Ambience Engineer: #3 – Post-Cataclysmic Waterworld

We live in banal times. You may deny this; but you would be wrong (and stupid) to do so.

Today the masses are entertained in increasingly inane ways by increasingly moronic individuals. Pursuit of the arcane has been abandoned, in favour of pursuit of superficial fame, despite the fact we are still largely ignorant to the true nature of the Cosmos and the muted whistling of star-bound chimaeras. Terrible, ultimate Knowledge lies within our grasp, but our hands have grown withered and taut, and (to continue the analogy) several of the tendons of our forearms have actually snapped (i.e. making it even more difficult to grasp at our full extent).

Young people wield lipsticks, and copies of “Nuts” magazine, where once they wielded telescopes and the Scouting manuals of Baden-Powell. Old folk comment with ribald derision on the “packages” of tight-trousered celebrities, where once they spoke of the mystical encounters of their youth ‘twixt fairy-riddled mulberry bushes. Noble warriors are a thing of a past; replaced have they been, by heavily-armed delinquent simpletons careering around Arab lands in mucky Jeeps.

The question is….. how to escape from it all?

It turns out that time travel is not in fact yet possible, so we are unable to escape the mind-numbing dullness of our times through that particular avenue. Transportation to different physical locations is of course an option, but we remain confined to this planet in this age, and, to be frank, the whole place is rubbish.

We can immerse ourselves in great literature and retreat for a time into our own minds, free from the clawing, lifeless hands of a Humanity long dead. But is that really enough?

No. It isn’t.

But luckily the Ambience Engineer can help us!

Using everyday tools, we can temporarily escape the sordid reality of modern times and exist for a while in fantastical realms that transcend temporal and celestial boundaries.

Ye of sound mind and stout heart, prepare for a journey…



Track: Ocean Man by Ween

1 x bath;
1 x tub of sea salt;
1 x tin of tuna in brine;
1 x camping stool;
5 x assorted cooking pots/saucepans;
1 x can of motor oil;
1 x long yard brush;
1 x fishing net;
1 x electric desk fan;
1 x watering can;
1 x set of tattered clothes;
1 x wide-brimmed straw hat;
1 x small bag of soil;
Sundry odds ‘n’ ends (jewellery, screws, cord, scissors, etc).

Location: Your bathroom



1. Make sure you have uninterrupted access to a bathroom for at least an hour. If you live with family members, you want a lockable door.  You may also wish to spend time coming up with a convincing cover story, in case your lengthy bathroom occupation is noted. In my experience the lack of such a story will lead to years of unkind familial speculation about your masturbatory habits.

2. Pour a little motor oil into the empty bath. Pour half a tub of sea salt in there also. Now fill the bath with approximately 1 inch of cold water, and stir it all up.  Finally, drop a couple of your assorted odds and ends in (e.g. a necklace and a Philip’s head screwdriver).

3. Set your camping stool up at the end of the bath furthest from the plughole (i.e. the “stern” end of your houseboat).

4. Stack / hang your pots and pans around the sides of the bath along with the remainder of your assorted odds and ends. Lay your fishing net within reach of the camping stool.

5. Place the electric desk fan so it blows in your face, and turn that mother on to full power (provided you have access to a power socket, that is. The interfering liberal busybodies who’ve seized control of modern building regulations have prohibited the inclusion of electric sockets in the bathrooms of new builds. If this applies, you will have to run an extension lead from a nearby room.  I suggest running it through the window, as you do not want to risk being observed by having the door ajar. The majority of our fellow humans are incurious, and will simply not understand your experiment.)

6. Place the watering can under the taps of the bath (or the taps of the bathroom sink if it is nearby) and turn them on full.  Once the can fills up, the tap water should be forced through the nozzle, creating a pleasing rain effect. (I will concede that it’s not quite up to the special effects standard of Industrial Light & Magic, but it gets the job done).

7. I don’t know how wealthy you are . If you are rich, you may well have access to one of those fancy free-standing baths that sits in the middle of a giant bathroom.  If you aren’t a successful person, you’ll probably be stuck with a bog standard bath, built against the bathroom wall (and probably covered in grime. Which, thinking about it, adds to the effect we are trying to create).  In the former case, you may use two long yard brushes to represent your oars, with one projecting out over each side of your unimpeded posh bath. In the latter case you will have to make do with one brush over one side, and imagine there is another one on the wall side.

8. When this is all set up, dress in your tattered rags and straw hat.

9. Take the remaining sea salt and scatter half of it all over the bath. Rub the other half over your clothes and exposed skin.  Now open the can of tuna and smear it on your clothes and face (it is essential that you don’t hesitate here – you must undertake the tuna-rubbing enthusiastically. To do so is to embrace this experiment. Rub that oily fish over your ears like a decadent Caligula once rubbed the finest Persian lotions over the muscly buttocks of naked Praetorian Guards).

If you have one of these babies you are laughing.

10. Secure your headphones (in this particular experiment waterproof headphones and mp3 players are recommended) over your ears and play Ween’s Ocean Man on infinite loop, at very loud volume.

11. Place the little bag of soil on your lap. Take a seat upon the camping stool with your brush-oar(s) in hand.  Begin to make circular movements with your brush handle(s).

How to attain the illusion that you are rowing a derelict houseboat across a flooded water world:

– Although it feels like you are sitting on a fold-out stool in a bath in suburbia, waving a brush around, you are in fact a merry old preacher rowing your way across an endless expanse of ocean, bringing a message of hope to fellow drifters.

-You have been on the same quest for many years. Your clothes have been reduced to salty tatters. Your ancient straw hat provides protection from the relentless sun of the open ocean.

– Let the tune permeate your soul, the strange lyrics reflecting the increasingly hallucinogenic condition of your isolated mind.

– A storm is picking up; the salty breeze batters you and the rain thunders across your salty brow. The worthless trinkets of your former life float around the salty bilge water that has invaded the bottom of your decrepit house-boat.

– Despite the wretchedness of your situation, you remain strangely optimistic, for you are on a righteous mission. You fetch up the little bag from your lap and give it a salty kiss.  There is genuine soil in that bag, given to you years ago by a soothsayer who claimed to have taken it from the Last Mountain, the only piece of dry land left on Earth.

America used to be over there

-You recall how completely she convinced you of the existence of that sacred place, and the hope her words generated in your salty heart. You became her disciple, dedicating your life to keeping her teachings alive (because she got eaten by a shark and died).

-You are the Ocean Man, and to the tiny nomadic population of this forsaken world, you are a weird old prophet bringing them a salty message of Hope.

-Yet each day you all wake to the same endless vista of blue…


Epilogue – Why did I have you put motor oil in the bath? It is a rowing boat, after all.

Well, this experiment is all about ambience, and the smell of motor oil will surely prompt in your mind visceral recollections of the Hollywood film Waterworld, in which Kevin Costner played a refugee floating across an oceanic dystopia (and who, if I recall correctly, was also half fish – which made no sense whatsoever).