steady use value which maintained an equally steady exchange value. This hard money became standardised sometime in the 7th century. By the Middle Ages 'credit currency' arose to obviate the need to move large quantities of coins involved in major transactions. The system of credit currency developed into paper (or 'fiat') money initially in China before France introduced it to Europe in the 18th century.

Standardisation did not emerge without alternatives to metal and paper being tried out along the way: more diverse types of money have been recorded at various times. Primitive cultures sometimes used a system of coloured pebbles as a rudimentary currency. Similarly, marked stones have been excavated in Egypt. The 18th century radical pamphleteer Noah Mounte describes an area of Bohemia in the Middle Ages using dog’s teeth as a form of currency, although this failed after the infiltration of other animal’s teeth into the supply, in an early example of Gresham’s law which states that bad money drives out good. Possibly the strangest type of money was the ‘dhun’ circulated by a Viking tribe: this was actually made from animal dung baked into bean-sized ingots. The tribe was apparently virtually wiped out by disease. "A possible etymology of the term 'paydirt'," says Professor Drapier, smirking.
What is changing with money now is a result of two recent innovations. Firstly there is the introduction of electronics into the money supply in the form of credit and debit cards, which means that the distinction between real and nominal money is superseded by the new category of 'virtual money'. The second, and more important factor, is the move away from the gold standard. When the dollar, the dominant currency after World War 2, was severed from the gold standard under Richard Nixon’s economic policies in 1971, international currency values became linked by a system of floating exchange rates. This decoupling from a real-world equivalent is the core of the problem.

Economic deconstructionist Galia Devoto suggested recently in her essay Buy By Cash? on postmodern perceptions of money, that “the unhitching of money from even the most symbolic of ontological manifestations may bring us to a point where money itself is ultimately abstracted out of the economic exchange cycle.” Others view this extremist speculation as of little value. Canadian economist Daisy Garside, a former colleague of Devoto’s who is now one of her fiercest critics, responded to this claim with an abrasive article called Love Your Money, in which she accuses Devoto of “scaremongering with scant regard for real facts and figures.” Garside asserts “we will always need money in our hands, whatever form it takes.”

Drapier concedes that the break with the gold standard has led to some curious and unforeseen effects that have only recently come to be addressed by researchers. He likens the upheaval to the inflationary crisis caused by the Romans’ sudden circulation of cheap money, or the similar problems experienced in Europe by over-issuing when paper money first became common. “There is more to discuss than observe,” he says.

Most widely acknowledged is the ‘black hole effect’. This controversial theory, first proposed in America over 10 years ago, operates in an incredibly complex area of purely abstract economics which some, such as Garside, claim is entirely illusory. The ‘effect’ suggests that as a consequence of the floating value, exacerbated by EU attempts to draw members’ currencies together, all money is gradually moving towards parity. Writers such as Devoto have elaborated the theory, postulating that eventually the hyper-liquidity resulting from virtual money, whereby finances can be whisked around the world and pass through numerous currencies in a matter of seconds in an effect called ‘fiscal osmosis’, will have a potentially catastrophic effect. As Devoto warns, “The inherent instability of virtual money, an effect of the white heat of technology and the instantaneous nature of electronic financing, has forged a sort of persistence of vision. The global economy rests on monetary values that are simply not there.” The prediction is that all currencies will become aligned in such a way that monetary value will become subject to rampant entropy and, in effect, buy itself out.
Professor Drapier responds to the idea with a smile. “Even advocates of the theory state that it can only happen imperceptibly slowly. Even if it is accurate it will be many years before we see substantial evidence of such a phenomenon.” Could it be true though? “Personally I don’t go along with it,” Drapier says, shaking his head. “I don't buy it, you might say.”

Monday, 4 April 2011


After years of extensive research, covering everything from cheek tendons and Botox-2 tests, geneticists of LabCentral’s biotech division, working with other experts at the famous Lightman Institute, have found a ‘definitive’ cure for Michael Portillo’s sneer. Now, with a special DNA treatment, the British politician (a Tory shadow chancellor) turned broadcast TV media pundit is expected to make a full and lasting (if not quite permanent) recovery from his unsightly and - it must be said - rather annoying facial condition.
On the mend after a successful psychic surgery in Wackhampton’s Clinic, in the heart of Wessex, Portillo himself was unavailable for comment (other than one disgustingly slurred ‘uhm’), but a spokes-flunky confessed that “everyone associated closely with” ‘RH Portaloo’ (the man who admitted that, since Conservatives lost the 1997 election, his name was “synonymous with eating a bucket-load of shit in public”), was pleased, at last, to finally be rid of his “insufferably smirking disfigurement.”