Monday, May 30, 2011

Winter Busyness

Winter indeed. I don't know what the rest of you out there are going through, but we're having an early winter here in Tas, and a cold one. Lots of frosts; clear, cold nights where the temperature drops to freezing. We even had a good dose of Aurora Australis a few nights back, apparently. Unfortunately, with the mountains immediately to our south, I didn't get to see the display. Mind you, I've caught the Southern Lights before, so I can lay claim to having seen the earth's aurora at both ends of the planet.

I've been writing, which is good. A couple of stories, three submissions, one rejection. The other two are on longer deadlines - one is for Ticonderoga's paranormal noir anthology upcoming, and the other for Cosmos. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

And more writing: two novels at once. There's the novelisation of the libretto for Outkast Opera, and another project, which I don't care to discuss. Enough to keep me quite busy, obviously.

Meanwhile, in keeping with Sudden Winter, I have a cold. And apparently, also 'Geographic Tongue'. Which is as weird as it sounds, yes. I thought about trying to take a photo, but between the need for a mirror and a flash (which is always a bad combination) or alternatively, the need to point the camera at my tongue while vaguely hoping for the best, I decided I'd pull a photo off the Net. And here it is. Not my tongue, but more or less what my tongue currently looks like. Ick.

Meanwhile... this year isn't slowing down even a little bit. It just screams past while I'm still trying to catch my breath. Every day, every week, chockfull. Last Friday night, Nat and the boys did their first concert with the Launceston Youth and Community Orchestra. It went rather well, all things considered - all things being a tired and impatient Mau-Mau, sub-zero weather by the time the concert was finished, lengthy pause between practice and play (which we filled with a trip to Dumpling Legend for dinner) and the fact that yes, it was a Friday night concert in Launceston after a long and trying week at school, etc.

I notice they're trying to set up a four-term school year again here in Tas. I guess those summer holidays are just too long for good, industry-standard breaks. Can't have the kids getting used to the idea of freedom, can you? And those awful parents, demanding time off to be with their spawn... how dare they?

I don't think they're planning to add a lot more in the way of school days, mind you. Just redistribute the holidays. Of course, that means an extra start-period every year, in which nothing much gets done. And an extra last-week-of-term each year, in which (yes, again) nothing much gets done. But that's okay, because it will Modernise Tasmania, and Bring Us Into Line With The Mainland.

... you know, I'm kind of tired of prioritising corporate interests over everybody else in society.

Take the current fuss with Cate Blanchett supporting a carbon tax. Madame B has been a card-carrying Green for many a year, and has put her money where her mouth is in terms of lifestyle. She's speaking up in favour of a price on carbon, designed to help raise awareness of CO2 production, and to reduce it by allowing less CO2 intensive alternatives compete with the artificially lowered price of carbon-heavy energy.

And for this Rupert sets the media dogs on her.

Meanwhile, Australia's richest individual -- Gina Rinehart -- jumps on the bandwagon against the infamous Mining Tax, howling that it'll bring roooination to us all. Oddly, Gina's massive fortune comes from... mining. Yes. But does anyone call her out on the patently obvious conflict here?

Well, not in uncle Rupert's newspapers they don't. Nor in TV-land, where the Word of Murdoch is Law.

We can afford a mining tax. In fact, it's arguable we can't afford NOT to have one, because while we're making money from resources now, the day will come when either we run out, or the demand falters -- and if we haven't done the right thing by ourselves as a nation, we're gonna wind up looking a lot like Nauru: an ugly, abandoned chunk of Pacific undesirable. But apparently the possibility that Gina might have to make do with just ONE set of platinum-forged dinnerware is too much.

We can also afford a carbon tax. And again: it's arguable we can't afford NOT to have one. But Cate has no oars in the water here. She's not making money out of anti-CO2 schemes. She states loudly and clearly that what she wants is to be able to look her kids in the eye when they're older, and say that yes, she did her best to preserve a decent world for them.

I guess it's up to you whether or not you accept that. But given that the nastiest of Uncle Rupert's diggers have yet to uncover a money-making link between Cate Blanchett and any "no-CO2" alternatives -- well, if you don't accept Cate's motives, you're going to have to scratch around and devise one of your own. Which ought to be interesting.

Well, hell with it. I'm going to go out and get some exercise. I'm heading down into the berry patch to cut back the old canes. And yes: I'm going to compost them, which will keep the carbon in the soil and do at least a little bit for the atmosphere...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

More Pirates

Well, I took the inevitable trip with the boys to see the new Depp/Pirates film this weekend. And either my sensibilities have been blunted, or it really wasn't as bad as I expected.

Let's be clear: I love the first of the three films. It's a gem, a marvellous mix of homage, irony, spectacle, character-acting and sheer damned fun. The second film was a much less vivid work, aimed mainly at bringing the third onto the screen. And the third was a muddy, plodding, noisy wreck that disappointed in almost every way.

Obviously, I wasn't expecting much from the fourth. Admittedly, the fact that they felt a need to credit Tim Powers' book for the title and elements of the plot was a positive factor. I do like Mr Powers work. Nevertheless, I went in expecting little more than eyestrain (3D again, yes) so the fact that I was entertained more often than I was bored counts as a success.

The problem, for me, with the movies since #1, is that they've lost the momentum and the character interplay that carried the first from one set-piece to the next. The set-pieces are fun, sure. The complicated Jack-Sparrow-Escapes-From-The-Royal-Palace effort was positively balletic, and filled up the screen nicely, while remaining very much in character for Sparrow. But in between the shiny set pieces in the first film, we got a certain amount of character development. Minor plot arcs that kept the film from getting dull.

There's little of that here. In between the set pieces, what we get is essentially exposition aimed at moving the plot to the next set-piece.

Credits: Ian MacShane has an absolute lock on 'menace', and does a fine job as the villain of the piece -- Edward Teach, or Blackbeard. Penelope Cruz looks the part (as always), and is sufficiently fiery of mien to allow us to believe she's actually able to buckle those swashes up there in the action scenes. Depp has Jack Sparrow under his skin now, and Geoffrey Rush is reliable as ever in Barbossa's boot. (Not boots. He's had a very piratical accident.)

Brickbats: the subplot involving the preacher and the mermaid is tacked on to add something resembling complexity to an otherwise painfully straightforward go-there-and-grab-the-maguffin plotline. I didn't give a flying fart about the preacher, and my only real response to the mermaid was to wonder whether or not the Internet had any slightly less clothingy photos of her. (It does.) Keira and Orlando may not have been the most riveting actors on screen in the first flick, but they were given more room to play, more depth, and most of all, more goddam significance to the storyline. I actually feel rather sorry for the people playing Mr Preacher and Ms Mermaid.

Overall? Don't bother seeing it on your own, but if you've got kids who like the franchise, it's entertaining enough to justify an afternoon out.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Superhero fliers. Radio. Fucking. Controlled.

God DAMN I could have some fun with one of those things...

The End Is Nigh

Yep. This is the last night in which I sleep quietly, in an otherwise empty house. (Ignoring two pet cats, three pet rats and two fish, of course.) Tomorrow evening, Nat and the spawnage return to the fold, and levels of noise and chaos rise appropriately.

It's been a good break. Sunday night, for example: I invited a number of the older ju-jitsu students to turn up and watch some classic films with me. (Okay - they're classic to me, all right?) See, while the boys would watch anything if they had the chance, Natalie has seen The Princess Bride and Blade Runner often enough that she'd just roll her eyes and groan at me for watching them again. On the other hand, it turned out that the posse of teenagers in the martial class hadn't seen either. (Barring the redoubtable Amy, who had actually seen The Princess Bride, but was completely happy to see it again.)

It was a good evening. I made pizza and popcorn, and we watched The Lost Thing first, in the grand old tradition of cartoons before the main feature. Everybody enjoyed The Princess Bride appropriately (although April used the word 'ridiculous' so often that eventually, I replied to her with the Montoya Response to an overused and potentially incorrect word. And if you don't know the Montoya Response... no. That's just inconceivable!) and the encounter between Inigo and Count Rugen, with all the repeats of the famous "Hello! My name is..." speech went over exactly as it should.

Blade Runner also provoked the right responses. I have to admit: I really like the current crop of young students. There's some wit and insight there. It speaks well of their families, and of a community that can bring up young people like this, even when the economy and the long-established customs are faltering.

And what else? Well, I've also shopped for a replacement computer for the boys. They've got my old one, but it runs on XP, and it's about five years old. It's slow to start, and it's reaching its capacity in terms of functionality. Natalie is particularly cranky with it, because she likes to use it to consult the Internet, rather than disappearing off to her study.

On the other hand, it really does look as though replacing it with a useful faster model will cost at least $600, which is more than we want to pay for mere convenience. (And six hundred will only get a machine with Vista. There is no conceivable way I will permit another Vista-driven machine into this house, so I'd have to load one of my copies of XP onto the thing... and really, that's not much of an upgrade, given that their current machine operates under XP.)

Hmm. I've also bought and planted four apple trees. The species is Malus gorgeous, believe it or not, and it's theoretically a crab-apple. However, there are a few mature trees in Launceston, and Genghis and I raided a couple. They fruit very heavily indeed, and though the apples are small and tart, they're quite tasty. The trees are genuinely gorgeous, and the jam I made from the apples -- flavoured with clove, cinnamon and honey -- was wonderful. Oh, and Genghis ate an entire bagful of the things. So, yes: I think that putting four of them in the ground around the Giant Killer Playground Fortress is a good plan.

What else? Oh, I've slothed. And it's been good. I watched a couple movies I'd picked up ages ago, and never managed to find time for: Zombieland and Taken. The former was quite entertaining: Woody Harrelson's turn as the redneck master zombie-killer 'Tallahassee' was lovely, and the little knife the writers stuck in with the backstory of the death of his son was unexpected and affecting. Bill Murray's appearance as himself was comedic platinum.

Taken, on the other hand, didn't do nearly so much for me. Liam Neeson did what he could with the material, but it was... not pleasant. Annoyingly patriarchal. Irritatingly xenophobic. Depressingly prone to racial and cultural stereotyping, and underpinned with that godawful American righteousness that Hollywood loves to jam down our throats. Corrupt French police, vicious Albanian drug- and slave- traffickers, decadent, cowardly, salacious Arab sheikhs... and over it all, Neeson's Righteous Fatherly Rage.

Fuck it. That is really not a movie I needed, and I'll be glad to get it out of the house.

The break from cooking has been nice too. Other than Sunday night's pizzaganza, I've subsisted on leftovers and toasted sandwiches. The fridge is now down to a state where I can meaningfully clean it out tomorrow, and restock it. I'm not looking forward to that, I admit. Eyyeuch.

Of course, there's been the inevitable irritation from those mindless pricks at Telstra Bigpond. Those of you who read this regularly know it took me nearly five months to get NextG broadband here, owing to reception problems. You may also be aware that in order to minimise the cost, the account is linked to Natalie's mobile phone number.

Note well: I'm the one who set up the account. Me. Personally. At the Telstra shop in Launceston. I created the account, and with the help of a Telstra functionary, I linked to Natalie's mobile.

So - the first time I tried to contact Bigpond to ask about account details, I was told I had no access. Because, of course, it's Natalie's mobile. And even though I'm listed on the home phone, I'm not on her mobile account. No matter that the existence of the Bigpond account was down to me: because it's linked to Natalie's mobile, I can't ask about details, or do basic maintenance.

Here's a note for you Telstra: no way NATALIE is going to check the basics. She doesn't know how, doesn't have time, and depends on me to handle that shit -- as I told you when I set up the account. You cretins.

Anyway, Natalie finally got around to ringing Bigpond, and adding me to the account. She did it on Tuesday last week. And yesterday, I rang Bigpond to adjust the password to the account, because for some reason it doesn't respond online - so I can't check our data usage.

Guess what? The Indian-accented woman at the Telstra Bigpond call centre informed me that I'm not listed on the Bigpond account. Apparently Natalie needs to ring Billing and tell them to add me...

... gosh. I wonder what she actually did on Tuesday? And more to the point, I wonder what f__king drugs the Telstra employee she talked to was on when they told her that they were adding my name to the account?

I am so f__king tired of Telstra and Bigpond that I would pay twice as much money to any other carrier for an equivalent service.

Shame there aren't any other carriers out here, eh?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Looking Out For The Kids.

In 2009, a man in Bakersfield, California bit out his four-year-old son’s eyes. He may have eaten one of them. He was under the influence of PCP at the time.

In 2005, China Arnold put her 28-day-old baby Paris into a microwave oven, and cooked her to death. She’d had an argument with her boyfriend.

New Jersey, February 2010. A 21-year-old man kidnapped his three-month-old daughter from his estranged wife. He wrapped the baby in a sleeping bag, and threw her off a bridge into the freezing waters of the Raritan river.

January 2009: in Melbourne, Arthur Freeman threw his four-year-old daughter Darcy off the Westgate bridge to fall something like sixty metres into the Yarra river. She lived long enough for the ambulancefolk to try to revive her. Freeman had been arguing with his ex-wife, apparently.

I’m not going to go farther into the details of these incidents. You can if you want. I’ve included the necessary links. I’ve had all the horror I can handle for the moment.

This meditation is triggered by page eight of my local newspaper, which featured an article on China Arnold and her dead baby, right next to another article about a man who shot his wife, then his three small children, and then himself. Currently, my kids are in Perth with Natalie, visiting their grandmum. I’m enjoying the solitude, and the ability to sleep as I see fit... but the gap the kids leave is enormous, even if it’s a relief to be on my own for a while.

It’s an increasingly overpopulated world. Nearly seven billion people. I’m old enough to recall when it was four billion. Since I’m not a geriatric yet, it’s pretty obvious we’re breeding at a terrifying rate. And every new human has needs, and — in theory at least — rights. At the very least, every new human being is exactly that: a human being, and if we treat them in any lesser fashion, we demean ourselves. More importantly: the creature that can voluntarily hurt or kill a dependent, defenseless, innocent child is a thing that has at least temporarily given up any possible right to be viewed as a human being.

And yet the horrorshow rolls on. I listed only four incidents, and I deliberately limited myself to the US and Australia. I hate to think what the list might look like if I really did some research, and considered the whole world.

What I’m saying is this: we have to be licensed to drive a car. You need a license to fly a plane. You can’t practice law or medicine without going through all kinds of training and oaths and examinations and licensing. You need a license to wire up a house for electricity. You need qualifications to teach at school. You need certification to handle food in a shop or restaurant. You’re even supposed to have a license to get married.

So how the fuck is it that we collectively don’t have the stones to step up and ask for some kind of goddam evidence that people can be fit parents before we put them in charge of children?

Right about now, there’s a whole bunch of people reading this, collective sucking in wind, getting ready to bleat about human rights and freedoms. Right about now, if I could, I’d slug each and every one of those people in the solar plexus to make them cough, whoop, and shut the fuck up while I ask the obvious counter-question: what about the rights of the kid whose eyes got chewed out? Where were Darcy Freeman’s rights in the last, terrifying, flailing three-and-a-half seconds (‘cos yes, folks, that’s how long it takes to fall sixty metres. It’s high school physics. Check your watch. Count it off. Three and a half seconds. That’s how long Darcy had to think about what was happening to her, before she hit.) of her life?

The state already acts like an extended nanny-system to kids. The state demands the kids participate in an education system which is, quite frankly, fucked up. The state demands all kinds of censorship to ‘protect kids’. Including that idiot Conroy’s Great Internet Clusterfuck — and, of course, the lack of an R-18 classification for computer games. The state insists kids can’t drink or smoke. The state tries to mandate minimum levels of exercise for kids. The state prescribes where and how childbirth is to take place, and under whose observation. Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of all this shit, the state instead tried to insist that people becoming parents demonstrate reasonably sound judgement in the first place?

When you decide to become a parent, you agree to put your whole world to one side in favour of someone else. You have to, or you’re worse than a fool. A child doesn’t have any choice about being born. The choice - limited as it may be by religious idiocy on birth control — belongs to the parents. Sperm and egg have nothing to say about the whole process. Neither does the foetus.

If you’re not ready to reshape your whole existence so you can nurture a new human being — do not fucking well become a parent. If you find this has happened to you accidentally: either get yourself straight, or admit you fucked up, and allow the kid to be adopted. There are a large number of eager, well-qualified couples desperate to have kids who can offer the child a real life.

And finally: the political group that steps up and says “Yes. We need to impose some kind of education, licensing, and restriction on parenting, and we’re going to do that. We’ll match it with improved support for new parents and their kids, of course,” is going to get my vote. And I don’t give a flying fart in a windstorm for 'the devil in the details’, or ‘the rights of the parents’, or anything similar. Because no kid should ever, ever have to answer a police inquiry with the words "My daddy ate my eyes."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

419 Scammers Alive And Well... But Behind The Times

So, I just got this in the spambox of one of my email addresses:

Dearest in Christ

With Due Respect And Humanity, Let me first of all inform you, I got your email address from a mail Directory and decided to mail you for a permission to go ahead.I am Mrs. Rachael James from United Kingdom. I am married to Mr. Tom James who worked with a construction company in Asia for
twenty Years before he died in the tsunami disasters, we were married but without Any children.

I am now suffering from long time breast Cancer and Cancer of the lungs, from all indication my condition is really deterioration and it is quite obvious that i won't live more than 2 months according to my doctor, this is because the cancer stage has gotten to a very bad stage;Since his death I decided not to re-marry. I deposited the sum of (Two MILLION UNITED STATES DOLLARS) in a bank and now i am willing to donate this sum to the less privileged and to contribute to development of church in Africa, America, Asia, and Europe.

My late husband was a very wealthy and after his death, I inherited all his business and wealth, Presently this money is still with the bank and the management just Wrote me as the beneficiary to come forward to receive the money or rather Issue a letter of authorization to somebody to receive it on my behalf If I cannot come over. I am presently in a hospital where I have been undergoing treatment Cancer of the lungs in a hospital , I have since lost my ability to talk and my doctors have told me that I have only a few months to Live. Please i want you to note that this money is lying in the Bank.

I want a person that is trustworthy that will utilize 90% of this money to fund churches, orphanages and widows around the world but in my name Mrs.Rachel James"As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you the contact of the bank.I will also issue you a letter of authority that will prove you as The new beneficiary of this fund. Please assure me that you will act accordingly as I stated herein and Keep this contact confidential till such a time this funds get to your Custody,this is to ensure that nothing jeopardizes my last wish on Earth.

I await your urgent reply.

Yous In Christ,

Mrs.Rachel James

I'd just like to point out a couple things. First, it looks as though the 419-ers have finally got the hang of punctuation. Except for random Capitals, of course. Words like Keep and Custody are definitely important enough to need capital letters, right?
Next there's this Cancer stuff. I think Mrs Rachel James would have been more convincing if she'd had only one cancer, not two at once. But hell, who am I to argue? Maybe she collects cancers. Everyone's gotta have a hobby.
Finally: why are these eejits are still working in USAnian pesos? Haven't they heard of the recent rude health of the Aussie Dollar? When are we going to see whining Nigerians trying to convince us to send a lot of money and personal details to free up a massive hoard of good old Australian cash, eh?
It's not good enough, I tell you. Something should be done!

Edited to add: You know, I find it fascinating how so many of these 419 letters I see cloak themselves in Christian greetings. You don't suppose they have some reason for thinking that loudly religious folks might be... I dunno... more gullible than the rest of us?
Nahhh. Who'd think a thing like that?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day Weekend.

I didn't do much useful writing this morning. One would think I could, what with the kids catching an 0800 bus, and me not having to go shopping or anything until 1400 or so.

Truth is, I was mentally wasted. The weekend was Not Easy.

It probably started Friday sometime. I had to make sure all the kids were packed properly for a weekend on the road. And I had to ensure that the double bass and the cello and the violin were waiting in my car for the changeover after school. And of course, I had to be packed myself, yep.

So a little after three, Natalie zooms up the drive in her little blue machine. She's got the boys. They jump into the Earth King (now chucky-jam with musical instruments, as per instructions) and zoom off.

Roughly twenty minutes later, I collect the Mau-Mau from the bus stop, get her changed into civvies, and we zoom off after Natalie. Once we hit Launceston, I have time to grab some sandwiches for the kids, and some sushi for Nat. Then I refuel the car, and zip round to the orchestra zone to meet Nat and the boys after their practice. We convoy from there to the house of a friend who is supposed to look after the Earth King and the cello and the bass for the weekend.

It's now roughly six pm. The kids are eating in the little blue car, and I'm driving. Two hours later down the midland highway and left, and we're at Hatchers' Manor, near Richmond. I won't go on at length about the place, but I will say this. I stayed there once, about five years ago, with a friend, and I've never forgotten it. Neither has he. We spent most of the weekend laughing at the mad architectural quirks of the place (a toilet placed under a sloping roof meant I actually had to lean sideways when I went for a piss!) but at the same time, it was wonderfully comfortable, great value for money, and the people running it couldn't possibly be nicer. I've been awaiting the right moment to drag the family down there... and this was it.

Yes. It is modelled after somebody's idea of a Swiss alpen chalet thing. And yes. The tower/turret has an apartment in it. And that pink trim? All over the interior too. Yep. But trust me: comfortable, friendly, spacious - brilliant place.

Mind you, after a two-hour drive all any of us wanted was bed. I ducked out to Richmond, found beer, cider and pizza, then returned to feed everybody and then more or less crash.

Next day we took in breakfast. Then we zipped down to Hobart, and dropped Natalie at her music thing - a chamber music workshop, as it happened. Guess it's a change from the Irish stuff she usually does. In any case, that left me and the kids for the next six to seven hours. I made a call to an old friend, and then we took off for the Salamanca Markets.

That's the main lobby of Hatchers Manor, by the way. Just in case you thought I was exaggerating when I said the place is peculiar. But fun.

Hobart's Salamanca Markets are good value. We met up with my friend Pete, shopped for Mother's day presents (we found some flowers and a really nice scarf in Lao silk) and bought a whole bunch of different apples. One stall had twenty-eight varieties! We're still tasting them, and arguing over which we like best.

The Mau-Mau got involved with this gentleman's sales pitch. She enjoyed naming the pewter animals.

Jake in a pensive moment

Genghis racing leaves down the Abel Tasman Fountain.

Lunch was fish and chips and woodfire pizza at a very acceptable little place near my friend Pete's residence. And then, since we still had hours to kill, we went to a big park in Sandy Bay with a very fine playground, and followed that up with a long beach walk. Finally, roundabout four in the afternoon, we made it back to Natalie's music zone so we could listen to her concert.

Only to discover we were locked out.

Ah well. Par for the course, really. We found a nearby paddock, and the kids ran around and wrestled even more, and we ate more apples, and listened to the car radio, and finally, finally, Natalie came out and joined us. Whereupon we promptly went BACK to Pete's place so Nat could have coffee. And then we went to dinner at a place called "Written On Tea", which gets a big Flinthart Food Tick for anybody looking for a decent Chinese/Japanese fusion feed in Sandy Bay at a very reasonable price. (The spicy pork with rice vermecelli was great.)

And then it was back to Hatchers Manor.

Next morning, the kids practised their ninja concealment skills. Happily, the multitude of cupboards in our spacious rooms gave them plenty of help...

That would be Jake.

And of course, the Mau-Mau and Genghis.

Naturally, being Mothers Day, the whole presents-and-flowers thing was done. And breakfast. Did I mention that among all the kid-wrangling on Saturday, I also stopped at a supermarket and collected fine cheeses, deli products, bread and fruits? No?

Well, I did. And a mighty breakfast was made. And then?

Why then, I drove us all back to Launceston. We went back to the House of Instrument-Minding, and Genghis and I hopped into the Earth King. We went to the supermarket, and then headed home. Seeing as how it was still Mothers Day, I promptly created a duet of charcoal-barbecued chicken and duck, along with a fine salad, and a bottle of excellent bubbly (courtesy of Chaz.)

And in keeping with the nature of things, I was the last one to bed... stayed up to make lunches, catch up on email, etc.

So: that's why I didn't have the necessary mental focus to churn out 3000 words this morning.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I Think I'm In Love

Please take care. The video to which this is linked is not at all work-safe, due to the language. And it's even less work-safe if you happen to work for Steve Jobs...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I saw one of these last night. It crossed the road in front of my car on my way home from the ju-jitsu class. I stopped the car and waited for it to cross. It posed in the headlights very nicely, and the boys in the car with me were duly impressed.

The beastie in question is an Eastern Barred Bandicoot, one of Australia's threatened/endangered mammal species. I was really pleased to see it, and it was cute as all hell.

Unfortunately, it's probably in real trouble even here in Tasmania. With the Facial Tumour Disease wiping out the Tasmanian Devils in our area, I see more and more feral cats haunting the forests and roadsides around here. Feral cats are savage, deadly hunters, and though an adult bandicoot is a hefty little bugger -- the size of a very large, well-fed rabbit -- the young are quite vulnerable.

I like cats. But they don't belong here. Bandicoots do. I hope they can hang around.

Heh. I just noticed: the autospellcheck on this blogging system doesn't know what a bandicoot is. Ignorant shit of a thing!

What A Writer Will Do For A Free Drink

Five hundred kilometre round trip? Sure. No problems.

Actually, I was just taking a cheap shot at myself there. And why not? Somebody should. Y'see, I drove to Hobart yesterday afternoon to launch a book. Not mine -- you don't launch your own books. (No, I don't understand this system any better than you.)

Here in Australia, books in SF and Fantasy are traditionally launched by Jack Dann. I'm not sure why. Last I heard, Jack's not sure either - but he does it with great energy and enthusiasm, and when Jack launches a book, you sure as hell know it's been launched.

Anyway, Tansy Rayner-Roberts (a friend now of ten years standing, and a colleague on a number of projects and groups that actually surprised me when I went back over the list) has the second book in her Harper/Collins/Voyager trilogy on the shelves now. The first, 'Power and Majesty' was a damned good read, and it was really cool to see it in print since I'm part of the writers group who helped criticise it into shape, so to speak. But I haven't seen even the MS of the second book, so I'm looking forward to reading it.

And launching it? That was unexpected. I haven't done that before.

It was down at the Hobart Book Store, in Salamanca Square, so I took off around 1330. Made it there by 1645 for a 1730 deadline: plenty of time. The Hobart Book Store is a fantastic place, with a wonderful and eclectic range of books, and perfectly lovely proprietors. They even bought me a beer.

Not only that, but the launch itself came with the requisite bottles of vino, and a bunch of people I hadn't seen in a while (except for Emma Kate, whom I had seen quite recently. Hello, EK!). So I made some kind of a speech, and Tansy made another kind of speech, and lo! 'The Shattered City' was launched. Then Tansy signed some books, and we all went off for pizza. Yay!

And then?

Why then, I turned around and drove home again. As one does. Because, of course, today was a busy day with writing and yardwork and then all the ju-jitsu stuff in the evening... but Natalie made sushi so I didn't have to cook, and now I'm back to work.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

So. Osama Bin Laden Is Dead.

And the world is a tiny bit better for it. Cool.

I'm not going to apply 'perspective' to this, because frankly, it's too horrible. I'll just say: congratulations, USA, you got your man. Well done.

Now, in the aftermath, can I make a few requests?

The first is to the USA. For fuck's sake, America -- please take the opportunity to make this mean something. You can start by having a look at the country you were before the WTC came down, and maybe trying to figure out how you can get some of that old mojo back. You could, for example, try putting 'Freedom of Speech' back as an everyday baseline of normality, and getting rid of those incredibly bloody depressing 'free speech zones' that Bush came up with.

You could maybe acknowledge that to date, all the groping and x-raying and all the hostile bullshit at airports has achieved precisely nothing -- that of the three attempted hijacks/inflight kablooies that have been attempted since 2001 (that I know of, anyhow) all were thwarted by vigiliant passengers and aircrew. So - maybe you could look at trying to treat air passengers as human beings again, and perhaps putting away all that fucking hi-tech radiation-scan shit before somebody turns into the freaking Hulk (and Prof Boylan sings about it without due cause)?

You might also take a look at that very badly named "Patriot Act", and see if you can't restore a few things to the people of the USA, including freedom from unlawful search and seizure, and maybe even a little privacy, eh?

And hey - if you don't have to spend quite so much money on chasing Bin Laden and on invading places where he might be hiding, maybe you could give some back to SETI, and to your NPR, and maybe to important bits of your infrastructure that have been growing increasingly worn-out and fucked up. Maybe? Could you?

As for the rest of the world - hey, there are plenty of you that could use this as an opportunity too. Here in Australia, for example. Maybe we could start being less goddam paranoid about poor bastards escaping from hellholes in shitty, leaky boats? I'm not saying we need to offer 'em gold-class citizenships and Prime Ministerial blowies... but is there a problem with treating 'em like human beings while we check their bona fides? Especially the kids, because frankly, I've got a real problem with treating children that way, no matter who their parents are, or what those parents may have done.

In short, folks, a bad man got what was coming to him. Now, maybe, we can start refocusing our considerable energies away from him and what he represented, and back on the things which actually used to make us, and our countries, better than he and his people in the first place.

Fuck knows, we've certainly paid a high enough price.