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.


  1. Gambling? Its a mug's game, and there's one born every minute, which is why its so popular. In hoping to beat the system, the system is perpetuated and fed. Marvelous irony. Iron butterfly? Now there's a more pleasant thought! My kind of iron-y. Best drum solo ever, and quite possibly the longest.

  2. It kicks off questions, though. Should we allow people to make arses of themselves, or should we legislate against it/ I'm more in favour of the former, but thre waste appals me. So much for drum solos. Now, when we start thinking about gambling....