Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sunday Scribbles XX

I fought against it, but not too hard: I went to see "Avatar" with the lovely Jenny. I fought because I really, really didn't like that movie James Cameron made about the boat. He's had to spend an astonishing amoutn of money, but he has redeemed himself. "Avatar" is brilliant. The story's as weak as water: sci-fi at the level of a Kevin J Anderson yarn... but beautifully done. And the big blue cat people? Gorgeous. I want one. Perhaps more my size, though. I doubt that I'll buy the DVD, though. I really think that it needs to be seen on a huge screen, and I only have a little one. Story of my life.

Speaking of stories: I may have to break one of my New Year Resolutions. I'm going to postpone writing any more of "Rats"... I'm burning up with a new play that I want to get done. I still have a few more chapters of Rats in the can, so I'll keep eking them out here... maybe I can keep both goinbg. I don't know yet.

TOA says: Yes, you do. Don't lie! You want to drop Rats, and write the play. Don't try and make yourself a martyr to your art, because you're not.

Haiti. I've heard people say "they should parachute, or air-drop, the goods to the people?" Or "They should send the aid in through the Dominican republic.". I doubt very much that any option we can think of here hasn't actually been thought of by the experts on the ground, but there you are. I'm as guilty as the next guy when it comes to armchair sportsmanship - I'd make a far better All Black or Black Cap than any of the no-hopers who are currently playing (with the possible exception of Danny Vettori, who is truly god-like) but I have to admit that the problems involved in getting aid to tose in need are best left in the competent hands of the US Army's logistical experts...

Richard Dawkins has been instrumental in establishing a non-faith-based charity. At the very least, he's thrown his enthusiastic support behind it, by promisiing to pay the PayPal fees (up to a limit of US$10,000) of the new organisation. They aim to see any moneys collected will go to Doctors Without Borders, and the International Red Cross, both of which are thoroughly secular, with no ties to any religious organisation. The name of the new charitable collection escapes me, but i have to wonder why it's been set up. Surely they should simply recommend us sending our cash to those two organisations... the Richard D. coudld simply write out a couple of cheques to the Red Cross and the borderless doctors... rather than giving it to a bloody bank.

Met a man the other day. He's in his early 30s, has a child of around 18 months, and a lovely wife. He also has a brain tumour that's going to kill him within six months. He went blin ten days ago, and his hospice contacted me to see if I could help. So i went and chatted with them, and went back to my little van and had a quiet sob. I am extraordinarily privileged tomeet such people, and witness their courage. People really are astonishing.

Great Radio! As commercial radio seems to have lost its way in making great music programmes, going simply for the safe options, it was left to dear olf dowdy RNZ National to make the best music radio programme I've heard in years. I've been a big fan of their summertime "matinee Idle" programme since they started it six years ago. It gets better every year. It's a shame it's only on for a short time over the summer break - the hosts are brilliant (personality radio!) and the music they play bis inspired. Often bloody awful, more often bloody brilliant.

READING: Len Deighton's history of the Battleof Britain, "Fighter". He only wrote three pieces of non-fiction - a cookbook, a history of the Blitzkreig, and this one. I read it when it was first published in paperback, 30 years ago. Re-reading it now re-affirms to me how vital New Zealander Keith Parks was to the defence of Britain during those evil days... but Parks' boss, Hugh Dowding, may have been more influential.

POET I'M READING: Stephen Oliver. I knew Steve many years ago: he did the best impression of Idi Amin ever. He (and occasionally I) wrote a series of comic vignettes for play on the radio. His poetry is salty, and satirical.

LISTENING TO: Neil Young, "Greendale".

WORD OF THE DAY: Narvi. I wonder how many people are going to name their cats "Narvi" over the next few years?


Cordite made a man crook; gunpowder gave the cheap tea-leaves some extra bite.
The conversation was light, and filled with young men’s posturing. One of the men, a lean, olive-skinned individual who fancied himself as a man-killer, was boasting about his shooting. The rough khaki battledress itched like the blazes, and Arthur grunted as he scratched and said “Show us your target, then.”
Kenneth Albert Swain grinned, and pulled a tattered bit of grey paper from his pocket. “There you go, Arthur. Five shots, five clean holes as close to the bullseye as it doesn’t matter. Nailed that little bugger from 100 yards.”
“Well,” said Arthur, looking carefully at the scrap of paper. “It does matter.”
He put the target over his khaki battledress jacket, and pointed with a grubby forefinger. “Look at this. This shot would’ve gone through the lung, meaning the soldier’d die a terrible death, drowning in his own blood. These two would have blown on through, mangling the man’s shoulder blade and totally buggering up his life. This one – well, it would’ve killed him, pro’lly. The last shot here would’ve just skidded around him, busting a couple of ribs, and he would’ve been made as mad as a bloody wasp’s nest you’d kicked over.”
“Well how’d you know that, then, smart-arse,” asked Swain, as he grabbed the billy and started pouring the tea into a line-up of enamel mugs.
“I’ve hunted all my life, Ken. Here, leave a bit a room for some condensed milk. I’be got some in my pack. No, If I ever shot this badly, Old Man Smith’d be a disappointed man. And if there’s one thing I never ever wanted to do, it was disappoint him.”
“Why’s that, Arthur?” asked Rogers, a new man to the platoon. “Would he kick your arse?”
Arthur was shocked. He realised he’d had a different upbringing to so many of these young men. “No, ‘course he wouldn’t. He never once laid a finger on me. Never once hit me. No, it’s just – well, he raised me and loved me, and, well, that’s why.”
There was a silence in the group of men, broken by the odd rumiinative slurp at an enamel cup as the afternoon’s brew was got down. Arthur had noticed this before: they were a tough bunch of young men, and any mention of the softer emotions scared them.
Adam Perry, the platoon Sergeant, broke the silence with a cough. “So you reckon you could shoot better than Swain? He’s the best shot of all this hopeless lot.”
“Reckon I could, Sergeant,” Arthur said, sealing his fate.

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