Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dear Jesus

Sorry about this, but I'm confused. It seems this is the day before something called Black Friday. This is apparently the anniversary of your death, as worked out by astrologers, who are people your church despise. Easter Monday's when you came back from being a corpsicle. This whole thing has been turned into a public holiday that everyone, including Muslims, Hindi, Buddhists, Atheists, and Satanists have to take. Some shops have to close, others don't. (I guess that if you're ominpotent, you'll know that I thorouhgly diapprove of Sunday shopping. Brownie points to me, eh?)

So, I'm not complaining. Apart from the fact that I have to work like a bastard in order to get the work done properly so people who think you're the bee's knees have plenty of Mills & Boon books to see them through. Of course, you'd know what it's like to work like a bastard, because you were one. I'm pretty sure your dad and Mary weren't married - which does make your followers getting all twitchy about extra-and-pre-marital sex look a little foolish...

Anyway, that's not what confuses me. If I wanted real confusion, I'd read the gospels in your book again, and try to reconcile them. If the book was divinely inspired, then your dad or the angles were lousy editors. No - what's confusing me is that Coronation Street's on't tele, and they're blithering on about Christmas.

New brilliant dinner party game: After the third glass of wine, have each person think of a politician, write their name down, and toss it into the ring. Then the table draws each name by turn, and decides what a Coronation Street character with that name would be like. Margaret Thatcher, for instance, would be Mrs Bucket type, working in the knicker factory. John Key would be this year's serial killer, and Helen Clark would be a blowsy barmaid at the Rovers. Geddit? Hilarious.

LISTENING TO: The Kills, "Midnight Boom. VFG indeed.

READING: "The Wild Blue", Stephen Ambrose. About the B24 crews in Europe. VFG too.

WORD OF THE DAY: Dachsador. I saw one yesterday. Poor bloody thing: a cross between a Labrador and a Dachshund. It had a Dachshund's body, and the Labroador's massive head... and the Lab coat. The body was to small to hold a head that size. The dog'll die young, and in pain.

Paper Heroes:

The ownership of firearms is restricted to a relative few: farmers, conservationists, zookeepers – people who work with animals.

Satellite observation shows a massive meltdown at three antique nuclear power stations near San Jose in California. The fallout must scour life from all areas south of San Francisco, down to the tip of Baja California. Millions die in Mexico: how many perish in ‘Merika is never known. . The coincidental failure of the plants must have been planned and deliberate. Offers of aid are ignored. The Commonwealth research ships retreat. There is now an effective 100-mile no-go zone down the continent’s western coast.
In the Commonwealth, the massive disarmament project is nearly completed.
The massive Eneribbon project is completed. Earth is now circled by a strip of silver ribbon 30 kilometres wide and 2.5 microns thick. The ribbon collects and focuses the sun’s energy onto a system of 400 massive geo-stationery satellites that converts the light and heat into microwaves, which are then tight-beamed to stations on the surface. This abundant and inexpensive energy is available to all Commonwealth citizens. .
The Commonwealth’s last heart attack victim dies in Switzerland. Nano-technology has eliminated all major diseases: cancer, arthritis, AIDS, tuberculosis, heart-defects, tumours, and clogged arteries are all detected and repaired by the millions of molecule-sized self-replicating machines which are introduced to each infant’s bloodstream at birth. Illnesses that had once savaged entire populations have now become non-existent.
It is now 80 years since any communication came from ‘Merika. Satellite observations show that there is limited hydro-energy being used, and at least one nuclear power station still remains in service. There is little road traffic: what there is seems to be limited to armoured vehicles. Some rail transport is used. The horse is extinct, having been killed for food in the 22nd century. Estimates of ‘Merika’s population vary, but the best guess is less than 10 million.
In the Commonwealth, a great leap in nanotechnology provides each citizen with their own P-See, or Personal Computer. In fact, it is more accurate to say that each person is a P-See. The nanobots not only act as health providers and protectors, they also – by using the body’s own electromagnetic power – give each individual the ability to communicate instantly with anyone else on the planet, merely by sub-vocalising. It’s not telepathy, but it’s not far off. The nanobots also communicate with the great I-See centres around the world, with easy and instant access to the great data-banks and storage sites of knowledge, fact, opinion, and speculation that makes up the data-sphere.

The Great Wall project is successful: three iron / nickel asteroids are parked in orbit around the Moon, where they are mined. There is enough metal on the three orbiting mountains to meet the Commonwealth’s needs for the next millennium. Settlements are now established and thriving on the Moon, Mars, and one of Jupiter’s moons. Plans for the terraforming of Venus are in the advanced stage, with the first seed-ships loaded with blue-green algae launched. The periodic table is expanded by four new heavy elements, one of which, Adamantine, is capable of storing a vast amount of energy. The Heinlein battery is created: a fist-sized unit, it is capable of storing enough energy to power a family air-car for more than 50,000 kilometres before recharging.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Christianity, confessionals, and real estate agents

Christians are people, too. I guess. Here’s an Associated Press story. If god existed, he’d be spinning in his soup at what his followers do.

Hutaree Militia Planned To Spark "Uprising" by Killing Officers. The nine members of a Michigan-based Christian militia who were arrested over the weekend were "preparing for the Antichrist" by planning to kill police officers, attack their funerals with homemade bombs, and retreat to "rally points" protected by IEDS for "a violent standoff with law enforcement personnel." According to government documents released Monday afternoon, the group, known as Hutaree (a word taken from a "secret language"), was planning to launch its campaign of violence in April. Its members had been meeting and training in the woods of Michigan since 2008. Videos on the group's Web site show the men "practiced building and detonating explosives and shooting firearms and built storage bunkers," in preparation for an attack against the "Anti-Christ." The AP says Hutaree members "view local, state, and federal law-enforcement personnel as a 'brotherhood' and an enemy" that they were meant to attack.

On Sunday, I toddled off to an audition. The local theatre’s putting “Brassed Off” on in August, and required people to step up to strut and fret their hour upon the stage. They must have all been drunk, because they’ve given me the part of Jim. Jim and his sidekick, Harry, make up the Greek chorus part of the ensemble. They’re the comic relief, the Abbott and Costello, the Charlie and the Chaplin, the bowed an’ narrer. Rehearsals start in May, so calloo callay, I’m back. Fortunately, I don’t have to learn to play the Tuba, Trombone, Flugelhorn, or Cornet. Mine is a speaking part only, for which fact you music-lovers may heave an ecstatic sigh of relief.

Oh look: another Christian caper. Another AP story:

Chronic YouTuber Arrested for Threatening Eric Cantor A Philadelphia man was arrested Monday and charged with threatening to kill Rep. Eric Cantor. Norman Leboon has made thousands of YouTube videos over the years, and he recently posted one calling Cantor, a Republican from Virginia, a "liar," a "Lucifer," and a "greedy pig." He made reference to what police thought was a stray bullet that broke a window in Cantor's office building last week. "You receive my bullets in your office, remember they will be placed in your heads," Leboon said. "You and your children are Lucifer's abomination." Not content just to threaten Cantor and his kids, Leboon also allegedly threatened to kill the congressman's "cupcake wife." Talking Points Memo reports that Leboon has made "similar, if not criminally actionable" threats to "an ideologically diverse array of public figures," including President Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi.

But I should stop now. The poor buggers are such easy targets. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. To put it into terms a catholic priest would understand, it's like raping children in a confessional. It’s like asking real estate agents do a morals or literacy exam: you just know it’s all going to end up badly.

READING: Still on Michael Dobbs and Charles Bukowski.

LISTENING TO: Bob Dylan, "Modern Times".

WATCHING: We’ve come to the end of “The Wire”. What brilliant TV. And Jenny went to the website to find out that the chap singing the opening credits song was Tom Waits! I didn’t recognise him at all. This is because it was, in fact, the Blind Bastards of Birmingham, singing a Tom Waits song.

WORD OF THE DAY: Ear-cleaning.

Paper Heroes:

It is estimated that less than 10 million people are left in North America.
Inside America, US troops stage a coup d’etat. President Fuller is ousted, and General Paul McGann, President of the NRA, is proclaimed President-for-Life. The United States of America ceases to exist. McGann proposes a new name for the continent: ‘Merika. The Stars and Stripes are flown for the last time, and the new flag revealed. It is a blue field with two golden rifles, crossed.
All Central and South American nations combine to form a single trading, defence, and economic bloc: they call themselves the United States of South America. Brazil passes her Security Council seat to the USSA.

Japan, Australia, and New Zealand form a joint space and energy agency called JANZAC, which raises finances to build the Eneribbon: an enormous space-based solar energy collection project which is projected to take a century to complete.
In fact it takes 200 years. The project, however, had paid for itself within the first twenty years of construction. Providing very low cost and practically limitless energy to all countries, the Eneribbon is the single most revolutionary artefact to be built by man. It unites nations, and makes borders disappear.

The International Commonwealth is now the only meaningful political organisation on Earth outside the mystery that is ‘Merika. Sweeping social legislation brought by popular demand has made warfare illegal. The very last dispute involving armed troops occurs as the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe is dissolved: a South African guard dog is bitten by a snake and, maddened by the pain, the animal bites a Zimbabwean border guard, who shoots it.
By now ‘Merika is in darkness. She has turned her back on the rest of the world, and all contact with the governing junta by the outside world is severed. All that is seen and heard from ‘Merika is from radio and television broadcasts, which diminish in strength and quantity as the years pass. The odd brief flurry of military-style wavelength-hopping radio communication is intercepted and decoded, and from this it is estimated that fewer than 6 million people now call ‘Merika home. There were, however, disturbing hints that a large proportion of those people is held in bondage. Slavery, it seems, is once again a reality.
At the end of the century jamming radio signals curtain the coastlines and provide a blanket of white noise that covers the continent. Commonwealth analysts can discern no real purpose to this strategy: nothing of importance had come from ‘Merika in years: nothing more was ever expected. The rare attempt to physically close with the shoreline is met with gunfire. The International Commonwealth votes overwhelmingly to leave ‘Merika alone. By 2200, ‘Merika hasn’t been heard from for 10 years: even the jamming signal has stopped.
The International Commonwealth vote universally for disarmament and for the first time in human history, there is no known standing army, navy, or air force. The ownership of firearms is restricted to a relative few: farmers, conservationists, zookeepers – people who work with animals.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sunday Scribbles IIXXX

It seems appropriate, somehow, that I should be making the odd acid comment about the hypocrisy of our religious leaders today. It is, after all, the last Sunday before Easter, and they should be communing with their god, who will be telling them - if history is any sort of guide - to cover their arses. Unlike the arses of their child-victims. Those, apparently, they could violate with impunity.

We expect god-botherers to be Good People. After all, they would argue that it'simpossible to have a moral compass without a belief in their god. Hmmm.

The German Pope is a fraud. The Polish one wasn't much better, although he did have one advantage over the previous twenty or so wearers of Peter's ring. He wasn't Italian. The Papacy has been held be a succession of venal, self-serving, droolingly evil men for the past few centuries. Their was one who,it semed, might be OK, but he died very quickly: the first John Paul. I have no brief for the conspiracy theory that yatters on about the circumstances surrounding his death, but I will say that it's mighty convenient.

The Kraut has to resign. But that's only a beginning. What the Catholic Church.. and the Anglican / Episcopalean one - need to do is hand over all documentation regarding child "abuse" to the local constabulary, and let the non-relisious law take care of them.

Incidentally - why can't we call it rape? Because that's what these vicious self-serving bastards did.

Another example of the Catholic Church's lack of moral turpitude - something that nearly scraped under the radar. Their organisation is so weak in Eastern Europe that they've welcomed a sect in the Ukraine called the Eastern Catholic Church who have never really subscribed to the corruption that is the doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope. The Eastern Catholic Church can marry: and I wouldn't be surprised to find they're actually attracting mostly sane people to their organisations - or at least people who don't find children's bodies to be sexually titillating. The main Church has welcomed this sect into their fold becauseit's the only way they can spread their money-making network into these eastern European lands. If it's OK for some catholic priests to be married, it must be OK for all of them. It may not proetct childrfen against the paedophiliac priests of today, but the future may be a little rosier.

Actually, as the whole system has been demonstrably shown to be a criminal organisation - and one that goes to any deperate length to protect its vicious, raping gang-members -why don't the secular powers move to close them down? If I were to run an organisation that supported child-rape, I'm sure the powers that be would be on me like flies on shit.

Listening to: the radio. They're banging on about the Destiny Church - another vile organisation, led by a venal and corrupt man.
Reading: "The Edge of Madness," Michael Dobbs. excellent.
Watching: "The Wire", season one. It is quite brilliant.
Word of the Day: Audition. Cross your fingers forme at 2 this afternoon.

New story: Paper Heroes

Chronology of Events

2014 to 2018
Democracy races through North Africa. Sadam Hussein’s overthrow in the United States of America’s so-called “War on Terror” and his subsequent suicide in 2007 leads directly to universal suffrage in Iraq. After bloody internal wars, democratic secular states are formed by the peoples of Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, and Egypt. The Palestinians are granted the West Bank as a separate homeland. Within months, the new Palestine is recognised by most nations at the U.N: notable exceptions are the USA, Australia, and Israel.
Hurricanes Marvin, Nigel, Oscar, Pedro, and Quentin hit Florida in a six-week period in June / July 2015. Tens of thousands die. President Condaleeza Rice imposes martial law that is never lifted.
In 2016 OPEC’s oil production is halved. The international oil trade is rocked further when OPEC adopts the Euro as their trading currency. Wall Street stumbles as trillions of dollars are wiped off the board. The resulting international recession stimulates a major shift in real-politik: the USA ceases to be the engine-room of the world’s economy. Now, the monetary muscle is in Brussels and Beijing.

The Communist Party in China holds its first free and open elections. For the first time an active political opposition party is permitted to stand: the Communists retain power with a slender majority. Mainland China and Taiwan voluntarily re-unite, creating the world’s largest economy. The USA threatens war, embarrassing herself by calling China a rogue nation. Japan trembles and falls: unemployment hits 28%.
In gubernatorial elections, isolationist factions in the USA win power. Within months the deportation of all Spanish-speaking residents of California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico to Mexico begins. This new diaspora strips California of nearly half of her population, and the resulting recession bites hard. Canada throws open her borders to any U.S citizen who wants refuge: millions move North, either adopting Canada as their new home, or using the country as a conduit to other lands.
A twenty-foot high concrete and electrified steel and razor wire wall is built along the Mexico / USA border. Millions of anti-personnel mines are sown; a hundred thousand lives are reaped. Anyone trying to cross into USA without authority is fired upon without warning. The ground between the two nations is littered with bones: shattered ribs, pelvises, skulls.

The USA withdraws from NATO.

Desperate for oil, a weakened United States of America invades Iraq for the third time. The Organisation of Arab Democratic States declares the United States of America to be a rogue nation, hostile to the democratic movement, and threatens to cut America’s oil supplies completely. President James T Fuller (Rep.), enjoying almost total Senate and Congressional support, proclaims a State of Emergency. The last two Democratic Senators and one Democratic Congresswoman resign in protest. They are not replaced.
The European Union, the developing Coalition of Free Balkan States, India, China, Japan, and most African nations ratify the OADS. declaration, and provide military and political support for Iraq. NATO and the OADS combine as a defence force.
The USA armed forces are routed, forced out of North Africa. The aging aircraft carrier Enterprise II is hit by 27 OADS missiles, five of which break through to two of the ship’s magazines. The resulting explosion tears the belly out of the giant ship, which sinks in minutes. President Fuller opens the nuclear football: the sands of Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia, are turned to glass in the ensuing nuclear response. For good measure, missiles also strike Paris, London, Copenhagen, Brussels, Berlin, Moscow, Rome, Ankara, and a dozen other NATO and European Union capitals. NATO missiles – many ironically American-built – flash across the Atlantic and over the Arctic. The much-vaunted – but 40 year-old - Missile Defence System fails catastrophically. Most of the eastern seaboard is vapourised – the only cities to survive in any shape are Boston and New York
The resulting Nuclear Winter lasts five years. An unknown number die in the resulting storms, famines, floods, and mini-Ice Age. The sea level drops by more than a metre.
The United States of America is ejected from the United Nations: this once great country is now on her own. The crews of the six remaining United States of America aircraft carrier battle groups surrender their great war-ships to the United Nations authority, which promptly scraps all 784 vessels and their arms. The Security Council of the United Nations is reorganised and expanded to include China, Japan, Brazil, the E.U., and the OADS Britain, Russia, and France willingly retire their positions. In Asia, the old SEATO is revived, with most Asian nations coming together as a single trading and defence bloc. New Zealand, Australia, and the Polynesian, Melanesian, and Micronesian nations are invited to join. Japan’s economy is revived by a massive influx of investment from the increasingly wealthy African states.
The USA State of Emergency rapidly descends into an autocracy, as Fuller suspends the American Constitution and Bill of Rights, and is given the right to hold his office for a minimum of 16 years before elections are required. Senatorial and Congressional elections are suspended as the American economy winds down.

2034 to 2056
The United Nations relocates to Sri Lanka.
Hawaii secedes from the USA, and accepts Japanese protection. The USA invades Canada, with extreme loss of life. The great killing grounds claim over 40 million lives. Canada ceases to exist – as do Polar Bears. Only a few tens of thousands of Canadians escape, with France accepting the majority. The United Nations votes overwhelmingly (231 to 3) to censure the USA and to blockade her shores, using the combined NATO, SEATO, OADS, Central American, African, and South American navies. The Mexican wall is fortified from both sides, and a no-go zone of 50 miles on the USA side of the border is established by the Texas Klansmen, while Mexico states its willingness to accept all US refugees. Nearly 10 million USA citizens flee, and are absorbed by the rest of the world. How many die inside USA borders is unknown. China accepts over 6 million Americans. It is estimated that less than 10 million people are left in North America.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's Mine!

Writing as a well-established pinko-liberal-bleedingheart-socialist-weenie, I'm actually not totally opposed to the whole idea of mining on the conservation estate. I need to know a hell of a lot more about it before deciding in favour, mind you. So far it's all been rhetoric and hot air, and "let's run this up the flag-pole and see if Hone Heke cuts the bastard down".
The whole thing about Great Barrier Island is obviously bullshit and bluff. And the Nats will give way on it, and make everyone feel as if they've accomplished something, so the mining will go ahead elsewhere. Of course, the problem is that they were never going to allow mining on G.B.I. Remember what the cynical bunch of bastards did with the ACC levy on motorcyclists? they got away with it then, they're trying it again.
What I want to know is this: how much pressure is the government under from the people who are lending us $250,000,000 each and every week? that amount of money may be chump change to the Americans, but it's still serious dosh... and the people who have are going to be ladelling it out to grinning bill English with a few conditions attached... and possibly a few questions.
Like: "How ya going to pay this back, Billy-boy? We know you have a nice little farmlet down on the South Island, but that won't do it. What's that you say? $200 billion in minerals, gold, silver rare earths? Then dig 'em out, Bill."
Listening to: "Rhapsody in Blue" Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra.
Reading: Stephen Hunter's latest, "iSniper". S. Hunter is one of my all-time favourite writers, and i compare him favourably with hemingway for his muscular prose.
Word of the Day: Macca. Yep. Had a McDinner. Lime McDonald's milkshake. Yum!
About to Watch: Tommy Lee Jones in "In The Electric Mist", from the james Lee Burke novel of almost the same name. Have to wait until Coronation Bloody Street finishes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Blood red hope

I saw one of my LOLs the other day. This was not a case of laughing out loud, as when Mrs T answered the door to my knock, I was appalled to see her face was black and blue from bruising. She's a blind Little Old Lady, and had taken a tumble the day before when venturing into her garage. There are three concrete steps down to the garage floor, and for the first time in her life she miscounted.

Splat is not a sound you want to hear when you're in your mid-80s, and sightless. It occured to me that she would have had no idea of when she was to have hit the deck: the fear she must have felt!

She spent at least three hours on the floor in the garage. The fall (no more than 75 centiemtres, but body-length) had knocked the strength out of her, and she was unable to get back to her feet. She was also disoriented: When she's on her feet she can reach out and touch something familiar, and get her bearings. On the floor, nothing familar was in reach. She reckons it took her an hour to find a wall.

She could smell her own blood, and hear her own whimpering. "That dishusted me, Allan," she said. "I'm nothing but a foolinsh, cowardly old lady." I however, am astonished by her courage, and presence of mind.

The pain in her hips astonished her - and a broken hip is a killer. She was hurt, frightened, alone, and five metres away from her panic button.

She is now getting a panic button that can be worn. And the Council, bless 'em, are putting me through a First Aid course. I've just comepleted the first day, and much to my surprise I've learned a lot. So, if you plan to break a bone, cut an artery, or sever a limb - just make sure you do it within fifteen metres of moi. You'll be right.

READING: Charles Bukowski's last book of poetry. I discovered Bukowski when I was in my 20s. Not that I'm in my middle 50s, he still astounds me with his wit, brevity, precision, and hatred of phoniness. Philip Caulfield should have read Bukowski.

LISTENING TO: Julian Lloyd Weber, "Unexpected Songs". Such a better musician than his brother, although it must be said that I don't know if he's ever written anything original, either. And before youleap to a conc, let it be said right here: I like JC Superstar, and Cats.

WORD OF THE DAY: Splint. It not only looks good, it's good for you.

Arthur genuinely liked the Major, and he felt that they had a good, but still slightly uneasy relationship.
Arthur started clambering to his feet, but got a foot tangled on the one-legged stool, and fell on his arse. “Christ!” he swore. “Sorry, Major.” he stood, and saluted.
“It's George today, Arthur,” the Major said, taking off his cap.
“Well, if it's George today, then I have to tell you again. Stop wearing that fucking cap. Put some tin on your head. That cap's a target for the Hun snipers, and they've got a very good boy over there right now. Be a shame to see that titfer with a 9 millimetre hole in it.” This would
be the fortieth time Arthur had warned George Weatherby about the cap, and it would be the fortieth time George Weatherby would ignore the advice. George Weatherby smiled, slapped at his leg with his swagger-stick, and said, “This is a semi-social call, Arthur. Pour me a glass of that officer's scotch you've got there and I won't put you on a charge.”
Arthiur smiled, and grabbed on of his two enamelled cups, and poureed a healthy slug of Johnny Walker into it. Weatherby accepted the cup, rapped it against Arthur's, saying “The King!:”
Arthur nodded, and said “Long may he reign over all Britain,” and drank.
“Not her colonies and dominions, Arthur?”
“He can have Canada and Australia, George. But I reckon – well, it doesn't matter what a colonial sergeant thinks, does it?”
“It might, if he were to say such rebellious things in front of the brass, Arthur. Keep your tongue still around them would you?”

On Thursday we start a new yarn. Anything further I have on the Rats front (another 100 or so pages, with the ending still a few chapters further on ) is too rough for reading... it's not even at the rough and ready first draught stage
of what you've read so far. So, while I'm thrashing away on it, and my other new project, you'll be reading a play. happy drama!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sunday Scribbles XXVII

Tangiwai: as promised, a wee yarn. I was chatting, as I do, with one of my older customers. She is / was a history lecturer at Auckland University, and we were swapping memories. It makes you think, when you realise you're talking history... and you actually were alive when it happened. Cutting to the chase, though. This was a personal story from her, and it's about the stories we don't hear. This gem of a woman asked me if I recalled the Tangiwai disaster. I answered her positively, and recapped to her the great yarn of that dreadful occasion: that of the heroic Kiwi chap who spotted the downed bridge, and attempted to stop the train before it came to grief - and then, with little regard for his own life, struggled in the deluge to help the victims of the train wreck. He was, she told me, her relative. A great man, she said. A happy-go-lucky individual before that night, a larrikin. After that night, he was a broken, withdrawn creature, a wounded bird. He descended into the nightmare of alcoholism, and an early grave.

Consequences. We hear of the great deeds our heroes do, and only rarely do we stop to ask what happened afterwards.

It's 1.45am. Jenny and I went to the theatre last evening, to see a local production of a corker New Zild play, "A Pack of Girls". I couldn't sleep when we retired, so got up so as to avoid disturbing her. We met two of our favourite people for dinner, a fine Indian meal, and went on to see four more great friends at the theatre. I'm a rich man. Truly fortunate. And after the play, I bumped into a chap I had become close to last year when I was getting work as an actor / extra / motile movie furniture - a delightful reunion.

Titirangi's theatre, in Lopdell House, is a quaint and lovely place. Jenny and I married there, on stage. Later today - this afternoon - I'm returning to the theatre to audition for a rolein their next production. It's about time I got back into the theatre. I loved it so.

I'm also going to volunteer to work on the Maritime Museum's boats. We both need to get out more: I hope Jenny also decides to do some volunteer work somewhewre - possibly also at the Maritime Museum. Steve, who wemet up with at the theatre, crews one of the Museum's ketches: I can see myself as a part-time Jack Tar.

Listening to: Neil Young, "Prairie Wind". Perfect very late night / very early morning music.

Reading: Just started "The Cleaner", by Paul Cleave. He a Kiwi, writres about serialkillers in Christchurch. Oddly, it fits. I cannot conceive of a serial killer in, say, hamilton, palmerston North, or Invercargill. But Christchurch? Oh, yes.

Movies seen: Watched "The 300 Spartans" while ironing my shirts this afternoon. Made in 1962. Pretty good.

Word of the Day: Consequences. See above.


But people tended to take a second look at his earnest, broad face, and deal patiently with him.
He ran a black fingernail along the lines, his lips moving as he concentrated. Every so often he'd grunt with satisfaction as he got what he thought was the right pronunciation. Time would tell, he thought. His back was starting to ache when he noticed a change in the background noise.
Gunfire is a constant sound on the lines. Rifle fire, the odd stuttered machine-gun burst, an occasional cannon or howitzer round, an idle mortar bomb: it would be a rare minute that wasn't punctuated by one or more of those sounds, near and far. But he'd noticed that occasionally there would be a lull, as though the beast of war had exhausted itself for the day, and was curling its rancid body down in repose.
The sudden silence was heavy, a wet blanket, oppressive. Arthur sat still, alert, ears pricked, head swivelling, trying to pick up a sound. The trenches were ten feet up the wooden steps, and had a 90 degree bend half-way up, so the men's voices were always muffled, but he couldn't her anything. Then – a sudden fart, a muttered comment, and laughter. Then footsteps, on his steps.
No-one visited Arthur Tomlinson, apart from the Major. But now he heard two sets of footsteps coming down. He heard whispers, then the leather blast-curtain was thrust aside, and Major Weatherby came into the bunker, hunched down from the low ceiling in the stairwell, and straightening to his full height.
Two years of war had improved Weatherby's personality. He was no longer driven by ambition, or a need to show the world he was the better man. He'd see action at Gallipoli, and had participated in several famous battles on the Western front. No one doubted his courage, and he doubted no-one else's. He was popular with the men, and, despite being offered promotion a dozen times in the past year, had always turned it down. As a Major, he was responsible for keeping nearly 500 men in full battle-readiness, and he felt that it was always his place to lead them into battle.
Like every man on the front, he didn't expect to survive the war. Like every sensible man on the front, he saw himself as already dead. And, in dying, he had freed himself of the chip on his shoulder. Arthur genuinely liked the Major, and he felt that they had a good, but still slightly uneasy relationship.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Waihopai Wonks.

I would have understood if the trial had been held in Christchurch. There's so much really wierd shit that happens in Christchurch that this odd verdict wouldn't have raised an eyebrow.

But it happened in Wellington, which means we have to take it seriously. To recap: a trio of sandal-wearers broke into the so-called spy station at Waihopai a couple of years ago, and destroyed a bunch of property - around a million bucks' worth. They stopped it operating for a little while- perhaps for as long as a week. They did it to protest against the war in Iraq. I heartily approve of their motives, and even - to a degree - their actions. They were prepared to do something fairly buggering major, and were prepared to go to jail for it. It was a matter of principle. And good on them.

They were acquitted, however. Their defence was based on their belief that the intelligence gathered by the site was being used directly by the US to kill people (innocent civilians) in Iraq. They said they believed they were saving lives by doing what they did. The jury bought their story, and let them off. Again, fair enough. That's what juries do. Better that twenty guilty people go free than one innocent one is condemned, and so on.

But I really have to wonder about the hopelessness of the prosecutor. He (or she) did not do a half-decent job. The problem with beliefs, it appears, is simple. It seems that they don't have to be justified by anything that looks anything like a fact.

I want to know if the Waihopai Wonks were asked to provide evidence that backed up their beliefs. To demonstrate with proof that would help us all know, without fail, that they were saving lives in Iraq by their actions. I want them to show me exactly how the satellite surveillance site is being used to kill people in Iraq.

They might be right. I strongly doubt it, but it's possible. I actually believe (because I've heard plausible explanations) that the site is actually used to trace (and hopefully stop) wannabe-vest-bombers in their crazed efforts to kill innocent human beings. I wonder if the Waihopai Wonks' actions could have led to some demented bomber not being apprehended before he detonated a bomb that killed people? I actually think it'spossible. Not probable, but possible.

Listening to: The Phoenix Foundation, "Horsepower". I like.

Reading: Nothing new.

Word of the Day: Tangiwai. I have a story... read all about it on Sunday.


...a bronze shaving mirror that he'd bought in Egypt, soap, a towel, boot polish, and three spare pair of socks, puttees, two shirts, and a thick woollen jersey. On the floor were his boots, cleaned and dried, a kerosene heater that doubled as a hot plate, a bottle of Chapman's Footcare Oil (by appointment to HM's Glorious Troops: Huzzah!), and foot-bath. Arthur was very particular about his feet. He always figured that the time would come when he'd have to run fast, and he didn't want his feet to let him down. Other soldiers, of course, physically promoted the various fungal infections that feet were prone to here in the trenches – it may just get them sent to the rear. Also on the floor was his bullet re-loading kit. Accuracy was everything, and that meant he couldn't rely on the machine-loaded bullets. He kept a supply of fresh cartridge cases, bullets, American gunpowder, and British cordite. Cordite was essentially stabilised nitro-glycerine, in string form. Its explosive power was significantly higher than gunpowder, and it didn't smoke as much. Accuracy, and concealment.
On the wall, beside the shelf, and over his rifle, was a framed picture, face against the wall.
Arthur Tomlinson leaned back against the bunker's rough-sawn wooden wall, balancing on the one-legged milking stool. He could lean back on it to about 30 degrees, then it'd simply scoot out from under his arse, dumping him on the floor. He found the tipping-point, and edged forward, holding his balance just so. He reached for his phrase book, which was helping him with his French – a language that was spoken by most of the civilians back in the small village fifteen miles behinds the lines – but not with his pronunciation. When he had a furlough, and travelled into the village or further afield he amused most of the people he spoke to by the way he mangled the language. But people tended to take a second look at his earnest, broad face, and deal patiently with him.

Monday, March 15, 2010


A million years ago, when I was young and almost good-looking, I knew a Vet who proudly bore the name Nick De'ath. He pronounced it De ARTH. I thought the Nick part was quite apposite, but he didn't appreciate the humour implicit in it. Such is li'fe.

Death - without Nick's odd apostrophe - has been on the mind today. One of my readers is on the slippery slope, and it's not easy. He's mid-30s, with a beautiful child and wife. Li'fe just ain't fair.

Co-incidentally, I was chatting to one of the oldies today. This one's a charmer. She wanted me to order a book on arranginging your own funeral, and showed me her coffin. Her husband built it. His one's been used: he di'ed a couple of years ago. Hers is similar to his: he made it out of driftwood. It is fabulously cool, but it looks like it would be a sonofabitch to carry. Looks as heavy as sin, which I'm sure this very cool old lady has a few in her back closet, awaiting discovery by her grandchildren.

I was listening to Hollie Smith's album "long player" the other day, and I wondered why she hadn't released a follow-up. And tonight I find she has - today. Serendipity, thy name is music.

Had to laugh, tonight. TV3 spews had a segment about some Labour back-bencher who - on an aircraft - had the temerity to say what we've all wanted to say: "I wish those kids would shut up". I would have added a couple of four-letter words, but he's a gentleman, or something. Anyway, the parents complained to some blogger, who raised Cain over the so-called incident. Anyway. I gritted my teeth, and said something about non-stories. Then, twenty minutes later, Campbell comes on, and say that the media'd had been full of the story, and that, yes, it was a non-story. Nice to see he does have editorial independence..

Although, does he? How come he's doing a regular "What's On Trade Me" segment? My question is this: does Fairfax own a chunk of TV3? I genuinely don't know the answer, but it's the only reason I can think of that would explain such nonsense.

Listening to: Well,Hollie Smith. Again.

Reading: Nothing new... just rotating through the three I have running.

Word of the day: Death. Without the apostrophe.


He rubbed the repair with some linseed oil, hoping that the beech would soak the oil up at the same rate as the oak: if it didn't, it could swell at at slightly different rate, and that could be enough to throw the aim out of true.
And for the kind of shooting Arthur did, he had to be precisely accurate.
He put a cork into the barrel, sealing the gun-oil in, and hung the rifle on the wall of his solitary bunker. He looked around, reaching for the whisky bottle, and pouring a healthy slug into his enamelled tin cup. He had two bunks, one of which was empty. He'd salvaged a small desk from a torn-apart school, and a one-legged milking stool from the remnants of a barn. It had been made with care: someone had burnt a fanciful design of a cow jumping over the moon into the seat, and it had been painted in gay colours before being varnished. Arthur had been surprised that the local folk know English nursery-rhymes, but thought it was just another example of how everything that was good about Britain did end up with the rest of the world. He kept a week's worth of rations on the rough wooden shelves, along with a gallon tin of whale oil for his lamp, his “housewife” - an army-supplied kit that contained sewing and darning needles, a thimble, cotton, patches, and khaki wool – with which he could do running repairs on his uniform, two bottles of whisky stolen from the Officers' Mess by Corporal Stack, his shaving kit, a quart of water for washing, drinking, and shaving, a bronze shaving mirror that he'd bought in Egypt, soap, a towel, boot polish, and three spare pair of socks, puttees, two shirts, and a thick woollen jersey.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sunday Scribbles XXIV

Oh, Alice. Or - oh, Tim. Why did you bother? We went to see "Alice in Wonderland", mainly out of some sense of loyalty to Tim Burton. Jenny, I think, enjoyed it. I camed out of the whole experience admiring his technical skill, but being unable to figure out whay the movie was made. It adds nothing new to the Alice ouvre. It's flat, vapid piece of moviemaking and storyttelling that belongs right up there with "Titanic" and "Pearl Harbour". Lots of flash, nowhere to go. And while Depp was excellent, doing his best with the material given him, this was just another flick giving Johnny Depp a chance to show how eccentric he can be. His schtick is getting tired. Time to retire, JD, or actually time to refind your acting chops.

And $38 to go to the movies? It'll be the last 3D movie I see. It just doesn't add that much to the movie-going experience.

Likewise - oh, Bond. There was very little on the TYV programmes last night, so I ended up watching a James Bond flick, "The Living Daylights". made in 1987, with all the cinematic values of a B-Grade 1972 movie. Bad script, bad filming, bad editing, very tired acting. Timothy Dalton's acting was... well, it wasn't. The director wanted him to be another smirking, mugging Roger Moore, and he just couldn't do it. Frankly, I think George Lazenby made a better Bond.

Back to work tomorrow: I woke this morning wondering how my readers were getting on. Especially, for some reason, the glorious Neda. She's a person of Bavarian extraction, in her mid-90s. He body has been hammered and twisted by arthritis to the point that her hips point East while her torso points North. Her back has a hunch that Poirot would have been happy to have, and she also suffers from horribly swollen anklles.. some form of fluid retention. She's brusque of manner, doesn't suffer fools well at all, and reads a book a day. And she demands good writing. Not for her the blitherings of a John Grisham. She ain't happy unless there's a new Booker prize-winning volume in her fortnightly selections... which is obviously difficult. But she's a roguish charmer, and I find she's charming. She has a right, I think, to demand the best. God knows nature hasn't given her any breaks.

Reading: "100 Bullets", a comic by Brian Azzarello. I'v read a few of the collected volums of this astonishing saga, but have yet to find the first threee volumes. These are the ones that set the story upo- the First Act, so to speak. It's a brilliant series.

Listening to: Doris Day, Best of. The woman had an astonishing voice. And what an innocent age!

Movies seen: see above.


She laughed then, and called out to Amy “I know where they are, and it's not France!”
“What? They must be!”
“No! Listen to this.” She read aloud the sentence about the spoiled meal. “He likes sprouts. They're in Belgium. Brussels Sprouts!”
“Now he's a cunning one,” laughed Amy, and turned her attention to her letters again. “My dear Amy,” he wrote.”Well, I've got myself into a fine pickle, and that's no joke. I pray every night that you're not disappointed in me, or in the decision I made, and every night I know that you must be. So be it. When – if – I get back home, I can assure you that I will never leave again. Except to do my best to take you to Paris. I went there on a week's furlough recently – I got back to the lines on -” here, the censor had obliterated the next line. “It's a magic place, Amy. I've been to some galleries that have such pictures and statues! I was blushing fit to burst, as I was in mixed company, and the ladies in the tour party were just gazing at pictures of naked men and women. I've never seen the like. I reckon old Grampa Smith would have a fine chuckle at it all, but after a while I started to think about the stories in the pictures, instead of the nudity.”
Amy tore her attention from the letter – the first in her pile – and asked Jayne if she had seen anything to suggest that Arthur knew the News.
“No, dear. No mention yet.. but I think this letter's postmarked just a little after Timmy's boat left, so he wouldn't have known. I've one more to open, though – let me take a look.”
She opened her pen-knife, and slit her last envelope. She shook out the contents – a short letter, and a photograph. “Dear Miss Jayne, as you can see, Timothy's made it to (censored). I wish I'd known he'd signed up. Worse, the little bugger's been assigned to my care! They've made him a sniper!”
Sergeant Arthur Tomlinson finished cleaning his rifle. Now, he had to repair the stock. That little escapade when the entire might of Kaiser Bill's army had been aimed at him, killing that young chap from Masterton instead, had seen a red-hot chunk of razor sharp ironmongery slicing into the rifle's stock, tearing away at the yellow oak. Arthur had cleaned the wound in the wood, and carefully laid in some Belgian beech, gluing and binding it. He didn't think the repair would hold, but it would do until a replacement stock could be sent in the Quartermaster's stores, five miles back from the front line. He rubbed the repair with some linseed oil, hoping that the beech would soak the oil up at the same rate as the oak: if it didn't, it could swell at at slightly different rate, and that could be enough to throw the aim out of true.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Other Shoe

Bad news, they say, comes in threes. We've had our one singular burst, and nothing more. We're waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it's frankly getting tiring. Meanwhile, we rejoice that once again old superstitions have little or no credibility. Yah, I say. Boo, and sucks.

The Mojo stays. A little while ago I dreamed a first sentence to a story. I wrote it down, and somehow words just kept on pouring out. RATS has, therefore, taken a back seat for a little while. Once you've reached the part I've gotten up to that's relatively coherent, I'll ask for a pause, and start giving you a play that I have just waiting on the sidelines. Oh joy, you cry.

This holiday business is a bit baffling. I've found myself at a bit of a loose end, although I have been outting in some serious hours on writing the new project.

I'm a little sunburnt. Foolish, I know. When we were at the mount I saw a heavily tanned man light a cigarette off the butt of a dying one. He is determinedly committing slow suicide. If a melanoma doesn't get him, rotting lungs will.

LISTENING TO: Ian Anderson, "Rupi's Dance". My favourite of his solo albums. The title song is rather excellent.

READING: "Alibi", Joseph Kanon. An excellent read from a favourite author. Also Bevor's superb "Stalingrad".

MOVIES: We're going to see "Alice in Wonderland' tomorrow. I have mixed feelings about this, having read wildly divergent reviews. i guess i'll just have to make up my own mind. I'll get back to you on that...


Those ones she'd deliver herself – they had been written by boys whose photographs had featured in Jayne's shop-window.
Jayne smiled to herself. When she'd arrived in town she'd scandalised folk with her strange ways and mannish dress. She had been begrudgingly accepted as the new owner of the General Store, but general opinion about the town was that there was something fishy about this newcomer.
Now Jayne Frances employed eight people, and was in severe danger of becoming respectable. True, she still wore moleskin pants, and still tied a bandanna kerchief about her wrist ever morning. But it was now expected of her. From scandalous eccentric to matron, in just 12 years. She smiled, then grinned broadly as Amy burst into the store.
“Here you are, dear,” said Jayne, handing the ten precious envelopes to her friend. Amy checked them for post-marks, to make sure she read them in order, then tore open the first envelope, throwing herself into the bentwood chair by the door to read.
Jayne could open her own letters now.
“Dear Miss Jayne”, the first one began. One of these days, Arthur, you'll simply call me Jayne. One of these days. When I'm old and grey. “Life here in the trenches is not so bad. I can't tell you where we are, of course. Fritz might get his hands on the mail and get some hint about where to shoot. Of course, they're all bad shots: the only way anyone gets hurt here is by bad luck, and by standing still for an hour or two. We had some good news yesterday: a German bullet went through our mess-kettle, and spoiled all the sprouts. Just as well, as you know I've never liked them.” Jayne looked up, surprised. He'd always liked sprouts. She laughed then, and called out to Amy “I know where they are, and it's not France!”

Monday, March 8, 2010


I'm on holiday. And yesterday morning we went to Tauranga, to sort a few things out for Jenny's son. Actually, that's what Jenny went for. I went to go to the Mount, and do obscene things in the surf.

The first obscenity was, of course, shedding the shirt.Once the babes, bimboes, bimbettes, and Bruces had fled in horror, dazzled by the pure white light being reflected from the Al-abaster body, I flung myself at the ocean.

The resulting tsunami knocked several surfers off their boards. But the bliss of it! It's been far too long since I hit a salty and wavey body of water. The surf was running at around a metre, and in 45 minutes I managed to catch exactly two waves. Count 'em, and weep.


Yep. I, who used to wobble about reasonably convincingly on a 165 centimetre bright green Bob Davies surfboard, have even lost the ability to bodysurf. Crap!

The memories were faulty in other ways, too. I find I've lost the ability to look at the surf and tell immediately whether the tide's coming in or going out. And I was telling Jenny about the blowhole. Everyone knows about the blowhole at the Mount. But f*&% me! I couldn't, with any confidence, point to where it was!

So I made a decision. When I retire (ho ho ho!) it will be on the coast, and probably at Katikati or Waihi. Close enough to the Mount and Whangamata for an old fart to reconnect with one of the few truly enjoyable activities of his teenage years. Yep: perving. No, no, no... I meant doing great things with a terrific right hand break.

Reading: "Stalingrad", Anthony Bevors, or whatever his name is. I'm on a bit of a WWII jag at the moment, it seems. I've learnt two things. No, three. One: Adolf is a moderisation of the Hunnish name Wolf. Hence naming his little mountain holiday bungalow "the Wolf's Lair". Two: the brave, but foolish, Polish cavalry charge against the Cherman tanks wasn't the last cavalry charge of any war. The Russian Cossacks made many a cavalry charge in 1941, often with surprisingly succesful results. Three: The Americans didn't actually win the war. They helped. And good on them.

LISTENING TO: Ray Davies, "Other People's Lives". Fourth or seventh listening, and it's ridiculously good.

LAST MOVIE WATCHED: Pelham 123, the remake, with Travolta and me. Denzel, I mean. I still find it disconcerting watching Denzel on screen. He just looks so uncannily like me... and, in this movie, he's wearing spectacles! Travolta does a good job of portraying someone with cockroaches crawling around inside the cranium. I enjoyed it: a better than fair BDAF.

More RATS:

Four months ago, Timothy Copthorne, Augustine's flame-haired son of just 17 winters, had shipped out for France.
“I've some mail from Arthur, August. Will you tell Amy?”
“Straight away. She's of no bloody use to me as she is. She's just a mope, that girl. I'm at my wits' end, Jayne, and Mrs Copthorne's taken ill again.”
“Do you want me to send the Doctor up?”
“No, no. I think she'll be all right. Just the weakness again. You know.” The miracle was that Katherine Copthorne was still alive. She'd never been a strong woman, and giving birth to Amy had nearly killed her. When the couple had gone away fro a two-year trip to England and Europe and returned with young Timothy, the town had been astonished. Katherine had, since then, spent half her time in her sick-bed.
The blessing was that both Amy and Timothy took after their father: strong, long of limb, and as healthy as one of Jayne's Clydesdales.
Twenty minutes after making the call, Jayne saw the Copthorne horse-trap enter the square. In the meantime, Jayne had sorted the mail, and sent the boy out to deliver it, keeping a further four letters under the counter. Those ones she'd deliver herself – they had been written by boys whose photographs had featured in Jayne's shop-window.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Sunday Scribbles XXVI

Ain't it just a kick in the pants? Good news one week, bad news the next. I still haven't got the thing sorted in mymind, but at least I'm coming to terms with it. Adam and gabrielle seemed so genuinely happy at their weddin', just 16 or so months ago. I don't know the whys and wherfore, but at least they seem to be behaving well. I wish I could say that had been my experience, but I can't.

When I awoke this morning, it was to the tune of the Dr Who theme. I had been dreaming that I was in the Doctor's latest adventure. It was a Cybermen story, set in the bowels of the BBC itself: I had been invited to do a four hour mid-day shift on a BBC radio station, and the metalmen chose that time to invade. I was up for it, however, and vanquished the foe... with a little help from the Doctor and his sonic screwdriver.

I don't know how many people dream entire TV episodes or movies, but I often do. I remember them vividly for oh, an hour or so, then they fade. I should really write them down, but the fact is I'm busy right now writing other shit down. I'm working on a new project that's reallygot my blood fizzing. In fact, I'm going to spend an hour or three adding to it today. I have to say that it's about the best thing I've written in a long time: Jenny agrees with me, too - and that's important.

The cricket's on free-to-air TV, where it belongs, and we've had two thrilling games. At the end of the first innings yesterday I really didn't care about the final result (although another victory would have been nice..) because the standard of the Black Caps' fielding was so outstanding. I know you don't get any points for winning that battle, but if you did, yesterday's score would have been NZ1, Australia 1. Neither side batted well, but both sides fielded brilliantly. Best batsman was,of course, our Danny. Jenny and I have followed Vettori's career with glee ever since he was first capped.

Another perfect day in paradise. The weather's just superb. Might get to the beach today..

We're on hollerday, too: a week off. We're off to see Roland in Tauranga for a day or two: I'm looking forward to doing some body surfing at the Mount. I'll let you know how much of a dick I make of myself.

I have to say I'm tired of pain. Physically, I've been in a lot of pain over the past couple of months. I shudder to think what it would be like without the modern arthritis drugs. I shake my head in wonder at what my Dad must have sufferede: his arthritis was so much worse than mine.

LISTENING TO: Nina Simone, "Best of". YUM! I heard an interview with her daughter, who's appearing at the Art's Festival in Wellington (sob. Can't get there. Sigh. Weep.) and they played a couple of her tracks. Sorry, but it's not a case oflike Mother, like daughter. The daughter, who cimply calls herself Simone, is more of a WhitneybloodyHouston warbler. Very good, mind you.

READING: I'm on the last 100 pages of Stephen Ambrose's "D-Day". Reading the horrow of what happened to the American troops on Omaha Beach would keep anyone awake. By contrast, the others troops got away so easily. Thankfully.

WATCHING: Stephen Fry tonight.


...when the grimmest news Amy had ever known had been brought brutally to her.
She'd since been around almost every day to check the mail, fearful that her beloved Arthur had heard her news. Jayne tapped the envelopes, and set them aside. She went to her telephone, and picked up the ear-piece.
“Nancy?” she called out. “Put me through to the Copthorne farm, would you?” Nancy, one of the town's three telephone operators, called back “Right away, Miz Jayne.”
The new Exchange, in the back of Jayne's General Store, was a marvel of modern technology. With it, Jayne could be talking to the Store-man at the big Farmer's Department Store in Auckland in just half an hour. It was, however, horrifically expensive: a two minute call could cost as much as three shillings. Local calls, however, were free – and the Copthorne farm was just on the edge of the small Exchange's boundary.
The phone was answered by Amy and Tim Copthorne's father, Ausgustine, with his usual gruff “Working.”
“It's Jayne, August. Good news.” Every time she called anyone in town she'd let them know straight away why she was calling. If she had news, she'd forewarn them. As Jayne saw all the town's telegrams first, she was therefore the first to know if there was any bad news from France.
“Good news? That'd be a change, Jayne.”
Four months ago, Timothy Copthorne, Augustine's flame-haired son of just 17 winters, had shipped out for France.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Thanks for your messages and thoughts.

I had just received some bad news: my son's marriage is dissolving. I really needed time to assimilate it. It was / is / will continue to be shattering.

'nuff said.

Service as usual from tomorrow morning.

READING: Wordsworth's poems, randomly.
LISTENING TO: Pink Floyd. "Wish You Were Here". Really, really loud.
WORD OF THE DAY: Helpless. As in: "I just feel so bloody...."

NO RATS TODAY. wait 'til* tomorrow.

*: Am I the only one left in the world today who understands that this word is an abbreviation? The full word is "UNTIL". The word TILL means to turn the earth, as in till the soil; a TILL casn also be a cash-drawer - as in "put he money in the TILL, Granville". The word UNTIL is abbreviated by using an apostrophe, as 'til.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I am going to be .... lazy, tonight. We've just received some bad news, and I need time to take it in. I am, to coin a cliche, shattered.
So I'm going to simply post a column that Al Gore (who wasn't born in Mangakino, but does share part of a name with me) published in the New York Times the other day. Read it. I need some thinking and grieving time.
So, a propos of nothing, here's Al:

It would be an enormous relief if the recent attacks on the science of global warming actually indicated that we do not face an unimaginable calamity requiring large-scale, preventive measures to protect human civilization as we know it. Of course, we would still need to deal with the national security risks of our growing dependence on a global oil market dominated by dwindling reserves in the most unstable region of the world, and the economic risks of sending hundreds of billions of dollars a year overseas in return for that oil. And we would still trail China in the race to develop smart grids, fast trains, solar power, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources of energy — the most important sources of new jobs in the 21st century. But what a burden would be lifted! We would no longer have to worry that our grandchildren would one day look back on us as a criminal generation that had selfishly and blithely ignored clear warnings that their fate was in our hands. We could instead celebrate the naysayers who had doggedly persisted in proving that every major National Academy of Sciences report on climate change had simply made a huge mistake. I, for one, genuinely wish that the climate crisis were an illusion. But unfortunately, the reality of the danger we are courting has not been changed by the discovery of at least two mistakes in the thousands of pages of careful scientific work over the last 22 years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In fact, the crisis is still growing because we are continuing to dump 90 million tons of global-warming pollution every 24 hours into the atmosphere — as if it were an open sewer. It is true that the climate panel published a flawed overestimate of the melting rate of debris-covered glaciers in the Himalayas, and used information about the Netherlands provided to it by the government, which was later found to be partly inaccurate. In addition, e-mail messages stolen from the University of East Anglia in Britain showed that scientists besieged by an onslaught of hostile, make-work demands from climate skeptics may not have adequately followed the requirements of the British freedom of information law. But the scientific enterprise will never be completely free of mistakes. What is important is that the overwhelming consensus on global warming remains unchanged. It is also worth noting that the panel’s scientists — acting in good faith on the best information then available to them — probably underestimated the range of sea-level rise in this century, the speed with which the Arctic ice cap is disappearing and the speed with which some of the large glacial flows in Antarctica and Greenland are melting and racing to the sea. Because these and other effects of global warming are distributed globally, they are difficult to identify and interpret in any particular location. For example, January was seen as unusually cold in much of the United States. Yet from a global perspective, it was the second-hottest January since surface temperatures were first measured 130 years ago.Similarly, even though climate deniers have speciously argued for several years that there has been no warming in the last decade, scientists confirmed last month that the last 10 years were the hottest decade since modern records have been kept. The heavy snowfalls this month have been used as fodder for ridicule by those who argue that global warming is a myth, yet scientists have long pointed out that warmer global temperatures have been increasing the rate of evaporation from the oceans, putting significantly more moisture into the atmosphere — thus causing heavier downfalls of both rain and snow in particular regions, including the Northeastern United States. Just as it’s important not to miss the forest for the trees, neither should we miss the climate for the snowstorm. Here is what scientists have found is happening to our climate: man-made global-warming pollution traps heat from the sun and increases atmospheric temperatures. These pollutants — especially carbon dioxide — have been increasing rapidly with the growth in the burning of coal, oil, natural gas and forests, and temperatures have increased over the same period. Almost all of the ice-covered regions of the Earth are melting — and seas are rising. Hurricanes are predicted to grow stronger and more destructive, though their number is expected to decrease. Droughts are getting longer and deeper in many mid-continent regions, even as the severity of flooding increases. The seasonal predictability of rainfall and temperatures is being disrupted, posing serious threats to agriculture. The rate of species extinction is accelerating to dangerous levels. Though there have been impressive efforts by many business leaders, hundreds of millions of individuals and families throughout the world and many national, regional and local governments, our civilization is still failing miserably to slow the rate at which these emissions are increasing — much less reduce them. And in spite of President Obama’s efforts at the Copenhagen climate summit meeting in December, global leaders failed to muster anything more than a decision to “take note” of an intention to act. Because the world still relies on leadership from the United States, the failure by the Senate to pass legislation intended to cap American emissions before the Copenhagen meeting guaranteed that the outcome would fall far short of even the minimum needed to build momentum toward a meaningful solution. The political paralysis that is now so painfully evident in Washington has thus far prevented action by the Senate — not only on climate and energy legislation, but also on health care reform, financial regulatory reform and a host of other pressing issues.This comes with painful costs. China, now the world’s largest and fastest-growing source of global-warming pollution, had privately signaled early last year that if the United States passed meaningful legislation, it would join in serious efforts to produce an effective treaty. When the Senate failed to follow the lead of the House of Representatives, forcing the president to go to Copenhagen without a new law in hand, the Chinese balked. With the two largest polluters refusing to act, the world community was paralyzed. Some analysts attribute the failure to an inherent flaw in the design of the chosen solution — arguing that a cap-and-trade approach is too unwieldy and difficult to put in place. Moreover, these critics add, the financial crisis that began in 2008 shook the world’s confidence in the use of any market-based solution. But there are two big problems with this critique: First, there is no readily apparent alternative that would be any easier politically. It is difficult to imagine a globally harmonized carbon tax or a coordinated multilateral regulatory effort. The flexibility of a global market-based policy — supplemented by regulation and revenue-neutral tax policies — is the option that has by far the best chance of success. The fact that it is extremely difficult does not mean that we should simply give up. Second, we should have no illusions about the difficulty and the time needed to convince the rest of the world to adopt a completely new approach. The lags in the global climate system, including the buildup of heat in the oceans from which it is slowly reintroduced into the atmosphere, means that we can create conditions that make large and destructive consequences inevitable long before their awful manifestations become apparent: the displacement of hundreds of millions of climate refugees, civil unrest, chaos and the collapse of governance in many developing countries, large-scale crop failures and the spread of deadly diseases.It’s important to point out that the United States is not alone in its inaction. Global political paralysis has thus far stymied work not only on climate, but on trade and other pressing issues that require coordinated international action.The reasons for this are primarily economic. The globalization of the economy, coupled with the outsourcing of jobs from industrial countries, has simultaneously heightened fears of further job losses in the industrial world and encouraged rising expectations in emerging economies. The result? Heightened opposition, in both the industrial and developing worlds, to any constraints on the use of carbon-based fuels, which remain our principal source of energy. The decisive victory of democratic capitalism over communism in the 1990s led to a period of philosophical dominance for market economics worldwide and the illusion of a unipolar world. It also led, in the United States, to a hubristic “bubble” of market fundamentalism that encouraged opponents of regulatory constraints to mount an aggressive effort to shift the internal boundary between the democracy sphere and the market sphere. Over time, markets would most efficiently solve most problems, they argued. Laws and regulations interfering with the operations of the market carried a faint odor of the discredited statist adversary we had just defeated. This period of market triumphalism coincided with confirmation by scientists that earlier fears about global warming had been grossly understated. But by then, the political context in which this debate took form was tilted heavily toward the views of market fundamentalists, who fought to weaken existing constraints and scoffed at the possibility that global constraints would be needed to halt the dangerous dumping of global-warming pollution into the atmosphere. Over the years, as the science has become clearer and clearer, some industries and companies whose business plans are dependent on unrestrained pollution of the atmospheric commons have become ever more entrenched. They are ferociously fighting against the mildest regulation — just as tobacco companies blocked constraints on the marketing of cigarettes for four decades after science confirmed the link of cigarettes to diseases of the lung and the heart. Simultaneously, changes in America’s political system — including the replacement of newspapers and magazines by television as the dominant medium of communication — conferred powerful advantages on wealthy advocates of unrestrained markets and weakened advocates of legal and regulatory reforms. Some news media organizations now present showmen masquerading as political thinkers who package hatred and divisiveness as entertainment. And as in times past, that has proved to be a potent drug in the veins of the body politic. Their most consistent theme is to label as “socialist” any proposal to reform exploitive behavior in the marketplace.From the standpoint of governance, what is at stake is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument of human redemption. After all has been said and so little done, the truth about the climate crisis — inconvenient as ever — must still be faced. The pathway to success is still open, though it tracks the outer boundary of what we are capable of doing. It begins with a choice by the United States to pass a law establishing a cost for global warming pollution. The House of Representatives has already passed legislation, with some Republican support, to take the first halting steps for pricing greenhouse gas emissions.Later this week, Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman are expected to present for consideration similar cap-and-trade legislation.I hope that it will place a true cap on carbon emissions and stimulate the rapid development of low-carbon sources of energy. We have overcome existential threats before. Winston Churchill is widely quoted as having said, “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes, you must do what is required.” Now is that time. Public officials must rise to this challenge by doing what is required; and the public must demand that they do so — or must replace them.

Monday, March 1, 2010

On The Firing Line

The Prime Sinister - sorry. Prime Minister. Yeah. Him. He made a rather astonishing announcement the other day. He said that the NZSAS troops in Afghanistan had been in a firefight, and that the exchange of fire was the first time NZSAS troops had fired upon the enemy.

Now, it has been pointed out by your humble correspondent that our humble PM’s name, JohnKey, rhymes with DonKey. In this case, it’s more than appropriate to point this out, as he has once again brayed useless noise into your ears, much as an ass does. And he’s made an ass of himself in so doing.

I refer you to Corporal Bill “Willie” Apiata, who (you may recall) was awarded the the Victoria Cross in 2007, for an action that took place in 2004.What follows is a quote from his citation. The emphasis is mine. I have not changed the words in any way.

“He (Lance Corporal Apiata) ordered his other colleague, Trooper E, to make his own way back to the rear.In total disregard of his own safety, Lance Corporal Apiata stood up and lifted his comrade bodily. He then carried him across the seventy metres of broken, rocky and fire swept ground, fully exposed in the glare of battle to heavy enemy fire and into the face of returning fire from the main Troop position. That neither he nor his colleague were hit is scarcely possible. Having delivered his wounded companion to relative shelter with the remainder of the patrol, Lance Corporal Apiata re-armed himself and rejoined the fight in counter-attack.

By his actions, he removed the tactical complications of Corporal D's predicament from considerations of rescue.The Troop could now concentrate entirely on prevailing in the battle itself. After an engagement lasting approximately twenty minutes, the assault was broken up and the numerically superior attackers were routed with significant casualties, with the Troop in pursuit.

It strikes me that unless the SAS Troop was armed only with catapults and spit-balls, it’s likely that they did fire their weapons, and with some high degree of efficiency.

By the way: reading it like this does give some idea of the difficulty of the occasion. He is a hero, and deserves our respect.

As a by-the-by, I would like to point out that he was born in Mangakino, where I spent the first 7 years of my life. These two facts are not coincidental. I am sure that he was inspired by having lived in the same tiny township that I had previously resided.

Reading: "Alibi", Joseph Kanon. Kool

Listening To: Sinead O'Connor, "The Lion and the Cobra".

Recent Movies: At the theatre, "Shutter Island". Very Good. At home: "3.10 to Yuma," and "Tombstone". I do like a good Western.

Word of the day: sweat. I did a lot of it.


Arthur slumped back against the wall of the trench, and sobbed.
Chapter Seven.
There's one advantage to being Postmistress, Jayne Francis thought, and that is I get to see the mail first. There were over a hundred letters from the boys overseas today: the ship must have docked in Auckland a week ago. The military postmarks gave nothing away, except the date the boys had posted them: there was nothing to indicate where the soldiers were. Most of the letters, however, were marked with mud-stains, with one of them carrying what looked suspiciously like a blood-stain. It might be nothing, Jayne thought. Perhaps a paper cut? Perhaps not. Perhaps just spilled ink.
In amongst the letters were eighteen from Arthur. Jayne recognised his open, looping handwriting. Her own name was on four envelopes, four to his beloved Grampa Smith, and – finally! - ten to Amy. Amy Copthorne had visited the General store at least three times a week, looking for mail from Arthur. She had two reasons, one dating back to Arthur's last leave before embarking for Egypt when Arthur had finally told her what she'd known for years, and the other reason hailing from only two months ago, when the grimmest news Amy had ever known had been brought brutally to her.