The Friday Film – Death Proof

So, last night I re-watched my favourite Tarantino film: Death Proof. Whenever I discuss his films with other people, they always say that this is their least favourite. Or worse, they just haven’t seen it!

I must admit, I still haven’t seen Jackie Brown (I don’t know why), so it’s quite possible that Death Proof is my second favourite and I just don’t know it yet. It’s the most stylish of Tarantino’s films and Kurt Russell’s Stuntman Mike makes the most fantastic love-to-hate character.

Tarantino’s worst film is still an entertaining one. In this flick, Kurt Russell plays a stuntman who kills woman using his car. Alternative Nation

Visual art

The Fantastic Bridget Bate Tichenor


Let’s have a look at the work of Mexican Surrealist (yes, another one!) painter Bridget Bate Tichenor (1917-1990). If you had shown me the painting above before I knew about this artist, I definitely would have thought it was a Leonora Carrington piece.

Knowing that it is in fact by Bridget Bate Tichenor, the main difference between the two artists’ work for me is the spiritual feeling of their pieces. Both artists produced work with a profound spiritual presence, but Leonora’s seems more personal and delicate, whilst Bridget’s is comparatively universal and bold.

Needless to say, I love both! I really must go to Mexico one day – it clearly brings out the artist in a woman. I just need to figure out the coldest part and time of year…


Above: Portrait of Bridget Bate Tichenor by George Platt Lynes, New York 1945.

Education Slade School of Fine Art, École des Beaux Arts, Art Students League of New York
Known for Painting, Fashion editor
Movement Surrealism, magic realism


Born in France and of British descent, she later embraced Mexico as her home… She was the daughter of the Virginia born American NBC, World War I correspondent Frederick Blantford Bate and Sarah (Vera) Gertrude Arkwright Bate Lombardi, who were married after Bridget’s birth in 1919. Chisholm Gallery


Bridget Tichenor’s mother, who was reputedly a well-connected descendant of George III, was the public relations liaison to the royal families of Europe for Coco Chanel. After an arranged marriage Tichenor moved to New York, where she attended the Art Students League of New York. In 1945, after the divorce from her first husband, she married Jonathan Tichenor, an assistant of photographer George Platt Lynes. Huffington Post


She was among a group of surrealist and magic realist female artists who came to live in Mexico in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Her introduction to Mexico was through a cousin she had first met in Paris in the 1930s: Edward James, the British surrealist art collector and sponsor of the magazine Minotaure. James lived in Las Pozas, San Luis Potosí, and his home in Mexico had an enormous surrealist sculpture garden with natural waterfalls, pools and surrealist sculptures in concrete. In 1947, James invited her to visit him again at his home Xilitia, near Tampico in the rich Black Olmec culture of the Gulf CoastGood old Wikipedia


Strungballs – Mike Russell

Jade's Bookshelf

STRUNGBALLS Cover design: Mike Russell

Published November 3rd 2016 by StrangeBooks (first published October 31st 2016)
Format: PDF/Kindle Edition
Author: Mike Russell
Genre: Fantasy, science-fiction
Pages: 62
Star rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Opening line:

“A naked, white-skinned boy names Sydney lay on his back on a white bed in the centre of a white room.”

Goodreads synopsis:

Strungballs is an extraordinary novella from Strange Books author Mike Russell. What are Strungballs? Ten-year-old Sydney is about to find out… but first he must have a cube of his flesh removed. Sydney will transgress everything he was taught to believe in when he embarks upon a journey that will reveal the astonishing secrets hidden by the red balls on white strings known only as… Strungballs. Inspiring, liberating, otherworldly, magical, surreal, bizarre, funny, disturbing, unique… all of these words have been used to describe the stories of Mike Russell…

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5 Days of Short Stories. 5: Lighter Than You Think by Nelson S. Bond

Our final short story is Nelson Slade Bond’s (1908-2006) Lighter Than You Think.



SOME JOKER in the dear, dead days now virtually beyond recall won two-bit immortality by declaring that, “What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar.”

Which is, of course, Victorian malarkey. What this country really needs is a good five-cent nickel. Or perhaps a good cigar-shaped spaceship. There’s a fortune waiting somewhere out in space for the man who can go out there and claim it. A fortune! And if you think I’m just talking through my hat, lend an ear …

Joyce started the whole thing. Or maybe I did when for the umpteenth time I suggested she should marry me. She smiled in a way that showed she didn’t disapprove of my persistence, but loosed a salvo of devastating negatives.

“No deal,” she crisped decisively. “Know why? No dough!”

“But, sugar,” I pleaded, “two can live as cheaply as one—”

“This is true,” replied Joyce, “only of guppies. Understand, Don, I don’t mind changing my name from Carter to Mallory. In fact, I’d rather like to. But I have no desire whatever to be known to the neighbors as ‘that poor little Mrs. Mallory in last year’s coat.’

“I’ll marry you,” she continued firmly, “when, as and if you get a promotion.”

Her answer was by no stretch of the imagination a reason for loud cheers, handsprings and cartwheels. Because I’m a Federal employee. The United States Patent Office is my beat. There’s one nice thing to be said about working for the bewhiskered old gentleman in the star-spangled stovepipe and striped britches: it’s permanent. Once you get your name inscribed on the list of Civil Service employees it takes an act of Congress to blast it off again. And of course I don’t have to remind you how long it takes that body of vote-happy windbags to act. Terrapins in treacle are greased lightning by comparison.

But advancement is painfully slow in a department where discharges are unheard of and resignations rare. When I started clerking for this madhouse I was assistant to the assistant Chief Clerk’s assistant. Now, ten years later, by dint of mighty effort and a cultivated facility for avoiding Senatorial investigations, I’ve succeeded in losing only one of those redundant adjectives.

Being my secretary, Joyce certainly realized this. But women have a remarkable ability to separate business and pleasure. So:

“A promotion,” she insisted. “Or at least a good, substantial raise.”

“In case you don’t know it,” I told her gloomily, “you are displaying a lamentably vulgar interest in one of life’s lesser values. Happiness, not money, should be man’s chief goal.”

“What good is happiness,” demanded Joyce, “if you can’t buy money with it?”

“Why hoard lucre?” I sniffed. “You can’t take it with you.”

“In that case,” said Joyce flatly, “I’m not going. There’s no use arguing, Don. I’ve made up my mind—”

At this moment our dreary little impasse was ended by a sudden tumult outside my office. There was a squealing shriek, the shuffle of footsteps, the pounding of fists upon my door. And over all the shrill tones of an old, familiar voice high-pitched in triumph.

“Let me in! I’ve got to see him instantaceously. This time I’ve got it; I’ve absolutely got it!”

Joyce and I gasped, then broke simultaneously for the door as it flew open to reveal a tableau resembling the Laocoon group sans snake and party of the third part. Back to the door and struggling valiantly to defend it stood the receptionist, Miss Thomas. Held briefly but volubly at bay was a red-thatched, buck-toothed individual—and I do mean individual!—with a face like the map of Eire, who stopped wrestling as he saw us, and grinned delightedly.

“Hello, Mr. Mallory,” he said. “Hi, Miss Joyce.”

“Pat!” we both cried at once. “Pat Pending!”

Miss Thomas, a relative newcomer to our bailiwick, seemed baffled by the warmth of our greeting. She entered the office with our visitor, and as Joyce and I pumphandled him enthusiastically she asked, “You—you know this gentleman, Mr. Mallory?”

“I should say we do!” I chortled. “Pat, you old naughty word! Where on earth have you been hiding lately?”

“Surely you’ve heard of the great Patrick Pending, Miss Thomas?” asked Joyce.

“Pending?” faltered Miss Thomas. “I seem to have heard the name. Or seen it somewhere—”

Pat beamed upon her companionably. Stepping to my desk, he up-ended the typewriter and pointed to a legend in tiny letters stamped into the frame: Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.—Pat. Pending.

“Here, perhaps?” he suggested. “I invented this. And the airplane, and the automobile, and—oh, ever so many things. You’ll find my name inscribed on every one.

“I,” he announced modestly, “am Pat Pending—the greatest inventulator of all time.”

Miss Thomas stared at me goggle-eyed.

Is he?” she demanded. “I mean—did he?”

I nodded solemnly.

“Not only those, but a host of other marvels. The bacular clock, the transmatter, the predictograph—”

Miss Thomas turned on Pat a gaze of fawning admiration. “How wonderful!” she breathed.

“Oh, nothing, really,” said Pat, wriggling.

“But it is! Most of the things brought here are so absurd. Automatic hat-tippers, self-defrosting galoshes, punching bags that defend themselves—” Disdainfully she indicated the display collection of screwball items we call our Chamber of Horrors. “It’s simply marvelous to meet a man who has invented things really worth while.”

Honestly, the look in her eyes was sickening. But was Pat nauseated? Not he! The big goon was lapping it up like a famished feline. His simpering smirk stretched from ear to there as he murmured, “Now, Miss Thomas—”

“Sandra, Mr. Pending,” she sighed softly. “To you just plain … Sandy. Please?”

“Well, Sandy—” Pat gulped.

I said disgustedly, “Look, you two—break it up! Love at first sight is wonderful in books, but in a Federal office I’m pretty sure it’s unconstitutional, and itmay be subversive. Would you mind coming down to earth? Pat, you barged in here squalling about some new invention. Is that correct?”

With an effort Pat wrenched his gaze from his new-found admirer and nodded soberly.

“That’s right, Mr. Mallory. And a great one, too. One that will revolutionate the world. Will you give me an applicaceous form, please? I want to file it immediately.”

“Not so fast, Pat. You know the routine. What’s the nature of this remarkable discovery?”

“You may write it down,” said Pat grandiloquently, “as Pat Pending’s lightening rod.”

I glanced at Joyce, and she at me, then both of us at Pending.

“But, Pat,” I exclaimed, “that’s ridiculous! Ben Franklin invented the lightning rod two hundred years ago.”

“I said lightening,” retorted my redheaded friend, “not lightning. My invention doesn’t conduct electricity to the ground, but from it.” He brandished a slim baton which until then I had assumed to be an ordinary walking-stick. “With this,” he claimed, “I can make things weigh as much or as little as I please!”

The eyes of Sandy Thomas needed only jet propulsion to become flying saucers.

“Isn’t he wonderful, Mr. Mallory?” she gasped.

But her enthusiasm wasn’t contagious. I glowered at Pending coldly.

“Oh, come now, Pat!” I scoffed. “You can’t really believe that yourself. After all, there are such things as basic principles. Weight is not a variable factor. And so far as I know, Congress hasn’t repealed the Law of Gravity.”

Pat sighed regretfully.

“You’re always so hard to convince, Mr. Mallory,” he complained. “But—oh, well! Take this.”

He handed me the baton. I stared at it curiously. It looked rather like a British swagger stick: slim, dainty, well balanced. But the ornamental gadget at its top was not commonplace. It seemed to be a knob or a dial of some kind, divided into segments scored with vernier markings. I gazed at Pending askance.

“Well, Pat? What now?”

“How much do you weigh, Mr. Mallory?”

“One sixty-five,” I answered.

“You’re sure of that?”

“I’m not. But my bathroom scales appeared to be. This morning. Why?”

“Do you think Miss Joyce could lift you?”

I said thoughtfully, “Well, that’s an idea. But I doubt it. She won’t even let me try to support her.”

“I’m serious, Mr. Mallory. Do you think she could lift you with one hand?”

“Don’t be silly! Of course not. Nor could you.”

“There’s where you’re wrong,” said Pending firmly. “She can—and will.”

He reached forward suddenly and twisted the metal cap on the stick in my hands. As he did so, I loosed a cry of alarm and almost dropped the baton. For instantaneously I experienced a startling, flighty giddiness, a sudden loss of weight that made me feel as if my soles were treading on sponge rubber, my shoulders sprouting wings.

“Hold on to it!” cried Pat. Then to Joyce, “Lift him, Miss Joyce.”

Joyce faltered, “How? Like th-this?” and touched a finger to my midriff. Immediately my feet left the floor. I started flailing futilely to trample six inches of ozone back to the solid floorboards. To no avail. With no effort whatever Joyce raised me high above her head until my dazed dome was shedding dandruff on the ceiling!

“Well, Mr. Mallory,” said Pat, “do you believe me now?”

“Get me down out of here!” I howled. “You know I can’t stand high places!”

“You now weigh less than ten pounds—”

“Never mind the statistics. I feel like a circus balloon. How do I get down again?”

“Turn the knob on the cane,” advised Pat, “to your normal weight. Careful, now! Not so fast!

His warning came too late. I hit the deck with a resounding thud, and the cane came clattering after. Pat retrieved it hurriedly, inspected it to make sure it was not damaged. I glared at him as I picked myself off the floor.

“You might show some interest in me,” I grumbled. “I doubt if that stick will need a liniment rubdown tonight. Okay, Pat. You’re right and I’m wrong, as you usually are. That modern variation of a witch’s broomstick does operate. Only—how?”

“That dial at the top governs weight,” explained Pat. “When you turn it—”

“Skip that. I know how it is operated. I want to know what makes it work?”

“Well,” explained Pat, “I’m not certain I can make it clear, but it’s all tied in with the elemental scientific problems of mass, weight, gravity and electric energy. What is electricity, for example—”

“I used to know,” I frowned. “But I forget.”

Joyce shook her head sorrowfully.

“Friends,” she intoned, “let us all bow our heads. This is a moment of great tragedy. The only man in the world who ever knew what electricity is—and he has forgotten!”

“That’s the whole point,” agreed Pending. “No one knows what electricity really is. All we know is how to use it. Einstein has demonstrated that the force of gravity and electrical energy are kindred; perhaps different aspects of a common phenomenon. That was my starting point.”

“So this rod, which enables you to defy the law of gravity, is electrical?”

“Electricaceous,” corrected Pat. “You see, I have transmogrified the polarifity of certain ingredular cellulations. A series of disentrigulated helicosities, activated by hypermagnetation, set up a disruptular wave motion which results in—counter-gravity!”

And there you are! Ninety-nine percent of the time Pat Pending talks like a normal human being. But ask him to explain the mechanism of one of his inventions and linguistic hell breaks loose. He begins jabbering like a schizophrenic parrot reading a Sanskrit dictionary backward! I sighed and surrendered all hope of ever actually learning how his great new discovery worked. I turned my thoughts to more important matters.

“Okay, Pat. We’ll dismiss the details as trivial and get down to brass tacks. What is your invention used for?”

“Eh?” said the redhead.

“It’s not enough that an idea is practicable,” I pointed out. “It must also be practical to be of any value in this frenzied modern era. What good is your invention?”

“What good,” demanded Joyce, “is a newborn baby?”

“Don’t change the subject,” I suggested. “Or come to think of it, maybe you should. At the diaper level, life is just one damp thing after another. But how to turn Pat’s brainchild into cold, hard cash—that’s the question before the board now.

“Individual flight a la Superman? No dice. I can testify from personal experience that once you get up there you’re completely out of control. And I can’t see any sense in humans trying to fly with jet flames scorching their base of operations.

“Elevators? Derricks? Building cranes? Possible. But lifting a couple hundred pounds is one thing. Lifting a few tons is a horse of a different color.

“No, Pat,” I continued, “I don’t see just how—”

Sandy Thomas squeaked suddenly and grasped my arm.

“That’s it, Mr. Mallory!” she cried. “That’s it!”

“Huh? What’s what?”

“You wanted to know how Pat could make money from his invention. You’ve just answered your own question.”

“I have?”

“Horses! Horse racing, to be exact. You’ve heard of handicaps, haven’t you?”

“I’m overwhelmed with them,” I nodded wearily. “A secretary who repulses my honorable advances, a receptionist who squeals in my ear—”

“Listen, Mr. Mallory, what’s the last thing horses do before they go to the post?”

“Check the tote board,” I said promptly, “to find out if I’ve got any money on them. Horses hate me. They’ve formed an equine conspiracy to prove to me the ancient adage that a fool and his money are soon parted.”

“Wait a minute!” chimed in Joyce thoughtfully. “I know what Sandy means. They weigh in. Is that right?”

“Exactly! The more weight a horse is bearing, the slower it runs. That’s the purpose of handicapping. But if a horse that was supposed to be carrying more than a hundred pounds was actually only carrying ten—Well, you see?”

Sandy paused, breathless. I stared at her with a gathering respect.

“Never underestimate the power of a woman,” I said, “when it comes to devising new and ingenious methods of perpetrating petty larceny. There’s only one small fly in the ointment, so far as I can see. How do we convince some racehorse owner he should become a party to this gentle felony?”

“Oh, you don’t have to,” smiled Sandy cheerfully. “I’m already convinced.”

“You? You own a horse?”

“Yes. Haven’t you ever heard of Tapwater?”

“Oh, sure! That drip’s running all the time!”

Joyce tossed me a reproving glance.

“This is a matter of gravity, Donald,” she stated, “and you keep treating it with levity. Sandy, do you really own Tapwater? He’s the colt who won the Monmouth Futurity, isn’t he?”

“That’s right. And four other starts this season. That’s been our big trouble. He shows such promise that the judges have placed him under a terrific weight handicap. To run in next week’s Gold Stakes, for instance, he would have to carry 124 pounds. I was hesitant to enter him because of that. But with Pat’s new invention—” She turned to Pat, eyes glowing—”he could enter and win!”

Pat said uncertainly, “I don’t know. I don’t like gambling. And it doesn’t seem quite ethical, somehow—”

I asked Sandy, “Suppose he ran carrying 124. What would be the probable odds?”

“High,” she replied, “Very high. Perhaps as high as forty to one.”

“In that case,” I decided, “it’s not only ethical, it’s a moral obligation. If you’re opposed to gambling, Pat, what better way can you think of to put the parimutuels out of business?”

“And besides,” Sandy pointed out, “this would be a wonderful opportunity to display your new discovery before an audience of thousands. Well, Pat? What do you say?”

Pat hesitated, caught a glimpse of Sandy’s pleading eyes, and was lost.

“Very well,” he said. “We’ll do it. Mr. Mallory, enter Tapwater in the Gold Stakes. We’ll put on the most spectaceous exhibition in the history of gambilizing!”

Thus it was that approximately one week later our piratical little crew was assembled once again, this time in the paddock at Laurel. In case you’re an inland aborigine, let me explain that Laurel race track (from the township of the same name) is where horse fanciers from the District of Columbia go to abandon their Capitol and capital on weekends.

We were briefing our jockey—a scrawny youth with a pair of oversized ears—on the use of Pat’s lightening rod. Being short on gray matter as well as on stature, he wasn’t getting it at all.

“You mean,” he said for the third or thirty-third time, “you don’t want I should hit the nag with this bat?”

“Heavens, no!” gasped Pat, blanching. “It’s much too delicate for that.”

“Don’t fool yourself, mister. Horses can stand a lot of leather.”

“Not the horse, stupid,” I said. “The bat. This is the only riding crop of its kind in the world. We don’t want it damaged. All you have to do is carry it. We’ll do the rest.”

“How about setting the dial, Don?” asked Joyce.

“Pat will do that just before the horses move onto the track. Now let’s get going. It’s weigh-in time.”

We moved to the scales with our rider. He stepped aboard the platform, complete with silks and saddle, and the spinner leaped to a staggering 102, whereupon the officials started gravely handing him little leather sacks.

“What’s this?” I whispered to Sandy. “Prizes for malnutrition? He must have won all the blackjacks east of the Mississippi.”

“The handicap,” she whispered back. “Lead weights at one pound each.”

“If he starts to lose,” I ruminated, “they’d make wonderful ammunition—”

“One hundred and twenty-four,” announced the chief weigher-inner. “Next entry!”

We returned to Tapwater. The jockey fastened the weights to his gear, saddled up and mounted. From the track came the traditional bugle call. Sandy nodded to Pat.

“All right, Pat. Now!”

Pending twisted the knob on his lightening rod and handed the stick to the jockey. The little horseman gasped, rose three inches in his stirrups, and almost let go of the baton.

“H-hey!” he exclaimed. “I feel funny. I feel—”

“Never mind that,” I told him. “Just you hold on to that rod until the race is over. And when you come back, give it to Pat immediately. Understand?”

“Yes. But I feel so—so lightheaded—”

“That’s because you’re featherbrained,” I advised him. “Now, get going. Giddyap, Dobbin!”

I patted Tapwater’s flank, and so help me Newton, I think that one gentle tap pushed the colt half way to the starting gate! He pattered across the turf with a curious bouncing gait as if he were running on tiptoe. We hastened to our seats in the grandstand.

“Did you get all the bets down?” asked Joyce.

I nodded and displayed a deck of ducats. “It may not have occurred to you, my sweet,” I announced gleefully, “but these pasteboards are transferrable on demand to rice and old shoes, the sweet strains of Oh, Promise Me! and the scent of orange blossoms. You insisted I should have a nest egg before you would murmur, ‘I do’? Well, after this race these tickets will be worth—” I cast a swift last glance at the tote board’s closing odds, quoting Tapwater at 35 to 1—”approximately seventy thousand dollars!”

“Donald!” gasped Joyce. “You didn’t bet all your savings?”

“Every cent,” I told her cheerfully. “Why not?”

“But if something should go wrong! If Tapwater should lose!”

“He won’t. See what I mean?”

For even as we were talking, the bell jangled, the crowd roared, and the horses were off. Eight entries surged from the starting gate. And already one full length out in front pranced the weight-free, lightfoot Tapwater!

At the quarter post our colt had stretched his lead to three lengths, and I shouted in Pending’s ear, “How much does that jockey weigh, anyway?”

“About six pounds,” said Pat. “I turned the knob to cancel one eighteen.”

At the half, all the other horses could glimpse of Tapwater was heels. At the three-quarter post he was so far ahead that the jockey must have been lonely. As he rounded into the stretch I caught a binocular view of his face, and he looked dazed and a little frightened. He wasn’t actually riding Tapwater. The colt was simply skimming home, and he was holding on for dear life to make sure he didn’t blow off the horse’s back. The result was a foregone conclusion, of course. Tapwater crossed the finish line nine lengths ahead, setting a new track record.

The crowd went wild. Over the hubbub I clutched Pat’s arm and bawled, “I’ll go collect our winnings. Hurry down to the track and swap that lightening rod for the real bat we brought along. He’ll have to weigh out again, you know. Scoot!”

The others vanished paddockward as I went for the big payoff. It was dreary at the totalizer windows. I was one of a scant handful who had bet on Tapwater, so it took no time at all to scoop into the valise I had brought along the seventy thousand bucks in crisp, green lettuce which an awed teller passed across the counter. Then I hurried back to join the others in the winner’s circle, where bedlam was not only reigning but pouring. Flashbulbs were popping all over the place, cameramen were screaming for just one more of the jockey, the owner, the fabulous Tapwater. The officials were vainly striving to quiet the tumult so they could award the prize. I found Pending worming his way out of the heart of the crowd.

“Did you get it?” I demanded.

He nodded, thrust the knobbed baton into my hand.

“You substituted the normal one?”

Again he nodded. Hastily I thrust the lightening rod out of sight into my valise, and we elbowed forward to share the triumphant moment. It was a great experience. I felt giddy with joy; I was walking on little pink clouds of happiness. Security was mine at last. And Joyce, as well.

“Ladies and gentlemen!” cried the chief official. “Your attention, please! Today we have witnessed a truly spectacular feat: the setting of a new track record by a champion racing under a tremendous handicap. I give you a magnificent racehorse—Tapwater!”

“That’s right, folks!” I bawled, carried away by the excitement. “Give this little horse a great big hand!”

Setting the example, I laid down the bag, started clapping vigorously. From a distance I heard Pat Pending’s agonized scream.

“Mr. Mallory—the suitcase! Grab it!”

I glanced down, belatedly aware of the danger of theft. But too late. The bag had disappeared.

“Hey!” I yelled. “Who swiped my bag? Police!”

“Up there, Mr. Mallory!” bawled Pat. “Jump!”

I glanced skyward. Three feet above my head and rising swiftly was the valise in which I had cached not only our winnings but Pat’s gravity-defying rod! I leaped—but in vain. I was still making feeble, futile efforts to make like the moon-hurdling nursery rhyme cow when quite a while later two strong young men in white jackets came and jabbed me with a sedative …

Later, when time and barbiturates had dulled the biting edge of my despair, we assembled once again in my office and I made my apologies to my friends.

“It was all my fault,” I acknowledged. “I should have realized Pat hadn’t readjusted the rod when I placed it in my bag. It felt lighter. But I was so excited—”

“It was my fault,” mourned Pat, “for not changing it immediately. But I was afraid someone might see me.”

“Perhaps if we hired an airplane—?” I suggested.

Pat shook his head.

“No, Mr. Mallory. The rod was set to cancel 118 pounds. The bag weighed less than twenty. It will go miles beyond the reach of any airplane before it settles into an orbit around earth.”

“Well, there goes my dreamed-of fortune,” I said sadly. “Accompanied by the fading strains of an unplayed wedding march. I’m sorry, Joyce.”

“Isn’t there one thing you folks are overlooking?” asked Sandy Thomas. “My goodness, you’d think we had lost our last cent just because that little old bag flew away!”

“For your information,” I told her, “that is precisely what happened to me. My entire bank account vanished into the wild blue yonder. And some of Pat’s money, too.”

“But have you forgotten,” she insisted, “that we won the race? Of course the track officials were a wee bit suspicious when your suitcase took off. But they couldn’t prove anything. So they paid me the Gold Stakes prize. If we split it four ways, we all make a nice little profit.

“Or,” she added, “if you and Joyce want to make yours a double share, we could split it three ways.

“Or,” she continued hopefully, “if Pat wants to, we could make two double shares, and split it fifty-fifty?”

From the look in Pat’s eyes I knew he was stunned by this possibility. And from the look in hers, I felt she was going to make every effort to take advantage of his bewilderment.

So, as I said before, what this country needs is a good cigar-shaped spaceship. There’s a fortune waiting somewhere out in space for the man who can go out there and claim it. Seventy thousand bucks in cold, hard cash.


I hope you enjoyed our five days of short stories! Which was your favourite?

Visual art

The Wednesday Painting – Frieda and Diego Rivera (1931) by Frieda Kahlo


This week’s Wednesday painting is Mexican painter Frieda Kahlo’s Frieda and Diego Rivera.

Frieda and Diego Rivera by Frieda Kahlo
Frieda and Diego Rivera by Frieda Kahlo

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: 39 3/8 in. x 31 in. (100.01 cm x 78.74 cm)

Initially Diego Rivera (1886-1957) was the big celebrity in this painting, but of course Frieda (1907-1954) has gone on to become somewhat of a superstar in the art world. It is well-known that Kahlo suffered with chronic pain throughout her life as a result of contracting polio as a child and from being in a severe bus crash when she was eighteen.

His retrospective at the young Museum of Modern Art was only the institution’s second devoted to a single figure. The first was Matisse. His wife, 25, was a brash near-unknown. The two had ejected themselves from the Mexican Communist Party in 1929, but were still celebrity radicals, given to blustery anti-capitalist talk and mercurial symbolic gestures… As he had been everywhere he went on his US tour, Rivera was wined and dined in Detroit. ArtNet


[Book Review] Nothing is Strange by Mike Russell

Ann Reads Them

41c2ttp3cmlTitle: Nothing is Strange
Author: Mike Russell
Genre: Fiction, short stories, surrealism

Where I got the book: I received a free e-copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: ★★★★☆

Summary: A couple wants to prove that their love is real. A man clones himself. An audience waits patiently for a woman to escape a locked wooden crate. A man shows off his beard of transparent bees. These are just a few of the 20 short stories included in this bizarre, mind-expanding collection.

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5 Days of Short Stories. 4: A Diagnosis of Death by Ambrose Bierce

A Diagnosis of Death

by Ambrose Bierce

‘I am not so superstitious as some of your physicians – men of science, as you are pleased to be called,’ said Hawver, replying to an accusation that had not been made. ‘Some of you – only a few, I confess – believe in the immortality of the soul, and in apparitions which you have not the honesty to call ghosts. I go no further than a conviction that the living are sometimes seen where they are not, but have been – where they have lived so long, perhaps so intensely, as to have left their impress on everything about them. I know, indeed, that one’s environment may be so affected by one’s personality as to yield, long afterward, an image of one’s self to the eyes of another. Doubtless the impressing personality has to be the right kind of personality as the perceiving eyes have to be the right kind of eyes – mine, for example.’

‘Yes, the right kind of eyes, conveying sensations to the wrong kind of brains,’ said Dr. Frayley, smiling.

‘Thank you; one likes to have an expectation gratified; that is about the reply that I supposed you would have the civility to make.’

‘Pardon me. But you say that you know. That is a good deal to say, don’t you think? Perhaps you will not mind the trouble of saying how you learned.’

‘You will call it an hallucination,’ Hawver said, ‘but that does not matter.’ And he told the story.

‘Last summer I went, as you know, to pass the hot weather term in the town of Meridian. The relative at whose house I had intended to stay was ill, so I sought other quarters. After some difficulty I succeeded in renting a vacant dwelling that had been occupied by an eccentric doctor of the name of Mannering, who had gone away years before, no one knew where, not even his agent. He had built the house himself and had lived in it with an old servant for about ten years. His practice, never very extensive, had after a few years been given up entirely. Not only so, but he had withdrawn himself almost altogether from social life and become a recluse. I was told by the village doctor, about the only person with whom he held any relations, that during his retirement he had devoted himself to a single line of study, the result of which he had expounded in a book that did not commend itself to the approval of his professional brethren, who, indeed, considered him not entirely sane. I have not seen the book and cannot now recall the title of it, but I am told that it expounded a rather startling theory. He held that it was possible in the case of many a person in good health to forecast his death with precision, several months in advance of the event. The limit, I think, was eighteen months. There were local tales of his having exerted his powers of prognosis, or perhaps you would say diagnosis; and it was said that in every instance the person whose friends he had warned had died suddenly at the appointed time, and from no assignable cause. All this, however, has nothing to do with what I have to tell; I thought it might amuse a physician.

‘The house was furnished, just as he had lived in it. It was a rather gloomy dwelling for one who was neither a recluse nor a student, and I think it gave something of its character to me – perhaps some of its former occupant’s character; for always I felt in it a certain melancholy that was not in my natural disposition, nor, I think, due to loneliness. I had no servants that slept in the house, but I have always been, as you know, rather fond of my own society, being much addicted to reading, though little to study. Whatever was the cause, the effect was dejection and a sense of impending evil; this was especially so in Dr. Mannering’s study, although that room was the lightest and most airy in the house. The doctor’s life-size portrait in oil hung in that room, and seemed completely to dominate it. There was nothing unusual in the picture; the man was evidently rather good looking, about fifty years old, with iron-grey hair, a smooth-shaven face and dark, serious eyes. Something in the picture always drew and held my attention. The man’s appearance became familiar to me, and rather “haunted” me.

‘One evening I was passing through this room to my bedroom, with a lamp – there is no gas in Meridian. I stopped as usual before the portrait, which seemed in the lamplight to have a new expression, not easily named, but distinctly uncanny. It interested but did not disturb me. I moved the lamp from one side to the other and observed the effects of the altered light. While so engaged I felt an impulse to turn round. As I did so I saw a man moving across the room directly toward me! As soon as he came near enough for the lamplight to illuminate the face I saw that it was Dr. Mannering himself; it was as if the portrait were walking!

‘”I beg your pardon,” I said, somewhat coldly, “but if you knocked I did not hear.”

‘He passed me, within an arm’s length, lifted his right forefinger, as in warning, and without a word went on out of the room, though I observed his exit no more than I had observed his entrance.

‘Of course, I need not tell you that this was what you will call a hallucination and I call an apparition. That room had only two doors, of which one was locked; the other led into a bedroom, from which there was no exit. My feeling on realizing this is not an important part of the incident.

‘Doubtless this seems to you a very commonplace “ghost story” – one constructed on the regular lines laid down by the old masters of the art. If that were so I should not have related it, even if it were true. The man was not dead; I met him to-day in Union Street. He passed me in a crowd.’

Hawver had finished his story and both men were silent. Dr. Frayley absently drummed on the table with his fingers.

‘Did he say anything to-day?’ he asked – ‘anything from which you inferred that he was not dead?’

Hawver stared and did not reply.

‘Perhaps,’ continued Frayley,’ he made a sign, a gesture – lifted a finger, as in warning. It’s a trick he had – a habit when saying something serious – announcing the result of a diagnosis, for example.’

‘Yes, he did – just as his apparition had done. But, good God! did you ever know him?’

Hawver was apparently growing nervous.

‘I knew him. I have read his book, as will every physician some day. It is one of the most striking and important of the century’s contributions to medical science. Yes, I knew him; I attended him in an illness three years ago. He died.’

Hawver sprang from his chair, manifestly disturbed. He strode forward and back across the room; then approached his friend, and in a voice not altogether steady, said: ‘Doctor, have you anything to say to me – as a physician? ‘

‘No, Hawver; you are the healthiest man I ever knew. As a friend I advise you to go to your room. You play the violin like an angel. Play it; play something light and lively. Get this cursed bad business off your mind.’

The next day Hawver was found dead in his room, the violin at his neck, the bow upon the string, his music open before him at Chopin’s Funeral March.

I hope you enjoyed this piece by Ambrose Bierce. Come back tomorrow for our last short story!

Ambrose Bierce
Ambrose Bierce
Visual art

The Curious Art of Claudio Parentela

Claudio Parentela
Claudio Parentela

Claudio Parentela is an Italian artist and freelance journalist. I love his work – it’s so fun, colourful and original. I highly recommend checking out his website, as there are hundreds of amazing images to look at. You can also find his contact details there if you’re interested in purchasing some unique art!

Claudio Parentela
Claudio Parentela

a short biography…

Claudio Parentela
Claudio Parentela

Born in Catanzaro(1962-Italy) where he lives and works…Claudio Parentela is an illustrator,painter,photographer,mail artist,cartoonist,collagist,journalist free lance…Active since many years in the international underground scene.He has collaborated&he collaborates with many,many zines,magazines of contemporary art,literary and of comics in Italy and in the world…& on the paper and on the web…

Claudio Parentela
Claudio Parentela

”Claudio Parentela:Contemporary Art with a Freakish Taste!”

Claudio Parentela
Claudio Parentela

All images copyright ©Claudio Parentela. All rights reserved.No unauthorised duplication of any kind.


5 Days of Short Stories. 3: Flock by Mike Russell

Flock - a short story from Mike Russell's Strange Medicine
Flock – a short story from Mike Russell’s Strange Medicine

Our third short story is Mike Russell’s Flock.



Anthony Tobias Bradshaw sits, as usual, on the 7:00 a.m. train, on his way to work. Dressed in his black raincoat, pin-striped suit, white shirt, black tie and black shoes, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw reads the morning newspaper, either nodding or shaking his head in agreement or disagreement with the various articles. Each movement of his head, be it a nod or a shake, maintains and strengthens who it is that Anthony Tobias Bradshaw believes himself to be.

‘Why does he continue to go to work?’ is a question that many people have whispered behind the back of Anthony Tobias Bradshaw; not because Anthony Tobias Bradshaw is past retirement age and in receipt of a pension (though he is) but because the business for which Anthony Tobias Bradshaw continues to work closed down twelve years ago.

If anyone were to ask Anthony Tobias Bradshaw why he continues to diligently repeat the same administrative tasks, Monday to Friday, nine to five, in an abandoned office building, for a business that no longer exists, he would undoubtedly reply:

‘Because I am Anthony Tobias Bradshaw. That is what I do.’

The train slows to a halt. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw lays his newspaper on his lap and peers out of the window. The station that Anthony Tobias Bradshaw sees is not his destination. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw looks at his watch; his destination is not due for another twenty-seven minutes. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shakes his head.


‘Yes, sir?’ the young guard replies, rushing through the carriage towards Anthony Tobias Bradshaw, eager to be of service.

‘This is the 7:00 a.m. non-stop train, is it not?’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw asks.

‘Yes, sir,’ the guard answers. ‘This is the 7:00 a.m. train and it is non-stop.’

The guard smiles, happy that he has been able to help. Before Anthony Tobias Bradshaw can ask the guard why then, if the train is non-stop, has it just stopped, the guard walks on through the carriage with the satisfied feeling of a job well done.

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shakes his head then picks up his newspaper and resumes reading. Whilst Anthony Tobias Bradshaw reads, the carriage doors open and an elderly woman in a multi-coloured shawl steps onto the train. She walks towards Anthony Tobias Bradshaw and sits in the seat opposite him.

The carriage doors shut and the train continues on its way.

The elderly woman stares at Anthony Tobias Bradshaw.

‘In the future,’ the woman says, ‘I remember a man like you.’

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw slowly lowers his newspaper.

‘I am sorry, madam, are you talking to me?’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw enquires, knowing perfectly well that she is but wanting the woman to understand just how impertinent it is of her to be doing so.

The woman ignores Anthony Tobias Bradshaw’s question and says:

‘One day, the man realised that he wasn’t a man at all but that he was, in fact, sixteen birds. At the moment of realisation, the birds all suddenly took flight, each one flying off in a completely different direction.’

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw slowly shakes his head.

‘Is that so?’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw says. ‘And what exactly is it that you are attempting to communicate to me by sharing this little work of fiction, this little fairy story, hmm? I presume that you intend it to have some sort of symbolic function, though I really cannot see what on Earth that might be.’

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw waits for an answer but the woman simply stares at him with an expression that clearly shows her disdain for everything he has just said. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shakes his head then returns to his newspaper.

The 7:00 a.m. non-stop train eventually reaches its destination, the extra stop somehow not having added any time to the journey, and Anthony Tobias Bradshaw packs his newspaper away in his briefcase, shakes his head one last time at the elderly woman in the multi-coloured shawl who is still staring at him with the same expression, then Anthony Tobias Bradshaw stands up, steps off the train and walks towards the derelict building in which he works.


Anthony Tobias Bradshaw enters a large room filled with rows of empty, dust-covered desks and empty, dust-covered chairs. Though all of the desks and chairs are identical, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw always works at the same desk, his desk, and sits on the same chair, his chair, both of which are significantly less dust-covered and are situated at the far end of the room. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw walks to his desk, removes his coat and hangs it on the back of his chair, sits down and opens his briefcase.

‘I should not have even entered into conversation with her,’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw says aloud to himself. ‘I should have just shaken my head then ignored her. That is what I should have done. To even entertain the possibility that such nonsense has meaning is a weakness that leaves oneself open to attack.’

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw feels a breeze, looks around him and sees an open window. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shakes his head, reprimanding himself for not having closed the window the previous day. He hears a rustling sound coming from the waste-paper bin beneath his desk, looks inside the bin and sees a pigeon flapping about amongst the screwed up newspapers. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shakes his head.

‘This is what happens,’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw says aloud, ‘when one leaves just the tiniest opening.’

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw opens his desk drawer and removes a pair of scissors, a ball of string and a bulldog-clip. Using the scissors, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw cuts a one metre length of string from the ball. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw then ties one end of the length of string to the bulldog-clip. The other end of the string, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw ties to the paperweight that is sitting on his desk. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw then reaches into the waste-paper bin, takes hold of the pigeon, attaches the bulldog-clip to one of its legs, carries it to the centre of the room, sets the paperweight down on the floor, then lets go of the pigeon. The tethered bird flies about frantically, pulling on the weighted string, unable to escape. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw walks back to his desk, sits down, watches the bird for a while, nodding in satisfaction, then begins his usual daily tasks.

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw works through the day, pausing only at midday to eat a cheese and tomato sandwich that he bought, as usual, from the newsagents in the station that morning, then at 5:00 p.m. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw closes his briefcase, puts on his coat and leaves the office, ensuring before he does so that all of the windows are firmly shut.


At the station, as usual, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw buys the evening newspaper, then catches the 6:00 p.m. train. On the train, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw sits reading the evening newspaper, nodding or shaking his head at the various articles. The 6:00 p.m. train travels to its destination on time without incident.

‘Hello, Celia,’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw calls as he enters his house.

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw closes the door behind him, sets down his briefcase, hangs up his coat and removes his shoes.

‘Hello, Celia,’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw calls again.

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw’s wife always has a hot meal waiting for him when he arrives home. The meal always consists of meat, potatoes and three vegetables on a large, white, china plate with cutlery and condiments, positioned at the far end of the dining table. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw’s wife always eats before Anthony Tobias Bradshaw gets home because Anthony Tobias Bradshaw prefers to eat alone.

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw enters the dining room.

Instead of the usual one large, white, china plate at the end of the table, there are sixteen small, white, china plates covering the whole of the table. There is no cutlery, no condiments and each plate, instead of containing a hot meal, has in its centre a small pile of seeds.

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shakes his head.

‘Celia!’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shouts. ‘What’s going on? Is this a joke?’

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw walks into the kitchen. His wife is not there. In the middle of the kitchen table is a large packet of birdseed.

‘Celia!’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shouts.

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw walks upstairs. His wife is nowhere to be seen. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw walks back downstairs, enters the living room and sits in his armchair, shaking his head again and again whilst waiting for his wife to appear. When the clock strikes midnight and his wife is still nowhere to be seen, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw walks back into the dining room, picks up the sixteen small plates, takes them into the kitchen, pours the birdseed into the bin and puts the plates away in the cupboard. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw then walks upstairs and goes to bed.


The next day, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw sits again on the 7:00 a.m. train and reads the morning newspaper, nodding or shaking his head at the various articles, then nodding his head with particular vigour when the train arrives at its destination without having made any erroneous stops.

Inside his office, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw nods in satisfaction at the tethered pigeon, then walks to his desk, removes his coat and hangs it on the back of his chair, sits down, opens his briefcase and begins the day’s tasks. As usual, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw works through the day, pausing only at midday to eat a cheese and tomato sandwich, then at 5:00 p.m. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw closes his briefcase, puts on his coat, leaves the office and walks to the station. There, he buys the evening newspaper, then catches the 6:00 p.m. train home.

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw closes the door to his house behind him, sets down his briefcase, hangs up his coat, removes his shoes, then calls:


There is no answer. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw enters the dining room. Sixteen small plates cover the dining table as before, each with a small pile of birdseed in its centre. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shakes his head then picks up his briefcase and stomps upstairs.

In the bedroom, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw undresses in front of a full-length mirror. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shakes his head at his naked reflection, then opens his briefcase and removes a bulldog-clip. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw attaches the clip to the end of his tongue. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw produces another clip from his briefcase and attaches it to the end of his nose. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw produces two more clips and attaches one to each of his ears. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw produces more clips, attaching one to each of his eyebrows, one to each of his nipples, one to the back of each of his hands, one to each of his thighs, one to each of his knees and one to the top of each of his feet.

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw then produces from his briefcase a pair of scissors and a ball of string from which he cuts sixteen lengths. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw attaches a length of string to each of the bulldog-clips that now adorn his body.

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw looks at his reflection and nods.

‘But how to harness them?’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw says aloud.

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw searches his reflection, then finds the perfect solution. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw ties each of the loose ends of string to his penis. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw nods in satisfaction, then puts on his pyjamas and goes to bed.


In the morning, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw wakes at the usual time, washes, dresses, walks downstairs and puts on his shoes and coat, picks up his briefcase, then leaves his house and walks to the station. The bulldog-clips and strings mean that Anthony Tobias Bradshaw has to walk rather carefully but, other than slowing him down a little, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw does not find them too troublesome.

‘The usual, sir?’ asks the newsagent, deciding not to mention the entirely obvious pieces of stationery attached to Anthony Tobias Bradshaw’s face and the connected strings that disappear down into Anthony Tobias Bradshaw’s collar.

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw nods, then hands over the exact money for his copy of the morning newspaper and his cheese and tomato sandwich.

On the 7:00 a.m. train, only the young guard shows any sign of noticing Anthony Tobias Bradshaw’s peculiar adornments, and even then his only reaction is a brief expression of concerned shock, which is quickly and professionally replaced by a congenial and un-judgemental smile.

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw arrives at his office, nods at the tethered pigeon, walks to his desk, removes his coat and hangs it on the back of his chair, sits down, opens his briefcase and begins the day’s tasks. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw works until 5:00 p.m., pausing only at midday to eat (with some difficulty) his cheese and tomato sandwich, then Anthony Tobias Bradshaw leaves the office, walks to the station, buys the evening newspaper and catches the 6:00 p.m. train home.


In his house, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw enters the dining room, clears away the sixteen new plates of birdseed, sits in his armchair in the living room until midnight, then walks upstairs to bed.

In the bedroom, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw stands in front of the full-length mirror and undresses. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw nods in satisfaction at the fact that all of the clips and strings are still in place. Then Anthony Tobias Bradshaw turns around and gasps.

‘Celia!’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw says.

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw’s wife is lying in the bed. She is wearing her multi-coloured shawl.

‘Turn the light out, dear,’ she says as if she has not been absent for the past two days and nothing is amiss.

Anthony Tobias Bradshaw stands and looks at his wife. He feels as if he has not seen her for longer than two days; he feels as if he has not really seen her for years. He is overwhelmed by her beauty, by the beauty of who she is, of who she really is, and Anthony Tobias Bradshaw experiences his first erection in twenty-five years accompanied by the noise of sixteen bulldog-clips snapping shut as they are all pulled at once from their various locations. The bedroom is filled with the sound of fluttering wings and that which used to call itself Anthony Tobias Bradshaw feels utterly fantastic.

© 2016 Mike Russell.

Mike Russell is a Brighton based author and now has two short story anthologies published – Flock is from his second book Strange Medicine.

Come back tomorrow for short story number four!

Film Visual art

10 Surreal Svankmajer Animated Gifs

If there’s one artist whose work lends itself best to animated gifs, it has to be Jan Svankmajer. Enjoy these hilarious and beautiful mini pieces of art!

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