Thursday, September 30, 2010


We were chatting, the lovely Jenny and I, about the strange things that are appearing on the nation's television sets; There's a programme coming up that's based on the marvellous idea of getting someone at work to walk about naked. Oh, the drama! LOL. Oh, the pathos! OMG. Oh, for Pete's sake. GOS.*
Reality TV, when it first struck the airwaves, was an awful dive into voyeurism, and I wondered whether it could possibly get any worse. I thought, at the time, that it would never descend to - say - live autopsies (on air now), nor nakedness at (insert location here). I'm waiting for the Naked Flying Nuns. Seriously. They'll be young, beautiful, with pert, upright breasts, and twins. OMG. Experimenting with holy water and oil. LOL.
*GOS - Grumpy Old Shit.
This descent into soft porn (and you'll have some idea of my opinion re porn - see ) is inevitable, pernicious, and nasty. I can't help but think, LOL, that reality TV is related, in many ways, to the social networking sites on the internet. I use Facebook purely for lettiong people know that I've just scribbled a new Blog, or to have a quick look to see if any of my friends (ahem) are doing anything interesting. There does seem to me to be a lot of one-line shrieks, usually accompanied by LOL and OMG (but hardly ever GOS). I'm curiously amused by the fact that LOL gets tossed in where it seems grossly inappropriate: "Ur pregnint?!?!! LOL!!!!!". Or "I woke next to a complete stranger this morning LOL!!!"
But the thing with the social networks and the bubblebums on reality TV is this: they are a form of validation for the individuals who use them. I Facebook / Twitter /Mysppace, therefore I am.  Scuzzy people are on the tele, and they're like me, so it's like I'm on the tele LOL OMG, it's me, it's me.
Meanwhile, Michael Hooper, the Commonwealth Games honcho, has been living in Delhi for the past three years, with the games Federation paying up to $NZ36,000 a month rental for the small farm he's been living on. Fair enough, that's what was agreed. He also has six staff at his home, who are being paid, allup, $NZ1100 a month. Yep, less than $NZ200 each. Nothing to LOL about there. But I was tempted to say OMG, and fuck. Yes, it's probably the going rate. It's also immoral that he should be looked after to the tune of $36,000 a month rent, plus his salary, plus car, etc - and pay his staff an amount that would be regarded as criminal at home. The man is a disgrace to this country.
Reading: Still on the same book: been busy.
Listening to: Julian Lloyd Weber, "Unexpected Songs". LO - oh, fuck it.
More "Paper Heroes":
Hadn’t he taken them from the barbarity of their own time, and shown them what mankind had achieved in the past few hundred years?

Crayne slapped the table, stood, and went to the window, looking at the city that sat so smugly under the sunshine, and in the benign shadow of twenty dormant volcanoes. His frustration was palpable – and then it went away. And a part of him knew that he should be angry about that, too, but he just couldn’t be. He turned, and said “But we have no anger, Charles. You people have completely misunderstood the emotions that once motivated us, once drove us. We need anger. We need fear. We need all those so-called negative emotions to function. We need to be cruel, Charles. We can contemplate the thought of violence, but we are at one step removed from it. Violence is to us exactly what it is to you, Charles: a theory, rather than a reality. I – we – don’t know that we can be motivated to bring real harm to another. The embots you have given us have crippled us, and we need to be set free. We can’t fight coldly. Have these embots re-programmed.”

“Better yet,” growled Blunt, “remove them. The marvel of your nanobots is good: but the ones that censor my thoughts must go. Remove them, man. Otherwise we are as much use to you as one of your so-called normal citizens.”

“In bringing us back to life with this handicap,” said Crayne, “you’ve effectively crippled us. You might just as well have held a gun to our heads and blown our brains out.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


There. Right on tele, he said it: "If this legislation passes, entire stretches of beach may be..."
It doesn't matter what these entire stretches of beach may or may not be. I just want to know what, exactly, is an entire stretch of beach?
Is it 20 centimetres? That's a stretch, for a 4 centimetre piece of string. Is it a metre? Is it 20, or 2,000 kilometres?
I am, very soon, going to stop watching television news. It aggranoys me, and make my arthritis hurt.

I've just spent two hours writing a speech. That's enough writing.
READING: Kate Griffin's "A Madness of Angels". It is very, very good.
LISTENING TO: Well, The Killers "Sawdust", The Beatles "Abbey Road", and Iron Butterfly "Inna Gadda Da Vida". The last one left me wondering why I ever gave up doing drugs. Oh, yes: being able to think.
More "Paper Heroes":
“What do you mean?”

Blunt picked up the attack. “There have been two more attacks since we wakened, Charles. Tens of thousands dead in Brazil, and St. Petersburg has practically ceased to exist. A hundred thousand dead.”
“And yet I see no fear on the streets. No major concern. Many look to us as their salvation, but with no urgency. Because while the threat is real, no-one is taking it seriously. They can't. Your people are not affected by the threat: on the tri-vid shows I see men and women discussing the deaths, looking concerned, and then, in the next breath, telling of a kitten caught in a drainpipe. At least someone was capable of being able to rationalise that you needed help, and did what was necessary: brought us back into being. But here’s the problem: like your people, we Sleepers have no fear. Charles, I know that the nanobots we have will allow us more freedom than we enjoyed in a previous time: they’ll heal wounds faster, ensure we won’t get ill from drinking bad water, and yes, we can and do contemplate killing and destruction.”
“That’s what we decided.” Charles was genuinely puzzled. What was it these people wanted from him? Hadn’t he given them life? Hadn’t he given them fame? Hadn’t he taken them from the barbarity of their own time, and shown them what mankind had achieved in the past few hundred years?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sunday Scribbles LI

The fifty-first Sunday Scribbles. This means I've been writing this blog for over a year (I didn't start the Sunday Scribbles straight away, and there have been a couple of Sundays when stale alcohol in my system has completely precluded any sort of writing).
Hmm. I must go back and see if I've actually written anything of worth. Probably not, I suspect.
My website is.. a failure. I was confident that if I armed myself with a book written for ten-year-olds, I'd be able to get a website up and running. Sigh. I was hopelessly over-confident. I followed the instructions to the letter, yet it still didn't happen that way it was supposed to.
Speaking of alcohol: I camew home from work on thursday, to find my wife sitting down with a G&T in her hand, and a bottle of single malt Scotch on the coffee table. I was astounded - I thought we must have won Lotto, or something. It turns out it was an "or something". Something that was equally as good as a Lotto win: my brother had come visiting. He's had a tough year in Seoul, and had flown home on a surprise trip / holiday.
Woo Hoo. On the first day of daylight saving, the sun is shining. Today, I'll be going for a long walk. Yay. So very happy to be living in Auckland when the sun is shining.
Reading: Two books: "A Madness of Anfels", Kate Griffin. This is fecking superb - a supernatural yarn that's worth reading. Also a Robert Ryan book, "Empire of Sand", about T.E. Lawrence. Also excellent. I made emntion that I had started "The Eight". Well, it started superbly, but got bogged down in turgid prose.
Listening to: A lot of Leonard Cohen, because he's coming to NZ again. Which of course reminds me of my Father, who died the night I was to have been going to see the lovely Leonard last year.
Miss you, Dad.
More "Paper Heroes":
‘Merika is the modern world’s Mordor, with the modern world itself one great Shire, basking in the sunshine.

Hanno the Barbarian in particular has become a major celebrity in Auckland, and indeed around the Commonwealth. His great height and musculature, his plaited moustaches, his three swords, his swaggering gait, and the huge animal pleasure he takes from life have all combined to make him the symbol of the six Sleepers, and he has revelled in his role.

But it was immediately obvious to Charles and Blunt that changes must be made if the heroes were to take the mission that they’d been revived for. After the first week Blunt and Crayne had requested an urgent strategic meeting with Charles.

“You’ve placed restrictions on us, Charles.” Blunt, as true to his name as ever, spoke plainly. “And we can’t contemplate the mission until you withdraw them.”

“Restrictions?” Charles’ voice buzzed with impatience. “There are no restrictions. You are free to come and go, to see whom you like, to talk with anyone you want. In no way have we – have I - restricted you.”

“You’ve brought us to life again,” Crayne insisted. “But not to the life we had. You placed your embots into our veins, and they are changing us. I understand that emotionally you are ‘bot free.”

“No,” Charles replied. Then he sighed, and carried on “Yes. I have a greater freedom than most. My embots have been modified, reprogrammed. It is difficult, you understand. I have feelings and dreams that I don’t understand,” he murmured. His voice grew low, almost whispering. Blunt and Crayne were not at all surprised that they could hear him clearly. Their eyesight, sense of smell, and hearing had been powerfully enhanced. Blunt had a vague memory of constant tinnitus, caused by the close-range gunfire he had heard through much of his adult life. It was now little more than a buzzing memory.

Charles continued: “But we – the Commonwealth – realised that we couldn’t have been defended without a few people like us. You realise, don’t you, that I and my colleagues are all clinically insane?”

“That notion in itself is madness,” Thomas Crayne replied. “The fact that you consider yourself insane, I mean. You’re more than capable of rational decision-making.” He stopped, rallied himself, and went on, calmly: “The problem is this: you’ve not given us the same privilege. When we awoke in your white room, woke to the noise and terror, we were more ourselves than we are now. Just a few weeks back, when we were wakened, the embots weren’t effective. You’ll recall the time Grey and Hanno had their little altercation? It can’t happen now.”

“Well, of course not. You men are to be a team. Getting angry with each other will accomplish nothing,” said Charles, wondering where the conversation was going.

Crayne barked a laugh, and insisted “Your embots have stopped us feeling. Look at Hanno: frolicking in the sunshine with children instead of honing his weapon skills. Blunt and I are cruising, taking life easy. And you: so proud of your insanity that you’re worse than we are! It astonishes me that you managed to bring us to you!”

“What do you mean?”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


We've received our voting papers in the mail. We now have the ability and duty to vote for a Mayor for the newly-created so-called Supercity, and a whole bunch of Councillors.
The problem is this: the mayoralty is pretty much a two horse race - Banks or Brown. Neither horse is at all desirable. I'll vote for Brown, because the thought of Banks getting in just makes me want to vomit. But it's a vote against Banks, not a vote for Brown.
See - neither is a visonary. Banks has a billboard saying "Vote for him, and he'll get the job done". But nowhere have a found anything that tells me what he thinks the job actually is. Brown is just as coy: "Come on, Auckland. It's your turn". My turn for what? A dose of the clap? For a rich a-hole in a suit to make me redundant... again?
So Brown's getting my vote because a: he's not Banks; and b: he's apparently a left-winger, as opposed to Banks' ardent right-wing politics. But he's a poor choice.

Had friends around for lunch on Sunday: the gorgeous Jo and the splendid Marty. Great beer (Harrington's, from Christchurch. Quite possibly the best beer being brewed in NZ), excellent wine - all NZ, of course. Average food. I tried a new chicken dish, and it didn't co-operate with me. Lesson One: never try a new dish when you're having friends around.

Listening to: Well, as Metallica are rocking in Christchurch this evening, and donating a bunch of tickets to people who've worked hard with the earthquake crisis, I thought I should be listening to something loud. I have no Metallica! So - I've settled on Neil Worboys and the Real Time Liners, "Day to Day". Great Kiwi blues.
Reading: Katherine Neville, "The Eight". Yes - the one that was a huge hit in 1988. OK, so I'm a wee bit slow in grabbing hold of a trend, but there you go. I'm really liking it, too.
More "Paper Heroes":
to thrill at the sudden explosions of steam, to shriek in horror and concern at the occasional dead, floating fish.

Planet Earth has been tamed, and much of it has been returned to wilderness. The seas are filling again with great schools of cod, snapper, and tuna. The whales, majestically arrogant, bring their calves in for their nanobots, and sharks still cruise, happily cruel, while keeping a wary eye out for marauding dolphins. There are few mysteries left for mankind to ponder. Nearby space is now well travelled: there is talk of sending a manned vehicle to Alpha Centauri, to follow up the astonishingly loud microwave signals recently detected there. There was, it seemed, intelligent life that used Alpha Centauri as a way-station as they went about an interminably long voyage.

Closer to home, sub-orbital craft carry people around the world, above the troposphere, at speeds in excess of Mach 6.

It’s a rare passenger who gazes from his window onto the blankness of ‘Merika, and doesn’t experience a delicious momentary thrill of excitement.

What’s happening there? Why is the continent so dark, so blank? As called for so many decades ago, the Commonwealth’s back has been turned on ‘Merika. Little or no intelligence gathering has been made. Satellite inspection has been forbidden – an embargo that has come under great pressure since the dying began. ‘Merika is the modern world’s Mordor, with the modern world itself one great Shire, basking in the sunshine.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sunday Scribbles L

So. The criminal leader of a multi-national crminal gang is in Britain. The British tax-payers, most of whom are neither criminal nor Catholic, are being hit with a major bill for hosting the filth-encrusted old reprobate. They have to, apparently, becausde it's always a good idea, politically, to grovel before superstitious fraudsters.
Not that the leader of any church has to be superstitious. It probably pays if they're not. let's face it: if they actually believed the swill they spout, their consciences wouldn't allow them to carry on pulling the metaphysical wool over the eyes of their flocks.
Have you noticed how many religionists insist on referring to their followers as a "flock"? As in sheep? As in ineffably stupid creatures that will follow any leader, yea, even unto the slaughter-house? To be fleeced?
I had to laugh, though. The evil old child-rape / child-porn conspirator had the unmitigated revisionist gall to say that Britain had led the fight against the Nazis, who, he claimed, had tried to drive God from Europe.
Well, Britain did lead the fight against the Nazis. He got that right. What he didn't say was that the Nazis operated with the full and unstinting support of the Vatican... led by its infallible Pope.
I acknowledge there were a few Catholic priests, bishops, and nuns who defied the Nazi hierarchy, and the dictates that came from Rome. But they were notable for their scarcity. The churches could have defeated the Nazis. Instead, they either cowered in their musty corners, acknowledging that their god was powerless, or gave wholehearted support to the machinery of evil.... thereby proving that their god had no power.
The sooner the civilised, pluralistic world withdraws its recognition of the Vatican City as a sovereign nation the better. Then the Italian Police can take Ratzinger off to face a jury, and let the sword of blind justice cut where it may. Actually, we should all simply refuse to recognise any theocracy as a sovereign nation. Be interesting to see where Israel falls on that.....
Have I mentioned, by the way, that I'm not a fan of the Pope? Or of organised religion?
Listening to: Jethro Tull, "This Was". The second album I ever bought.
Reading: Kage Baker, "Not Less Than Gods". Nice - steam-punk meets the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Which was steam-punk anyway, but I hope you get the idea.
Link to follow:
More "Paper Heroes":
It was thought that a 500 year life expectancy would soon be attainable.

Of course, the spasms of death and madness had lowered the average figure. But, somehow, it was easy to not dwell on that.

For a people who have allowed their emotions and thoughts to be policed by molecule-sized machines, suicide is often the last shout of individuality and rebellion. Naturally, assisted suicide is an impossibility: to do harm to another is so taboo that the embots rarely have to intervene.

The six Sleepers are charmed by the city. The air is fresh and clean, the streets and boulevards wide, clean, and uncluttered; the shops offer mysterious goods and products; and the twin harbours sparkle under the spring sunshine. Yachts and powered pleasure craft tack and turn lackadaisically, cars, buses, and transport trucks flit by almost soundlessly, small aircraft hum quietly across the clear skies.

There are few buildings taller than five levels. One, an ancient communications tower in the city’s centre, is being refurbished with an artificial skin of monomolecular carbon: a suit of diamond. In the harbour, Rangitoto, a managed volcano, vents steam and lava continually. The island volcano had wakened less than 150 years ago, causing a minor flurry of excitement: some windows had cracked with the initial earth tremors, and it had taken the local authorities more than five years to bring the situation under control. Now, of course, it is totally safe, and absolutely predictable. People come from around the world to see the lava pouring into the harbour’s blue waters, to thrill at the sudden explosions of steam, to shriek in horror and concern at the occasional dead, floating fish.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Promiscuity,pornography, and pootling

It used to worry me. I thought for a long time that my attitudes toward porn and promiscuity were simply a reflection of my age.
But I read in Slate that I’m not alone. I am coming to understand that an awful lot of young(er) people believe / think as I do – that people who bonk around are morally and emotionally suspect, and that people who consume porn have the emotional attention-span of a mollusc. I do not understand how or why porn became so pervasive, so accepted (and acceptable)… so bloody middle-class. I do not, by the way, blame the internet. That’d be like blaming a shovel for the fact that the grave is too shallow.
The articles I’ve read, however, use woolly phrases like “people who hook up too much..”. They don’t actually define how much is too much. I presume it’s people who hook up more than they do. I know that I, with deep envy, frowned upon those men who bonked more women than I did. Before I turned twenty, that was any guy who’d had bonked as many as one woman, of course.
But I digress, with self-deprecation.
With the passing of a few months I hope I have gained a little more perspective. I can certainly look back on my own life, and quite honestly state that I regret bonking some women. And as I’ve never bonked a man, and am never likely to, I don’t have that to worry about. But on those introspective moments – generally when I hit Upper Harbour Drive on the way to and from work – when the mind slips back a decade or four, and one starts evaluating decisions that one has made, then I start to think I owe an awful lot of apologies to an awful lot of people.
Starting, of course, with myself. If I hadn’t in initially looked upon my former wife with lust, and actually got to know her instead, then I would never have married her. Or, if I had gotten to know her and still married her, the marriage might well have turned out differently: like ending after two years, instead of ten…
But it must be said that my times of tom-catting about left me as emotionally fulfilled as a Westlife album. I’m very thankful that the odd occasion when I actually did stop to listen with my big head, I made friendships (with real live women) that have lasted until the present day, and will, I hope, last until the day I get fed to the fishes.
We’re blasted by TV programs that sing the praises of casual sex, and that accept the fact that people (men, mainly) consume porn just as I consume corn-flakes. But I am, at heart, a monogamous type of guy, and I always have been - and I think I do understand what Jimmy Carter meant when he confessed that he had lusted in his heart. Porn, promiscuity, and pootling about: it’s not for me, and never really has been.
Ah, maturity. I’ll get the hang of it one day.
Listening to: Enigma, "MCMXC A.D." Interesting. Not to damn it with faint praise/// but, yes, it's interesting.
Reading: Actually, re-reading; Nelson de Mille's "Word of Honour".
More "Paper Heroes":

The Equus had some time to pass, so he stood, stretched, and said, “Woman! Where is Woman? Have her sent to me.”
Chapter Eleven.

3.38pm, Pacific Time, November 26th, 2386.
Twenty days had passed since the trip into downtown Auckland. The six men had been as much a curiosity to the local people as they had found their surroundings unbalancing. Auckland is one of the Commonwealth’s Great Cities and, with a population of a little over three quarters of a million souls, is also one of the largest.

Over the centuries cities had become largely irrelevant. With the advent of the P-See / I-See instant communication, computing, and information systems, the de-centralising of bureaucracies, the easy and immediate availability of almost free domestic and industrial energy, and the absence of borders and artificial barriers to trade and travel, humanity’s societal needs had also changed. Wealth had seen the human population plummet from nearly 8 billion in the 22nd century to just under 3 billion now, and it was still slowly falling. Statisticians had forecast that the world’s population – discounting ‘Merika – would stabilise at 1.5 billion in 150 years.

As it is now, in 2386, there is no poverty in the Commonwealth. Nanotechnology has meant that the average life expectancy is now close to 120 years: the most common causes of death for the aged are now suicide and accident. Many citizens of the Commonwealth lived to 180 years. It was thought that a 500 year life expectancy would soon be attainable.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Industry, and the Mayor

A short blog today. I'm off to a Mayoral Reception this evening, so will not have the time (or sobriety) to do my usual Tuesday blog. I'm also knocking these few paragraphs off on my PC, rather than my laptop, so there'll be no Paper Heroes.
I'm a little weary of businesses calling themselves an industry when they don't make anything. The real estate "industry". The banking "industry". The retail "industry". These are businesses.
An industry is a business that makes stuff. That produces something tangible. The fruit canning industry. The plastics industry. the firstry industry. The agricultural industry. They make stuff. Tangible stuff. The real estate people make nothing, except for money and victims. Ditto for finance and banking. Retailers make nothing. They sell the products of industry.
The mayoral reception this evening has a lot to do with politicking, and a little to do with the show I was in recently. Yes, the acting industry. Mayor Andy wants to show his appreciation to a few dozen voters for the cultural values we bring to the city. Sigh. Free beer, though. Driving, though.
Listening to: nothing, right now. Humming Nina Simone.
Reading: Ken MacLeod's "newton's wake". Good like anything, so far.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sunday Scribbles IL

I have a project. It relates to the book that I'm reading, and it's only taken me 15 months to get around to actually starting.
What I needed was The Book. I have tried a couple of the normally excellent bright yellow "Idiot's Guide To.." books, but even they haven't been basic enough. They've assumed that the reader has at least some initial instinctive abilities, or has somehow already graduated past the first, very basic, step.
The book I have is slim, and has attrractive pictures. I found it in the Junior section of the Library. Working in a Library is handy: no-one looks at you when you browse the kids' section.
The book is called "Look Mom! I built my own Website!", and was writted / put together by an excellent chap, name of Zohar Amihud. "You don't mess with the Zohar" scampered embarassingly across my cranium when I saw his / her name.
Which reminds me: a perfect way of identifying a stranger as someone you'd like to continue to converse with. Ask them their opinion of Adam Sandler.
Anyway. I am going to actually start building my own website, with the help of a book puiblished for 10-year-olds. And here's the thing: I understand it. So, watch this space.
The weather continues to be grey and soggy for our two-week break, so were wombling about doing indoor things. Yesterday we went to the always excellent Auckland Memorial Museum. It is truly superb, and of an international standard. Their current exhibition, "From Kai to Pie", is a thing of wonder. For overseas readers: Kai (pronounced Kye) is Maori for food, while the ubiquitous pie is a New Zealander's favourite take-away meal. The annual best pie competition can be worth tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of dollars in trade for the winning baker....
There was a live Thai Kai cooking demonstration. A Thai feed for lunch, two bucks. Then there were the exhibits themselves. Excellent,educational, fun. A terrific way of filling three hours.
Today - we're off to the movies. Again. This time, to see the new Leonardo de Cappucino movie, "Inception". I've heard / read wildly varying reviews. I hope it works out well, and that LdC doesn't have to scrunch his face up to show anguish. I've forgiven him the appalling boat movie thing he starred in... that titanically horrible movie, what was it now? He is a fine actor, really, except for when he scrunches his face up in anguish. Then he just looks silly.
Reading: Well, you know. "Look Mom! I built my own website!", Zohan (Not Adam Sandler) Amihud.
Listening to: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, "No Quarter".
More "Paper Heroes":
And that coast is, of course, secure: no-one would be mad enough to land down there. Not for another 12,000 years or so, anyway.

The Equus watched Fox’s finger trace the line, across to Buffalo, a great city of 10,000 people. But there were not enough Unders there: perhaps they could bring some back from Francisco. Then Detroit, and then the long way around what used to be Chicago. On across the Plains, to Salt Lake City, where there was still a pocket of independence. Even now, the Henrys had to seek permission to go through the area. That rankled with The Equus, and he made a note to stamp these Mormonites out, once and for all. Perhaps on the return journey. Yes, cause them no problem on the way west, lull their suspicions. Then rip their bowels out on the way back.

After the Salt Lake, strike west to Sacramento, then on into San Francisco. The city had to be made secure. The Installation was twenty miles from the city, and that made it invaluable.

It worried the Equus that his deputy in San Francisco had allowed the situation to deteriorate as badly as he had. If I can’t rely on my own brother, the Equus thought, then who can I depend on? He recalled that Fox had argued against posting Ronnie to this post, and that he had waved away the scabby man’s protests. Maybe he was right, and Ronnie needed the .45 cure. He’d think on it. Meantime, the train was rocking along, making an impressive 30 miles an hour, moving west. The Equus had some time to pass, so he stood, stretched, and said, “Woman! Where is Woman? Have her sent to me.”

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Another rainy Thursday

A week off work, and it's raining.
On days like today I really miss the home we had at Reporoa. When we were there, bounded on all sides by hard-working farms and farmers, weather meant something. We could rejoice in the rain, and worry about the lack of it. A good hard frost was something to admire, and a blazing hot summer's day gave us the perfect excuse to be lazy and simply enjoy our acre of garden and trees.
Here in the city, it seems, weather is something that has to be endured. The rains comes, and stays, and runs down the drains and does... nothing, really. In some abstract way I know it's filling our water reservoirs, and driving industry, and ... well, who cares? What the rain does isn't obvious, and in-your-face. When it's hot and sunny... well, gosh, we swelter while we work, or if it's a holiday we sit on the deck and drink cold drinks, and the weather happens.
Does this sound as though I'm complaining? Well, I suppose I am. I have to say that I am looking forweard to the day we can leave the city and move back to a rural or semi-rural environment. Our friends will be at one step further removed, but they will probably visit more often, as we'll have a more exotic place for them to go to.
Listening to: Jethro Tull, "Live at Montreux". Ian Anderson is a genius, and a better observational poet and lyricist than anyone else I can think of. Including Dylan and Simon.
Reading: "The Accidental Time Machine" Joe Haldeman. This is the first Haldeman book I've read, and it won't be the last. Good hard Sci-Fi, just the way I like it.
More "Paper Heroes":

A bus hummed up to them, opened its doors, and they stepped aboard. Cienwyn told the bus to go. Driverless, and as silent as a thought, the vehicle moved forward.
Chapter Ten.

2.15pm, N’Yark Time, November 28th, 2386.
Fox and General Heston had performed miracles. The Black Brigade was ready to travel, the train was running, and it had been reported that a clear run across the continent was possible.

The Black Brigade is the elite: The Equus’ real killer force. 500 men, all giants at nearly six feet, most armed with newly-made rifles, the rest with refurbished weapons. There were two machine-gun teams, and two Armoured Personnel Carriers: there was nothing on the continent that could stand up to them. And The Equus knew they were loyal to him, even to death.

The Equus’ breeding, all his upbringing, all his training taught him that power could only come from force. If you had the force, then you had the power to control and rule. It was as simple as that. It was his hand that commanded this force, and as a result he ruled this land. Little pockets of resistance may flare up from time to time, but his weapons, his Tek, his foot soldiers, and his Black Brigade were enough to crush them.

The Equus watched his men troop aboard the train, after the two great APC machines had been carefully loaded onto flat-bed trucks. The black figure-hugging uniforms of the Brigade were immaculate, their steel helmets gleaming like washed coal. Highly polished knee-high leather boots shone in the soft light, and crashed in unison on the ancient concrete of the crumbling railway station, echoing sharply in the high ceiling.


It would take the train two weeks to cross the country to Francisco. The Equus boarded his own carriage, settled in to his seat, and nodded to the conductor who trembled by the door. The man leaned out the door, waved his green flag, and blew a whistle. The steam engine chuffed, took the weight of the train, which shook, and rattled into motion.

The rear door of The Equus’ carriage opened, and Fox stepped into the carriage, now rocking as the train picked up speed. He steadied himself by grasping a corner of the desk, and scurried forward. My little mouse, thought The Equus. Come to find his master’s bidding.

“Show me on the Map, Fox. Show me where we shall travel.”

The man sighed, and rolled the map down again. It showed the North American continent, in a neutral dun colour. There were some areas cross-hatched: these were the Forbidden Zones, lands that still carried a radioactive reminder of the past. Vast areas of the country’s East Coast had been obliterated in the nuclear exchange, and of course much of California had been rendered uninhabitable when the reactors had been left to run hot in the Great Rebellion. From San Jose south, to the tip of Baja California, all was laid waste. The rebel forces had died, of course, as had a few million others, but really, who cared? Spics and wetbacks, kikes and blacks: not a loyal Henry among them. Who would miss them? And that coast is, of course, secure: no-one would be mad enough to land down there. Not for another 12,000 years or so, anyway.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

These Shaky Islands...

The Christchurch earthquake is no trifle. It has been a long and difficult few days for the city's residents, and truly heartbreaking fvor many of them, as their family homes are condemned to wait for the wreckers. The astonishing (I refuse to say miraculous. God had nothing to do with any of this...) thing about the 'quake was, of  course, the fact that no lives were lost. This is a testament to modern building practices, of course, but nonethless there were dozens of "near miss"* stories.
My niece, for instance: the brick wall on her house dissolved, hurling bricks and shrapnel around. Several bricks caromed off her neighbour's fence with enough force to crash through her bedroom window. One smacked into the pillow next to hers, another ricocheted around the room, coming to rest 4 metres from the window. Her daughter was, naturally, terrified, and my niece couldn't get into the child's bedroom. A bookcase had fallen in front of the bedroom door. No matter - a mother gets incredible strength from somewhere under these conditions, and it was, literally, a case of  "with one mighty heave the bookcase was shunted aside".
*It's been pointed out that a "near miss" must, in fact, be a hit. If something nearly misses you, then it it must hit you. If something nearly hits you, it's obvious that it misses. True?
One good thing about the Christchurch earthquake: the television and radio journalists have stopped being lazy and barely competent. The coverage has, on the whole, been excellent. We've been kept up-to-date on all aspects of the event, been brought face to face with the human drama, the costs, and on and on. I am growing weary of the word devastation and its various permutations, which have been utilised to describe everything from a totally collapsed building to a minor crack in a wall, to a ripped-up street. But I can almost forgive the commentators and reporters. They are under a great deal of stress... and, thankfully, haven't asked (well, not that I've seen / heard) anyone "how do you / did you feel?"
The Lovely Jenny and I are on a break. I've now spent a year at the Library, and I had a bit of leave that needed taking... so we're being lazy. I'm sleeping in 'til 8, getting up, and doing a hour's worth of writing. Yay - getting closer to finishing this draft of "Paper Heroes". Don't worry - you're only about a third of the way through it. And we've been to the movies.Twice! Yesterday to see the Austrralian film "Under Hill 60". It is truly magnificent. It should, I think, be short-listed for best foreign film at the Oscars. I wasn't overly keen on seeing it, but I was, thnkfully, outvoted. Brilliant film. And the one we saw to day? Well, speaking of Oscars... Michael Caine, "Harry Brown". People have compared it to Clint eastwood's "Gran Torino", which is, i think, a bad mistake. the only thing they have in common is the leads are played by old buggers. I don't think Caine can score a Best Actor at the Oscars... it's a UK film, after all. But he should pick up a BAFTA for it. The movie itself should pick up a hatful. God, it's gutsy.
Reading: "The Faithful Spy", Alex Berenson. The cover notes compare it favourably to le Carre. Well, you know cover notes. They're puffery, right? But actually....
Listening to: Harry Nilsson, "Best of".
More "Paper Heroes" :
Maybe this is what made them heroes. His way may lead to a different destination.

Blunt, back at his table, straightened his back and grinned and winked at Crayne, who grinned back. By god, Blunt thought. It’s good to see a smile on the man’s face. He’s grim, and that’s a fact. I’d like to know his story.
An hour later, well fed, they were about to head outdoors. They had all been requested to leave their weapons behind, and all but Hanno had agreed. “Fuck you!” the giant had bellowed. “You might as well take away my cock, or my right arm!” He had grinned when the strange little people had quailed and backed down. Blunt wondered how much that had been a performance, too. He watched the giant, and noticed his face pale, then bloom again into a calm contentment. Hanno shook his head, and scowled. Then, once again, his face cleared. No-one but Blunt and Crayne heard the whispered “Crom!”

The first movement outdoors had been a revelation. The sky was a deep blue, with clouds puff-balling along the horizon. A faint silver ribbon arced across the northern horizon. They had come out at the apex of the hill, and Cienwyn beckoned them over to a lookout to look at the city.

They were looking down on a park. Great trees and swathes of lawn were the predominant features, with low-lying houses and large gardens making up most of the man-made features. Sleek vehicles sped soundlessly along the roads that ribboned through the homes, streets, avenues, and boulevards, knitting the broad city into a cohesive whole. In the air, other brilliant machines hummed and hovered.

A small bird, its tail sweeping open into a minute fan, swooped and tittered and peeped among the men.

“That’s a fantail – a Piwakawaka. They’re almost tame,” Cienwyn said. The tiny bird swooped and fluttered around them, squeaking and chortling. It landed on Bill’s head, and Blunt burst out laughing. “God, Bill! If cats could blush, you’d be bright red right now.”

“I’m bleeding ginger, which is pretty close to red, and unless some dozy bastard doesn’t scare this flippin’ bird away, I’m gunna flippin’ eat it, liver and all.”

Cienwyn brushed the bird away, and it fluttered off, chirping reproachfully. “Go on, Bill,” she said. “You wouldn’t eat a bird.”

“Yes I bleeding – crap. No, no, I guess I wouldn’t.” The cat hung his head low.

“Have the cats got these embots, too?” asked Prester.

“Of course.” Surprise in her voice that the question had to be asked.

“Remove them.” Prester said. There was no room for argument in his voice. “Rambo has to know and listen to her instincts. Remove them, and do so as soon as possible.” He looked down at the black cat, and wondered to himself if he had embots now, as well. He hadn’t felt that calm and at peace since – well, since he gained this new life. He straightened his back. Accept that life must be taken one challenge at a time. The elephant is eaten mouthful by mouthful, and not all at once.

A bus hummed up to them, opened its doors, and they stepped aboard. Cienwyn told the bus to go. Driverless, and as silent as a thought, the vehicle moved forward.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sunday Scribbles IL

Damned memory. On Friday I hastily scribbled this line down: "He hops around like an acid-fuelled flea with ADHD". A funny-ish line, and when I wrote it down I knew that I'd remember what it was that sparked the line, and who it was that I was nreferring to.
Nope. Blank. Mind completely empty. I will learn, one day, to write complete notes.
Yesterday's earthquake in Christchurch was a doozy. 500 buildings severely knocked about, many destroyed completely. And not one fatality. Absolutely astonishing. It's a real reminder, however, that Wellington is long overdue for a big one. And I wouldn't be at all sanguine about the chances of getting away with no deaths.
A fellow blogger (who is a female, so therefore possibly not a "fellow") is involved in a bit of a discussion with her brother about the death penalty. She, an agnostic, is against it, while he - being a fundamentalist christian - would cheerfully stand in the audience while someone was hacked to death in front of him. I, being a bleeding heart liberal, am torn between the two. There are evil people amongst us, people who delight in doing unspeakable things. They're using up my grand-daughter's fresh air, and I wouldn't mind at all if they were put down - but gently.
The big question, however, is deciding who deserves to die. And as that's an almost insurmountable question, I think we're better off simply keeping these people right out of society. If they reject society's mores, then society shoulod reject them.
Meanwhile, on the much easier topic of eutheasia - I am wholeheartedly in favour of it. I'm firmly of the opinion that I should be free to choose the time and place of my own death. Yes, counselling should be available. But I have seen so many old people who spend their days in absolute misery and fear that the very thought of my body letting me down like that is abhorrent.
Reading: David Wiltse, "Thye Edge of Sleep". This guy is good. The bad guys are so much more realistic then Hannibal the Cannibal. And the lead good guy is someone tormented by his understanding of his own potential evil-ness. Excellent. Take that, Clarice Starling!
Listening to: The radio. Radio New Zealand National. I have found that I can't listen to commercial radio at all: and yet commercial radio fed,clothed, and sheltered me for 30 odd years...
More "Paper Heroes":

Crayne turned away from Charles, looked at Sean Whistler, and bared his teeth.

“Christ,” said Whistler. “There’s not many’d scare me, but I’d hate to be meeting that man in a dark lane.” And the memory of the dark lane at Waterloo flashed into his mind again, and he paled.

Blunt stood, and went to the buffet table. Bill trotted along behind him, looking up expectantly. “Cream, Boss. Remember?”

“I remember,” growled Blunt. He crooked a finger at Adam, who came over. “I want bacon, and I want eggs. Three eggs, fried. Some toast and honey. Then you can bring me a pot of tea, and bill her4e wants some meat, real meat. And a bowl of cream. Bring it. Now. No delays.” He turned back to join his table.

Adam’s voice squeaked with indignation. “I’m sorry, Colonel, but that’s not why I’m here. If you want to talk –“ his words were cut off as Blunt whirled, and turned on him. He took the three steps necessary to bring his face just two inches from the younger man’s. Blunt’s voice crackled with menace. A pair of lungs that could project a voice across a battleground inflated. The words swept the boy against the wall in a torrent of shock and surprise.

“You’re not what? You’ll find that you’re what I say you are, laddy, and nothing else! And right now you are to bring me my breakfast, and some food for the cat. All the cats! Right now you’re a butler, boy, and you will be until I say otherwise. Start buttling! Do you hear me?” Blunt was stupefied. He had done what he needed to do, but there had been no rage in his words. Merely volume. He had played a part, and played it badly. His hands shook, and he stuffed them into his pockets.

Everyone in the room had heard him. Adam, nearly fainting, stammered a hasty “Yes, Sir,’ and fled to get what Blunt had ordered. Hanno laughed and swept his cat up. “There, Hrothgar! That’s the way to treat these little people! Get me what the Colonel wanted, too, boy!” he shouted at Adam.

Charles, watching the display, sighed, and shook his head. These people must know there were better ways of earning respect, surely? Maybe not. Maybe this is what made them heroes. His way may lead to a different destination.