Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Play's The Thing

As you'll know - if you've been reading my blag on a regular basis - I've just been a part of a remarkable group of people who were brought together to perform a play.
It was a remarkable gathering, made all the more remarkable by the fact that only a very few of the eventual cast and crew had known each other prior to the ensemble being assembled by our director.
The play, "Brassed Off", was a re-write (for the stage) from a highly polished screenplay. Every word had been buffed 'til it shone, every movement, every emotion was cleverly and cunningly thought through. The script was a gem.
At the auditions, I stumbled my way through the readings, and I was struck even at that early part of the proceedings how professional this group of amateurs were. I went home without much hope of landing a part. The director, bless her cottom socks, must have piled into a crate or two of sparkling sauvignon blanc, because I received the call that same day. I had a part. And not just a part - I got the very part I'd recognised that I could do some justice to.
The first time we came together was a riot: a dozen people, mostly strangers, who were going to be getting half-naked together in jst a few weeks (the dressing room / wardrobe is a small, tight, unisex space). We all pitched unthuisiastically into our first read through, and our director drew a deep breath, and said we done OK, orright? Actually, she'd never say anything that crude. But that was the essence.
I don't know how she did it, but some theatrical magic was woven over the course of the rehearsals. There was laughter, there was support, there were hints and helping hands and pleas for assistance. There were cakes and biscuits. There was hard work. A lot of hard work. Then the band (the North Shore Brass band, quite the finest band in the land) was brought in, and suddenly what had started out as a good kitchen sink drama / comedy became something... more.
We put in three months of rehearsals. This is a much longer commitment than normal - but it was necessary because some of the cast (indeed, the lead role ) were children, and we needed to have two teams of them. The amount of bitching and moaning that I could have expected with other theatre companies was deafining in its absence. Somehow, we had all individually made a serious, internal commitment to making this a happy experience.
Our romantic leads were theatrical novices, and they had a seriously heavy workload. They were brilliant.
The wardrobe people had to assist in around 150 costume changes. The props folk were brilliant - they had the props (hundreds of 'em) orgamised, on time, in place, every night. Oh - except for the paper knife, which went missing.
I even managed to get most of my lines right.
We had all made a personal commitment to a play, to a script, to an idea... with no real idea of how the box office would do. We all suspected it should do well. But theatre's a harsh mistress: she spanks you when you least expect it. Thankfully, Thespos was with us, because the show was a sell-out.
Every show, every production, will teach me something new about myself. This time - well, it was humility. I'd been a small (but important) part of something that was much bigger than the collective egos involved. And because we were actors, darling, there were a lot of egos - all of whom were willing to take a step back to make the play the winner on each and every night.
So, to my fellow cast and crew-members: thankyou. Thankyou. And thankyou once again. What an amazing bunch of people you all are. And I really hope we get to see each other again. If we should meet again, why - we will smile. If not, then our time together was well spent. A mangled quote, but I hope you know what I mean.
Reading: "Physics of the Impossible", Michio Kaku. I  hope they'reteaching this stuff at school.
Listening to: Bryan Ferry, "Dylanesque". Stunning.
More "Paper Heroes":
“Ain’t I, sir?” Whistler’s tone was sour. “Did you not notice that Charles chappy? Same goggle-eyed face as that mad bugger King George, sir. Got to be related. Put that together with the fact that we were press-ganged, sir, and we’re in the army, right enough.”

“An army of six?”

“Some six, sir.”

“I’ll make it an order if you like, Sean: no more sir.”

“Righto, sir. Andrew. Andy?”

“Andy’s fine. Yes, Hanno will be good in a scrape, and that wee man Grey has a few tricks up his sleeve.” They walked on, passing a half-dozen featureless doors, and Blunt said “I’m worried about the woman, Cienwyn.”

“And if you go falling in love with her, I’ll be the first to be telling your Mrs when we get back.”

“I don’t think there’ll be any going back, Sean.”

Whistler opened his mouth, then shut it like a trap. He trudged along beside Blunt for a moment, then said “This is wrong, sir. Andy, I mean. By rights I should be terrified. In fact, I am. But it’s like it’s not part of me. It’s something else. Somewhere else.”

“I know. I think it’s what they call their embots. I think they’ve fed them to us. We’ve got them, and they’re making us lie to ourselves.”

“That’s half their bloody problem, ain’t it. All very bloody noble, no violence, no more wars, very nice, very good. No anger, though? No fear?”

“Yes. I know. I’m wondering just how much freedom we truly have now.” He was worried about fear: it is a soldier’s friend and motivator. If the Sleepers decided to help out with this problem that they’d been brought back to life for, they’d need to do some soldiering: and a soldier who feels no fear is as useful as a bag of irregular verbs is to a bricklayer.

The two men followed the cats to the common room, and sat with Grey, whose tawny puma stood at his side, sharp yellow eyes flashing a warning at them. At another table Hanno was attempting to make small talk with the quiet American, John Prestor, but it looked like it was uphill work. The savagely scarred man sat still, stroking his cat’s head. He’d called it, for reasons no-one knew, Rambo.

Charles and Paulus sat in tight conversation with Crayne.

“There’ll be hell to pay over there soon,” Whistler said, watching the big American’s face. Crayne was thin-lipped, and frustration flickered in his eyes. “His face’d freeze a fire, so it would.” Crayne’s big black cat sniffed at his shoes. Crayne turned away from Charles, looked at Sean Whistler, and bared his teeth.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sunday scribbles - IIL

I just had a quick scan of the daily papers before I cracked open blogger.com: and I was so upset. I just felt like weeping. My life has, truly, been devastated.
Firstly I read that Paris Hilton, 28, has been arrested for cocaine posession. My heart just about stopped. Surely that drug it was planted by some malicious cop. I mean - Paris is kind of like, gee, Sister Mother Teresa of Calcutta to me, y'know?
Then I read a truly heart-warming story: it was right under the nasty cocaine story about my heroin, Paris Hilton, and it re-affirmed my love for her. It said that Paris Hilton, 29, had always wanted to be a teacher or a veterinarian, and if she'd had had the chance, like a couple of breaks y'know, she would have been, and she loves little children just liike Sister Mother Teresa of Kowloon, and loves animals too and has 17 dogs so there. I wish someone could have given her a break when she was younger. The world's just been so cruel to her, holding her back from her real ambitions.
Then there was a story about Heidi Montag, the poor thing, and hown she regretted the ten plastic surgery procedures she had in November, and how her new G-sized breasts made it difficult for her to work out, and how she'd like to have her breasts reduced to D, or possibly DD, but her mean plastuc surgeon just killed himself in a car-crash,and she's so sad 'cause no-one else can shrink her breasts. That bastard had no right to get himself mangled when she still needed him. Men!
Come the revolution, I can think of at least wto people who'll go to the wall... along with the simpering PR people and "journalists" who leech a living off these people's empty lives.
When I think of the astonishing women in my life, and the contributions they make to their families and society at large, and compare them to such individuals as Paris freaking Hilton and Heidi Montag (whoever she may be) and I know who I'd rather have at my dinner table..
Speaking of women: a Swiss ski champion was being interviewed about her sucesses at a South Island skiing competition. She was vibrant, good-looking, fit, and spoke with a broad Swiss-German accent. I was charmed to see her name: Fanny Smith. Excellent. The world is homogenising: Cockney Chinese, Innuit Malays, Russian Kiwis... give us another 50 years - time for the Islamofascist movements to die out - and we'll have Mexican Iraniains, Scots Saudis..
Actually, I don't know about the Saudis. With any luck they'll diksappear along with the dead-eyed Paris Hiltons of the world. I do not understand how we manage to ease our conscience by treating with the Saudis. They're a pack of murderous thugs, a nest of vipers, and they should be cleaned out. I mean - who do we think are financing the Afghanistani Taliban? Evil funding evil, but it's all right, ma - they have the oil.
Reading: Still on my BDAB, but it's going slow. Am also going through something called "All The Men Here Are Liars", but can't tell you the author's name. The book's on my bedside table, and Jenny's still asleep. Written by a lady journo who has spent a long time in Afghanistan. Brave, brave woman.
Listening to: Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez", London Philharmonic, and a classical guitarist whose name is not recorded on the computer file. Just... excellent.
Doing: a jigsaw. Bloody hell, they're difficult. I haven't put a jigsaw together in 20 years, and I'm starting to understand why. You need buckets of patience.
More "Paper Heroes" :
Blunt’s smile was brilliant, and the cat gave a quiet snarl of pleasure.

The corridor they were going down was a faceless and formless as any others Blunt had seen the previous day. Once again, the only indication as to where he should go was the lights that glowed in front of him, and the cat, trotting along, long tail held straight in the air.

“ ‘Old it,” said Bill. “ ‘Ere comes your mate.” They stopped, and waited. After a moment or two, a section of wall opened up, and Sean Whistler stepped into the hallway. At his ankle was a twin to Bill. “Morning, sir,” said Whistler. “Sleep well?”

“Better than we ever did in Spain. I see you have a cat, too. Identical to mine, by the looks.”

“Don’t know whether I’ve got the cat, or the cat’s got me, sir, if you know what I mean.”

“And not quite identical,” said the cat, in a mellow contralto voice. Blunt grinned, and said “I see. There’s a fundamental difference.”

“I should bleeding say so,” squawked Bill, indignantly. “Can’t you smell that she’s a she?”

“No, I’m afraid not.”

“Just as well you’ve got me around, then. Gordon bleeding Bennet, sis: he couldn’t even hear you.”

“’Umans,” she sniffed. “No hearing, no eyesight. How they became the dominant species I’ll never understand.”

Bill swiped at her, and turned to Blunt. “Boss, I’d like you to meet my sister. What name ‘as ‘is nibs given yer, then, Sis?”


“Oow, very classy.”

Clementine purred, twined around Whistler’s feet, and pounced ahead, Bill following fast after her. The two cats trotted ahead of the men, looking back occasionally to see that they were being followed.

“Sir,’ began Whistler. “I don’t know that I’m overjoyed about any of this. It’s a fine thing being alive, so it is, and no argument. But in a place where the cats talk, and there’s dreadful fookin’ music coming from the walls, and tables pop up from the floor: sir, I’m not a happy man.”

“Wait ‘til we get a full belly, Sean. And I think we can drop the Sir business. You’re not in the King’s army now.”

“Ain’t I, sir?” Whistler’s tone was sour. “Did you not notice that Charles chappy? Same goggle-eyed face as that mad bugger King George, sir. Got to be related. Put that together with the fact that we were press-ganged, sir, and we’re in the army, right enough.”

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I.A.N.A.C and I.A.N.A.B

Those of us who remember that great man of American politics, that doyen of honour and honesty, that supreme example of all that is fine in humanity - Richard Milhous Nixon - will remember his television appearance in which he stated, quite categorically, "I Am Not A Crook." Well, it seems that he may have just have been a tiny bit mistaken. Just as my opening statement may have been a trifle incorrect.
Tricky Dicky was, indeed, a crook. He was condemned out of his own mouth, really. Just as you know that Honest John, the used car dealer, is going to have the odd ace hidden up his sleeve, you know that anyone who says that he's not a crook is going to be as bent as a paperclip.
I am reminded of the bumper / rear window stickers I dribbled on about a few months ago:the christian laddies who proclaim to the world that "I love My Wife". Every time I see that notice, I am tempted to add a few words..."I love My Wife To Be A Subservient Slave To My Every Biblically Inspired Whim." Or even "I Love (to beat) My Wife".
So it is with some mean suspicion that I viewed our dearly beloved minor political leader, Rodney Hide, when he stated quite baldly (well, he does everything baldly: his shaven head gleams with menace) "I Am Not A Bully". I mean, please. Of course he's a bully. Can't he at least be honest about that? He's not as good at it as Rob Muldoon was, but the fact is he's a bully, and he shouldn't try to hide it. Oh, crap. Hide it. Sorry about that....
It occurs to me that his name needs a little punctuation: Rodney? Hide!
Listening to: Dire Straits, "Brothers In Arms". Enough, already. The first two tracks hold up. the rest, as they say, is tosh.
Reading: "Fever Dream" by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Just as Hollywood pumpsout the odd excellent Big Dumb Action Flick,or BDAF, so American publishers toss out the occasional BDAB - Big Dumb Action, yes, Book. These two have collaborated on a number of excellent BDABs in the past: this one looks like one of their best. Yay! Brain turned off!
Listening to: Had to change it. "Benefit", Jethro Tull. Older, better, and will carry me to my grave.
More "Paper Heroes":
Justin Grey had been paired up with a thigh-high Puma. Blunt and Whistler had been given matching ginger tabby cats, Hanno’s cat was a Norwegian Forest cat, Crayne’s companion was pure black with flashing green eyes, and John Prestor, the loneliest of them all, had been gifted a delicate female Calico.

Once a cat had been named by a human, it would never leave them: this was another fact amongst the storm of knowledge that had come to the Sleepers overnight. They also knew, when they had wakened, that they were inside an extinct volcano called Mount Eden, in Auckland, New Zealand. The hill – it rose no more than 120 metres above sea level – was almost entirely hollow: a maze of tunnels and scientific facilities lay inside.

Blunt was taken with his new companion. His had been a hard life: one which had precluded any relationship with animals, apart from a rangy old wolf-hound he had kept as much for personal protection as companionship. The cat came as a pleasant surprise. It spoke with a broad cockney accent, and nuzzled him with a loud purr when waking him.

“ ‘Allo, Boss. Pleased ter meetcha, wakey wakey rise an’ shine, time to get up.”

Andrew Blunt threw aside the blanket and stood, not at all surprised by the fact that he wasn’t surprised at a talking cat.

He stretched, feeling good. “And what’s your name, then?”

“ ‘S’up to you, I s’pose. Ain’t got a name, yet. Not a ‘uman name, anyways. I knows what me mum called me, bless ‘er, but that’s a noise as would set your ears to ringing, it would. I’ll answer to whatever you call me, I will.”

Blunt sniffed his armpits, and went into the bathroom, automatically turning the shower on, then looking at his hand in surprise. Blunt had never seen a shower before that moment, but he knew what they were and could operate one without thinking about it. “I’ll have to stop being surprised at doing things I have no way of knowing how to do.”

“ ‘S’all right for you ‘umans,” said the cat. “Imagine what it’s like being a bleeding cat what can talk. You gunna be all day? I’m bleeding hungry, I am.”

Bluent showered, and put his uniform on again. For the first time in centuries, he was conscious of the fact that his clothes didn’t harbour lice. That was at least one blessing of this new life.

“Well,” he said. “What’ll we call you? There was a fellow in my regiment, had eyes like a cat: could see in the dark much better than I could. Bill Tapper. I’ll call you Bill.”

“Good bloke, this Bill?”

“He was a good man, yes. A thief, a rogue, and a bleeding nuisance. But he could fight, and he was a crack shot. Come on, Bill. Let’s find some breakfast.”

“Bill. I likes that, I do. Bill. Yes. A crack shot you say. S’pose this Bill was a killer, then?” Bills voice had a quiet snarl in it: a deep, purring savageness that Blunt liked.

“A killer?” Blunt smiled, broadly. “Oh yes, I think that you could say that.”

The cat’s purr deepened. “Right. Just so as we’ve got that right. A killer, eh? Me, named after a killer. I likes that, I does. Now, breakfast. I knows the way. You follow me. And when you get some tucker for yourself, get a little extra for me. I fancies cream, I does. And you tell that little bleeder la-de-bloody-dah Charles that I wants proper tucker. All us cats do. None of this made-up stuff.”

“Made- up stuff?”

“Aye. That feed they give you yesterday? Not a skerrick o’ meat in it.’

Blunt stopped, and replied, “But I ate ham, and some cold beef –“

“All bleeding made-up,” the cat said. “This lot ‘ave got so namby-pamby about everyfing they stopped eating proper meat. They makes it all up from soya beans and seaweed and other crap, all right?”


“S’pose the cows are happy.” Bill sounded momentarily morose. Then he cheered up. “Fight, you say, boss? This Bill Tapper? A good fighter?”

“He was a rare killer. Taking the long shot, or hand to hand, bayonet and club, dagger or hands, he was a rare killer of men.” Blunt’s voice was savage, harsh. The cat purred, loudly.

“They reckon they’ve bred that sort o’ fing out of us, boss. Reckon they might learn otherwise, wotcha say?”

Blunt’s smile was brilliant, and the cat gave a quiet snarl of pleasure.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Proud of their ignorance...

Tuesday evening, and I'm back. The theatre-thing is over, done, and finished: I'll report on the whole experience later, when I've had a chance to reflect more on it. The blogs will now be back into their regular order... I may even (no promises, only idle threats) do a few extra. I've a bit too much bile build-up: the spleen needs a bit of a steam-clean.
I've been slobbing about tonight, not getting ready for a performance. As part of this general slothfulness, I've read a few pages in "Investigate" magazine. Hmm. I may carry on with it, but I was struck by the fact that they don't (obviously) edit / proof-read / correct their Letters to the Editor. I tend to judge a magazine by its readers: and it seems that the ones motivated to write in to "Investigate" on this particular month were people to whom English is a very foreign language, and who also find the idea of making communications clear by the use of punctuation ands grammar is laughable. Two of the letters I honestly could not understand. Mind you, they were written by people attempting to defend Christianity by proclaiming the virtues of not reasoning, so perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised that they weren't making sense. A 300-word sentence with no punctuation, however, will not gather any friends.
I also kept a half-eye on the tele: there was a story about some disgusting members of our society who took pleasure last night in driving their four-wheel-drive behemoth onto a farmer's paddock, and then proceeded to run down a bunch of pregnant ewes - one of which they poured petrol onto and set alight - the poor creature even survibved this barbarism, but needed to be put down by a broken-hearted farmer.
These actions are, of course, beyond ignorance. Nothing can excuse the people who did this. Readers of this blog will know that I am a bleeding heart liberal, a man who leans further to the left than that tower in Pisa (depending on where you're looking at it from, of course..). But I cannot see any reason why people who do things like this are still breathing. My grand-daughter's oxygen requirements are more important. Fuck it - a mangy dog has a greater claim to life than these sick bastards.
And while I enjoyed and shared in her outrage, the person who signed the email "Pegy" that was screend by TV3 really should have either taken a year or two to learn the basics of sentence construction, or just shut up. Why, oh why, do people insist on taking pride in their ignorance?
Reading: Yes! I can read again! Peter Maass, "CRUDE WORLD The Violent Twilight of Oil". Oh - and a Batman comic.
Listening to: Led Zeppelin, "Mothership".

More "Paper Heroes":

He had wakened six heroes. Six killers. To do so, he, and his helpers, had distanced themselves from their own society. He hoped like hell that he had done the right thing.
Chapter Nine.

9.57am, Pacific Time, November 6th, 2386.
The six Sleepers had slept naturally this time. Or so they hoped. They had been taken to individual, anonymous rooms, equipped with bed, shower, toilet, and hand basin. There was nothing to give them a hint of what the outside world was like. There sleep had been deep, seemingly untroubled. But things had happened to them overnight they had no way of knowing about. Their heads, resting on a light-as-air pillow, had been probed, measured, educated. Their blood had been analysed, sniffed at at, and then their skins had been subtly sprayed. When they awoke, they would not be the same men who had gone to their rooms to sleep. While the Sleepers slept, they had been reprogrammed.

They had all woken to a soft, insistent voice, addressing them personally. To the surprise of none of them, it was a cat. And their lack of surprise was of grave concern to them all.

If the cat has been a particular friend to mankind for millennia past, the past five hundred years had brought them even closer. The cat was one of only three animals to have been gengineered and nanotech and embot enhanced. It had gained a new palate, a time-telling ability, a greater brain, and a longer-term memory. The reshaped palate gave it the ability to speak with reasonable clarity, and the enlarged brain gave them a wider world-awareness and a speech centre. Gengineered cats were also far larger than their old-time domestic counterparts. They were now the size of a Labrador dog, and were much more massive in their forequarters: they needed the greater strength to carry the enlarged head. They had the mental ability of a ten year-old child – one from the old days, that is: one that hadn’t been enhanced with nanobots.

Justin Grey had been paired up with a thigh-high Puma. Blunt and Whistler had been given matching ginger tabby cats, Hanno’s cat was a Norwegian Forest cat, Crayne’s companion was pure black with flashing green eyes, and John Prestor, the loneliest of them all, had been gifted a delicate female calico cat.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sunday Scribbles IIIL

So. The season is over. Closed. The end, having been nigh for a little while, has arrived. "Brassed Off" has finished, closed, and come to an end.
What the hell do I do now? Dunno. At the very least I'll be able to get back to writing a thrice-weekly blog, which isn good. I think.
The last night - last night- was excellent. We had people craqmmed in e3vertywhere. WhileI'm certain that no fire rules were broken, we still seemed to have audience crammed into every spare crook and nannny. Brilliant.
In the midst of the audience were my cuzzie-bro,Mike, and his ever glamourous partner, Judy. They cameover from Australia. Not to see the show, youunderstand - but to attend a funeral. The show was an excellent bonus. When we all finallygot home Mike and I sorted out the failings and feeblenesses of the All Blacks (ho hum. They beat the Springboks... again!) and the ever invincible Black Caps. We also put an awful lot of Scotch whisky to death. Oh, my spinning head.
Thankyou all for your patience. I am now going to take my wobbly head away, and enjoy a sunny Sunday.
Sigh o nara.
Listening to: The radio.
Reading: I'm between books right now.. but I have a pile that's as high as an Esquimoe's armpit..
More "Paper Heroes" : Yay!
There were plans to be made, sacrifices to be contemplated. For if there was nothing else certain in this shitty world, there was this: The Equus must die.

Chapter Eight.

8:00pm, Pacific Time, November 5th, 2386.
Cienwyn sat at Blunt’s left, looking about the circle of warriors. Paulus sat opposite her, pale, and flanked by Hanno and Grey.

In the moments after Blunt had shattered the table – something she marvelled at, as the Intelplast it was made from was supposedly unbreakable - Cienwyn realised that she and her companions may have made a grave error. There was no way in the world they could exercise any control over these strange, wild beings. Hanno the Barbarian was just that: a savage beast, with no qualms or control. That the man Thomas Crayne, the so-called Crusader, was insane was a truism. John Prester was borderline psychotic; Justin Grey, the small gunslinger, seemingly had the conscience of a walnut; Andrew Blunt was a soldier who experienced moments of battle-rage that any sane man would have sought treatment for. The only stable one amongst the Sleepers seemed to be the eminently phlegmatic Whistler.

She felt her face flush with disappointment, and looked down. The broken table melted into the floor, and a new one rose to take its place.

“My friends,” started Blunt. “We must take stock. We must put aside our feelings - something which we seem to have the freedom to do, and which our hosts, it seems, cannot, having cast responsibility over their emotions and minds to things too small to be seen.”

“Much like a Northerner’s gods,” laughed Hanno the Barbarian. “Too small to be seen!”

Blunt grinned at the giant. He thought he could come to like this one. His eyes swept the table again: Whistler he could count on. Hanno and Grey might make a good team. Prester worried him. He was preoccupied, a loner. He would have trouble with this one, unless he walked carefully. And Crayne was an enigma.

“I say we postpone making a decision about whether we help them,” Blunt continued. “There is much we have to learn about this new world we’re in. So far all we know is that they have sufficient,” he paused, thinking. Sufficient what? “Magic. They have sufficient magic to bring people from different times back to life, they have music that would drive one mad,” the background music snapped off as he said this, and he grinned broadly. “And they have tables which repair themselves.” He looked at the men again, and his eyes rested on little Paulus, who sat calmly between Grey and Hanno.

“I say we must learn more about ourselves, these people here, the people they want us to help, and the people they want us to fight. Then we shall tell them whether or not we shall help them. What say you?”

His eyes swept among the small company of men, and then deeply into the woman’s violet eyes. Blunt thought, and flashed his hard smile at her, his eyes as flat as dead coins. Her eyes were bright green last time I looked.

Crayne stood. “As you’ll all know, My name’s Thomas Crayne. I come from 20th century America.” He stopped, considering how absurd that sounded, even to him. He drew a deep breath, and continued. The Crusader has never backed down. “I have some understanding of the technology, the “magic”, that’s been used to bring us here. I also have no doubt that we are infected with their nanobots: what has happened to us today should make us fearful, apprehensive. But we’re not. We’re calm. We also – as yet – do not have access to their I-See system. I agree with Andrew. We have much to learn.”

Twenty metres away, watching the meeting on holo-monitors, Charles shook his head. His own embots, like Cienwyn’s, Adam’s, and Paulus’, had been subtly reprogrammed to allow him a greater freedom of negative emotions than anyone had experienced for more than a century. He was unaccustomed to the bursts of anger he was experiencing. In the past, frustration had been a cue for a warm chemical wash, followed by reasoned discussion. Now, he wanted to smash his fist against a table. It was a feeling that lasted no more than a second or two, then faded, swept away in a sea of tranquillity. But he was astonished, nonetheless. The strength of the emotion was agonisingly blissful. And, guiltily, he knew he wanted more.

Nothing had gone his way. He had expected the Sleepers to be confused, and then dazzled by the fact of their reclaimed life and in awe of the abilities of those who have given them their lives back. They were meant to be fearful, easily controlled: instead, they had accepted and adapted to their situation with frightening speed, and had turned everything to their advantage.

He had wakened six heroes. Six killers. To do so, he, and his helpers, had distanced themselves from their own society. He hoped like hell that he had done the right thing.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tuesday Morning, 3am

It's probably a truism that one shouldn't sit down to write a blog at 3 in the morning. It's is possibly equally risky to actually read a blog that was written at that time.
Yet here we are.
I have, for the third time in as little as seven weeks, a filthy cold. I've managed maybe an hour's sleep tonight, but to balance that I've managed to bring around 758 sneezes and 8,423 coughs to a successful conclusion: four of the first and three of the latter during the the writing of this sentence aslone.
Naturally, because I occasionally make an effort to be a considerate person, I'm "sleeping" in the spare room, otherwise the gorgeous Jenny's sleep would be as shattered as mine.
I am a handkerchief user: I always have a neatly folded and ironed hanky in my pocket. In the past 24 hours I have washed and dried every one of my snotties twice... and I have about thirty of the bloody things.
However, you really don't need to hear about my bodily secretions. You're here to be entertained. Or, of course, you may be wanting to find out what's on my mind.
Well, a fairly viscous fluid, actually. But apart from that...
Yesterday, in a haze of dampness, I watched a DVD that would largely be of interest to New Zealand viewers: Nicky Hager's documentary called "The Hollow Men", about the electoral hi-jinks the National Party got up to in the 2004 election. It was interesting, and I probably would have been enraged in 2005, but it's now a quirky bit of dismal history. What I did find engrossing was the little 20-minute Q and A at the end: Nicky Hager talking about the dismal state of our journalism and journalists. Nice to know someone agrees with me.
Actually, watching a bit of stuff from around the world, I don't think we're any worse off than most. Most of the Western world is being treated as morons by their news providers...
There are, he argues, journalists and reporters. Almost all of the PYTs on the tele are reporters: they'll ask for a comment, or for a politician's already-prepared 10 second statement, and then won't challenge it. I have, in the past, actually called these individuals "Repeaters": they merely repeat what they're told. He says that  80% off our print workers are also reporters: non-critical summarisers of statements. The rest do make an effort at being journalists: seekers of truth, miners of facts, presenters of ideas and knowledge. They are the nobility of a debased profession. I have a friend or two currently going through journalism school, and I believe that both of them have the intellect, integrity, and courage to rise above the reporting / repeating standards that the Packers and other ratings-driven money-grubbers have reduced the media to.
Politicians and PR press-release writers (the latter being the scummiest of the lot) exp[end a lotof time and intellectual capacity treating us as idiots and drooling morons. And, because we accept it, we prove them right. Just look at the ghastly intellect-sapping farrago that is the Fox Network: pretty, shrieking, ninnies assaulting their audiences with slogans and catch-phrases... which isn't too different from our two main television providers.
I understand that Al-Jazeera's standards are higher: I don't know yet. I will find out, and report back. The BBC's certainly are. I wonder if non-English-speaking television channels serve their audiences as badly as our lazy lot?
Listening to: Steppenwolf, "At Your Birthday Party". Late 1960s acid-rock for a cold-fried brain.
Reading: Well! I just read an Anthony Horowitz teen book. The man is clever, clever, clever. And I'm re-reading John Connolly's "The Reavers". Brilliant.
More "Paper Heroes":

“All folk from Buildings South Seven and Eight are taken to cleaning. Day on, night on, two shifts, cleaning they are.”

“What? Why?”

“That’s what I want to know. We will kill him after he tells us. His Scarab is torn, the Listeners think he is already dead. What cost now? What risk? We need to know why they clean their barracks, why they clean the Tower.”

The Henry’s headquarters is an elegant white tower, overlooking the Bay. 500 or more years old, it still stood, beautiful, with a central core tapering to a point, and four vertical wings that flare up the sides. It is an architectural wonder, and it is the home to the Henrys. They have cleared the land on every side out to a distance of two hundred yards, and this area is flooded with light most nights. At other times, when the power supply is disrupted, the Tower is in darkness, and the Free Folk creep to the building, and leave the shrivelling livers of dead men.

In the Tower live the Listeners; the cadre of Henrys who plot and follow the Scarabs as they move about what is left of the city. They have the mighty Apple-tek to help them in their work of monitoring and healing and punishing. And right now they are concentrating on nearly 7,000 Unders as they work to clear all rubble, all waste, from the Tower to the Rail. The question that Night wants answering this grey morning is simple: why?

By the time the sun had reached its zenith, he had his answer. The Henry had died messily, but surprisingly bravely. Sam, Night, and The Doc had been alone in questioning the man, and his bitter death had shaken them all.

But now they knew: the Chief was coming. Himself. The Equus. Coming to where Free Men lived.

There were plans to be made, sacrifices to be contemplated. For if there was nothing else certain in this shitty world, there was this: The Equus must die.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sunday Scribbles VL

The play has another week to run, and if you don't have tickets you'll not be able to see it: it is sold out. Well, almost. There's a half-dozen seats left on Tuesday night.
The audiences have been fantastic. Everyone seems to have enjoyed the play. Of course, their applause at the end could be an expression of relief - "thank god that's over!" - but I don't think so.
It's been hard work, though: I'm now working on my third cold of the season. I just can't believe it! Snot by the bucket. Never mind. I'll live to loath Johnkey for another day.
Dear Johnkey. Our "Prime" Minister. The man is such a craven, populist, poll-driven arse. It astonishes me that the Kiwi public are so guillible. Well, no, actually. It doesn't surprise me one little bit.
His latest indignity? The case of the the soldier who was killed in Afghanistan, and the prison officer. I won't mention the young man's name, because he deserves far more than to be named in a venting about the cur who is running the country.
So. A soldier dies in an attack. A sad thing, but let's face it- not altogether unexpected. "News" readers, looking suitably abashed, lower their eyes and tone of voices in unison when the cameras are turned on. In the minutes prior to the producer giving them the countdown they're wetting themselves with glee, at having a proper story to to read.
1: The Air Force's fancy-pants executive jet is despatched to Afghanistan to retrieve the body. Once again, fair enough.... but my skin is starting to crawl. It seems to me that the deification process is beginning.
2: The jet lands, much sombre reporting, Johnkey tells of his personal grief, but straightens the place where his spine should be, squares his shoulders, and forces a brave smile through his tears.
3: The funeral is held. Full military honours, and perfectly justifiable. Johnkey is there, speaking well of a soldier's life, sacrfice, and the nobility of service. He can speak of it. I wonder when he'll start showing some of it... buit that's just me. Incidcentally - every "journalist", except the Radio New Zealand one, got it wrong: the soldier in question wasn't given a 21-gun salute. A Lieutenant doesn't warrant a 21-gun salute. A head of state does. He got a rank of 13 servicemen firing three shots each, in unison.
4: This is where the political creepiness starts to set in, and my rage starts to boil over. Johnkey personally decides that every flag in the country should be flown at half-mast as a mark of respect. Well, short Anglo-Saxon word that rhymes with "duck"! This is disgraceful and dishnonourable. There have been tens of thousands of servicemen killed in action, and not one of them was accorded this honour. In one misguided poll-driven decision, Johnkey vomited on their service, their scarifice.
5: In the past year, other servicemnen have died, a police officer has been killed... and Johnkey's famous crooked smile was at their funerals. Fair enough: these men were empoloyed to be guardians of the nation, and their lives where snuffed out while they were fulfilling thier duties. They deserve the presence of the headhoncho, even if he is a dickweed. But wait...
6: Recently, a Prison Officer, another honourable guardian, was killed on duty. Johnkey was nowhere to be seen. Of course, the Prison Service isn't voter-sexy: these are men and women who are working in a thankless environment, doing their best and giving their all in the service of their country and their wards. This young man didn't get even a nod of respect from the simpering Johnkey. Why? I suspect it was because it wouldn't have "rated" with his core constituency.
The man is a dog. And not one of those cute, fluffy Bijon things, or a bouncy lolling-tongue Spaniel. He's a scabbed up junkyard jackal. I don't, you may have surmised, like him one little bit.
Reading: I've just finished "Heartland", by David Wiltse. Pure unputdownable pleasure. I loved it.
Listening to: Simon and Garfunkel, "Bridge Over Troubled Waters". It is one of the greatest albums of all time.
More "Heroes".

He loped toward his home-building, his captive a dead-weight on his shoulder.

Into the building, up the stairs. He has twenty-three flights to climb, and he must do it quickly. The Henrys will be outraged at three deaths, especially after losing two just a few nights previously. They’ll be here in their wheel-teks, lights blazing, gun-teks at the ready. A stitch stabs through Night’s side, and he cries out with the pain of it. He stumbles, calls for help. He hears a door slam open, two flights above. This will be Sam, Lana’s brother. Sixteen years old, as strong as Night is. Maybe even stronger. Night’s eyes are misting over as he feels the burden taken from his shoulder, and he staggers. “Go, Sam. Take him to Doc Ford.” Sam’s look is quizzical. Capture a Henry? Bring it back? But he shrugs, turns, and leaps up the stairs.

Night’s lungs, crammed in his barrel chest, heave, and his heart pounds. A red mist falls over his sight, and he staggers. This body of his, with its long legs and stunted upper body, is not made for sprinting. Night can keep up a steady jog for twenty minutes, but must stop to recover. But now, after three generations of Scarab-free breeding, babies are being born whose chests aren’t constricted. Babies are being made whose backs are long and straight of spine. A few had been born in the past: genetic throwbacks, children who had been taken and killed by the Henrys. Now, Free children are growing, learning, running.

Henry gets up, and climbs the rest of the stairs to Doc Ford’s floor.

“Are you mad? What need we of a Henry?” The Doc is mad. Angry beyond belief.

“I need to talk to him. Find out what is happening.”

“And what is happening? What is happening is you have lost your sense, and kept one alive. They are no good to us breathing, nor they ever will be. Dead,” he insisted. “A dead Henry helps us, yes it does. You know this. A living one takes air that my child might breathe!” The Doc is livid, pounding at the wall. “And you have brought it here, to where no Henry has been, that no Henry knows of, and you have condemned us to death, you.”

“Something is happening,” replies Night, his breath still sawing at his throat. He pauses. “All folk from Buildings South Seven and Eight are taken to cleaning. Day on, night on, two shifts, cleaning they are.”

“What? Why?”

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sunday Scribbles IVL

Something has come into my possession that’s telling me that the astonishing technological and social changes that have swept over us since I was born may have simply been responding to requirements, rather than creating new requirements.
It’s a wallet. Actually, it was my Dad’s wallet, and dates back to the 1960s.

I can tell this because one of the compartments is marked £5 notes. There are two other currency compartments – one marked 20/-, the other 10/-. This is leading me to suspect that the wallet dates from not too long before decimal currency was introduced (about the only visionary thing a National Government has ever done…).

If the wallet’s manufacturing date had been in the 1950s, or very early 1960s, I suspect the 20/- compartment would have been marked £1.

There’s a compartment on the outside of the wallet for a Driving Licence, and two other inner compartments: cards, and stamps.

So far, so ordinary. Provision has been made to carry cash. That’s not so important these days, but we do need a place to keep our EFTPOS and Credit Cards – mine fit nicely into the 20/- and 10/- compartments. Money going where it was designed to go.

But what really impresses me is the fact that the wallet is a 1960s version of a PDA, or even a cellphone. Yes, I know that I can’t use a wallet to call, txt, or email anyone. But I do have a place to keep business cards – mine and others. And I have another wee compartment for stamps… so if I had needed to make a phone call to anyone, or get a written communication away to them, I had the numbers, addresses, and means right there in my hip-pocket.

The wallet was made, and selected, because it met the identification, financial, and communication needs of the time. My own wallet is actually less efficient: it simply carries my ID (driving licence) and monetary requirements. If I want to communicate with anyone, I have to carry a phone. And believe me, with the five-year-old piece-of-poo Nokia thing my employers gave me to use – a stamp and snail mail might just be more efficient.
Listening to: a lot of brass band music. It'll never take the place of good old rock and roll,or N'Orleans jazz, or even swampy blues.
Reading: Trying to get into "Finding Enid", a biography of Enid Blytonj - but time's an issue, now the play's into production.
MorePaper Heroes:
 Night grunts as he stands, his lungs heaving, and hefts the Henry onto his shoulder.

“Come with me, little one. We need to talk.” He slips the knife back into its scabbard, grabs the bow and his arrows, and lopes toward the building.

The Henrys know of 3,000 Folk in the building: Unders, they call them. They are not aware that for every two Unders, there is one of the Free Folk. Folk who do not carry the Scarab. Their numbers were growing daily. There were free birthings, and more and more Folk were coming to accept the shrieking pain that attended the removal of a Scarab. His own arm is clear. He had been born free. His wife Lana, however, had had the Scarab slapped onto her arm two days after her birth. On the night of their betrothal, 15 years later, Night had helped her fight the agony of the removal: four hours of bitter, weeping pain. A time when she had panted and bitten through the leather they put between her teeth to help her stifle her cries of agony. Stifle them she did: her eyes had started, her sweat had run in rivers, she had thrown her head side to side, and she had clamped her teeth of the tough leather, and she had not made a sound.

The Scarab technology is centuries old, based on the Commonwealth’s nano-technology. Attached to the forearm of a newborn infant, it tracks and reports the wearer’s whereabouts at all times. It feeds off the host’s energy, and sends its receptors into the forearm’s nerve-ways, instructing the host body, repairing it when possible by diverting chemicals and enzymes away from their naturally allotted tasks, and by also stimulating growth of stem-cells to hasten the healing even more.

All in all, a blessing. But the Scarabs placed on the Unders’ arms were also instructed to bring death to their host-body after only 25 years of life. They could also be instructed to bring death in any one of a myriad of forms – almost all painful - to the wearer at any time.

The Free Folk has discovered how to cut the Scarab loose from their bodies a century ago. When they were cut free the Scarab died – and in dying, reported the death of their host. For the first dozen martyrs, the death had been real. Initially, the removal of the Scarab had been accomplished quite simply: an axe through the elbow. As time went by, and the Free Folk grew more numerous, and older, they investigated and experimented with the Scarabs. After a mere four hands of years they perfected the removal. Anaesthetics were out of the question: not because they weren’t available, for they were. But the moment the Scarab detected any opiate, any analgesic drug whatsoever, it reported the fact.

The Free movement had nearly died with that first surgical experiment. The surgery had been interrupted by heavily armed Henrys, who killed all involved. They died, bullets from the Henry’s gun-teks hammering them into bloody rags. The killings, however, had served a contrary purpose: they had been inspirational, and the Free movement had grown prospered.

Now, when Night or any of his brothers and sister prowled and hunted, they cut the hot liver from their victims, then hacked the Scarab from their arms, and mated the two. Experimentation had suggested that a death is not reported by the Scarab immediately – it can take up to twenty minutes before the Scarab acknowledged that its host was, in fact, moribund.

Every Scarab recognised and fed only from the DNA codes of its host, and feeding off the liver allowed the hunters to postpone the reporting of the deaths for up to five hours.

The Henrys knew they were doing it: it was a matter of daring and delight to take the cooling liver to the Henry’s headquarters, so the Scarab would die at their front doorstep.

Over the past seventy years, more than two thousand Henrys had died at the hands of the Free Folk.

And only seventeen Free Folk had been caught, tortured, and killed by the Henrys. A fair trade, thought Night. A fair trade. He loped toward his home-building, his captive a dead-weight on his shoulder.