Saturday, April 30, 2011

Superhero Movies

I've just been to see the new Thor movie, in (yet fucking again) 3D. And this after reading a review of the same film from one of my dearest friends, over here: Woland's Cat Reviews Thor.

It's not a good review. And viewed in one light, I can't really blame him. He's right when he observes that it's hard to get worked up when you know the main characters are fundamentally indestructible. And yeah, there's a lot of silly physics wedged into the storyline to explain the silly comicbook mythology of Marvel.

On the other hand -- it's a bloody superhero movie, innit? If you didn't go along expecting capes and CGI, lots of crashy, boomy fight sequences, trashing of scenery and improbable plotlines, what the hell were you doing there in the first place?

I can explain easily why I was there: I have two boys who love comics. And since Genghis had his weekly bass lesson at 1000, and the session for Thor began at 1045, it was easy to make the connection. I packed the Mau-Mau in the car as well, to give Natalie the morning on her own, and I even arranged for a couple of lasses from the ju-jitsu class (who are also comic junkies) to come along. Made for a nice trip all round, really.

And what did I get? Well, I got to see Natalie's new handmade violin. Genghis gets his lessons from a luthier who is himself a bassplayer, and the man in question is slowly, painstakingly, handcrafting a fiddle for Nat. Today it was fully assembled, though not yet varnished -- and honestly, the tone was amazing: rich and full. The instrument produces a huge sound, yet the tones are clean and pure. Once it's all done, it's going to sound fantastic. As it should... not a cheap toy at all. On the other hand, by selling off all the other fiddles that have come to a halt in our house over the last five years, Natalie has almost filled the bill already. And the sound of this new beast is so astonishingly good -- I had no idea the difference would be so great!

I also picked up a bunch of dark chocolate coated macadaemia nuts from the Coco Bean, as an anniversary present. Because yes, today Nat and I have been married for seventeen years. How the hell did that happen? I'm damned if I know.

They're good mac nuts. And I couldn't do a whole lot else: she's on call for obstetrics this weekend. That's how it goes.

The movie? Oh, well. Actually, it was pretty credible. It looked great, of course. And with Ken Branagh directing, what could easily have been a leaden-footed mass of posturing exposition actually moved along reasonably well. Of course it's all basically an origin story, a setup for forthcoming sequels and for the planned 'Avengers' flicks - but it didn't do too badly.

I was particularly impressed by the dialogue from Thor and the Asgardians in general. In the old Marvel comics, the characters speak in hyperdramatic bad Elizabethan, full of "thee" and "thou" and "thy" and hammy images. In the film, the language was -- just formal enough to be impressive, just off-kilter enough to be suggestive of an older form, and still quite clear. Nice work.

Thor's fighting technique was another pleasant surprise. Whoever blocked out the fight sequences understood that the character is meant to be tremendously powerful: he came across as a very direct fighter with a few canny moves, but mainly reliant on speed, strength, endurance, and a fuck-off big hammer in one hand. Anybody else remember the Spiderman stuff from way way back -- Nicholad Hammond, I think? They made that Spiderman a kind of kung fu fighter, which was just bloody stupid. It would have been easy to give Hemworth a different fighting style - one more appropriate to an armored medieval warrior. But someone understood, and allowed the combat to help build the character.

Would I see it again? Nahh. I bloody hate 3D. An hour or two in those goddam Buddy Holly glasses, and my eyes are red, weeping pissholes. The movie's not worth it. But we'll pick it up on DVD, and I'll probably sit through it again with the kids.

Hemworth did well. He had the right combination of cockiness and gravitas. He could possibly go on to be a real player. And the man doing Loki was effective in his role too. Natalie Portman was... wasted, really, as Jane Foster, Thor's Earthside squeeze. But hell, it's a paycheque, and she played her part as effectively as always. Anthony Hopkins was a natural as Odin - fair casting there, and points to Branagh for getting Hopkins into a comicbook flick.

We rounded the day off with a bite of lunch, and a trip to the secondhand bookstore. Then we came home, and the girls went back to their family while I sat down with mine. Played a fine game of Scrabble with Nat and Jake... and now everybody's in bed, so it's to work, to work for me.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I'm Back!

Forgive the lengthy silence, please. I was otherwise occupied. The National SF Convention occurred in Western Australia this year, over the weekend of Easter -- which happened to coincide with ANZAC Day as well.

The NatCon is my Moveable Feast. Go look at the Aurealis Awards, the Ditmar lists - or even just that "year's best" list in the previous post. Most of those people are friends of mine, and more, they are like-minded peers. Not like-minded in the sense that we share the same politics and opinions, atlthough that can be the case, but like-minded in that sense of childish curiosity and energetic creativity which goes with the territory.

Writing's a lonely job. It's all the lonelier because even when you aren't locked away in your study, the people around you hardly ever have any real conception of what you're doing. Writing books and stories isn't the same as having a job, even if you treat it that way. It's different, and mostly, you do it on your own.

The larger conventions - and of course, because of my isolation out here, and Natalie's role as a doctor, and our three kids, I can only really afford the time to pick the larger ones - are the place where I go to stop being a freak. The first night in Perth, I dove headlong into conversations on 'the universe as simulation', on 'top-down versus bottom-up development of artificial intelligence', and 'intergenerational ethics and climate change'. I was more or less out of my depth at several times in each conversation, but I listened and learned and contributed and argued and I was absolutely rapt.

By the second night, I was at a room party, and there I was swapping wrist and armlocks with Alan Baxter (see that 'best of' list again) who teaches Choy li fut in Illawarra, and arguing trivia with a roomful of half-pissed people. And so it went. I think it was Saturday that I spent an hour and a half trading whistle tunes and off-beat music with Laura Goodin (thank you for the Rustavi Chorus, Laura - and the Chinese classical stuff too. I'm still following up on the others!). By Monday, I was reduced to discussing the cuboidal shape of wombat crap, though. One does get tired. And yet even that discussion spawned the possibilities of Dr Theophrastus Coprolite and his partner in research the Lady Prof. Fastidia Porcelaine in their endless battle with the fiendish Thomas Crapper and his hideous steam-powered water-closet automata... No. Don't ask. When it's done you'll know.

The point is, I love these people and when I get to spend time around them, the ideas bounce, ricochet, regenerate, and return tenfold. There is nothing like a roomful of slightly tipsy SF writers. Seriously. I remember telling Ellen Datlow at one point that if I had Robert Bloch's timestopping pocketwatch from "That Hellbound Train", I would happily pull the pin on history... and her only comment was something like "Go ahead! That would be great!"

So it was a long, long weekend, but never long enough.

Started badly, though. Against my own better nature, I booked a Deathstar flight to Melbourne on the Wednesday, leaving at 1330 to get a 1600 flight to Perth. I did this because Qantas won't land in Launceston, and the Virgin insists I have to go through Sydney to reach Melbourne, at a cost of two or three extra hours in the air, and another $500 on the ticket price.

And to no great surprise, I wound up on the Virgin anyway. Because about the time I had to leave for the airport, Deathstar texted me to say my 1330 flight had magically become a 1930 flight, which really wasn't going to get me to my 1600 connection without involving closed timelike curves, which I still don't understand. They offered me a Thursday flight, which would have been okay - but then rescinded it, and said the best they could do would put me on the ground in Perth around midnight, Friday.

Fucking great. And so I took the Virgin alternative.

There's no way I can list everything I did, and all the people whose company I enjoyed. I had a truly marvellous time, though. Chaz kindly invited me out to dinner on Sunday evening, so I missed the awards ceremony (for which I'm quite grateful, really). I also got to meet his absolutely lovely wife, and I was plied with fine wines and twice-cooked pork belly such that when the day comes that Chaz visits Taz, I shall have to work hard to make the occasion properly special.

Seriously? Note to Chaz: food brilliant, wine excellent, company best of all. Now: finish at least one goddam piece of writing!!! Because it's in you, and that's what you have to do.

Peter Ball: the more time I spend in your company, the more time I wish I had to spend in your company. I shall write a manifesto on this topic sometime very soon, I feel.

Angela Slatter and her inseparable companion Mme Hannett: my pleasure, as ever, ladies. Thank you!

Alan Baxter: it's great to meet someone you've encountered online, and discover that they're even more fun. Next time, though, I want striking drills. After the Gentlemen's Entomological Society Meeting, of course. And beware the Cancer Puddings!

Cat Sparks and the Redoubtable Rob Hood: any gathering with either or both of you in it is guaranteed to be more fun than it truly, legally should.

Laura Goodin: tunes, music, White Rabbit beer, epistolary possibilities, and the adjective 'snockered'. Good lord. When did I hear that last? Thank you, Laura!

Simon, Sue and the Andromeda Table: note that most punters prefer the orphan to be kicked, rather than spared. A depressing fact, but it does sell magazines.

Ian Nichols: well, yes, actually it does sell them. But even when it doesn't, it keeps the punters still long enough for you to move in for the kill. Salut!

Russell: I have the Bristol Stool Chart. Your shirt is in development. Beware.

Paul Haines: solidarity. And all my best. Call me when you need the fucking fences put up, you bastard. I can't let you fight wallaby wire and star pickets on your own.

Amanda Pillar: your Paranormal Noir story is well underway. In fact, two of them. I'll send them both, just to irritate you.

Ellen Datlow: Thank you once again, as ever. And don't forget - next time you need a roomful of incredibly dubious snacks, I'm your man!

Kate E and Rob: Viva, Brizvegas! Kate - I'll send you 30,000 words or so in a few months.

Kaaron: Wow! We actually got to chat! Admittedly, it was in a large, crowded pub, and you were under attack from Cajun Zombie Chicken hordes, but nevertheless, it was a chat. And it was face to face! And you're so much less scary than your stories. Not like that Haines bastard...

(Slowing down now...)

Tehani: I hope the car repairs go well. And if I had to choose somebody with whom to be trapped on a Perth highway for three hours, awaiting towing and repairs, I could hardly do better, could I? Thank you!

Helen and Terri: and yes, also there in time of potential disaster. Terri... you really, really need a map, lady. How can you lose a bloody airport? Helen - grilled haloumi! Yay! And... a southward drift? Here's hoping!

Alisa and Chris -- Chris, it was a pleasure to meet you. Another time, when Alisa's NOT the convenor, it would be cool to take a bit of time. In the meantime: well done, sir. And Alisa? Very well done indeed. I had a really good convention.

So many names. So many others! Rob Harland. Paul Kidd. Martin Livings. Liz Gryzb. Tansy! Young Shani. Emma Kate and her Divorce Tattoo. Natalie Latter. Peter Hillier. The irrepressible Ju... if I've missed you, please forgive me. Remind me at the next gathering, and the drinks are on me.

It was a brilliant long weekend, even if Perth didn't open for the whole damned time. I didn't go there for Perth, after all. I went for the ephemeral world that fell into existence at the Hyatt Regency, and fell out of existence again just a few days later. Like falling into the rabbit hole, or venturing into the mounds of the Sidhe, it is a different time and space. I now have so much writing to do I barely know where to start, and so much energy I hardly can bring myself to finish.

Thank you, one and all.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Aussie Year's Best

I'm just gonna post the press release verbatim:

Ticonderoga Publications is walking on sunshine to announce the contents for its inaugural Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror anthology.

Editors Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene have produced a list of 33 excellent tales by some of Australia's biggest names as well as some emerging writers.

The anthology collects 150,000 words of the best stories published last year from the Antipodes.

"We're pleased with the number of fabulous stories that were published in 2010 that we had to choose from,” Liz Grzyb said.

"You could hold this anthology up against any international collection - Australians rock for diverse voices, imagination, and compelling writing," Talie Helene added.

The stories are (alphabetically by writer):

RJ Astruc: "Johnny and Babushka"
Peter M Ball: "L'esprit de L'escalier"
Alan Baxter: "The King's Accord"
Jenny Blackford: "Mirror"
Gitte Christensen: "A Sweet Story"
Matthew Chrulew: "Schubert By Candlelight"
Bill Congreve: "Ghia Likes Food"
Rjurik Davidson: "Lovers In Caeli-Amur"
Felicity Dowker: "After the Jump"
Dale Elvy: "Night Shift"
Jason Fischer: "The School Bus"
Dirk Flinthart: "Walker"
Bob Franklin: "Children's Story"
Christopher Green: "Where We Go To Be Made Lighter"
Paul Haines: "High Tide At Hot Water Beach"
Lisa L. Hannett: "Soil From My Fingers"
Stephen Irwin: "Hive"
Gary Kemble: "Feast Or Famine"
Pete Kempshall: "Brave Face"
Tessa Kum: "Acception"
Martin Livings: "Home"
Maxine McArthur: "A Pearling Tale"
Kirstyn McDermott: "She Said"
Andrew McKiernan: "The Memory Of Water"
Ben Peek: "White Crocodile Jazz"
Simon Petrie: "Dark Rendezvous"
Lezli Robyn: "Anne-droid of Green Gables"
Angela Rega: "Slow Cookin' "
Angela Slatter: "The Bone Mother"
Angela Slatter & Lisa L Hannett: "The February Dragon"
Grant Stone: "Wood"
Kaaron Warren: "That Girl"
Janeen Webb: "Manifest Destiny"

In addition to the above incredible tales, the volume will include a review of 2010 and a list of recommended stories.

The editors will shortly begin reading for the second volume of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. Details are available from the Ticonderoga Publications website

The anthology is scheduled for publication in June 2011. The anthology will be available in hardcover, ebook and trade editions and may be pre-ordered at

Lice: The Final Solution

You know what? I'm tired of these little bugs.

We've just gone through the second phase of the hair-washing treatment. You're supposed to do it seven days after the first, to ensure that lice hatching from any surviving eggs get killed off. So here I am, once again reeking of ti-tree and eucalyptus, with a houseful of people who smell likewise.

This is stupid.

I'm going to send the kids back to the school. Sooner or later, one of 'em is going to bump heads with another kid who's carrying travellers. And eventually, it's all going to come home once more.

I'm tired of this shit. I'm tired of smelling like eucalyptus. I'm tired of arguing with Genghis and The Mau-Mau and Jake about putting this crap in their hair. I'm tired of periodically checking for infestations. I'm tired of suffering horripilations every time I find myself scratching my head.
Here's an interesting article for you: Waxing Kills Off Sexual Pest?

It talks about the troubles suffered by the Rotterdam Natural History Museum in its attempts to acquire a display specimen of the once-common Crab Louse, phthiris pubis. Apparently, they're having no end of difficulty laying hands on one of the little beasties -- and their best guess is that recent fashions in pubic waxing and shaving have made life very, very hard for the critters.

(Yeah. I have almost as much sympathy as you. I can hear a louse-sized violin playing right now...)

You get the picture, though. What with everybody going the Brazilian lately, crab lice are trundling down much the same path as the Dodo. And whereas a large, land-bound pigeon is actually an interesting sort of creature whose loss has been a matter of cultural note and some regret, a lack of pubic lice is by and large worthy of the same degree of mourning as, say, a sudden disappearance of bankers worldwide. Just to pick a random example.


We managed to kill off smallpox by vaccinating EVERYBODY. We're getting so close to wiping out polio in the same fashion that it's almost a done deal. I vote the next vile creature we target for extinction should be the common head louse.

It's easy. All it would take would be one, simple, co-ordinated World Shave Day. The UN can organise it. Barbers and hairdressers everywhere can do one completely epic day of business - and then go on holiday for a month. (What the hell. We could even pay them to go on holiday. It would be worth it!)

Meanwhile, the newly bald world would gather up all that hair, and just... bury it. Or burn it. Or whatever.

And that's it. No more head lice, ever. Gone, baby gone.

One single day of world baldness, and I'd never again have to smell like koala vomit.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Milestones: School Camp

Jake is off to his first-ever school camp. He did the music camp thing over summer, so he's got the basic idea, but school camp is another step.

I believe they're going to be hanging around Port Arthur and various other convict-era sites. They've been studying colonial Australian history since the start of the year, so no doubt the programme for the camp will be aimed at tying into this stuff.

That will be a challenge, though. I turned up at the school this morning with Jake's case/pack in tow, and the newly built school hall was pandemonium incarnate. Kids, baggage, parents, and a few desperately harassed-looking teachers, ticking names off clipboards.

They're due to be gone until Thursday afternoon. The weather, naturally, is turning cloudy and rainy - as it should for a school camp. The kids are supposed to be doing the whole sleeping-in-tents thing, and Jake has taken a three-man job along. He's got a couple other lads assigned to the tent with him... which of course, is going to turn sleep into a non-event.

Jake's not much of a camper anyhow. He's going to spend much of the week being peeved about being wet, muddy, cold, crowded, etc. I've made him promise not to complain about the food, though. That would just be unfair. It's hardly the school's fault if they're not set to load him up with Oysters Kilpatrick and san choi bau and nasi goreng, is it? I'm sure the food will be perfectly healthy, and edible. He'll just have to deal with it.

Of course, we had to dodge the prohibition on snacks. It was a moral obligation. The kids are not supposed to carry any junk-food treats with them. I can understand that, but it's red-rag-to-a-bull stuff. Jake and I made a big batch of rich chocolate fudge, and now there are ziploc bags of fudge cunningly concealed throughout his luggage. Doubtless this will help assure his popularity for at least a brief period... until somebody blabs and the fudge in his socks gets discovered. But I reckon it's unlikely they'll find the rest of it!

Meanwhile, I'm prepping for the National SF Con. Doing a workshop on introducing fiction-writing techniques to RPG campaign/game design, with the aid of the inimitable Peter Ball -- another veteran gamer and fantasy writer. I'm also on the 'Great Debate', apparently. We're arguing over whether or not the universe and everything in it is actually a simulation. Those of you who have read Angel Rising will be aware I have a few thoughts on that, so it should be fun. Oh, and I'm also handling a storytelling game/event in the ballroom for one evening. Hopefully, there will be a few professional storytellers involved (as well as myself) and a couple bottles of wine. If it works, the meeting of the Gentlemen's Entomological Society should be a real treat. If it doesn't - eh, we'll drink the wine and improvise.

Right. Gotta go. Things to do today, and pretty soon it's time to go and collect my somewhat diminished school brood...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

If These Guys Were Any Cooler, Your 'Net Connection Would Freeze

I don't actually spend my time browsing youtube. But occasionally, people send me stuff. And since my elder son (now known as "Jake") plays cello, and the younger son (now referred to as "Genghis") is a bassman, somebody sent me this:


That is very, very cool.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Is It...Okay That I Find This Hilarious?

Probably not. I admit it: I really shouldn't laugh at the Iranian Policewomen's video. But... all those burqa! And so SERIOUS! Doing all that serious cop shit, with guns and fast cars and rappelling and stuff.

Dammit, I can't help it. I spent too many years laughing at Monty Python. I watch this video, and I desperately want to start a parody show called... I dunno... 'Burqa Squad'. Or maybe "The Confessionals". Or something.

Seriously. Watch the video. If you can get all the way through without even once thinking of voice-overs in a screeching Terry Jones or Graham Chapman falsetto... you're probably too goddam young to be reading this.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Dad Prank.

I bought a packet of googly eyes. And also some blu-tack

The kids have been running around the house like crazed leprechauns, trailing streams of manic laughter. Every time they find a new 'hidden face', they race off to find everyone else and show them. They've even started putting up their own around the place.

It's disturbing. Like the house is watching me...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Goddam BUGS!

It's been a long... fortnight? Longer? I dunno.

The situation this year should be simple. Five days a week, no kids due to school. That should allow me more time for myself, and for work.

But factor things in. The usual: cooking, cleaning, shopping, errands. Add the rest of the usual. Then account for the stuff added this year: gymnastics for the kids, orchestra for the boys and Natalie. And now swimming lessons of a Saturday, at the big pool in Launceston. That's my job too, because the boys (who need to swim better, definitely!) will listen better to me, and because I spent a lot of my young life around two professional swim teachers - my parents.

Then add in a tummy upset last week, and a bunch of visitors, and multiply by the fact that I am trying very hard to give more weekend time to being with kids, etc, and you'll realise that I was really, really looking forward to tomorrow. Monday. Nobody home but me.

Tuesday Natalie's home. I can work, but it isn't the same. Wednesday likewise, and of course, I'm planning for the afternoon and evening of ju-jitsu. Thursday is a nightmare of back-and-forth to Scottsdale with instruments, lessons, Swedish studies, etc. Friday isn't so bad, but by that end of the week there are usually pressing errands. Monday is the day I like to pile in and really get my own work done.

The weekend was pretty full-on. Natalie was on call, so I couldn't be out of communication with kids/house, etc. Therefore I took Genghis to his bass lesson Saturday, with a quick stop at an interesting nursery that has some fantastic apple trees that I want. Definitely want. And they were supposed to email me, and they haven't, and obviously I'm going to have to go back and shake them up a little. For they are gorgeous trees: maybe two and a half metres tall, and every branch utterly groaning under tonnes of beautiful, pink-red apples the size of plums - but tart, and sweet, and delicious, not like crab-apples at all. They lean over the road from the nursery, and shamelessly I stole a couple of kilogrammes last week and made a spicy apple jam... it is utterly delicious, and I want those apple trees.

Anyhow. While Genghis was doing the bass stuff, Jake and the Mau-Mau and I padded about inner-city Launceston. We found some Asterix and Obelix DVDs - cartoons from the 1970s. I didn't even know they existed. They were six or seven dollars each. We bought three.

After the lesson, Genghis put his new transport wheel into the bottom of his bass, which delighted him. The luthier who teaches him bass had only managed to procure this wheel that morning, you see, but Genghis had been anticipating it for weeks. It's about fifteen centimetres high, and it works like a castor, on a support rod that fits into the socket at the bottom of the base where the spike usually goes. With his new wheel in place, Genghis is at last able to move the instrument comfortably. We've been carting it around for him up until now, have Natalie and I, since the instrument itself is considerably broader and taller than he is. But with the wheel -- well, he slung the neck of the bass over his shoulder, and zoomed off down the sidewalk, making loud motorcycle noises.

Happy kid.

We spent a couple hours at the big pool complex after that. One at a time, I took the boys into the larger pool and put them to some serious swim learning. They're both water-safe enough for Tasmania, naturally, but I'm determined that they're going to actually swim, not just float, thrash, dog-paddle, or whatever.

Jake is built for it - lean and gangly. He takes after me, and I've always been a very good swimmer. (My mother held several Australian records in her age group when she swam in the Masters. And she quite liked the odd 10km race. Father... well, with his shoulder, he doesn't swim hard any more. But when he did, he was very, very fast indeed.) Unfortunately, Jake is nervy, and not relaxed, and it's hard going to get him to progress.

Genghis, on the other hand, is stocky and densely muscled. Not good for floating at all. But once he got the idea, he was right into it. In the space of half an hour, he went from kickboarding to practice his breathing and flutter kick, through to working a basic freestyle stroke, and by the time we quit for the day, he could manage six or seven metres of very fast, very strong freestyle... but he couldn't yet integrate the breathing, so he did it all in one breath.

I figure another two, three weeks for Genghis and he'll be ready to handle a full fifty metre lap of freestyle - if he keeps learning at this rate. It'll take Jake longer. On the other hand, when they can both manage it, the situation will reverse, because Jake has the advantage of his reach, and build. Never mind.

We made it home, and I rounded up a bunch of laundry, etc. Then I handled dinner, and we watched one of those Asterix flicks. Which was... very odd. But you get the idea: busy day, not a lot of my own work.

So, today. Sunday. Determined to do well for the kids, I got up with everyone and we had our pancakes and backon. Then I played a couple games of "Kung Fu Samurai On Giant Robot Island" with the boys, and sorted a bunch of laundry. After that, a short lunch, and then an hour or so of combined frisbee/vortex toy throwing with all three kids, because the sun was out and the day was beautiful. And then we went shopping, and I set up for a charcoal barbecued chicken dinner.

I was the Good Dad, yes. And it was nice. We had a very pleasant day. And all the time, I could feel the emails piling up, and I figured: yeah, I'd get them tomorrow.

Dinner finished. I threw all three kids in the bath, and climbed in to do a mass hairwashing. All good.

And it should have stayed that way. Except that the Mau-Mau continued to complain of an itchy scalp. Natalie had already checked her for bugs, and found naught, but I figured - with her hair damp, and using a powerful LED torch, I could really do the job right.

I found one.

One rotten, stinking louse. One.


Tomorrow, all three children stay home from school. The boys seem to be completely clear, as usual, but the rules say they stay home too. And I shall go to the chemist, and I will purchase a crapload of ti-tree and eucalpyt based products. And I will individually treat all three kids, and then myself - for of course, my scalp now itches like hell, though Natalie says there's nothing to be seen - and all of this will take most of the morning, and the afternoon will have kids running back and forth, and arguing, and I will not be able to string together the quiet I really desperately wanted, and that's that, isn't it?

One filthy little bug.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Iceland Wins Again!

You may recall that some time ago, I wrote of Iceland with some enthusiasm and approval. I believe it was shortly after they elected a professional comedian as mayor of their largest (only?) city, Reykjavik.

Iceland goes from strength to strength, however. When the Icelandic banking system began to smell like a bucket of bad hakarl, the Icelanders didn't permit a massive bullshit bailout. They did NOT authorize a huge transfer of taxpayers (public!) funds to prop up a bunch of (private!) corporations. Nope.

Like the sensible folk they are, they took it on the chin, and let the banks fend for themselves. (Amid considerable rancour. As should indeed have been the case.)

Now they've gone one shining step farther. Not only have they begun prosecuting the people who played fast and loose with the banking system -- they've actually found one of them guilty, and sentenced him to prison. To top it off, before the crash he was actually a permanent secretary in the Icelandic Ministry of Finance.

This is a good thing. Imagine how much better the USAnian situation could have been right now if the American government had shown some stones, and actually arrested the corporate megabastards who financially sodomized their entire nation!

But they didn't. Instead, they threw something like a trillion dollars of taxpayer monies into the hungry maw of the corporate finance beast - and at last check, Wall Street finance companies were once again paying multi-million dollar bonuses to their executives while the government teeters on the edge of shutdown, and ordinary Americans find themselves without simple things that most of the Western world takes for granted.

Now... if only Iceland would stop harpooning whales and start harpooning American bankers instead!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Some Photos And Stuff.

As usual, I really don't know how this stupid blogging software is going to order these photos. I can never remember whether it's backwards, forwards or sideways. So you'll get what you get, in the order you get it, and you'll deal with it. Or not.

Right. Now, for those who may not be aware, my residence lies along one of the Tasmanian highways which host the yearly Targa Tasmania, a road race which is apparently very well known and popular worldwide amongst people who... errr... like to drive expensive cars very quickly around road which really aren't designed for that.

To many people in Tasmania, it's a major highlight of the year. Unfortunately, I'm not much of a petrolhead, so for me, it's just that day in April when they close off my driveway from 0700 to 1200, so the kids don't go to school, and poor Nat has to get away very early indeed to avoid leaving the hospital a doctor short. And then, of course, it's about three hours of loud car noises.

The kids like it, though. The day off is appreciated, and we always make a point of going up to the top paddock to have a look at some of the competition. Not that we know much about it...

That's a car. I'm sure of it. It was going pretty quickly, too.

This is another car. Notice that it's a different colour. The kids were quite taken by the fact that it didn't have a roof. I don't think they'd ever paid attention to a convertible before. This car was also going quickly.

Oh! And this photo has nothing whatsoever to do with Targa Tasmania. It was, in fact, taken the other day when we were all down the beach at Bridport, keeping up with two sets of visitors at once. There was Gemma and her two kids, and at the same time, there was Nat's dad, and his wife. It all got a bit manic at times, but it was a nice day. And as you can see, the Mau-mau was delighted by the chance to play chasey with the waves.

And this photo shows Younger Son, doing the lost-and-lonely-on-the-beach thing. I like this shot very much. The composition is good, and Younger Son was ambling along with just the perfect attitude. It helps that he's a striking young lad in his own right, but the timing was rather good.

Oh - I should mention that Younger Son has finally earned a name here in these annals. Even as Elder Son became 'Jake Flinthart' after the WorldCon in Melbourne, Younger Son has laid claim to "Genghis Flinthart" as his own.

And frankly, it suits him. Therefore, Genghis Flinthart he shall be henceforth.

Which brings us to this last photo: Jake and Genghis raptly enjoying the race at about 0800 this morning. They watched about five minutes worth of cars going past, and then the urge to race around like loons overwhelmed them. In this picture, they're playing their very own combat game called "Star Trek Punch-Out". The rules are simple: each player takes on the role of one of the more violent of the Star Trek regulars, and then they swing wild, slo-mo haymakers at each other, reeling back with hilariously exaggerated expressions of dismay whenever their opponent takes a swing at them.

It's unnervingly like the fight sequences from Old Trek, actually. But Genghis's occasional cries of "Khaaaaaaaaan!" lack that special something which only The Shat could ever bring to the screen...

Monday, April 4, 2011


Well, the whole visitors thing is working out pretty well. The two kids visiting are behaving well, and getting along okay with the residents -- aside from a few minor scuffles between the Mau-Mau and young Jen, who is just a couple months younger. Five/six-year-old girls are unpredictable, and in this case, unfortunately, there's a bit of the name-calling and the neener-neener-neener bullshit that sometimes crops up.

Not that it lasts.

With Nat's dad and her stepmum in town, plus our old friend Gemma and her two kids here at Chez Flinthart, things have been more than a little hectic. Friday orchestra evening segued seamlessly into Saturday Bass Lesson plus Visitor Pickup plus Grandparent Meetup plus Extended Playtime At The Launceston Hilltop Swimming Complex. And of course, I've been cooking: polenta-crusted baked salmon for Saturday night; charcoal-roasted leg of lamb on Sunday night, and tonight, a spicy Vietnamese-style beef soup with spiced meatballs and home-made rice noodles.

To be fair, the rice noodles didn't work out as well as I'd like. In fact, they fell apart a lot. But the soup was still good, and the kids were so good about eating it that I even succumbed and made pinwheel apple danishes and whipped cream for dessert.

It's been good having Gemma visiting. I don't get many people through who will face up to a decent horror film, and I've been waiting for an excuse to watch 'Sauna' again. Gemma came through with flying colours - aside from falling asleep here and there - and the movie was as enjoyable as I recall from the first viewing. Not an explosive, hack-and-slash horror film, no, but a very effectively atmospheric film that culminates in some really, really nasty visual and emotional imagery.

Last night we tackled "Dead Snow", which is a fairly tongue-in-cheek Norwegian flick about a bunch of medical students off for a weekend of skiing and Extracurricular Activities in an isolated cabin. Naturally, things go badly wrong -- things, in this case, meaning a bunch of Nazi zombies left over from WWII. Not nearly as affecting as 'Sauna', but it was still a whole bunch of fun, with a nice sense of humour.

Unfortunately, something I ate disagreed with me rather violently. I had the most epic stomachache all night, and combined with the zombie flick, it led to repeated awakenings from dreams in which either I was stabbing myself in the stomach, or things were trying to eat my intestines. Oddly, I wasn't particularly disturbed. I think I was too tired, and of course, every time I woke up I was in too much pain.

So I didn't achieve very much today, no. And I am very tired.

Beyond that, however, lies a tragedy of truly Olympian proportion. It's such a tragic tragedy that I really don't quite know how to express it. I'll just come straight out and say it:

Boag's is discontinuing their 'St George' variety.

That may not seem like much to you, but... well, for the last few years, this has been my absolute favourite beer. It's fresh, sharp, tasty, and sits lightly on the palate, though it's full-flavoured and full-strength. The idea that they're discontinuing it has smitten me with despair, and led Gemma and myself on quests to several pubs to find the last couple of remaining cartons.

I am now approximately one half-carton of beer away from a period of deepest mourning...