Monday, April 29, 2013

Notes From A Science Fiction Convention For A New Writer

All right. I don't like being cruel, and to me, making too much out of the errors of a beginner is definitely cruel. Unfortunately, the major error I'm about to discuss is epic, and more than a little hilarious, and by dint of becoming a major topic of discussion amongst writers at ConFlux in Canberra a few days ago, is most certainly out there in the public domain by now

Let me set the scene. There's a bunch of us sitting around a table in Rydges. People like Sean Williams, Peter Ball, myself, Peter Fischer... writers all, and all of us equipped with somewhat sharp edges when it comes to humour. (Sean is the nicest guy I know, by the way. In fact, I and many others are convinced that Niceness is his superpower. Because if he wasn't so relentlessly, joyously, wonderfully lovely to know, we would have to kill him out of rage and envy for his sheer awesomeness. What's worse, that just makes him more awesome -- and he's STILL too nice to kill!)

We're looking at the Con booklet. That's the big, shiny printed thing with all the information about the Con. It's got timetables, and names, and it's got short stories for entertainment (congratulations, Aidan!) and of course, it has advertising. And the advertising is relevant. Naturally.

Now, one of the advertisements is for a book which, it transpires, appears to be self-published. There's a little fantasy-style illustration, which is nice. There are sundry plaudits for the book in quotes, although none of the quotes is actually attributed. To anybody. Anywhere.

There's also a title. And the title is:

Weapon Of Flesh.

(Yep. That's a link. If I'm gonna talk about this guy's stuff, I'm gonna do my best to give him a boost, even if I'm laughing.)

I think you can guess what came next. But in case you're not equipped with the same kind of feelthy, feelthy sense of humour which prevails amongst us highbrow types, somebody immediately said: "Well, I'm sure he meant Flesh Weapon."

Before the rest of us could even smirk, someone else said "No, no! He's talking about his pork sword!"

And it was on. Within the next ten minutes, somewhere between a raft of authors, a soon-to-be-much-less-legendary-than-he-deserves character was born: Roger Porksword -- Private Dick. He even comes with a tagline: Roger Porksword -- he ain't shootin' blanks!

Now, if you haven't picked up the lesson here, I will articulate it for you. It doesn't matter if you decide to go the self-publish route, folks. You still need feedback. Get an editor. Get a beta reader. Get a writers group. Get a friend. Better still, get an enemy. And if people fall apart into giggles when they read the title of your very serious magic/martial arts/fantasy novel, then think about it again, for the love of all things generic!

And in the meantime, if Chris Jackson gets a sales boost from this, well -- I'll feel better about the laughs we all got at the expense of his title, there. Even if he doesn't, hopefully this note will help somebody else farther down the track.

Finally: look out for the Adventures of Roger Porksword, Private Dick -- 'coming' soon!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Books For Jake

I've been restrained in what I have said about the new school so far. And to be fair, the primary school is treating Genghis and the Mau-Mau pretty well, on the whole. But I think I've had about enough of the senior school. In fact, I'm starting to  get a little tetchy.

In context: we rather hoped that, since Jake has turned up there with the 'gifted' label on his rap sheet, the school would be able to try to extend him a little in English. And no: we certainly didn't expect them to do it all by themselves. I've started a programme with the boy, and I've let his English teacher know. Jake is reading a series of interesting, challenging texts, and I'm setting him different ways to respond to them.

An example: he has now read Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, and he loved it. He went to his school camp in the second week of term, and when he came back, he was asked to write an account of it. I suggested he should ask to do it in the 'Gonzo' style after Hunter Thompson -- thus both responding to the text I set him, and fulfilling the school's requirements. He duly asked, and was given permission.

The kid is twelve. He wrote five thousand words in a weekend. It wasn't genius, but it certainly showed that he'd read Thompson, and understood how to do the Gonzo thing. (And in passing, he learned how to put together that kind of narrative. It was a good exercise.) The teachers responded very well to it. There was much approval.

And maybe three days later, he got a genuine English assigment. He and his class were told to demonstrate their comprehension of their favourite scene from Tim Winton's Blueback by means of building a shoebox diorama.

A fucking shoebox diorama.

Yep. That's how you test and extend a kid with advanced skills in English. A fucking shoebox diorama.

Enough on that topic. I don't want to say anything more. I'm cranky enough already. In the meantime, I'm going on with the home-reading programme. Jake just finished reading Pynchon's Crying Of Lot 49. In response, he had to write a 1000-word interview with the main character, and he had to do it in the style of Empire Magazine. (He likes Empire. He's a subscriber.) The idea is that there's a film to be made of the book, and he has been assigned to interview the woman who was the central character in real life.

I have to say: he did a really good job. He portrayed a character that was recognisably that of Pynchon's Oedipa Maas, and he did an excellent job of mimicking the Empire Magazine approach, and he nailed the word-count. I've sent the thing off to Empire with a request for editorial feedback. They may well ignore us, but on the offchance that somebody is prepared to take the time, I figure the cost of a self-addressed and stamped envelope is worth the risk.

Next we'll look at Waiting For Godot, and then Macbeth. The Master And Margharita is on the list, and so is Dracula, and probably Moby Dick. I don't know about Heart of Darkness; it's a maybe. HP Lovecraft. Gene Wolfe. Ursula Le Guin. Sam Delany -- Stars In My Pocket. Fitzgerald. Russ  - the Female Man.  Catch - 22. Phillip K Dick. Out Of The Silence -- I'm taking notes on the fly here, interrogating a bunch of writers and critics. The Floating Opera - John Barth. Vonnegut - Cat's Cradle. Woman On The Edge Of Time - Marge Piercy. Barry Hugheart - Bridge of Birds. Alison Goodman - Ion and Iona. Zelazny - Lord of Light, Amber; short stories. Charles Harness - Paradox Men. Virginia Woolf - Orlando,

I'm open to suggestions, folks. The books need to be interesting, and they should be challenging. But don't forget interesting, okay? The kid is twelve. He can handle heavy reading, sure, but it will work better if he is actively engaged by the books. They shouldn't become a chore.

Okay. Give it your best shot.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


To my way of thinking, one of the really great joys of creating a story is seeing it reinterpreted by someone else, in another form. I've had the good fortune to see one of my short pieces converted to film, and that was an absolute hoot. I got to collaborate on the screenplay, and had tremendous fun learning from the needs of the actors and the director, etc.

I don't think you really 'own' stories. Yeah, sure: you can be responsible for their creation, and if the audience wants you to continue creating, then they need to acknowledge what you've done and make it possible for you to continue, usually by economic support. Nothing unusual in all that.

But the thing about a story is that it's reconstructed every time somebody reads it. They put their own spin on it, filter it through the unique vision of their own experiences. If they make a film of your story, it will not be the film you would have made. If they make a song, it will not be the song you will have written. Thus, any time somebody reinterprets your work, they're doing you an enormous favour: they're making the work new again for you, allowing you to see or hear or feel it in a new and different way.

All of this is by way of preamble to a simple note. The Podcastle people asked my permission to make a recording of The Red Priest's Vigil, and without hesitation, I agreed. You can find it right here: Podcastle - Red Priests's Vigil.

For those as don't recall, the story is a piece of dark fantasy or horror, set in the 14th century. The hero is a kind of kung-fu mercenary in Europe, and he's got a difficult history. There are three Red Priest stories in print so far (and four more in various stages of development) but this was the first I conceived. And of course, time has flowed on since then, and to me, the story was a piece of history.

You get that way with old work. Go back, read it again -- maybe you see the flaws, maybe you smile at the ideas you were working with back then, but the excitement of it is long gone, by and large. And I can say quite honestly that I was delighted by the reading that Graeme Dunlop provided. I thought he did a hell of a job, and it made me enjoy my own story all over again.

I'm very grateful for that... and I thought I might pass the chance on to you folks as well.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Job Well Done

Today was very rewarding.

Today, I took my daughter, my elder son, and one of my other ju-jitsu students to an open Tae Kwon Do competition in Launceston.

Ju-jitsu -- traditional style ju-jitsu, notable for eye-gouging, groin-kicking, biting, and the creative use of just about anything as an improvised weapon -- falls into the Does Not Play Well With Others category. Oh, sure: the Brazilian ju-jitsu folks are nice chaps who can compete rather handily by virtue of their concentration on the ground game, but those of us who study the art for its defensive qualities are... ummm... notoriously not popular in competitive circles.

Nor should we be. I've always argued that training to compete under most rules systems is the same as training to get your ass handed to you in a street situation. But I understand that sparring, grappling, randori and all the other competitive elements have considerable value as training tools, and it has long bothered me that in my isolated little corner of Tassie, it's hard for me to offer the students a chance to tangle with other styles and other rules. Thus, when I found out about this open competition, I made sure that the kids (for it was aimed at youngsters) were told.

It was a fairly light rule-set. They wore headgear and body-plates, and only the body was allowed as a target for strikes. I figured that would be okay for most of my students. In the end, only the three I mentioned above actually took part. But that's okay too. Competition is far from mandatory.

I expected my three players to get tagged out on points fairly early. After all, the ruleset actually precluded about eighty percent of what they know how to do: no grappling, no locks, no throws, no ground-fighting, no strangling, no knees, no elbows, etc. In the Scottsdale dojo, I break it up for them, of course. Sometimes they practice judo-style, trying to throw. Other times they wrestle on the ground. Sometimes they practice the standing/striking stuff. And there are games: with padded foam "swords"; games where they try to push one another out of a designated square. Learning games. And sometimes, for the fun of it, I ask them to put it all together: stand and strike until someone grapples. Then struggle for the throw. Then keep going on the ground for a submission of some sort.

That's what they think of when someone talks about "fighting" on the mat.

In other words, they went into this competition at something of a disadvantage. Not only were they barred from most of what they know, but they were competing with kids for whom the standing/striking stuff was all they did.

So as I said, I expected them to get tagged out on points quite early. But I wanted them to see how it was done, and I wanted them to watch, and learn. In particular, I wanted the boys to think about how to fight disruptively while remaining within the rules. Quite obviously, if they played the stand-and-kick game that the Tae Kwon Do people are justly famous for, they'd get their arses handed to them. So I said they needed to watch, and think of ways to change the situation to their advantage.

And it is at this point that the grin begins to spread across my face.

My daffy daughter the Mau-Mau was initially under the impression she was only allowed to kick. For the first couple of rounds, she played the game, exchanging kicks, and losing on points even though she was setting the pace and pursuing her opponent. But then in one of the breaks, young Dylan Double-Banger found out she didn't know she could punch, and he told her to change her game.

Bingo. Next two rounds she wins on points, chasing her partners around the mat, and even telling one boy to stop moving away. According to her, he needed to get closer to score points... but the subtext was basically stop running away so I can punch you!

I couldn't have been prouder.

The boys did even better. Dylan gave away considerable height and reach in both his matches. His response was to come out fast, and go straight up the centre with a flurry of open-hand strikes. Of course, that was when we found out that open-hand strikes didn't count, but that's okay. By then he'd figured out that he could stay inside the reach of his tall opponent's powerful kicks, and swap punches on a very effective basis. He was actually told that he was "too aggressive".


Jake did better still. He fought five or six times. He managed a draw or a win for each, and quickly learned to adapt on the fly. Discovering that back-fist strikes didn't count, he swapped to straight up punches. And when the floor judge failed to notice two or three punches in succession, he changed up and scored with a kick. Meanwhile, he kept moving into his opponents, and refusing to be drawn into the kick/counterkick rhythm that they tended to use on each other. He too was told that he was a bit too aggressive.

Very cool.

Neither of the boys threw any foul strikes: nothing to face, groin, or any other illegal target. And yes, they did use open-hand and back-fist stuff, but they got no points for it, and as soon as they were informed of that, they shifted to more acceptable tactics.

Too aggressive? I disagree. What was going on there was a fundamental test of the philosophy of ju-jitsu. The boys had to play within a strict ruleset laid down to someone else's advantage. In ju-jitsu, we aim to control the situation. If we are at a disadvantage, it is axiomatic -- absolutely basic -- to effect changes to our advantage.

The boys were not too aggressive. To the best of my knowledge, there was nothing at all in the rules about how many strikes you're supposed to throw. What they did was assess the situation, and show that they understood it. They didn't stand at kick-distance and trade kicks with people who were prepared for that, and who were better at kicking. Instead, they moved in, moved out, threw unexpected punches, changed the distance, changed the rhythm and the pattern -- and thank you very much, they did just fine.

True: they didn't "fence". They didn't "read" their partners, and engage in tricky games of feint and counterfeint. But to be fair, neither did most of the TKD folks. Mostly, they just danced in and out, and swapped kicks. So no, the boys didn't try to outplay their partners at the game, but that's because they knew perfectly well there was no percentage in it. Why would you try to outdo someone in an area where they're much better practiced and much more confident?

That's just silly. What the boys did was throw the system out of kilter, refusing to be drawn into the comfort zone of their opponents. Too aggressive? No. I'm sorry. That's just a way of saying that the TKD lads were too comfortable with the game as they knew it, and they weren't prepared to handle opponents who set out to change things.

Both of Dylan's partners came up to him afterwards, wide-eyed, to say how surprised they were. They were very nice about it, and I'd say all three boys had respect for each other.  And Jake's mob? Well, let's just say that they probably felt a bit embarrassed about warning him beforehand that he was "going to be hammered".  (Okay. Yes. I admit it. I sniggered. Quietly, though. I don't think anybody noticed.)

And me?

What can I say? I took three students into a foreign system. Eighty percent of their technique was forbidden them. It was the first time that any of the three had ever fought competitively. The people they were fighting were age-matched, and of similar training level, but they specialised in this kind of work, and most if not all had competed often.

No. My three students did not "kick butt". But they fought hard, and they fought well, and they surprised the hell out of their competitors, and they enjoyed themselves tremendously, and they gave a very good account of their abilities. Most of all, they demonstrated their ability to adapt to a difficult situation, and change it to their advantage: the essential heart of ju-jitsu.

I am very pleased with them, and yes, with myself too.

And who knows? Maybe sometime we can set up a friendly match that includes grappling, throwing, ground-fighting, strangling, and all those other nice little added extras. That could be fun!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Business As Usual -- Ka-Boom!

So yesterday in the car, Genghis asked me if I thought this Texas fertiliser-plant explosion was some kind of terrorist action. Seeing as how we've been throwing chemistry at young Genghis lately, I took the opportunity to point out that some fertilisers were quite high-energy molecules, and prone to explosion. I also explained the basic principle of Occam's Razor, and said pretty much this: "No. I doubt it's terrorism. It could be, but that would involve dragging a new entity into the existing equation where the situation can already be explained by the entities currently in place. Personally, I expect that as this plant is situated in the USA, and particularly in the deep South, it's probably had absolutely minimal safety built into it. I'm afraid that's how American capitalism works."

One might suggest that's a cynical attitude, but today I ran across this article:

Fertilizer Firm Cited Minimal Risks in Regulatory Filings

Hmm. That link looks weird. Never mind. It hooks back to a Wall Street Journal streaming report. Given that the WSJ has a certain investment in American capitalism, I'm prepared to accept their word for this particular item.

Folks, this is the "hidden hand" of the free market at work. The various people who've been devastated by this event -- and their families, etc -- can have a crack at suing the company involved. And who knows? Maybe one day they'll get some compensation. (Wouldn't bet on it, though. I think there's still a bunch of people around Bhopal waiting to hear from Union Carbide...) And maybe it will do enough damage to the company's bottom line that it will pay more attention to safety procedures in the future.

Or more likely, the company lawyers will tie the whole thing up in knots until people are desperate enough to accept a pittance, and meanwhile, it will all be business as usual.

I'm always disturbed by the conflation of "democracy" and "capitalism". They're two different things, and I'm increasingly certain that they are actually incompatible. The US of A has pretty clearly chosen the latter over the former. We're coming up to an election here in Oz, and unfortunately, I suspect we're going to be chasing after the American system even more closely, once it's all done and dusted.

I think I'm tired of this.

EDITED TO ADD: It gets better. Today, Reuters reports that the plant was storing 1350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate which should trigger a safety oversight/inspection from the US Department of Homeland Security. 270 tons!

Read It Here.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

News From Captain Obvious: Frequent Texters Likely To Be Airheads!

Honestly. They've bothered to research this, apparently. The article in question: Frequent Texters comes from Winnipeg University.

A lot of it is fluff, full of buzzwords. But the meat of it concerns college-age students who are texting two and three hundred times per day. According to the article, they "tend to be significantly less reflective than those who text less often."

Somehow, I don't think they're using the term 'reflective' to mean 'shiny'.

Underneath the academic-speak and the utterly obvious observations (what sane individual can find time to text two hundred times a day? If that figure is distributed over, say, a sixteen-hour waking period, you're still looking at one text every five minutes.) you do get a glimpse of an interesting phenomenon. Questions arise.

Who are these people? Why are they more interested in commenting than in actually taking part or observing? How does a culture of people like this sustain itself? If you're constantly engaged in sending texts, who is receiving them, and what value are those texts providing?

I think I may have mentioned before that I don't much like mobile phones. They have their uses. I'm glad to have mine when I go away to conventions and the like, because it allows me to make use of the very limited time at such events. I can catch up with people I get to see very rarely, and make good use of the opportunity to be together.

Beyond that? The things are appalling.

I'm fascinated by people's increasing dependence on smartphones. Oh, they're awfully good at looking information up via the Internet, but when it comes to recalling it, and then actually fitting it into a pattern and making use of it, I see less and less. And there's a thing: you can call up information to answer a question, yes. But figuring out uses for that information, ways to put answers into action -- that takes concentration, time, and imagination.

We've been down this path before, culturally. When we began printing and distributing books -- paying information into a shared cultural database -- we abandoned the practise of memorising long pieces of narrative. These days, the idea of somebody memorising the Iliad and the Odyssey for performance purposes seems... heroic, really. Impossible!

It wasn't, though. At one time, feats of memorisation of that sort were relatively commonplace.

How many of you still remember phone numbers? How many of you can go the to the supermarket for more than ten items without logging it into your handy memory adjunct. (We used to use lists on paper. I'm not in favour, I admit. Paper is messy, while digital files are easily dealt with. There are definitely useful things about these critters.)

So we're outsourcing our memories. And we're de-emphasising face-to-face contact, choosing to stay in touch through digital means -- which changes our capacity to 'read' people, and changes the way we express our own emotions, and so forth. And all of this is the tip of an iceberg. For every stupid study like the one I've cited from Winnipeg U Department of the Fucking Obvious, I would guess there are a hundred much more subtle effects nobody has yet considered.

The more of our capacities and our qualities we hand over to the shared cultural cloud, the fewer we are required to maintain as individuals. It's amusing at the moment, watching the next generation grow up with a whole range of digital communications skills that my generation lacked -- while simultaneously lacking an array of abilities and qualities that defined my generation, and previous generations. Change is always interesting.

I just wonder what's going to happen when we drop some seriously important individual qualities or abilities into the cultural cloud.

Is it possible that one day, the very definition of "human" will require connection to the cultural cloud? Will people lose enough individual capacity that they become dependent on their interface with a databank that has more 'humanity' than they do?

Has it happened already?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Canterbury 2100 Goes Digital

Yep. You can catch Canterbury 2100 for the Kindle now:

Those of you who have been around for a while may recall this:

It's an anthology I put together a few years back. Bunch of really good Australian SF writers, extremely unusual idea and format. Essentially, the idea was to examine a future history by looking at the fiction of the society created by that future history. Something like, say, trying to figure out the 20th century by watching a bunch of TV episodes from the 1990s... if you see what I mean. Except that here, the stories are meant to be told by a bunch of pilgrims on train to Canterbury in 2108 or so; a train delayed by fierce storms and other things.

It was a real challenge, and it worked out pretty well in the end. There are some individually excellent stories, and by situating them in a larger context, the stories gain an added significance. I was delighted by the concept when I first tried to get it all together, and years down the track, I haven't changed my opinion in the slightest. In fact, for me the biggest problem with this anthology is that I put it together, so I don't get to read it "cold". I will never have the fun that everybody else gets from trying to piece it all into a single tapestry, to guess at the future that might yet be.

Anyway. It's on Kindle now. If you missed it the first time through, now's your chance to pick up a cheap digital copy, and take a look at that rare thing: a truly original piece of SF work.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Some Valuable Advice To England, On Her Loss...

Cut off the head. Fill the mouth with salt. Drive an iron stake through the heart. Bury the head and the body separately, each under a crossroads. Destroy all records of the burial.

Some things have to be done properly.

Friday, April 5, 2013


That was a good weekend. I'm late on the write-up, coming into another already, but what's new? And then there's Justin Bieber's monkey. I was in a place the other day, waiting for a sandwich. There  was a television on the wall. A video-clip channel. It had a news-crawl underneath, and there was a headline. Justin Bieber has one month to reclaim his monkey, or it will be given to a shelter.

Why? What did the monkey do? Doesn't Justin like it any more? Why does he have a monkey? What kind of monkey is it? How did he get separated from his monkey? Is this some kind of... post-modernist Michael Jackson homage? Will Bieber slowly turn himself black?

Great Cthulhu! How did it come to this? Some feckless, talentless Canadian kid with bad hair and a fixed grin, and his relationship with his monkey is somehow newsworthy at an international level. Have we nothing better to be doing as a species?

I certainly do. There's no question of that. I spent last weekend in Melbourne, helping my old and dear friend  Barnes celebrate the birthday of his offspring, the Weapon. Mister Barnes and I, at one time, did a lot of gaming together, and he suggested I might like to cross the water with my own eldest, and perhaps spend a few hours teaching the new generation a thing or two. When he mentioned that Guru Bob and Fancy Jack Strugnell would be there as well, it was a done deal. No hesitation.

You know, I think people underrate the skill that goes into role-playing. Seriously. I still do a bit with my kids and a few other hereabouts, and it's fun, but they're at the bottom of the learning curve. They haven't figured out how to kick back, put on a character, and jump into the story for the sheer fun of it. They're still in the early days: trying to figure out how to be faster, better, stronger -- how to win, goddammit. Guru Bob, Struggers, Barnes, me -- we've been at it long enough that we know how to win. And it's simple: jump in. Be somebody else. Let the story happen. Have fun.

Watching Bob and Fancy Jack drop straight into their characters was a treat. Not a pause, not a moment of hesitation. They were straight up, and confident, and they did their part to get the ball rolling, leaving plenty of space to encourage the boys to play their parts. The end result was about eight hours of slightly ludicrous action and adventure, interspersed with absolute hilarity. I don't think either of the boys will ever look at pea soup the same way again...

What's better than sitting down with old friends, and being able to slide straight back into the groove? Nothing I can think of. Time passes. Faces change, bodies alter, but the people inside are who they always were; maybe more refined and more certain than they were twenty-five years ago, but not in any important way. They have become what they promised to be: good men, strong men, with easy laughter and honour and a world of trust.

It's good to be able to be proud of your friends.

Easter happened too, didn't it? But I wasn't paying a lot of attention. There were eggs, of course. Oh, and there were the assholes at the Melbourne airport who impounded my toenail cutters. I mean, for fuck's sake.

I threw a few things into my computer bag for the trip when we took off for Melbourne. Some notes, some dice, a shirt, a change of underpants. We were only over there for a day or so. Naturally, I didn't bother emptying out my bag and going through it point by point. I keep a lot of random shit in that bag, but it's all harmless. I'm not stupid. So I put it on the X-ray at Launceston. It went through. It came out the other side. They gave it back to me. I got on the plane. I went to Melbourne. Job done.

At no point did I use the toenail clippers -- which I had long forgotten, buried in the bottom of the bag -- to either hijack the craft, or commit sabotage. I'd like this noted for the defense, Your Honour: the accused already flew with the fucking things, and nobody died.

So. None the wiser, after a fine day or so in Melbourne, Barnes and the Weapon took Jake and me to Melbourne airport, where we checked in. And I duly put my computer bag on the X-ray, and walked through and collected... no. Wait. That's where it went wrong.

I didn't collect it. Instead, I was called back through the metal detector, and asked whether there were toenail clippers in my bag. I had no fucking idea, of course, and I said as much, albeit more politely. And so I was invited to empty my bag, which I did, and lo: there they were. Down the bottom. Amongst half-chewed packets of gum, old tissues, random receipts, pens, odd socks, USB memory sticks, and so forth. Detritus.

The officious little man who called me back through evidenced tremendous satisfaction upon the discovery of the cutters. He'd called it, hadn't he? He'd exercised his duly appointed authority, assessed the situation, and responded to the danger with all due alertness. He was the man. He was protecting the state.

He'd said there were toenail cutters... and yes, despite my doubts, there were indeed toenail cutters. I'd been nailed, publicly revealed as dangerous, toenail-cutter-carrying scum, and he'd saved the day.

It's a strange thing. Apparently, flights from Launceston to Melbourne are safe from toenail clippers. However, it appears that flights from Melbourne to Launceston are at terrible risk from toenail clippers.

Why? I don't know. I asked the officious little man as he confiscated my toenail cutterss. He said that they qualified as a tool, and that no tools were permitted on any flight. I did not mention that they had flown with me from Launceston. Nor did I mention that he, apparently, was allowed to fly, alongside a great many other tools. Instead I smiled, and said that I hoped he had a nice home for my erstwhile toenail clippers.

He said they would go into a bin.

Fuck, eh? When is this bullshit going to finish? Just think: all those years we flew with toenail clippers in our bags, never knowing the hideous dangers we faced. What were we thinking? How did we ever survive?

As I get older, the guiding hands on the reins of this society seem to grow ever more petty, ever more churlish, ever more blatantly moronic. They'll pursue us across the country for failing to wear our seat belts, but rising oceans and dying forests and bleaching reefs aren't even news headlines. No, instead we get Delphic utterances about Justin Bieber's monkey.

I wonder how much money is being spent on this nonsensical security theatre at the airports. It must be millions every year, without a doubt. That's millions nobody is spending on housing, education, health, renewable energy...

I am so over this shit. When I was a kid, the adult world kept telling me to grow up. Well, I've done that now, thanks: so what the fuck is the excuse of that same world? Hey, you fuckers! Here I am! I'm being responsible! I pay taxes. I raise my children well. I have taken my place as a stakeholder, and I'm doing my fucking part, just the way you asked me.

So when are you cretins going to stop dicking around with toenail clippers, and maybe pay some attention to the grown-up problems out there? When are you going to stop picking each others lice and throwing feces at each other in Parliament, puffing out your cheek pouches and hooting at each other across the borders, competing to see who can be first at swill time in the zoo your corporate masters have built for us all?

Never, I suppose.

And me? I don't even know where to start.

I guess I'll just keep raising my kids, looking after the people around me and the place where I live -- oh, and I'll keep flying without toenail clippers too, most likely.