Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sunday Scribbles, XXV

It's a beautiful day. The sun is chirping, the birds are humming, the bees are shining. There's a couple of beers in the fridge just begging for some up-close-and-personal attention later this afternoon, and I have a beaut looking piece of beef marinating away for dinner tonight. Ah, me. Life can be pretty darn good.

Jenny's sister and brother-in-law are visiting with us. This is always cause for celebration, but today's a little special. Heather was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, but seems to have caught it in time. The diagnosis was grim, the prognosis is good. And Rip, her husband, is one of the best people I know.

Some have said that I tend to see people's good side. As far as I'm aware, that's not a sin. And anyway, some people do have excellent good sides.

Let's see: breakfast. I'm thinking Kinky's Fried Egg Sandwiches. Kinky Friedman's pals turned out a cookbook in his dishonour, and it's probably the most tatty cookbook on our shelves. The Fried Egg Sandwich is this: Toast two slices of bread. I favour Mollenburg. Spread on a little butter, a thin scraping of peanut butter, and a little jam (I prefer boysenberry, but apricot's good, too). Yes, this is an American recipe. Texan, to be specific. Sprinkle on some chopped spring onion, a little (very little) grated cheese, then add a couple of slices of grilled and crispy strip bacon. On top of that you bung your fried egg. Top with your second slice of toast, bite and chew. Yum!

Kinky Friedman is one of the funniest American writers ever. He is the 20th century Sam Clemens, and deserves huge fame and wealth. Go to the library and borrow one of his books, then buy the rest.

READING: The Storm of Our Grandchildren. I don't recall the author's name off-hand, and the book's in the bedroom, and I don't wnat to wake Jenny. The author was the man who first came up with the science behind global warming... back in the early 80s. He says the problem's bigger than is publicly acknowledged, and our grandchildren are going to curse us for knowing about it and doing nothing. I will report more, as time goes by.

LISTENING TO: Avishai Cohen, "As Is". It's a live jazz album, and very cool.

WORD OF THE DAY: Walk. It's actually quite good for you.

More RATS:

e counted up to five, and the storm of bullets swept back. Left to right the first time, right to left: they were tap-firing. The machine gun was clamped onto its heavy base, firing levers locked, while the crew serving the weapon simply tapped the side of weapon from one side of its firing arc to the other, keeping the belt-bed breech fed, bullet after bullet, 700 and more rounds every minute, every twentieth round a tracer, fouling the barrel, making the shot careen about the sky, unpredictable. But the tap-tap-tap of the mallet on the weapon's chattering block allowed the crew to keep under as much cover as possible while laying down a devastating field of fire.
Arthur counted. Ten, eleven, twelve, and the air above the crater was ripped apart by another forty or more bullets. Three, four, five, and it came back. He had twelve seconds, and he burst from cover, running zig zag to his right, away from the the stream of fire. By now he could hear the guns of his own regiment chiming in, shooting at nothing, just making noise and adding to the confusion. Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, hit the dirt, but he was outside the German's Maxim gun's field of fire, and he was up and running, no rifleman would be so foolish as to show themselves, and a second German machine gun chattered into life, shooting just a few feet low, he could see the ground kicking up, clods of earth sprinting into the sky just a few feet from his scampering feet and he counted five six seven then stopped suddenly and watched as the gunner corrected too late, and he ducked and flew into the trench near the latrines.
“Get yourself in the shit a bit there, Sergeant?” came the question, as he lay, gasping, at the bottom of the trench.
“No, mate. They missed me, I missed the dunnies, seems to have been a morning for missing.”
“They've got your hidey-hole buggered, though, sniper. You'll have to be looking for another – Christ! Incoming!” The Germans seemed to be desperate to express their displeasure at Arthur's antics this morning, and they had set up a half-dozen trench mortars, which were now lobbing their three pound bombs into the New Zealanders' trenches. Arthur hit the ground again, and his body was pummelled as a bomb exploded nearby. Fire and death, steel and shit. The Germans fired five rounds from each mortar, then the short bombardment stopped. A man was screaming thinly just thirty yards from Arthur, and the private soldier who'd greeted him so laconically now lay dead. A shard of bomb casing had ripped into his head, and he lay on the duckboards, his dead eyes gazing accusingly at Arthur. “See what you've done with your smart-arse sniping?”
Arthur slumped back against the wall of the trench, and sobbed.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's In The Air

JC, who probably didn't exist, had 12 disciples. Actually, it seems their existence is a bit more historically provable, so, by extension, we can say that the first person to have a really shitty Easter probably did. Whatever. My point is this: JC apparently had a disciple whom he loved above the others. Ol' Dan Brown (inspired by Michael Baigent, who I believe may be a Kiwi) thought that this disciple was Mary Magdalene, a gorgeous red-head.

Now, I have no disciples. I don't wnat any, either. The responsibility! Try keeping all that mystical BS straight, week after week. But I do have a freiend what I love. Actually, I have many freinds whom I love, and I rejoice in all of them. But there is one I rejoice in more than most (and she has,occasionally, been a gorgeous redhead..), and right now more than ever: for she has told me that she is, gasp, in love.

I cannot explain to you how happy this has made me.

And to cap the news off, one of our extraordinary selection of fabulous nieces told us (15 minutes before we found out about the glorious news above) that she had just gotten engaged to the marvellous George.

I'm a happy man.

READING: Still on the Cornwell book,and a ripper it is. I'd like to say I'm taking my time reading it, but I'm not: I've simply been hugely busy, and not been able to devote time to reading.

LISTENING TO: Marianne Faithfull, "Salvation". This woman simply curdles my heart.

TODAY'S WORD: Love. It's in the air.

More Rats:
It was his aim to never do so, and Arthur always hit the target he aimed at.
He worked the bolt of his rifle, and took guard again. He settled back into his zone of pure concentration, and perfect anticipation, and wasn't surprised when he found himself rolling down the steps, his rifle held high, away from his tumbling body. The hammer-blow of the sniper's bullet onto his sheet of steel plate rang in his ears, and he had instinctively rolled away, toward shelter. A storm of machine-gun fire rattled into the shattered church spire, a hail of hot metal slamming into the stone walls, ricocheting madly about. Arthur checked his rifle and lunged further down the stairs. A shard of stone had gouged a piece of meat out of his forehead, and he held his handkerchief to the wound, and laughed.
“Go on, you buggers!” he cried. “Go on! Try an' kill me!”
And try they did. What was left of the church shook and shuddered as a 4.7 inch shell exploded twenty yards away, and a second, just a moment later, thundered into the church's courtyard. Arthur leapt from cover, scampering over the the still-smoking crater of the first artillery round. A third round now fell into the tower itself, which flew apart violently, scarlet flame amongst the dirty black smoke. “Christ!” said Arthur. He felt, rather than heard, a storm of machine-gun fire as it swept across the lip of the crater he lay in. He counted up to five, and the storm of bullets swept back.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Sporting Life

Writing as a sofa spud, it occurs to me that sport is attracting less of my attention every year. I’m now becoming more satisfied with the odd glimpse of colliding bodies on the highlights shown on the television “news” programmes.

I cannot remember the last time I sat and watched an entire rugby game, beginning to bloody end, or even went to a one-day cricket match (once my one true love of live sport).

A lot of my flagging interest has come about, of course, by the fact that watching sport on the tele has become difficult and / or expensive. So much is now shown only on satellite TV, which is out of our budget, that I have been forced to replace sport-watching with a different leisure-time pursuit.

Naturally, I have opted for the manly endeavour of reading poetry.

I cannot, for the life of me, write poetry. I have neither the skill not the aptitude. I read Shakespeare’s sonnets, and marvel at his casually perfect placement of words – much like Ewan Chatsfield’s metronomic placement of a cricket ball, frustrating and teasing the batsmen into making an error: usually an error exploited by the Hadlee boy.

I am about to go and look for Walt Whitman, and the ever-worthy Wordsworth. Poetry may never become a spectator event, but it certainly can be spectacular.

Speaking of sports: 18 tries in one footy match? I can understand a game in which one team scores 9 tries… but not one which sees both teams score that number. Usually, if you let nine ball-carriers over your try-line, you’re being beaten to within an inch of your life. I wish I’d seen it: to see two teams that are so strong on attack, and so weak of DEE-fence (as our American second-cousins say) must have provided a comical spectacle.

And major thumbs-up to the Phoenix. A soccer game, with a crowd of 25,000+, in New Zealand? Old Satan must be wondering about the blizzards in Hades right about now.

And a cautious “on ya, boys” to the Black Sticks, for their fortitude in proceeding with their World cup attendance. Logic tells me they’re doing the right thing. If my son were one of them, though, I’d be shitting myself.

READING: Bernard Cornwell's latest, "The Burning Land". Anyone who knows my bookshelves will know I am a great B. Cornwell fan. This marks the first occasion he's released a book and I haven't gone and bought it. Yep, it's a library copy, and I've been waiting 5 months for it.

LISTENING TO: Led Zeppelin, "Mothership". The boys were all right.

TODAY'S WORD. Patience. Waiting five months for a book??! And you tell me I got no patience??! Hah! Bumbug!


Twenty times stronger than steel, the strand of web could cope with the sudden shocks of the shots as they reverberated through the rifle's frame.
His body had settled into the day's work. He was spot-welded to the rifle, and his concentration was total. He was in that zone of existence when it seemed as though time itself had slowed down, marching through the day like a river of cold molasses. Decisions that should take a week's thought we remade in less than an instant. He could identify his targets, anticipate their movements, decide on whether to fire or not, and have a fresh round in his rifle's breech before he knew what he was doing. He could stay in this state of utter concentration for up to a half-hour before his body started protesting. He'd then put down his rifle, stretch, drink some water, and pick up the rifle again.
Movement. An officer: he recognised the sleeve markings. He sighted more quickly than he could think, pulled the trigger, and sent a bullet through the men's wrist, effectively amputating the hand.
Another German who wouldn't be back at the front line for months, if ever. Arthur had been at his station for less than twenty minutes, and he'd already done a good day's work.
Arthur Tomlinson had been a sniper on the Western Front for four months, and had, to date, killed a huge number of rats, and crippled 97 German officers. His great secret would stand for another day: he was yet to kill a man. It was his aim to never do so, and Arthur always hit the target he aimed at.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sunday Scribbles XXIV

The Korridors of Kreativity at Tripe & Bunion Advertising Agency were abuzz with excitement the other day, when the first survey results on their new television campaign for Vodaphone came in. The new Vodaphone people are a hit! It seems their gamble at using the inanely gibbering couple from the JG Gardner comercials as the new Vodaphone spokespersons has paid off, handsomely.

Seriously: what were they thinking? The spooky little animated creatures who strongly resemble both amoebic slugs and the JG Gardner spokesdribblers are neither cute, appealing, nor a good representation of their customers. If that's what Vodaphone thinks of their clientele, then I don't know that I want to be counted among their number.

RNZ National's "Mediawatch" has beaten me to the punch. I was going to witter on about the obscenity of the TV "News"programmes showing the footage of that unfortunate young athlete from Georgia who lost his life at the Winter Olympics. Showing the footage was immoral, and added nothing to the story. The fact that he died was the story. We didn't have to see the accompanying snuff movie. I know that footage of sporting and civil tragedies have been broadcast before, and they were disgraceful at the time as well. The Hindenburg bursting to flames,k cameras tracking the fall of people who had hurlked themselves from fires in the World Trade Centre, the car flying into the crowd at Le Mans... I can see an argument for using the WYC footage: to bring home to everyone how shameful and disgraceful the crime was. But most other tragedies, especially accidental deaths, do not need to be shown. 99.999% of people are never going to use a skeleton sled on a luge. We learn nothing from seeing such a thing, apart from the fact that it is dramatically dangerous - which is what the news story could tell us. It didn't have to show us. Bah, and Humbug.

I did a B52 on our home yesterday. 'tis the season to kill fleas, tra la la la la, la la la laa. Our cat, C-Leo Paw Print has somehow been infected with fleas. We bought some decent treatment for her ($50 from the pet store! Shit!) and a twin-pack of flea bombs for the house - $10.99 from Pak n Save. Money well spent. So I'm the Northcote Bomber, and out cat (and home) are flea-free. No Itchy, no Scratchy.

Listening to: Mark Knopfler, "Kill To get Crimson". A sort of cross between Jim Croce and Gordon Lightfoot, without the excitement.

Reading: In between books right now. this will not last. I set the Ambro9se hsagiography of Eisenhowerer aside: i don't like to read uncritical hostories or biographies. Ike may well have been a great man: he was now a flawless one.

Listening to: I couldn't stand another minute of Marvin K. I've swapped for Neil young, "Living With War". Rough, raw, and edgy.

Watching: We watched "Jar City" the other day. It's an Icelandic whodunnit, and very good it was, too. The hero is fond of fast food - boiled sheep's head. I felt quite ill. But a good flick, with stunning landscapes, great photography. We've also watched the extended Director's Cut with never-before-seen-scenes "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers". Tiring work, but worth while.


They fed well on the torn and broken flesh of the men who had to be left on the field of carnage between the lines, and they made up the majority of Arthur's chosen targets. He flicked the bolt of his rifle, sending the second bullet of the day into the breech. There was enough light in the day for him to now see activity in the German lines. Just a glimpse of a suggestion of a blur of shadow, but he knew that he would soon be able to see movement. There were two tiny places where he, because of his elevation, could actually see the German soldiers as they went hither and yon on their daily errands. He never saw their entire bodies, of course. But he saw enough to identify, and to shoot.
Movement. There: another rat. Arthur fired, and cycled the rifle bolt. Another monster dead. He regained his sight picture through the 18-inch long telescopic sight. The cross hairs were sharply defined, black and crisp against the mist and grey light of the dawn. The cross-hairs were mis-named: the material used was, in fact, silk from the rear-end of a large and heavy South American bird-eating spider. Twenty times stronger than steel, the strand of web could cope with the sudden shocks of the shots as they reverberated through the rifle's frame.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Let's Spend a Million Bucks.

I can think of a million ways of spending a million bucks, but today's suggestion from the Super City Powers That Be is one that I would never in a million years contemplated. That's three millions in one sentence, which is really, really bad writing. But when it's stood up against the total badness of the SCPTB's idea, it's Shakespearian.

Let's, they cry, get up a public competition for a logo for the new, shiney, Super City.

Let's not, I cry in return.

I really don't understand why the new Super City needs a logo. Why doies a city need a logo? To brand itself overseas? Well, tell me what the London, Helsinki, Toronto, Rio, New York, Chicago, Paris, Berlin, and Athens logoes are. Go on. Dares you.

Why does Auckland need a logo? All that will happen is that it'll go onto the Mayor's letterhead, sp he'll feel good for a minute, and then forget about it. A new logo won't make ratepayers feel any better when they see it at the top of their rates bill, or their water bill.

Actually, I've just realised I've been presumptuous. Is the new Souper City (I put the "o" there to reflect the soup kitchens we'll need for the families of the down-sized council-workers) actually going to be named "Auckland"? Has this actually been settled by anyone... or is it just going to be what it is because we can't think of a better name? Naming our largest city after some port and sherry-soaked English aristocrat makes a certain amount of sense, I guess...

I digress. The logo. They don't want it to be volcanic in shape, because people identify Auckland with volcanoes. I thought that was what a logo... oh, never mind. It also loses us Rangitoto, which is a shape all New Zealanders associate with Auckland. Which is kind of what... oh, never mind. Again.

Anyway. I just hope that the new Auckland logo is as accurate as Telecom's new logo at describing their business. It's a honey of thing, the new Telecom logo is. The moment I saw it I said "That's a logo that screams broken connections, and connections that can't be made."

Apparently, one of the promoters of this idea says the new logo should be as famous and distinctive as Nike's swoosh. Well, he said "tick", but they call it a swoosh. I'm sure that Mrs Ngamoki of Smart Street can come up with something that'll meet that criteria. As long as we have a half-billion in US dollars to throw at it over the next couple of years... And can get Tiger Woods and his ilk to wear it on their tee-shirts.

But here's a slogan that could work: Auckland. It's hot.

READING: Still on the Ambrose book.
LISTENING TO: Um. I'm almost blushing as I hit the keys. "Watermark". Enya.
TODAY'S WORD: Dismay. I felt total dismay today, as I was chatting to one of my old ladies. She's feeling despair, because her husband ( a fine old man, who I like a great deal ) is falling into dementia. Bugger old age.


They were exactly as he had left them, carrying the imprints of his rifle and elbows. He could lie here, motionless, for hours, waiting for that moment when he spied a careless victim.
The church also helped in that it disguised the sound of his rifle fire. There was always sporadic gunfire at the Front. An enterprising Australian had, back in the blood-soaked days of the Gallipoli campaign, designed a periscope rifle. It was a solid frame that supported a rifle, with a simple periscope that enabled the soldier to stay behind the parapets and ramparts while sighting the rifle and triggering its mechanism to send a bullet sizzling across No Man's Land.
The vast majority of these shots were random, and unsuccessful. But the irregular crackle of musketry meant that Arthur's occasional shots were simply a part of the background noise. He slipped five rounds of his carefully polished and sanded ammunition into the magazine of his rifle, and slipped the lens caps off the Williams & Robson telescopic sight. With this piece of equipment, it was almost impossible for Arthur to miss what he was firing at. He could place a shot with god-like precision, and did so, twenty times a day.
Although the phrase “one shot, one kill” hadn't yet been coined, it could, with some accuracy, apply to Arthur Tomlinson in his crusade against the enemies of the trenches.
The Eastern horizon was a smear of grey and pick when Arthur made his first shot, and he sighed with gratitude as the heavy grey body of his victim tumbled over. The rats on the lines were huge, they size of cats. They fed well on the torn and broken flesh of the men who had to be left on the field of carnage between the lines, and they made up the majority of Arthur's chosen targets.

Monday, February 15, 2010

I Believe, Part 4

There's been a bit of blather in the press recently. By the press, I mean all news sources, including the internet, radio, tv, magazines, and yes, newspapers. The blather's been about scientists retracting previous statements that have been made about global warming.

Well, guys, guess what: that's what science does. They announce their findings, then they retract 'em if further research shows them to have been mistaken. The point is this: Of the million verifiable facts that point, arrow-like, toward man-made global warming, maybe a dozen have been taken from the quiver because their fletching has been found to be wanting. (I know that Dean Koontz could have carried on the archery metaphor for another 2 pages, but he does get a little overheated... thus contributing to global warming).

So yes, here it comes: I believe in Global Warming, and I believe it's man-made. I can't say that I know it to be fact, because I don't. I ain't a scentist. But I do trust scientists, and the scientific methods - and I know that science says it's 98% proven, and that's good enough for me.

A chap I was conversing with the other was howling victoriously, saying the blizzards over a fair-sized chunk of North America showed him that the planet was cooling. He doesn't understand that violent weather swings happen because there's too much heat in the atmosphere. Heat is energy, baby... and a blizzard is nothing but a huge dump of energy.

Listening to: Leonard Cohen, "Dear Heather". This is art. The title song is, well, different. I've listened to it maybe 50 times. I'm starting to understand it.

Reading: Still on Ambrose's book about Eisenhower. More of a hagiography than a biography, but it's an entertaining read.

Today's word: What else? Hagiography. I originally thought it had to do with witches, or ex-wives, or something. (Actually, not my ex-wives. I think of them very fondly, when I think of them at all).

Rats: I'm slowly but surely catching up to where i've written up to, so I'm going to shorten the excerpts, and pick up on the writing. I'm doing about 3,000 words a week on Rats, and this week I've also done 3,000 wordson a new project. Sigh.)

young men like themselves, separated from each other by the twin barriers of language and fear.
It was these Germans in their field-grey uniforms that Arthur went to commune with every day. He always started each day with twenty rounds, and always came home with twenty pieces of empty brass cartridge in his pocket. He crawled and slithered his way to the church. It took him the better part of an hour to cover the seventy yards of torn ground. He was aware of the fact that as he was climbing a slight slope, he would be visible to anyone who bothered to look from the other side of the lines. He had set out well before dawn, but the night was clear, with a bright quarter moon shining down. When he reached the church he rolled in behind the shattered stone wall, and took a moment to collect his breath. He knew that his counterpart on the other side of the lines was probably doing exactly the same thing: watching the steam of his breath stain the early morning air, waiting until the thunder of his heart calmed down.
The armour was heavy on his back. He slipped out of it, and carried it up the broken stone stairs that led to the top of what was left of the church tower. Here, he had almost perfect cover: he could lie in the shadowy corner, and fire from the darkness. He had a wide field of fire, nearly 180 degrees. He set up the armour plating, and poked his rifle barrel through the slot. He has left several sandbags here some weeks ago. They were exactly as he had left them, carrying the imprints of his rifle and elbows.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sunday Scribbles XXIII

It's Rock and Roll, baby Jesus: What do these albums all have in common?
In no particular order..
Revolver, The Beatles
Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd
Supernatural, Carlos Santana
Thriller, Michael Jackson
Grceland, Paul Simon
Rumous, Fleetwood Mac
If I Could Remember My Name, David Crosby
Nightfly, Donald Fagin
(What's the Story) Morning Glory, Oasis
Achtung Baby, U2.
That's the list of the Vatican's top ten rock albums. I have six of them. I don't know what implies, but I have a feeling it's nothing good.

The North Shore City put on a freeby outdoor movie last night: The Time Trraveller's Wife. Read the book, which was great, and I can't turn my back on a freeby, so off we went, chippies and bubbles in hand. A top night. Real community-bonding stuff. A pity that the arseholes in the yacht club adjacent couldn't have turned their music down. "Knock Three Times" at 800 decibels?

As I get a lot of my general knowledge and current affairs opinions and facts from the popular media, I do wonder why I'm not more paranoid than I already am. We watched "The International" the other night. I'm sureit's an accurate portrayal of the way multi-national banks do business, although I find it hard to believe that the ASB might have a team of hit men. But it does occur to me that our banks - the ones we entrust with our weekly wages, and a portion of our (ha!) savings, go on to invest those funds in questionable endeavours. I wonder just how successful an ethical bank would be? One that refused to invest in arms, in drugs*, in Big Oil, and so on... Nah. It'd bomb like a B52.

*Drugs: saw a line the other day that said that even the Mongrel Mob and their evil ilk pay GST. This does redeem either the gangs or GST. Actually, I'm reasonably in favour of GST. I BELEIVE it to be a fairer tax than most. This does not mean it should be raised to 15%. At its current, 12.5%, it's about 2.5% over the fairness barrier. Reduce GST, I say, and hit the property demons and the wealthy a little harder. I know that when I was on a higher income I would have gladly paid more taxes. But then, I listen to holy rock and roll.

Speaking of taxes: I also saw a complaint that the top 5% of incomes earners in New Zealand pay 40% of all PAYE tax. Gosh. I'm given to understand that the top 5% of earners actually take home a little more than 40% of all wages, so perhaps it's justifiable.

LISTENING TO: Film Music by Ennio Morricone.

READING: Eisenhower, by Stephen Ambrose. I so enjoyed his book about the first men to land on D-Day (Pegasus Bridge) that I got another one. This time, a biography. Thorughly excellent.

WORD OF THE DAY. Raining. yes, it is. Which means that this afternoon we're going to be gugely industrious, and watch a movie. It will be "Jar City", and Icelandic flick, which has been highly recommended.


And Arthur had to survive. His conscience, that damnable worm in his brain, wouldn't allow him to die. So many men's lives depended on his survival. So, every morning, after putting on the ghillie suit, he'd sling the armour shield over his shoulder, and put on his tin lid, the flat oval shaped helmet the British Army supplied their troops with. It was a cheap thing, machine-stamped out of mild steel, and served little or no real purpose. But the men felt better wearing it, and that was important.
Into a small bag that he had slung at his hip he'd put a flask of tea, which would be tepid by the time he came to drink it, and another packet of sandwiches and a couple of twice-baked hard-tack biscuits. The size of his palms, the biscuits were an unappetising brown, and as hard as nails. They would probably kill if thrown with enough force. He made sure his canteen was filled with clean water, pulled the armoured shield up on to his back, and stepped out to do battle.
Every morning, he chose another place to shoot from, although he did have a few favourites. Seventy yards back from the forward line the ruins of a church made a good nest: he could fire down onto the German's line, which – at its closest point - was precisely 293 yards away. He had other, closer, spots: but the church was where he'd got most of his hits from.
No-Man's-Land was a strange and terrible place. It was aptly named: no man in his right mind would voluntarily set foot into that desolate killing zone. It was heavily pocked and dimpled by shell craters, providing some cover for the brave young men who set out on the nightly patrols; young men who crept slowly and silently from shell-hole to barbed wire entanglement, to whatever cover they could find.
They went out on a irregular schedule. Occasionally they would encounter their opposite numbers from the German lines: young men like themselves, separated from each other by the twin barriers of language and fear.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Brooke v Key. Let's get stoned.

In yet another sign of utter desperation and total venality - not to mention barrel scraping, lowest-common-denominator- arselicking, and a determination to stick it to anyone in the audience who knows how to spell audience (I wouldn't mind betting they have a whiteboard with "Awe-dience" scribbled on it) TV1 habe once again struck gold. As long as you think manure is gold, that is..

On the day that the PM, our very own Jonkey, gets up on his hind legs and generalises and teases about some projected tax cuts "that some will use to lay off debt*", TV1 had organised to have a hard-hitting (Al guffaws richly) interview with him on "Colgate Close Up". This would have been their chance to show the country they had some journalstic chutzpah, integrity, and balls. They could have peppered him like a cheap steak about this non-announcement. This could have been award-winning stuff.

Instead, they canned the interview, and did a story about a second-grade ex-All Black who did vile, drunken things to a 15 year old child... and then spontaneously apologised after being threatened with court action. And even then, they treated the apology as if it were a gracious thing: a king humbles himself. Breaking spews, folks, TV1 style.

* Tui moment, anyone?

So - finally. Someone's had the nous to address drug abuse as a health problem, instead of a Laura Norder concern. We have criminalised hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have a health problem. We started experimenting with this years ago when we turfed mentally ill people out on the streets, then applauded as they were quickly herded into prison. We rapidly followed it up with drug abusers.
Common sense tells us that we need to de-criminalise drugs. We'll take all that power (and money) out of the filthy gang members' hands... and start helping abusers and addicts back into being healthy individuals. Predictably, Jonkey's Laura Norder Justice spokesman foamed at the mouth as he rejected the report (before reading it? Probably), and suggested that there'd be no change to the law, no, not as long as while bile flowed through his veins...

READING: "The Long Night of Winchell Dear", by Robert James Waller. Yes, the man who brought us "The Bridges of Madison County". It is, it must be said, excellent.

LISTENING TO: Fiona Pears, "Fire & Light".

WORD OF THE DAY: Integrity. Journalistically, TV1 blew it.


Back in Trentham, they hadn't considered the thought of counter-sniping: their lack of imagination had been the cause of three deaths.
Now, four months in, Arthur was one of only two snipers on this stretch of the British line. The other was, in fact, in the British army, although he'd drop you with his outsize fist if you called him a Pom, or a Briton. Andy McShea was a Scot, and was terrified that his flaming red hair would be the end of him.
“They can see it a fookin' mile off, Arthur. I smear boot polish through my hair, but it just makes the orange stand out even further.'
Arthur had found Andy a long woman's wig in the French town down the track, in return for the ghillie's suit the bog Scot had made him. The ghillie's suit was the Scottish gamekeeper's first weapon against the determined poachers: It was an overall that had bits and pieces of sacking, feathers, fleece, scraps of uniform stitched over it – anything that would break up their outline, and make them appear to be just another part of the landscape. In return, Arthur had also scavenged a couple of pieces of steel plate, and had then cut and filed slots into them, and attached a stand. From any more than ten yards they looked like a couple of pieces of scrap metal, rusty and filthy. They weighed more than 30 pounds each, and each one had saved their lives more than once.
Arthur woke two hours before dawn every day. He brewed a cup of tea, and ate the bully beef sandwiches the mess-man had brought for him the night before. He dressed carefully, and checked the rifle that he'd carefully cleaned and checked five hours previously. He looked for wet spots, for swellings in the wooden frame, for any hint of rust. He worked the bolt's action, making sure it flew back and forth under his fingers. Then he filled his ammunition pouch: twenty rounds only. Each bullet would have been checked and polished. At night he used emery paper to rub away any imperfections in the shape of each bullet. Andy McShea mocked his fastidious work, but Arthur's single-mindedness of purpose would not allow him to take any chances with accuracy.
He dressed warmly, despite the heat of the early Autumn days. Where he was going, he'd be constantly in shadow, and lying on a supposedly water-proof tarpaulin. For most of the day he'd move extremely slowly: he make a shot, then slowly slither away, dragging his shield and tarp behind him. Speed was the killer. Speed told the Germans where he was. Arthur's skill at disappearing in four feet of bush back home in New Zealand's Waikato kept him alive, day after day.
And Arthur had to survive. His conscience, that damnable worm in his brain, wouldn't allow him to die.

Monday, February 8, 2010

New Orleans' "Saints" won. So?

I started to check my emails yesterday (yes, I do actually do that occasionally.) I have Stuff as my home page, as it's interesting to see what their lead story is: often, they'll beat even radio with the news. When the page opened, I was stunned to see that a minority sport was headlined: a sport result that might concern perhaps 30 people in this fair and green country. Apparently a team called the "Saints" had won a "Superbowl" at "Football". Grid iron. American football. I read the report, which had obviously been written by an excited 15 year old, with puzzlement. It needed translating. I nooded off, and forgot about my emails.

Implicit racism: the trailer on for the trash show "Target" wittering on about the state of our beaches. "Our beaches," bellows the voice-over, "have more rubbish that Australia's! Even - Thailand's!' Swoon, dribble, dribble. The even was shrieked hysterically. They were saying that we were even dirtier than those little brown people... and they're supposed to be dirty! That's what I heard in their tone of voice, anyway.

Hands up if, like me, you think the doofus on the Pizza Hut commercial is hugely mis-cast. He's a Ken-doll. An artifact. Someone's acid-flashback-demented idea of what one of the lads looks like. He's five years too old, twenty years too uptight, and I just bet he doesn't have an ass-hole. He's almost certainly Australian, as well. No Kiwi could be so un-cool. And he should never have been given a line that includes the word "Dude". He just can't do it. And anyway, the commercial is fatally flawed: the first guy has $5 to spend, the can't-say-dude guy wants him to accept that $13 is less than 5, dude.

Hands up if you think the commercials for the ice cream product that's "whipped for the girls" would be shrieked off the air if the roles were reversed?

And hands up if you think that the Jonkey's tax cut, when delivered, will allow you to do anything more than pay the extra GST you'll be paying? Unless, of course, you're earning more than $70,000 per annum, in which case yes, you will be able to retire some debt, save for your retirement, or go to Paris on the proceeds. If you're on $50k or less, you'll be getting screwed, just as you have been ever since we voted Blue.

Tariana's tummy-stapling's worked: she's shed 16 kilograms. Good on her. Now all they have to do is get her to say Fonganui. Of course, being a good Whanganui Maori girl, she'll do no such thing. She know's what's what, and that the National Programme people are a bunch of what-heads.

READING: Stephen (Band of Brothers) Ambrose's "Pegasus Bridge". Thoroughly enjoying it... and, what's more, I think Jenny'd like it, too... and it's a war history, bang bang explode bang!

LISTENING TO: In the car: The Beatles "Love", excellent. Right now: Jethro Tull, "Living In The Past". I swear Ian Anderson has been Britain's greatest lyricist since 1968.

TODAY'S WORD: Sacrifice. I was talking to a 90 year old Egyptian lady today. Her name is Alexandra. She was born in, yes, Alexandria. She married a Kiwi soldier during the war. She knows what this country of ours sacrificed.


Chapter Six
In a place where death is the best, if not only, answer to most problems, there can be no room for a sane man. The Battalion had been on or near the front line in southern Belgium for over four months: four days in the front-line trenches, suffering under the never-ending tension and fear of continual shell-shot, mortar bomb, and machine-gun fire. The weather, so far, had been benign: the Battalion had arrived at the lines just as Spring was giving way to Summer, and on this part of the Front at least, the Summer had been kind. The men had heard, however, of how hard the Winter could be, and had been hard at work improving their living conditions on the Line.
Sergeant Arthur Tomlinson had bunker to himself. Sergeant Arthur Tomlinson had everything to himself. He was the last of the Battalion's specialist sharp-shooters, and he liked it that way. No cares, no responsibilities. There'd been 12 of them when they came to the Line: five had died, six were in Blighty nursing injuries, and that's they way it should stay. During those four months 23 enlisted men had been killed or wounded by German snipers. Snipers were hated. All snipers regardless of uniform, or language spoken. All the other forms of indiscriminate death were tolerated: the whizz-bangs that showered down, the minnenwerfer mortars, the sundry shells and grenades and bombs, the machine-gun fusillades that could sweep a row of men into bloody ruin an instant. They were entirely impersonal, and the men accepted them as they'd accept a run of diphtheria or dysentery. Hard facts of nature, to be borne with stoicism. But the sniper was another creature all together. The sniper's bullet wasn't random. The sniper's bullet was a reward for a moment's carelessness and stupidity. The sniper was the reaper who harvested a man's life in exchange for the folly of being momentarily inattentive.
The hatred of snipers wasn't confined to enemy marksmen: it was an even-handed disdain. Tomlinson was seen as the same embodiment of evil as the Hun sniper was. The men watched Tomlinson slither away every day, and they heard the sharp crack of his rifle, and they knew that the life of a boy similar to themselves had been added to the stook. When the sniper's rifle was heard, it was heard by servicemen in all the trenches, and all the soldiers knew that, there but for the grace of an indifferent god, they went. The sniper was a weapon of terror. The shells and mortars were the debris of an indifferent god of war.
Arthur Tomlinson was good at his job. He had survived the Basic Training at Trentham, back in New Zealand, and had helped train a cadre of what they thought were excellent sharpshooters. They left for France a dozen strong: six riflemen, six spotters. They'd lost one spotter to gangrene in Egypt. The boy had pissed a camel off, and it had bitten him. Death by dromedary. Ken Swain had been the hardest to train, resistant to Arthur's ideas. He had also been the first to die on the line. He'd been too casual in leaving his location. A German counter-sniping unit had seen him, and dropped him with a 9mm Mauser round to his belly, a bullet that scooped a kidney and a vertebra out the exit wound. Back in Trentham, they hadn't considered the thought of counter-sniping: their lack of imagination had been the cause of three deaths.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sunday ScribblesXXII

The Sevens is a fabulous festival. Once my brother returns to his home in Wellington (nothing like free accommodation), I fully intend to buy tickets, get a costume, and attend. Our capital city goes off when the Sevens are in town. It's a wildly successful sporting ficture, and the most looked-forward-to rugby event on the calendar. It looks like fun, fun, fun. So we'll be there, with bells on.

But will we? I see there are plans by the Rugby union (which never hesitates to find a pile of poo into which to throw itself) to open the Sevens up to other cities. yes, they're after more money. Apparently, the festival is worth $15 million or so to the host city... and both Auckland and Dunedin are salivatingat the thought of having a mass Borat mankini demonstration.

The Rugby Union wants more money. And, if they move it, more money is what they will get - for a year. If the Sevens is moved to Auckland, it fall, fail, and turn into a couple of days of mild interest. Wellington was made for a carnival. It's tight, small, and tumbling in on itself. The Cake Tin is an easy walk away from the town., and that superb waterfront. It is, in fact, party central. It would make a perfect place to launch the World Cup - but the Union wants the extra 20,000 seats that Eden Park has.

Fair enough. They'rfe running a business. What they don't seem to know is that sport isn't just a business. It's showbusiness. And for longevity you go to where the best audiences are. For the first year Eden Park would undoubtedly be filled by the Sevens crowd, and they'd make a gazillion bucks. But at the end of the day, where does the audience go? They want to keep entertaining themselves. They want a party. They can walk to Kingsland, which couldn't cope. The city is at least an hour away . The crowd would lose cohesiveness, and dissolve.

Dunedin? I don't know about you, but I don't want to travel 17 million kilometres to go to a party. Especially one that's held in a place where people use their refrigerators to stop their food from freezing.

Fiji would be a better option, but the NZRU wouldn't make a bean from it. Oddly, I'm picking the Fiji Rugby Union doesn't make much from the Sevens, despite the fact they win it so often. Thought: the NZRU could help Fiji run it, and score some bucks that way. Licence it to a coupleof airlines to get the people there.... and all of Fiji would rock. They could hold the Sevens on the same day they hold their elections. Oh, yeah - they don't have elections, do they. Perhaps the Rugby people could make that a condition: sport wins where diplomacy fails....

LISTENING TO: Janis Ian, "Between The Lines". An oldy, and a goody.

READING: Still on the same book. Struggling, though. This Frenchman is the only person who can make a cavalry charge read like a love letter from a horny teenager. It's a skill, I suppose.

Word of the Day: Foolish. Describes the NZRU perfectly.


Arthur was aghast.
“Sir, I joined up with the express intention of becoming a First-Aid man: I’m more or less a Quaker, Sir: if I hadn’t volunteered for this duty, then I would have signed on as a Conchy.”
“When you signed on, Sergeant, you signed a piece of paper that says your heart and soul and body are mine, to do with as I see fit. I’m sorry, Arthur, but that’s the way of it. You will probably save more lives as a sniper than you will as a Zambuck. “
“But Sir – killing? I can’t do it, Sir, and I shan’t!”
The Colonel stroked his nicotine-stained moustache, looked down at his desk, then surged to his feet. “Sergeant, I don’t give two tuppeny tin whistles about your conscience,” he snarled. “What I do care about is getting as many of my men back to their families at the end of this bloody bunfight, and you, mister high and bloody mighty Tomlinson, have given me a weapon which will help me in this endeavour. Now, I can have you shot. I can have you jailed. I can have all the miseries of Job brought down upon your head, Tomlinson, or I can reward you mightily for a job well done when you fulfil the task I have set you. Conchy? Bah, and bloody humbug, Tomlinson! You are a soldier, my soldier, and I am making you the Battalion sniper, and you will remain so until I decree otherwise. Now is that clear?”
It was a gale of words, a hurricane of emotion and direction that swept Tomlinson’s courage away, and all he could do was quail before the storm, and salute.
Arthur Tomlinson, idealist, blacksmith, and would-be lover, had broken.

Chapter Six
In a place where death is the best, if not only, answer to most problems, there can be no room for a sane man.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I Believe, Part Three

OK: I beleive in the Flappy Duck and The Famous Five. I believe in Ratty, Toad, and all the rest of the Windy Willows boys. I believe in teaching our kids that reading is fun, that dreaming is funner, and that true happiness can be found between the covers.

Of a book, PK.

I was reading before I started school. Having two older siblings meant that I absolutely had to find ways of vanishing and entertaining myself. Taking the latest Famous Five book to the piney Woods down the back, or (a little later in life) the latest Carter Brown out to the dunes near the airport, or down to the beach... this was escape. This was a different life. I learnt what it meant to by upper-middle-class British from Enid Blyton and Gerald Durrell, I learnt about the seamier side of life in the States from Mickey Spillane and Dashiel Hammett. By the time I was 12 I'd read The Lord of the Rings, the Bible, the Autobiography of a Yogi, by a chap called Paramhansa Yogananda, a million comics, The Third Eye, by Tuesday Lobsang Rampa (actually, a greasy little English fraud from Tottenham) and I'd started on Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein.

Even though I went to the movies every weekend, it was books that ruled my life. Because my folks shifted around the Island a lot while I was at school, I didn't keep many childhood friends - and, in fact, still have difficulty maintaining friendships. I have to work at it.. and happy work it is. If I don't ring you, blame my Dad. Actually, blame me: I'm a lazy sod at times. But my relationship with books has been long and constant.

There was a time when I'd make a statement at work, and people'd ask me how I knew whatever it was I'd just pompously pontificated on. Even more pompously I'd say "I read books." This was true. Nowadays, however, people just sigh, and make little "let's humour the geezer" signs at each other.

Reading. It rocks. And I really can't wait for the perfect E-Book reader to come along. It looks like the i-Pad might be it.... the moment it supports a half-decent video programme, that is.

Reading now: "The Night Gardener", by George Pelecanos. GP is the writer behind the TV series "The Wire", which every TV critic in the world said was the best thing to ever screen on tele, ever. Which is why TV One put it on at 11.45 at night, and never once trailered it. I think three New Zealand residents saw it.

Listening to: The Greg Matthews Band, "If I Had It All". I keep on forgetting just how frigging brilliant Dave Matthews is.

Word of the Day: Conversion. I never understood why car theft was called car conversion. I always understood why the act of changing someone from rationalism to Catholicism was called conversion, because the person changed. But the car never changed. it was just a car. Unless it got religion, and featured in a Stephen King yarn.

RATS! Yay, my Notebook got fixed. Took the wee man two minutes. Time to do a back-up....

Good shooting, but not good enough.
Then came the final test: prone, four hundred yards. At this distance the target itself was little more than a tiny white patch. The bull’s eye was invisible.
Arthur grunted, and lay down, waiting for the target-rats to get into position, and hoist their red flags. Arthur looked at a flag that flew near him. No more than two feet across the top, twelve inches down. He looked down the range to the flags the target-rats were now flying. He shut his eyes, clenching them tight against his eyelids. He raised the rifle to his shoulder, adjusted the sights, and fought to find himself. He was a tiny entity, and his target was so far away. He listened to his heartbeat, ka-thump, ka-thump, and willed it to slow down. His vision narrowed, tunnelled: all he could see now was the speck of white that was his target.
His breathing slowed, and when he had exhaled, he squeezed the rigger. Time itself slowed down, and he could swear that he heard the pin hit the brass, the crackle as the primer flared, then the hard, rushing bellow of the powder exploding.
He was not aware of the excited shouts of the men behind him as the target-rat’s pointer came up, and fixed onto the white speck that was his target. He wasn’t conscious of Ken Swain’s own rifle firing, and the waving of the target-rats pointer: Maggie’s Drawers, a clean miss.
An eternity later, Arthur fired his last bullet. When the targets came back, Arthur had scored four hits on-target, one through the bull’s-eye. His fifth bullet had nicked the side on the target. Swain had hit the target twice.
Arthur stood, and helped Swain to his feet. He shook the man’s hand firmly, and grinned at him. The applause, when it started, was timid, but it soon swelled. Arthur looked about him. Crikey, he thought. There must be most of the Battalion here.
The Battalion Clerk later figured out that over a thousand pounds had changed hands that morning, and one fist-fight had started.
And that afternoon Arthur was taken to meet the colonel, who told him that he was promoting him to sergeant, and putting him in charge of training the Battalion's snipers. This would also mean he would become a sniper himself.
“But Sir!”
“No but Sirs,” the grim-faced man had said. “We’ll be shipping out soon, to England, and you are coming with us. Then we shall probably be shipped to France or Belgium, where you will have one simple job: to shoot, and kill, the enemy.”
Arthur was aghast.

Monday, February 1, 2010


First up: apologies. there ain't gonna be no RATS today, 'cause my Notebook's screen has shut down. Fortunately, it's well within the warrenty period, so I hope to be up and running again soon. I really should have backed-up everything, yes. But I didn't. So ain't that a kick in the pants?
Second up: Cor. I was going about my business today, selecting a doctor/nurse Mills & Boon for Mrs Carruthers, and a "Bombers of the second World War" for Mr Jablowski, when I saw a.. well, I saw a stunningly gorgeous woman. She was mid-30s, I guess, medium height, African, perfectly built.. a good size 12, I'd estimate.. and she emanated a spirit of carefree happiness. Now, a looked at her, and glanced away. Hell, I'm 57, and there's nothing more ridiculous than a middle-aged man panting after a gorgeous woman. But then I stopped, and asked myself - what is it that makes it nasty, dirty, sleazy, and greasy for a guy my age (any age?) to look at a beautiful woman? I wasn't (scout's honour) looking at her thinking "Geez, I'd like to have your ankles around my neck".
TOA: Yeah, right. You sure?
I'm pretty damn' sure, yes. I would have gazed with the same sense of astonishment at Michelagelo's "David", and I have looked with equal stunnededness at a painting. I simply felt astonishingly happy to be walking on the same planet as someone that lovely. So, if I stared, I'm glad. If my staring gave offence, I'm sorry.
Listening to: The Specials. Wot fun!
Reading: "Waltenburg", by Hedi Kaddour. French novel, luckily translated. Very good so far. Can't get Katzenbach out of my head, though.
Word of the day: perv. I'm not. I hope.