Wednesday, 30 June 2010


Hello all you as yet unrealised potential readers. Here's another blog excerpt. This is something I was inspired to write when wonderful writer Chris Regan asked me to be in his crazy short film - JENNY RINGO AND THE MONKEY'S PAW. It's about using Monkey's Paw and is an idea that's been spinning around for years. It took Chris's film to fertilise that idea egg. As it were.

Obviously, if you're normal you'll be unfamiliar with any of the following. If you're a geek, you'll know everything.


Well done – you’ve come into possession of WW Jacobs fabled Monkey’s Paw – a magical item granting the user three wishes. Fantastic!

Except, this Paw has the unfortunate tendency to rebound the wishes onto the user to their horror and regret. The wishes rebound ironically and without mercy, leaving the wretched victim wishing he’d never come in to possession of the dire object.

This document is an attempt to guide the new owner of a Monkey’s Paw to the safe usage of the item and, in particular, to gain successful advantage of the Monkey’s Paw’s three wish mechanism without cost of any kind to oneself or loved ones.

NB. Although we are using the Monkey’s Paw specifically in this instance, the principles outlined below should also apply to other three-wish delivery items such as Aladdin’s Lamp, Rings of Power etc. The Monkey’s Paw example is used here as it appears to be the most difficult and lethal magical wishing item to master.


With sufficient preparation, these rules can aid the careful user to gain advantage.

First, we must attempt to define how the Monkey’s Paw works.

Upon receipt of the Monkey’s Paw, the user is allowed three wishes. These wishes must be spoken aloud while holding the object. The Monkey’s Paw must grant these three wishes.

The wishes must also be spoken one after the other, as human beings are unable to speak three wishes at once. This may seem facile but is in fact a very important factor – see below.

As soon as a wish is spoken, the wish will take effect. This is usually to malign effect and although the consequences of the wish may not become apparent until later (see the story), the actual magic takes place immediately. Speed of delivery of wishes is a very important factor in safe usage of the Monkey’s Paw. So be ready.

Although we cannot be absolutely certain, for safe usage we must assume the Monkey’s Paw’s powers both physical and supernatural are unlimited and capable of any action of any kind instantaneously throughout the universe.

As we can see, the Monkey’s Paw is immensely powerful. These rules appear to be immutable and if they are not, interpretation should always assume the worst-case scenario.

So, the Monkey’s Paw will fulfil a spoken wish while simultaneously attempt to cause maximum ironic damage immediately the wish is spoken. The damage can be assumed to encompass not only damage to the user but to the users’ family, anyone else in the human race and the physical components of the universe itself – ie. Starting fires, earthquakes, disintegrating solar system etc.


Although not strictly a rule, it is prudent to assume that the wishes themselves must be as simple and direct as possible. The Monkey’s Paw does not seem to allow complicated wishes full of conditional clauses – for these often contain supplementary wishes and must be assumed to count as so. The likelihood is the Monkey’s Paw will select the most damaging sub-wish and use this against the user.

CAVEAT EMPTOR: Although the following method seems to provide safe usage, there is always the risk the Monkey’s Paw can alter its own rules although this has never been evidenced. Proper safe usage should take some account of the possibility of cheating by the Monkey’s Paw. However, the probability remains the Monkey’s Paw will not alter its own potential and powers and we proceed from that assumption.


The safe method outlined below uses the three wishes as sub-wishes to one overall wish – that of giving the user anything they want. By considering the three wishes as one big wish, safe usage is much more likely.

In order for safe usage of three wishes, the user must proceed from the necessity to safeguard his/her well-being as well as the well-being of others and the environment in which they exist.

The assumption must be made that as soon as a wish is uttered, the Monkey’s Paw will instantly create a method to undermine the wish and cause regret by ironic fulfilment of the wish.

By this argument, we define our aims:

1/ Keep the user safe

2/ Keep others safe

3/ Protect user’s environment

4/ Gain advantage in a way not available by non-Monkey’s Paw means

NB. Although this is a three wish system, religious users will be delighted to learn they can achieve their goals in two wishes, leaving a third wish spare.


Wish Three is easy. This is the user’s desire wish, when all safeguards have been established. We will focus now on Wishes One and Two.

Assuming safety of oneself and others and environment for past, present and future must be achieved – a suitable specific cover-all word has been selected: this word is REGRET.

Therefore, one’s primary wish should be never to regret wishing on the Monkey’s Paw. The wording can probably be made more precise but the simplest we have found is:

I wish never to regret wishing on the Monkey’s Paw.

This places the Monkey’s Paw in a difficult bind – it must fulfil the wish; not allowing any unpleasant repercussions.

The user may think from this point he or she is safe to use the other wishes, but this is not necessarily true.

The Monkey’s Paw has one option here: to annihilate the User instantly, rendering him or her incapable of regret. It fulfils its bargain and also rebounds the wish on the user. Therefore, it must be assumed the Monkey’s Paw will do this – by heart attack, envelopment in fire, destruction of the universe or any other way.

As mentioned before, religious people may choose to free up a wish and select this as their first wish. This is possible because should they be instantly annihilated by the Monkey’s Paw they will presumably enter the after-life proscribed by their faith. This afterlife may provide a method by which a soul, or some other definition of protection of the self and its consciousness from extinction, will still enable the user to feel regret; in which case the rules of the wish still hold good.

For the purposes of safety, the assumption of this document is that the most probable post-death condition is complete extinction of the self.

Therefore this wish, as all-encompassing as it is, must be protected by a preceding First Wish.

The purpose of the First Wish is to enable the user to protect his or her self from this annihilation. Again, careful wording has been selected:

I wish to live out my natural pre-Monkey’s Paw wish life-span.

Although convoluted, this wish remains simple and direct. It is a clear single wish.

There are of course, three possibilities still for failure.

1/ The User’s natural lifespan is not long enough to speak the second wish.

It is the assumption of this document that although this is a risk, the probability is that one will live long enough to get to speak the next wish. By the third wish, as one can safely wish for anything, the user can correct any difficulties arising from natural lifespan problems.

2/ The Monkey’s Paw can make the surrounding environment hellish, making life not worth living for the user.

In other words, the Monkey’s Paw can, although obliged to keep the user alive for their natural span, use this ironically to cause them torment, pain or damage the world around them. EG – The Monkey’s Paw might cause a meteor collision on the planet, killing everyone and making the Earth uninhabitable – meaning the user is in constant torment and yet cannot die.
Again, this can be righted by the second wish – that of never regretting using the Paw.

3/ It is feasible the Monkey’s Paw may destroy the Users ability to speak – eg. Burn out their tongue – but this, in our opinion, is a transgression of its own rules and an admission of failure on the part of the Monkey’s Paw.
There is a difference in the potential annihilation by premature speaking of Wish Two outlined above because the annihilation in that case is caused by ironic implementation of User’s wish.

This reaction also implies the Monkey’s Paw already knows and can react to the consequences of fulfilling Wish Two. Again: cheating.
Again there is no evidential basis.

There is no recorded instance of the Monkey’s Paw removing a user’s ability to speak all three wishes. This does not, of course, mean it wouldn’t do this. User beware!


To recap, the three wishes should be stated clearly and unambiguously in this order:

WISH ONE: I wish to live out my natural pre-Monkey’s Paw wish life-span.

WISH TWO: I wish never to regret using the Monkey’s Paw.

And now safely on to,

WISH THREE: I wish to get everything I ever wanted.

Although it must be admitted really only one wish will gain the User advantage, this is surely better than no wishes or terrible repercussions from unsafe usage. In any case, Wish Three should encompass any average users needs.

Obviously, no document can completely cover all risks attached to usage of the Monkey’s Paw. The safest course of all is never to make any wishes.


Wednesday, 2 June 2010

First Blog - Disaster!

This is my first blog! Hello to all of you out there. The aim of this blog is for a sad 40something man to learn how to blog and to write out hopefully informative and entertaining prose for any of you wishing to become me.

I thought I'd begin by discussing movies - my favourite subject. My life in movies, as you wish...


We start with the 1970s. Specifically the mid-1970s...

It’s funny to think the mid-70’s were responsible for instilling into a narrow strata of British youth the sense that life is essentially meaningless and individual free will subject to the indifferent, random whims of the universe. Life, death and in between are mere chance and the concept of control over one’s environment is pure illusion.
We’re talking of course about disaster movies.
Disaster movies were massive. I can now only think of the zombie remake Dawn of the Dead coming close to why people would pay money to have their faces rubbed in existential faeces. ‘You are nothing!’ These films scream at you. With huge budgets.
Every conceivable awful natural catastrophe seemed to be fair game, with the Hollywood studios coming up with increasingly bigger and better ways to swipe dozens of tuxedo-wearing men and ball-gowned women out of existence.


The big daddy of disaster movies is, oddly, one of the smallest in scale. The Towering Inferno when compared with such massive mayhem as Earthquake or Poseidon Adventure is small fry – only as Towering Inferno is the culmination of its genre predecessors, it seems massive.
For Towering Inferno is massive from start to finish. To begin with the titles announce this film is based on not one but TWO books – The Tower, and The Glass Inferno. Too big for one book these guys piled two into one building on fire movie. Twice the disaster!
As Scream revealed with horror movies, the disaster movie worked to strict rules.
Paul Newman and Steve Macqueen would survive (although Chuck Heston was swept away in Earthquake, you knew Paul and Steve were going to make it. You just knew). I didn’t know who Fay Dunaway was, or William Holden, so they didn’t count. For everyone else, it was just a matter of time. What mattered in Towering Inferno was how they got killed. And in Towering Inferno there were so many ways.
We start with a great one: a dozy 3 quid an hour Security Guard opens the cupboard door with the fire inside. Why? Because people are stupid and incompetent, the film’s subtext tells us.
Nice Building Manager Guy rushes to stop him only to be enveloped in a blast of flame. So the nob guard escapes and the nice guy pays for being helpful. Just like life.
As a kid, I liked Robert Vaughn’s death best – kicked out of the chair lift just for trying to restore order; thoroughly undeserved and therefore better. But as an adult, slimy Richard Chamberlain doing the kicking, then causing his own downfall by overloading the same chair lift, seems more satisfying.

My primary memory of the actual watching of Towering Inferno remains my Dad, a fireman himself, sat next to me in the dark, studying the film until:
Steve and his heroic fire boys are stumbling through a corridor high up in the Towering Inferno. Fire burns at the end of the brightly lit corridor. My Dad quietly states – unconsciously I think – ‘That room would be full of smoke’. And I realised in reality you wouldn’t see a thing. Not in a real towering inferno.
Even at 9 I understood you couldn’t fill a film corridor full of smoke or you wouldn’t see Steve and the boys fight the fire. So it wasn’t real. What? HOW? My reality took a sudden lurch to the left.
Maybe the Tower had air fans? Maybe it was a weird, special fire that didn’t smoke.
And off we go. The seeds are sown for the habit of ridiculous justifications that continues even now for daft against-logic film conventions. (My mate Mike’s Star Trek ones are brilliant).

Towering Inferno still stands up. Three hours of gruelling, grinding disaster. The only lapse comes about halfway through: Paul has gone rogue to rescue two kids and a blind woman from a burning room. In a fire escape, they find a huge hole in the floor and the stairs blocked. The only way up is to navigate a wobbly broken ladder. One by one, off they go – the ladder creaking and swinging. Disaster watches and hungrily waits. Only – let’s recap: it’s Paul, the blind woman and two kids.
So…they’re going to make it. All of them. We know that. There’s no Roddy MacDowell or equivalent tuxedo wearing waiter whose sweaty fingers slip on the metal rungs, or get caught out as the building rocks under an explosion; dropping to his doom with an anguished scream. This lot, they’re all going to make it.
I reckon Stirling Silliphant knew this when he wrote the script – because at halfway through a three hour film, a boy of nine is going to need the toilet. And he’s only going to go when he knows he’s not going to miss anything. Which is exactly what happened.
So there you go. The Towering Inferno. Genius.


You might be wondering where Jaws fits into all this. The most important, massive blockbuster until Star Wars. I’m afraid Jaws is one of those films. I first saw Jaws on telly in about 1983, one Bank Holiday evening and yes, it was as genius as I hoped it would be. One of the greatest movies ever. I came away feeling sad. Because I knew I’d missed a phenomenon.
In 1975 my Dad wouldn’t let me go and see Jaws.
I don’t know why really. I think he might have seen it himself and found it so gory and frightening he just wasn’t going to let me in there.
Oddly, he let me go to Grizzly – a terrible bloodless pile of garbage – perhaps in the belief that a bad film doesn’t corrupt in the same way. But there was no real pattern or consistency to this parental guidance. He just wanted to flex a few stern muscles. This was the man remember who took me to see Puppet on a Chain and When Eight Bells Toll at age four…
But why did it have to be Jaws?


I saw the Jaws trailer. We were on holiday in Bognor or somewhere and we went to see The Slipper and the Rose – a romantic musical reworking of Cinderella which I thought was great. Only before this came on, there was this trailer with that music. No shark, we weren’t going to see what that looked like in a trailer. Just screaming bathers, a camera nosing around the sea bed, and the image that stayed with me: a teenager on an inflatable swimming from one island to another, far out to sea as the sun set around him. A teenager you just knew was going to get eaten.

You did read that right. I know you know there’s no such sequence in Jaws – the boy on the inflatable is in it for seconds, he’s not really a teen and he’s not swimming to an island as the sun sets. But I swear that’s what my fevered brain made of the Jaws trailer.
I knew one thing: I had to see that movie. It was going to be the most frightening thing ever. And then my Dad wouldn’t let me.


The disaster movie came to its inglorious tacky end in 1979 with The Swarm; a movie I still remember fondly. Like a 40 year old Dad at a night club, The Swarm was ridiculously unfashionable in the new shiny post-Star Wars world. Mind, even in the disaster hey-day, The Swarm would have stood out as real crap. As a small bee remake of 50s giant ant masterpiece THEM, this comes off way worst. Let’s face it, it’s not really a disaster movie; it’s a monster movie in disguise.
As an adult the fatal weaknesses of The Swarm (too many ageing stars, bad effects, a really really useless idea) are so obvious they become comic strengths but as a boy, you want it to work. Sincerely, I wanted a film about African Killer Bees to work.
The African Killer Bees were, in my 14 year old head, pretty good really. They might have been stones thrown at dustbins or puppets or bad matte effects but I believed them. What went wrong for me was the failure of scale. Okay, Houston is wiped out but really you didn’t see anything but a few army guys in hazard suits flapping away until one ‘accidentally’ torches his mates with a flamethrower. There might be a truck that crashes. But hang on, we’ve had a nuclear explosion, we’ve had to wade through the eternity of a small town slowly under attack which I’d already seen on Clapperboard (pensioners go, as do some picnickers – and gratifyingly the little boy you think is bound to make it, doesn’t. Seeing in his fever a guy turn into a giant bee, then dying – not bad, but a bit theatrical; not capricious enough for me). Still, you had Caine as a scientist and a good bit on a US airbase with Bradford Dillman (Mr. Mid-Seventies).
Fond memories of The Swarm: me and Dad getting to the ABC in Aldershot late and missing the creepy opening pan of the dead soldiers on the airbase. We came in as Cainey wonders what could have happened? (Clue – it’s called ‘The Swarm’)…