Thursday, February 28, 2013

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY GETS ALL CONTROVERSIAL, IF IT WAS 1977

This week, a cartoon I actually took to completion, which probably gives as clear an understanding of why I didn't become a cartoonist as anything: when it comes to the final product I just wasn't that good. Unlike with writing (he flatters himself), I like the innate understanding to be a natural when it comes to the visual arts, and the amount of time I'd need to spend learning the necessary skills is better spent honing my writing craft, for which I at least have some facility.


Sigh. Nowadays you have yo explain who Erich Von Daniken is, although that's as it should be. Loons and charlatans should be cast into the soggy ruts at the side of the tracks of history and forgotten.

Besides, we have Whitley Streiber if we want to listen to cracked-up fuckwits now.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

OH, BEEN A WHILE SINCE A LEGO POST, HAS IT?

I've been trying to whip up some enthusiasm for starting a Lego User Group in the southern reaches of Perth, without much in the way of success. One of the ways I've been trying is by starting a Facebook group: RockLUG. Feel free to join. There are a few members, but right now it appears to be a page dedicated to me whittering on about Lego to myself.

This month, I decided to try issuing a challenge: a remix, based on concepts I posted about here a couple of weeks ago. Basically, the idea is to create a MOC using only the pieces from one individual set.

I chose this one:


The Space Police III set Undercover Cruiser, 309 pieces and like a lot of Space Police III sets, filled with an array of odd and unique pieces. I love the Space Police III stuff: apart from designs which are as mad as all get-out, they invariably have a fantastic range of pieces and use a lot of unique, interesting parts, which meant I was confident of being able to come up with something a little wild.

In the end I came up with The Hopper, which is based around a technic-heavy armature designed to hold in place two swept wings at a really odd angle over the basic spine of the ship. Lots of greebles and an offset engine arrangement (more technic) made for a fun and (for me, at least) challenging build. 




Check out those fins. Check out those fins





"Did you get my best side?"
Yes. Yes, I did.

Underside: lots of technic pieces and a cannon. As it should be.

Stubby. Like a container truck without a container. In space!


Then, with half an hour before I had to pick the kids up from school, I started clipping things together at random and came up with a long, slim piece I dubbed The Copslider, utilising a ridiculously long nose piece and some rather traditional building shapes.

 No, my kid didn't build it. Shut up.


Cannons. You just gotta have cannons. 




And I still had a bunch of pieces left over-- lots of little, greebly pieces with no immediately apparent fit, so I might see what I can do with them just for the challenge of it.



So a fun challenge, but given I was the only one who jumped on it, perhaps not one I'll be setting my LUG-without-a-LUG again.





TURNING YOUR KIDS INTO ZOMBIES, IN THE NICEST POSSIBLE WAY

Luscious Lyn has recently joined one of the strangest little groups I've heard of in years.

Zombies, Run is a downloadable exercise app that plays an ongoing post-apocalyptic narrative in which you, designated Runner 5, navigate your way through a zombie-strewn landscape, completing tasks and avoiding shambling herds of z-men by, well, running. It's an extraordinarily clever conceit as well as yet another indication that SF is always amongst the first literary genres to take advantage of new technology. What's more it is, according to the Luscious one, rather addictive. Which, let's face it, rather the point when it comes to getting out there and exercising.

What's more, the app is bringing groups together t talk about their experiences: Lyn is a member of a group based in Wollongong, along with fellow Clarion South alumni Laura Goodin. And now they want t-shirts.

Which is where the Battersby Family Art Machine decided to intervene :)

Miss 11 has designed a Zombie Run picture. I've designed a Zombie Run t-shirt. Master 8 has drawn a dragon, but then, that's just Master 8 all over.

Lyn often plays the narrative while she walks the kids to school, and has taken to referring to them in her Facebook posts as Runners 5.1 and 5.2, so they just had to appear in the design. What's more, I've managed to do what it took Aiden 20 years of computer games and unemployment to achieve: I've turned them into shambling, flaky skinned zombies of the first order.

Here's the proof of concept sketch for your entertainment. We'll be getting it up onto Cafe Press soon as I have a few days to design, layout and paint a final version.



Please note: advice applies only if your children are actual zombies
Just "not liking them" is no defence in the eyes of the law.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

MEMORIES OF A THIRTY-THREE DOLLAR FESTIVAL

For the first time in an almost unbelievable twelve years I upped and hied myself to the Perth Writers Festival this last weekend. Twelve years is a long time in politics and writers festivals: the last time I attended it was held in the quaint and relatively compact confines of the Fremantle Writers Centre, and we all sat under the trees in groups of about twenty and listened to whatever was put in front of us because, quite honestly, programmes were just something that happened to other people. Since then, it's been swallowed by the corporate maw of the Perth International Arts Festival and moved to the rather more lush and expansive grounds of the University of Western Australia. Not to put too fine a point on it, it's fucking enormous.

The Festival runs for three days, and having some time off work for writah-dahlinking, Luscious Lyn and I managed to attend two of them: a day to ourselves on the very grown up Friday, and in the company of our 20 and 8 year old sons on the Family Fun Day two days later. And what we saw... well...

What we saw has changed things, and I'm not yet quite sure how to quantify what they changed. But somewhere along the line, something inside of me went ping, and although I'm not sure exactly what has changed, still I knew things have.

Make sense?

It started early: at the very first session we attended, the very first session of the very first day-- "Boys Behaving Badly", an examination of sex, mysogyny and manhood. I wasn't as much interested in the subject as I was in the speakers, because one of the authors speaking was John Doust, and John was my mentor when I first started stand-up comedy way back in 1992. Even back then, John talked of writing a novel loosely based upon his lifetime experiences, and he's gone on to write two. I wanted to hear him speak, to see him in action after many years out of touch. And he looked fine, and happy, and he certainly sounded content with the stories he was telling and the current shape of his career. But as I watched him, something started ticking inside of me, and I left the tent in rather more pondering a mood than I was expecting.

And then I sat and watched a panel discussion on 'place', and observed the convenor and the two mainstream novelists on the panel treat the crime novelist with suspicion and barely-concealed ambivalence-- admittedly, he was a giant arse, but that wasn't all of it. And the ticking got a little bit louder.

And then we trooped into the Octagon Theatre with hundreds of other acolytes to watch the big ticket item of the day-- and, arguably of the Festival-- the reason why the title of this blog is only a paraphrasing and not an outright steal of that David Bowie song-- the 16-bucks-a-ticket-plus-booking-fee discussion on writing between China Meiville and Margaret Attwood. I had hoped for a lightsaber duel, a battle of wits so quick that much of it would only be assimilated in retrospect: a bedazzlement; a clash of rapiers; a fireworks show. What I got was a couple of chummy masters sitting back after a bloody good meal, letting out their trouser buttons and calling for the port to be served. It was a different kind of brilliance, a more sedate and leisurely kind, but as it progressed I found myself strangely disappointed.

Part of it was the lack of challenge in the questions asked, either by the audience or by the moderator, an irritating little twerp who had no idea that the role of a facilitator is to get the fuck out the way and let the interesting famous people talk so insisted on blethering his inconsequential and sycophantic opinions like a junior drinks waiter with a word-of-the-day calendar. But there was more to it than that, and it's at this point where I begin to lose my way: something didn't sit right with me, and I cannot pin it down. Whether it was the lack of urgency, of challenge, or the comfortable assumption that what these two heavyweights of speculative fiction were discussing-- and perpetuating-- was not at all linked to furtherance of the speculative genre, I don't know. Maybe it was just the observation that these two giants of speculative fiction were being feted by so many more attendees than they would have if they'd worn their skiffy badges with trumpeting pride.... All I know right now is that, for me as a career-oriented writer, something changed during that hour, and I'll be some time sorting it out.

Whatever it was, I came out of that session with different eyes.

It was on this day, also, that I had two very public moments of change, and they were purely ego-based:

"Excuse me, are you Lee Battersby?"

Not once, but twice. One a professional peer I'd never met in the flesh before, one a reader who had attended the Corpse-Rat King launch in 2012 and approached me to ask about the new book. It might be shallow, but thousands of people attend the Festival, including hundreds of writers, and I have never really extended my public self outside of the small SF circle in Perth. For the first time, I walked anonymously through the crowd at a multi-level writing event, and was recognised. And something inside of me ticked a little louder at that point, because something was becoming clearer:

There is an audience out there I have never approached, never tapped into, and the fault is mine. Because while I have always insisted that I see myself as not just an SF writer but a writer, sans prefix, the truth is that I've not behaved that way. And it turns out that I haven't really thought that way. Not really. And walking around that giant Festival, with its multiple tents and splendiferous signage and signing room and bookshop a million bloody miles deep and wide, I felt something I haven't felt at an SF con in years: I really, really wanted to belong to this. I wanted to take my place on the stage, be acknowledged as a peer, a fellow worthy. I wanted to step out of my rock pool and go swimming in the deep, deep waters beyond.

What this new understanding means, and what I do with it, I don't know yet. What it means for my career, and how I market myself and my work, I'm not sure-- after all, I've just finished my second fantasy novel, pitched a third, and sent the outlines of an entire new fantasy series to my agent. But my capacity for evolution remains latent, and I think I need to work out how to excite it.

More contemplation is required.

Come Sunday, and I could relax and play Dad: the day was all about Master 8 and introducing him to a side of the writing world he had never experienced. He understands that Mum and Dad are writers: he's seen our work on the brag shelf, and has seen all the fuss surrounding the publication of The Corpse-Rat King, but this was his chance to immerse himself in a world of writers at his level, while Lyn and I got to walk around behind him and smile like indulgent parents who knew the secret.

And did he do so? Did he bloody what!

The day was a wonder, and included a less than formal Perth SF Writers picnic in the sunken garden attended by a bunch of creme de la creme types like Stephen Dedman, Juliet Marillier, Katy Kell and Daniel Simpson; and the beautiful surprise of bumping into Lorraine Horsley, one of my closest University pals who I travelled to Kalgoorlie to see married in 1992 and hadn't seen since-- even though we were heading in different directions to support different people, the few minutes we spent together were an absolute joy. But the day had two superb highlights, and they both changed not only my little boy's life but the way our whole family views things:

Last one first: Ten Tiny Things is a picture book by Meg McKinlay and Kyle Hughes-Odgers, and it's based on a sweet and simple concept that Meg explained during their presentation-- that slowing down and taking the time to truly examine your surroundings can lead you to discover small and rare moments of beauty and surprise that can change the way you see the world. There's a blog associated with the book, and Meg urged everyone to visit it, and post photos of the tiny, surprising things we saw next time we took the time to search.

Master 8 was entranced by the presentation, and come Monday morning we all walked to school together with the express purpose of exploring as we went. You can see the results on the Ten Tiny Things blog, and we'll be doing this regularly. Having weened ourselves away from the TV in recent days, these family experiences are becoming more and more frequent, and our children are blooming.

But before that, right at the start of the day, he had the kind of experience you dream about giving your kid.

James Foley is the illustrator of one of Master 8's favourite books: The Last Viking, written by Norman Jorgensen. Foley was presenting his new book on Sunday, In The Lion: we made sure we had a copy and there we were, Master 8 first in line, front and centre, fifteen minutes before Foley started, book held out, asking for an autograph.

He got more than that: Foley drew kids out of the audience to help him act out the book. Master 8 didn't get the chance to volunteer: he was chosen to play a part. And we got to sit and watch him move from excitement to adulation to outright hero worship, and know that our little boy was no longer someone who liked to read. Thanks to Foley, he was becoming a lover of books.


Fanboy moment. We've all been there.



This boy is a dentist, so we can't show you his face on TV...



How happy? Mighty happy!


Which would have been enough, it really would. But later in the day, something happened that moved this very nice man who treated our son to something a little special up into the very highest ranks of authors I've met. Because we were lining up to see another presentation when Master 8 turned around, waved, and said in an excited voice, "Hi James!"

Now, Foley was there with his family, obviously waiting to see the upcoming presentation, and I wouldn't have faulted him for giving a simple "Hello" back and turning away. But he didn't. He engaged our son in conversation-- sparing us a quick smile but very much concentrating on Master 8-- and when the young Master announced "I'm a novelist, too!"... (A quick aside: Master 8 is writing a novel. Apparently. It's called 'The Wizards' and it's the story of Saruman, Gandalf and Radagast going to a mountain to kill an evil dragon. So far, he's come up with a title and a picture. That's as far as it's got. For ages. Until this weekend, that was as far as he'd thought of it.) ...he didn't say "Oh, yeah?" or smirk, or say "That's nice" or any of those other hundreds of adult responses to precocious kids that we all know, and see, and give from time to time. Instead, he said four words that changed my little boy's life.

"Really? What's it about?"

And at that moment, and for the rest of the day, Master 8 was a novelist. As he said to us on the way home, "I made a fan, and so did he."

And that was worth everything.

So a weekend of change, it was, although the forms of that change are yet to be discovered. But Lyn's back writing, and I'm examining my career, and Master 8 wants more than ever to throw himself into Mum and Dad's world, and one thing I do know is that I want to taste this environment again, and not just as a passive observer. My career has room for growth, room for expansion, and although my roots are solid, there's a lot of sky to grow into.

Wonder what's up there?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY GOES ALL PANDALITICALLY CORRECT


What interests me most about this cartoon is the decision to strike through 'to adopt'. Sometimes just a word or two here or there can change the entire shape of a gag, and I think it does that here. The question is: for better or worse?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

MARCHING TOWARDS THE MARCHING DEAD

Friends, bloggers, reviewer types!

Want a sneak peek at Marching Dead, so you can mock your friends at parties and drop obscure hints about its contents just so you can torture people with the superiority of your inside knowledge?

Course you do.

That's why you'll be cock-a-hoop (or cock in a hoop. We make no judgement here) to learn that Angry Robot has released an electronic advanced reader copy-- e-ARC, if you're cool like me-- of the book via NetGalley.

Now: there are a few rules, provisos, guidelines, quid pro quos and other bits of that gag from Aladdin I can't remember coz it's years since I've watched it. You do have to be a reviewer or book blogger of some kind. You do have to promise to actually review the thing once you've read it. You do have to commit to sending me no less than 100 of your finest major currency bills.

Or two out of those three.

Frankly, if you commit to the last one I don't give a monkey's whether you read the book or not.

In fact, just send me the money now and we can forget about the whole thing.

Unless, of course, you'd actually like to read and review the book. In which case you should probably read the Angry Robot NetGalley guidelines.

But seriously, send me some money.


Monday, February 18, 2013

ROOM 102: CLAIRE MCKENNA

Claire McKenna is a short story writer, Clarion South graduate, and a connoisseur of coffee houses (in which she an usually be found drinking tea), which is a change from our first few meetings, which invariably involved us both getting pissed as rats and acting in a very irresponsible manner-- for those of you who have known me long enough, Claire is the one solely responsible for me wandering around a Con dressed in nothing but a pair of underpants and a bright orange 'Pade's Handmaiden' costume. 'Nuff said. She doesn't write enough for my satisfaction, but when she does it's always worth sitting up straight and paying attention. Her latest stores will come out in Cosmos next month and "Next" the upcoming CSFG anthology. 





Claire in a Kim sandwich-- with Kims Wilkins and Westwood.



You know what drives me crazy? Grammar.

Not other people's, but the mistakes I make because I Should Know Better, but I don't because I studied Biology in Uni, not English, Captain!

Things were better when I couldn't write, when I didn't know my dangling participle from my passive sentence construction, when the comma went where it damn well needed to go, and a sentence fragment could happily remain broken (there is a crack in everything, it's how the light gets in, as Leonard Cohen says.)

But since I discovered Strunk and White, when I realised my high-school grasp of grammar and sentence construction wasn't going to cut it with editors who clearly know a passive sentence (or to say passively, passive sentences are known by editors), and people give a shit about these things, my relationship with grammar has taken on the status of: "It's Complicated".

Since then, I've evolved a hatred of certain words, some more than others.

You know what word I hate now, what plagues me?

WAS.

Was, you are a bitch of a word.  Such a cock knocker of a word, so horrid that some modern dialects like AAVE have cast it out from their lexicons.

WAS can be useful for past tenses (That Was So Amazing)

But you know what else WAS likes?

Passive sentences.

Look, I don't know exactly "how" to explain a passive sentence, or even to spot this creature in the wild. But by god, it exists!

It was. They were. He was running as fast as he could from the zombies.  He ran from the Zombies as fast as he could!  The weapon was loaded by him… He loaded his weapon.  I was given a bite by a Zombie. A fucking Zombie bit me! If WAS or associated criminals hang out in a sentence with –ING, there is a conspiracy, a plot going on. Those passive little fuckers just want to drag your work down.

You know what else shits me? TO BE.

There is an entire English Language variant called E-Prime that doesn't allow for any variant of TO BE.

TO BE hangs out with SEEMS and SEEMED. Kind of like LIKE, but more in the style of I COULDN'T THINK OF AN APPROPRIATE DESCRIPTION AND I AM A HACK, FUCK IT. IT SEEMED TO BE AN ALIEN.

So now every time I read. self pubbed novels or very small press and cheaply edited-by-your-mate jobs I see the thing I struggle against. I'm a little jealous, frankly, there was once a time when two fucks were not given. (Or I couldn't give two fucks. Oh you little passive turkey slapper!!).


LOLCats and teenage textspeakers rejoice! Grammar is dead, gone, kaput. A curse on English teachers and their devilish ilk. Possibly our first slightly-controversial (especially if you're is a geek) selection for the year, but in the spirit of the day I proclaim Fuk YEZ! Youse rokks! 

LOL.

Lyn Battersby
Mocking of phobias
Brian M Logan
Passivity
Jason Fischer
Pedantry
Alan Baxter
Lack of personal responsibility
Pandering to the lowest common denominator
Claire McKenna
Grammar

Friday, February 15, 2013

Review: Blackbirds


Blackbirds
Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Fantastic book: unrelentingly gritty and violent, with a protagonist so determinedly flawed she wears it as a badge of honour. A genuine sense of danger pervades every page, as Miriam Black; Louis Darling, the trucker she inadvertently suckers into her road trip; and the cabal of pursuers who aren't really even after her until they discover what she can do with the special power she has inherited chase after each other through an unremittingly grey and despoiled American landscape that feels real purely because it is so wide-horizoned and desolate. It's the flip side of the sun-drenched panorama we see in so many 'American Landscape' stories-- an endless repetition of shitty motels, black-tarmac vistas and chain link fences that wears down those who travel it, and the reader as well, leaving everyone vulnerable to the regular bouts of petty violence that Wendig drops into the story.

This gravel-rubbed weariness pervades even the characters themselves: there's little in the way of positive human emotion here, and even the violence and treachery engaged in by almost everyone seems worn-through, ritualised. There are no roles to be played here: of the two main female characters, one is physically oversensitised to the point of isolation and the other has buried her gender under so many layers of indifference that she verges on gender neutral; and the males exist in a nebulous behavioural zone defined only by surviving each moment as it arrives. Even the sex is unsatisfactory: yearned for as a way of touching something genuine in another person, but ultimately just an increasingly empty and hopeless gesture. It is only Miriam's endless desire to break away from the very comforts she yearns for, over and over, which give urgency to those around her.

If all this sounds depressing, it is, but Wendig's skill is in making us care for what happens despite the fact that every character in the novel is more or less a giant shit of some kind or other, as well as an ability to consistently crank up the stress and pace of each narrative moment until the whole thing is unbearably taut.

Reading this book is like watching a bridge cable overextend, waiting for the moment it snaps and sends everybody tumbling into the water below when you'd be far better off just running like hell for the far end of the bridge.

It's all good, clean, American fun.



View all my reviews

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

ROOM 102: ALAN BAXTER

Alan Baxter is a Ditmar Award-nominated British-Australian author living on the south coast of NSW, Australia. He writes dark fantasy, SF and horror, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He is the author of the contemporary dark fantasy thriller novels, RealmShift and MageSign, and over 40 short stories which have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies in Australia, the US, the UK and France, including the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror. Alan is also a freelance writer, penning reviews, feature articles and opinion. He’s a contributing editor and co-founder at Thirteen O’Clock, Australian Dark Fiction News & Reviews, and co-hosts Thrillercast, a thriller and genre fiction podcast. He's also a hell of a drinker and a damn funny drinking companion, as I discovered at the last Swancon I attended. You can read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything, he says. I recommend #beetrootanal


When Lee asked me to contribute to this series of guest posts, my first thought was, “How can I pick just one or two things? Everything fucking annoys me!” But I decided to consider it a challenge. 

 I was impressed by Brian Logan’s post about chucking passivity into the chasm of nothingness. Impressed and annoyed, because it meant I couldn’t use that one. But I’ve ended up settling on two things that are related to each other and also tangentially related to Brian’s post. 

 The two things I’d remove from the Universe and consign to a fate worse than death are Lack Of Personal Responsibility and Pandering To The Lowest Common Denominator. 

 You know when you read about someone who was walking along one night and fell into a construction workers’ hole and broke their leg? And the hole was surrounded by tape and a big fucking sign saying, “DANGER! HOLE!”? And that idiot is suing the council for compensation for his injuries? Yeah, that. Let’s call him Bob The Fucking Problem. You know what, Bob The Fucking Problem? 

Take some personal responsibility for your life and your actions. You fell in a hole because you weren’t looking where you were going. That’s your fault. Suck it up princess, the world can be full of ambushes you don’t expect and they can happen to anyone. When they happen to you, don’t immediately look for someone to blame. Blame culture is despicable and it affects everyone. 

 How does it affect everyone? Remember the second thing I mentioned, about pandering to the lowest common denominator? That’s often a direct result of the blame culture. Because Bob The Fucking Problem is likely to sue the council because he was stupid enough to fall into a hole, we all have to cross the street because the entire pavement is now closed on one side. Because if people can’t be trusted to avoid a hole and, should they fuck up and fall in, they can’t be trusted to accept responsibility, we ALL have to cross the road and go nowhere near the hole. In other words, we all get treated like children because of Bob The Fucking Problem and his ilk, which means the fucking idiots set the bar for the rest of us. They refuse to take responsibility for their own lives, assuming everything that happens to them has to be someone’s fault. And then council and business and everyone else panders to their dumbass level of idiocy and we all suffer. 

 There are plenty of other examples, too, not just the falling in a hole thing. There are all kinds of places where people need to take responsibility and not look for escape clauses. 

 You say something stupid? Don’t blame others for not “getting the joke”. Suck it up and say, “Sorry, that was insensitive.” 

 You clip someone’s car in a car park? Be honest and own that shit. Leave a note with an apology and your number. You fucked up, so accept it. 

 Train your dog and be a responsible pet owner. Don’t expect other people to make allowances for your lazy-ass. Because then the councils step in and enforce all kinds of draconian pet ownership laws that make life shitty for all of us good dog owners and our dogs. 

 You got drunk and fell on your face in the pub toilet because the floor was wet and your ability to recognise “upright” had gone to fairyland? Don’t blame the landlord, blame your intolerance for alcohol or your inability to know when you’ve had enough and should take your drunk arse home. (And take a motherfucking taxi, don’t drive drunk you irresponsible arsemonkey.) 

 I could go on and on. Ask my wife – I often do go on and on and on... 

 Basically, in every aspect of your life, stop and think about how what you’re doing might affect others. Is it going to inconvenience or potentially hurt someone else? Then don’t do it. It’s not all about you, however much you might like it to be. If you do accidentally do something that has an adverse affect on someone else, apologise, make amends, take responsibility for it. That’s the other side of personal responsibility. It’s just as important as not looking for someone to blame for every little thing that might cause you a moment of discomfort, or even a lifetime of hassle. Then we have a society that takes care of itself, without the need for a nanny-state government. 

 We all want to go through life without complications. When things bugger up our peaceful existence, we’re offended and we want to strike out and make someone suffer, or find a way to make it better and someone out there must be responsible and, being responsible, they have to fix it for us. 

 You know what? Life is not a safe and comfortable ride on a fluffy cloud, where nothing bad ever happens. Life is red in tooth and claw, life is unfair, horrible things happen all the time. Sure, we can do our best to minimise risk and we can introduce some laws and methods to keep society a friendly and balanced place for everyone. Sure, sometimes a person or an entity is negligent and caused the problem. There are already methods in place to deal with that. There comes a time when we have to say, “No more laws! No more licences and permissions and committees!” 

 If something bad happens to you, instead of immediately screeching about how SOMEONE must be to BLAME because a bad thing happened, perhaps take a moment to think about what culpability you might have had in it. Did you not pay attention? Did you act like a dickhead? And if you didn’t, and it was just terrible bad luck, then perhaps you need to suck that up, because more often than not, there isn’t someone else to blame. It’s just shitty old life happening to you. And by desperately searching for someone to blame, by refusing to accept it and say, “My bad! Sorry. Wasn’t looking where I was going!” or “Well, fuck me, that was a terrible piece of luck!” you end up triggering further lowering of the bar for EVERYONE! Same as when you cause a problem. Don’t sneak off and hope you’ll get away with it. Don’t be a twat and know no one will call you on it (because I fucking will). Then you just trigger more nannying from the powers that be, because you’re proving the populace can’t be trusted to be decent. 

 Then there are more rules and more licences and more fucking committees trying to decide how best to protect us next. Which is the last shitting thing we need. And, on top of that, the people who really need help and compensation will suffer because every claim is treated with suspicion. Every incident is analysed, every insurance premium goes up and every bar is lowered. 

 Life: It isn’t fair, so keep your eyes open and don’t expect everyone else to hold your fucking hand.



There we go, folks. The list continues to build. And is it not a fine world we're building for ourselves?

Lyn Battersby
Mocking of phobias
Brian M Logan
Passivity
Jason Fischer
Pedantry
Alan Baxter
Lack of personal responsibility
Pandering to the lowest common denominator

Saturday, February 09, 2013

I CAN SMILE, AND DRAW AS I SMILE

Late last year, as part of reverting to a single wage, we decided to lay a treasured family member to rest: we cancelled our Foxtel subscription.

We'd become a TV family-- come home, watch TV, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed. Given that we live in a town that other people come to for their holidays, and we have two intelligent active kids who just cry out for constant action, slipping into that kind of a lifestyle was a crime we were committing against ourselves, and we made the decision to stop and change our lifestyle around.

Currently, due to a lack of reception and the cost of the necessary cables, we have no TV reception at all. No Biggest Survivor Loser Brother. No X-Singer Star Dance on Ice. No Mastercook a Garden Decorate Building.

Yeah. Not missing it much.

When news broke earlier this week that the skeleton discovered under a Leicester carpark was, as had been hoped, indeed that of Richard III, we broke out our copy of the Kings and Queens DVD and watched the Richard III episode with the kids, explaining where the information presented by Nigel Spivey was now obsolete, and generally using it to generate a discussion with them. Then we settled around the kitchen table, and drew a picture of what we'd learned, discovered, and been fascinated with from this rediscovered monarch's story.

And this is what we drew:


Connor, 8: George, Duke of Clarence, was drowned in red wine by King Edward IV. The King is watching from his throne and he has lots of heads he wants to cut off so he can stay King.




Erin, 11: I chose Princes in the tower because I was quite horrified that their Uncle, King Richard III, would lock them in the tower of London and then when the time came (if he knew) didn't reveal the secret to their disappearence! I mean, he was their UNCLE!! My picture shows the two Princes, right to the throne, locked away in the Tower of London with no doors or escapes, thorns growing over the Tower, the crown in the bushes when the King died, a cage over the windows and behind the curtains, what could have been the Princes' death.





Lee: I seem to have come over all symbolic: Richard's battered skull, the young Princes in its vacant eye sockets, wearing the crown while biting down on the red dragon of Henry Tudor, with the white Rose of York behind, framed by the stone wall of the white Tower. There's such an interconnectedness in Richard's story, such a crux of history being portrayed-- if he had won at Bosworth, what would have happened to Britain? To its religions, its wars? 




Lyn: I'm a bit of a Plantagenet fan and have always been fascinated by the War of the Roses. The Princes in the Tower is such a sad mystery and I love reading or watching anything that extrapolates on what happened to them. These little boys were the innocent victims of a war not of their making.



ROMANCE ISN'T DEAD. IT JUST LURKS AROUND THE LOCAL SHOPS, WAITING FOR THE UNWARY

Our local shopping centre runs a monthly giveaway. You know the type: drop your receipt in the barrel, win a prize. Every month there's a display in the centre of the mall: a pile of gardening equipment, an outdoor setting, pamper packages,you know the sort of thing.

We never hear who wins. There's never any promo. Frankly, we're of the opinion that the whole thing is a scam and the 'prizes' are never actually awarded: it's just some obscure head-counting or income-counting thing the shopping centre does for its own nefarious purposes.

Doesn't stop us putting our receipts in the barrel, mind.

Which is probably a good thing, as yesterday Luscious received a phone call to tell her she'd won the most recent giveaway: $600 in Flight Centre vouchers, to spend on any of their packages.

What's that? Romantic long weekend down south pretending we're having a writing retreat when we'll probably just lounge by the pool the whole time drinking bubbly and ploughing through the room service menu, I hear you cry?

Exactly what we're thinking :)

REMIX MY BRICK

I was observing the kids playing with their Lego collection recently, and noticed that, while Erin 11 has begun to extend her imagination by engaging in connected free builds-- creating large scale structures by consistently adding to each one each time she sits down to build-- 8 year old Connor contents himself with rummaging around in the minifig box and playing story telling games with the figs.


The world: it grows, and grows...


Nothing wrong with that-- after all, Lego is a toy, not a psychological determinator, and there's really no wrong way to play with it other than the "Let's see how many pieces we can shove up the dog's nose" game-- but I asked him why he doesn't play with the bricks, and he replied that there's too much Lego and he didn't know where to start.  The kids have approximately 10 000 bricks, and I didn't realise until he told me that the sheer bulk was just too much for the little guy. He'd never had a chance to learn small scale building techniques before being overwhelmed by the giant pile in front of him, and had no idea where to begin building a base, or frame, or even how to start experimenting with creating shapes. He took one look at that great big mountain of plastic and retreated to  a scale he could deal with: little people, and telling himself stories.

Coincidentally, while searching about for a way to activate the RockLUG Lego group (a Facebook group for people who'd like to see a Lego User Group started South of the Swan River: feel free to join!), I came across the concept of remixing: taking a single Lego set and re-imagining it in as many ways as possible. Now, when I was a kid we weren't particularly flash, so taking a single Lego set and re-imagining it in as many was as possible was called "playing with Lego", but somewhere along the line of my own mad dash towards a monster Lego collection I'd forgotten the concept.  It seemed like a great challenge to throw to the group, and a great way to get Master 8 learning some building concepts at a scale he could handle easily.

The set I chose was one he'd had a ball building from the instructions, a small mecha called Kai's Fire Robot:




Ninja Mecha. Because Lego is all about peace and love and togetherness...


And to test the concept, in a bout of insomnia last night, I had a crack at it myself. So, here's my proof of concept, for your entertainment. I present the Imperial Rocket Ice Sled, and the Frog Throne of the Ugly Prince:



Now to play with the Young Master, and see what he comes up with. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

NOW IS THE SUMMER OF GREAT CONTENT

I've always been a bit in love with the study of history. Indeed, had I my time over I'd have removed 'Creative writing' from my list of Uni preferences and promoted 'archaeology' from the only-if-I-don't-get-my-first-two-choices slot to bang on number one. What I love about it is just how much of the real story of the world is yet to be uncovered-- and this goes for archaeology and paleontology as well, both of which have become amateur loves over the years-- and especially, how each discovery forces a reappraisal of not only what has come before, but of how what has come before has been represented. A new historical discovery can reverberate across art, tourism, politics, academia, and any number of scientific disciplines, and that flow of reverberation can go both ways as advances in medical technology, computer imaging, and research techniques can often completely shatter long established theories and facts, coughbrontosauruscough.

Which is why the news that bones found beneath a Leicester car park are those of Richard III is tremendously exciting to me. For a start, had the discovery been made twenty years ago, we'd still likely be waiting for medical technology to catch up to the point that DNA of a 17th-generation descendant could be comparatively analysed. And the reappraisal of Richard that had been undertaken after news that a famous portrait had been altered later to include a hump will now be reassessed again in light of apparent scoliosis in the skeleton itself. But I've a somewhat personal reason to be excited, as well. Richard is one of my great fascinations, both literary and historical.

I've always been captivated with Richard: partly because of his great infamy, coupled with the briefness of his reign; partly because of his role in the creation of the Tudor dynasty and the flirtatious idea of what might otherwise have been had he not been defeated at Bosworth; and partly because he has an indelible link with Nottingham,. the town of my birth-- he lead his troops to Bosworth from Nottingham Castle, and in classic more-English-than-the-English fashion, the longer I am separated from the City the more entranced by it I become. That a great British figure should march to his doom from my home town is a source of wonder to me, and I'll admit to no end of romanticising in the place of actual, visceral experience.

So the idea that accurate study of these bones will yield information yet unknown about the man, his society, and his place in the pantheon of my country of birth fills me with joy, and the understanding that more than 500 years of history will have to be reassessed through the filter of this single discovery gives hope for more wonder and announcements to come.This discovery will have repercussions throughout so many branches of popular culture, theatre, literature,  and historical study that, yearning amateur that I am, I'll be entranced by its developments for years to come.


Richard III portrait compared to Greyfriars  skull

Geer! Geer! My gningdom for a gottle of geer!

Monday, February 04, 2013

A SMALL HAIKU ABOUT THE APOCALYPSE

Gunmetal water
Acid-etched forever sky
No close-ups survive.



I like writing poetry. I don't have the patience to be a real poet, but I do like that I have thoughts that can only be expressed in this image-heavy, emotion-rich medium. I occasionally sell them, and it'd be nice, somewhere along the line, to get a little book out, just to satisfy my artist dahlink credentials.

Anyway, this one came about because Jason Fischer put a call out on Facebook, and I liked it enough to post it here. Hope you like it too.

ROOM 102: JASON FISCHER



Time to improve the Universe again, my friends. This time, through the unique and possibly demented eyes of the only and only Jason 'Jasoni' Fischer author of over thirty short stories including such delicate, ethereal gems as Undead Camels Ate my Flesh and Pigroot Flat. I first met Jasoni during a week spent surviving tutoring Clarion South back in 2007, and it was clear then that he thought like nobody else around him. He's a one-off, a unique voice, and a bloody good bloke into the bargain, and if he becomes as famous as I expect he will, then the handwritten shopping list he gave to my wife while I tore his story to shreds in a Brisbane shopping mall will be worth a fortune.

Jason lives near Adelaide, South Australia, with his wife and son. He has a passion for godawful puns, and is known to sing karaoke until the small hours. His first collection appears soon from Ticonderoga Publications, and will be worth every penny you pay for it. His YA zombie apocalypse novel “Quiver” is now available from Black House Comics, or viawww.tamsynwebb.com





Jasoni? All yours, mate:




Pedantry. A bit of pedantry is okay, but habitual pedants need to know their place in the universe. It’s about a hundred places below parking inspectors and tax auditors, and perhaps two or three spots down from furry civil war re-enactors. I get that sometimes people need to have it gently pointed out when they’ve made some sort of faux pas, but there’s something about the pedant that takes this one step further.
It’s the sick taking of glee when eviscerating those who’ve forgotten an apostrophe. The furious pounding of the keyboard when someone gets an obscure detail wrong. Sarcasm, forged on an anvil of hubris, the hammer wielded by the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.
In many ways, the pedant is the natural antonym and opposite of the punster. Whereas I take a natural joy in wordplay, these people are the dogs in the manger, snarling huffily at anyone who is fast and loose with language. Miserable, finger-waggling, sour-faced nay-sayers. I realise that these people are actually my natural enemy, and they must be driven out with smoke and flame.

So there we are. Pedants, fuck thee off (My eldest son is going to have to engage in a major lifestyle change, and quick!). How are we progressing? Well, here's how the Universe is shaping up:
Lyn Battersby
Mocking of Phobias
Brian M Logan
Passivity
Jason Fischer
Pedantry

It's all looking rather good so far. We're still sticking with concepts-- you know a Universe without Tony Abbott or James Corden would be an improvement, you just know it-- but that's the fun thing about improving the Universe: anyone can do it.