Hands on creation

by Tom Alexander in

I'm enjoying messing around with sound at the moment. I have a Korg Monotribe and a Kaoss Pad 3, neither of which is quite enough to make a full track on its own, but together form something which is just enough to create something half-way interesting. They're both limited in different ways, but I'm finding that's making me think about ways to get around those limits and sometimes make assets out of them.

The thing that perhaps I like about it is that both of them have a tactile element - knobs to tweak, sliders to fiddle with and the hypnotic swirl of lights on the KP3's main touch pad. There's something about the hands-on experience that doesn't seem to come through in software, or just sitting at the computer.

I'd like to be able to replicate this experience in other areas, particularly graphics and text, but can't seem to find the tools to do it. I have a horrible feeling that I'll have to build them myself, which is offputting because all I really want to do is have a muck around.

Between The Frames

by Tom Alexander in

This is a test book knocked up in a couple of hours to try out some ideas for an experimental comic. All the artwork used is from the Steve Ditko Comics Weblog (apart from the pencil scrawls on pages 7-8, which are all mine). 

There isn't any story here, but the idea of cutout panels is interesting. I liked the notion of giving things new contexts on the other side of the page, or using holes to reframe stories.

There's also an explicit use of frames like those in a gallery. The idea of connectivity between them has a kind of sinister power all of its own. They are  disparate characters, thrown together by circumstances beyond their control, particularly when talking about portraits by different artists from different places and regions. A collection making connections by being placed together has potential. I'm not sure what the communication between a Warhol, a Vermeer and a Kandinsky would consist of, but it's interesting to speculate on. 

The other thing I like is the page just of text from word balloons. Blambot.com  really can't compare to that lettering done by hand. Unfortunately it seems to be a dead art form. 

Link to the Ditko website from which the comic book artwork was taken:



by Tom Alexander in

Buy from Amazon UK, Amazon US or your 'local' Amazon by searching the Kindle Store.

Buy from Amazon UK, Amazon US or your 'local' Amazon by searching the Kindle Store.


128 pages, approx.

£1.99 / €2.60 / $2.99 from Amazon Kindle stores

Tilda Fitzgerald and Robert Madison are strangers with a common goal. Each of them wants a quiet, uneventful journey to Haiti aboard the steamer Chantilly Lace. Standing in their way are dipsomaniacs, OCD clean freaks and violent white supremacists – and that's just the members of the ship's crew.

Things go from bad to worse when the ship is thrown off course, forcing the disparate group of stragglers to band together in order to stay alive. Little do they know that a powerful figure is lurking in the shadows, toying with their fates in ways they can barely comprehend. As their adventure continues, they face incredible danger, meet unbelievable peril and spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about pineapples.

A pacey mixture of action and comedy, "Authorland" is a metaphysical ripping yarn about the nature of stories and those who tell them.


"Authorland" was written for the International 3 Day Novel competition, the masochistic writing marathon. That draft was shortlisted, but didn't win. This draft has been re-worked and polished a bit. I originally published it under the name "Dave Frek", for some reason.

A couple of years on, I still think it's a good read. It knows its own flaws and by the end, makes virtues of them.

Swiss Army Joke

by Tom Alexander

Have been working on the #swissarmyjoke for two months now. It features includes nine (9) setups for a single punchline.

Just like a real Swiss Army Knife, the #swissarmyjoke is flexible for all situations, but I will concede that some of the setups have more obvious uses than others.

But you never know when you might need the comedy equivalent of that thing you use to get stones out of horses' hooves! #swissarmyjoke


What did one magician say to the other? #swissarmyjoke

What did one prostitute say to the other? #swissarmyjoke

What did one skateboarder say to the other? #swissarmyjoke

What did one bridge player say to the other? #swissarmyjoke

What did one maker of sugared breakfast cereals say to the other? #swissarmyjoke

What did one New Zealand tank say to the other? #swissarmyjoke

What did one close friend of the Bristol musician born Adrian Thaws say to the other regarding their mutual acquaintance? #swissarmyjoke

What did one politician say to the other when asked what the best part of the 1987 Tory party conference magic show was? #swissarmyjoke

What did one out-of-touch South African who had only ever known the band's name written down say to the other when asking about the state of Marc Bolan's music career? #swissarmyjoke


You can win a free #swissarmyjoke licence by creating a new setup (Non-exclusive, nontransferable. No cash alternative). 

The Knife Salesman

by Tom Alexander in

I wasn't in the market for a knife, but he convinced me.

First, he showed me how sharp it was. He sliced off one of his fingers just as swiftly as he might chop a carrot in two. I was surprised by his actions, startled by the spurting blood, but intrigued by his patter. He then proved the blade's sturdiness and… pointiness? (I'm not expert in these things) by stabbing himself in the stomach.

"As you can see," he said, "the construction is so strong you can make multiple intrusions." This he demonstrated by stabbing himself five or six more times in rapid succession. He was just about to illustrate the keenness of the blade by slitting his own throat that I told him there was no need and that I would take one. He smiled and we went to do the deal.

Now I've got this knife sitting on the desk in front of me.

I wonder what I'll use it for.

I Am A Philistine

by Tom Alexander

I am a philistine.

I went to the opera with a friend. I had never been before, but I know that people's first reaction to opera tends to be one of two things. They either love it instantly or they do not. The second group may learn to appreciate it, but they will never truly love it.

I know this because I have seen "Pretty Woman".

I am a philistine.

I enjoyed the opera, but it didn't elicit the tingle - that electric feeling on the back of your neck when you encounter a work of art that excites you on a primal, uncontrollable level.

La Boheme didn't get the tingle, but the next day, something else did.

The theme song to "Duck Tales".

I am a philistine.

One Moment In Time

by Tom Alexander

After the of the , it became clear what she had to do. With the of a , she turned to face the .

me,” she .

But as soon as she said it, she no longer meant it.

The moment was gone.

One Moment In Time is a small piece of javascript literature exploring the transience of ideas. The embedded code reads the current date and time and modifies the text on the page accordingly.

With every second that passes, a new version of One Moment In Time is written. After a minute, another part of the story shifts and similar variations occur at the hour, day, month and year marks. This is based on a simple array of words, arranged in a particular order. Not particularly complicated, but I suppose you could say the same for everything ever written.

The use of time is one of the few areas where electronic literature can properly extend beyond the printed word. Hopefully, the ideas in OMIT will be used for a larger piece, perhaps combining with geolocation to shape the text according to where and when it is read.

The version of OMIT on this page is its most primitive form, without the controls for altering date and time, which were originally envisaged as part of the project. After some experimentation, I found that interaction was a distraction and ran contrary to the spirit of the piece.


by Tom Alexander in

On the early morning train, nobody talks much. A few people read books, some apply makeup or sip coffee from paper cups. Most of us just play with our rodents.

The lady in her suit preens the luxurious fur of her pure-bred chinchilla, caressing it gently with one immaculately manicured finger. Next to her, a teenager holds a rat that's seen better days. It's missing one eye and a piece of its tail, but no-one passes judgement because who hasn't accidentally dropped theirs at least once? Even if you keep it in one of those little rubber outfits, you still might drop it down the loo. Anyway, it's clear from the way he whispers at the rat that it's well looked after. He murmurs sweet nothings and tickles the rat's frayed ears with such love that it feels invasive to watch them.

The guy standing at the end of the carriage has a brand new ferret, so big that he has to hold it with both hands. He ostentatiously flicks its nipples with his thumbs, causing the ferret to emit shrieks of terrible delight. Nobody complains, because nobody ever complains and we all just pretend we can't hear them. It's funny how things go. A few years ago, everyone wanted to go smaller - dormice and pygmy hamsters were all the rage - but now things are swinging back the other way. The ferret seems a step too far to me, though. You might as well carry a badger around with you.

I'm checking them all out because I'm due for an upgrade next month. As much as my little gerbil's done me well, I'm keen to move on to something new. Of course, there's always the issue of what to do with him when the shiny new critter arrives. I suppose I'll pass him on to Mum. She says she doesn't want one, but she'll come around. Everyone does eventually.

I do worry that she'll neglect him, though. I don't want to end up finding the gerbil in a drawer one day, dusty and motionless. That makes me wonder - do I really need to upgrade? I mean, the gerb's served me well and he looks like he's got a few more years in him yet. I could save a bit of cash on my monthly bill.

There's a distinct change in timbre from the cacophony at the end of the carriage. Everyone turns and looks and we see that the guy has dropped the ferret down his trousers. He stifles painful whimpers as the creature nips at his skin, making his clothes ruffle and pulsate as if they have a life of their own.

All logic and loyalty goes out the window.

I want one.


by Tom Alexander in

Do you ever get those instant flashes of insight, where all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place? I had one the other day while washing up. I looked into my flatmate’s cereal bowl and what I saw wasn’t a few cornflakes in a puddle of milk, but smashed seashells in brine. Suddenly I understood why it took so long to get into the bathroom every morning, why my washing always took at least five days to dry and what was really making those strange gurgling noises that echo through the house at all hours. I wiped my hands, walked upstairs and asked him point-blank if he was a mer-man.

He said nothing and by the next morning he had moved out. I wish I’d made it clearer that I wasn’t judging him and that I was ok with whatever it was he was, but I suppose it’s too late. Trying to rent his room is proving to be a real pain.


Why Microsoft Word must Die

by Tom Alexander

It’s Saturday night and I’m reading articles about Microsoft Word. I don’t have the strong hatred for Word that some do (for me it’s more of a general dissatisfaction, rather than a ideological objection) but I can see the point of this screed by Charles Stross.

The thing is, though, that I still haven’t found anything better on Mac. Pages is a dead end, LibreOffice is unMac and there doesn’t seem anything else that really crunches long documents. I think the search is probably going to continue for some time.


by Tom Alexander

After a day spent walking around several floors of an office building, I could feel the massive buildup of static electricity that had built up between my leg hairs and the cheap polyester trousers I had bought. By the time 5 o’clock rolled around, my calves were positively crackling as I made my easy to the swanky lift with its mirrored doors and brushed metal buttons. As keen as I was to get home, my finger held midway towards the call button.
There was an instinctive hesitation and I felt the inevitability of what was about to happen. Like the buzz in the air before a thunderstorm, I knew the lightning bolt was about to strike and I pondered how best to mark the occasion. I considered blasphemy or a foolhardy claim of which I was felt sure that I could be struck down dead.
In the end, though, there was just one word that came to mind. I whispered it as I completed the connection between my organic capacitor and the conductive surface of the elevator button.