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Formula One

Formula One, the multibillion
razzmatazz - loud, noisy, smelly,
(a tobacco industries advertiser's field-day),
builds cockpit personalities,
(men who jostle and prod for position),
obscene fortunes that make meaningless
the concept of a just wage,
drawing on the fascinations of the young,
draining and polluting,
with all this done under the banner of sport,
you have to be joking.

Signing off!


Rhetoric, hype and hypocrisy,

the trade in armaments

counters and dictates,

the power boys

little better than a bunch of thugs.


In a steady cycle of terminal decay,

wars engulf the world,

driven on by greed and avarice

a world rapidly reducing itself to ashes.


Saving the planet!


Save the planet, they cry

“renewables”, did I hear correctly?


Giant rotating blades immersed in sea water,

blades batting the air above—wind farms galore,

as airliners fill the sky, and motor traffic below

pollute the atmosphere with fumes and toxins.


Save the planet?


Take a running jump!


What’s the score?

A wave of illiteracy is sweeping the media from BBC to BBC.

On the "Today" programme (BBC R4 10/01/11) we had yet another example of the misuse of the word "less". According to the commentator there were "less" shoppers over Christmas. And then there is the "amount" of fish being caught in the North Sea and so on and so on . . . Amount of tonnage, maybe, but "number" of fish, please. (Or should it be the "biomass" of the fish farm fraternity? In which case "amount" will suffice.)

A sample of spoken “English” from BBC Radio: “Actually, I think, I mean, you know: issue, issue, issue . . .” The word “issue” (a U.S. import, no doubt) is now used in blanket fashion to cover for more specific wording such as, “problem”, “factor” and so on. See: Dickens reference to “Poll Parroting” from “Our Mutual Friend.”

We suggest, despite all the talk of higher grades in examination results, the use of Basic English today is at an all-time low.




John Vetterlein has never sought to publish his work with any profit motive in mind. It has taken some persuading on the part of others to get him to release his fiction writing (in which we include poetry) to a wider readership. He says:

‘Writing for me is an imperative. I see what I see, experience and cogitate, and then feel compelled to write about it in some form or another. Life’s diversity overwhelms me. I am forever perplexed how we hold on in this hostile world, to which we as a species continually contribute hazards piled one upon the other: war, industry, proliferation, self-indulgence and so on. Our creativity appears to have no bounds; its range is enormous from the sublime to the most destructive, physically and mentally.’

So let me comment on this process of publishing.

Some scorn is current concerning so-called “self-publishing”. To some this is seen as an extension of Vanity publishing. It is suggested, with some good reason, that the majority who seek to publish their work are in fact motivated through a sense of vanity. (Those who write because they want to as opposed to those who write because they have to.) The self-publishing outlets know they are on to a good thing here. But for some of us, to have full control over the finished product is the abiding criteria and self-publishing provides that opportunity. So, critics, please bear that in mind .

The word processor, the computer and the worldwide “net” have expanded the possibilities enormously for becoming “noticed” (all be it something of a needle in a very large stack). Using the technology now available anybody with a few keyboard skills (and not so skilful in many instances) can churn out words in their millions. Words, words, words . . . (One has to ponder what a Walter Scott would have made of it all.)

We live in the era of extensive proliferation. More, more, more . . . In astronomy comets are now being detected in their thousands. Scientists worldwide expand the areas of their research into every nook and cranny; artists experiment this way and, writers write and write, and so it goes on; yet there are still just twenty-four hours in each day in which to engage with it all.

J V again:

‘As a polymath, I am only too aware of all this. To be heard today becomes more and more problematical. Two hundred years ago one had a few hundred symphonies from which to choose, those of C P E Bach, Joseph Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, to mention the most accomplished. The nineteenth century saw the hijacking of the symphony as a means of expressing a personal “philosophy”. Hence we have the Pathetique Symphony of Tchaikovsky, the bloated utterances of Bruckner and Mahler (I love my bloaters, incidentally), all seeking a modus operandi for self-expression. And today there are countless “groups” all wanting to be heard. I am thinking there is something to be said, after all, for remaining silent.

‘There is an amusing side to all this. I was sick of the pricing structure in publishing where everything is sold to the formula £XX.99 or £XX.95. If tatties (spuds to you) were to be priced up to the nearest pound sterling, then there would soon be an outcry. Yet we stomach it all, as indeed we allow ourselves to be bamboozled by the “buy two get one free” nonsense.
Spring Ast LIX was set up in the early 1990s in order to publish work for a limited clientele—local interests and a few specific headings particularly related to the wider environment, this before environment had become the “IN” word.

‘My mind was made up to go it alone when a certain well-established publisher’s wiz kid suggested that my book (which he thought had some merit!) should be enlarged as a marketing ploy. Needless to say, the interview went no further.’

Although we did not enter publishing for the sole purpose of selling, when we did we could at least price our goods to reflect production costs, thereby avoiding this ninety-nine mania. In other words, as earlier remarked upon, self-publishing allows a certain freedom to present one’s stuff in the form they wish to have it presented unmolested by a well-meaning “professional” publisher. (Note the hysterical comments one often reads on the dust jacket, for example: “Pancake Harry was recently voted one of the world’s top three intellectuals along with . . . “. If that isn’t enough to blight a book then it should be! Can you imagine any self-respecting writer allowing such things? Yet they do and the reading public lap it all up spook, mime and stinker.)

It is worth noting, incidentally, that the poet William Blake was self-published.

Derek Hands
May 31 2009

The words we use and why we use them.

“Give me words that I may savour them.”

I look at all this from a different perspective than most. First, words are the raw materials of my craft as a writer. Second, I am of a much older generation from the majority of the population.

Most people, I assume, use words ad hoc simply to communicate as best they can. The subtleties and nuances of language hardly enter into it.

Again, and I am making an assumption here, most people communicate through word of mouth rather than the written word. Judging by the number of people I see out and about with a pad glued to their ear, it would appear that chatting away to each other, at all hours of the day and night and in any place, has become an obsession if not an addiction.

Letter writing is now a lost art, the e-mail and “texting” have seen to that. Historians are having a rough time, yet this appears not to concern anybody over much; the fact that our culture (if that is the correct “word” in the circumstances) hangs on a magnetic thread does not seem to have occurred to most us.

Communication has been reduced to fetes of mimicry—the words and expressions we use become more and more constrained. (The Poll-parotting of Charles Dickens in Our Mutual Friend?) Now everything is reduced to an “issue”. We no longer appear to have “problems” or “factors” or “implications” or any number of a host of “conditions”, everything falls under the umbrella of an “issue”.

Perhaps we no longer listen intently to what we are saying, and so we do not realise we are copycatting our way through life; how else can one account for word misuse and over usage?

“Actually”. Enough said? “Well, actually not.” I do not see why I should be deprived of a word simply because most people chuck it around in a meaningless fashion. And sensitivity? “Slash” to you too! What an ugly word, and what malicious intent. Slash spending and have an Internet site with a “slash” in the title; and next time a knife-wounding (or death) is reported, forget the “slash” and call it something else—an issue, maybe?

Give me words that I may savour them.

Richard Helmann

June 2010

Stuck on Cliché?

In the opening to his complex novel Snytheisis—Microcosms of Tragedy, John (C) Vetterlein has:

What sort of a place is this?
'It's not so bad . . .'
A fragment of conversation picked up in passing. Here is another piece of conversation picked up in passing:  '. . . at the end of the day.'
At the end of the day?

'You hear these things being said, and what is your conclusion?'
I am not in the business of drawing conclusions.
'Things have changed. An interpretation, then?'
Of course. I'll give you a reaction. The more I listen to what people have to say, the less I am convinced they have anything worthwhile to say. Conversation is little more than passed-on cliché.

'You are severe on your fellow sufferers.'
I am. I always have been, and I do not admire myself for it. There is a flaw somewhere, in me.
'You expect too much.'
I hardly know what to expect. What I hope—that is a different matter.
'Hope? What a word is that, what a concept.'
Concepts galore. A new concept in blankets, runs the advert. An abuse of the language.
'There are worse troubles at sea?'
So they say. So we run on cliché.
'You are stuck on cliché.'

Indeed, are we stuck on cliché? I am inclined to think we are. And for why? Because of our proclivity for copycatting.

Most of these clichés are either absurd or downright false. Their general acceptance into everyday conversation comes about through ignorance and laziness. Let me take an example.
“It’s hardly rocket science.”
I know the implication is to suggest a complex argument under the guise of rocket science. But what is meant exactly? The trajectory followed by a rocket is a relatively simple computation, the complexity enters only when we require to contort the path of the rocket to achieve a certain goal. It would be better to leave rockets out of the argument and to say instead “It’s hardly complex circuitry.”

A new little cliché has entered our vocabulary, namely “When the rubber hits the road.”
Again I make the assumption that we are talking about the process of something new being tried out for the first time implying, perhaps, when the mini’s tyres start to roll along the tarmac, assuming the mini (a car) has recently been invented, of course. I am unable to modify this one to accommodate my sensitivities and so I’ll do what I invariably have to do when a web site address is being given out over the media, shut my ears. (I find the word “slash” offensive in this context.)

The most trying experience of all for me is to have a professor of something or other tell us (usually via the radio) that there are less pancakes when he/she should say fewer pancakes. A combination of word misuse and overuse (overdose?) “actually, it’s not an issue you know  . . .”
But we have been through all that before, haven’t we?

Richard Helmann


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