Monday, December 15, 2014

Get out me car!

This is the funniest thing ever. I don't know why; I can't explain it. Maybe it's that she has the same accent as me. Maybe it's because she says, "Nooo!" in the same accent and tone of voice I pretend my geckos have when I ask them questions. ("Would you like a beer?" "Nooo, coz I'm a gecko.")

Whatever, it has me in stitches. Unfortunately I couldn't find the original vine, so this only plays once. You have to hit replay at least four or five times to get the right effect.

It's remarkable how inventive people are at making art when given new tools. Only 140 characters allowed on Twitter? In a couple of months people were writing novels and haiku on it. And Vine, which gives you only five seconds of video gives rise to this - two perfectly ordinary people coming up with a play of transcendent multiple meanings in a natural rhythm, in one tiny snippet.

"I'm in ma Mum's car. Broom! Broom!"*
"Get out me car!"

I'm not kidding, it's like a little slice of the Odyssey there.

*I would have spelled those engine revs as "Brum! Brum!" like I did as a kid, but the internet has spoken.

Monday, December 08, 2014

San Juan Capistrano - the Road Worrier

My town is undergoing a major upheaval for reasons I haven't quite fathomed yet - it's demolishing the freeway access (to the I5) and the bridge over the freeway, in order to build about 67 more lanes of freeway access and about twice as much bridge.

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A crow is watching from the world famous Twin Streetlights 
of McDonalds.

The redevelopment has ripped out the buildings and trees that were center of the town - luckily the major business in the area, a motel and restaurant, fled years ago - and replaced it with acres and acres of asphalt, as far as the eye can see. It's not finished yet - we're currently in the era of major road closures and the consequent traffic issues - but we walked through the area yesterday to see how it was going. I don't have my own pictures as you can't really get a good idea of what's going on from ground level, so here are OCTA's own pictures from this site.

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Old interchanges

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Proposed (rendering)

The dead area of asphalt that makes up the traffic interchange is just huge on the west (bottom of each picture) side, and it looks like the one on the east (top) is going to be just as large. There's also now a weird clawhammer-shaped thingy to the right of the west interchange. That is a gigantic plain of asphalt surrounding a Del Taco. The fast-food joint now has the highest elevation in the district as well as about 94 lanes of traffic heading straight for it. It's quite amazing up close. (In the top photo, you can see another fast food restaurant used to be at the top of the hill near the road - this was closed down and demolished to make way.)

The building that you can see next to the clawhammer of the Del Taco is a McDonald's. They've been planning to modernize it for years, the city finally granted them permission to do so, and it's just being rebuilt right now. According to the workers, it's McDonald's job to do the flood abatement from being downhill - they said they're putting in a giant storage tank for runoff water. McDonalds also had to make room for a "loop", which is apparently city-speak for if you get lost in the drive-in and have to go back around, you have to be given room to do it on McDonalds' property, to discourage lost and angry people driving on to Del Obispo Street and back into the Micky D's.

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OCTA's plan and Micky D's plan don't seem to quite line up, so we get this lovely pair of twin streetlights. Perhaps they'll become a tourist attraction?

Yes, there are a lot of fast food restaurants on Del Obispo. There's also a Carl's Junior and a Marie Callenders.  One - Arby's I think - disappeared above Del Taco, there was another one - I think a Jack in the Box - that was off to the right of the pictures above. There was a Burger King as well. The Taco Bell is still there, one of those all-you-can-stuff-down-your-neck places that I liked, Sizzler's, disappeared years ago and is now an auto parts store, and on the other side of the freeway, my fave rave Denny's was wiped out. RIP Denny's :(

We locals used to call it Cholesterol Alley, but now it's more Asphalt Parkway.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Had Me A Real Good Time - The Faces (Ian McLagan and Bobby Keys)

Goodbye Bobby Keys and Ian McLagan, gone within 24 hours of each other.

Thanks for all the music I guess, but so sad you had to leave it behind.

Children of the Revolution - T. Rex

Here's a lovely T. Rex video of Children of the Revolution in 1973.

The uploader, Dylan White, doesn't have information on how or when it was made, but he uses the occasion to say we should check out the DVD The Final Word, which I certainly shall. I had not heard of it before now. Love the greens in this video - Marc's green blouse, Bill Legend's green fronted whatever-you-call-that, and of course Mickey Finn's green hat. Mickey has also mixed his seventies' green and orange in the correct proportions, whereas Marc's orange trousers are a bit much.  I used to think that these great colors were from using natural dyes like what people did back in the day, but thinking about it, 1972 was probably a hotbed of the most artificial dyes ever, so these were probably made from organophosphate and mustard gas. Still, lovely colors.

The uploader isn't keen on Marc's makeup, but I have to say he appears to have invented contouring. Look at those imitation Toby Tyler-era cheekbones!

While we're here, here's Get It On (Bang A Gong). Look at his little girls' shoes! And my mum made me a jacket exactly like that one except it was in pollen yellow, not pink. And Tony Visconti, if the adults of the time had realized what that guitar sound did to little girls, you would have been arrested. :p

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

White Bicycles by Joe Boyd (book, 2006) review

After jumping out of John Lennon's car, I walked down to Abbey Road studios on my way to record The Pretty Things and who should pass by but Margaret Trudeau, the wife of the Canadian Prime Minister.  She offered me a lift in her private plane as she was flying off to see Mick and Keith. Who should be on the back of the plane but The Byrds who said they were between managers. I said that was lucky, I was between bands to manage, so I managed the Byrds starting that Saturday. One day a month later I was offered the job as the head of Biggo-Vastola Records and I said to the Byrds, I said, I have to take this lads. They were all sad about it as they'd just recorded Eight Miles High and thought it would be a hit. It went platinum five minutes after I left in Ringo Starr's biplane piloted by Hilly Kristal but that's the breaks. We had only just landed when Bob Dylan and Albert Grossman came round and asked if they could join Fairport Convention. "Sorry, I had to stop producing Fairport records three minutes ago," I said and they were all dejected. Luckily Nick Drake and John Martyn were outside, waving through the window for me to go for a drink with them, so I did...

That's not actually an excerpt from Joe Boyd's White Bicycles, but it's pretty damn close.

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I bought the book because it was subtitled 'making music in the 1960's' and all I knew of Joe Boyd was that he'd managed the UFO club in Swinging London. Alas, suckered again, because like Rob Young's Electric Eden it's actually about the Great Folk Scare. It's another chance to read about what Pete Seeger said or didn't say to Albert Grossman about Bob Dylan's electric set at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival where all of that happened. (For the record, Joe Boyd does not agree with the chopping-the-cable-with-the-axe story.) It's a lot shorter, though, and Joe Boyd really did know absolutely everybody who was everybody, from Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee to Pete Townshend and literally everybody in between. There is more about the Incredible String Band and Danny Thompson, than about Pink Floyd and the Sex Pistols, though, but there must be no one else in the world who has worked with so many people - from Dudu Pukwana to Reverend Gary Davis - nor anyone who was in the thick of it for so long. It's fascinating stuff.

He's not Boswell, so I found there was quite a lot of starting an incredible anecdote about someone - Hendrix, or Devon Wilson - and then going into the next anecdote. After a while you realize the first anecdote isn't going to peak. Maybe he'll get back to it, but maybe he won't. The only one I remember actually coming to a punchline was the story about the Incredible String Band, who get left behind talking to a waiter in California, and later get picked up again having learned something from the waiter Our Gracious Host was not happy they had learned.

I needed to know some deeper things about the Summer of Love for my NaNoWriMo novel, and I wanted to check a few opinions about folk music for it, which this book amply supplied. It mentions Mick Farren, who mentioned Joe Boyd a couple of times, a couple of times. They're not very complimentary, but Swinging London was a complicated time. Boyd dates the Sixties as stretching from the Summer of 1956, peaking on 1st July 1967 and ending in October of 1973. And I'd agree with him, before and after reading the book.

NaNo's over, but the book isn't

I did "win" NaNoWriMo for 2014 - finishing with just over 50,000 words in 30 days. It's not actually that much in terms of output - typing at 30 words per minute (i.e. how fast I can type if I'm thinking rather than copy typing) your daily ration of 1,670 words should take less than an hour. In practice, it never took less than two hours because "thinking", having yet another cup of coffee or crossing out a paragraph and writing it again with different characters or the same characters in a different mood always tended to happen on a regular basis.

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The majority of the writing was simple enough. I took the first two days to write a 2,000 word synopsis that expanded to a 3,000 word synopsis by the end of the month, and did one major reorganization in the middle when I realized that the division into 9 sections (flashbacks alternating with the present day) had shorter sections at the beginning than at the end, a sort of reverse speeding-up-like-Stairway-To-Heaven that would drag everything down at the end. (Or, of course immerse every reader more fully towards the end and make them think the whole experience had been that deep - but you can't second guess everything.) Making it into 11 sections solved that problem, meant that I could add 1976 (one of my favorite years) to the mix and delay the denouement for a little while which may (or may not, but  see above) create a bit of tension about how it is all going to turn out.

Fifty thousand words actually only comes to section 8, so three are still to be written. A fair amount of the beginning sections are of the type, "and then he got really lucky and so this happened and then that happened", which obviously need to be expanded - so there's probably thirty thousand words yet to go. Then of course, comes the editing and polishing, which can take between one read-through and the rest of your life, depending on what sort of writer you are.

One part of a middle section is completely unwritten, with just a placeholder under the chapter heading, because I honestly don't know what happened to that character at that time. Hopefully it will become clearer before I have to write the rest.

One great thing about taking a run at it, as you're forced to do given the time limit, is that you can probably remember what you were thinking and why you were thinking for the majority of the writing. I had a synopsis, but they aren't much use for details - obviously if they were detailed, they'd take as long to write as the actual text. For example, if you last saw your main characters in a bar, wrote a different scene and then went back to the bar, you have to remember some important details - what the bar was called, the time of day, who was there, how many drinks they'd had, what mood they were in, whether you'd mentioned the brass kettles on the walls already or not. A couple of times I had that continuity problem you occasionally see in movies where one character's drink moves from one hand to another between shots, and also the type you get in books alone, where somebody becomes dismarried all of a sudden or his wife's name changes from Rita to Consuela and back over the course of a few chapters.

There are special word processors designed to get over this type of issue. I own one, and can't remember what it's called because I don't use it very often. As with making a synopsis that is complete, filling up a database of characters, names, ages, likes, dislikes, times of day, amount of action in the scene, amount of emotion in the scene, whether the emotion is getting higher or ebbing away in that scene and so on takes longer than writing the book, though it's perfectly possible that if you do it correctly, the software then just writes the book for you. I've never got it to that stage to find out if it does.

Ah! It's called Power Structure - I went to look at its box. It's very very powerful but as I say, filling it up seems to be the hard part. A number of writers, including professional writers, swear by Scrivener, which doesn't cost a lot and seems to do most of the things Power Structure does. Once again, though, is the learning curve harder than actually writing the novel? (I'm sure the first person to not bother to learn Excel is very happy with his calculator to this day, and has only lost a few hundred hours by not putting in the time to learn the program.)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pedophile parliament

(Trigger warning.)

The paedophilia story in Britain is wending its way slowly upstairs. For forty years we were assured nothing was wrong, then it was just Jimmy Savile (A Bad 'Un ™), then it was a bunch of other BBC DJs, and a few pop stars and TV hosts. But that's as far as it went! Close down that bolshy BBC and everything will be fine!

Now we hear this:

The two ex-officers even said that they were aware that boys were being killed by the 'Westminster paedophile network', but were unable to take any action because the perpetrators were so powerful.
From Exaronews.

Holy shit.

Exaro may be a little out there, but the regular papers are on it too. (And yes, the Mirror's a tabloid but it's a tabloid in England, where libel cases are routinely won by the plaintiffs.)

A victim of the Westminster paedophile abuse scandal has claimed he saw a Conservative MP murder a young boy during a depraved sex party.
The Mirror

Today we get this:

Two newspaper executives have told the Observer that their publications were issued with D-notices – warnings not to publish intelligence that might damage national security – when they sought to report on allegations of a powerful group of men engaging in child sex abuse in 1984. [...]
The other said that his newspaper had received a D-notice when a reporter sought to write about a police investigation into Elm Guest House, in southwest London, where a group of high-profile paedophiles was said to have operated and may have killed a child. Now it has emerged that these claims are impossible to verify or discount because the D-notice archives for that period “are not complete”.  
The Guardian.
I'll bet they're 'not complete'.

Anybody who has been paying attention has heard some of the names, obviously. Cyril Smith, safely dead and therefore with no rights to sue, has been named repeatedly (though not in connection with any deaths, as far as I know), and other names have been put forward from Parliament. The allegations also include ones against people who are rather coyly described as being 'at the very top', i.e. in the Royal Family.

The current government has been running a second-rate Keystone Kops routine pretending to hold an inquiry into the allegations, but up to now they haven't found anyone to chair it who doesn't hobnob with the people alleged to be perpetrators. The whole of the British Establishment is so tightly intertwined that the ruling class can't get fair hearing, i.e. they can't get a hearing that's not chaired by one of their hunting/dinner engagement buddies.

Of course, I don't think Reg 'the whippet fancier' Trotsky of 3 Closed Mines Road, Salford has been asked to chair it. If we all get a vote for the chairperson, I'm voting for him.

At times during the investigation - not to mention the god-awful Rotherham thing - it's seemed like there isn't anyone in Britain who isn't a sex criminal. At first, during the pile-on phase after Jimmy Savile's death I was thinking back to the 'Satanic Child Abuse' of the eighties, which wasn't all it was cracked up to be. But these men and women aren't being coached (accidentally or purposefully) by guidance counsellors while ostensibly asking them about their experiences - they're just ordinary people, unmediated, coming forward in droves to report things that happened in their past.

Not that the atmosphere in the US is any cleaner. Bill Cosby? R Kelly? Sheesh.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

NaNoWriMo progress and advice for other writers

NaNoWriMo has coincided with major roadworks in our town. And by major, I mean that there are only two roads to speak of, and one is completely closed. Everyone's using the other one, and so the three minute trip into town is now a 15 to 20 minute trip into town.

So between the two time sinks, I'm not really doing much of anything else.

I'm halfway through the 50,000 word goal of a Nano book, which is good, because I'm halfway through November. It feels odd to write something in such a linear fashion. I have an outline and know where I'm going, it's just that it takes forever to get there, much like going into town. (It would have helped if I'd written the outline before the beginning of November - I might be three quarters of the way through if I had.)

Everybody is supposed to have advice for other writers about this sort of thing, so here's mine so far:

1. I once heard an actor* talking about doing Improv. He said the most important thing in a sketch was to say "yes". If the other person gives you a line like, "I hear your wife is an alien from Arcturus," you say, "Yes, and..." and go on to supply something of your own. You don't say, "No, actually she's just from around here," because that will shut down a lot of possibilities.

I find myself shutting down possibilities in first drafts all the time. "Raymond asked her if she wanted to go to the all-nite diner and she said no, she was too tired." Nope, you can't do anything with that. Either she says yes, and the story goes in that direction or Raymond never brings it up in the first place. Who wants a story about people who are too tired? I have to go back and take all these things out.

2. Something that may be related to #1.  I used to be wishy-washy about some things when I was writing.  Janice wasn't sure if she liked the decor. Jim had not made his mind up about buying the motorbike. Inigo put off making his mind up about the party until later.  After a long while (i.e., not during this month, but after examples over many years) I realized that it was because I, as the writer, had not made my own mind up about whatever it was. And if I didn't care either way, who else would? I made an effort to have an opinion on things ready before the character had to think about them.  This seems to be a close relative of the infamous "she woke up in a white room" scene and the equally dreaded "she looked out of the window but could only see fog" scene, both of which are telling me that I've failed to imagine the character's environment, so I just called it featureless instead and hoped my inner editor wouldn't notice.

* I think it was actually a comedian but I couldn't think of a funny line. It's late and I've been writing, and/or stuck in a traffic jam all day. How about "No, actually she's from Poughkeepsie."

Poughkeepsie is always funny.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

New: Die with Zeke: the paleo die-et

I have a dragon called Ezekiel J Emanuel; he's called that because I found a Hah-vahd name-badge for him lying in a Cambridge, Mass. parking lot. He's worn the badge for the last twenty or so years.

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(His polar bear friend is Scott of the North West corner.)

This means that every now and again, when the "bioethicist" Ezekiel J Emanuel (Zeke to his friends) comes up in the news, I have a look to see what he has to say, and I let my dragon know.

This week he's in the news because he's decided that when he's 75, he  does not wish to receive any life-prolonging medical care. He wrote an article about it in the Atlantic, and was subsequently interviewed on video by James Hamblin, M.D. who is something or other at the Atlantic. Hamblin looks way too young to be an M.D. and is nervous at interviewing the "most famous" person he's ever interviewed (hear that, Dragon Ezekiel?).

So this was my first look at the famous Original Ezekiel J Emanuel. Thinking that life is more or less over at 75 is hard to justify even from a historical standpoint. (In the written article he gives historical life expectancies at birth, which is a biased and pushy way to present the data.) He's also, weirdly enough, against people with terminal illnesses choosing for themselves when to die. He gives the date he will be 75 as 2032, which means he's around my age: He looks mid-sixties. He's really rich-looking in a very off-putting way. He can't stand cats. It may be just me, but he rubs me up the wrong way.

But most dislikeable of all, there's a bit at the end where they bet each other whether he'll change his mind when he's 75. If he changes his mind, he'll buy Hamblin dinner. If not Hamblin buys.

"We'll go to Per Se in New York, is that a deal?" says Zeke.
"I don't even know what that is," says the teenage M.D.
"You obviously don't have enough money and you don't take a serious enough interest in food," says Zeke, cementing my dislike of the man.

You can afford dinner at Per Se and you'll kick it in the head when you're 75?

I hereby append the Immortal Words of Dave Barnaby. *

(* "Well, fuck off then." - Dave Barnaby.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

NaNoWrimo - not many words, but at least the right ones

I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year, and the goal is to write 1,660 words a day for the whole of November. Unfortunately, all 1,660 words are supposed to go into the novel in progress (because NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth), and all the words I write in places like here do not count. Overall, by the end of November this will come to 50,000 words, or the length of a short novel.

Since I didn't sit down to write a synopsis until November 1st, I'm only just starting to put the actual text of the novel down, so I'm a little behind.

However, I'm writing this here instead of there to get a month's jump on one particular word out of the 50,000. One of my characters owns a publishing company and has come out with an e-reader device for those of its customers who prefer the 21st century way of perusing books. I was trying to think of a name for such an e-reader and after less than 1/10 of a second the perfect name roared in and screeched to a halt in my brain.

That name is the ╬╝Tome. Pronounced microtome. Lightweight, obviously, but capacious.

Brilliant isn't it? :) And I couldn't find it being used in that context on a brief Google search. So I'm writing this to see if anyone has laid claim to it as an e-reader name. If not, it's mine! And I get to use it in the book.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Coconut Octopus in all its finery

Gorgeous photograph of a Coconut Octopus.

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The site I got it from, All That Is Interesting, had no attribution details. It's a beautifully composed picture so kudos to whoever took it.  The rows of little blue glow-in-the-dark Jelly Babies along the edge of the tentacles are so even and precise. (Yes, I know they are suckers seen edge-on, but they look like Jelly Babies to me.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Halloween short story: The Burn Out

Here's a somber tale for Halloween: a teenage girl idolizes the leader of a boy band and her dedication leads directly to his eventual downfall.

Or does she save him?  I guess it depends on your point of view.

This is a science fiction story, so it's a rare tale that combines my longstanding love of cyberpunk with a much deeper love of rock music. There are two common narratives of the rock star. The first one is the more common rapid rise to fame, followed by the plunge into drugs, decadence and irrelevance, and concluded, often forty years later, by the ex-star climbing out of his deep hole and issuing some woozy statement along the lines of, "I'm all right! I was here the whole time. Wow, that was fun, until it wasn't."

The second most observed narrative is the rock star who rides a rocket to incandescent fame, quickly gets in over his head, and then dies at 27. The "27 Club" trope started in the early seventies, with the deaths of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison - and latterly Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse - and is still popular enough that only this morning the BBC aired a little piece on the short lives of rock stars. But this is a science fiction story - and even in real life, we can still watch Tupac, or Michael Jackson - at least, we can watch their holograms.

The Burn Out by Lyle Hopwood

May 15 2015

I tried to win over my brother, who knows about computers and stuff. I could learn a lot from him. I did my best today but I was wearing my t-shirt with Pitlochry's logo, all glitter and pink. The t-shirt said "Lolita" in a lavender flowery font that matched the sweetheart ribbon I was wearing on my wrist like all the girls do. And, of course, he hated the whole idea of the band.

"'Lolita'," Noah said, raising an eyebrow, "that must be the new song from Pitlochry, right?" He didn't sound won over yet.

I nodded. "Have you seen the video yet? Hughie is so cool in it."

Noah waved his arms, meaning no way, so I grabbed him and half-dragged him into my room. I tapped the mouse to wake my computer up, opened the 'favorites' folder and selected the first bookmark. A blank screen opened up and a progress bar showed the video buffering. After about three seconds I blurted, "I hate waiting for them to load!"

"You don't know how to download them to disk?"

"They're protected."

"Well, not so much. I'll show you how to do it."

I told him to shut up. "It's starting to play."

He watched politely. He didn't like Hugh Noone (Pitlochry's singer/guitarist, if you don't know). His friends had told him Hugh was a druggie. The video opened with a shot of Hugh sitting on the red tile roof of a giant dolls' house full of CGI puppets, chopping power chords from a broom-shaped guitar.

"That singer has a nose like a ski jump. If I looked like that I'd stay well away from the cameras. What is he singing about? 'Napalm and Nabokov'?"

I nodded.

He stared at the screen. "Dad is going to kill you," he said. "Can't you have a crush on one of the floppy-haired boy bands instead of this greasy freak?"

I punched him on the arm. The dolls inside of the silver and pink house danced while Hugh lounged in his all-black peacoat.

"Isn't he hot?" I said. "One day I'm going to marry Hugh Noone."

Read the rest here

Thursday, October 23, 2014

This week in books part 2 - authors vs critics electric boogaloo

While I was finishing research for the blog post "This Week In Books" on Monday, I came across a reference to the "Benevolent Stalker".  I had too much material already, and passed over it. I refreshed the pages I was looking at on Wednesday, and saw that the "Benevolent Stalker" is now facing charges after allegedly belting a critic of his book with a wine bottle. 

When the informal internet rules state you shouldn't engage with your critics about your book, I'm pretty sure this advice tacitly includes not trying to kill them.

To start at the beginning:

On 23rd September, a writer and winner of a British TV quiz show, whom I'll refer to as RB in order to cut down Google search results - he is named in full in some of the links - wrote a blog post entitled "The Benevolent Stalker" in which he details at length how he stalked a woman who had no interest in him for months, hoping to get her to run away with him after he faked her kidnapping. But not creepy in the slightest, because he was totally going to get her permission, even though she obviously wanted nothing to do with him, which he acknowledged in every word of his blog post but which didn't seem to quite penetrate his skull.  He took the blog post down after everybody who had come within fifty feet of it pronounced it weird, chilling and inappropriate. However, Jezebel has extensive quotes from it here,  It ends:

I was going to tell her that if she came with me, and we faked a kidnapping, we would both become famous. We would go into the hills and camp out for a few days while the nation searched. I had brought the necessary supplies. 
I would like to reiterate that I was not plotting to kidnap her. I was planning on asking her if she would be interested in pretending to be kidnapped, so that we would make the news and people would learn about our story. 
Yesterday, I saw her on the street and approached her, and called her name, but she freaked out. 
"How?" she said. "How are you here?" She turned and snapped me on her phone before hurrying away. 
I didn't even get to tell her about my plan. I didn't want to make a scene because people were staring. I also realised that I didn't have the heart to ask her if she would like to be kidnapped. 
I left Glasgow, and I think our relationship is finished now. I gave it my best shot. I really thought that we would both become famous. We would have disappeared for a few days, people would have read my book, and she could have played the lead role when The World Rose is made into a movie. But alas; I'll have to find another way.
On October 20th, RB wrote a blog post called A Re-evaluation of Romance, in which he claimed to have realized his error.  It says in small part (because he does tend to go on a bit):

I have re-evaluated my stance on many things. My blogpost entitled “The Benevolent Stalker” made international news and was roundly condemned. For every supportive comment I received, I had about a hundred negative ones. This level of response was helpful because 99% of people cannot be wrong. At the time, I didn't realise just how terrible my behaviour was. I did have benevolent intentions but I now realise that there was nothing remotely benevolent about what I was doing. Stalking in any form is horrible and it is unacceptable to attempt to justify it.
In much of the discussion, I noticed women saying things like ‘Romance is evil’. I then remembered a former flat-mate called Gabrielle who had mentioned that she didn't like romance because it seemed ‘sort-of selfish’. Back then, I wrote her off as anomalous, but I am now willing to accept the possibility that the majority of women share that view. Romance is generally cast in a positive light in movies and literature, but when I thought about it, I realised that most of those stories are written by men. We're not seeing things from the female perspective. What I also realise now is that if you act the way that those characters do, in real life, you may end up in jail.
There is a danger here. This problem clearly doesn’t affect the majority of men, but it does affect those of us who are borderline-psychotic and easily carried away by epic ideas. I really thought that what I was doing – writing a book about my love and pursuing her despite repeated rejections – was part of a grand narrative which would end in happy matrimony. 
I now recognise that my behaviour was vile, selfish and deluded.
And it ends:
It is unforgivable that I continued to pursue her, and I have learnt a great deal and hope that others do not make similar mistakes. I've felt a bit like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense recently, when he realises that he is a dead person. That is how self-revelatory the last week has been for me. I wish I had found this peace of mind earlier, because it would have saved others from harm.

Others from harm? Why, yes.

In September, someone I'll call PR wrote a Goodreads review of RB's book, The World Rose.  It's a pretty scathing review. Not personal, though, just critical. A sample:
"But the bulldog merely yawned, slumped lazily in his basket with a sullen frown on his face." Adverbs: check. Redundancy: check. Slumping is a lazy action. Frowns are usually sullen. From the context, we know this. I just... 
Urgh, I can't. Even if there WAS more on Wattpad to read, I wouldn't. This is painful. Everything is written through telling and purple prose which is just about the worst combination there is as both a reader and writer. You can have the most fantastic plot in the world, but if you can't write it well, it won't sell. At least concerning self-publishing. And bad writing usually equals bad characters.
The review must have gotten his goat. In an addendum to the review she writes:
[EDIT] - The writer of the World Rose is arrogant. SO arrogant, in fact, that my review hit him where it hurts a little to hard. In return, he found out where I worked through Facebook, came from LONDON to where I live in the east of Scotland, and attacked me by hitting me over the head with a wine bottle from behind. Not a word or a sound. And then he left. I had to be taken to hospital to receive medical treatment for it, which included several stitches in my head.

I have to stress that this is currently an alleged attack - he has, according to her, been charged, but the case has not yet come to trial. However, the pictures of the split in her head certainly look legit.  There's a full write-up here and pictures here.  To summarize, RB traveled 350 miles (at least $250 in transportation costs) just to sneak up behind a petite 18 year old girl and smash her over the head with a wine bottle. Because of a one star review on Goodreads.

I'm not sure what these past few events- first Kathleen Hale, author, stalking her critic and now RB, author, bottling his own critic - portend. Has the world changed, and authors have decided that dead gophers in the mail are no longer sufficient; only direct confrontation will do? Are these a couple of terrorist-novelists, intended to chill the speech of reviewers on behalf of other authors?  Is novel-writing correlated with poor impulse control?

This makes the Stephan J Harper incontinent-comments-left-on-review episode look even more hilarious in retrospect. If only today's authors were as fully-hinged as Harper was way back, ooh, way back in May 2014. We laughed about the Streisand effect and so forth but at least we didn't fear for the critic's life.

Everybody calm down.

Land planarians in So Cal

To my intense disgust, we have these things in the garden.

 photo 20141019_105905_zps9847df56.jpg

They are a type of parasitic land flatworm that preys on earthworms. Don't know which species this is, but it is probably of the genus Bipalium. They capture an earthworm and evert their esophagus to digest the poor creature. Looking through the intertubes, it appears that an infestation of these things can clear out a compost worm-bin in just a few days. On one hand, we're lucky as we don't have a compost worm-bin. On the other hand, it looks like we'll never be able to have one now.

We see them because they come up out of the damp soil and on to the tiles when the sprinklers run. They make good speed, leaving a bit of a slime trail like a slug. They can be almost a foot long, and the distinguishing features are the hammer head and longitudinal stripes. Originally from Asia, they've made their way all over the place in the pots of nursery plants. Luckily they are quite stupid, and most of them die on the tiles without ever getting back to the damp earth. Apparently there's no point in chopping them up, as like other planarians, they regenerate whole bodies from chopped bits.

All in all they're disgusting and any ideas on how to get rid of them would be appreciated.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cross Bones Graveyard feels the love at last

Peromyscus's law: The nearer it is to October 31st, the probability that a link you click will lead to skeletons begins to approach 1.

This is of particular interest to me as I don't actually like Halloween. Brought up a long time ago in England, we didn't have Halloween in the American sense. We had Mischievous Night, where the bolder children went smashing windows and setting fire to things. At the end of October and before Bonfire Night many of us carved faces into either rutabagas or turnips, depending on which ones are the big, grey wrinkly ones in your dialect. I think one year, in a fit of superstrength, I managed to hollow out enough turnip (or rutabaga) flesh to actually put the stub of a candle inside, but that was the one and only time. I have no idea why we did that, though. And nobody had any candy.

But the world wibe wed is no respecter of county traditions, and leans heavily Halloween.  Even though today is the first day of Diwali, I think I've only heard that on the radio. Everything on the 'tubes is geared towards skeletons. From Twitter, I clicked this link at the Smithsonian, and came across a sprawling write up of a cemetery in Southwark that borders on an area of London that has housed prostitutes for 1900 years. (Which is a whole lot of years. I'm not convinced we know for a fact that Roman soldiers were visiting ladies of the night in Southwark during the first century but the article seems to think we do.)

Crossbones Girl - a 'cold case' investigation of one of the skeletons found
at the cemetery.

The article gives a necessarily brief history of the area, and dwells on the cemetery, the Cross Bones Graveyard. Although the Bishop had the local licensing rights for prostitutes, for some reason they were still considered outside the church, and so were buried in unconsecrated land. There were a lot of them (and local poor, along with their children, who were also apparently buried here) and the later burials were shallow, leading to a bit of NIMBYism from the locals, who thought this might not be very sanitary. Still, the article says the burial ground was eventually "more or less forgotten" until the London transport authority needed the land to build a substation in the 1990s. Historians were given a brief window to check the ground, and then all hell broke loose. Not so much in terms of the corpses springing up and haunting South London, which would have been cool, but more in the sense of the living suddenly deciding that Cross Bones was Important And Must Be Commemorated.

The article says that "[t]he International Union of Sex Workers has even called for Cross Bones to be the first World Heritage site dedicated to those in the sex trade"; a local 'poet' called John Constable Had A Vision and wrote extensively about the site - and, in a less likely conclusion, was actually published and his work put on as a play; and lots of those New Agey/ Old Hippy folks who seem to lurk in the brick walls and cobbled mews in London like the Boneless in last week's Doctor Who sprang from the brick walls, as they do, and formed The Friends of Cross Bones. They have made a "wild garden" in the graveyard and festooned the gates with ribbons, and they aim to preserve "the garden as a more permanent place of reflection and remembrance".

A short doc on the Cross Bones cemetery.

This is the sort of story that presses all my buttons, despite being a little too Halloweeny to be really real.  Two thousand years of illicit sex, presided over variously by the original world authority, the Romans, and then their successors, the Christian Bishops; haphazard burials in unconsecrated ground, syphilis and miasma; a strange mass forgetfulness; the graveyard's revelation by the London Underground's mechanical backhoes; and the subsequent flume of psychogeography-related hysteria by those still remaining alive above ground, like the screaming mass hive panic in Quatermass and the Pit.

The spokeswoman from the local council is called Ms. Dark.

And, when the article declares...
An 1832 letter from parish authorities had noted the ground was “so very full of coffins that it is necessary to bury within two feet of the surface,” and that “the effluviem is so very offensive that we fear the consequences may be very injurious to the surrounding neighborhood.” [...] The land was sold for development 30 years later, but the sale declared void under the Disused Burial Grounds Act of 1884. Locals resisted further attempts at development, although the land was briefly used as a fairground, until complaints about the showmen’s “steam organs and noisy music” became overwhelming. led me to believe, just for a moment, that it was the dead who had complained about the steam organs and noisy music. If the fairground featured a Ghost Train ride, I bet that was more than usually exciting.

Notes: Southwark is pronounced Sutheck. Quatermass and the Pit is pronounced Five Million Years From Earth.


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