Friday, May 28, 2010

The First of the Friday Follies!

There was a time in my life that Friday Follies would have involved the emptying of a glass tube, sealed at one end, and filled with something called beer. Probably several of them.
But now that I've discovered Jesus, my life has changed for the better. Jesus George, that is: nice guy, lives undera bridge in downtown Henderson. No, that's a lie. I don't know anyone called Jesus George. I simply threw in that line babout discovering Jesus (a very common name in Spanish-speaking nations) to see if you'd choke on your mac-cheese.
Not much to write about, actually. I'm curious to find out what really happened with all the gang /police violence in Jamaica, but NZ media doesn't seem to think it's interesting enough. How about drawing paralells, chaps? Jamaica / NZ? Tiny countries, huge neighbours, gang problems, drug usage out of control (yes,alcohol's far deadlier..), cricket-players.. If it happened there, could it happen here?
Tomorrow we celebrate Jenny's Mum's birthday. She's 91 - I thought she was older: I blame it on my natural proclivity for exaggeration. Working as an advertising writer for a really bug number of years does that to you. My inhalation of brewed liquids will rise sharply: My thoroughly admirable brother-in-law and I will retire to a place where we can drink and tell tall tales about our youthful sexual prowess.
Prior to that I am making the dinner: Boeuf Bourgignon as the main, Karen's Sticky Date Pudding (the best Sticky Date Pudding ever) for dessert. Wine and beer to wash it down with. I'm considering doing a seafood chowder to start: I do a fine one, featuring chili - and as little shellfish as possible. I will take requests for recipes, and may even respond.
Andy Haden sucks, by the way. Thumbs up to him for starting the debate. If what he claims is correct, some serious arse-kicking needs doing. Thumbs vigourosly down for him suggesting that the words "darkie, honkie, hori" etc are harmless. They're not. His acceptance of them indicates that he's a closet racist (as I am, by the way: I occasionally horrify myself by the odd stray thought that flashes across the cerebellum. Thoughts that deserve to be chased by a parabellum.) and he needs to take a few lessons in what's expected of a human being. The laziest and sorriest excuse for a thought is the phrase "PC gone mad": he was in trouble when he uttered it. He merely demonstrated that he has a good grasp of cliches, and may indeed be incapable of individual and intelligent thought.

Listening to: "Roots to Branches", Jethro Tull. One of their five truly great albums. Making my heart bleed right now is the superb song "I'm Beside Myself". It's a song that requires thought: Andy Haden may not be familiar with it. Coming up soon "At Last, Forever", one of the finest love songs ever written.

Reading: Still on the extraordinary "Directive 51", by John Barnes. Very witty, deeply cynical, and he's a writer who's not afraid to toss in a little philosophy: I've just read two stimulating pages on thoughts and ideas having impetus beyond the mind: that they may well exist indepedantly after being brought into existence. Bloody gripping stuff, quite exciting... not what you'd expect to find in a novel that wasn't written by some drug-crazed Frenchman in the 19th century.

More "Paper Heroes":

The first test is done. The first test is met. The first test is passed. The first three have wakened, successfully. Cienwyn speaks again.

“I will be opening our window again, and invite you to approach us. Please do not be alarmed. I know that this may be difficult for you, Colonel Blunt, and you, Sergeant-Major Whistler. Mr Crayne, as you will be acquainted with cryogenics, I would ask that you look upon this as that type of operation.”

The wall where the men had seen the window disappear slowly becomes opaque, translucent, then transparent. The men break formation, and face it together.

Crayne’s smile is grim. Mortal injuries? Cryogenics? This sounds like bullshit. The last I recall is when the Jester’s missile slapped through the rear of the Battlecar. There wouldn’t have been enough left for cryogenic recovery. Mind you, I feel better than I’ve felt in years. No hint of arthritis, my right foot’s whole, and there’s certainly no arrow in my lung.

“Can you two remember dying?” he asks.

“Dying, Sir? I can’t have up and died if I’m standing here with you now, can I? God bless Ireland, but I’m thinking this is not a fit place for a man to be.”

Blunt closes his ears to his friend’s voice, and listens instead to his body. He does have a vague memory of the hedgerows, the coughing bark of the French muskets, yes, the bayonet –

“No!” Blunt isn’t aware that he’s spoken, but he feels his legs tremble. He clutches at Whistler’s arm and said “Christ, Sean: we died. We died! I saw that little French boy cut your throat, I saw the bayonet – “

The big Irishman holds friend, hugging him to his chest. His words are a whisper. “Christ, Sir, don’t you be telling me this now. It’s all that’s been on my mind since I woke up on a bed that wasn’t there. I’ve been praying it was the brandy, so I have.”

“Gentlemen, if I can have your attention please?” The speaker is the oldest in the strange room. He is balding, has a prominent, arrogant nose, large ears, a protruding Adam’s Apple, and sharp blue eyes. He is wearing a soft grey blouse, tied with a red cord at the throat, and a loose blue kilt. The three men wait for him to continue. “My name is Charles Windsor. I am in charge here, and I’d rather like to sit and talk with you all. Tell you what you’re doing here, and all that. You have a lot to learn, indeed, a great deal to come to terms with. And we have a lot to tell you. I’d take it, yes, take it well if you were to join me. In a few minutes. Momentarily. Meantime, I’ll leave you with Cienwyn, Adam, and Paulus, to help you, yes, help you get oriented.”

The man’s speech is halting, almost as if he’s unfamiliar with the language. His voice buzzes like a wasp trapped in a jar: paper on paper, a faint edge of what: anger? Frustration?

Thomas Crayne, Andrew Blunt, and Sean Whistler watch as Charles leaves the room. Crayne steps forward, and taps the window with his knuckles. His voice is mild, with a warm, deep timbre. It is deadly dangerous. “I think that it’s time we met with you.” He points to the woman. She smiles. He smiles back, glacier-cold, his eyes chips of blue ice.

She shivers.

Cienwyn’s eyes colour-shift from blue to brown: a warmer colour, more easily trusted. She sees in Thomas Crayne’s face smile that it won’t work on him. He’s seen the change, and understands it. The Englishman has also noticed, and is clearly wary. He is reaching, groping for something. What? Yes. It’s where his sword would be slung. Adam and Paulus murmur something about it being good the men are unarmed. The two young men are clearly starting to wonder just what it is they’ve wakened. Cienwyn licks her lips. Good, thinks Crayne. She’s nervous.

She speaks. “Gentlemen: if you look over to your left, you’ll see an opening appear. If you’ll be kind enough to come to us? Just follow the lights.”

The three balls of light which surround the men move toward an opening which irises out the blank white wall. The men stay where they are. Good, thinks Blunt. The big stranger knows something about fighting, and the first thing you never do is follow your opponent’s lead. That way lies sure defeat. I have died once today, he thinks. Once is enough. The girl looks wary.

“Gentlemen? If you’ll just –“

“I don’t think so,” replies Blunt. “I think that Sean, the big Jonathon, and I will stay right here.” Blunt’s temper is starting to rise now. Who the hell are these people, and what the hell is going on.  Their arrogance infuriates him. “I think you should come in here. To us.”

“Sir?” It’s Sean. He’s been thinking, and watching behind them. “A couple of wee points, if I may, sir. Firstly, we can’t be dead, because you’re a bloody heathen Protestant bastard Englishman, begging your pardon, sir, and I’m the only holy Catholic one here, unless our big friend’s of the faith too. If we were dead, you’d be in hell, and I’d be enjoying a strong cup of tea with Himself, so I would. Secondly sir: there’s some bloody funny business going on with them behind us: the other sleeping ones.”

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hang on a minute, mate...

A week or so ago, Telecom's maintenance arm started a bit of a TV campaign. Beautifully shot pix of Chorus vans driving around sweeping country bends, through rainy urban streets, running through the night in gritty downtown Tauranga... interspersed with shots of technical looking men saying things like "I reckon we'll need to run 3 metres of ohm impeded superflange over this", and "I've checked the hyperbaric chamber, and it's showing a clear deficiency ofangstroms in the blunge." The voiceover guy, in the midst of his spirit-stirring sales pitch, comes out with one stunning line: "Last year, Telecom's Chor\us netwok maintenance team made over one million housecalls...."
Hang on. Back up the bloody van, Cheetah. In a country of 4.2 million souls, there's probably only a million or so houses. So if they made over a million housecalls, it can only mean one thing: the entire Telecom landline netwok is buggered.
The TV campaign is designed to make you want to buy the Chorus organisation when Telecom put it up for sale. One thing's for certain: if the Network's as rooted as they imply, the Chorus people will never be short of work.
Sorry I'm late: I may have to rework my blogging schedule. With rehearsals for "Brassed Off" now hitting the serious stage, and on my blogging days (Tuesday, Thursday, and Sundays)...I'll have to do a think. I'll be able to keep my Sunday Scribbles going, but my weeknight ones will have to move. Watch this space.
Movies seen: Hmm. I wanted to see "Robin Hood", 'cause I'm a crass act. Instead, we went to see "The Bookof Eli", because the beloved Jenny's so fond of Denzel Washington. Let's face it, she sleeps with Denzel's doppelganger. I do get confused when I shave. As for the movie: well, I had to do a lot of the old suspension of disbelief, but I'm good at that. The basic premise is simple: post-apocalyptic America, and all people all lose all their morals and beceome mindless thugs because all copies of the Bible have all been destroyed. Well, I could cope with that. The photography was superb, and Mr Washington and wossname, the bad guy, Gary Oldman, both chewed the scenery admirably. A pleasant diversion. But I wanna see Hobin Rood!
Listening to: Soundtrack for the movie "The Boat That Rocked". Pop / Rock music of my youth.
Reading: "Directive 51", by John Barnes. Science fiction, done well. Pre-apocaplyptic America so far, soon to be post-apocalyptic. I'd say Denzel Washington could play the lead role in the movie, except the hero is a woman. But I'm really, really liking it so far: as good as, if not better than, Arthur C. Clarke's shiney-orb series. No kidding.
More "Paper Heroes":
“Yes. Crayne. Thomas Crayne. I don’t know where we are. And you, sir, your name? Whistler?”

“Sean Whistler.”

Crayne studies the two men. They are obviously close friends, and trained to battle. They moved as one, each protecting the other. They knot their loincloths about their waists, as Crayne has done.

“Where’s the light coming from?” Blunt rasps.

“If you’re thinking witchcraft, Sir,” Whistler says, “then you’re off your rocker. With respect, Sir.”

“I think it’s a reaction to our electro-magnetic field that’s turning the lights on,’ says Crayne. “Clever.”

Blunt looks at Crayne with incomprehension, then points. Clothing. Neatly folded, on the floor. In another strange pool of light.

“Come on Sean. It’s our gear.” Crayne is impressed by the man’s air of command, and drifts after them. There are three sets of clothing: one fine charcoal suit, shirt, tie, socks, shoes, and underclothes. A military uniform that must come from the Napoleonic days, and a fine suit of clothes from the same era. Yes, thinks Crayne: Blunt is, Blunt was, an English Rifleman. A Colonel, no less. Whistler had been his Sergeant-Major.  What’s the right tense? Don’t know. Not enough data. Damn it, man: you’re too slow. Slow, old man.

Blunt dresses quickly in his green Rifleman’s jacket, leather French dragoon overalls, high boots. Whistler takes his time, donning layer after layer of clothing: shirt, vest, jacket, topcoat, overcoat, hose, trews, boots. Crayne feels a little more comfortable fully clothed, and is sure that he’s the only one to have searched his clothing for listening and watching devices. As he stoops to pick up and fold his loincloth, he glances sideways and smiles to himself: the other men have also rescued their loincloths, and hidden them away. There are more clothes available, and Blunt checks each pile.

“No weapons,” he grunts.

“No.” Crayne isn’t concerned. His mastery of the martial arts is complete, so he’s not powerless. And as he looks at his two companions, he is sure they’re quite capable of looking after themselves. The loincloths are weapon enough.


A female voice, low contralto, as warm as whipped chocolate. There is no point of reference for the voice: it seems, like the light, to originate from all corners of the room. Blunt grimaces: there are no corners. He can’t judge the size of the room. It tricks the eye. The room may go on for five yards or fifty, in any one direction.

The three men have moved to stand shoulder to shoulder, facing outwards. They are a bristling triangle of suspicion and anger.

“Gentlemen. Please do not be alarmed. My name is Cienwyn, and my colleagues and I have nursed you back to health following your,” she pauses, then continues. “Your mortal injuries.”

The three men stand soundlessly in their pool of light. Cienwyn almost gasps: their concentration on self-preservation hasn’t slipped at all, and yet she knows they would all be thinking about her words, chewing them slowly, seeking a false flavour. If she or any of the men in the operations booth had been in a similar situation, they would be talking, wheedling, trembling with fear. These three are, indeed, formidable.

As expected. As hoped.

The first test is done. The first test is met. The first test is passed. The first three have wakened, successfully. Cienwyn speaks again.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sunday Scribbles XXXVI

If you're a blues fan, then write down this name: Neil Worboys. Kiwi chap. And I've just acquired the album by him and the Real Time Liners called "Some Day Soon". It is fantastically good, ands should be high on every blues-lover's wish list. NW has been around a long time: Hogsnort ruper and the Bulldogs allstar band.. he's getting better with age, much like a good cheese. Not that the music's cheesey - far fromit. Look for Neil Worboys and the Real Time Liners in your favourite music shop, and make them rich.
I've also been listening, over and over, to Little Bushman. Too good to be true.
Jenny and I have been talking music lately, and our regrets at not having learnt to play an intrument in our more junior years. Well, she took piano lessons, under the firm and excruciating tutelage of the Little Sisters of St Mary's Convent: apparently as evil a place that has ever existed in New Zealand. To cut the short story long - we're seriously considering buying a guitar and electronic keyboard, and learning to play. All we need is the cheap instruments. Might be a time to go looking at Trademe.
It's a cool morning in Auckland. We've definitely hit winter: although in comparison to the temperatures at Reporoa, it's positively balmy. Here it is, just gone 9 on Sunday morning, and I'm in shortsleeves. Trousers too, of course.
We have the crock pot out, which is another sure sign of winter. Today, I'll be doing a new beef curry. Expecting guests, so I may have to crank up the pucker factor.
Rehearsals start in earnest on Tuesday. I even dreamed about them: that I'd completely forgotten all my lines, and how to read. Sigh.
Listening to: Well, you know.
Reading: "Shakespeare", by Bill Bryson. One of his more serious writerly exercises: so far, it hasn't told me anything new. I hate to say this, but I might be setting dear Bill aside.
More "Paper Heroes":
The four can feel a faint vibration through the floor: all they can feel or hear of the maelstrom of sound in the White Room.

The monitors in front of Paulus’ eyes shift, and flicker. “Awakening,” he says.

“Which one?” a bark from Charles.

“All three, as planned..”

“Which one?” the same question, but this time from Adam.

“Ah. Yes. I think the big one, Whistler, will waken first, but it’ll be a close run thing.”

“A pun? Surely not from you, Paulus,” teases Cienwyn.


“A pun – a close run thing. Waterloo.”

“I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about.”

In the room the colour-shifting light is flickering through the spectrum so fast that the three forms are bathed in searing white. The sound thunders and snarls, and even in the protected booth the four observers feel the vibrations grab them and shiver them.

In the White Room one of the bodies rolls to its side, and the lights snap off. The thunder stops. The storm is over. Cienwyn clears the window.

“Power use?”

“Just under 8. Less than half we expected. – and Paulus, you were wrong again. It’s the older man.”

“Still big, though.”

“Yes. Still big.”

The man is, in fact, far larger than the watching people. He groans, rubs an arm over his eyes, and stands. Cienwyn murmurs again, and the force-field which has supported the man over the past eight months is turned off.  Then, as the man goes to lean on it for support, she mutters a curse and instructs her P-See to turn it back on. Too late. The man’s reflexes are quick, though, and he regains his balance.

And stops.

And looks down, at his foot. His right foot. He lifts it, curls his toes, counts his toes, and puts it down again on the floor.

The surface is rough, and he knows his feet will grip hard if he has to move. He looks around him, his face expressionless.  He can see there are five other occupied beds in the room, two of them in circles light, as he is. He steps backward, to get himself out of the light, but the light moves with him.

One of the two lit figures stirs, then the other. He can hear their voices. Male, groaning, stifling swear words, slow to get to their feet. He can see that they’re both fit, and the smaller one, like him, carries a network of scars. The bigger man is just short of plump, but there’s a lot of muscle under the fat.

Charles opaques the window, and the sudden change attracts the attention of all three men. The smallest of the three speaks first.

“Where.” He stops, and coughs. “Where are we?”

“Good question. Are you Blunt?” the big man asks in response.

“I’m. Yes. A moment.” The man wipes his face with his hands, and looks about. “ Blunt. Yes, Andrew Blunt. Who are you? Wait: I know. You’re Crayne. And where are we?”

“Yes. Thomas Crayne. “I don’t know where we are. And you, sir, your name? Whistler?”

“Sean Whistler.”

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I've been Twilit.

Actually, if you say the headline as a three-year-old would, you might sound as if you're boasting about bladder control. I've been twoilit, Mummy. As it is, I have a confession: I watched Twilight. Yes. The movie. And... well,I have to say I was impressed.
Impressed in that I have never before seen such a cynically manipulative movie. It is, obviously, aimed at 15 year old girls. Perhaps 15 to 17.
Look at the list: the lonely, not-so-attractive schoolgirl who catches the eye of the absolutely gorgeous deadly dangerous predator, and conquers his most base desires (!) through his inability to read her mind. The quiet, reserved daddy, who's also good-looking in a dangerous sort of way, and who is an authority figure the entire town looks up to. The sudden acceptance of the ugly-duckling kid by all the coolkids at school, and by the really exotic family of the boyfriend that all the other girls want but can't get because he's been bitten - er, smitten - by her charms. Gauche meets louche, and sparks fly.
I'm sorry*. I actually don't think it was a bad movie. I kind of enjoyed it. Until my mind started working. The big unanswered question is this: what would a 110 year old guy possibly have in common with a 16 year old child?
And yes, I'm afraid I'm a reactionary old bastard, who does think that if a person's brain hasn't finished developing, then s/he is still a child. Regardless of the hair in their Jockeys.
* No I'm not. TOA.
Is creepy the new creative? We've all seen the new L & P commercials, which I must say fails on a host of levels. Perhaps I'm supposed to go to the website to catch the virus. But we started off with "That Guy" and the Hellers spots. He's permanently on Creep-o-matic, and that's cool: he makes it work.We also have the creepy fingers on the new Warehouse commercials. And the disastrous new Vodaphone spots, with their odd creeps in a classroom, acting out bad email practices. I can't figure out why the Nigerian is sayiong "Delete". Surely someone should be deleting him? Or at least he should be bellowing out the scamspam so loved by his countrymen... Creepy, creepy, creepy. And about as creative as instant pudding.
Just so you know: my wife is as clever as she is short. And she is very, very short. We've been pondering a problem for a couple of weeks, and she came up with an elegant, creative, non-creepy solution.
LISTENING TO: The soundtrack album from the Bob Dylan bio-movie, "I'm Not There". Right now, I'm blowing my ears out with "The Man In The Long Black Coat", as performed by Mark Lanegan. Cool.
READING: The Slow-Cooker Cookbook, as edited by the Hawera Lionesses. Wintertime, and the slow-cooker comes out. We're going to be currying some topside steak this weekend. Yum.
Senor (Tales of Yankee Power), as done by a chap who calls himself Calexico (sounds like Willy Nelson) is pouring itself into my eardrums. If music could be golden syrup, this'd be the starter for hokey-pokey biscuits straight away.
Wanna Go And See: Robin Hood. I'm all class.
More Paper Heroes:
A noise.

Not a grave, then.

I’m not dead.

Who is Crusader?

John Prester? Hanno?


There’s a humming sound. I can hear a hard humming sound, I’ve never heard a sound like that before, oh Jesus oh god what is it I can’t move I strain to move my arm I must be dead can’t move but I can feel I can feel, there’s something tugging at my arm, a pressure, and I’m, and I’m..

I’m calm. Calm now. Not dead. Alive, by god. Alive!

What’s this? Greens and browns. A white dress. It’s the farm. The farm. Home. I’ll have to put new shingles on that roof come summer.

Pandora. Who is Pandora?

Maybe I’m dreaming.

Maybe I’m dead.

“Number Five’s showing signs of neural activity.” Cienwyn murmurs to her P-See. It glitters red, querying. “Yes,” Cienwyn whispers. “Prioritise it. Wake the team, leave Charles asleep.” She instructs the P-See briskly, snappishly, quietly. Her honey-velvet voice crackles with excitement. Her hair stands on end, weaving a Celtic knot, rising and falling with pleasure.
Another four days pass. Each of the subjects in the White Room are now displaying occasional frenzied bursts of mental activity, and all have had to be restrained. It is decided to waken them in two separate groups.
Chapter Four.

9.42am, January 18, 2387.

The sleeping forms are still. There’s no sign of the activity of the past days. The walls are a little brighter now, and it’s harder to make out the doorway. Through the observation window, Cienwyn is joined by Charles, Paulus, and Adam.

Cienwyn’s facial tattoo has vanished. All four are clearskin today; all four are wearing clothing that covers their bodies. Charles is a little uncomfortable: He hasn’t worn so much clothing since he was a child, attending the Prime’s annual dance in Samoa, and the constraints of sleeves and trousers annoy him.

Charles is also sweating nervously. It astonishes him: his em-bots should be controlling this.

He indicates that Cienwyn should start the procedure, and she instructs her P-See. Through the polarised window, the White Room’s light dims, then three figures are separately lit. The light around them changes, and runs slowly through the spectrum, up into the ultra-violet, then down into infra-red and beyond. The sequence is repeated again and again, moving faster, flickering, each one slightly out of sync with the others. Cienwyn darkens the window further against the light, which is now so bright that it would burn her corneas. The four in the control room can feel a faint vibration through the floor: this is all they can feel or hear of the maelstrom of sound in the White Room.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Damn you, MM!

Well, not really. But you got me to thinking, which is an exercise best not indulged in until one has had a chance to sink a couple of hefty ales.

To explain: I had my bleat the other day about the sseas being treacherous. MM commented that yes,words do change meaning, etc and so on. MM is, of course, absolutely right.

Which left me gasping on the beach of that treacherous sea. Because I've been paying some nodding attention to the recent brou-ha-ha about the Ureweras, the Tuhoe, and dear old JonKey the Donkey.

Now, pay attention: I think it was Tamati Kruger I heard on the wireless the other day, but I could be wrong. It was certainly a Tuhoe spokesman. He was saying that the Tuhoe signed only the English version of the Treaty, and not the Maori Te Reo version. The word "mana" doesn't appear in the English version (it does in the Maori one)... and if it had, then the Tuhoe would never have signed even the English version.

Leaving aside the argument that there is no empirical way for anyone to know what would have happened 170 years ago if such and such had happened, or had been the case. It could be that the spokesman is right - it's equally likely that he's wrong.

But I do ask - thanks, MM - if it's possible, or likely, that Te Reo words change meaning as dramatically as English words do. If they don't, of course, it's a sure and certain sign that it is a stagnant language, and is approaching morbidity. If they do change meanings... then how can we be sure that a heavily-laden word such as "mana" hasn't changed over the past couple of centuries?

I have no wish to be mischievous here. I merely ask the question because I don't know the answer. Is Te Reo a vital language? ("Vital" here meaning "life-filled", rather than the later meaning, "necessary". See what I mean?) Or is Te Reo something that's stuck on the mud-banks of a dried-up lake?

If we are to take the Maori version of te Tiriti to mean precisely what it meant back in 1840, then are we also obliged to take the English version as being locked in time? If so, how would that change how we, as 21st century contemporaries, view the documents?

Again: I am asking these questions from a position of ignorance and curiousity. I have no way of finding the answers. Can anyone help me?

Incidentally: when it comes to the Ureweras, I know exactly where my sympathies lie. Give the whole kit and caboodle back to the Tuhoe. No question.

Listening to: Neutral Milk Hotel, "On Avery Island". NMH have made just two albums, both brilliant. The second album, "In The Aeroplane Over the Sea" has the extraordinary track "Holland, 1945" on it. I don't have this album, but will sleep with anyone who gives it to me, as long as they are Sandra Bullock. Someone has to.

Reading: Still on the chick-noir book, "Die a Little". It is amazing. I have even read bits aloud to my Mother. I want Spike Jonze to make the movie. Also still on "The Pacific", Hugh Ambrose. Get it, read it. (That instruction gioes for both books).

Word of the Day: Discombobulate. You'll always know when my Mother's been staying with us. I end up being discombobulated. Next week: hobbledehoy.

PS: Thanks to everyone for your birthday wishes. 58 yesterday. I don't feel a day over 80.

More "Paper Heroes":

Cienwyn, ever conscious of the old superstitions, crossed her fingers, hoping that the shoulders of the Sleepers may be strong enough to carry the burden they were soon to have laid upon them.

Since the catastrophes in Old Russia, England, and India 18 months and more ago, there had been a further 52 occurrences of the violence and insanity. The entire McMurdo base that had been continually occupied for over three hundred years had been wiped out to a man, woman, dog, and gengineered penguin colony.
In Tokyo, over 145,000 had perished, and – astonishingly – Hiroshima had reactivated herself. The latter had been proven to be a coincidence, nothing more.
Pyongyang, in Korea – re-united in 2018, and the paranoia of the 20th and early 21st centuries a distant, if not repressed, memory – had suffered the collapse of their greatest university, and the deaths of thousands. Tens of thousands more in Brazil, in Australia, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Germany, and France had died. Almost no cultural group has escaped. Even little Luxembourg has suffered.
Cienwyn and Charles watch the awful hopes of a world slumber.
Six men, sleeping the sleep of the almost living. None may yet survive the quickening. Their peril makes Cienwyn’s skin crawl, and she rubs her arms, as though cold, and recrosses her fingers.

Chapter Three.
12.07am, January 13, 2387.

Flashes. Colour. The sound of tearing silk. The smell. Rotten eggs? Foulness. Gunpowder! Jagged red splashes in front of my. My what. Eyes. Yes. Reds and yellows and greens. Christ in his cups. I’m numb. Can’t feel – what? Fingers. Hands. Thirsty. Thirsty. Can’t be thirsty, it’s raining, a flash of red a crash a bang pain oh my god pain, swing the sword I’m going down I’m down, Sean, look out oh Sean, no! Jesus what’s that it’s a blade, a knife no a bayonet, a bayonet, coming toward my eye my eye Jesus my eye I’m a dead man. I can hear the bayonet scraping on the back of my skull as I. Die.

I can still think.
I can still hear.
Not silence. What?
A noise.
Not a grave, then.
I’m not dead.
Who is Crusader?
John Prester? Hanno?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sunday Scribbles XXXV

I'm taking a few days off work, as my sainted Mother has decided we can benefit from a few days of her company. The moment she decided that she was coming up here, and I had made the necessary leave arrangments, Jenny got a letter from the lovely people at the Justice Department, demanding her presence for Jury Duty.

This is the second time she's been called: I've never been drafted. As it is, she didn't have to sit on a jury: just miss a couple of days' work, and sit around a draughty courthouse. What fun.

So Mum arrived on the bus, in the middle of the roughest weather we've had in a long time. The wind was so strong I had to leave her in a bus-stop, and go to fetch the car. The wind literally stopped her in her tracks as she was crossing Queen Street.

Fortunately, she was laughing at the time. Proper weather is fun.

We've since tiki-toured about, yon and hither. I found a superb second-hand shop in St Helier's: I am now the proud owner of a bright yellow shirt, $15. Calloo, callay. Puhoi was next: a quiet stroll through the pub and hugely expensive antiques shop... then devonshire tea 300 metres up the road. I think it's called Puhoi Cottage: you can't miss it, as it has CAFE painted on its roof in two-metre high letters. Charming place, chirpy little Englishman, and scones the size of Tasmania. My Mother has decided Orewa is beautiful, and wants to move there... or Red Beach, at least. I'm doing my best to convince her that Invercargill's where she really wants to be. Family is brilliant, and often made more so by living in another country - although I do wish my sons and grand-daughter were a little closer to Northcote.

Today we're entertaining family: all my brother's daughters and their sprogs are coming around for lunch with their Nana. I think there's be around a dozen here. Jenny is, naturally, setting up to feed the Abyssinian Army. At least the weather looks as though it's going to behave. We've had some much-needed rain, although I must say that getting a week's worth in ten minutes is taking things a bit too far.

Anyway. Must go: Jenny's waving a potato peeler at me.

READING: "The Pacific", by Stephen Ambrose's son. It's the companion volume to the TV series, and is very good.

LISTENING TO: Acoustic Alchemy, "Positive Thinking". Which reminds me: my sudden crazed descent into positive thinking and new-age crystal-sucking mind-over-matter self-deception ended in abject failure, as I suspected it might. I fled to a new doctor, and stocked up on some new and miraculous drugs. Always remember this: pain is a real bummer, and it hurts. But if you do decide to get some, make sure you have modern drugs on hand, with exciting new ingredient "Snibbo"! Snibbo takes away pain, and replaces it with the feeling that you really do deserve that new Maserati you saw yesterday. Snibbo is also good on household stains, and can scare away large dogs. Use Snibbo, and your life will no longer be the drab and mundane thing you suspect it is: it will instead be beautiful, and blissful beyond belief. Snibbo: available now at your apothecary, saddlery, and haberdashery. Just 1/6d a bottle. You should never be without Snibbo in the house.

WATCHING: Well, probably not Doctor Who tonight. Sigh. Mothers. But I am going to see Russell Hood playing Robin Crowe: I need to see some blood, and soon!

More Paper Heroes:

The man she is addressing is her brother. Almost naked, narrow-chested, and balding, Charles murmurs “Sorry, Cienwyn. Shan’t be long.”
She shrugs, and turns back to her watching. She is staring intently at the six forms in the room, her gaze flicking from the group of three near the door, the one loner at her right, and the two directly opposite her window. It was the lone form that garnered most of her attention.
All six seem to float in the air with no visible support. They no longer needed the constant and intensive medical attention that they had had over the past three months in the tanks, when their flesh was being re-created, re-formed.
The one the woman is watching most closely is huge. He weighs – she knows this exactly – 123.76 kilograms. His musculature is impressive, almost unwieldy. His deep ribcage is rising and falling with each breath, and a strip of cloth has been draped over his loins – indeed, all six people in the room have this concession to their modesty. It is hard to know how they will react when they awaken.
There: a movement, from the big one. It was his left hand, clenching and relaxing. Close, and open. When he’d done it five times, she accepted that it is a purposeful movement, and not an unconscious reflex.
“Status on Number Three,” she murmured.
Information from the monitors was projected directly onto her left retina, backed up by a whisper in her left ear. She read, rapidly. Number Three’s blood pressure was rising, his heartbeat now at a steady 63bpm. Astonishing. They were all the same. Superbly well-conditioned men, ranging in age from 25 to nearly 60, but all in excellent physical condition, despite the scars their bodies still bore. Many had been smoothed over in the initial designs, but it had felt right, somehow, that there should be some sort of external reminder of past injuries. All internal damage, of course, had been repaired.
The big man’s hand relaxed, and lay still, fingers curled slightly.
“We’ve had more movement, Charles.”
“Show me,” he orders. “Give me the feed.”
Cienwyn murmurs an instruction, and the data stream is tight-beamed to him. He raises his head, thinking. “Extraordinary. Once again, they all quicken ahead of schedule.”
“Shall we let them take their own course?”
“Yes, I think so. When we tried to slow down the last ones, they failed. I still have nightmares.” Charles scratched an armpit, and stood, stretching. “Although the gods know it is the right thing to do. It must be. We can hardly do worse.”
Cienwyn grunts, and remembers the others: forty-two of them, all dead. Not that they had truly lived, but it is an aggravation that they did not succeed in wakening.
“Yes,” she says. “It was difficult. Do you think they’re conscious now?”
“No. Not yet.” He replies. “They’re still uploading.”
This is the time of greatest danger. This is the time that so many others who had lain in the room had died. Not died: failed. This is the time that the information is being bundled into them, the time that their nanotech-enhanced bodies and minds are programmed, that their minds are forced to accept what has happened, and what is happening. When they awake – if they awake – they will know things they never dreamed of. And they will, probably, know without understanding. This process has never before been attempted: indeed, it has been deemed unethical, and outlawed. Yet it seems that the fate of the Commonwealth may rest on the illegal and unethical operations being committed on the six still slumbering men in the White Room. Cienwyn, ever conscious of the old superstitions, crossed her fingers, hoping that the shoulders of the Sleepers may be strong enough to carry the burden they were soon to have laid upon them.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The clothes that maketh...

They used to say that the clothes maketh the men. Of course, any critical look at that statement would expose it for the sham that it is. I, for instance, could put on a flash pin-striped suit, and a $200 shirt, with a $100 necktie. I may look like a Lambton Quay lawyer, but I'd still be the same old shabby bum.

That being said, sometimes clothes can make a difference. My dear old Mum is with us for a week. She's spent the last 60+ years doing voluntary work; of late, she's managed an Op Shop, for her church in Napier.

A few months ago a young fellow walked in. He was, he told them, a father of two, on the bones of his arse, and had no decent clothes. He also had an important job interview that afternoon.

The Op Shop girls - average age 78 - went to work. They found him a suit, shirt, tie, socks, and a pair of shoes. He looked, apparently, a million dollars. Well - $10,000, anyway.

Off he went, in his "new" clothes. All up the outfit should have cost him $15: money he was reluctant to spend. He had kids, he was on the dole, his partner was unemployed. You know the story. They gave him the clothing on credit.

Two months passed. The ladies gave up. Actually, they'd given up on their $15 when he walked out the door. Kind-hearted they may be. Stoopid, they ain't.

A s I say: 60 days had gone by. He walked back in, wearing a brand new suit, and a smile that'd dazzle a sun-god. He laid $200 on the counter, and thanked them. He'd got the job. It took him a little while to get back on his feet, but when he did, he remembered the girls at the Op Shop.

Good stories need passing on. Feel free.

Listening to: "West", Lucinda Williams. She is hugely good. For a country singer. Actually, she's to country what Satchmo was to Jazz.

Reading: "Lunstrum", Robert Harris. Good good good good.

Word of the Day: Bloviate. I have yet to find anexcuse for using this word, but I love it.

About to Watch: Dean Spanley. Cool.

More "Paper Heroes".

It was also found that the weapon worked by turning an individual’s embots against their hosts, re-programming them brutally and instantly, sending the citizens into a killing rage.
It was obvious that the weapon must be destroyed, or neutralised. What was difficult was the doing. The law constrained The Defence Team from making personal acts of violence, and the very low frequency waves were immune to jamming.
“Which means,” Charles said dryly, “we’re stuffed. There is, however, an answer: we send others to do the task for us. We need to find a band of heroes who are not constrained by our Law.”
“But everyone on the planet is held to the Law.”
“Everyone except ‘Merikans,’ said Cienwyn.
“Problem is, old girl, getting them. So I propose we don’t look for our heroes in the here and now. We look for them in the past. “
“The past?” Paulus was curious. He was dressed in a purple kilt this day, and he perched on the side of a desk, his tattooed legs swinging.
“Yes. We use heroes from the times before: men and women who are now dead, but who we can recreate and rebuild, and remake with their old memories intact.”
And so the planning began: scouring the old records for people who were of an heroic nature, people whose stories had been recorded in detail. Soldiers, lawmen, gunmen – killers.

Chapter Two.
3.23pm, January 12, 2387.

There are six of them left. There is space for another 48, but only six survive. The failure rate has been appalling, but necessary. As it is, no-one has died who was not already dead, so the Law has remained intact. Such is the rationalisation.
The last six are still sleeping, their vital signs monitored constantly. If you were in the room with them, you’d hear a quiet susurration as the air-conditioners pumped the oxygen-enriched air into the room at a constant and gentle 29 degrees centigrade.
The room has no corners, no hard edges, and is bathed in a soft white light that emanates, eliminating any chance of shadow. The observation window near the only door provides the only hint of colour to the room. There’s a woman seated in there, murmuring instructions to her P-See. She’s dressed in a startlingly yellow kimono, has bright red lacquer on her fingernails, and an elaborate tattoo graces the left side of her face. Her neon-black hair is animated tonight: it writhes and flares around her head, reacting to the intensity of her concentration.
Behind her a man is working, head bent down in concentration as he taps the keys of his antique style keyboard. She turns to him, to speak. Her voice is soft, and warm, with a honeyed texture that has caused more than one woman to bridle with envy. Her hair spikes with her irritation.
“Charles: would you mind working elsewhere? I need to think.”
The man who she is addressing is her brother. Almost naked, narrow-chested, and balding, Charles murmurs “Sorry, Cienwyn. Shan’t be long.”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Are the All Whites...all right?

Yes. It's great and etc about them going to Safrica for the World (Cup) Trophy. I'm super pleased. But.

Well, there's always a but. And this is mine. Big and hairy old but it is, too. Several months ago a team called the All Whites qualified for the World (Cup) Trophy. That means they get to go, and get dicked by various other nation's teams. Cool. No problem. But the team that's actually going has only just been named.... which means it could be a completely different team to the one that qualified. I'm pretty darn certain there's a few names on the team now that weren't there when the team qualified. There are people on the team who didn't qualify!

I'd like to see that in, say, athletics. It's 1964, and Peter Snell has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, to run in the 800 and 1500 metre events. At the last minute his place is taken by Brian Thimbledrone, because Brian's... well, a little more ... something. Or Valerie Vili qualifies for the next World Champs. They don't have a trophy-shaped cup. They have medals. Anyway, our Val is the current World Everything, and she's qualified, but before she goes someone else has a chance to qualify.... and Gertrude Throgmorton-Smythe is on her way, courtesy of a shot she putted at Wanganui High School, on Saturday afternoon.

Bah, I say. And humbug.

On my way home this evening, I stopped at a set of traffic lights alongside the sports grounds at Northcote. My ears were being hammered by voices on the radio: some pommy politic pundit, pontificating on the peregrinations of the proles, when I noticed something.... odd. The car next to me: the driver had wound her window down, and she was knocking excitedly on my passenger window. I hit the magic button, and the car was filled with the sound of several thousand birds, chirping and warbling. I turned the radio off. The lady beamed at me, and said "Isn't it lovely?"

Yes, it was.

Listening to: The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, "The Doughnut in my Granny's Greenhouse". It's not available anywhere anymore, although Terry Gilliam does have a copy he'll sell for twentythree bogillion Alpha Centaurian Zingles. Track down the BDDDB's Best Of CD. It's beyond brilliant.

John Cleese says so.

Reading: "Die A Little" by Megan Abbott. 1950s-style chick-noir. I'm loving it. If Raymond Chandler had sat down to wee, this is what he would have wroten.

More Paper Heroes:

The Sweat.
Chapter One.
February 18, 2386.

The Council had met, made their decision, and then left The Defence Team work on the problem. Subsequently, because of the knowledge that violence would be done in their names, two of the Council had resigned. As always, restraint had been shown by all. The problem was now The Defence Team’s, and the Council could politely ignore it.
Or so they thought.
There are seven people on The Defence Team: the leader, Charles Windsor, a demanding man, one whose imagination found original and daring solutions to problems. Cienwyn, his sister – flamboyant, restless, a risk-taker. Paulus and Adam, orphaned twins of the last people to have escaped Canadian ‘Merika. The parents had died while protecting their year-old boys, who had been rescued by an SRA hovercraft. It was risky approaching even the most northern shores of ‘Merika; but occasionally a radio message was received, and Commonwealth law was firm: a life in danger must never be overlooked. Since picking up the boys, there had been no further messages from the ‘Merikan continent.
Tranh Vin Tan, Sven Erickson, and Wong Lee completed the Team.
A number of years ago Charles had appropriated a facility within Mount Eden, in Auckland, New Zealand. He had seen to it that the computer system was cut off from the I-See, becoming one of only two computers in the Commonwealth that operated independently of the I-See: the other was on Titan, light minutes away from Earth.
The world’s communities had been traumatised by the deaths and madnesses. Thousands were in therapy, having their nanobots and embots recalibrated, and even having additional supplies of hypnotics and old-style tranquilisers dispensed to be taken orally. The deaths were the greatest crisis to be faced by the Commonwealth’s Council since “Poe’s Raven”, a private inner-space poetry boat had sent a distress call from the far side of the moon a decade earlier. No-one had died on that occasion: thousands were dead now, and the Council were glad to have the responsibilities off their hands.
It had been easily established that the deaths were caused by a new weapon in ‘Merika, and that the facility which housed the device was in the area once known as California. It was also found that the weapon worked by turning an individual’s embots against their hosts, re-programming them brutally and instantly, sending the citizens into a killing rage.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sunday Scribbles XXXIV

Altogether now. To the tune of "Yesterday":

You're not half the thing you used to be
You were a shadow hanging over me
Oh, I believed in treachery...

I know. I've said it before. And, in the sure and certain hope of sounding like a grizzled old curmudgeon, I'm about to say it again.

The mis-use of words devalues them.

When a rugby player sprains his ankle, it's described as a "tragedy", and he's "devastated" by it. Tosh. It's annoying, and he's slightly upset. And when a couple of hundred people drown in the Cook Islands because of the venal actions of incompetent civil servants, it's also described as a "tragedy". What - it's as upsetting as some footy player spraining an ankle? I think it's a little more severe than that.

I watched the TV progarmme about James Cook last night. It was, on the whole, very good, and I shall watch the next episode with interest. Only one major blue: right at the start, they had a shot of a childish Cook superimposed on the Union Flag. When he was a lad, the Union wasn't in existence, so the Union Flag (or Union Jack, when it's flown from a vessel) didn't exist. A trifling concern, and satisfying only to nit-picking old sods in stained trackpants. (Mine aren't stained, I hasten to add.)

But I was irked when the perky little presenter described the North Sea as "treacherous". Now, let's think about this. The North Sea is a dangerous stretch of water. Storms are sudden, and violent. In the days of sail, literally hundreds of craft foundered in the North Sea (I'm pretty sure it was called the German Sea back then, by the way. But let's not quibble.).

To sail into the North Sea was to put yourself into peril. So, you expected danger, you expected to be in danger. If a storm arose, the North Sea was meeting your expectations - which is precisely the opposite of treacherous. Letting go of the athropomorphic argument (a non-sentient thing cannot possibly betray you, because the act of betrayal demands a conscious decision), if something / someone does what they're supposed to do, they're not being treacherous.

If the North Sea became a pellucid lake every time anyone sailed upon it, then it would have betrayed all expectations. It didn't. Therefore, it was not treacherous.

So, when someone does willingly and unexpectedly betray you, knowing full well that their actions are going to hurt you... they're being treacherous. When something acts as expected, they're fulfilling your expectations, and being loyal to you.

The North Sea is not, and cannot ever be, treacherous. If a human motivation is to be ascribed to it... it's merely being loyal. Dangerous, perilous, and loyal.

LISTENING TO: Johnny Winter, "Johnny Winter". His first album, and the first pure blues music I ever heard. It was a stunning revelation, after the Pat Boones and Doris Days the radio played back in the 50s and 60s.

READING: Finishing "Dewey" today. It's really, really sweet.

GOING TO: Jenny's Mum's place today. Happy Mother's Day to allMumsy-wumsys. It's not an exagerration to say that you are the most important people on the planet. Followed closely, of course, children.

More "Paper Heroes":

“48, Sire,” said Fox, giving his lover an extra few days. If there’s one thing that Gaius Andronicus Equus Gluteus Maximus isn’t, it’s numerically literate.
Fox left, leaving a trail of skin behind him. “Woman,” called The Equus. “Come in with your broom.”
The current wife of The Equus, his 13th to date, came in and swept the floor, keeping her eyes averted. One side of her face was blackened with bruising.
“Sanfrisco,” he told her. “I’m off to Sanfrisco. By train.”
“Sire,” she said, wishing him dead. But wishes didn’t work here. They never had. They never would. “The Pin grant that your travel is blessed.” She wondered where or what Sanfrisco was, and knew she didn’t care. If he were going there, then maybe she would have some time without him.
She was, as all his wives had been, Woman. She served and serviced him completely, rarely complaining. The bruise on her face was testament to the wisdom of keeping complaints buttoned in, buttoned down, closed in.
She sighed quietly, and swept. With luck she would go to Pin soon, and be rid of this life.
She looked around his office. The wide glass-topped desk was spotless, except for a few flakes of psoriatic skin. She removed them. She had once missed some of the Fox’s diseased skin, and The Equus had made her eat it.
Her stomach heaved at the memory.
Still it is an honour to serve The Equus. Her mother had served the previous one, and she had been the result. She felt her belly. It is possible that she was carrying a child herself. It would be a miracle if she birthed, though. Brother and sister shouldn’t quicken children.
The thought made her tremble, and she glanced up. He had his back to her, and was gazing out the window. She collected the dust, and went to leave.
“Woman.” His voice was soft, almost gentle. “Make the sign.” He had been watching her reflection in the window. She obediently turned to the great Shield, and looked at it.
A great Bald Eagle, wings spread wide, two rifles in its claws. It stands before the Stripes of Red and White, and under it were the marks. She couldn’t read, but she wouldn’t have understood them even if she had been able to. But she knew they were powerful marks, marks by which her life, and the life of The Equus, was driven. Had she been able to read the marks, she would have known they read NRA.
And the Divine Pin is that which starts the bullet’s fire, which strikes down the unbeliever. The Firing Pin. She made a pistol with her fingers, and "fired" it. Then fled.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Quiet Gambol In The Borogrove

I don't understand gambling, and I don't, therefore, understand gamblers. I simply cannot empathise with people who claim to be gambling addicts. That being said, I am sure the syndrome exists, and it is a dead certainty that gambling has ruined many lives.

Which is why I thoroughly object to the PR / spin people calling the areas in clubrooms and pubs that hold the god-awful poker machines the "gaming area". And they advertise themselves as having "gaming". It ain't a game. It ain't gaming. A game implies the honourable level playing field, equal opportunity to score / win / lose and so forth. The poker machines are geared to see that the person who feeds the money into the slot loses. Over 70% of all "games" must be won by the machine. It would be more honest of the to call it gam(bl)ing, or make a gam(bl)e...

But it's not. It's a sure fire certainty that, in the long term, the punter will lose. There's no gamble in it for the machine owners, or the TAB operators, Lotto shop proprietors, etc. There's no gamble or game in it for the punters, either: just a guarantee that they will do their dough. Dozey bastards. That's why I can't empathise with them. I can empathise with stupidity much more readily.

Stephen Baxter writes science fiction. I'm a sci-fi fan: have been since I was 8, and my old man left an Isaac Asimov "robots" book lying around. I still remember the delicious thrill of discovering Philip K. Dick, and Poul Anderson. However: Stephen Baxter. His books are roughly the same size as an average public utility building: say a small hospital, or a largish library. You could hollow out a Stephen Baxter book, and park a disused Concorde inside it. So, I've always been reluctant to open a Stephen Baxter book. After all, I have a crook shoulder. But today, as I starting wrapping myself around my lunch, I opened a Stephen Baxter book. I made sure the table was sturdy enough first, naturally.

Bugger. Over the course of my half-hour lunch break, in which I consumed my salad and cold sausages, cup a soup, dried fruit, crackers and cheese, I read maybe 70 pages. The introduction, in other words. And I am hooked. At this rate (I always have a lunchtime book) I should finish the book around 2037. I'll give you a report on it then.

Alternatively, you could hire a front-end loader, and get a copy for yourself. It's entitled "Flood", and is the first in a (gulp) series.

READING: You know you know. Because you've just read the previous 200 words.

LISTENING TO: Iron Butterfly, "In A Gadda Da Vida". Sigh. What memories. To think I used to bonk to that beat.... Thanks for the recording, Stu.

More "Paper Heroes":

“How goes The Installation, the weapon? What do we hear from the other side?”
“It appears to be working satisfactorily, sire. A tight beam of ultra-low frequency radio waves is focussed onto a Commonwealth town or area, and they go mad and kill one another.”
“Good. Good. That should teach them to go about denying themselves the ability to think. And they’ll never understand that it’s their precious nanotechs that are doing it. Re-programmed, of course. Well, I should imagine that it’ll be ultimatum time soon. Time for us to have our rightful share of their bounty. Bastards. If this doesn’t work, Fox, if this doesn’t work – never mind. Tell the men at the Installation-site that they are to be congratulated, that I hold them dear in my heart, blah blah, you know the drill. Tell them I want, say, another five demonstrations within the month. They can do that, can they?”
“Sir. They should have no difficulty.” Fox bowed, and started to leave the room, thinking that there may indeed be problems. Getting a continuous, trouble-free supply of energy to The Installation is still difficult. He had nearly reached the door when Gaius Andronicus Equus Gluteus Maximus stopped him, saying, “Fox: the other matter?"
“Ah. Sanfrisco, sire: your brother’s domain. I’m afraid the Unders are becoming troublesome. There’s a nest of them, Scarab-free. Vermin, Sire, merely vermin. I should like to send the Black Brigade in, Sire, and clean them out.”
“How heavy are our losses?” Any loss to these vermin should be avenged, immediately. By the Pin, what the hell was his brother playing at?
“Seven, in the past eight days.”
“That many? I’ll think on it. No! We’ll do it. But we’ll do better than simply send the Black Brigade. We will lead them, Fox. How long has it been since we’ve travelled to that part of our Empire?”
“I believe the last time was, well, your grandfather, Sire. Perhaps 20 summers ago.”
“Yes. I was a child then, barely old enough to carry a pistol. The time has come to put my foot upon their necks, Fox. To find out what Marshall Patton is up to. Tell General Heston to ready his men, and we’ll cross the country by train. We can still manage a cross-country jaunt by train, Fox?”
“I’m sure we can, Sire,” replied Fox, not sure at all. “I’ll send a note to Heston straight away.”
“A pity we can’t telephone him, Fox. I do miss the telephone. Are we close to repairing the system?”
“The Lynx, Chairman Bell, assures me that it will be operable again in four weeks.”
“Tell him that if it isn’t, then the links will break.”
“Links. Lynx. It’s a pun, dammit, Fox. Oh, for Pin’s sake, never mind. Tell The Lynx that I’ll have him castrated, and fed to the bloody dogs. He has – four weeks. How many days is that, Fox?”
“48, Sire,” said Fox, giving his lover an extra few days.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wendy Myer, sisters, and Fiona Bloody Murray

Just who the hell is Wendy Myer? She's been appearing on my tele screen for a few years now, telling me that she's Wendy Myer (as if I should know who or what she is) and that she's speaking for "better living". She then proceeds to tell me about the 1001 uses for plastic bags (Gosh! You can put things in them!) and Glad Wrap. That's the stuff Americans call Saran Wrap, and the rest of ther world calls cling film. Apparently you can wrap sandwiches in the stuff, and slap it over a salad in a bowl to help it not oxidise. Bet that's a surprise to you. I know it rocked me back on my heels.

All I want to do is track the smug bitch down and tell her to go away. To Iceland, or Zimbabwe.

My elder sister called me this evening. What an astonishing creature she is. She's not only one of the nicest people I know, but one of the strongest. Her husband's going through chemo therapy for about the 900th time, and that can not be easy for either of them.

I'm writing a brief history of the people in my family - one person at a time - for two of my favourite people. That'll be my sons. I've so far just completed little potted histories of my paternal grandparents, one of whom was a bastard, and the other a saintess. I can't wait 'til I write about my elder sister: it's a real privilege being able to write about people you admire.

Fiona Murray sent me an email today, telling me about a forthcoming celebration. Apparently she's turning half my wife's age on July 31st - the day my wife turns 60. They share the birthday. So the drop-dead gorgeous Fiona Bloody Murray turns 30, and for a short while is precisely half Jenny's age. But on 31 July 2011, Fiona will be catching up: she'll be more than half Jenny's age. Mwa ha ha ha. Fiona - you'll be getting older more quickerer than Jenny.

READING: Dewey, The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron. I can't help but think that Dewey was a close relative of Spike Malone, our ginger cat who died last year. Lovely book so far, not catty and mawkish.

LISTENING TO: "Into The Darkness", the music that accompanied one of John Connolly's books. He did it twice - put a giveaway compilation CD in his books. Introduced me to a lot of great musicians and bands: Red House Painters, The Handsome Family, The Walkabouts, Lullaby For The Working Man, etc. It is music he listened to while writing, and I must say his taste is bang on.

WATCHING: Yes. Dr Who. Watched it. He's a very good new Doctor...

More "Paper Heroes" for Gillian and company..

He was damned if he would.
Granted, the view from the third floor window isn’t as good. But it’s a lot easier on the legs when the power fails: something which has been happening with greater regularity of late.
The Equus has seen only 27 summers come and go. He is taller than the average Henry; nearly five feet and six inches. His face is calm and clear, white skinned. His nose is straight, his wide-set eyes blue and untroubled. His black hair is thick and lustrous, and reaches down to his waist. Today he has had Woman plait it, and tie it off with a black ribbon.
His uniform is splendid, as black as his hair, with silver trim around the high collar. The jacket is cutaway, revealing a fine white linen shirt under a blood-red waistcoat. There is lace at his wrist, and a ruby ring on the index finger of his right hand. His trousers are tight, hugging his legs, and disappearing into knee-length boots, burnished black.
The Equus is the hereditary ruler of the Henrys, and his will is law. And so it is his will that First Minister Fox knock at his door, and enters.
“Gluteus Maximus: hail,” says Fox, saluting the boy. Fox is a shrew of a man, over 50 summers, balding, and tormented by psoriasis. He constantly twitches and scratches, and leaves a trail of dead white skin flakes behind him.
But that’s all right, muses The Equus. That’s what Women are for.
“Fox?” The word is drawn out, almost as insult. Nothing could be less fox-like than this creature. Yet The Equus was stuck with him. The Equus’ mere desire may be law in all things, but there are many things he cannot change. First among these is the hereditary nature of his position, and the positions of his ministers.
“Fox? Come man, speak.”
“Gaius Andronicus Equus Gluteus Maximus, sire. I have a report from The Installation, and some worrying news from Sanfrisco.”
The Equus grimaced at the use of his name and title. Custom and rigid decorum dictated it, but it annoyed him. Such a waste of breath. At least from now it would either be Sir, or Equus.
“How goes The Installation, the weapon? What do we hear from the other side?”

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sunday Scribbles XXXIII - sort of

Everyone has their verbal tics. Those little space fillers we use to cover the fact that we've run out of words, and are thinking of something to add to what we're in the process of trying to explain. One that I've been noticing more and more of late is "sort of". At first, I thought it was another example of our charming Kiwi diffidence: we don't want to be too definite about anything, just in case the person we're talking to thinks we're an opinionated blowhard. An example: "I was walking down this sort of path, when this huge dog sort of lunged at me. Gosh, it gave me a fright! I was really sort of startled."

That's the (ahem) sort of statement I hear from people chatting about thing. I have also noticed that TV "journalists" use it a lot, as well - especially with the current craze to "Go live to Amanda Pertbreasts in Wellington". She'll be standing there, cute as a button, outside Parliament, speaking breathlessly to camera, "The Prime Minister today sort of explained that the new tobacco taxes..."

But it's not just us. I've heard British, American, and Canadian journos using this little verbal tic. It sort of annoys me, you know what I mean? Sort of? But not really.

In the past I've worried at the question of nobility. I think I have it nailed down: always allowing the person or people you're dealing with to retain their dignity is the true expression of nobility.

READING: Still with the Val McDermid book, but am also reading and re-reading the script of the play I'm doing. Rehearsals start with a vengeance today: Yay!

LISTENING TO: The Little Bushmen. They are simply superb. Buy all their stuff, right now.

WATCHING: Dr Who, tonight. After rehearsals...

More "Paper Heroes":

Then a quick kick sends the bodies into the Bay, for the grey and white sharks to conceal his work.
The rain has stopped by the time Night completes his work. He stands, putting his hands to the small of his back, and stretches. The moon comes from behind a ragged cloud and, had there been anyone to see him, they would have admired the smooth, even planes of a classically handsome face, framed with tight red curls. His limbs, like all Folk, are long and strong, and his chest deep, accommodating a huge heart and lungs.
In fact, his chest – again, like all Folk – is unnaturally deep, and unnaturally short. His spine was humped and curved and tortured, and a constant source of pain.
The Henrys, on the other hand, were on average shorter than the Folk, but proportioned like the Men of old. They came to Sanfrisco from the East, after the Nuking. They came from the East, with their tek, and with their Whitestar.
The Nuking had happened Before, and their poisons had filled the land with death and decay. And the Henrys came from the East with their Whitestar, which would stop the poison, and heal the land.
Which, to the truthful, it had. But it had also enslaved the Folk, and the Henrys had come with their Scarabs, calling the Folk “Unders,” as though they were less than Folk. The Henrys had made the Folk wear the Scarab on their wrists, as they themselves wore it: but the Folk’s Scarabs guaranteed them a short and pain-filled life, while the Henrys’ Scarabs simply monitored their whereabouts, and kept them healthy.
And straight.
But not all Folk wear the Scarab now. Night looked at the back of his wrist in the pale moonlight. He was now the fifth Gen of his family to have escaped the Scarab. His wife, Lana, proudly carries the scar of one who had undergone the appalling pain of having Doc Ford cut her Scarab away.
Night shoulders his burden, and lopes off, keeping to the shadows, running the alleys, tapping the codes, letting all know that tonight he has relieved two Henrys of the burden of their lives.
Two Henrys dead this night. Two Scarabs taken. A good night.

Chapter Four.
9.47am, N’Yark Time, November 6th, 2386.

Gaius Andronicus Equus Gluteus Maximus adopts a PowerPose, as recommended by The Book, and stands by his window, looking out. His hands are clasped behind his back, and his weight rocks on the balls of feet. He allows himself a small smile of congratulation: it has taken him the full five years since his Ascension to get this lower office, and he wasn’t going back upstairs in a hurry. Let his minions, yes, even First Minister Fox, climb the twenty-seven sets of stairs. He was damned if he would.